Category Archives: Economics

Spengler: US elites’ imperial corruption compares to Opium War

America has no empire in the old sense of the world; when Americans occupy foreign countries they lose money rather than make money. But America’s financial and tech monopolies have the same effect. During the 2000s, Wall Street’s derivatives desks picked off the brightest engineers, and during the 2010s, the tech companies recruited the smartest engineers and computer scientists. America graduates barely 40,000 mechanical engineers each year, not surprising considering that Americans lost interest in manufacturing two decades ago. The tech monopolies offer rewards beyond the imagination of greed and have concentrated American wealth in the hands of the smallest number of people in history. And they feed on a culture of insouciant hedonism that values individual self-expression as a matter of religious dogma while enforcing a vicious conformity upon young people.

Source: US elites’ imperial corruption compares to Opium War – Asia Times

Matt Stoller: What Is the Point of Economics?

The two things we can count on is that economists will never see ‘it’ coming, and that economists will then use words like ‘nobody’ because acknowledging the existence of non-economists that have useful opinions is against the point of economics. Economists didn’t see the ‘China shock’ coming until 2015, but someone saw it coming in the mid-2000s, notably the large numbers of people who had to train their replacements, and the CEOs who made money transferring our factories.

Source: What Is the Point of Economics? – BIG by Matt Stoller

The Lawfare Podcast: The Fall of the Soviet Union, with Vladislav Zubok

This past weekend marked the 30th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union. To discuss the collapse and its implications, Bryce Klehm sat down with Vladislav Zubok, professor of international history at the London School of Economics and author of the new book, “Collapse: The Fall of the Soviet Union.” They covered a range of topics, including Mikhail Gorbachev’s economic and political reforms, Professor Zubok’s experience reading Solzhenitsyn for the first time, and the Russian military’s recent buildup along Ukraine’s borders.

Source: The Lawfare Podcast: The Fall of the Soviet Union, with Vladislav Zubok – Lawfare

* Know Your Enemy Podcast: Koch’d Out

In honor of David Koch’s passing, Matt and Sam delve into the world of right-wing money. How did ultra-wealthy families like the Kochs, Scaifes, Olins, and Bradleys use their fortunes to reshape American politics? With the help of Jane Mayer’s essential 2016 book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, your hosts explore the world of right-wing philanthropy and the institutions—from centers at universities to think tanks in Washington, DC—it has funded. What emerges is a startling history of how a small group of incredibly rich families used novel techniques to shelter their wealth from taxation and fund a right-wing takeover of American politics.

Other sources cited and consulted:

Theda Skocpol, “Who Owns the GOP?” (a critical review of Mayer in Dissent)
Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson, The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism
Amanda Hollis-Brusky and Calvin Terbeek, “The Federalist Society Says It’s Not an Advocacy Organization. These Documents Show Otherwise.” Politico
Mark Schmidt “The Legend of the Powell Memo,” The American Prospect
Honoré de Balzac, Eugénie Grandet (1833)

* Know Your Enemy Podcast: Overheated (w/ Kate Aronoff)

Matt and Sam talk with journalist Kate Aronoff about the history of climate change denial, how fossil-fuel industry’s strategy has shifted in recent years, and what the prospects are for a just, sustainable future. At last, Know Your Enemy takes on climate change! Kate Aronoff, staff writer at The New Republic and Dissent editorial board member, joins Matt and Sam to discuss her new book, Overheated: How Capitalism Broke the Planet—And How We Fight Back. The conversations traces the history of collaboration between fossil fuel executives and conservative think tanks; then we discuss what comes after climate denial and try our best to imagine a post-carbon world. What will it take to avoid a future of eco-apartheid, fortress nations, and “lifeboat ethics?” Listen to find out.

Further Reading:

Kate Aronoff, “The European Far-Right’s Environmental Turn,” Dissent, May 31, 2019.

Kate Aronoff, “With A Green New Deal, Here’s What the World Could Look Like For The Next Generation,” The Intercept, Dec 5, 2018.

Sam Adler-Bell, “Appalachia vs. the Carceral State,” The New Republic, Nov 25, 2019.

Sam Adler-Bell, “Why White Supremacists are Hooked on Green Living,” The New Republic, Sept. 24, 2019.

* Know Your Enemy Podcast: The Windbag City (w/ Marshall Steinbaum)

Matt and Sam and are joined by Marshall Steinbaum for a deep dive into the Chicago school of economics and the baleful influence of libertarian ideas. Matt and Sam are finally joined by the show’s longtime bête noire, Marshall Steinbaum, for a deep dive into the Chicago school of economics and the wreckage it’s supported—from welcoming the birth defects caused by deregulating the pharmaceutical industry to justifying massive resistance to desegregation to being put in the service of Coronavirus truther-ism. Where did this iteration of libertarianism come from, intellectually and institutionally? Who are the key figures in the Chicago school? How have their ideas infected the way we all think about economics and politics? It’s a sordid, depressing tale of rightwing money, intellectual dishonesty, and a gleeful desire to discipline the forces of democracy.

Sources and further reading:

Marshall Steinbaum, The Book That Explains Charlottesville, Boston Review, August 14, 2017

Marshall Steinbaum, Economics after Neoliberalism, Boston Review, February 28, 2019

Isaac Chotiner, The Contrarian Coronavirus Theory that Informed the Trump Administration, New Yorker, March 30, 2020

Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains (Penguin-Random House, June 2017)

Edward Nik-Khah, Neoliberal Pharmaceutical Science and the Chicago School of Economics (Social Studies of Science 2014, Vol. 44(4) 489–517)