Nobel-winning economist Joe Stiglitz on how the US economy became a "rigged, inherited plutocracy" and how to fix it

Writing in Scientific American (!), Nobel-prize-winning economist Joseph E Stiglitz (previously) describes the US economy as an "inherited plutocracy" that's "rigged" to shift an ever-greater share of the national wealth to the very richest people: Stiglitz blames the rigging on Ronald Reagan's dismantling of antitrust enforcement, inheritance tax, and other progressive measures 40 years ago -- and says that the orthodox economic apologists for economists who attribute inequality to globalism or other factors are wrong and unsupported by evidence. Read the rest

Climate change will make beer much more expensive

Over the next century, higher temperatures and an increased number of droughts will hit the global barley supply, pushing beer prices way up. University of East Anglia economist Dabo Guan and his colleagues developed multiple scenarios based on several climate and economic models. Nature:

The researchers then simulated the effect of these droughts and heat waves on barley production by using software to model crop growth and yield on the basis of weather and other variables.

They found that, globally, this extreme weather would reduce barley yield by between 3% and 17%. Some countries fared better than others: tropical areas such as Central and South America were hit badly, but crop yields actually increased in certain temperate areas, including northern China and the United States. Some areas of those countries saw yield increases of up to 90% — but this was not enough to offset the global decrease.

Finally, Guan and his colleagues fed these changes in barley yield into an existing economic model that can account for changes in supply and demand in the global market. This enabled them to look at how reduced barley production would affect pricing and consumption of beer in countries, as well as trade between nations.

In the worst-case scenario, the reduced barley supply worldwide would result in a 16% decrease in global beer consumption in the years of extreme-weather events. Prices would, on average, double...

One goal of the research, Guan says, was to make tangible how "climate change will impact people’s lifestyle... Read the rest

Capitalism is self-annihilating, not self-perpetuating

Umair Haque (previously) is on fire: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism, Then What’s the Point of Capitalism? "You can see it in stark, comic terms. What are Bezos and Musk doing? Trying to flee to Mars. What’s Gates doing? Recommending you books to read, and trying to save the world with charity. LOL — how ironic. These are different forms of freedom from capitalism. Maybe on Mars, we can build a better world. Maybe through ideas and philanthropy, we can solve the problems that corporations can’t. All the capitalists I see are trying to win freedom from capitalism, in one way or another. Aren’t they?" (via Kottke) Read the rest

Large scale psych study identifies "homo economicus" as the source of all evil in the world

A German-Danish study of more than 2,500 people, published in the APA's Psychological Review, investigates the correlates of the "dark traits" in human personality ("egoism, Machiavellianism, narcissism, psychopathy, sadism, spitefulness" and more) seeking the underlying "tendency" that they all share. Read the rest

All levels of UK government have been paralysed by Brexit

The British government has been immobilised by Brexit preparations: hundreds of millions of pounds paid by insurers to the government to rebuild from flooding are sitting idle in savings accounts because no one can spare the time to spend them; ministers won't schedule out-of-London meetings because being away during a key vote would endanger the whisper-thin Tory majority; UK workforce productivity has fallen off a cliff while workers struggle to make preparations for the uncertain future; the government is incapable of legislating because the whole calendar is filled with Brexit bills; junior ministers are barely showing up for work because they don't believe they'll have careers after Brexit; the NHS's overriding priority is Brexit preparation -- everything, from top to bottom, is crumbling. Read the rest

Modern Monetary Theory: why government spending isn't like household checkbooks

You know the drill: someone proposes something utterly commonsense, that has been done all over the world (say, universal healthcare) and the next thing you know, someone's shown up to shout "Who will pay for it?!" Read the rest

Research shows that patent examiners are more likely to grant patents to companies they later work for

In their National Bureau of Economic Research working paper From Revolving Doors to Regulatory Capture? Evidence from Patent Examiners (Sci-Hub Mirror), Business School profs Haris Tabakovic (Harvard) and Thomas Wollmann (Chicago) show that patent examiners are more likely to grant patents for companies that they subequently go to work for; they also go easier on patents applied for by companies associated with their alma maters (where they have more connections and will find it easier to get a job after their turn in government service). Read the rest

Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of the collapse of 2008 and things are much, much worse

Nobody covered the Wall Street collapse, bailout, and corrupt resurgence better than Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi, from giving Goldman Sachs its unforgettable epithet to covering the hearings on the bailouts to documenting the foreclosure mills, to deep dives into the sweetheart deals the banks got; to the revolving door between finance regulators and the finance sector to the rise of Occupy; to the consolidation of financial primacy after the collapse; to the double-standard for criminal justice revealed by the collapse; to the frauds that surfaced after the crash; to the tiny bright spots where bankers were brought to justice; all capped by an incandescent, outstanding book about the crisis and the systematic racial and economic justice it revealed. Read the rest

How much would universal health care really cost?

The Koch-backed Mercatus Institute was humiliated last month when it published a scare story claiming that American couldn't afford the $32.6 trillion cost of universal health care for the next decade, a number that seems huge until you realize that the cost of privatized US health care over the same period will be $2 trillion higher. Read the rest

Portugal proves that austerity doesn't work

Economists like Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna reshaped the world when their theories of "expansionary austerity" were put into effect after the 2008 crisis: the idea that governments could "increase taxes, cut spending, and grow strongly" was powerfully tempting to the world's leaders, who saw in them a way to pull out of a recessionary spiral without limiting the number of yachts the oligarchs they depended on could afford. Read the rest

The UK's largest estate agency is on the verge of bankruptcy

Countrywide is the UK's largest property agents (they own estate agencies like Hamptons International, Bairstow Eves and Bridgfords), with 900 locations and 10,000 employees, and they're selling off shares at fire-sale prices in a desperate bid to raise £140 million to service their massive debts; the sum is 300% of the company's market cap, their shares are down 60% on the news, and the company blames plummeting London prices and Brexit jitters for their misfortunes. Read the rest

America's economic growth has come from subprime borrowing by the poorest 60%

Normally, economic expansion is driven by more spending by the wealthy, and you'd think that 2018 America, where the wealthy are wealthier than they've ever been, would be dependent on the few people with ready cash as engines of economic growth. Read the rest

How Trump's tariff wall will punish small American businesses, kill US jobs, and benefit giant mulitnationals

Last month, the legendary hardware hacker and entrepreneur Andrew "bunnie" Huang (who is also a talented science communicator) published a great explainer on the quirks of the Trump China tariff plan, which exempts finished goods (like TVs), but imposes stiff taxes on components that are shipped from China to US factories for final assembly, a tactic common to the most innovative, cutting edge companies who fear having their trade secrets stolen by Chinese manufacturing contractors. Read the rest

Animated "Income Mountains" for the world's continents, 1950-2015

Inkoativ charted income per day against population and animated the "mountains" that result for each continent. Click through to watch the developing world, well, develop. [via Data Is Beautiful] Read the rest

Very small Silicon Valley bungalow going for $2.6 million

In Silicon Valley, people with six-figure jobs sometimes live in vans, so how can they scrape together financing for the $2.6 million asking price for this 897-foot bungalow in Palo Alto? Just imagine what it's like for working class people, some of whom have to commute so far from affordable towns that their employers let them sleep in the parking lot. Via San Francisco Chronicle, VTA bus driver Adan Miranda is now getting kicked out of his employer's parking lot to make room for developers: Read the rest

How markets plundered Free Software's best stuff and used it to create freedom for companies, not people

Bejamin "Mako" Hill (previously) is a free software developer, activist and academic with a long history of shrewd critical insights into the ways that free software, free culture and the wider world interact with each other. Read the rest

David Graeber's "Bullshit Jobs": why does the economy sustain jobs that no one values?

David Graeber defined a "bullshit job" in his viral 2013 essay as jobs that no one -- not even the people doing them -- valued, and he clearly struck a chord: in the years since, Graeber, an anthropologist, has collected stories from people whose bullshit jobs inspired them to get in touch with him, and now he has synthesized all that data into a beautifully written, outrageous and thought-provoking book called, simply, Bullshit Jobs.

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