My father retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 1970, shortly before John Perkins began his career as an economic consultant— “economic hit man”— with the engineering firm, MAIN. Perkins traveled to Indonesia, Panama, Colombia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. His job was to convince leaders to undertake wildly overambitious infrastructure projects that would enrich them and big U.S. engineering firms like Bechtel. In most cases, the projects would fail and leave nations beholden to US banks or the World Bank. Saudi Arabia was a special case; the flood of dollars from the new OPEC cartel would purchase both sophisticated infrastructure like desalinization plants and U.S. military protection against insurgents. Leaders who refused to cooperate with such plans would be picked off by CIA-supported “jackals”. Perkins originally published his story in his 2005 bestseller; he now updates the story with examples from developed countries, such as projects that sucker local governments into building public-private toll roads. Looking back, I realize that my dad knew a lot more about such activities than he let on… . . . → Read More: John Perkins’ New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
“The earth is the tomb of dead empires, no less than of dead men.” Thus wrote the American economist and journalist Henry George in his 1879 worldwide bestseller, Progress and Poverty. Adam Smith had identified cooperation and specialization—“the division of labor”—as the forces that generated economic growth and prosperity. George claimed that those same forces led eventually to collapse, as monopolization of land and other natural resources directed more and more wealth into ever fewer hands. Two astute observers have recently offered complementary predictions of the imminent demise of the American empire, and its replacement by China. . . . → Read More: Dead Empires: How China May Overtake the U.S.
Many individuals helped construct neoclassical economics, often with financial support from the robber barons and their successors. I will focus on two: in the United States, John Bates Clark (1847-1938), and in Europe, Vilfredo Pareto (1848 to 1923). . . . → Read More: Piketty’s Model of Inequality and Growth in Historical Context, Pt 2
In Thomas Piketty’s doomsday model, slowing of growth in the twenty-first century will cause an inexorable increase in inequality. Piketty is not the first to propose a grand model of inequality and growth. To get some perspective on his model, let’s see what the “classical” economists had to say (Part I), and how the “neoclassical” economists responded (Part II). . . . → Read More: Piketty’s Model of Inequality and Growth in Historical Context, Pt 1
Spring 1999. “Professor Cui, this mouse didn’t get cancer. Should I get rid of him?” “There must have been a mistake,” said Cui, “Inject him again.” Two weeks later, still no cancer. “Try again with a higher dose!” Still no cancer. No cancer even at a million times the lethal dose. Cui decided to breed the mutant mouse. . . . → Read More: The Mouse That Wouldn’t Die: How a Lack of Public Funding Holds Back a Promising Cancer Treatment
If you give a dollar to a middle class family, they will spend it in the local economy and spur growth, or they will use it to make a high return investment, such as paying for their children’s college. If you give that same dollar to a very wealthy individual, instead of circulating it in the local economy, they will place it in lower-return investments, often offshore. . . . → Read More: Congressman Bill Foster Explains Why Middle Class Tax Cuts Lead To Economic Growth
The California Constitution says the water belongs to the people. Yet the state gives water almost free to agriculture–resulting in enormous waste and dire “shortages” during droughts. If the state were to charge for water, that would end the water crisis–and solve California’s fiscal crisis too. . . . → Read More: Whose Water? Ours! How to End California’s Water Crisis
Back when I studied economics, we “proved” in class that a minimum wage causes unemployment. But that proof depends on assuming a perfectly competitive market. Big low-wage employers like Wal-Mart have substantial market power; they can deliberately under-staff operations to force down wages. In that case, a minimum wage increase can actually create jobs–if it can be enforced. . . . → Read More: Increasing the Minimum Wage Can Actually Create Jobs–If It’s Enforced
The new Congressional Budget Office report projects that the Affordable Care Act will lead to a decline in full-time equivalent workers of 2.5 million. This is people voluntarily deciding to work less–like mothers with small children, or workers in poor health or close to retirement. That should mean higher wages for the remaining workers. . . . → Read More: The Affordable Care Act Will Raise Wages
Quantitative Easing (QE) was supposed to stimulate the economy by encouraging investment with low interest money. That hasn’t happened, but why? Does no one want to borrow, or do banks not want to lend? My favorite financial columnist, Yves Smith, has laid out both theories. . . . → Read More: What’s Crippling the Recovery: Lack of Investment Demand or Too-Big-to-Lend Banks?