Harry Clarke On economics, politics & other things

March 11, 2013

Irrational America

Filed under: religion,US — hc @ 11:17 am

A Gallup poll suggests that:

(i) 47% of Americans hold the creationist view that God created humans in their present form during the last 10,000 years.  Nothing new about this mass delusion either -since 44% held this belief 30 years ago.  America has grown only slightly more irrational.

(ii) Only 15% of americans believe in the scientific theory of evolution – that evolution occurred and that it was not a God-driven process.

(iii) Guess what? Republicans are particularly deluded. 58% of Republicans believe (i) and only 5% believe (ii).

(iv)  Guess what? The less educated you are the more likely you are to endorse creationism – 52% of those with only high school education accept (i) and only 11% believe (ii).  Almost even more startling to me is that 25% of postgraduates believe (i)! American education quality?

February 13, 2013

Are the Republicans Beyond Saving?

Filed under: politics,US — hc @ 9:33 am

This keenly written essay by Elizabeth Drew from the New York Review of Books is worth a read.   For democracy to function well in any nation there must be at least two viable political parties who can reach compromises on certain issues and achieve effective government.  The Republican Party is now marginalised and operates in the interests of a lunatic fringe.  US democracy is suffering.

Update: Yes, and as John Mashey points out to me: The tobacco lobby & the Koch Brothers created the Tea Party!!!!!!!

From DeSmogBlog it is clear that climate change denialism and support for Big Tobacco go nicely together.  Here’s John’s posting.

And here is Brendan Demelle’s parallel take on it.

And you thought the Tea Party supporters were just part of a grassroots tax revolt that began in 2009. Ha Ha…….loonies on a mission. Is our own Catallaxy similarly infected? Its authors have the pro-tobacco, climate denialist IPA backing them and this does receive funding from tobacco and mining companies.


December 16, 2012

Gun control in the US will fail

Filed under: crime,current events,US — hc @ 10:48 pm

One can empathize with “the tears, the thoughts, the prayers and the broken hearts” (a synthesised quote from several newspapers) that Americans are expressing/experiencing in relation to the murder of  26 people in Connecticut.  The murders of the 20 mostly 6 or 7 year old school children naturally create a feeling of deep sadness and, indeed fear, for all parents. But the sense of having heard all this before and that absolutely nothing will change in the US creates despair at how far Americans have moved away from being a decent society. (more…)

November 7, 2012

Prices for inequality & civilization

Filed under: reading,US — hc @ 10:41 am

I am reading Joseph Stiglitz’s The Price of Inequality which, as it states, focuses on inequality but provides a more general political-economic critique of US political developments over the past 30 years.  Also reading Jeffrey Sacks, The Price of Civilization which emphasises ethical issues but takes up similar themes.  The chapter in Stiglitz, “1984 is Upon Us”, should be required reading for economists. Deals creatively with the idea of dominant foolish ideas as social constructs and provides a guide to dispelling climate change denialism and other irrationalities. Sachs is likewise excellent on techniques for mass persuasion.

These are relatively mainstream economists but their critique is both cogent and overwhelming.

Collectively these works show why the election of a Mitt Romney would be a disaster for the US and for the world.  Obama has not proven to be the reformist president who challenged the role of money and big business as central determinants of US political outcomes but one fears Romney would be a much worse choice by continuing to pursue the sorts of crazy rightist policies that are bringing the US to the point of self-destruction – deteriorating infrastructure, all the proceeds of growth going to a tiny fraction of the population, declining education standards etc etc etc.

Update: Obama has won I learn as I land by aircraft in Perth.  I am sure Sachs would see this as a narrow victory given Obama’s compromised position with anti-social US commercial interests. My own perspective is that the victory is important for preventing Tea Party madness from further damaging the stature of what is a most important democracy.  I doubt Obama will change things much but he is in a position to stop the advancement of the looney libertarian rightists of the Tea Party.

November 26, 2011

Shopping in America

Filed under: US — hc @ 11:41 am

Don’t go to Walmart unarmed.

Signs of a US economic recovery?

August 13, 2010

US bankrupt?

Filed under: macroeconomics,US — hc @ 10:06 am

Several of the Fairfax newspapers ran this op ed by Laurence Kotlikoff.  The linked version is superior to the local version because of the valuable IMF hyperlinks it contains.  The stalling of the US recovery is no news to anyone who watches international equity markets.  The bloodbath over the last few days reflects these fears but also perhaps a growing sense that doomsayers such as Kotlikoff might be right – the US is broke and, given its current economic sickneeses,  there are no low pain options.

The notion that dealing with the massive public debt can occur after addressing shorter term economic weaknesses seems increasingly unrealistic. (more…)

December 14, 2009

China & the US at Copenhagen

Filed under: China,climate change,US — hc @ 4:12 pm

China’s is criticising the US in Copenhagen ostensibly because the US is refusing to endorse the developed-countries-alone-must-make-absolute-emissions-cutbacks implication of the soon to be defunct Kyoto Agreement. This is an empty negotiation stance.  The Copenhagen meetings are seeking to devise a successor agreement to Kyoto and to rectify the obvious deficiencies of that agreement. Moreover, the US did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol largely because China and other large developing countries were not required to cut their emissions under it. The current Chinese objection amounts to no more than recognition of earlier very sound US (and Australian) objections. (more…)

March 16, 2009

Chinese debt worries

Filed under: China,finance,US — hc @ 8:12 pm

China is ‘worried about’ its $1trillion holding of US Treasury Bills.  The Chinese Prime Minister, Mr Wen, complains that the US has spent too much and saved too little – without mentioning that the consumption boom was funded in large part by Chinese lending.  Mr Wen can’t sell the debt – its price would collapse – and is presumably fearful that the world’s public borrowing binge will eventually drive up interest rates and again inflict huge capital losses on the Chinese holding.  Indeed Mr Wen must continue to lend to the US in order to prevent this happening. I assume the possibility of a collapse in the US dollar, fostered in part by debt concerns and the US option to inflate it away, would also have crossed Mr Wen’s mind.

This is interesting. Mr C wants to sell lots of gunk to Mr A. Mr A has a demand for the gunk and buys it by issuing Mr C IOUs at low interest rates. The IOUs are backed up by Mr A’s reputation alone but Mr A finds himself in a bind and needs to borrow so much more that the value of the IOUs is called into place because interest rates might now need to be raised.  Even if Mr A defaulted on the IOUs (or more realistically forced their value down) he would not lose a lot. Eventually Mr C would find it in his interest to forgive Mr A and to resume selling gunk again.  Mr A, despite bewilderingly complex current problems, remains well and truly in the box seat.

Afterthought: This situation of the weak exploiting the strong has parallels but is not equivalent to the US Government bailout of firms like A.I.G..  The US bailed out A.I.G. with $170 billion because the firm was ‘too big to fail’ and threatened the failure of the international financial system.  The bargaining strength in this difficult situation lies with A.I.G. which is probably the reason they felt they could get away with applying hundreds of millions of the bailout in bonuses to the parts of AIG that created the problem.  And this strength infuriates the bailout-er. Larence Summers says “There are a lot of terrible things that have happened in the last 18 months, but what’s happened at A.I.G. is the most outrageous.” Ben Bernanke says similarly “Of all the events and all of the things we’ve done in the last 18 months, the single one that makes me the angriest, that gives me the most angst, is the intervention with A.I.G.” But the bailout must proceed!

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