“The earth is the tomb of dead empires, no less than of dead men.” Thus wrote the American economist and journalist Henry George in his 1879 worldwide bestseller, Progress and Poverty. Adam Smith had identified cooperation and specialization—“the division of labor”—as the forces that generated economic growth and prosperity. George claimed that those same forces led eventually to collapse, as monopolization of land and other natural resources directed more and more wealth into ever fewer hands. Two astute observers have recently offered complementary predictions of the imminent demise of the American empire, and its replacement by China. . . . → Read More: Dead Empires: How China May Overtake the U.S.
We are in the midst of a finance-led counterrevolution. The long standing effort to roll back New Deal reforms has moved from triumph to triumph. The foundation was laid via increasingly effective public relations efforts to sell the Ayn Randian world view that granting individuals unfettered freedom of action would produce only virtuous outcomes, since the talented would flourish and the rest would deservedly be left in the dust. In fact, societies that have moved strongly in that direction such as Pinochet’s Chile and Russia under Yeltsin, have seen plutocratic land grabs, declining standards of living (and even lifespans), and a rise in authoritarianism or (in the case of Colombia) organized crime. . . . → Read More: Yves Smith on The Finance-led Counterrevolution and the Rush to Destroy the Safety Net
Starting in the Colonial Era, New York, Boston and Philadelphia required all fresh meat to be sold by licensed butchers in regulated public markets. New York abandoned public markets in the 1840’s, with disastrous effects on public health. A working paper by economic historian Gergely Baics lays out the story:
Travel back in time to . . . → Read More: From Public Meat Markets to Derivatives Markets: A Lesson from Old New York
This is the scariest book I’ve read since The Day of the Triffids. Back in the ‘70’s, US business monopolization seemed bad, but not getting worse. Spinoffs and breakups balanced mergers. Since then, as documented in Cornered by financial journalist Barry Lynn, global monopolization has rapidly returned us to a new age of robber barons. . . . → Read More: Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction, by Barry C. Lynn
Economists conventionally attribute the Great Depression to blunders by the then-new Federal Reserve Bank. According to this story, promoted by Milton Friedman and the Chicago School, after the stock market crash of 1929, the Fed kept interest rates too high, strangling the economy. This story made most economists confident that it couldn’t happen again.
But . . . → Read More: The Great Real Estate Bubble of the Roaring Twenties
Mason Gaffney, Groundswell Nov-Dec 2008 (posted 1/29/09)
During the Golden Age of Georgist Progressives, roughly 1890 to 1935, lower Michigan stands out as one of the great success stories. Detroit Mayor, then Governor, Hazen Pingree pushed single tax principles. He reformed assessments to emphasize land over improvements, and raised property taxes to provide services for . . . → Read More: What’s the Matter with Michigan? The Rise and Collapse of an Economic Wonder
July 4, 1187. Two knights stood on the ridge watching the rising sun glint off Lake Tiberias. They were hopelessly trapped, the treacherous old rogue, Raynald de Chatillon and his foolish young protégé, Guy de Lusignan, King of Jerusalem. Below, between them and the water, lay the fortress of Tiberias and the army of Saladin. . . . → Read More: The Battle of the Horns of Hattin
Some years back a neighbor caught a white mouse that had tunneled into a bag of Purina Dog Chow. Perhaps he was an escaped snake lunch. We put him in a 20-gallon terrarium and called him Manny–for Manhattan Mouse, because he was always busy. All day he zipped around, moving his nest and seed stash . . . → Read More: Mice
Economic historians often refer to the period from World War II to the mid 1970’s as the “Great Compression.” During that period, US inequality plunged to its lowest level ever, before reversing. In an earlier Econamici, “The Wedge,” I attributed this plunge to an unprecedented set of redistributive policies: In 1935, Social Security began providing . . . → Read More: When Affirmative Action was White, by Ira Katznelson
I remember, in the fourth grade, snipping colored feathers from construction paper to make my Indian bonnet. That was for the annual First Thanksgiving pageant. Dressed up as Indians and Pilgrims, we paraded around a table loaded with pies and a paper-maché turkey. We recited how the Pilgrims had landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. . . . → Read More: The Plague before Thanksgiving