Showing posts with label unemployment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label unemployment. Show all posts

Thursday, September 12, 2019

There's No Evidence of a Robot Takeover–This Is a Bad Thing

Noah Smith wrote a pretty compelling op ed in Bloomberg on Tuesday demonstrating that worries about a robot apocalypse–the eclipse of human labor by machine labor–are unfounded. He points to the rather steady employment-to-population ratio, the positive correlation between IT investment and jobs, and low productivity growth as proof that robots do not, in fact, cost at least the macroeconomy jobs. (We can't necessarily make assertions microeconomically.)

This is a bad thing.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

UBI vs. JG: Communist Revolution Editiion

I like to talk a lot of shit. I've been talking a lot of shit lately on the Job Guarantee (JG) proposals relative to Universal Basic Income (UBI) in tweets and comments here and there. Since I generally grow bored of conversations on the internet fairly quickly, relatively few people have actually heard anything resembling my full argument in favor of UBI over a JG. So here I am, finding new ways to procrastinate my dissertation work.

The discussion here, I hope, will equip supporters of UBI and the JG with a more holistic understanding of both from the perspective of long-term revolutionary goals. As an anarcho-communist, I view both proposals (technically three proposals, more on that later) through the lens of which can best situate the working class to seize the means of production to establish a decentralized communist production and distribution network.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

All That For This

Published an article over at Jewish Currents today about the first round of acquittals in the J20 trials. The process dragged out for almost a year, and somehow made it to a jury despite some rather unusual procedures. Here's a sample:

During the pretrial, hearing dates were rescheduled without notifying defendants who were required under penalty of arrest to attend. Law enforcement agents were demonstrated by the defense to be lying on the witness stand, and in closing arguments, lead prosecutor Jen Kerkhoff all but told the jury that their instructions were irrelevant and that reasonable doubt “doesn’t mean a whole lot.”
“We saw that the U.S. Attorney’s office has no problem with the fact that their interests overlap with [rightwing organizations] Project Veritas or the Oath Keepers,” explained Menefee-Libey. “We also saw that the DC Superior Court is willing to let all of these things proceed under their legitimizing purview. This was procedurally strange, but politically and morally terrifying and abhorrent.”
What the trials have helped bring to light above all else is the absolute disregard for procedure on the part of the police.
According to court documents, law enforcement had infiltrated the planning for all three events but zeroed in on the the anti-fascist, anti-capitalist bloc, which departed from Logan Circle at 10:00 that morning. Despite apparent concerns about their undercover infiltration methods, the DC police opted not to contact the protest organizers, as required by the department’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) regarding First Amendment activity. On the day of the protest, moreover, the police violated more of their SOP: In radio communications entered into evidence, the police commander and frontline officer discussed whether the protesters were anarchists, and made the call to mass arrest before the march even left the park, which violates their SOP requirement that protesters be arrested and charged individually. (Since the SOP was issued in 2004, mass arrests have been effectively prohibited in DC.)
Certainly going to be chilling to watch the prosecutor bring 188 more people to trial.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Dear Baby Boomers: Go Fuck Yourselves

This Saturday Los Angeles Times crotchety old man reporter Chris Erskine tried to pass off a bulleted list off as journalism wrote a list of things millennials should pledge to themselves in order to do adulting.

For a generation that has cut the retirement programs that their parents generation fought so hard for, Erskine is really gambling away being given the dignity of a nursing home. I hope my notes on his condescending list will serve as an appeal to Chris Erskine's children to let him die in the streets like his parents' parents.

Monday, August 31, 2015

FedEx Packages

In keeping with the GOP's attempt to keep up with Donald Trump's fascist appeal, Chris Christie proposed a technocratic "solution" to undocumented immigration. I put solution in scare quotes not because his policy plan is ridiculous, but because I remain unconvinced that undocumented immigration is a problem to be solved. By and large, immigration is a boon for the economy - it tends to positively impact citizens' earnings, has minimal impact on domestic unemployment, and are comparatively less likely to be violent criminals than citizens.

What Christie proposed was a bit silly in its phrasing. Par for the course for Christie. According to Christie 40% of undocumented immigrants are here on expired visas. He proposed that we use FedEx's expertise with tracking packages in order to track human beings. The video is under the cut.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The D.E.N.N.I.S. System of Capitalism

I'm a pretty big fan of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia being a 20-minutes-outside-of-Philly boy myself. The show itself centers around five sociopaths who run an Irish bar in the only city where it's worth getting a cheese steak.

One of the characters, Dennis, is an incredibly narcissistic womanizer. Throughout the course of the series, it is revealed that he has multiple bench warrants for sexual misconduct and keeps duct tape, a Maglight, and a bundle of zip ties in a hidden compartment in his car.

In one episode, he reveals that he has a systematized his pattern of abusive and manipulative behavior into a mnemonic eponymous acronym. Oddly enough, this system also works quite well to explain how the capitalist system conditions the working class into accepting their conditions of poverty.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

#tbt A.W. Phillips 1958 The Relation Between Unemployment and the Rate of Change of Money Wage Rates in the United Kingdom, 1861-1957

Perhaps one of the most misremembered paper in macroeconomic theory is that which gave birth to the famous Phillips Curve. The original paper, which drew upon nearly a century's worth of UK data, demonstrated an empirical relationship between the rate of unemployment and the change in nominal wages (commonly referred to as wage inflation). The result - that money wages increase more rapidly with less unemployment - opens a few potential theoretical interpretations.

The Marxian interpretation would have it that larger pools of unemployed workers would make the overall workforce more disposable, hence reducing worker power to secure higher wages. This is largely the position that Phillips himself took although I don't believe he labelled it Marxian.

Another interpretation embraced by the mainstream of economics asserts that this relationship indicates the tendency for programs geared towards "artificially" reducing unemployment ultimately results in inflation. The underlying presumption here is that any sort of policy intervention to boost employment will necessarily be less productive than the private sector. Thus, additional workers employed at the going wage but producing less value will lead to more money chasing fewer goods. With a larger supply of money in the hands of workers but not as much to spend it on, these wage earners will simply bid up prices, leading to inflation.

Here, we have the recipe for the bastardization of the Phillips Curve by the likes of Ned Phelps and Milton Friedman. These two reinterpreted the Phillips Curve to be a relationship between unemployment and price inflation. This version of the model broke down soon after it was developed during the oil price shocks of the early 70s. Hence, a new breed of economists, led by the likes of Robert Lucas, Finn Kydland, and Edward Prescott, proclaimed that discretionary economic policy could not work because the model that economists had (over)developed failed to predict inflation due to structural changes. These economists attributed this to reactions to policy pronouncements by economic actors on the basis of their expectations. Hence, this later breed recommended policy rules that would set incentives for individuals to work around.

Anwar Shaikh has shown, however, that although the later versions of the Phillips curve don't hold, the original model still holds.

Download the article here

Friday, June 12, 2015

Interview on Unemployment with Orchestrated Pulse

Yesterday, I sat down for an interview with Robert Stephens II of Orchestrated Pulse for an interview on how unemployment fits into the capitalist system. We talked about what unemployment is, and why the unemployed are necessary for the power of the boss over workers. Needless to say, I threw some Kalecki into the mix and somehow managed to work in a shout-out to Ed Baptist's new book.

R: What is unemployment?

Mike: Everyone, workers and business owners, needs employment, but for different reasons. The workers need consistent employment so that they can buy the things they need to survive. Business owners need employment because it is ultimately human effort that creates the things that they sell for a profit.

Thus, we can take two perspectives on employment. First, it can be for the purpose of determining how much work is needed for bosses to maximize their output. Second, it can be for the purpose of determining how much work is needed for workers to maintain a given standard of living. Whichever version we choose, unemployment becomes the amount of labor that we believe society isn’t producing.

To speak of unemployment, we need a very specific type of economic system. It has only been within the last 400-600 years that “employment” has become a necessity as an end in itself.

Check out the interview on Orchestrated Pulse

Thursday, June 11, 2015

#tbt Joan Robinson 1972 The Second Crisis of Economic Theory

More often than not I find my curmudgeonly self channeling the snark of Joan Robinson. To me, Robinson was the best economist to ever live.

First, Robinson, unlike many (dare I say most?) economists is actually concerned with economic history and the history of economic thought. To her, a theory was only as good as it was able to explain a particular situation that actually happens in the real world.

Second, Robinson rarely, if ever used math. The distinct advantage to this approach is that she actually talks about real things. So focused was Robinson on real things instead of math, that she led the charge on the UK side of the Capital Controversy which ultimately demonstrated the folly of neoclassical production functions theoretically, mathematically and empirically.

In this particular piece, she takes on the economic orthodoxy's response to the "Second Crisis" - that of increasing inflation coupled with economic stagnation. To her both crises - that of the great depression and that of the great stagflation - evidence a fundamental failure to seriously consider the questions Keynes tried to evoke: How do we maintain near-full employment, and what is employment for?

Download the article here

Thursday, May 21, 2015

#tbt Michał Kalecki 1943 Political Aspects of Full Employment

In the 72 years since its publication, Michał Kalecki's Political Aspects of Full Employment has received little in the way of faithful formalization. The currency it has found has been mostly in grave departures from its premises and conclusions. For the most part, the paper has been treated as if it were a theory of the business cycle. Perhaps the most notable of these endeavors was William Nordhaus' 1975 paper, although a nod to this direction was recognized by Joan Robinson in her 1972 speech at Cambridge. This view generally sees Kalecki's theory as saying that political power determines macroeconomic outcomes.

To be sure, the theory does derive from the realization of a consequence of part of what may be considered the business cycle – widespread unemployment. However, the meat of Kalecki's argument is not (necessarily) about what causes economic downturns per se so much as the curious way in which large business interests react to them.

In my reading, the curiosity motivating Kalecki is not one of what causes widespread unemployment, but rather why businesses would have an interest in seeing it persist. In this model, Kalecki takes rampant unemployment as a prior condition to his model, and is interested in why business interests would oppose a full employment program even when such a program is to their own benefit.

What Kalecki argues instead is that the very fact of full employment itself gives workers the leverage to bargain for higher wages. For Kalecki, lack of job security acts as a discipline device. With a larger pool of unemployed, workers are easily replaced, and they know it. Thus, any attempt to bargain for higher wages, better working conditions, etc. can be easily remedied by businesses with the sack. Thus, any attempt to take this discipline tool from the capitalist class is viciously opposed in spite of the fact that they stand to make higher profits.

Download the Article Here