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The quant case for open-access COVID vaccines

1 day ago

From Blair Fix
Around the world, rich countries are celebrating as their COVID numbers fall. Their success is no mystery — it’s because of a massive rollout of COVID vaccines. While we should celebrate the development of these vaccines, their deployment highlights the tyrannies of capitalism.
Most of the basic research for COVID vaccines was funded by the public. Yet their manufacture is controlled by Big Pharma. The predictable result is that vaccines flow to the highest bidder and Big Pharma reaps the profit. Thus, the world is now ‘blessed’ with 9 new pharma billionaires.
Since we’re stuck with COVID for the long haul, we need to end the privatized vaccine model. The alternative is surprisingly simple. Let governments continue to fund basic science. And let private companies

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Pharmaceuticals: Beating the hell out of the average

2 days ago

From Shimshon Bichler and Jonathan Nitzan
A lot has been written on the imminent decline of pharmaceuticals: their falling production, reduced R&D, declining innovation, the opioid crisis, patent cliffs, biting competition from generic drugs, growing opposition to IPR. The list goes on.
Top Guns
Judging by the yardsticks that matter the most, though – namely, the companies’ relative profit and relative capitalization – pharmaceuticals are doing just fine. In fact, based on these yardsticks, they remain the most powerful corporate sector of all.
In their 2020 study, ‘Profitability of Large Pharmaceutical Companies Compared With Other Large Public Companies‘ (JAMA 323, 9, March 3, pp. 834-843), Ledley et al. show that, during the period 2000-2018, the top 35 listed pharmaceutical firms

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And we are still doing nothing substantive to stop this

3 days ago

From Ikonoclast  (originally a comment)
. . . what really counts is the amount of coal, oil and gas we are burning and thus how much CO2 we are releasing into the atmosphere. The benign Holocene is ending. Scientists have declared we have already entered a new era, the Anthropocene. The climate, and thus weather patterns, of the benign (for humans at least) Holocene were a resource for human civilization.
It is common mistake, and one I long made, to pay attention only to primary input resources. Thus we were obsessed about peak oil, peak coal and peak gas, imagining that the supply of these primary input resources would be the constraint for our global civilization, civilization being so energy dependent. However, it turns out that the major constraint on civilization involves not our

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Are mindless zombies a projection of what we fear we have really become?

6 days ago

From Ikonoclast (originally a comment)
It’s strange in a time of gross over-population that dystopian fiction so often focuses on hypothesized fertility crises. We see this in The Handmaid’s Tale and Children of Men, for example. This is when the real problem is of course the diametric opposite. The earth has a vast over-population crisis of humans and an accelerating decline of all other forms of life (the sixth mass extinction).
It leads me to wonder if genuine fears are deflected by an invocation of the opposite in story-telling. Dystopian and horror fiction give us a delicious thrill of vicarious fear when we actually feel fully secure that “that could never happen”. What people enjoy about disaster storytelling is feeling proof against the specific disaster depicted. It could only

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How U.S. capitalism lifts all boats

7 days ago

From Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler

Liberals insist that capitalism lifts all boats. It doesn’t, certainly not in the U.S. Since 1880, ‘real’ total returns on the S&P 500 rose, on an annual average, 4.6% faster than U.S. ‘real’ wages. The total returns/wage ratio today is 1,166 greater than in 1880.

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Excessive wealth

12 days ago

From Ken Zimmerman (originally a comment)
Following the ‘Great Depression’ excessive wealth required justification. Otherwise those who possessed it were looked on as freeloaders and featherbedders who played no or little useful part in society. FDR came from one of America’s wealthiest family’s but proved himself by his work ethic, care for ordinary Americans, and work to save the USA. Even the wealthy who wanted to be ostentatious feared public rebuke and legal punishments if they focused solely on protecting their wealth. At best excessive wealth was tolerated but seldom glorified, at least publicly. Mostly Americans found their heroes elsewhere.
Second, WWII reinforced the notion that in winning wars, protecting democracy, ensuring an economy that is both successful and good for

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US income and wealth by percentile – 2 graphs

17 days ago

“Household Income by Percentile, for the time period 2019 to 2020. The open circle represents an estimate of income in the top percentile, including income gains for billionaires reported in April 2020.”Source: Rhys McCarney –   

“Each point represents the wealth of one household in the approximate middle of the percentile.”Source: Rhys McCarney –

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Weekend Read: “Life Among the Econ” and “Life Among the Econ: fifty years on”

21 days ago

Axel Leijonhufvud – 1973

The Econ tribe occupies a vast territory in the far North. Their land appears bleak and dismal to the outsider, and travelling through it makes for rough sledding; but the Econ, through a long period of adaptation, have learned to wrest a living of sorts from it. They are not without some genuine and sometimes even fierce attachment to their ancestral grounds, and their young are brought up to feel contempt for the softer living in the warmer lands of their neighbours. such as the Polscis and the Sociogs. Despite a common genetical heritage. relations with these tribes are strained-the distrust and contempt that the average Econ feels for these neighbours being heartily reciprocated by the latter-and social intercourse with them is inhibited by numerous

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The Rise and Fall of Debate in Economics

21 days ago

The Rise and Fall of Debate in Economicsjoseph a. francis
New data illustrate the extent to which economists have stopped discussing each other’s work.
Once upon a time, economists regularly used to publicly criticise each other’s work in academic journals. But not any more. read more

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Neoliberal economists announce . . .

May 3, 2021

From Ken Zimmerman (originally a comment)
Neoliberal economists announce to all, whether they want to hear it or not regularly, those who are wealthy and powerful deserve both, and more due to their greater intelligence, commitment, foresight, and competitive spirit. They deny that prejudices of any kind, racial, ethnic, gender, political, etc. play any part in such determinations. Referencing to the old Grouhcho Marx’s joke, these economists want us to believe their theory rather than our eyes. Each day our own experiences both as ‘formal’ scientists and in everyday interactions force us to face many instances in which these and many other prejudices determine our chances in life and who and what we become. What does that make neoliberal economists? At best idiot savants. At worst

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Covid-19 in India – profits before people

May 1, 2021

From Jayati Ghosh
The unfolding pandemic horror in India has many causes. These include the complacency, inaction and irresponsibility of government leaders, even when it was evident for several months that a fresh wave of infections of new mutant variants threatened the population. Continued massive election rallies, many addressed by the prime minister, Narendra Modi, brought large numbers to congested gatherings and lulled many into underplaying the threat of infection.
The incomprehensible decision to allow a major Hindu religious festival the Mahakumbh Mela, held every 12 years—to be brought forward by a full year, on the advice of some astrologers, brought millions from across India to one small area along the Ganges River and contributed to ‘super-spreading’ the disease.

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Neoliberal globalization

April 30, 2021

From Ted Trainer and current RWER issue

The conventional approach to development assumes that movement towards a single unified global economic system is desirable. This is seen as providing greater access for all to markets, productive and export opportunities and sources of imports. Globalization involves reducing impediments to trade and investment such as tariffs, protection, subsidies and government intervention in the market. The pressure is on economies and individuals to produce for sale into the global economy in order to earn the income needed to purchase from it. 
This arrangement has significant benefits but it forces all nations, regions and individuals into competing in the one market and many inevitably fail to do this very effectively. Nations must focus on selling

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Stage III of industrialization: the pursued era

April 29, 2021

From Richard Koo

This golden era does not last forever. At  some  point, wages reach a level where foreign competition can gain a foothold. The first signs of a serious threat to Western economic growth appeared when businesses in  the  US and Europe encountered Japanese competition in the 1970s.
Many in the West were shocked to find that Japanese cars required so little maintenance and so few repairs. The Germans may have invented the automobile, and the Americans may have established the process by which it could be manufactured cheaply, but it was the Japanese who developed cars that did not break down. The arrival of Nikon F camera also came as a huge shock to the German camera industry in the 1960s because it was so much more rugged, adaptable, easy to  use  and  serviceable than

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The 3 foundations of the bifurcation of economics and politics

April 28, 2021

From Shimshon Bichler and Jonathan Nitzan and RWER current issue

Foundation 2: The self-equilibrating economic machine
This view emerged together – and remains deeply interlaced – with the mechanical cosmology of the seventeenth century. Throughout history, human beings, perhaps as a way of alienating themselves from nature, have tended to politicize their cosmos, imposing on their natural environment the power structures of their own society.[1] And this politicization continues in the liberal-capitalist order.
Think of the mechanical world, articulated since Machiavelli by Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Leibnitz and above all Newton. The gods of this liberal cosmos represent absolute rationality, or natural law. The structure of this natural law is numerical and

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The U.S. is facing 20 formidable headwinds

April 27, 2021

From John Komlos and current RWER issue
Cultural challenges are insurmountable
The defective dominant ideology of neoliberalism characterized “by a huge overestimation of the wisdom of market processes,” has seeped into the popular culture to such an extent that it is difficult to make the citizenry understand that the best government is not one that governs the least.[1] It easy for market aficionados to label progressive politicians who aspire to improve the condition of the poor through government programs as socialists.
Social challenges are deeply rooted
Endemic racism haunts the social fabric. The lack of jobs, the mediocre educational system, and the limited safety net available to minorities makes it difficult to improve their life. The unemployment rate among minorities is

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Weekend Read – Power … and the dialect of economics

April 24, 2021

From Blair Fix
If you’ve ever taken Economics 101, then you’re familiar with its jargon. In the course, you probably heard the words ‘supply and demand’ and ‘marginal utility’ uttered hundreds of times. As you figured out what these words meant, you gradually learned to speak a dialect that I call econospeak.
Like all dialects, econospeak affects how you express ideas. The vocabulary of econospeak makes it easier to express certain ideas (such as ‘market equilibrium’), but harder to express others (like ‘imperialism’, as we will see). This trade-off is a feature of all specialized dialects. Physics-speak, for instance, makes it easy to talk about the dynamics of motion, but difficult to talk about emotion.
While all scientific languages share this kind of trade-off, econospeak is

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Neoliberal economic theory is covertly racist

April 23, 2021

From John Komlos

Mainstream economics –as taught to well over a million students a year in the U.S. alone –is replete with implications that feed into structural racism.[i] That should not be misinterpreted to imply that economists themselves are racist. 
Rather, the market fundamentalism they promulgate have the unintended consequence of providing ample justification for maintaining the economic status quo which privileges the well-to-do but finds most minorities at the lower end of the social-economic hierarchy . . . . [In the U.S.] Blacks are 1.8 times and Hispanics 1.5 times as likely to be poor than their share of the population. Consequently, there is a racial bias in poverty. To be sure, the ethnic face of poverty in other countries differs and that implies that my argument is

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WEA Commentaries – new issue

April 23, 2021

WEA Commentaries
Volume 11, Issue 1  –    April 2021

download the whole issue

Review of Internet Oligopoly: The Corporate Takeover of our Digital WorldMitja Stefancic 

The puzzle of western social science Asad Zaman

Taking the Dasgupta Review seriously
(with an interview with Professor Partha Dasgupta)Mitja Stefancic

A New Book on the Economics of Gift Stuart Birks interviews Ioana Negru

US Government SpendingDean Baker

Please click here to support the WEA

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Mariana Mazzucato, Jayati Ghosh and Els Torreele on waiving covid patents

April 22, 2021

The Rapid creation of covid-19 vaccines is an amazing technological feat. It shows how much can be accomplished when human inventiveness and private-sector involvement are given extensive public support, from basic research to massive subsidies.
However, the innovation is futile unless the vaccines are distributed equitably. The public-health benefits are undermined by a deepening chasm in availability. With most inoculations occurring in just a few rich countries and the vast majority of the world still unprotected, the pandemic is likely to be prolonged unless this disparity is overcome. New virus mutations are already emerging that could threaten the limited progress so far to contain the disease.
The solution is the People’s Vaccine—available to all, affordable by all. It would

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The tragedy of the Macro: argumentativeness and intolerance

April 21, 2021

From Thomas Palley

Almost fifty years ago the renowned Swedish econographer, Professor Axel Leijonhufvud (1973), wrote a seminal study on the Econ tribe titled “Life among the Econ”. Back then the Econ were divided into sub-tribes which referred to themselves as the Micro and the Macro. . . .
The new sectarian make-up of the Macro can be traced back to the doctrines of “K” and “M” which Professor Leijonhufvd identified fifty years ago. The doctrine of K concerns itself with what is the productive essence of the econoverse, and whether K is malleable putty that can be lumped into a dough ball or whether it is baked clay. It is associated with the Post Keynesians. The doctrine of M concerns itself with what powers the econoverse. It too raises many questions, including how to measure

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