The collapse of oil prices is an opportunity for a public takeover of the fossil fuel industry and replace it with sustainable energy. As the depression deepens, it is also the time for large publicly owned banks to weaken the economic and political power of finance. Economist Robert Pollin joins Paul Jay on theAnalysis.news podcast.
By Smriti Rao (guest post)
Republished from IDEAs Network.
The defining images of the coronavirus crisis in India are the images of migrants, children in tow, walking hundreds of kilometers to return home – only to be denied entrance. These images are driving home the extent of the government’s indifference to the lives of millions of Indians, with the situation for India’s non-migrant daily wage workers less visible but equally desperate. It may seem unfair to accuse the government of being indifferent to human survival when the current lockdown was announced to reduce the spread of this virus. But ordering physical distancing is not enough. Human survival and well-being depend upon access to clean water, access to a safe space we can retreat to at times like this and access to basic health care and food. This calls for a public infrastructure that can provide these vital goods and services to citizens regardless of their income – one that exists at all times, but can be boosted even further at critical moments like this one. In India, our government has prioritized various forms of public expenditure that subsidize profit-making and profit-makers over those that subsidize human survival and well-being, leaving the latter almost entirely to the private sphere. Our current crisis is revealing the true costs of this choice.
It is with great sadness that we report the death of economist Martin Khor, who was a contributor to Triple Crisis blog. Khor served as executive director of the South Centre from 2009 to 2018; this tribute to him is from the South Centre website.
Mr. Martin Khor, the Executive Director of the South Centre in 2009-2018, passed away on 1st April 2020 in Penang. The South Centre pays homage to his indefatigable work against inequality and the marginalization of the peoples of the South. He guided and inspired many who, both in the North and the South, seek a fairer and more inclusive international system. His intellectual contributions covered a wide range of issues, from international trade to climate change and the effects of antimicrobial resistance. As Executive Director of the South Centre, he was able to expand the scope and reach of its activities in support of the development efforts of the countries of the South. Martin was an economist trained at Cambridge University and the Universiti Sains of Malaysia. Before joining the South Centre, he was the Director of the Third World Network and the Research Director of the Consumers’ Association of Penang, and an Economics Lecturer in the Universiti Sains Malaysia. He is the author of several books and articles on economics, sustainable development, globalization, trade and intellectual property. He was formerly a member of the United Nations Committee on Development Policy, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Task Force on Environment and Development and a Vice Chair of the Expert Group on the Right to Development of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. In his seminal book Rethinking Globalization: Critical Issues and Policy Choices, he set out concrete proposals for what Third World governments could do to shape globalization to their particular circumstances. Martin was also the founder and main editor of the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS), a unique source of information, from the Southern perspective, on the processes of negotiations and issues of concern for developing countries. Martin’s commitment, deep knowledge and grasp of the international NorthSouth economic disparities, as well as of the cross connections between different challenges confronting the South and their deep roots in a hegemonic world order, leave indelible lessons for all. The South Centre extends its condolences to his family. We will fondly remember him as a deeply passionate, knowledgeable and full of empathy colleague and director.
The following tribute to Alejandro Nadal appeared in La Jornada newspaper in Mexico, penned by his longtime editor at the paper. It highlights work Alejandro did on the economics of the illegal wildlife trade, one of the many areas in which Nadal left his indelible mark.
By Luis Hernández Navarro, La Jornada, March 24, 2020
On 13 April 2012, the King of Spain, Juan Carlos de Borbón, stumbled into Botswana, broke his hip and dented his crown. The setback initiated the political decline that would culminate in his abdication to the throne. The monarch was in that African country accompanied by his lover on an elephant hunting safari.
Killing elephants is not a crime in several African countries. Every year 35,000 pachyderms are killed on the continent, on average one every 15 minutes. This figure, to which natural mortality must be added, already exceeds the birth rate of elephants, which are in danger of extinction.
These pachyderms—explained Alejandro Nadal Egea, who died last March 16th—are not hunted, they are actually killed. They are animals that live in community, very intelligent, with an exemplary way of life, exceptional in the animal kingdom, from which we must learn. They suffer for their dead, they have a history. A matriarch—for example—can remember the watering hole to which she led her family 30 years ago.
By C. P. Chandrasekhar and Jayati Ghosh
Republished from Network IDEAs; originally published in the Business Line on March 24 2020.
The global devastation caused by Covid-19 is only just beginning, with the severe threat to public health worsened by the evident inability to cope of most health systems across developing and developed countries. Many states across the world appear to have realised the serious potential of this pandemic and have declared lockdowns, closures, partial curfews and curtailment of all but essential activities in efforts to contain the contagion.
The economic impacts of such lockdown are also just beginning to be felt, and will escalate in the coming months. The discussion on the economics of this pandemic has tended to focus on supply disruptions and the likely financial losses of companies, especially those in travel, transport and other services and manufacturing activities. Precisely because companies have more lobbying power and more political voice in general, they have already started clamouring for (and being offered) incentives, bailouts and other relief measures to allow them to cope with this crisis.
But in fact, the worst material impacts are already being felt by informal workers, who face a dismal spectrum of probabilities of loss of livelihood, from declining earnings among the self-employed to job losses among paid workers. These are likely to get much worse in the coming months. Even so, barring in just a handful of countries, very few governments have declared strong measures to cope with these effects—and therefore they are letting loose forces that could be even more devastating for poor people across the world. In the worst-case scenario, this could even mean that more people could die from hunger and the inability to treat other problems than will do so because of the virus.
By Alejandro Nadal
Republished from La Jornada, March 11, 2020, with permission.
It is with great sadness that we announce that Alejandro Nadal, an economist, lawyer, professor at the Centro de Estudios Económicos (CEE) of the Colegio de México, and a longtime contributor to Triple Crisis blog, passed away on March 17 after a short time with fast-moving cancer. As former D&S co-editor and former Triple Crisis administrator Timothy A. Wise put it, “A great loss for us all, far too young and otherwise healthy and vibrant. Like Frank Ackerman. Tough times, just when we need those clear, critical minds most.” This article was his last for the Mexico City daily newspaper La Jornada, where he was a columnist. It was submitted on March 10 and published on March 11, just six days before he died. Even though he wrote it almost two weeks ago and the news is moving so quickly, it still seems to capture powerfully the current moment and the economic context of the pandemic. The journal Sin Permiso, on whose editorial board Nadal served, has posted an obituary and tribute here, and has made available a pdf compiling some of his articles. —Eds.
Cycles and crises in capitalism can happen in an irregular way. This is part of the anomalous movement of an economy that is inherently unstable. The great crisis of 2008 was the result of such processes. And to bring an economy that has fallen into imbalance back to life, you need to inject it with liquidity in good quantities. For example, the monetary easing policy measures implemented by the Federal Reserve were felt before the crisis and their speculative effects began to spread throughout the economy from 2009–2010. Astronomical amounts went into the pension funds and treasury departments of large corporations, where they served to fuel global speculation. But what they did not do was promote investment and employment.
By Arthur MacEwan
Bob Sutcliffe, who died at age 80 on December 23, was an influential socialist economist over several decades. The publication that probably gained him the most attention was British Capitalism, Workers and the Profits Squeeze (1972), which Bob co-authored with Andrew Glyn, his close friend and frequent collaborator. The book became a classic among the growing movement of socialist economists in that decade, and, indeed, moved beyond radical circles to have a major impact on public debate.
Yet, Bob’s life had a breadth and charm that went far beyond his professional accomplishments.
By John Weeks
On 12 December the UK Conservative party scored a stunning victory as it buried the opposition in an electoral avalanche. As I venture some thoughts on that outcome and its implications for US politics, transparency requires that I make it clear that I supported the Labour Party and publicly endorsed its policies and disparaged its critics. My disappointment will surprise no one. How should I interpret this disastrous electoral loss by a party advocating a range of policies that I consider appropriate and essential for our country?
As is the case with many complex events, I find it useful to begin with simple, even simplistic, explanations, when inspect those simple narratives for their flaws. I seek to avoid seizing on explanations that conveniently support my predilections. Defeats (as well as victories) call for humility and introspection rather than definitive convictions.
By Robert Pollin (guest post)
Second in a series of posts on neoliberalism and what might come next, organized to celebrate the 45th anniversary of Dollars & Sense, which publishes Triple Crisis.
In 2007, Nicholas Stern, the prominent mainstream British economist and former chief economist at the World Bank, wrote that “Climate change is a result of the greatest market failure the world has seen.” Stern’s assessment was extreme, but not hyperbolic. This is for the simple reason that, if we take climate science at all seriously, we cannot avoid the conclusion that we are courting ecological disaster by not stabilizing the climate.
Neoliberalism is a driving force causing the climate crisis. This is because neoliberalism is a variant of classical liberalism, and classical liberalism builds from the idea that everyone should be granted maximum freedom to pursue their self-interest within capitalist market settings. But neoliberalism also diverges substantially from classical liberalism: What really occurs in practice under neoliberalism is that governments allow giant corporations to freely pursue profit opportunities to the maximum extent, and governments even intervene on corporations’ behalf when their profits might be threatened. How the oil companies reacted to clear evidence of climate change represents a dramatic case study of neoliberalism in practice. In 1982, researchers working at the then Exxon Corporation (now Exxon Mobil) estimated that by about 2060, burning oil, coal, and natural gas to produce energy would elevate the planet’s average temperatures by about 2° Celsius. This, in turn, would generate exactly the types of massive climate disruptions that we have increasingly experienced since the 1980s—i.e., heat extremes, heavy precipitation, droughts, rising sea levels, and biodiversity losses, with corresponding impacts on health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, and human security. In 1988, researchers at the Shell Corporation reached similar conclusions. We now know what Exxon and Shell did with this information: They buried it. They did so for the obvious reason that, if the information were then known, it might have threatened their prospects for receiving massive profits from producing and selling oil.