16 December 2012

My Online Marxian Economics Class Starting Tomorrow

Just to let everyone know:
I have a couple of seats still in the University of Massachusetts Continuing Education version of Economics 305, "Marxian Economics" that is starting tomorrow, Monday the 17th.
This is the famous Resnick Marxian class, I am just the facilitator / grader.   You get the Resnick video lectures.  This is a great introduction to the subject matter that has done more than any other in shaping my career! 
Email me at
jamiehls@gmail.com
if you would like more info. 

13 December 2012

Casino Baby! Fingers Crossed that Holyoke Doesn't Get Forgotten.



This is just a small article about negotiating with "surrounding communities" in terms of road improvements etc. There is no mention of Holyoke as a community near Springfield. I hate to say it, but if Springfield does end up with a casino my guess will be that Holyoke will continue to get screwed.    Our young mayor and all the positive feelings about economic development in certain social circles here doesn't change that as long as Holyoke remains economically insignificant, we will be ignored.

The reason that this upsets and saddens me is that I have been teaching a class at Holyoke Community College this semester (that is just now ending).  We have spent a fair bit of time (even though it is a macro course) discussing the possible economic impacts of a large scale casino/resort coming to the area.  The economic possibilities of a major casino development have my students (rightly so) excited about the future of capital flowing in and job prospects in the area.  A large scale resort is a dream for a young business major /entrepreneur.  Maybe not a great dream, but still the possibility of change is a step in the right direction (in a city that has been taking many small steps in the right direction in recent years).  It is still early in the casino planning phases, but those of us who are working to rejuvenate Holyoke back to the beautiful and economic relevant community it once was need to start fighting this fight now!

Worst case scenario (if the impact on Holyoke of a Springfield casino is totally ignored)....well....
At least with a casino in Springfield we will  have even more more drug money flowing into our city, sigh....
http://www.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/12/massachusetts_gaming_leaders_u.html#incart_river_politics#incart_m-rpt-2

05 December 2012

Record Harvest in Ontario

*my image is the one used in the Free Press

The London Free Press had some "real" news on their website today.  Kudos.
Apparently both soy bean and corn yields are the highest on record.  The story can be found here:
http://www.lfpress.com/2012/12/05/ontario-farmers-harvest-record-corn-soybean-crops

The reason I am writing about this is that the weather conditions in S.W. Ontario were not what makes up a typical great growing season.  I question if yields have been this high for a while and it was just profitable to bring more product to market this year (as opposed to destroying it/leaving it to rot in the fields)?  Does anyone know how to find out how quickly Canadian farmers can respond to US prices (which were very high this year because of the drought in much of the US)? 

I know we waste a lot of food in North America (farm to dumpster close to 50% according to a story I heard recently on NPR that I cannot seem to find now).  How much of this waste is response to market prices?  The record yields in a NAFTA partner province during a high price year makes me wonder if it is even more than we previously thought?  I of course am not going to do the leg work on this, but someone maybe should?

03 December 2012

Marvin Miller: The End of Slavery in Major League Baseball. Fondly Remembered

Marvin Miller: Fondly Remembering the Man Who Ended Slavery in Major League Baseball

 

 


Marvin Miller (April 14, 1917 – November 27, 2012) passed away a week ago.  I intentionally waited a few days for this post so as to not be lumped into the discussion of his (non) selection (thus far) into the Baseball Hall of Fame despite his massive influence on the history and development of Major League Baseball. Also, if I get on a rant about economists getting into the baseball hall of fame I may never stop. 

Prior to the late 1960s professional baseball players were not represented by a union.  There had been numerous attempts (I believe dating back to the late 1800s) to unionize.  The  first time the players were successful in a unionization attempt was with the formation of the Major League Baseball Player's Association, that according to their website negotiated the first successful collective bargaining agreement in professional sports in 1968.  

Marvin Miller headed the MLBPA from 1966 until the early 1980's.  Prior to running the player's union Miller worked with The United Steel Workers of America. It was shortly after the beginning of his tenure in baseball that Miller won contract arbitration and free agency for players.  This matters because prior to this victory baseball players were essentially operating under a class structure of slavery, owned and exploited by the owners of the team that they played for.  

I am not meaning to conflate baseball with the social aspects of some of the the other slave systems in human history, the US slave trade, modern sexual slave trades, the East African Slave Trade, and lots of other examples of people being horribly mistreated. However, in terms of class analysis baseball players were essentially slaves. Once under contract a player had no ability to "jump" their contract to play for another team (even if a higher money offer was made).  Players in the early era of baseball were paid their salary (just as a slave is typically given room, board, medicine, etc.) but were not free to leave the employment of the club/team that they played for.  

Generally speaking any baseballer who violated a contract could not legally play professional baseball again.  Also, once signed a baseball player remained the property of the team that signed him for the duration of his career.  Like other pieces of property (bats, balls, cars, houses, etc.), the owners could legally sell and trade their players and the player would have no choice in this other than to pick up and move their family and go play for their new team.  

Finally, it was illegal for baseball players to prematurely end their contract with the owner of their team.  There are documented cases of players being forced to return wages, and even going into debt to owners after suffering injuries, or being involved in other life events that left them unable to play baseball any longer under the terms of their contract.   

In terms of the Marxian language of class structures prior to collective bargaining baseball players were slaves.  They were pieces of property (capital) that were employed by their owners in order to realize surplus (generally speaking,  in the form of tickets and concession sales in the early years of the sport.  Players could be bought, sold, traded, with no say in the matter, and were forced to work when and where their owners told them to.  (Not to mention that in this era salaries of players were quite low). 

Returning to Marvin Miller:   Arguably, Miller did more to change the game of professional baseball than any single player / manager, etc. has ever done.  He ended the existence of the class structure of slavery for baseball players.  Players today, (overpaid or not,) function essentially as capitalist workers.  Team owners pay the player a salary, after the player signs a contract.  After the expiration of the contract the player becomes a free agent and is able to sign with another organization.  Through collective bargaining the MLBPA has won the rights to contract arbitration, no trade clauses, and numerous other rights for their member players.  All of these cornerstones of worker's rights in baseball were enacted under Miller's tenure as the head of the MLBPA.  

Today, it is true that baseball players are very well paid at the major league level (this is not so for the far greater number of players in the minor leagues).  In the Marxian theory modern players are still exploited by the owners.  The form is capitalist exploitation, not slavery.  Modern players are paid for their necessary labor.  The owners of the teams are the first appropriators of the surplus generated by the players (through tickets, merchandise sales, television, etc)  My guess would be that a good sized portion of this surplus is then transferred back to the few players with top contracts by the owners, but that does not change that the class structure of Capitalism exists between owners and players today in Major League Baseball.  

It seems fitting that "America's Game"  should be dominated by America's favorite class structure (capitalism) and Marvin Miller was a big part of why that transition took place.  May athletes, in all the major sports, baseball was the first to unionize; (and non-athletic union members as well), in fact, the whole American labor movement owes a debt of gratitude to Marvin Miller.  


If there is a heaven, I am sure there is baseball being played. Perhaps Marvin can help Jesus renegotiate his contract. 

26 November 2012

Damn It! The "Fiscal Cliff" Made me agree with Krugman



The other day when the topic of our national media's newest economic frenzy "the fiscal cliff" came up with the family I realized 10 minutes into the discussion that I sounded exactly like big papa Paul.
He sums up the article in today's collumn in the Times. 
Dark days...
(I won't help his numbers by linking) you all saw it anyways. 
Am I perhaps becoming more conservative?  The argument should be how we can use this for revolution....and yet it remains how do we fix this?  even I am guilty today.

22 November 2012

Some Thoughts On Grading and Signaling

Some Thoughts On Grading and Signaling:

I have been spending the evening tonight grading papers and my thoughts have wondered to something that I often enjoy discussing with my students around the idea of grades
(a small caveat, I don't usually bring this up in my online courses as it is open for misinterpretation that I can't read on my student's faces when recording a video lecture. )

I often present to students the idea that a big part of college is not what you are actually learning in any given course (unless you are in the "hard sciences") but rather the idea that by finishing college you are signaling to potential employers that you are able to finish what you have started, as well as apply yourself to the long process of getting a degree.  This includes dealing with bureaucracy (as any UMass student can testify to) as well as the social / cultural skills of interpreting what different professors with different personalities / goals in education think to be important.  It is not learning introductory economics that earns you an A in my course it is learning how to figure out what someone like me thinks is important to memorize / do.  Show up, participate, whatever...

This is of course not really the case, but there is some truth in the signaling model.  Success after college is a mixture of what you have learned, and the ability to show that you were capable of learning it, and all the effort that goes into getting through college beyond the course material. 

Like it or not, (and I generally don't), part of our job as professors is to rank our students for their future employers. Part of this rank is a student being able to signal to a future boss that they are productive and highly exploitable.  A portion of my role is to help the student show just how good they will be at getting exploited.  Gotta love capitalism.

10 August 2012

More Post Modern Baseball: The MVP Award



The following is part of an email exchange from a conversation between myself and an employee at a major sports news organization.  He has been surprisingly receptive to my current method of wasting my academic time, still, trying to spread post-structural analysis to professional baseball is an uphill battle at best:

You regularly make the argument that voters should not consider making the playoffs as part of their MVP voting (the Ellsbury example from last year seems to be the most common case cited).  I disagree.  The award is for most valuable player, not "Best Statistical Player".  I will not argue that advanced statistics (WAR etc.) do not matter, they do!, and have added a lot to my enjoyment of following baseball, both fantasy and real.  Also, the movement towards modernism in professional baseball front offices is long overdue.  Why not analyze the players you are spending millions on with all the tools available to you?

The other side of this coin, is that statistics cannot capture all of what matters, in baseball or elsewhere.  If the MVP award was the "best player" award then I would agree with your argument that the voters should not consider the record of the team that the player is on.  It is because of how I perceive "valuable" in MVP that my opinion differs from yours.  A player having a great year on a team that is in contention is more "valuable" to that team than a great year on a team that is not contending. 

On Thursday's show you made that point that it doesn't matter if Houston loses 95 or 120 games this year.  Flipping this around, and taking just one statistic as an example:  A player having a great individual season resulting in a bad team going from 60 to 70 wins (10 WAR) is, in my opinion, less "valuable" towards that player's organization than a player that finishes with a WAR of 7 on a team that wins their division by 2 games. Value in terms of "most valuable player" is not independent of the record of the team.  I would argue that the closer as team is to contending the more "value" can be added by strong performance.  Also a great year on a great team means less than to a team that is just barely contending.  A player having a WAR of 4 in the remaining games of the Yankees is less valuable than the same performance on the White Sox. I know this is not quantifiable, but neither is winning a baseball game in the broad sense. 

I understand why you make the argument that finishing in the playoffs should not matter for an MVP award, as far too many of the people who do vote for MVP are statistically ignorant "old time" baseball guys who just look at "good player on good team, therefore, MVP. However, you are in danger of taking this argument too far in the opposite direction. Statistics, for all their use in analysis of the game we love, cannot fully capture the value of a player to their team.  "Value" and "Most Valuable" are complex and overdetermined concepts that cannot be considered independent of the ultimate goal of any professional sports franchise, winning, and all the revenue that comes with it.  Until the MVP award is changed to "Best Statistical Player", it is not appropriate to ignore the situation of the player's team when handing it out.

29 June 2012

Revisiting a Problem Shared By Many Marxists

A common "mistake" in Marxian theory is trying to arrive at what Marx "really thought" at various points in his life and/or in his many writings.  What Marx meant is relevant certainly, and should be studied, if you are a historian of Marxian thought.  
Marxian theories (like all overdetermined aspects of existence) evolve through time, and the writings of Marx himself should be viewed as a starting point, not dogma.  Arguing over what Marx "meant" is academic masturbation not economic theory.  These types of arguments are as wasteful of our time as trying to directly transform prices into values.

09 June 2012

Losing Money In Europe


A disjointed post ending in a far different place than it starts:

I post this link only because of the second paragraph:
http://money.msn.com/top-stocks/post.aspx?post=ca98a2c2-ed7c-4e12-865c-11beea3ff00c

 Just as Europe undoubtedly felt the backlash from America's economic crisis, American companies are now feeling pain as a result of Europe's troubles. j

Two points:
1. If you are writing for MSN money why haven't you gotten the memo that global inter-connectivity is a consistent economic reality for the modern imperialist firm?   Is this really worth mentioning?

2. Regarding the 500 Million dollar loss, but Ford's domestic operating budget is 7 billion dollars.In Europe they sell about 1.5 million vehicles a year.  The average price is around $10 000 US, this means total revenue is about 1.5 billion?  Correct me if I missed a zero?  How does a company lose 1/3 of its total revenue?  I have an idea but I want to look for more numbers before I go nuts.  My guess would be more cannon fodder for the "workers and unions are killing business" right wing.  Historically the far right gains support concurrently with the left.  A bit of a late night stretch for my brain, but this narrative (if it appears) will be more evidence of a political polarization caused by the current western world recession (depression). I love speculation! 

01 June 2012

A Lecture (by me) on Why I Choose to Use Political Economics (instead of other methodologies)

This short lecture (20 min) describes why I choose to work from a political economic method in my Intro to Economics of Crime and Social Problems.  The alternatives are of course more commonly accepted, and I feel far less useful to my students.
Despite the awkwardness of filming lectures, and my running out of the room for 30 seconds to get a marker, I feel this is one of my more profound intro online lectures.
I hope you enjoy
https://vimeo.com/43236196
Comments are welcome.

24 May 2012

Great Quote on Plea Bargains (Graded Online Discussions are My Favorite Thing To Read)

Just a little late night fun as I am grading...

Generally speaking I subscribe the liberal view of plea bargains.  Namely they are taken by (forced upon) the poor and disenfranchised who cannot afford good legal representation.  Just another bias against the proletariat (and lumpen proletariat) in our criminal justice system.

Sometimes I am surprised by the simple logic and beauty of arguments that I would normally never agree with.  This is a good example.

The following is a mash up of the posts of two of my students from last semester on a casual discussion board.  Outstanding! 

"A person who broke the law earned their punishment.  Why should they get less punishment just to save the state money?  Obama is just going to waste it anyway".

23 May 2012

Student Strikes in Quebec Reach 100th Day




Here is a great photo of the protest from David Ruccio's blog:
http://anticap.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/protest-of-the-day-105/

Have "victories" been won?  Yes and no.  I am not going to go with the "overdetermined" summary here, I will save that for another post.

I would suggest that similar to elimination of the penny, (see my older blog post), in the fight against high tuition at public universities Canada is again leading the way.

A large talking point in the current election cycle seems to be the lack of job opportunity for graduates in this country, and thus their inability to pay back their student loans.  Perhaps these unemployed graduates should have spent more time fighting to keep tuition, and thus their loans, at a lower, more manageable level.  Hindsight being 20/20 of course.

Of course when your income is zero, paying back even small loans can be problematic.  As more and more graduates struggle with their payments perhaps my graduate degree will indeed become a requirement for well paying bartending jobs?  Am I ready for the increase in competition?

17 May 2012

Some Self Promotion (Teaching a Summer Course) , and the End of my Blogging Hiatus

Grades are in at UMass (still working on the last week of classes at John Jay), and my other new job (not related to academics) has settled down.  The hope is that I will be returning to regular posting starting today.

On that note...

I am teaching two online courses this summer.

At UMass
Economics 305: Marxian Economics.  This is the Marxian course developed by the man, the legend, Steven Resnick.  It still features video lectures by Steve. 
The course runs from June 5th to July 10th.  The course is offered through continuing education so it is open to non-UMass students (as well as UMass students).
Information can be found here:
http://www.umassulearn.net/classes/summer-2012?view=class&clid=9442

At John Jay
Economics 170: Introduction to the Economics of Crime and Social Problems.  This course is designed by me, but is a hybrid of material used by Jay Hamilton and Geert Dhondt (as well as additions of my own). 
The course starts with an introduction to general economics and then moves to topics such as drugs, prostitution and white collar crime. 
The summer session at John Jay starts on May 29th.
More information about this course can be found here:
http://johnjay.jjay.cuny.edu/_winterjj/summersch.aspx

28 April 2012

A (massive) Failure in Bourgeois Society

Hypothetically speaking (not that I encountered this on the way home from work...hmm...),  And I am prepared to be ripped to shreds for this post.), is it a personal, educational or societal failure to ask; (when having $2.35 on my food stamps card, and $3.00 in cash, and attempting to buy 2 gallons of milk, and  6 Boston cream donuts)  "How many packs of cigarettes can I get with the change?" 

Needless to say, the poor economist behind you in line just wanted a lo-calorie Gatorade and is now forced to stand in line for 15 minutes in the early hours of morning. 

I would argue that such a question being asked does a few things.  It precludes that tobacco should be illegal (it certainly hasn't helped me in any way), it suggests that our society needs to seriously reexamine benefit programs (and massively expand them, into many areas, including education), and most importantly, it suggests that a society devoid of bourgeois desires would never experience such a question in the first place because a young mother wouldn't need to buy donuts for her child at 3 am. 

Socialism, Utopian (if not Scientific)?  In many ways yes!  I don't even know where to direct my anger without it. 

27 April 2012

Saber Metrics and Baseball Being Late to Modernism

In a case to being late to the party FanGraphs (a leading baseball statistics company) published "Power Rankings" this week in which they listed the Kansas City Royals as the 4th best team in Major League Baseball.

The Royals are currently 5 / 14 on the season, and I don't see them getting a hell of a lot better any time soon.  Do I know how the Royals will preform moving forward?  Of course not.
But...
 
The FanGraphs analysis was based upon the WAR (wins above replacement) statistic and nothing else.  Basically the case can be made that if you add up how many wins each player on the roster will add (or lose) compared to what that player would be replaced with if they get hurt, retire, etc. the Royals come up with the 4th highest number. 

This analysis completely misses the point that baseball is essentially a sequence of independent statistical events, in which the sample size (even over an entire season) often is too small to regress to the mean.  On top of this, there is enough variation in the random noise to mess up even a large sample.

I won't make the case for returning to just "watching the game".  Statistical analysis has a place in the modern baseball.  The thing is, that many "sciences" including the dismal one that I study for a living, have to some degree accepted the limits of statistical analysis and moved onto dialectical modeling and epistemology.  Baseball is 30+ years late to this party (which is no great surprise).

In that vein, the overdetermination of any specific independent event is something that can never be captured.  Everything from relationships with domestic partners, to fan noise, to seasonal allergies, to direction of the wind, impact individual player performance in any given event.  Not to mention the dialectical relationship of prior events in the same game, season, career, impacting the present, and future events. Causality is complex and omnidirectional in baseball and otherwise.  Previous statistical performance is just an, arguably small, part of the story of any given event. 

Essentially statistics can provide a jumping off point for baseball analysis that provides a more "scientific" way for teams to spend money and manage players, but statistics can never capture the complexity of the game and all its variation.  A reason to keep watching I suppose?  But the Royals are NOT the 4th best team in baseball and any claim to the contrary is based upon analysis so flawed that it does nothing useful other than to motivate people such as myself to write.  


19 April 2012

The Economics of Ozzie Guillen (for Luke)



So good ol Ozzie has been in the news again.  Here is a quick synopsis from the Huffington Post:
Because a lot of my readers are not baseball fans a quick background:
Ozzie is a former player, then the manger of the Chicago WhiteSox, now the manager of the Miami Marlins

(Miami Marlins as in Miami Florida, home of a huge Cuban refugee community).

Last week Ozzie said this:
"I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that son of a bitch is still there."

My temptation is of course to attempt to explain to non-Cuban Americans how I think Cuba is better off with Castro then it would have been without him.  But....that will have to wait, and the man did cause a lot of damage as well. 

For now, The Marlins response to Guillen's comment is where my problem lies. 

This is a team with a new stadium, a new name (formally Florida Marlins) that is attempting to build a new image.  This type of thing is exactly the reason they hired Guillen.  This is the first time in my baseball loving memory that the Marlins have been national news for more than 12 hours (other than winning the World Series).  Suspending Guillen for 5 games, when behind closed doors he was probably given a huge bonus for drawing attention (exactly what they are paying him to do), assumes that all baseball fans are ignorant asses that can't grasp why the Marlins would hire a loudmouth ass to be an ineffective on-field manager in the first place. 

Sorry for the rant, but it was promised!



30 March 2012

Canada Leads the Way? Elimination of the Penny




Many people that I have personal contact with me have heard some form of complaining about something unimportant in the grand scheme of life.  One of my favorite rants, the continued existence of pennies.  I hate pennies. 

Inflation is necessary part of capitalist stability, and has long since rendered the penny obsolete.  Rounding every purchase to the nearest 5 cents saves far more than it costs.  There are many places to find analysis and commentary on this, here is one.

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-03-29/canada-eliminates-penny-which-costs-penny-and-a-half-to-make

Even in a worst case scenario for an individual (say losing 3 cents on 10 purchases a day for an entire year) the losses are fairly insignificant (around $100 a year).

 I can't fully explain why the little copper coins annoy me so much, but they do, and per the above story, my home nation is making a bid for me to return home (I can't think of any other reason for Canada to eliminate the 1 cent coin?)
Actually I can think of many....but I'll suggest that Canada needs me back as the primary reason (for now). 

28 March 2012

Revival of a Classic: The Simpsons, Krusty for Kongress on Fox News

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oa1G3Y7ev4Y

This is just a liberal jab at News Corp
but quite funny.

Relevant part starts at 1:02. 
I only bring this up because of the constant coverage of the Republican primaries. 
Well worth 30 seconds if you haven't seen it. 

Dodgers Sale. Quick Hit...

Lazy reporting, Magic Johnson is just one of the members of the Chicago based financial group (* the only one that anyone has heard of I'm sure), not the "head" of the group.  

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/magic-johnson-group-buy-dodgers-2-billion-050903869.html

Regarding the sale:  I'm pretty sure part of the 2BILLION includes the parking lot as well (makes it all worthwhile).  Pretty much finishes my dream of ever owning a team though. 

21 March 2012

Baseball and Economics Cross, Or, Another Thing Wrong With Mainstream Economics



To paraphrase Keith Law of ESPN's 'Baseball Today'

Something that pretty much sums up neoclassical economics in its modern manifestations:

"When stupid people use a meaningless stat it does not give the meaningless stat meaning, it means that stupid people are stupid."

Outstanding....

On Market Freedom

(thanks to my students at John Jay)

A free market is not a market where someone can buy or sell "anything" they want, or where people are free to deal in illegal goods.
The term free market has little to do with the freedom of the individuals participating in market transactions.  
The misconception that market freedom somehow relates to personal freedom is a commonly held min this society, and is dangerous in the sense that it equates a process (market transactions) that should be at best neutral, and is part of capital's power in this country, with a process that many of us deem to be positive (personal freedom).  

A free market is one where the price is free to move and is not constrained by regulations, etc. Nothing more, nothing less. 
    

16 March 2012

Don't You Know?

The there is no difference between the two.  Efficient for whom is a nonsensical statement.
From "MR" this morning:

It is the comment that I am commenting on.

Parking spots as price controls

by on March 15, 2012 at 5:49 pm in Economics | Permalink
But not everywhere:
San Francisco is trying to shorten the hunt with an ambitious experiment that aims to make sure that there is always at least one empty parking spot available on every block that has meters. The program, which uses new technology and the law of supply and demand, raises the price of parking on the city’s most crowded blocks and lowers it on its emptiest blocks. While the new prices are still being phased in — the most expensive spots have risen to $4.50 an hour, but could reach $6 — preliminary data suggests that the change may be having a positive effect in some areas.


THE COMMENT THAT I LOVE:


 "They won’t stop at socially efficient prices. They’ll stop at revenue-maximizing prices. The latter may be considerably higher. If income inequality is high and there exists a class of super-rich people (e.g. internet entrepreneurs or venture capitalists), the city might discover that it can raise more revenue by charging one rich guy $25 per hour than by charging five middle-income people $4.50 per hour."


Really?
Do you really think that there is anyone with "middle-income" left in the American city.   These people left right after the second great war.  Cities are just the rich, and people who "service" the rich. Starting the day with a nice pun. 

14 March 2012

Last Instance Humanism in Intro Economics Teaching.

"The market does/causes, etc."

A common comment from many of our students. 
It is not really surprising, nor is this a unique complaint in the circles I sometimes run. 

The hegemonic narrative in bourgeois capitalism is "the market decides".  The market is fair, and returns to you what you put into it.  Without getting into the bowels of neoclassical theory, the general public are taught that the market determines our wages, our mortgage rate for our homes, our material well-being in general. 

This is problematic on many levels, but I think especially in the dehumanizing of economic decision making for the introductory student. I have watched students (at least those paying attention) squirm in their seats when return to capital is introduced.  But a 20 minute rant in an intro economics course doesn't solve the larger problem.  How do we move society in the direction of realizing that "we are the market".  Or at least "they control the market"

This is a really important step of realization of class consciousness, but I am lost in terms of how to address it.  Other than one student at a time?

Americana, Baseball and Giant Food

This guy should be proud of himself.


 On the food and beverage staff of the Washington Nationals someone thought this was a good idea?
http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/stephen-strasburg-gets-8-pound-hamburger-strasburger-named-053627358.html
This is the blog equivalent of a retweet, I don't have anything to add to this.  What else really needs to be said about an 8lb hamburger?
"Hard to digest" on so many levels....but I do want a giant food named after me some day.

13 March 2012

Why we Don't Matter

But we do! the world is overdertermined.  Our actions shape outcomes. 
Bullshit!
We are the proletariat, the sooner we accept it the less painful our lives are!
Tell me I'm wrong, but i know i'm not.
We can all die tomorrow, the world marches on, others will replace us.  We are the sandbag in the face of the hurricane. 

05 March 2012

Has the Era of "Moneyball" Analytics Made Spring Training (even more) Redundant (and Potentially Harmful)



Major League Baseball preseason, "spring training" has historically been akin to the American dream in the minds of baseball professionals and fans.  For the "rookie" it is a chance to show what you have to the "big club", to become a long-shot overnight success. Preforming with the big boys of summer, instead of putting in your work in the minor leagues, to earn your shot, more cliches, etc. 

It is my opinion that in the current incarnation of professional baseball, where statistical analysis can, and is* done at every level from high school on to the show, that the chances of "playing your way onto a big league team" in spring training are pretty much over.  The chance of going from zero, to big league hero in the preseason was always slim, just like becoming part of the 1% in terms of American capitalism, but there have been enough success stories over the years to keep the masses (of minor league players) believing. 

Now that analytics are king, and even people who are just Brad Pitt fans, and don't know shit about baseball, know that being able to draw a walk in junior college generally is strongly correlated with your ability to draw a walk in big league baseball, and drawing a walk is damn important to winning, what are big league teams really learning about their prospects from spring training games?  Any positive/negative/neutral performance in February and March is not a statistically relevant sample, and even if it was, it is often a sample against other minor league players who are trying to "make it" on the other team. 

What are coaches really learning from spring training games?  How players behave socially, and how they respond to situations such as playing an infield spot beside their childhood hero? 

Yes,  I am sure they are learning some of these less quantifiable things about their players, but these things can't be entered into a spreadsheet, and baseball has just recently become modern in its epistomology.  I can't imagine that front offices are close to making the leap to postmodern, overdetermination in analyzing players.  If any team is someone ought to give me a job offer any day now in the scouting department.

So a player's projected statistical performance is what determines their potential value as a professional ball player.  Stats are generated over seasons of high-school, college and minor league baseball.   So, what is the purpose of spring training now that we have computers?  Possibly for established players to find their "groove".  Isn't this what practice is for?

Spring training certainly isn't for the fans.  The only people who follow spring training are residents of Florida, Arizona, and super dorks like myself (and industry professionals, even if they shouldn't).  The average baseball fan is still trying to pretend they are interested in hockey or basketball to avoid spending time with their family at this time of year.   Even the family is more interesting to most than watching a bunch of players never before seen compete in games that mean nothing.  

Which brings me back to why we have spring training for more than a week and a half at all?  In this era of pitch counts, innings limits, and players (including hitters) asking their bodies to do more than the human body was ever designed to do (we are not physiologically designed to throw a ball 100mph, or to take whatever chemicals Ryan Braun is putting in his body), the length of spring training could possibly be doing nothing other than shortening the length of player's careers?  Certainly this argument is made in "higher impact" sports like professional American Football.  I concede that concussions in football are more of a hot button issue than a pitcher in his early 20s needing Tommy John surgery.   Still I have to wonder if more than a month of spring training games are doing more harm than good to the bodies of the players?

Teams have the stats to evaluate players without such a lengthy spring season, and 2 weeks of "meaningless" games should be enough to get timing, etc. down for current big leaguers as long as the players have stayed in shape in the off-season?  Or not?  Perhaps I should do some regression analysis to find out?  

But first thing is first.  I think someone, (myself if I find the time), needs to run the numbers, to find out if the number of young players that "make the team" each spring has declined as statistical analysis, instead of "gut feeling" has become a bigger part of scouting and player development over the past thirty years. 

Either way, it has been great to listen to the Tigers on the radio the last three days.  That being said, I  wish that I only had to wait another week instead of 6 before I start to actually care what happens on the field. ..

* at least by the teams that realize that a whole pack of statisticians being paid less than $100 000 a year each, more than pay for themselves, with the first contract improvement of the year. 

More to Follow....Export lead growth? garbage?

Well no....
But without preempting an upcoming paper...
We are starting to see some evidence that the path to development in Africa is to sell to even less developed countries.  Find your technological comparative advantage and use the proceeds to strengthen said advantage.  I only mention this now to have it on record that in some degree we were here first!  (not in "absolute" terms of course but....still there is something there.
Go regression analysis!
Earth shattering policy implications to follow in future weeks....
Really I am just curious what you all, my loyal readers think of the theories of skipping steps on the development ladder by selling to "more developed" countries.  It makes sense right? 
Sense and economics of course very rarely have anything to do with each other.

02 March 2012

What Causes Crime?

Well it's complicated. So let me ask a simpler question.  What causes homicidal feelings?

I can tell you quite simply what causes me to have homicidal feelings*....

A former student (of UMass and two of my courses) who answered the "what causes crime" question in an interview, in reference to the neighborhood we share, along the lines of;  "poor people are greedy and will do anything to have more".  If nothing else, I hope my Marxian economics course gave him the intellectual framework to be the best damn enabler of exploitation he can be! Unfortunately, my guess would be that section of the course was ignored as well.


*Not literally. 

01 March 2012

Chrysler sales were up 40% for February: Who the F($* is buying these things?


http://www.freep.com/article/20120301/BUSINESS01/120301018/Chrysler-February-auto-sales?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE
The recovery is supposed to be mostly jobless, and mostly for the wealthy.  Rich people don't drive Chrysler vehicles.
Poor people don't either (they don't buy new cars at all). 

Only middle income, retirement age people buy these things right? 
Am I completely out of touch with a remaking of Chrysler's image, or have recent stock market gains been enough to pad the retirement accounts of people born in the 1950s so that they are comfortable trading in the 2002 Honda Accord? 

27 February 2012

Is There a Future for Mainstream News Coverage?

Sure, but the role is shifting.
I find myself getting more and more of my news from sources that are completely secondary. 
For example; I get most of my Detroit Tigers updates from:
http://www.blessyouboys.com/
Someone still has to pay the original reporter though right? 

22 February 2012

Can't Everyone See What is Happening Here?



Per the NY Times this morning...
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/23/business/global/gm-in-partnership-talks-with-french-automaker.html?_r=1&hp

Peugeot Citron is possibly going to be bought by GM.
The Times (in the above article), as well as in a couple of smaller sources that I have seen this morning mention that the French and German governments won't be eager to see plants shut down to trim costs. 

Last I checked the EU was all about belt tightening and "austerity"?  An those layoffs are coming from a GM owned company anyway, Opal is losing a ton of money!  And GM is coming off of record profits.  My crystal ball thinks this deal will be done by the end of the day. 

Either way the winners will be the shareholders of both companies.  The losers will be a small number of the rulers of P.C. and well the workers of course.  But the European workers need to get used to losing, often and hard.  Austerity seems to be the chosen path that will save capitalism from itself this time.  

17 February 2012

A Brief Call for Change in The Economics Profession

As the stock market continues to boom, driven by strong macro economic indicators of the possible end of the Great Recession, it is only a matter of time before the policies of my neoclassical colleagues result in another downturn in the business cycle.  If the Debt situation in the EU doesn't cause the collapse fist of course.  I would love if my profession would accept even these small changes:

 The global economic systems needs new economic thinking because of unnecessary slowing of technological growth during recessions, and the social harm suffered when recession occurs.
  My decision to study economics is from a personal (technological) humanism.  The ability of people to develop their material lives has brought vast changes in living standards and productivity in my life time.  The greatest constraint on advancement is slowing of economies by market failures and productivity losses periodically experienced.

The processes that limit human advancement also can cause unnecessary suffering.  There is strong correlation between unemployment levels and health outcomes, family stability, and substance abuse.  New economic thinking could lead to much less suffering in the developed, and developing world.

The new economic thinking necessary needs to come in two forms:  Movement away from the neoclassical model of the individual (and firm).  Largely because a less ahistorical approach to the economy could lead to a much broader policy implication space.  Secondly, an increase in pluralism of methodology to open up economic outcomes beyond the limits of statistical analysis.  An expansion of accepted method could result in an expansion of solutions to some of the cyclical problems economies currently face.

I am not usually a champion of reform over revolution, but even small steps are better than none.

16 February 2012

The Growth of Holyoke Continued:


Probably the last post in this short series.  Unless I decide to share some stuff on the decline: 

YEARS OF BIRTH AND GROWTH

            The first paper mill in Holyoke “Parson’s Paper” was opened in 1853, four years after the completion of the dam.  Many other mills followed, and within 25 years Holyoke had become the largest production center of writing paper in the world. By 1880 Holyoke had more paper mills than any other American local, including production of cheaper quality papers, with 17.
            This period is characterized by massive increases in the organic composition of capital and worker productivity in paper making.  The output of Parson’s Paper increased more than 25 fold from 1854 to 1884 without an increase in the physical size of the mill. By assumption the downward pressure put on the rate of profit by the increasing organic composition was more than offset by productivity gains and relative surplus value. 
The wage of paper workers was fairly stagnant through the second half of the 1800’s.  There were some small increases, especially in the more skilled jobs, but nothing close to the increases in productivity that went along side them.  There was some unionization of paper workers during this time, however workers remained mostly divided along skill divides as well as divides of ethnic origin.  The Holyoke paper worker was usually of Irish Catholic heritage (often first or second generation immigrants).  There was however a large French Canadian immigration wave into Holyoke during this period as well.  It seems a common complaint of the Irish that the French Canadians were willing to work for a wage that was far below V for the Irish workers.  The large population growth in Holyoke during this period seems to have put enough downward pressure on wages that they did not rise even as many more mills opened in the city. 
By 1880 the total population of Holyoke was 22,000 roughly 1900 of these people worked in paper mills.  About 9% of the total population and 25% of the total workforce!  The combined employment of the textile and paper industries totaled more than 50% of the total workforce.  This period, although characterized by increasing capital investment, was still a relatively labor intense one in paper production. There was also a vast difference in the types of labor and wages employed in the mills.   Machine tenders and beaters of the pulp were high skilled jobs and not easily replaceable.  Women in the “rag sorting” room and workers in the finishing departments (often French Canadian immigrants who were willing to work for far less) were easily replaceable.  Class antagonism seems to have been absent for the most part.  Most documentation of workplace disputes points to problems of the Irish owners and skilled workers with the French Canadian (and to some degree Polish) unskilled workers.  Class harmony between labor and capital and a blind eye to exploitation of workers was present from the beginning of Holyoke paper though much of the hundred years the mills were in operation. Even workers in more skilled jobs felt the pressure of a high local immigration rate, as well as ethnic bonds with mill owners.[1]
Profits were not just high because of being able to pay low wages.  During the first 4 decades of paper production in Holyoke the mill owners (in an informal, and sometimes formal, cartel setting) took actions to gain monopoly power.   The mills had a rising organic composition of capital that was lowering average costs for the mills as their production vastly increased.  In a competitive system this would result in a cheapening of the final commodity being produced, in this case cheaper fine writing paper.  The Holyoke mill owners prevented the fall in their profit rate that would come with such a result by colluding to keep prices for writing paper high.   For most of the 1870’s and 80’s most of the mill owners in town meet two or three times a month in a formal organization.  The stated purpose of the organization was to discuss marketing strategies and export markets, however it is well documented that price fixing took place. 


Now That's What I Call (An Increased Rate Of) Exploitation (Are You Fucking Kidding Me?)



Over that past week or so, all the news about General Motors (GM) has been about how they recorded a RECORD 8 billion dollars in net income for 2011, and hope to be over 10 billion for 2012

That is BILLION WITH A B ladies and gentlemen.

As good for GM and their shareholders (not their shareholders who lost everything three years ago of course) as this news is,  (Honestly, this is fantastic for some!)   GM is a symbol of the American heartland, an institution of American capitalism, receiver of one of the largest "Keynesian" (sorry J.M. Keynes, you will always be blamed for the digging holes and refilling them with government money thing)  bailouts in history,  employer of many of my family members past and present, the next major story in the news makes it clear that the revenue increase is nothing but the blood of GM workers. 

What to make of this?

This must mean that the recession is over right?  GM is making a shitload of money for investors as well as the American taxpayer (at least according to every major news outlet). 

Until we get to today's news...
Historically General Motors was a great company to be exploited by (comparatively in terms of standard of living.)  With nothing more than a high school deploma you could earn a decent living and suppport a family.   Part of supporting yourself and your family was being able to retire at a reasonable time (without having to take a job as a greater at Wall Mart to make ends meet).  Right after news breaks of record earnings, today we get this:

A destruction of the pension plan at GM. 
Of course the conservative New York Times frames it as a "change" not a destruction....

Will we see an increase in profits at GM?  Yes........Will it allow the US government to sell the rest of their GM shares at a higher price than otherwise would have been possible?  Yes... Is it just another example of the massive increase in the rate of exploitation in this country?  Of course.
 

15 February 2012

The Power of a Strong Literary "Hook"



Scanning through my Google Alert of all new material on General Motors (in case I ever decide to actually write my dissertation), I skipped over 12 or so articles just reading the tag lines (like I always do).  After clicking on an article, and getting about half way through a conservative rant on why the relaunch of the Chevy Volt will fail, I begin wondering why I was reading the article at all. 

Then it struck me. 
The first line of the article mentions putting lipstick on a dog. 

 The brain works in mysterious ways. 

12 February 2012

I really wish I had that data....



To follow up what I just posted on paper production in Holyoke... 

In all my time focusing on Holyoke and its paper mills there is no records (that I have come across) on the prices of paper's major input (prior to the days of wood pulp), cotton rags. 
I would think that the scraps left over from textile mills would vary dramatically in price depending upon many factors.  One that really stands out is that within Holyoke a single firm (Farr Alpaca) dominated textile production.  Would they have abused their monopoly power to over charge Holyoke paper mill owners?  Of course, this is capitalism! 

The Growth of Holyoke




As I sit in the wonderful city of Holyoke MA, home, preparing for a guest lecture tomorrow in a legal history course at UMass entitled "What is Capitalism, and How Does it Work?".  I have decided to go the case study route with my lecture.

As such, I have been reading an old, and not particularly excellent essay that I wrote a few years ago on the production of paper in the mills of Holyoke.  We all evolve as scholars, and there is a lot of changes I would make to the paper if I were to write it again today.  I did however want to share the section of the paper that introduces the growth of paper making in Holyoke and the growth of city itself.

Out of context, and without the Marxian analysis that follows in the essay, there is nothing overly exciting here:  I just find some of the growth numbers fascinating, and thought some of you might as well.  I remember reading somewhere that in the early 1900s Holyoke had the highest per-capita millionaires in the United States.  That was largely due to the paper production in "The Paper City" .  70 Years after the decline of paper making (and the wealth of Holyoke) the history of this city has left us with a mediocre brewery of the same name (Paper City Brewery). 

The following is from my paper circa 2008:     
Hope you find the numbers interesting as well, and a public thank you to Dan MacDonald for inviting me to lecture tomorrow.  I am looking forward to it!


 
Holyoke was transformed during the first half of the 1800’s from an agrarian backwater to a major industrial center.  The two main industries operating in Holyoke were textile production, that was common in much of the region during this time period, and paper making.  There were a number of factors that allowed for a speedy industrialization in Holyoke, although a factor that cannot be understated is its location on a rapidly flowing section of the Connecticut River. 

            During the 1830’s and 40’s two large construction projects were undertaken in Holyoke with the intention of attracting industry.  Holyoke built an intricate canal system allowing for direct fresh water supply to numerous parts of the downtown area,, and built a large hydroelectric dam on the Connecticut River. 

            The canal system was considered vital for paper makers that decided to open shop in the city.  As will be discussed in more detain in the next section 100’s of gallons of water were needed for each pound of fibrous material to turn it into the “chemically pure” pulp needed for high quality paper.  The canals provided easy access to large amounts of water for a much larger number of mills than would have been possible if they were to locate only along the river banks.    

In a stretch leading into Holyoke the Connecticut River falls 70 feet over the span of two miles.  This allows for massive power generation at what is today known as the Holyoke Dam.  The heavy machinery that became part of both the textile and paper making industries required enormous amounts of power by the standards of the middle 19th century.  Proximity to the Holyoke Dam allowed for uninterrupted and relatively cheap access to large quantities of power for manufacturing concerns in the community.  The “Great Dam” as it was then know, was completed in 1849.   

            Another factor that was important for Holyoke paper manufactures was the proximity of a large textile concern (Farr Alpaca) that was also located in Holyoke.  Again to be discussed in the next section one of the inputs for the paper mills of Holyoke was linen and cotton rags.  The proximity of textile manufacturers lowered the cost of these inputs, as they did not have to be shipped far, and could be purchased from local businesses with whom relations were generally good.  In Marxian language it could be argued that it was the possibility of cheaper C compared with other areas that originally encouraged paper mills to open in Holyoke.  It was estimated that in the early days of industrialization a paper mill could be opened in Holyoke for as little as $5000 in initial capital compared with estimates of $8000 to $10 000 elsewhere. 

            The growth of the workforce in Holyoke, and the population in general, tends to coincide with the growth and success of the paper and textile industries in the City.  The first paper mill in Holyoke was opened in 1853 with many more following in the next 10 years.   

Holyoke Population

1850
1855
1860
1865
1870
1875
1880
1885
1890
1896, May      
3,245
4,639
4,997
5,648
10,733
16,260
21,915
27,895
35,674
44,153



            The population numbers of the town and then city of Holyoke (became city sized circa 1870) tell a story of a rapidly growing industrial community during the second half of the 19th century.  Computing an average yearly growth rate for this period yields a whopping 5.85% yearly population growth in Holyoke, compared with the United States national population average growth rate of roughly 2.2% for the same period.  As the textile and paper industries stopped growing so did the population of Holyoke.  As of 2007 the city was home to 39,765 residents.  This is almost 5,000 less people than its peak around 1900. 

"Money Ain't A Thang" A Response To Robert Paul Wolff on "The Philosopher's Stone"




At the end of the day, revolutionary change to our system of exploitation in production requires massive cultural change as well. 
Who better than Jay-Z to usher it in?  If only we could get him to read Marx...



Wolff claims that "The Left Has All The Best Songs for Half A Century". 
I Strongly Disagree!
The following is the text of my comments on his post. 
Do any of you care? 
You will, when I am in a Ferrari or Jaguar switching four lanes. ....


Apologies in advance for this. If I hadn't just returned from a concert I would never bother to nitpick at something like this.

Respectfully speaking as both a Marxist and a fan of your blog...

People that are aiming to be in, singing about, etc. the bourgeois elite have released some musical masterpieces in the last 20 years.

The bourgeois culture I spend much my life subverting has given us a lot of good music. To be honest about it, I find most of the contemporary music of the left does nothing more than whine about being on the left.
The other side of this coin is that people unabashedly trying to get rich in our society have provided much of the best music of the past two decades.
For example:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK-KFfYA2Vk
All good Detroit boys like myself love Seger, so I am not going to argue his greatness, I just want to point out that over the past 20 years or so leftist music has been much like the American social left: Unappealing to those without a vested interest, and fragmented.
The left used to have all the good songs, sure. The left today needs something to unite it, a good song would be a start, and it has been a while since we have had one. 

10 February 2012

Marginal Jackass


Just when I was beginning to think Tyler Cowen actually believed  Marginal Revolution's  tag line "small steps toward a much better world" we get this:
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/02/from-facebook.html

Is being a self promoting, arrogant, shit head part of blogging? 
Is it part of making a better world?  
I certainly enjoy self-promotion and being a shit head with this forum, so I hope so.  I doubt it, but I hope so. 

Is encouraging people to read another (same as all the others, methodologically dishonest, ideologically elitist, in support of dishonest hegemonic bourgeois ideals, etc.) neoclassical economics textbook, just because you are the author a "Small Step Towards A Much Better World"? 

It probably is for the shareholders of the publishing company. 

I expect this kind of arrogance and idiocy on the blog of N. Gregory Mankiw but not Tyler Cowen.  Generally speaking Marginal Revolution is worth reading, even for those of us who completely disagree with most of what is written there.  As opposed to Mankiw's blog which is usually just condescending nonsense.
Perhaps it is time for my colleagues at Anti-Mankiw to start becoming counter-margianl-revolutionary as well.  
A preemptive response to some of the comments this post will likely receive:
Yes I am tired on a Friday night and a little grumpy, Yes I am jealous of both Cowen and Mankiw's success, and yes I am angry that their success allows them to indoctrinate far more students than those of us who are "honest" about economics.  Perhaps I am wrong, and these servants of the bourgeois elite are good people, and have good intentions. 
... is there room for good intentions in rational self interest?  

06 February 2012

GM Profits



Are enormous again.  Over 8 Billion dollars for 2011.
I wonder what has happened to their rate of exploitation at the point of production.  Wait no I don't...  It has gone through the roof.   Read between the lines of a statement like "shed billions of dollars of cost" in any bourgeois article like this one: 
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204136404577204982933314566.html

 What happens when S increases and V falls?  S/V increases dramatically.   If the American worker is willing to be exploited at higher and higher rates, giving up the benefits their predecessors obtained there just might be hope for the survival of productive capitalism in this country. 

Is that a good thing?  While that all depends....

01 February 2012

Government Motors?


General Motors CEO Daniel Akerson was interviewed on NPR this week.
During the interview the term "Government Motors" was brought up as a term that Ackerson didn't "like".

This is not a new way to critically refer to GM.  See for example this article from The Economist last summer:  Government Motors no more

I found Ackerson's argument really interesting in that it parallels one that I often find myself making.  Ackerson was arguing that "Government Motors" and the negative connotations that come with such a term in American society (inefficient, bureaucratic etc.) are unfounded.  Sure the US government still owns about 25 percent of the common stock of General Motors, but ownership does not matter, to paraphrase Ackerson.  What is important is the relationships at the point of production that determine the directions a company is moving in.  Apparently GM is still a vibrantly innovative capitalist firm (I believe he used the words "leaders in technological development a few times).  Vibrant and innovative, even if the ownership structure is something that those preoccupied with ownership relations would call state capitalism.

It is good to know that the top echelon of management at GM understands that increasing the rate of exploitation in their capitalist production relations is still possible, regardless of the ownership structure.  Maybe there is hope for capitalist exploitation in the American Auto Industry.  Keep buying American! (or in the case of GM "assembled American"!) 

27 January 2012

Some Loosely Applied Logic to Taxation and Unemployment


Earlier today I can across an interesting counter factual argument.

I am slipping completely into the realm of modern epistemology for this post.

There is a clear correlation between having yellow nicotine stained fingers and getting lung cancer.  The counter factual would be a correlation between having clean appearing hands and not getting lung cancer.  This is fairly silly, as any classy smoker washes their hands regularly and thoroughly.

Many politically conservative Americans who have a public forum claim correlation between businesses paying taxes and unemployment.  Lower taxes means more money to hire workers right?
I propose that the counter factual argument works the same in this case. There is no correlation between lowering taxes to businesses and a decrease in unemployment in the current climate of financial paralysis.

Prove me wrong econometricians, oh that's right, you can't prove anything, only appeal to a relative standard of "truth".

26 January 2012

A Causal Relationship, From Exploitation to Vomit


The London Free Press has hit another 'home run' today.  If they even have an editor on staff anymore he/she has clearly given up on life.
But you have to appreciate the willingness to print anti-capitalist stories. 

http://www.lfpress.com/news/london/2012/01/26/19298221.html
I don't have anything clever to add.  This one speaks for itself. 
In fact, don't even bother with the link.  The first sentence is enough:

A locked-out Electro-Motive worker said parent company Caterpillar's announcement of colossal profits Thursday morning made him sick to his stomach.

25 January 2012

Obama's Change.....


....Or lack there of. 
Really hasn't come as a surprise to me.  Barack Obama's presidency, if nothing else, should be remembered as the one where we learned that the "most powerful man in the world" has no real power at all, at least when it comes to any type of systemic change within the collection of political processes. 

Following from this I would suggest the following.   Cancel the entire 2012 election season.  The spectacle currently going on in the republican primary (I really don't care about a giant headed jackass and his collection of ex-wives) is just the tip of the ice burg.

Instead put the name of every voting age healthy American in a giant hat, and just have some random sports figure or celebrity draw the name of the next president.  It would save a lot of annoyance and money, the downside is only for the news networks, and nothing is going to change anyway. 

19 January 2012

Pew Results, Positive and Negative, Capitalism and Socialism by Demographic


These numbers, published by the Pew Research Center are a little disheartening.  Mostly because of the title they place on them of "Little Change...". 

I ask this:  Do we need a survey to know that old rich white people like capitalism and don't like socialism?  (Check the numbers people) 
I also ask this:  How many people that support the Tea Party movement have even a faint inkling of what socialism would look like (that isn't based upon American propaganda of the bleak government controlled East circa 1970)?

Numbers are fun, the work from the Pew here is a great example of that, if nothing else.

As an aside regarding my graphic for this post.  Anyone else annoyed by Lenin being included here?

Crossing Boundaries of Economic Commentary

Albeit for very different reasons:
Respected colleague, David Ruccio, and Harvard's answer to Hitler, Greg Mankiw have the exact same quote on their respective blogs this morning. 
View Ruccio's here
View Mankiw's here
What is this world coming to?


PS, I am not claiming that N. Gregory Mankiw is anti-Semitic.  The reference to Hitler is as one who knowingly indoctrinates his followers with false and dangerous information to serve his own purposes. 

13 January 2012

Has Anyone Else Given Up on The Daily Show?

I come and go with television in general.  I have spent portions of my life without TV at all, yet when I am sick or burnt out on work I do enjoy watching certain programs.
 
Over the past year I have been lucky enough to live with a wonderful person, unrelated to her wonderfulness, she also gets cable and has a dvr.
One of my guilty pleasures over the past year has been watching Jon Stewart's The Daily Show.
I enjoy the anger, sarcasim, etc. as well as Stewart's sense of humor.

Over the past month or so I have found the show becoming almost unwatchable.  This is mostly due to the coverage of the Republican primaries.  I don't dispute that the collection of candidates (as well as our current president from the other party) make for some amusing moments with their idiocy and ability to ignore what politics is "really about".  My problem is largely that The Daily Show writers seem to have forgotten that a world exists outside of the Republican party.  The Daily Republican Party might be a more appropriate title for the show over the past 30 or so days.

Of course Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and my personal hero Ron Paul*cough* (as far as contemporary American politicians go), deserve criticism and coverage of their idiocy but enough is enough, and a couple minutes a day is enough!

Essentially by spending all of the show on Republican politicians (even in a critical light) the writers of The Daily Show are sending the message that these politicians, and the broken process of pseudo democracy that exists in this country are worth devoting more time to than anything else (including the ongoing collapse of capitalism, and the occupy movement) currently happening in the US or world.

I have made this same argument about spending too much academic energy on critiquing some of the lesser points of Neoclassical economics, too much energy spent in the critique validates the existence of the object. Are these people really worth covering? The US political system is broken.  If we spend to much time on these clowns it will only encourage them.

This then is a call to The Daily Show:  Stop making these bourgeois idiots feel important by devoting all of your time to them!  I would love to start watching again.

12 January 2012

Verlander and Taco Bell: Marketing at its Best!

I wonder how much Taco Bell payed Justin Verlander to publicly announce the he ate their crap before every start in last year's Cy Young winning season?
http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/justin-verlander-reveals-secret-success-conan-taco-bell-155538696.html
Anyone who actually eats Taco Bell 30 plus times a summer would; best case scenario look like me, and worst case scenario be dead. 
Oh well...Product differentiation through advertising remains important in the non-neoclassical world of fast food. 

Surplus and Conditions of Existence.

The following is just a short piece that I posted in response to a common oversight by students in my current Marxian econ course. 
I figured I would share it with all of you as well.

The surplus value in the equation C+V+S=W
is necessary for capitalist growth and expansion, as many of you have written.
I want to add that there are many other conditions of existence of our modern capitalist society that are also fulfilled out of the surplus. 
Many (in fact a majority of) workers in a modern society are not productive (of surplus value).  Managers, service industry people, merchants, bankers, even myself, do not produce surplus, as we are not creating commodities (although the case could be made for education as a commodity). 
All of the value in society has to come from productive activity (by definition) and the rest of us who fulfill necessary conditions for the reproduction (and growth) of the system live off the surplus of the productive workers. To paraphrase the old man in dramatic fashion; we are the vampires of capitalism. 

04 January 2012

The Lingering Effects of Ideological Indoctrination

The greatest challenge in terms of material so far in my online Marxian economics course this winter has been the preconceived notions of communism held by many students.

I don't blame my students at all, and yet find it hard not to get frustrated reading discussion post after discussion post along the lines of "the workers getting equal shares of the surplus" when defining communism. 
The concept of apprpriation prior to distibtuion of surplus can be complex, yet...

I cannot help feeling that ideas of a homogenous, drab, poor, "equal" society haunt the consciousness of many of us in this society still.  I guess that is why so many fear Obama being a "socialist"? 

Fighting ideology with ideology remains the mission, the battle remains uphill. 

(As an aside, I am amazed at the sophistication of thought of many of the students in this course.  Teaching introductory level economics is great, but this course has been incredibly invigorating for me so far).