Sunday, August 20, 2017

Bill Mitchell — When neo-liberal masquerades as anti-establishment

I am more positive and optimistic about the TOP (The Opportunities Party) critique of MMT than Bill is. It seems to me that it makes the major concessions that are most significant to reversing the status quo mindset about government finance. The objections are easily met, and Bill does in the post. So I would say that the ball has been advanced toward the goal in New Zealand. MMT got some free publicity, too. 

I don't see a problem with people bringing up questions or making objections, especially when they admit that the government as household or firm analogy doesn't hold. MMT proponents need to be ready with answers, and Bill's post provides some to the specific issues raised by TOP.

Bill Mitchell – billy blog
When neo-liberal masquerades as anti-establishment
Bill Mitchell | Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Sputnik — Society Should 'Filter' Information Based on Moral Principles - Putin

Putin puts his finger on a key issue without naming explicitly.

This is the classical question about what it means to be a good person in a good society.

Under Anglo-American liberalism, this question is not to be asked because the market is the arbiter of truth and value equates to prices. In this view, culture is based on utilitarianism, with its stimulus-response model of human behavior, and law exists chiefly to provide security and protect private property.

Traditionalism disagrees. In this view, human behavior involves moral responsibility and genuine freedom is impossible without moral responsibility.

Morality is about how people should behave, and law is about how people must and must not behave.

Morality and ethics are evolved culturally, and law is decided institutionally.

Classical conservatism is traditionalist. It looks to tradition for guidance in such matters.

Classical liberalism is rationally based. It looks to reason and evidence for justification.

Classical conservatives generally favor government taking a moral role and exerting moral authority where the need arises owing to conflict of views.

Classical liberals generally hold that this is is not a question for government to answer, although law makers must deal with it in legislating. Reason and evidence should be the guide rather than tradition and custom.

Putin is taking a liberal position for Russia, albeit traditionalist in Western liberal eyes. However, traditionalism and classical conservatism predominate strongly in Russian culture and politics.

Sputnik International
Society Should 'Filter' Information Based on Moral Principles - Putin

It’s up to the creative community to filter tele-and internet content as the government’s influence in this sphere should be reduced to minimum, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday at a meeting with participants in the Tavrida educational youth forum, commenting on an idea of establishing a kind of a filter for television and internet content to reduce aggressive and crime-related information that is adversely impacting the younger generation.
"What is prohibited by law must be outlawed everywhere - both in the internet and in television, and in other mass media," he stressed. "But everything else must be done only by one way - through filtering by the creative community. If the community elaborates a system of moral and ethical filters it would be right. The government’s say in this process should be if not excluded, then minimized. But better excluded."
The president called to "think together on the establishment of such mechanisms." He said he is in contacts with the CEOs of Russia’s leading television channels and with those "who influence this or that way what is going on in the internet" and these people, in his words, understand the situation and "are trying to change it for the better." "It is difficult to do it - to filter information torrents - in the present-day world. There are grounds to fear that such filtration could be ideologized and society would be stripped of the possibility to receive reliable, open and direct information," Putin added.
Putin says government’s say in filtering info content should be reduced to minimum

Robert W. Merry — Stop poking the Russian bear

New sanctions are coming, whether he wants them or not. NATO expansion and the West’s Ukraine meddling will continue. Encirclement is firmly in place.
It’s difficult to envision where this could lead, short of actual hostilities. Russia’s fundamental national interests, the ones Trump was prepared to accept, will almost certainly render such hostilities inevitable.
The National Interest
Stop poking the Russian bear
Robert W. Merry | Editor of the American Conservative

Kenneth L. Pearce — George Berkeley and the power of words

John Locke's epistemological realism versus George Berkeley's linguistic constructivism. Subsequent findings favor Berkeley's view. Human's participate in the construct of their reality through the way they express themselves about it and their relationship to it.

Short and worth a read.

OUPblog — Oxford University Press's Academic Insights for the Thinking World
George Berkeley and the power of words
Kenneth L. Pearce | Ussher Assistant Professor in Berkeley Studies (Early Modern Philosophy) in Trinity College Dublin

Sam Kriss — The Myth of the Alt-Left

After Trump announced the existence of the alt-left on live TV, media outlets scurried to tell the world exactly where the term emerged from. CBS explains that it “came out of the conservative media.” CNN, quoting a director at the Anti-Defamation League, describes it as a “made-up term used by people on the right.” writes that “the term ‘alt-left’ began being used by the online conservative media in 2016 before it slowly migrated to more mainstream conservative voices, like Fox News’ Sean Hannity.” (Hannity, who repeatedly uses the term on his TV show, seems to be getting widespread credit.) The British Telegraph newspaper, meanwhile, flatters the president with a power of logodaedaly he definitely doesn’t have, claiming the phrase was “coined by Mr Trump” himself.

None of these explanations is really true. The term “alt-left” was probably simultaneously invented hundreds or thousands of times, always bearing a slightly different meaning depending on its inventor. But up until now, the people who most forcefully pushed the idea of an alt-left weren’t Nazis or 4chan posters or anyone else in the orbit of Trump and pro-Trump Republicans trying to invent a mythical opposite to the alt-right. The alt-left is, first and foremost, a figment of centrist Democrats....
The invention of the alt-left allowed centrist liberals to pretend that something entirely different was going on: They were sandwiched between two sets of frothing fanatics who secretly had a lot in common with each other. It established their particular brand of liberalism, possibly encompassing a few “moderate Republicans,” as the only reasonable ground, besieged by alts....
The Myth of the Alt-Left
Sam Kriss

Adam Garrie — Trump and American Left

Donald Trump’s rhetoric, promises and even at times his policies (when they see the light of day) are as far from the neo-con/neo-liberal status quo of contemporary American policies as one could have deemed imaginable for a US President, not long ago.
When one analyses his policy rhetoric, Donald Trump remains something of a Robert Taft style conservative. The defining characteristics of such an ethos is an opposition to foreign interventions and the bloated ‘moral’ (aka immoral) justifications for such wars, a strong sense of tradition and patriotism, a robust defence of both free speech and the American conception of low-church Christianity and perhaps most interestingly “a touch of socialism”....
When asked, “What do you think needs to be done to overcome the racial divides in this country?”, Trump replied,
“Well I really think jobs can have a big impact. I think if we continue to create jobs — over a million, substantially more than a million — and you can see just the other day, the car companies coming in with fox- you know, FoxConn. I think if we continue to create jobs at levels that I'm- that I'm creating jobs, I think that's going to have a tremendous impact, positive impact on race relations”.
Trump continued, adding,
“And the other thing, very important, I believe wages will start going up. They haven't gone up for a long time. I believe wages now, because the economy is doing so well with respect to employment and unemployment, I believe wages will start to go up. I think that will have a tremendously positive impact on race relations. Thank you”.
The very notion that relations between social sects can be improved by material gain is a classic tenant of socialism, one which contrasted itself against the determinism of so-called reactionaries as well as against the utilitarianism of classical liberalism....
Trump and American Left
Adam Garrie

Sabena Siddiqui — Could the road from Charlottesville lead America toward civil war?

Considering all this information, it seems unlikely that the United States can remain a liberal country much longer.
The paradoxes of liberalism are coming to a head.

Philip Pilkington — Utilitarian Economics and the Corruption of Conservatism

Weekend reading on economic and political economy. Phil always has interesting things to say as a philosophical economist or economic philosopher.

American Affairs
Utilitarian Economics and the Corruption of Conservatism
Philip Pilkington

Charles and Louis-Vincent Gave — Gavekal On The Coming Clash Of Empires: Russia's Role As A Global Game-Changer

This is an interesting analysis from the POV of globalization, the global economy, geopolitics, geostrategy and political economy.  I am not endorsing the analysis itself, although it is plausible and makes many good points such as the geopolitical conflict between sea-power or thalassocracy, and land-power or tellurocracy. 

While the specifics are interesting, the method of analysis is much more significant.

The chief reason I am posting it is to show how developing an entire economic outlook based on microeconomics, as conventional economics tends to do, is insufficient, since there are many non-economic factors and forces in play that need to be taken into account. Political economy has to take much more into account.

Any such analysis is contingent on decisions taken in the future as the players adapt to each others' moves on the grand chessboard.

Zero Hedge

“Virtual Autism” May Explain Explosive Rise in ASD Diagnoses By Marilyn Wedge, PhD

It seems that children need to spend time with other children and adults as well as play with toys for their brains to develop properly but far too many of them are spending too much time logged onto their computer screens, tablets, and mobile phones instead. I read of one woman who was late home and worried about her boy maybe getting up to no good and found him and his friends all sitting around in silence in the kitchen all one glued to their mobile phones.

Boy, did I have fun as a kid, in those days you were just allowed out to play without parent supervision. I remember even at five years old before I went to school I was allowed to go in the streets to play and I would meets loads of other kids my age too. When I was six I remember wondering for miles and I never got lost knowing every street corner on the way back. When I think back it was almost like photographic memory, but all of that gone now, though.

Some children who have been diagnosed with autism or autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) could dramatically benefit from not being exposed to electronic screens.

New clinical case studies have found that many young children who spend too much screen time—on TV’s, video games, tablets and computers—have symptoms labeled as “autism.”1 When parents take away the screens for a few months the child’s symptoms disappear. The term for this phenomenon is “Virtual Autism” or autism induced by electronic screens. The term “Virtual Autism” was coined by Romanian clinical psychologist Dr Marius Zamfir.

Romania witnessed an astonishing rise in autism among youngsters in a children’s hospital. The cause was unknown, so one psychiatrist dug into the activity logs the hospital collected on all admitted patients. In those records he found a strong trend: children presenting with autism were spending four or more hours a day watching some kind of screen: television, computer, tablet, or phone. Today in Romania, treatment of autism by screen withdrawal is considered routine and has public support.2

We are seeing a startling rise in autism diagnoses in the United States, a trend that has parents, teachers, and mental health professionals puzzled and concerned.

These statistics from the Center for Disease Control paint a stark picture of the rising rates of diagnoses:

In 1975, 1 in 5000 children were diagnosed with autism.

In 2005, 1 in 500 children.

In 2014 (the most recent CDC numbers), 1 in 68 children.

The latest government survey of parents suggests that today the number of children living with autism may be as high as 1 in 45. That means that today in the United States a child is 100 times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than children in 1975.

The Paradox of Capitalism (Kaivey): Why Amazon's UK tax bill has dropped 50% by Simon Black

Amazon make no profit at all on its postal deliveries. Years ago everything was delivered by a Royal Mail postman which was a low paid, but pleasant job if you didn't mind the cold weather in the winter. Up until a few years ago the postmen used bicycles and you could see their Royal Mail bikes chained up everywhere - and often not chained up at all because no one would nick them with their distinctive company colours. It was a little bit of Old England seeing the postmen on their bikes, but all that went with privatisation.

But when the government opened parcel delivery to the market things started to change. In the fierce competition delivery men often became self employed losing many benefits, like sick pay and pensions, but some delivery companies even gave jobs to anyone who had free time and housewives who had finished taking their kids to school could drop off a few parcels on the way home. They might be given two hours to drop off the parcels but in reality it took a lot more time, so some of these housewives never competed the task and their homes became filled up with undelivered parcels but no one ever checked on them to see if the parcels had been delivered.

Nowadays Amazon drivers come around in their domestic cars to drop off parcels, and they are always in a hurry. Amazon UK has been in trouble lots of times recently for under paying paying - or not even paying - their delivery drivers and their wage seems to be incredibly low. Even the postman nowadays pushes the parcels through the door before I have fully opened it and then he is off in a scurry, no time for a quick chat anymore, just a hello.

Anyhow, I can walk one way and within minutes be in miles of beautiful countryside and walk the other way and within 15 minutes be in a small town centre with a huge Tesco hypermarket.  I buy everything from Tesco including my clothes and almost everything else is bought online mainly from Amazon and eBay. I haven't been to a town centre for years with all that hassle and crowds.

But I was worked to death in my old job where life became very unpleasant which went on for years until it made me very ill causing me to leave work.

Simon Black, BBC

Amazon has seen a 50% fall in the amount of UK corporation tax it paid last year, while recording a 54% increase in turnover for the same period.

This snippet of news raised eyebrows this morning when it was revealed. So what's going on?
The answer is simple on the face of it.

Taxes are paid on profit not turnover. It paid lower taxes because it made lower profits. Last year it made £48m in profit - this year it made only £24m so it paid £7m tax compared to £15m.
What is more interesting is WHY its profits were lower.
Part of the reason is the way it pays its staff.

Amazon UK Services is the division which runs the fulfilment centres which process, package and post deliveries to UK customers. It employs about 16,000 of the 24,000 people Amazon have in the UK.

Each full-time employee gets given at least £1,000 worth of shares every year. They can't cash them in immediately - they have to hold them for a period of between one and three years. 

HMRC loses

If Amazon's share price goes up in that time, those shares are worth more. Amazon's share price has indeed gone up over the past couple of years - a lot. In fact, in the past two years the share price has nearly doubled, so £1,000 in shares granted in August 2015 are now worth nearly £2,000.

Staff compensation goes up, compensation is an expense, expenses can be deducted from revenue - so profits are lower and so are the taxes on those profits.

But surely this extra income for the staff is taxed? Probably not.

HMRC rules allow employees to receive £3,600 worth of shares from their employer tax free every year. Most of these awards are below that threshold.

The employee wins through a tax-free windfall, Amazon wins because it hasn't got to pay any cash out, which leaves HMRC as the big loser.

This is not just allowed by UK tax law - it is required by it.

So, weirdly, the more valuable Amazon becomes, the less tax this particular bit of its business pays.

There is heightened sensitivity around the tax affairs of technology giants such as Amazon, Google and Apple. The challenge of adapting a tax code written for a bygone era to work effectively on technology multinationals who have socked billions away in low tax jurisdictions remains.

But the practice of giving staff shares is widespread, generally seen as a good way to promote loyalty and engagement - and is 100% legal.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ben Kamisar — RNC raises millions more than DNC in July

The Democratic Party establishment apparently hasn't gotten the word yet.

Michael Krieger — Donald Trump Finally Comes Out of the Closet

If the genuine left is smart, it will take a step back and see this for the gigantic opening it is. Lots of Trump voters are now up for grabs, and if they can come up with a genuine message of economic populism that avoids the typical leftist pitfalls — such as supporting misguided young people dressing up like ninjas, carrying flags and hurling rocks at people trying to give a talk — the opportunity to create a populist movement of immense national significance is there. People across the country are craving it, but they want nothing to do with antifa, political correctness, or aggression against free speech. Noam Chomsky gets it, and I hope others heed his words.

As such, here’s what I would recommend to any burgeoning populist movement wanting to unite the country against oligarchy, as opposed to just becoming a leftist echo chamber. It is the exact same thing I suggested to Trump, but he obviously didn’t listen....
Liberty Blitzkrieg
Donald Trump Finally Comes Out of the Closet
Michael Krieger

George Friedman — China and India are guarding against the preposterous


Business Insider
China and India are guarding against the preposterous
George Friedman, Geopolitical Futures

Friday, August 18, 2017

Zachary Keck — Report: Americans Support Use of Nuclear Weapons If It Saves Lives of U.S. Military

As Sagan and Valentino note, the results speak for themselves. “The main conclusions of these survey experiments are clear,” they write. “The majority of the U.S. public has not internalized either a belief in the nuclear taboo or a strong noncombatant immunity norm. When faced with realistic scenarios in which they are forced to contemplate a trade-off between sacrificing a large number of U.S. troops in combat or deliberately killing even larger numbers of foreign noncombatants, the majority of respondents approve of killing civilians in an effort to end the war.”
The results do strongly suggest the nuclear taboo and norm against targeting civilians have not taken hold, at least among the American public.…
Perhaps the most important lesson of the survey is that it is imperative to cultivate strong, far-sighted leaders to guide the country abroad. After all, respondents suggested they were willing to support a president’s decision even if it was not their preferred choice. The need for far-sighted leadership is especially pressing at a time when improved accuracy is giving America the ability to use smaller nuclear bombs that cause far less civilian casualties. In the wrong hands, these bombs could be tempting to use, even though doing so would let the nuclear cat out of the bag, with uncertain and potentially catastrophic repercussions.  
The National Interest
Report: Americans Support Use of Nuclear Weapons If It Saves Lives of U.S. Military
Zachary Keck

Deconstructing Bill Browder’s Dangerous Deception – Alex Krainer: with review by The Saker

The Saker:
Today I want to introduce you to a book whose importance simply cannot be overstated: The Killing of William Browder: Deconstructing Bill Browder’s Dangerous Deception by Alex Krainer. I consider that book as a *must read* for any person trying to understand modern Russia and where the new Cold War with Russia came from.
Most of you must have heard of the Magnitsky Act or even maybe of William Browder himself. You probably know that Browder was a British businessman who founded Hermitage Capital Management investment fund which Sergei Magnitskyrepresented as a lawyer and auditor. Finally, you must have heard that Magnitsky died (was killed) in a Russian jail while Browder was placed by the Russian government on a black list and denied entry. For the vast majority of you, that is probably as much thought as you ever gave this topic and I have to confess that this is also true for me. I never bothered really researching this issue because I knew the context so well that this, by itself, gave me a quasi-certitude that I knew what had happened. Still, when I read this book I was amazed at the fantastically detailed account Krainer provides to what is really an amazing story.
In his book Alex Krainer offers us the truth and truly shows us how deep the rabbit hole goes....
The Vineyard of the Saker
Deconstructing Bill Browder’s Dangerous Deception – Alex Krainer: with review by The SakerThe Saker

See also
As Congress still swoons over the anti-Kremlin Magnitsky narrative, Western political and media leaders refuse to let their people view a documentary that debunks the fable, reports Robert Parry.
Consortium News (Updated Aug. 4, 2017)
A Blacklisted Film and the New Cold War
Robert Parry

Jonathan Easley — Bannon back at Breitbart after White House ouster

President Trump’s former chief strategist Stephen Bannon returned to Breitbart News on Friday just hours after parting ways with the White House.
Bannon has reclaimed the title of executive chairman for Breitbart and directed the outlet’s Friday editorial meeting, the website said in a statement on Friday.
“The populist-nationalist movement got a lot stronger today,” said Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow. “Breitbart gained an executive chairman with his finger on the pulse of the Trump agenda.
The Hill
Bannon back at Breitbart after White House ouster
Jonathan Easley
Bannon spoke to the Weekly Standard Friday afternoon, shortly after news of his departure from the White Housebroke. He told TWS that his leaving the administration marked a turning point for Trump's presidency.
"The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over," Bannon said. "We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It'll be something else. And there'll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over."
Washington Free Beacon
In Interview, Bannon Says After His Departure Trump Presidency ‘Is Over’
Charles Fain Lehman

Andrew Prokop — Steve Bannon’s exit from the Trump White House, explained

What will — and won’t — change in a post-Bannon White House.
The establishment and deep state win. Mike Flynn and Steve Bannon gone. What's next?


Lars P. Syll — Dutch books and money pumps

According to Keynes we live in a world permeated by unmeasurable uncertainty – not quantifiable stochastic risk – which often forces us to make decisions based on anything but rational expectations. Sometimes we ‘simply do not know.’ Keynes would not have accepted the view of Bayesian economists, according to whom expectations “tend to be distributed, for the same information set, about the prediction of the theory.” Keynes, rather, thinks that we base our expectations on the confidence or ‘weight’ we put on different events and alternatives. To Keynes, expectations are a question of weighing probabilities by ‘degrees of belief,’ beliefs that have precious little to do with the kind of stochastic probabilistic calculations made by the rational agents modelled by Bayesian economists.
Lars P. Syll’s Blog
Dutch books and money pumps
Lars P. Syll | Professor, Malmo University

Stephen Metcalf — Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world

Last summer, researchers at the International Monetary Fund settled a long and bitter debate over “neoliberalism”: they admitted it exists. Three senior economists at the IMF, an organisation not known for its incaution, published a paper questioning the benefits of neoliberalism. In so doing, they helped put to rest the idea that the word is nothing more than a political slur, or a term without any analytic power. The paper gently called out a “neoliberal agenda” for pushing deregulation on economies around the world, for forcing open national markets to trade and capital, and for demanding that governments shrink themselves via austerity or privatisation. The authors cited statistical evidence for the spread of neoliberal policies since 1980, and their correlation with anaemic growth, boom-and-bust cycles and inequality….
The Guardian — The Long Read
Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world
Stephen Metcalf

Dean Baker — Using Protectionism to Try to Keep China Down

There is a recurring theme in public discussions, seemingly embraced by everyone from Steve Bannon to columnists at the New York Times and Washington Post, that we should use protectionist measures to try to keep China from overtaking the U.S. as the world’s leading economic power. This effort is both incredibly wrongheaded and doomed to failure…
Beat the Press
Using Protectionism to Try to Keep China Down
Dean Baker | Co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C

Thursday, August 17, 2017

But what should be more troubling to Antifa is that its strategy of participating in violence provides a unique opening for right-wing extremists. We are hearing more and more about Antifa not because its anti-fascist message is being disseminated more effectively. Instead we are hearing about it as the bogeyman of white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other far-right groups.
Antifa is, in this context, the violent provocateur of the alt-right. Unless and until the left acknowledges this political vulnerability, being able to distinguish Antifa from its ideological opponents will increasingly become a blurry enterprise.
This was true back in the Sixties and Seventies when the Black Bloc provoked violence at otherwise peaceful demonstrations. There was a theory that the perpetrators of violence were was agent provocateurs, and there likely was some truth to that in cases. However, it was not true of all cases and perhaps most. The people perpetrating the violence were far left. They self-identified as anarchists. Later this became known as the black bloc.

I knew some of these people back then. They were predominantly anarchists, although it seemed to me that some were just thugs looking for a fight with The Man. This was a fringe group at the periphery of the much larger antiwar movement, when most demonstrations were organized as protests against the Vietnam War. This was the extent of their interest for some, but there were also a lot of people that were also peacefully protesting a system that they viewed as exploitive and corrupt. This can be viewed as a dialectical response to the status quo at the time that considered "normal" in America. A lot of younger people didn't want to sign up for that future.

Among the protesters were fringe groups of socialists and even a few communists, but they were also generally peaceful in my experience. It was the self-styled anarchists that were into bashing, and their target was the riot police. Most of the policing of the demonstrations was by regular forces, but there was also a contingent of riot police in the background and violence would work to draw them out. The mainstream media never reported on this, and the rest of the demonstrators mostly ignored it as an aberration, if they even encountered it at all. It was not a widespread phenomenon.

But now the media is on it, and it is also on the Internet. The peaceful opposition needs to be aware that this is an issue and not try to cover it up or deny it, or it will become toxic.

Antifa Needs a New Way to Fight the Alt-Right
James Braxton Peterson is professor of English and director of Africana studies at Lehigh University

Noah Smith — "Theory vs. Data" in statistics too


I think Noah has this right. Fit the tool to the job, rather than the job to the tool.

Aristotle defined speculative knowledge in terms of causal explanation. This definition stuck although Aristotle's analysis of causality did not.
In the Posterior Analytics, Aristotle places the following crucial condition on proper knowledge: we think we have knowledge of a thing only when we have grasped its cause (APost. 71 b 9–11. Cf. APost. 94 a 20). That proper knowledge is knowledge of the cause is repeated in the Physics: we think we do not have knowledge of a thing until we have grasped its why, that is to say, its cause (Phys. 194 b 17–20). Since Aristotle obviously conceives of a causal investigation as the search for an answer to the question “why?”, and a why-question is a request for an explanation, it can be useful to think of a cause as a certain type of explanation. (My hesitation is ultimately due to the fact that not all why-questions are requests for an explanation that identifies a cause, let alone a cause in the particular sense envisioned by Aristotle.) — Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
There is a distinction between reasons and causes. Some types of explanation seek only reasons, while other seek causes. Causation subsequently came to be viewed in terms of articulating mechanisms or lines of transmission (models) that are substantiated in evidence.

Explanation by reasons is different since the strict criterion of articulating mechanisms or lines of transmission that can be checked against evidence is not required.

Explanation by reasons rather than strictly by establishing causation is based on the principle of sufficient reason, which is usually credited to Spinoza and Leibnitz.

In philosophical logic, two negative criteria are foundational. Valid reasoning is vitiated by 1) arguing in a circle and 2) infinite regress.

Without recourse to checking against evidence there is no stopping point in assigning causes other than stipulation, e.g. of a first cause.

However, there may be a reason for a stopping point that doesn't involve causality based on evidence from observation or only stipulation, for example, principles that are "self-evident" based on intuition such as Aristotle's conception of intellectual intuition, or Kant's synthetic a priori propositions as articulated in the Critique of Pure Reason

On the other hand, Hume argued that causality is merely over-interpretation of constant correlation, there being no knowledge of the world other than that based on sense data. There is no observable causal link.

Cutting to the chase, scientific explanation based on causality is grounded in models that articulate causal mechanisms or lines of transmission that show how things change invariantly, which is the basis for deterministic functions. Where this is not possible, then there are two other avenues. The first is explanation by giving reasons, which is the domain of speculative philosophy. The second is employing statistics to explore patters of correlation. The question then is to what degree causal models can be gained from statistical methods, or whether it is possible at all. 

This is the issue that Noah Smith's post is getting at.

"Theory vs. Data" in statistics too
Noah Smith | Bloomberg View columnist

Patricia Pino — The fringe event that promises to empower Labour’s Progressives against neoliberalism

Professor Bill Mitchell – a major proponent of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) – will attend a Labour Conference fringe event this September, it’s a rare opportunity progressives must seize.…
Through the mass misinformation that is the neoliberal doctrine, the elites created a set of economic rules which presents them and only them as the indispensable saviours of society, and thus the only entity that must directly benefit from economic policy. They then dressed this fantasy as common sense, aided by their media sycophants whose very positions depend on the continued support from the wealthy classes. Dissent against this destructive order is presented as madness. Obedience is absolute: the poor think they must protect their masters, even at the expense of their own wellbeing.
In fact, every ill of society, every injustice, every incident of exploitation and systematic cruelty, finds its justification in some false economic dogma that goes unquestioned. And that is why the fight for social change goes hand in hand with economic reform....
If this movement belongs primarily to the young, then it is time for them to take the lead. Until millennials arm themselves with strong economic arguments, they will be defenceless when the establishment blames their money troubles on indulgence, their growing personal debt on irresponsibility and their joblessness on laziness. Until millennials can explain why these societal issues are a direct result of economic policy, the establishment will continue to promote them as individuals’ problems. The difficulties presented by a population that has endured 40 years of neoliberal indoctrination cannot be underestimated....
Help the organisers: visit the Crowdfunding page for this event. 
The Pileus
The fringe event that promises to empower Labour’s Progressives against neoliberalism
Patricia Pino

also by Patricia Pino:
Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss MMT at length with Professor Bill Mitchell himself. My objective was to find a way to explain its fundamentals in a way which could be easily understood by anyone, without the requirement of an academic background. He was kind enough to help me in this task.
To understand MMT, it is best to start by comparing it to Neoliberalism.…
It should now be evident why the neoliberal model presents a destructive path. Immediate environmental and human concerns (namely climate change and destitution) are relegated to issues of secondary importance. But to replace this model with that proposed by MMT a number of challenges remain.…
The following are a few basic principles of MMT which must be understood in order to challenge the neoliberal myths:
Labour’s economic alternative to neoliberalism

David Motadel: The United States was never immune to fascism. Not then, not now

It has never been more important to knowledge the history of fascism and neofacism in America.

David Montadel is assistant professor of international history at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

America is currently experiencing a wave of increasingly aggressive far-right and neo-fascist activism. Observers have routinely considered fascism an ideology alien to American society. Yet it has deeper roots in American history than most of us have been willing to acknowledge.
Consider the interwar period. The crisis years of the 1920s and 1930s not only gave rise to fascist movements across Europe – a moment captured in Ernst Nolte’s classic The Three Faces of Fascism – but around the globe. The United States was no exception.
Across the country, fascist and proto-fascist groups sprang up. The most prominent among them was the paramilitary Silver Shirts movement, founded by William Dudley Pelley, a radical journalist from Massachusetts, in 1933.
Obsessed with fantasies about a Jewish-Communist world conspiracy and fears about an African American corruption of American culture, its followers promoted racism, extreme nationalism, violence and the ideal of an aggressive masculinity. They competed against various other militant fringe groups, from the Khaki Shirt movement, which aimed to build a paramilitary force of army veterans to stage a coup, to the paramilitary Black Legion, feared for its assassinations, bombings and acts of arson.
An important role in this history was played by radicalized parts of the Italian and German American community. Inspired by the ascent of Mussolini, some Italian Americans founded numerous fascist groups, which were eventually united under the Fascist League of North America.
Even bigger was Fritz Julius Kuhn’s German-American Bund, founded in 1936. Its members considered themselves patriotic Americans. At their meetings the American flag stood beside the Swastika banner. At a rally at Madison Square Garden in New York on 20 February 1939, a crowd of 20,000 listened to Kuhn attacking President Franklin D Roosevelt, referring to him as “Frank D Rosenfeld” and calling his New Deal a “Jew Deal”.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

teleSUR — Brazil's Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Indigenous Claim

Indigenous communities in Brazil have scored a major victory, as the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in their favor in a conflict over the Xingu Indigenous Park, in the state of Mato Grosso, and the Indigenous reserves of Nambikwara and Parecis.
Brazil's Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Indigenous Claim
teleSUR / md-IB-cl

Robert Kuttner — Steve Bannon, Unrepentant

Trump’s embattled strategist phones me, unbidden, to opine on China, Korea, and his enemies in the administration.
Great article.

The American Prospect
Steve Bannon, Unrepentant
Robert Kuttner

It gets better. Bannon thought this was off the record.

Raw Story
‘Leaker’ Bannon ‘never intended’ for free-wheeling interview to be on record: report
Elizabeth Preza

Michael Krieger — Americans are Rapidly Descending Into Madness

This is interesting post. It reflects a key strain of thought at the time of the craziness over Vietnam that led to the countercultural revolution, communalism, the underground economy, etc. Most people that grew up after that period are unaware of the profound shift that took place in American culture from mid-Sixties (seeded by the Beat Generation of the late Fifties) to the mid-Seventies. The transition was complete by the late Seventies and America set off on another generational round at the time of the Reagan presidency.

Krieger's post, with which I identify from those times, suggests that something similar may be happening. This would accord with the generational theory of Strauss and Howe and also suggested by Ravi Batra in The New Golden Age: The Coming Revolution against Political Corruption and Economic Chaos.

Interesting also, Krieger calls for raising the level of collective consciousness as an antidote to the mass craziness, something that also characterized the period of the countercultural revolution in America and the a renewed interest in spirituality apart from institutional religions. Now meditation is a household word in the West, recommended by health professionals and adopted as a management technique.

According to Stauss & Howe, the Sixties generation was one characterized by Awakening and I agree that this is an apt characterization of what transpired then. However, the present cycle of generational change is characterized by crisis, and that also seems to be the case. This period is a phase transition to the next generational cycle. It is a period of destruction before a new period of reconstruction.

Liberty Blitzkrieg
Americans are Rapidly Descending Into Madness
Michael Krieger

John Bowden — Bannon: I want Democrats to talk about racism every day

The Alt Right is not going to be happy with Steve Bannon calling the white nationalist protesters clowns and losers.

He is correct that Democrats have a tendency to overplay their hand in using identity politics, but they smell blood here.

The good thing is that America is finally having to deal with its demons.

The Hill
Bannon: I want Democrats to talk about racism every day
John Bowden

Meanwhile, Barack Obama hit a homer with this tweet.

The Guardian
Obama's anti-racism tweet after Charlottesville is most liked ever on Twitter
Claire Phipps

Then there is this.

So we are supposed to believe that communist influence is as big an issue in the US as white nationalism and racism?

Daily Caller
Many Unhappy With Communist Statues Across The U.S.
Henry Rodgers

Robert Strand — How CEOs Decided Trump Is a Bad Investment

One way of looking at it.

How CEOs Decided Trump Is a Bad Investment
Robert Strand | Executive Director of the Center for Responsible Business at the University of California-Berkeley Haas School of Business and Associate Professor at the Copenhagen Business School Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility

Laura Santhanam — New poll: Majority of Americans unhappy with Trump’s response to Charlottesville

A majority of Americans are dissatisfied with President Donald Trump’s response to the violence that erupted last Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia, according to a new poll conducted by the PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist Poll....
New poll: Majority of Americans unhappy with Trump’s response to Charlottesville
Laura Santhanam

Sarah Kliff — An astonishing change in how Americans think about government-run health care

An astonishing change in how Americans think about government-run health care
Sarah Kliff

John Harwood — Donald Trump has a very clear attitude about morality: He doesn't believe in it

  • President Trump, in a raucous press conference, again blamed "both sides" for deadly violence in Charlottesville
  • He attacked business leaders who quit a White House panel over Trump's message on the weekend incident
  • Trump combines indifference to conventional notions of morality or propriety with disbelief that others would be motivated by them
It will interesting to watch the polling on how Americans relate to this. The US establishment might get a surprise. That would be a surprise for the world, too.

This has the potential for being a game changer. We'll see. I don't see this ending soon.

CNBC — The Harwood File
Donald Trump has a very clear attitude about morality: He doesn't believe in it
John Harwood

Stratfor — The Apocalyptic Vision of Stephen K. Bannon

Useful short summary of Strauss & Howe's generational theory, chiefly The Fourth Turning, and Steve Bannon's interpretation of its implications for America and the world.

Tom Luongo — Russia Turns to Cryptocurrencies to Counter US Sanctions

In essence, by the end of 2018, cryptos will be trading on the Moscow Exchange and integrated into the banking system to stand beside stocks, bonds and other derivative assets.

Brian Resnick — Psychologists surveyed hundreds of alt-right supporters. The results are unsettling.

This view is what enabled slave holder and slave breeder Thomas Jefferson to write, 
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….
In Jefferson's day in the US, many assumed (believed) that only white men were fully human, so there was no contradiction between the belief that all men are created equal and slavery. 

The rest were accordingly not enfranchised in the US Constitution.

Non-white males were franchised subsequent to the Civil War, but women did not get the vote until the Constitution was amended in 1920, and this came only after a long fight by the women suffrage movement.

Psychologists surveyed hundreds of alt-right supporters. The results are unsettling.
Brian Resnick

Putting an End to the Rent Economy — Vlado Plaga interviews Michael Hudson

Interview with Vlado Plaga in the German magazine FAIRCONOMY, September 2017.

VP: You are advocating a revival of classical economics. What did the classical economists understand by a free economy?
MH: They all defined a free economy as one that is free from land rent, free from unearned income. Many also said that a free economy had to be free from private banking. They advocated full taxation of economic rent. Today’s idea of free market economics is the diametric opposite. In an Orwellian doublethink language, a free market now means an economy free for rent extractors, free for predators to make money, and essentially free for financial and corporate crime.
Good one.

Putting an End to the Rent Economy
Vlado Plaga interviews Michael Hudson, President of The Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends (ISLET), a Wall Street Financial Analyst, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and Guest Professor at Peking University

Sandwichman — Deep Structures of the Cultural Marxism Myth

Jeet Heer has posted a timely and excellent essay at New Republic titled "Trump's Racism and the Cultural Marxism Myth." In his essay, Heer recounts much of the background to the Higgins memo that I have documented here, here and here. Heer credits William S. Lind as the major popularizer of the myth, as have I in my blog posts. What I'm posting here extends the analysis and reveals significant background about personnel and timelines to the story....
There is a subtext to this that one needs to know and many American that were born later than 1980 and most non-Americans probably don't know much about it. A key element of the history is the influence of Herbert Marcuse on the countercultural revolution of the Sixties and Seventies that carried dynamcially by the antiwar movement against the Vietnam War. The participants in this were characterized by the opposition as "dirty fucking hippies" (acronym DFHs).

I am only too well aware this since I was one of the DFHs. After I left active duty in the US Naval Reserve as an officer serving in the Western Pacific (yes, I am therefore a Vietnam vet) I joined the antiwar movement based on what I had learned from my experience, as did John Kerry and other Vietnam vets. We were the butt of a great deal of vituperation from people that did not serve and sought deferments to keep from serving.

The DFHs became the enemy along with totalitarian communism. The right characterized the DFHs as at least pink if not red, indicating an overlap between antiwar Americans and the commies. Jane Fonda was the poster child. We adopted the term "DFH" proudly for ourselves to counter the insult, but actually called ourselves "freaks" since our task as countercultural revolutionaries was to freak out the squares. We dressed and acted accordingly, as in "sex, drugs and rock and roll." Good times.

When the US lost the Vietnam War by withdrawing rather ignomineously, the narrative on the right was that the antiwar left had "stabbed America in the back." This was reminiscent of Hitler and the Nazis scapegoating "the Jews" for stabbing Germany in the back, purported resulting Germany's loss in WWI. I don't want to overemphasize this parallel, but it is there, and it should not be ignored, especially in light of present politics.

Since that time, US politics has been characterized by the attempt of the more extreme right to characterize the left as a whole in this light in its narrative. This is the origin of the term "cultural Marxism."
At last we have a doctrine, a vanguard organization, and a timeline. But most importantly, courtesy of the Larouche cult, we now have a suitably unitary devil-function. The "basic Nazi trick," as Kenneth Burke labeled "the 'curative' unification by a fictitious devil-function, gradually made convincing by the sloganizing repetitiousness of standard advertising technique." Helpfully, in a 1988 address to the Heritage Foundation,William F. Campbell explained why conservatives need such a devil-function: 
But as first and second generation conservatives have always known, and had to live with as an unpleasant skeleton in the family closet, there is sharp tension, if not contradiction, between the traditionalist and the libertarian wings of the conservative movement. They have been held together primarily because of their common enemies, modern egalitarianism and totalitarian collectivism, which they both abhor.
In 1988, when Campbell made those remarks, the Soviet Union still existed and could serve the primary role of common enemy, symbolizing the alien totalitarian destiny of domestic egalitarianism. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a new enemy had to be conjured. The Higgins memo is testament to the contortions that must be endured to conjure that devil.
BTW, I was sitting that the center of the left at the time as a grad student in philosophy. I can say from experience that Herbert Marcuse's influence on the antiwar movement and DFHs was marginal. So most of the cultural Marxism myth based on his supposed influence is simply nonsense. This may have been true, to some degree at least, in the youth movements in France and Germany at the time. But Americans are not much interested in philosophy and tend to be action-oriented. They don't need elaborate justifications for action.

Deep Structures of the Cultural Marxism Myth

Brian Romanchuk — Primer: Money Neutrality

Short simple summary of the meaning of "money neutrality." 

Money neutrality is a key piece of conventional (neoclassical) economics. Keynes rejected money neutrality in a modern monetary production economy. Money neutrality is also foundational to monetarism based on the quantity theory of money.

Bond Economics
Primer: Money Neutrality
Brian Romanchuk

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Quartz — The best city to live in the world is Melbourne in Australia

New ZealandAuckland8

The best city to live in the world is Melbourne in Australia
Lianna Brinded

Leonid Bershidsky — Piketty Zeroes In on Putin's Pain Point

Russian ex-pat Leonid Bershidsky is blowing holes through Western narratives that are out of touch with Russian reality and heavily influenced by Western russophobia.
This raises the question of whether the current Western sanctions against Russia strike at the heart of the Russian system or merely pretend to do so. Since the sanctions were introduced, no Western government has made a meaningful effort to investigate the provenance of hundreds of billions of dollars in Russian offshore assets. No significant asset freezes have taken place. The money is still out there, to be invested inside or outside Russia, in the service of its "perceived national interest" or otherwise (Putin would like to get his hands on some of it, too, but it doesn't belong to his cronies).
A Western effort to track down that money and make it available to a post-Putin, democratic Russia could potentially be a game-changer. But it would require far more work, and probably a lot of uncomfortable revelations about Western business and politics. The current sanctions regime is simply not intended to open that can of worms.
Bloomberg View
Piketty Zeroes In on Putin's Pain Point
Leonid Bershidsky

Pam Martens and Russ Martens — Corporate Media Continues to Pump Out Fake News on Wall Street Crash of 2008

When there is an epic financial crash in the U.S. that collapses century old Wall Street institutions and brings about the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression, one would think that the root causes would be chiseled in stone by now. But when it comes to the 2008 crash, expensive corporate media real estate is happy to allow bogus theories to go unchallenged by editors.
What is happening ever so subtly over time is that the unprecedented greed, corruption and unrestrained manufacture of fraudulent securities by iconic brands on Wall Street that actually caused the crash are getting a gentle rewrite. The insidious danger of this is that Wall Street is never reformed or adequately regulated – that it remains a skulking financial monster with its unseen tentacles wrapped tightly around every economic artery of American life, retaining its ever present strangulation potential....
This is what public relations and advertising are about. There is no accountability for putting out false narratives. In fact, "consumer capitalism" is based on duping the rubes.

Wall Street On Parade
Corporate Media Continues to Pump Out Fake News on Wall Street Crash of 2008
Pam Martens and Russ Martens

Peter Cooper — Short & Simple 16 – The Expenditure Multiplier and Income Determination

Spending out of income is called induced spending. Equivalently, it is known as ‘endogenous’ spending.
This kind of spending rises and falls roughly in line with income. When income rises, households consume more. When income falls, they consume less.
Because some spending is induced, an initial act of autonomous spending will cause a multiplied increase in new spending and new income. This is known as the expenditure-multiplier effect....
Short & Simple 16 – The Expenditure Multiplier and Income Determination
Peter Cooper

Timothy Taylor — Adam Smith: The Plight of the Impartial Spectator in Times of Faction

Quote from The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759).

Conversable Economist
Adam Smith: The Plight of the Impartial Spectator in Times of Faction
Timothy Taylor | Managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, based at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota

Thomas Graham — The problem isn’t Putin, it’s Russia

As relations worsen, US must realize Russia will not soon, if ever, become a liberal democracy.…
Carried away by ahistorical reasoning, the U.S. believed its victory in the Cold War meant that Russia, like all other countries, had little choice but to adopt the liberal democratic free-market order that had brought prosperity and peace to the West....
The real problem is viewing this as problem. Probably no non-Western state will become a liberal democracy because it is not in accord with the culture and temperament of the people. This is not a problem; it is a fact of history. Wanting it to be otherwise results in wishful thinking and, worse, magical thinking.

The problem is assuming that Western liberalism, and worse, Anglo-American liberalism, are based on eternal truth. This is the kind of dogmatism that liberalism was born in opposition to, and it is the basis of justifying tyranny, for example, as the divine right of kings.

The obvious solution to the pseudo problem is multilateralism and multiculturalism, which is actually more faithful to the principles of liberalism than dogmatic liberalism, which is an oxymoron.

Note that the problem with Graham's policy analysis is that while encouraging pragmatism, it ignores Russia's bottom line and is therefore unrealistic from the outset and will not work. Graham is therefore guilty of what he argues against. 

The problem isn’t Putin, it’s Russia
Thomas Graham, managing director at Kissinger Associates, was the senior director for Russia on the U.S. National Security Council staff from 2004-2007

Bill Mitchell — Japan is different, right? Wrong! Fiscal policy works

Japan is different, right? Japan has a different culture, right? Japan has sustained low unemployment, low inflation, low interest rates, high public deficits and high gross public debt for 25 years, but that is cultural, right? Even the mainstream media is starting to see through the Japan is different narrative as we will see. Yesterday (August 14, 2017), the Cabinet Office in Japan published the preliminary – Quarterly Estimates of GDP – which showed that the Japanese economy is growing strongly and has just posted the 9th quarter of positive annual real GDP growth. Private consumption and investment is strong, the public sector continues to underpin growth with fiscal deficits and real wages are growing. The Eurozone should send a delegation to Tokyo but then all they would learn is that a currency-issuing government that doesn’t fall into the austerity obsession promoted by many economists (including those in the European Commission) can oversee strong growth and low unemployment. Simple really. The Japan experience is interesting because it demonstrates how the reversal in fiscal policy can have significant negative and positive effects in a fairly short time span, whereas monetary policy is much less effective in influencing expenditure....
Bill Mitchell – billy blog
Japan is different, right? Wrong! Fiscal policy works
Bill Mitchell | Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia

See also

Japanese sectoral balances.

Seeking Alpha (Aug. 8, 2017)
Good News: Japanese Current Account ¥935B Surplus In July 2017
Alan Longbon

Chris McGreal: Don't blame addicts for America's opioid crisis. Here are the real culprits

America’s opioid crisis was caused by rapacious pharma companies, politicians who colluded with them and regulators who approved one opioid pill after another

Of all the people Donald Trump could blame for the opioid epidemic, he chose the victims. After his own commission on the opioid crisis issued an interim report this week, Trump said young people should be told drugs are “No good, really bad for you in every way.”
The president’s exhortation to follow Nancy Reagan’s miserably inadequate advice and Just Say No to drugs is far from useful. The then first lady made not a jot of difference to the crack epidemic in the 1980s. But Trump’s characterisation of the source of the opioid crisis was more disturbing. “The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place,” he said.
That is straight out of the opioid manufacturers’ playbook. Facing a raft of lawsuits and a threat to their profits, pharmaceutical companies are pushing the line that the epidemic stems not from the wholesale prescribing of powerful painkillers - essentially heroin in pill form - but their misuse by some of those who then become addicted.

In court filings, drug companies are smearing the estimated two million people hooked on their products as criminals to blame for their own addiction. Some of those in its grip break the law by buying drugs on the black market or switch to heroin. But too often that addiction began by following the advice of a doctor who, in turn, was following the drug manufacturers instructions.
Trump made no mention of this or reining in the mass prescribing underpinning the epidemic. Instead he played to the abuse narrative when he painted the crisis as a law and order issue, and criticised Barack Obama for scaling back drug prosecutions and lowering sentences.
But as the president’s own commission noted, this is not an epidemic caused by those caught in its grasp. “We have an enormous problem that is often not beginning on street corners; it is starting in doctor’s offices and hospitals in every state in our nation,” it said.
The Guardian: Don't blame addicts for America's opioid crisis. Here are the real culprits

From Naked Capitalism which Andrew Anderson pointed out:


We have to look at what is the pain that people are trying to escape from. For that, there are two major causes. One cause is childhood trauma. We talk about how childhood trauma actually affects the brain in such a way as to make it more susceptible to addictions later on. Childhood trauma is one source of deep pain and all the addicts I worked with have been traumatized significantly so. That’s what the large scale studies in the US shows about it, the more trauma in childhood, exponentially the greater the risk of addiction. Childhood trauma is a huge problem in our society and in American society.

The other question is, what’s going on right now? That’s stress. What we also know is that stress makes the brain more susceptible to addiction and stress also makes people more desires of escape from the stress. If you look at what’s happening socially, economically, politically, culturally, is increasing insecurity, increasing stress, increasing uncertainty, increasing difficulty for people. Therefore, people will turn to short-term measures to escape those difficulties, or at least the awareness of them, by escaping into addictions, including drug use. What we’re looking at is, A, childhood trauma, and B, severe social stress. It’s not surprising that the areas where Trump got the greatest support are areas of great social stress.