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Capitalism vs. Free Market — what’s in a name, and is Fascism in the picture?

Sonntag, 5. Juni 2011 13:30

Despite my best efforts, this Sunday is on the best way to being a random-web-surfing day, reading (among many other things) critiques of Capitalism using an Indian company’s mobile network in remote Tanzania…

This randomness is of course the source of what we often deplore as procrastination, but I’m realizing it can also set free creativity, by presenting side by side concepts that seem only very loosely related at first. So here is my starting point, a very insightful remark on what difference it makes if we speak about Capitalism or Free Market Economy, from John Kenneth Galbraith, Canadian-American economist and author, published in the article Free Market Fraud in The Progressive magazine in 1999:


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US politics in Israel and party donations

Samstag, 21. Mai 2011 9:59

One detail from a „Informed Comment“ discussion of Obama’s recent Middle East address (already briefly mentioned in a tweet of mine) stuck to me and got me thinking. It is the explanation of why Obamas (moderately) critical stance towards Israel and his push for pre-1967 borders as the basis for peace negotiations are politically daring:


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Inequality in the US, and who makes its politics

Montag, 9. Mai 2011 20:04

Economist Joseph E. Stiglitz has an accessible article in Vanity Fair talking about rising inequality (of income, wealth, all sorts of things associated with these like education and health, and lastly, opportunity) in the US. He then comes to a brutal description of the association of wealth and power, one of the cornerstones of my „NeuerPlan“ (NewPlan) criticism of capitalist society. Which happens both on a personal level and on that abstract level of „corporations“, that is, businesses:


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Conditional Cash Transfers for the Poor

Donnerstag, 13. Januar 2011 22:46

In an interesting online series called „Fixes“ the NYTimes showcases existing „solutions to social problems and why they work“. A recent post starting with an example of Brazil got me interested, maybe because I’ll be there this year. Also, the ever-present topic of how to help poor people in our own countries and abroad seems to be especially intensely debated these days, both in the US and in Germany.

What I didn’t know is that with Brazil and Mexico, two rather big newly industrializing countries are implementing on a large scale programs that transfer cash to the extremely poor, on conditions that mostly center around caring for your and your children’s health and education. And they seem to do a surprisingly great job at reducing poverty:


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Why Expenditure Cuts Should Unite Left and Right

Dienstag, 23. November 2010 10:18

Greg Mankiw makes a compelling case in his recent NYTimes column that expenditure cuts (i.e. reducing tax exemptions) should please both political parties and both corresponding camps of society. A strong proposition along that line has been made by Obamas deficit reduction commission. Especially interesting: tax expenditures strongly favor people with high income. And Mankiw never even mentions the reduced hassle in filing taxes that would result from thinning out the expenditure forest!

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Stephen Colbert on GOP Energy Expertise in Congress

Samstag, 20. November 2010 18:05

When I wrote about divided government being good government, I think I didn’t quite have that kind of addition to the governing Democrats in mind.

I couldn’t figure out if there’s a serious possibility of one of these guys becoming the new chairman of the Energy Committee, but Joe Barton has been the „Ranking Member“, i.e. the leading minority member. It could be really funny if it wasn’t real:


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NYTimes Budget Puzzle

Montag, 15. November 2010 18:22

The NYTimes has an interactive puzzle where you get to select from a range of suggested ways for the government to save money, increase revenue and thus reduce the deficit. It’s certainly good to see these measures in the context of other ways to spend or save money, and with the background of „something has to be done“. Surely makes you understand politics and politicians a little bit better. Even though I never thought reducing the deficit was that easy! Here are my results. I just raised taxes for completeness‘ sake, the budget was balanced before…

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Divided Government is Good Government

Sonntag, 7. November 2010 15:34

Another post from Happy Sunday Newspaper Day. Like most people, I like having my views confirmed. This time it is NYTimes Op-Ed Contributor Jonathan Rauch arguing eloquently and concisely how divided government (i.e., a Democratic President and Republican House) comes about, and why it is a pretty good solution to the political landscape we face.

The only thing I would like to add is that the pretty short periods of one-party government time are not lapses of the system, but a very valuable ingredient in themselves. The salt in the bipartisan soup if you will, little bursts of innovation and reform that are later smoothed out by bipartisan compromises.

And I think it is fascinating to note that in a completely different political system, Germany spends a lot of time in a similar bipartisan state as well.

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The Cost of a Vote — More Numbers on the Midterms

Sonntag, 7. November 2010 14:38

In a remarkably silent tone, a NYTimes Editorial provides some more numbers and historical context to the question of election advertisement. First to the numbers:


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Capitalism’s Parasites — Trial Lawyers in Corporate America

Sonntag, 7. November 2010 13:23

An interesting NYTimes Magazine article (quite lengthy but entertaining) takes the judicial battles brought about by BP’s gulf oil spill as a prominent example and has a look at the US practice of „trial lawyers“. They can be seen as an alternative to extensive government regulation — while most European countries regulate in advance, US corporations are regulated by the prospect of huge compensations after accidents. In the complex judicial system, this has attracted a specialized brand of lawyers, the trial lawyers, whose business model is to monitor big corporations and look for opportunities to sue them.

Interestingly, the metaphor of parasites came to my mind even before that analogy was mentioned in the article. And while it is used there with the negative implication it has in everyday language, I immediately had an evolutionary perspective on it as well, where parasites are acknowledged for regulating the growth of their hosts and contributing to a dynamic balance.

Hardly surprising, the public opinion on them is mixed:


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