The butcher and the baker

Now Facebook is evil because neoliberalism:

But the fact is that rather than serving this goal, Facebook’s AIs are servicing a far older and more well-established social goal, which was designed for the betterment of mankind. This is the goal of maximising value in pursuit of economic self-interest.

Neoliberal economics is based on the idea that the pursuit of individual, economic self-interest leads to the creation of greater value, which benefits society and results in the emergent betterment of mankind.

And people say that American academia isn’t crazily left wing.

This first para explains it all

Childcare workers are underpaid because we’re women. We are the working poor
Margaret Carey
Women are exploited because of our capacity to put others’ needs ahead of our own. We are underpaid because we care – and we’re angry

So that’s the description from the subeditors. The first para reads:

I first began working in the childcare sector in 1990. As a recent graduate with a degree in visual arts, it was the obvious career path to become a cook in a long day care centre for toddlers! It was a non-profit community-based service and resonated with my values and beliefs.

Getting a job that resonates with your values and beliefs is pay luvvie. And perhaps the degree and career choice could have been more closely aligned?

When I began to have children of my own, the position became untenable. Around the birth of my first child I discovered a couple of things that really unsettled me.

First, as a spouse, I was not considered by society as an individual at all. I was without independence and completely financially reliant on my partner. I had never been without the ability to earn some money, and the feeling that I was now individually penniless was a humiliating discovery. To be clear, it was a feeling of my own doing as my partner had no qualms about being the breadwinner and did not in any way play a guilt trip on me but I profoundly felt as if I had been robbed of something.

Err, yes, the family is the primary economic unit among us humans. Not unusual among viviparous mammals either.

Oil giant Exxon Mobil is trying to win a reduction on a massive $74bn fine it has been hit with by a Chad court in a row over oil royalties.

Don’t think so, really.

What I can’t work out though is who is making the mistake here.

Chad’s oil exports are some $2.5 billion a year. Sure, the price was double a couple of year’s back, but they’ve only been pumping since 2003. and that $2.5 is all oil, not just Exxon.

The argument appears to be about a 2% or 0.2% royalty.

And yes, fines there are twice whatever the sum in dispute is.

But $74 billion still looks more like the total value of all oil ever pumped than any sum that could possibly be in dispute.

So, who has fucked up here? Bloomberg, the original source of the report? Or Chad?

By request

While we’re off-topicking this post, and in the vein of stuff-I’d-probably-pay-you-for-if-it-was-easy, I’d be interested in Tim’s take on Chris’s ‘defence’ of globalization here (or rather on his list of alternative culprits)

Hmm, well, my arguing economics with Chris is one of those things where I’m not going to come off well. The reference is to this post.

And my problem is that I disagree with the basic premise. I don’t think real wages have fallen in the first place. I agree that inequality has increased, that certain wages have stood still over the decades. But not that real wages have fallen for any interestingly significant group.

Thus the why real wages have fallen for some groups argument doesn’t make sense to me.

For example, WhatsApp for a time there charged no fee and carried no advertising. So, we’ve three ways of measuring GDP. Production – WhatsApp appears as zero here. Consumption – zero again. Only in incomes does it appear, the whatever, $20 million a year the engineers were getting paid.

And yet 1 billion people were getting some or all of their telecoms needs from WhatsApp.

We’re not measuring GDP right in this digital age – real wages are not falling.

Scandal!

Customers are being lulled into believing they are getting the best deal from retailers on Amazon when the product can often be bought cheaper elsewhere online — including on the retailers’ own websites.

A Sunday Times investigation has found a number of cases where rival independent retailers who sell on the Amazon Marketplace platform are offering the same product at the same lowest price on Amazon, suggesting fierce competition and a bargain for the shopper.

In fact, the products can often be bought more cheaply at other online stores. In some cases, the retailers offer the same product at a cheaper price on their own websites.

Prices vary?

Naomi Klein speaks out!

Here is what we need to understand: a hell of a lot of people are in pain. Under neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatisation, austerity and corporate trade, their living standards have declined precipitously.

This is true in Greece, Spain and other places wilting under the German satrapy. Which isn’t what we would normally call neoliberalism if we are to be frank.

And, umm, where are these other people whose incomes have been slashed? Sure, there’s an unlucky 10% or so of the global population whose incomes neoliberalism hasn’t increased but that’s a rather different matter, isn’t it?

On that Uber ruling

The Adam Smith Institute said that the ruling could mean a small increase in Uber fares for passengers, but most of the increased costs would probably be passed on to drivers.

Well, quite.

Things like holiday and sick pay are incident upon the wages of the workers, just like employers’ national insurance and so on.

An oddity in The Guardian

Land that debt forgot: tiny Pacific country of Niue has no interest in loans

Apparently Niue has no money any more. Because according to Ritchie if you pay off the national debt then there is no money.

One of the world’s smallest countries has declared itself debt-free and is spending the extra money on increasing pensions and offering incentives to lure expatriates home.

Well, look at that, if you’re not spending the money on interest payments then you can do better things with the cash.

Amusing that The G highlights this really.

Well, yes, I suppose so

Everyone in government knows the Bank’s cut in the base rate to 0.5% in the aftermath of the crash and injection of £375bn into the financial system to reduce borrowing costs is what allowed Osborne to apply a tourniquet to public spending.

You have two stimulatory tools, fiscal and monetary policy. One can indeed offset the other. That’s rather the point in fact.

Has no one explained this to The Observer yet?

Err, yes Polly

There is only one way out of this. The British people may decide the cost is too high. Before anything has happened yet, they can see how the prospect of hard Brexit is already causing serious damage. The pound plunging by 17% is a national disaster, predicted to fall further: only those who supported Brexit whistle in the dark, pretending it’s good news. It will help a few manufacturers and Bond Street retailers of luxury goods, but our precarious over-dependence on imports means steep price rises ahead in petrol and food are rather more important than cheaper Burberry handbags.

The old dear never really has grasped economics, has she?

The falling pound is the solution to all those things. Imports will become more expensive, meaning that we shall buy less of them. This will switch demand to domestic production. That’s just how exchange rates work.

Sigh.

Conference on economic success without a price system

Paul Oquist, Nicaraguan minister for National Policy
Iván Márquez, Lead negotiator in Colombian peace talks (Video link)
Francisco Torrealba, Venezuelan Member of Parliament
HE Robert Calzadilla, Bolivian Ambassador
HE Teresita Vicente, Ambassador of Cuba
HE Guisell Morales-Echaverry, Nicaraguan Ambassador
Chris Williamson, Former Labour MP
Tony Burke, AGS Unite the Union
Diana Holland, AGS Unite the Union
Gabriel Rodriguez, International Transport Federation
Andrew Murray, Unite the Union
Christine Blower, NUT
Kiri Trunks, NUT
Andy De La Tour, actor and writer
Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London
Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, President, US National Lawyers Guild
Keith Bolender, Canadian academic
George Galloway, former MP
Victoria Brittain, Journalist
Sue Branford, Latin America Bureau
Dr. Imti Choonara, Nottingham University
Dr. Francisco Dominguez, Middlesex University
Lindsey German, Stop the War Coalition
Kate Hudson, CND
Dr. Steve Ludlam, Sheffield University

A fair and balanced panel with a true diversity of views, no?

So, let’s see if we can work this out

Venezuela on the brink: a journey through a country in crisis
The oil-rich South American nation should be prospering. Instead it stands on the edge of an economic and humanitarian abyss

I’ve not actually read the piece yet so I’m wondering whether he will in fact give us the correct answer. Idiot economic policy.

The increasingly secretive central bank does not reveal how much it costs to print each bill, but based on international parameters, José Manuel Puente, an economist and professor with the Institute of Higher Administration Studies, estimates that the cost of paper, ink and printing of each note is about 20% more than their face value. “They are not worth what they cost. It’s a joke. But that’s the way things are,” he said.

I actually checked with a bank note printer. They wouldn’t reveal actual prices of course, but did say that the above was about right.

The government’s tendency to subsidise many products below the cost of production is a major reason why the economy is in such a mess.

Well, almost.

When Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999, he took this way of thinking a step further and used petrol dollars to subsidise essential products such as rice, sugar, toilet paper, sanitary towels and medicine.

It was an altruistic, populist move that allowed the poor to finally share in the nation’s oil wealth. But it also stifled incentives for producers and created a system of dependency and black-marketing that was already causing economic problems before Chávez died in 2013 and the global crude market collapsed the following year.

Well, no, that’s not quite right. Proper subsidy of something increases producer incentives. What Chavez and Maduro have done is price fixing which does kill incentives. But, you know, this is The Guardian, they might have the economic details wrong but they are at least insisting that the problem is idiot economic policy. So, Hurrah!

All about money, innit?

Poor and vulnerable Haiti remained essentially cut in half two days after Matthew hit, with routes to the devastated south blocked by flooding. Senator Herve Fourcand said that a preliminary figure counted more than 300 dead while Reuters reports that the civil protection saying that 339 people were killed. Haiti government government so far has said that 122 people were killed.

At least four people – three of them children – were killed in Haiti’s neighbour the Dominican Republic and more than 36,500 were evacuated, with 3,000 homes destroyed, flooded or damaged.

The wealthier Bahamas, which had more time to prepare, was less badly hit and there were no reports of fatalities, but there were power outages, some roads were cut and there was property damage.

This is what apartheid was all about in the first place

A quarter of a century ago black South Africans were living in squalor while most whites lived the good life in apartheid-era South Africa.
Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and four years later he took over as President from F W De Klerk and the pair shared the Nobel Peace Prize.
Apartheid – a grotesque and brutal form of government in which whites held all the power and blacks and other racial groups were segregated and oppressed – was condemned to the dustbin of history.
Nowadays there is a strange form of equality.
While the black South African middle class has grown and many live in big houses, with swimming pools and drive around in BMWs like their white peers; many poor whites live in squalid squatter camps just like their black peers.

South Africa always was, and still is by developed world standards, a low productivity economy. There’re thus going to be a lot of people who live pretty shitty lives in an economic sense. Apartheid was the structure which tried to make sure that who was decided upon the basis of skin colour (or race, description to your taste).

The whole point was not to make rich whites rich – it was to make sure that poor whites didn’t live like other Africans. And remove that racial distinction and there will be some whites living like other Africans. No, not because “Africans” but because it’s a low productivity economy and simply doesn’t generate enough income that all live those North Atlantic type economy lives.

One way of looking at this, an odd way to be sure, is that this is proof that apartheid has ended. When the privileged economic position that apartheid was meant to create no longer exists.