Read the keystone essay: What Is Market Capitalism and Why Do We Need to Understand It?
Video Post – Externalities – getting somebody else to pay for my production costs – the In Depth Capitalism series
Capitalism features a structural drive to create and use external costs to increase profits. Pollution of the earth is the most obvious and visible; there are many others including injuries and death for workers.
Introducing the In Depth series on the actual workings of capitalism. Commentary on economic theories.
The rich and corporations win even during a global pandemic.
Back in the early and mid ‘70s both Karen and I worked in various machine shops and other industrial locations. Trichloroethylene (TCE) was used on a daily basis to clean metals parts and other materials. I remember a large tank of slowly roiling hot TCE at Stevens Arnold, Inc. in South Boston. I would use it several times a day to clean parts. Every week or so I would be detailed to drain the tank, —>> read more –>>
In an area with dozens of empty store fronts and several hundred thousand sq ft of empty space, a new strip mall is approved for construction. A rational market??
Nobel Prize winners Duflo and Bannerjee take on idealized views of markets. They target the role of financial incentives, markets as self-correcting, efficient and ethically sound.
Recently Noted – challenging views of Justice Clarence Thomas – the intractable nature of white racismOctober 15, 2019
A challenging take on the state of racism in the US. Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson reviews books on Clarence Thomas and his views on countering intractable white racism.
Robert Reich is continuing his series of brief YouTube videos on progressive view of the economy. This is a good introduction to the arguments for re-invigorating our protections against monopolies. However, the problem is much more widespread than just the high tech industry. We’ve written about this broader phenomenon in The Monopolization of America. Here is one chart from that post. Dominance of Corporate Behemoths – NYTimes – 11/25/2108 The concentration of market power is —>> read more –>>
It’s Time to Break Up Facebook, by Chris Hughes, the co-founder of Facebook is very thorough in describing the current monopoly behavior of Facebook, the deleterious effects on competition and vigor in the economy of monopolies, and a great introduction to the history of anti-trust movements and legislation in the US.
Recently Noted – Robert Reich: Socialism for the Rich, Capitalism for the Rest – a new video presentation
Robert Reich provides us with an accessible, brief analysis of why the rich and corporations are feasting while the rest of us experience the rigors, oppression, and discipline of the capitalist marketplace. Only a bit over 4 minutes long.
In our continuing effort to find varied sources to illustrate the power of marketing and the costs of unregulated capitalism we return to John Oliver’s show Last Week Tonight for his segment on sugar in food. The food industry continues to put sugar in nearly every processed food and fights efforts to reveal how much of this dangerous additive is in each bite.
We have written earlier (for example our article The Monopolization of America) about the increasing concentration of market power In the hands of just a few corporations. This is a phenomenon occurring throughout the US economy (really more broadly across the globe). Here is an 11 minute review of the history and current state of monopolies in our economy.
Adjunct teachers are paid so poorly that many qualify for food stamps. Meanwhile students across the country are underwriting ever higher tuition through debt.
Adam Smith discussed the harms caused by monopolies1 in the frequently, ritualistically cited book, The Wealth of Nations2. The progressive politics of the end of the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th was marked by a deep reaction to the monopolistic practices of large companies then. This led to the ant-trust legislation that remains the cornerstone of the Federal government’s efforts to protect competition in the marketplace: Sherman Act of 1890, the —>> read more –>>
- A note about the term “monopoly”: Economists have long acknowledged that the literal meaning of monopoly, a company having exclusive control over a commodity or service, is not a useful representation of how capitalist economies actually work. In practice when a small number of firms, say 3 or 4, control roughly 50% or more of a market, they can and do act to control prices, restrain trade, and force weaker competitors out of the market. As John Oliver notes we can experience this by simply booking an airline flight. Southwest, Delta, United, and American control 69% of the domestic market. This concentration is amplified by the hub and spoke system that assures that in many localities there is no choice but a single provider of air services. This is precisely why we need to reinvigorate the existing anti-trust laws and protect consumers from the gouging and abuse we now experience every time we fly.
- Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.
- chart borrowed from: Leonhardt, David. “Opinion | The Monopolization of America.” The New York Times, November 26, 2018, sec. Opinion. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/25/opinion/monopolies-in-the-us.html.
The earth is burdened by the tsunami of plastic refuse that will never degrade. Government needs to protect us from capitalist enterprises delight in externalizing costs to our detriment and their short-term benefit.
Since corporations have reason not to worry about safety and efficacy, we do need the government to represent us. Common sense and ethics suggest that a company establish the safety and efficacy of products and services BEFORE selling them. In a world better balanced to the needs and interests of the vast majority this would be a required step. Heart stents and tricycles are examples of the failings of our current system.
Corporate concentration of income and wealth are core features of capitalism. From its earliest cheerleaders like Adam Smith, the drive for corporations to get ever larger and in the doing drive their competitors out of the market was noted and warned against. John Oliver provides a thorough and amusing introduction.
The new digital economy is displaying the same drive to concentration, monopolies and oligopolies, that capitalism has always displayed. Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft are just a new face of the predatory monopolists of the Rockefeller Standard Oil age.
NYTimes reports that one-time bonuses are the preferred pay strategy vs pay raises.Mysteriously the Times leaves out the role of unions and the long-term fall in unionization rates in the private sector in the US.
These corporate giants are “disrupting” healthcare or so the headlines say. Despite the media flurry we should not expect much. The structure of US healthcare defies little nibbles at the periphery. As noted many times here, we need to look to our developed country competitors for their proven approaches to how to set up a world-class healthcare system at world standard costs.
Shifts to contract work, losses in jobs due to automation and robots, growth in poorly paid occupations, low participation rates, healthcare and retirement tied to full-time jobs, and extremely unequal gains in income for the top 10% characterize jobs in our economy. Something radical needs to be done. Republicans are trickling, Democrats cautious, neither addresses the big changes underway.
A Note on Jobs & Unemployment Original publication date – 12/27/2016; Revised – 12/31/2017 As the presidential campaign of 2016 fades away and the Trump Era begins, we find a national scene without any real discussion of the facts of jobs and unemployment and what the future might bring. Trump and others talk about bringing manufacturing back to the US. No plan, plausible or otherwise, has ever been mentioned for how to accomplish this. The —>> read more –>>
- To be sure the US rank amongst steel producers has declined significantly with most of the world's steel now being produced in Asia
- Allan Collard-Wexler and Jan De Loecker, “Reallocation and Technology: Evidence from the U.S. Steel Industry,” Working Paper National Bureau of Economic Research, January 2013, http://www.nber.org/papers/w18739.
- Jane Wakefield, “Foxconn Replaces ‘60,000 Factory Workers with Robots,’ BBC News, May 25, 2016, sec. Technology, http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-36376966
- Angel Gonzalez, “Amazon Unveils Smart Convenience Store sans Checkouts, Cashiers,” The Seattle Times, December 5, 2016, http://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon/amazoncom-unveils-self-driving-brick-and-mortar-convenience-store/
- Brick and mortar retail stores have sales per employee between a 1/4 and a 1/3 of Amazon's performance.
- Thanks to Elizabeth Kolbert, “Our Automated Future,” The New Yorker, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/12/19/our-automated-future and Daron Acemoglu and David Autor, “Skills, Tasks and Technologies: Implications for Employment and Earnings,” Working Paper (National Bureau of Economic Research, June 2010), http://www.nber.org/papers/w16082.
Reich’s latest cartoon does a good job of describing the changes in the US economy, weaker on the underlying political campaign by the rich and corporations to restructure the economy to their benefit. Worth the 6 minute viewing time.
The miracle of the automatic self-regulating market in action. During the 1930s over-production of cotton chronically ran over by 50% and more. Since cotton is a durable product all of these years of over production just swelled the mountains of cotton sitting in warehouse waiting for demand. In 1933 the cotton stored in warehouses equaled the entire world demand.
Inequality in wealth and income is a continuing global crisis. The World Inequality Report 2018 defines the problem based on wealth ownership and the transfer of public wealth into private hands. Their are solutions but they require political organization and will.
Capitalism, Monopoly, Oligopoly and John Oliver Capitalism does a number of things very well. Concentrating power, wealth and income is one of them. Though we naturally focus our attention on wealthy individuals, fat cats, tycoons, money bags, but corporations, the legal entities with personhood (at least in the US) are also recipients of this concentrating power. John Oliver in his HBO program “Last Week Tonight” took on monopoly and oligopoly. His focus on the airline —>> read more –>>
Brazil is the newest scene of massive marketing campaigns to replace local food and local diets with ultra-processed industrial foods. This is beginning to repeat the mass experiment in bad eating habits that the US has already experienced for two generations.
Recent NYTimes article broadly acknowledges what every other developed country has recognized for decades, healthcare is not a good candidate for market control.
Capitalism is driven by a single internal logic that requires the transformation of people and nature into commodities to produce profits. This logic is amoral and the system, excepting for external controls by government and social institutions, just churns on.
For all of the chest beating about the bold risks taken by capitalists, the capitalist time horizon is very short when compared to the many years of work that have gone into almost every significant scientific and technological advance. Without extensive government investment in activities that deliver longer term success, the capitalist system will simply eat its seed corn until it is gone.
A consistent chattering point in American discussions of healthcare is the claim that if we can only bring transparency and competition to healthcare we will drive prices down and bring sanity to healthcare. The rest of the world knows that this is not the answer but we seem to remain in the thrall of universal free-market thinking. To answer this question lets start with an example of a market that works reasonably well and which —>> read more –>>
Companies must externalize as many costs as possible in free-market capitalism. Without adequate government protections you will end up with this kind of environment. from the New York Times: Nearly 14,000 Companies in China Violate Pollution Rules By EDWARD WONG “Environmental inspectors in northern China have found that nearly 14,000 companies, or 70 percent of the businesses they examined, failed to meet environmental standards for controlling air pollution, according to a state news agency report. The inspectors working —>> read more –>>
Giving tax breaks to the rich and corporations has been basic to every Republican since Hoover. President Reagan piled on with trickle-down economics. I wrote about it here: Trickle-Down Returns to Enrich the Rich. Now the great state of Kansas proves again the tax breaks do not generate more jobs or income excepting for the rich and corporations through their lower tax payments. It’s a great day: Kansas legislature pulls the plug on Gov. Brownback’s failed —>> read more –>>
If we want to offer an alternative analysis we need direct language that does not refer to thinking and issues from 150 years ago that invites immediate suspicions that those speaking are academics and intellectuals who by definition are not connected to the day-to-day realities of American life.
The solution to our healthcare problems cannot be clearer. Look at Canada, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, Netherlands, UK, Denmark, Sweden, and others. Plenty of healthcare systems with decades of operational experience producing much better outcomes for very single person in these countries at less than half the cost!!
The solution to our healthcare fiasco is first to recognize its true nature and then to face down those who are consuming a fifth of our economic output while producing profoundly bad results.
The word “regulation” has been used as an epithet and rhetorical sledge hammer by Republicans and the centrist Bill Clinton Democrats as part of a general campaign to discredit anything that the government might do. This is part of the decades long political strategy of the rich and corporations to puff up the delights of “free markets”.
Every company seeks to get someone else to pay for as many of its costs of doing business as possible. The laws of capitalism require this. If all of Stickles’ competitors are similarly avoiding the costs of disposing of their waste concrete they must do likewise. Otherwise their cost of doing business would be higher. In the short term their profits will be lower. In the longer term they will be forced out of business —>> read more –>>
In the US four airlines control over 80% of the seats and in many regional markets the competition veers towards a state of monopoly. There is simply no effective competitive controls on what the airlines can charge and under what conditions.This has lead to persistent high fares and a seemingly endless series of innovations in how many people can be jammed into a plane with as many extra charges tacked on for fewer and fewer —>> read more –>>
The title of this short book, only 130 pages, Building the New American Economy: smart, fair, & sustainable by Jeffrey D. Sachs with a foreword by Bernie Sanders (Columbia University Press, 2017) is unfortunately misleading. There is much here about the new economy. The misleading part is that there is very little about its construction, how to build the new economy. Sachs covers many important issues in a thorough, efficient fashion. If you need a —>> read more –>>
I’ve been looking through Paul Krugman’s textbook Macroeconomics (Krugman and Wells, 4th edition, 2015) and came on Principle #2 – “The opportunity cost of an item—what you must give up in order to get it—is its true cost….The concept of opportunity cost is crucial to understanding individual choice because, in the end, all costs are opportunity costs. That’s because every choice you make means forgoing some other alternative.” In this standard economics model, a central —>> read more –>>
This 2015 movie by Chinese director Liang Zhao is filled with great cinematography and sounds. It trades back and forth between scenes of enormous horizon gulping coal mines, under ground mines, iron making, and ends with scenes of a ghost city filled with enormous apartment blocks in a newly developed but vacant city West of Beijing. But, the most arresting part of the movie is its focus on the workers, men and women, in this —>> read more –>>
Ever since Ronald Reagan told us in his 1981 Inaugural Address, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” government bashing by right-wingers, Republicans and many Democrats has been a constant drumbeat of political rhetoric. Now we have Trump with his “Kill 2 regulations for every new one” and a government dominated by Republicans for whom destroying government has been an objective for decades. We are faced with the probable destruction —>> read more –>>
- audio of song here: https://youtu.be/VtW8RkI3-c4))
My friend Joe Keenan recently sent me an article by Vicki Boykis, “Fix the internet by writing good stuff and being nice to people” from her blog Woman.Legend.Blog. Today’s internet is mean. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when everyone online became a jerk, but to me it seems that the tipping point occurred right when making money off content started being worth more than the content itself. Ms. Boykis devotes a lot of attention to —>> read more –>>
Dollars and Sense has been around since the 1970s. Always a source of well researched critiques of capitalism. I recently, after a more than 30 year hiatus, re-upped a subscription. Dear Dollars & Sense, Your new issue showed up the other day with the word “neoliberalism” in bold type on the cover. The continuing use of this term is not helpful. When I first saw this word a few years ago I wondered how the —>> read more –>>
President Reagan was not the originator of this central trope of free-market (neo-liberal) politics, but he famously said in his first Inaugural Address in 1981, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” President Clinton, a Democrat, continued this theme during his terms culminating the the deregulation of the financial industry in 1999 setting the table for the collapse of 2008 and the Long Recession. Listening to almost any discussion by —>> read more –>>
- See Block, Fred L., and Matthew R. Keller. 2011. State of innovation: the U.S. government's role in technology development. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers and Mazzucato, Mariana. 2011. The entrepreneurial state.
The values of capitalism, especially as expressed through free market (neoliberal) ideology, have come to dominate how we organize our lives. Silicon Valley and the tech sector is busy celebrating the “gig” economy. Companies have simply stopped hiring employees and now conduct much of their work using “temps”, “1099ers”, part-time contract workers. The companies, and the champions of free markets, tout this as a wonder of flexibility and opportunity. For gigers not being recognized as —>> read more –>>
A friend asked the following question of me on Facebook the other day:What’s wrong with the word LIBERAL …. This word … progressives … is only a diluted weak solution of the real thing …. the L word has become like the N word … it can’t be mouthed in public. I know what Liberal means I don’t have a clue what progressive means … you’d think Neoliberal has some relationship to LIBERAL which it —>> read more –>>
Since the beginning of the 2008 Great Recession we have hoped that the government would return to applying some real rational restraints on the financial system. To be honest, with both political parties deep in the pocket of the industry, this is probably merely wishful thinking.
We should demand that our financial markets serve their findamental purposes – connect investors with those who can deploy those resources to create new products and services and enable the flow of these goods and services. To call holding financial insturments whether stocks, bonds, or other assets for mere seconds investments is to beggar the mind.
photo courtesy of Chance Agrella, photographer An article in the NY TImes today reports that NY Attorney General Schneiderman is pursuing various information providers, Thomson Reuters in the immediate case, for their practices of selling market sensitive information preferntially. Those paying a premium get information several minutes before its release to the general public. This is more evidence that Wall St (standing in here for the —>> read more –>>
|Regulators Examining Early Sales of Financial Data http://nyti.ms/12hDF3t|
In recent years a standard bit of political rhetoric in the US has included references to “the job creators”. This most usually flows along the lines of higher taxes on the wealthy will injure the job creators. Or, government regulation is crushing the job creators. The presumption of course is that the wealthy, the 1% in the current rhetoric, create jobs (and those not created by the wealthy are created by small business – this being another, —>> read more –>>
I came on a set of graphics in Mother Jones, “It’s the Inequality, Stupid: Eleven charts that explain what’s wrong with America” that illustrate what you probably already know. But, a simple refresher course in some of the reasons why the rich are rich. The 99% already have this base covered. Here are some of the charts I liked. Read the whole article at the Mother Jones website. Income (constant dollars) Note that if median family income had simply kept up —>> read more –>>
The case of the Federal Communications Commission v. AT&T now being heard before the US Supreme Court raises anew the craziness of the thinking that has position corporations to be “persons” in the first place. Noun vs Adjective! First we have several of the justices focusing argument around the difference between “persons” and “personal”. But several justices —>> read more –>>
|See the NYTimes, “Court Weighs Whether Corporations Have Personal Privacy Rights” By ADAM LIPTAK Published: January 19, 201|
There is more evidence that the current run of religious mania about “free markets” is finally giving way to a more fact-based approach to this important human invention, many countries are now applying capital controls on the flow of monies into their economies. The world flood of money seeking higher rent districts is terrorizing smaller economies like a tsunami. Fears of speculative bubbles burgeoning and then bursting with disastrous consequences for local economies are driving many to control inflows. —>> read more –>>
The current tsunami of revelations of misbehavior, if not outright criminality, by the banking industry in their pursuit of mortgages gone bad, is further evidence of how fundamentally corrupt and cynical this industry continues to be. On the front end of this global economic disaster the financial system engaged in misleading sales tactics using financial products that were baroque in their complexities. Aided by governments seduced by the siren songs of free market religion and floods of money —>> read more –>>
The August 1st New York Times carries the latest Paul Krugman opinion piece, “Defining Prosperity Down”. He is depressed because it is dawning on him that the elite is in the process of redefining the level of structural unemployment that is normal to adjust to the significant likelihood that we will be living with 9%+unemployment on into the future. Where has Krugman been? He is old enough to remember that back in the 1960s structural —>> read more –>>
“Free market” has always struck me as a rather strange phrase. Never more so than in this period of financial market disasters. The phrase ‘free market’ continues to be used reflexively. Just as commentators go right on speaking of Wall St. as a source of capital and innovation, few want to ask out loud why we need most of Wall St.’s “services”; few people are openly using the most obvious words to describe these services as gambling; —>> read more –>>
What Is the Function of Wall St.? The global financial meltdown of 2008 – 2009 with its ongoing sequelae seems not to have definitively demonstrated the dangers of our continuing belief in the religion of “free markets” nor shaken, especially it seems in the Obama administration, our thrall with Wall St. and all things financial. We are seeing the combined effects of Wall St.’s funding of the Democrats and Republicans, the primacy of Wall St-ers —>> read more –>>
This week’s decision by the US Supreme Court to allow corporations, including unions, to hold full rights to free speech and political action under the First Amendment to the Constitution once again reminds me of the strange practical and ethical relationship we have with corporations. In the 1886 ruling, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company1, the court reporter wrote in a summary: “The court does not wish to hear argument on the question —>> read more –>>
Anti-Wall St Does Not Mean Anti-Business President Obama’s proposals to break up the “too large to fail” mega banks and otherwise reapply the Glass Steagall Act to the financial sector has predictably brought loud complaints that this is populist and anti-business. Even the rhetoric of the reporters and expert talking heads reflects a general bias that anything that we might do to prevent a re-occurrence of last year’s global financial meltdown is anti-business. How Is —>> read more –>>
Manias, Panics, and Crashes: a history of financial crises, fourth edition by Charles P. Kindleberger (New York: Wiley 6th edition 2011) A recent Wall St Journal article described this book as a “must read” classic for anyone involved in financial markets. I have been involved directly in financial markets in two ways recently. First, I spent a year chasing around chasing angel investors and venture capitalists during the DotCom boom to fund Valuedge (the software company —>> read more –>>
The Obama administration is touting the action taken this week against Pfizer for illegal promotion of several of its drugs. The $2.3 billion sounds like a lot of money to me, and I suspect most people. Is it really a lot of money or just an annoyance to a large company, just another cost of doing business?
January 23, 2002 (revised 1/29/02) The collapse of energy giant Enron over the last six months has produced a surprising level of outrage especially for a cynic like me. As this drama continues to unfold, I have been trying to understand how Enron structured their business and made money. Until just last night I was operating on the belief that the cleverness and sophistication of Enron’s managers simply outstripped my analytical skills. But, as I —>> read more –>>