Defense contractor Thales calls digital vaccination passes “precursor” to universal digital identification

August 31, 2021 6 comments

from Norbert Häring

Thales, one of the largest international defense contractors, calls the digital vaccination passport a precursor to universal mobile-digital identity credentials. Thales thus confirms my analysis and my worst fears.

Under the headline “How digital ID can help citizens access government services from anywhere,” Kristel Teyras, in charge of the defense contractor Thales’ Digital Identity Services portfolio, writes:

“So-called digital ‘vaccination passports’ will play a key role in enabling citizens to access all manner of services and will act as a precursor to the rollout of mobile digital IDs.”

The pandemic, she writes, has acted as a catalyst for a major shift in consumer behavior, toward the widespread digitization of public and private services. On the role of digital vaccination passports and barriers to access for the unvaccinated in driving this trend forward, the article states:

“Even as we start to return to a sense of normality, this digitalisation of services looks set to gather momentum. This is, in part, due to governments around the world asking their citizens to carry digital health passes to prove they are doubly vaccinated or have a negative test before they can access certain services.”

It then points to “one of the largest digital identity projects ever,” which the EU has kicked off with the framework for a Europe-wide Digital Identity:  Read more…

The power of dominant capital continues to rise

August 31, 2021 1 comment

from Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler

Here we show the after-tax profit and market capitalization of the top 0.01% of U.S.-based corporations, expressed as a % of U.S. GDP.

Updated from ‘The Asymtptoes of Power‘.

Probability and rationality — trickier than most people think

August 30, 2021 2 comments

from Lars Syll

The Coin-tossing Problem

My friend Ben says that on the first day he got the following sequence of Heads and Tails when tossing a coin:

And on the second day he says that he got the following sequence:

184bic9u2w483jpgWhich report makes you suspicious?

Most people yours truly asks this question says the first report looks suspicious.

But actually both reports are equally probable! Every time you toss a (fair) coin there is the same probability (50 %) of getting H or T. Both days Ben makes equally many tosses and every sequence is equally probable!

The Linda Problem   Read more…

Capitalism and workers’ power

August 29, 2021 4 comments

from David Ricardo

You don’t have to read Marx to understand the lack of power workers have under capitalism. But you do have to read beyond mainstream economists and economic pundits. You might turn, for example, to the business school.

Yes, I know, that’s a strange assertion. But let me explain.

The usual argument these days is that workers have acquired a lot more power because of the scarcity of labor. When labor is scarce (basically, when the quantity supplied of labor is less than the quantity demanded), workers can fetch higher wages and be pickier about the jobs they’re willing to accept. That, of course, drives employers crazy and, as usual, mainstream economists and commentators just echo those concerns.

So, is it true? Well, look at the data they cite:

Read more…

Weekend read – Who’s in charge: us or our technology?

August 28, 2021 2 comments

from Peter Radford

So who is in charge?  Who controls the flow of technology?  Is it us?  Or does the technology now control us?

We live in a technology infused world.  Our current civilization sits on a foundation accumulated through the past few centuries and built of machine power.  We cannot separate ourselves from this cumulative support system without regressing to a pre-industrial way of life.  Which is something few of us either want or are equipped to deal with.  We have forgotten how to live that life, and despite the sentimentalism of our artists and poets, it is not returning without a crash forced upon us.  We will not return willingly.

The rise of this technologically mediated existence crept up on us.  At first the technology was resisted: it displaced human beings from their workplace.  It took over doing the work.  It does the work better, more efficiently, more reliably, and in greater volume.  What’s not to like about that?

The disruption is not to like, but that is more inconvenience in the fullness of history rather than a reason for stopping.  People suffer, but society benefits.  Productivity rises.  Wealth increases and we all, eventually, enjoy the fruits of the rise of technology.

Or so the story goes.  And, largely, the story is correct.  History says so.

With the continual accumulation of technology comes a continuing increase in complexity.  Society is constantly sliced and diced into specialties, localities, and the networks between them.  The whole edifice develops along a trajectory that no one controls.  It controls itself.  We get swept up in the continual movement towards greater reliance on technology.  We need the extra productivity, it is, after all, what allows us to live this life.  So we are dependent.  We are subsumed into the flow of innovation. Read more…

Keynes was not a Keynesian. He was a Post Keynesian!

August 27, 2021 3 comments

from Lars Syll

keynes3But these more recent writers like their predecessors were still dealing with a system in which the amount of the factors employed was given and the other relevant facts were known more or less for certain. This does not mean that they were dealing with a system in which change was ruled out, or even one in which the disappointment of expectation was ruled out. But at any given time facts and expectations were assumed to be given in a definite and calculable form; and risks, of which, tho admitted, not much notice was taken, were supposed to be capable of an exact actuarial computation. The calculus of probability, tho mention of it was kept in the background, was supposed to be capable of reducing uncertainty to the same calculable status as that of certainty itself …

Thus the fact that our knowledge of the future is fluctuating, vague and uncertain, renders Wealth a peculiarly unsuitable subject for the methods of the classical economic theory.

John Maynard Keynes

And this emphasis on the importance of uncertainty is not even mentioned in ‘IS-LM Keynesianism’ …

The $26 an Hour Minimum Wage

August 24, 2021 9 comments

from Dean Baker

That may sound pretty crazy, but that’s roughly what the minimum wage in the United States would be today if it had kept pace with productivity growth since its value peaked in 1968. And, having the minimum wage track productivity growth is not a crazy idea. The national minimum wage did in fact keep pace with productivity growth for the first 30 years after a national minimum wage first came into existence in 1938.

Dean Aug 2021

Furthermore, a minimum wage that grew in step with the rapid rises in productivity in these decades did not lead to mass unemployment. The year-round average for the unemployment rate in 1968 was 3.6 percent, a lower average than for any year in the last half century. 

Read more…

Sapere aude!

August 21, 2021 38 comments

from Lars Syll

An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment? - Immanuel Kant - Ljudbok  - BookBeatEnlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance. This nonage is self-imposed if its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in indecision and lack of courage to use one’s own mind without another’s guidance. Sapere aude! “Have the courage to use your own understanding,” is therefore the motto of the enlightenment.

Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why such a large part of mankind gladly remain minors all their lives, long after nature has freed them from external guidance … Those guardians who have kindly taken supervision upon themselves see to it that the overwhelming majority of mankind — among them the entire fair sex — should consider the step to maturity, not only as hard, but as extremely dangerous. First, these guardians make their domestic cattle stupid and carefully prevent the docile creatures from taking a single step without the leading-strings to which they have fastened them. Then they show them the danger that would threaten them if they should try to walk by themselves. Now this danger is really not very great; after stumbling a few times they would, at last, learn to walk. However, examples of such failures intimidate and generally discourage all further attempts …

Dogmas and formulas, these mechanical tools designed for reasonable use — or rather abuse — of his natural gifts, are the fetters of an everlasting nonage … Read more…

Weekend read – The evolution of ‘big’: How sociality made life larger

August 20, 2021 6 comments

from Blair Fix

The game I play is a very interesting one.
It’s imagination in a tight straitjacket.

— Richard Feynman

Like Richard Feynman’s game of science, evolution is stuck in a straitjacket. It is driven by chance. But evolution is not free to explore every path.

Take, as an example, the evolution of organism size. While it seems like there are many routes to bigness, I propose that there is fundamentally only one: sociality. In the march towards ever-larger organisms, there have been three major revolutions. All of them involved the merger of previously autonomous organisms into a new communal creature. I call this route to bigness ‘size through sociality’. It is a tale 4 billion years in the making.

The drive towards sociality, I argue, is a response to a basic feature of geometry. As objects get larger, their volume grows faster than their surface area. This fact of space causes problems for harvesting energy. It requires that big organisms harness and distribute energy on a limited surface-area budget. The easiest way to solve this problem, it seems, is to merge existing structures. Hence the evolution of bigger life is deeply connected to the evolution of sociality.

The evolution of ‘big’ is also connected to human culture.

Modern human institutions may represent a new transition in the evolution of life — a transition from massive organisms to supermassive superorganisms. But as with the rest of life, this evolution occurs in a straitjacket. The size distribution of human institutions seems to follow the same pattern as the size distribution of other organisms. In fact, it is an extension of this pattern, upping the size of life to new proportions.

In this light, human cultural evolution may be a variation on an old theme: size through sociality.

The tyranny of geometry

As I child, I loved playing with toy cars. I made the little vehicles jump over great distances, usually with the gleeful hope that they might explode. But the toys always took the beating with ease. When I imagined doing the same stunt with life-sized cars, however, I knew that they couldn’t withstand the punishment. But I didn’t know why.

Today I do. It’s because the size of an object changes how it behaves. The reason owes to a simple feature of geometry. As objects get larger, their volume grows faster than their area. This fact affects the objects’ properties. Read more…

Food poverty map

August 20, 2021 2 comments

Behavioural economics and complexity economics

August 19, 2021 4 comments

from Lars Syll

James Galbraith: what Europe needs is solidarity, not austerity | etuiWhat is to take the place of neoclassical economics and its neoliberal policy offshoot? There is no shortage of candidates, grouped under the broad banner of economic heterodoxy. Some of these successor doctrines – behavioral economics and complexity economics are examples of note – take the neoclassical orthodoxies as a point of departure. They therefore continue to define themselves in relation to those orthodoxies. Others avoided the gravitational pull altogether – or, as in the exceptional case of Keynes, made a “long struggle to escape”. The behaviorists depart from neoclassicism by giving up strict assumptions of rational and maximizing behavior. Complexity theorists explore the dynamics of interacting agents and recursive functions. Both achieve a measure of academic reputability by remaining in close dialog with the orthodox mainstream. Neither pays more than a glancing tribute to earlier generations or other canons of economic thought. The model is that of neoclassical offshoots – New Institutionalism, New Classical Economics, New Keynesianism – that make a vampire practice of colonizing older words and draining them of their previous meaning. The dilemma of these offshoots lies in having accepted the false premise of the orthodoxy to which it proposes to serve as the alternative. The conceit is of a dispassionate search for timeless truth, once again pursued by “relaxing restrictive assumptions” in the interest of “greater realism”. Thus, for example, in complexity theories agents follow simple rules and end up generating intricate and unpredictable patterns, nonlinear recursive functions give the same result, the variance of returns turns out to be non-normal, and so forth. But once the starting point is taken to be the neoclassical competitive general equilibrium model, these exercises are largely drained of insight and relevance. The behaviorists can tell us that real people do not appear to fit well into the portrait of autonomous, selfish, commodity-obsessed pleasure-seekers that is “economic man”. The complexity theorists can tell us, as Arthur (2021) does, is that a system constructed from confections of interacting agents may be unstable. These things, even the dimmest observer of real-existing capitalism already knew.

James Galbraith / RWER

Although discounting empirical evidence cannot be the right way to solve economic issues, there are still, in my opinion, a couple of weighty reasons why we — just as Galbraith — perhaps shouldn’t be too excited about the so-called ’empirical’ or ‘behavioural’ revolution in economics. Read more…

Diversity in economics

August 19, 2021 1 comment

from Peter Radford

In this case geographical diversity.

Dani Rodrik has brought to our attention a rather serious problem within the economics profession: it is still dominated by people living and working in the West.  As a consequence it has a decided bias towards issues that are of significant interest to the West.

This is, of course, not news to any of you not living in the West.  Nor is it news to anyone outside the profession paying attention to the product of the journals and various other outlets.  The ideas that get the most attention and the work that gets most lauded is still channeled through a very narrow lens.  The result is a considerable — massive? — underrepresentation of viewpoints and experiences that inhibit the ability of the discipline to engage broadly with the world.

I cannot dispute Rodrik’s conclusion:

“Economics is currently going through a period of soul searching with respect to its gender and racial imbalances. Many new initiatives are underway in North America and Western Europe to address these problems. But geographic diversity remains largely absent from the discussion. Economics will not be a truly global discipline until we have addressed this deficit as well.”

He is absolutely correct.  More power to him for bringing this to the fore.

The problem is that Rodrik lives and works within that very narrow space he suggests cramps the discipline.  Well done him.  But there is a sense of something missing from his short article. Read more…

Learning to re-envisage the economy (Part 2)

August 18, 2021 2 comments

from David Taylor and WEA Pedagogy Blog

Looking now at anticipations of Shannon’s information systems in recent economic research, Maria Madi found American pragmatist C. S. Peirce studying scientific logic cycles and semiotics (signalling) in 1873.  In the latest Real Word Economic Review, Katherine Farrell found Marshall starting economics from everyday life (small is beautiful) instead of the funding of government. Andri Stahel started from Aristotle and found Dilthey studying hermeneutics (Shannon’s decoding).  However, the story told about computing is that Babbage showed it to be a mechanism, which Turing turned into a tape recorder using von Neumann’s architecture and linear programming.  Unsurprisingly, Shannon does not surface in Jamie Galbraith’s brilliant survey of current economics, nor in Edward Fullbrook’s textbook proposal: both still seeing the economy as it still is, so how it is usually seen.  Like a centralised power distribution system, primarily supplying governments and big business. Read more…

“Power and Influence of Economists”

August 18, 2021 1 comment

from Mitja Stefancic and current issue of WEA Commentaries

“Power and Influence of Economists: Contributions to the Social Studies of Economics”, edited by J. Maesse et al reflects upon the multifaceted relationships that exist between science and society – a domain in which economic experts play a very influential role and often have a direct impact on society by and large. It offers complex insights into the forms of power in economics and provides a broad overview of recent developments in the evolving field of social studies of economics. The book comprises 14 chapters, which are grouped into four main parts: a) Economic knowledge and discursive power; b) Economic governmentalities; c) Economists in networks; d) Economics as a scientific field. Each chapter takes a detailed view on the multiple dimensions of power, action and impact with reference to economics.

Among several notable accomplishments, the volume brings forward two themes that have been singled out in this review, as they are of particular interest to social scientists and, thus, worth commenting on. On the one hand, it provides evidence on how some countries have become laboratories for economic experiments, for instance in the application of the politics of austerity orchestrated by influential economists and policy makers. On the other hand, the book shows that economics is a field of power in which powerful networks play a role in determining who may be publicly recognized as a successful economist, i.e. an expert worth reading and listening to, and, by contrast, identifying those who shall not enjoy such attention among colleagues or such visibility in mainstream media.  

. . . . . . 

Selected quotes from the volume   Read more…

Evolutionary and biophysical economics

August 18, 2021 4 comments

from James Galbraith

The evolutionary and biophysical approach to economic phenomena is not a new thing, and actually long predates the neoclassical orthodoxy from which some believe it now springs. It began with the intellectual interplay of Malthus and Darwin, developed through Marx and Henry Carey and (to a degree) in the work of the German Historical School, brewed and fermented in the pragmatic and pluralist effervescence of late 19th century American philosophy, and achieved a first full articulation in the hands of Thorstein Veblen (1898). It thereafter developed in the Institutionalist tradition of John R. Commons (1934) and Clarence E. Ayres (1944), among many others, and emerged as the dominant intellectual force in American economics under the New Deal.  Read more…

Learning to re-envisage the economy (Part 1)

August 17, 2021 1 comment

from David Taylor and WEA Pedagogy Blog

After the invention of printing, pedagogy began with Machiavelli’s The Prince teaching politicians to lie, and Francis Bacon’s The Advancement of Learning advising a new king to develop an encyclopedia of science “for the glory of God and the relief of Man’s estate” by “taking things to bits to see how they worked”.  Bacon’s doctor Harvey took men’s bodies to bits and discovered the circulation of the blood.  In France, Descartes took brains to bits, envisaging a “spiritual” mind (what we would now call information) controlling the brain’s matter. 

Economics began to go wrong when Locke denied Descartes’ “spirit”, mistaking Newton’s proving his gravitational hypothesis by observation for his starting with a “blank slate”; perhaps seeing that people having learned to see money as gold enabled would-be princes and mass producers to win wars using Bank of England credit.  Hume then denied Bacon’s unobservable God and his friend Adam Smith that Men who had fallen on hard times should be relieved; the new “princes” replaced invisible rights with written laws, certificates of authority and deeds of ownership.  The subsequent scientific discoveries of invisible flows in electric circuits, electro-magnetism, radio communication, electric circuit logic and the creation of information and environmental sciences passed them by except insofar as they could make money from them. So did mass production far exceeding the world’s capacity for self-renewal. Read more…

Behavioral economics and complexity economics

August 17, 2021 19 comments

from James Galbraith

What is to take the place of neoclassical economics and its neoliberal policy offshoot? There is no shortage of candidates, grouped under the broad banner of economic heterodoxy. Some of these successor doctrines – behavioral economics and complexity economics are examples of note – take the neoclassical orthodoxies as a point of departure. They therefore continue to define themselves in relation to those orthodoxies. Others avoided the gravitational pull altogether – or, as in the exceptional case of Keynes, made a “long struggle to escape”.

The behaviorists depart from neoclassicism by giving up strict assumptions of rational and maximizing behavior. Complexity theorists explore the dynamics of interacting agents and recursive functions. Both achieve a measure of academic reputability by remaining in close dialog with the orthodox mainstream. Neither pays more than a glancing tribute to earlier generations or other canons (Reinert, Ghosh and Kattel, 2016) of economic thought. The model is that of neoclassical offshoots – New Institutionalism, New Classical Economics, New Keynesianism – that make a vampire practice of colonizing older words and draining them of their previous meaning. Read more…

Life at the bottom in Joe Biden’s America – 2 charts

August 16, 2021 3 comments

from Dean Baker

With the economy facing substantial bottlenecks, and the continuing spread of the pandemic, it is worth taking a quick look at how lower paid workers have been faring. Nominal wages have been rising rapidly for workers at the bottom of the pay ladder in recent months. This has allowed workers in the lowest paying jobs to see substantial increases in real wages, in spite of the uptick in inflation the last few months.

Here’s the picture in retail for production and non-supervisory workers. Note that real wages were actually somewhat lower in 2018 than they had been in 2002. (These numbers are 1982-1984 dollars, so multiply by about 2.6 to get current dollars.) They did rise in 2018 and 2019, due to a tightening of the labor market, as well as minimum wage hikes at the state and local  level. The impact of the pandemic and the recovery has been a big net positive. Real wages in the sector are roughly 4.6 percent higher than the level of two years ago, a 2.3 percent annual real wage gain. Read more…

Changing the conceptions of morality and reality associated with economics

August 16, 2021 3 comments

from Richard Norgaard

Economism has been modern capitalism’s myth system, or in computer parlance, capitalism’s operating system. It has stressed utilitarian moral beliefs compatible with economic assumptions that are critical to neoclassical economic theories. These beliefs include the idea that society is simply the sum of its individuals and their desires, that people can be perfectly, or at least sufficiently, informed to act rationally in markets, that markets balance individual greed for the common good, and that nature can be divided up into parts and owned and managed as property without systemic social and environmental consequences (Norgaard, 2019). Especially after World War II when the industrialized nations globally organized around economic beliefs and set out to spread their economic systems among less industrialized nations, these simple beliefs steadily displaced more complex moral discourses of traditional religions (Cobb, Jr, 2001). Economism has facilitated climate change and other anthropogenic drivers of rapid environmental change. Natural scientists are labeling current times the Anthropocene. I advocate using the term Econocene since our economic beliefs, both moral and those with respect to reality, and the econogenic drivers they facilitated have been critical to the rise of rapid environmental change. Furthermore, the term Econocene alludes to the current social and technological structures and human capital that are sustained by economism.[1] Escaping the Econocene will require dynamically, polycentrically, reconnecting reality and morality writ large. Read more…

A revolutionary change in economics is long overdue.

August 15, 2021 5 comments

from Clive Spash and Adrien Guisan   

Economics has become increasingly detached from its object of study and the orthodoxy is fundamentally flawed as a social science because it advocates a prescriptive methodology while lacking any serious engagement with epistemology and ontology.  The resulting epistemic fallacy means it promotes a narrow implicit world view as if a factual truth.  Failures here include imposition of limited quantitative methods and mathematically formalist methodology that exclude qualitative aspects of reality and the use of isolated/closed systems thinking for an open system reality. Read more…