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wosbald
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Re: Economics

Post by wosbald » Tue Jul 07, 2020 9:33 am

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Socialism or Feudalism [Book Review, Opinion]
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U.S. dollars. (CNS photo/Lee Jae-Won, Reuters)

‘Capital and Ideology’

The most comforting narrative of contemporary economics is a story of equilibrium and diminishing returns. If a firm becomes too profitable, mainstream scholars tell us, enterprising competitors will undercut it. There are diminishing returns to scale, because no firm can consistently dominate fields remote from its core competences. And even massive fortunes dissipate over time, as heirs proliferate.

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Capital and Ideology
Thomas Piketty
Harvard University Press, $39.95, 1104 pp.


Thomas Piketty rocketed to global prominence with Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2013), which told a very different story, one of increasing returns. When the rate of return on investment consistently outpaces economic growth, the rich get richer far faster than the rest. In 2018, Jeff Bezos accumulated roughly $150,000 per minute, as his net worth grew by $78.5 billion that year. While health economists routinely decry doctors’ salaries in the United States, almost no physician earns in a lifetime what Bezos accumulated in one day that year (about $213 million).

[…]

Piketty’s latest book, Capitalism and Ideology, is a prolix yet engaging effort both to contextualize and to defamiliarize agonizing figures like these. The context is an exhaustive survey of the history of inequality and its justifications. Analysis of slavery, feudalism, casteism, colonialism, and far more is balanced with a synthesis that compares these diverse methods of assuring that some human beings permanently enjoy more privileges and power than others. For example, Piketty explains that:
Compared with trifunctional societies, which were based on relatively rigid status disparities between clergy, nobility, and third estate and on a promise of functional complementarity, equilibrium, and cross-class alliances, ownership society saw itself as based on equal rights…. Everyone was entitled to secure enjoyment of his property — safe from arbitrary encroachment by king, lord, or bishop — under the protection of stable, predictable rules in a state of laws, not men.
A shared conception of divine right or natural order legitimized feudalism and caste systems, while ownership society promised a fair set of “rules of the game.”

But by the time we reach contemporary “hypercapitalism,” this simple trajectory of historical progress becomes significantly more complex. Fortunes accumulated in ownership societies have grown to the point that their owners can twist laws to their will. Frank Wilhoit once observed that “conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.” Certainly the very wealthy are, in all too many circumstances, one of these “in-groups.” Even worse, the increasing returns on their wealth unleash similar dynamics with respect to their power. They have pushed for lower taxes for decades; they use the gains from this tax-cutting to further influence politicians (a process expertly described toward the end of Capital and Ideology); success there wins further windfalls to underwrite further influence. How many New York elections will be corrupted by the $170 billion real-estate-developer tax windfall tucked into the CARES Act by Chuck Grassley and friends?

Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum recently observed that many United States senators from “red” states do not really “represent their states. They represent, more often, the richest people in bigger, richer blue states who find it more economical to invest in less expensive small-state races” than in their own states. Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential election presages an international land grab among oligarchs eager to take advantage of a rotting U.S. electoral system. A famous cartoon from the late nineteenth century titled “China — cake of kings and emperors” depicted Queen Victoria, Wilhelm II, and other leaders carving up land only formally controlled by the Qing Dynasty. In hypercapitalist “democracies,” oligarchs jostle to conquer policy space. It is relatively easy to block change, and when enough interests are aligned, they can knock their taxes down a few more percentage points.

This is where Piketty-style historical parallels are supposed to jolt us into defamiliarization (“Sacre bleu! — are we really that feudal?”), deep disappointment, and a resolve to change. Capital and Ideology’s ambitious agenda for “participatory socialism” is a welcome blueprint for slowing down the conversion of power into money, and money into power. But Piketty also presents another, all-too-plausible path: that more nations will follow the siren song of nationalism and xenophobia to racialize feudal orders. Harsh discrimination and caste boundaries are functional for capitalism: they inculcate the horrific but highly profitable idea that some lives are simply worth less than others, and deserve less pay from firms and care from the state.

The critical question now for those alarmed by hypercapitalism’s massive inequalities is how to rally public support for a more egalitarian social order. Ursula K. Le Guin once remarked, “We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable — but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.” I don’t know if Piketty’s stunningly erudite new book will convince the disaffected to resist hypercapitalism’s assertive and extractive royalty. But I do take comfort in the intrinsic importance and interest of this work to anyone seeking to understand how far we have fallen from the most basic standards of social equality and universal material well-being.

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"[T]he emergency of irregular migration has to be met with justice, solidarity and mercy. Forms of collective expulsion, which do not allow for the suitable treatment of individual cases, are unacceptable."
— Pope Francis, Morocco

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wosbald
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Re: Economics

Post by wosbald » Wed Jul 08, 2020 10:29 am

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The moral stakes of the economic crisis [In-Depth, Opinion]
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Tristan Taylor of Detroit speaks to people gathered June 9 during a caravan protest through Detroit neighborhoods while calling for relief for tenants and mortgage borrowers during the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS/USA Today Network via Reuters/Ryan Garza)

The Treasury Department and Small Business Administration, under pressure from congressional Democrats, have released information about who received federal assistance under the terms of the Paycheck Protection Program.

The Treasury Department and Small Business Administration, under pressure from congressional Democrats, have released information about who received federal assistance under the terms of the Paycheck Protection Program.

The program allowed companies with fewer than 500 employees to seek government help during the pandemic, and the loans only become non-refundable if certain conditions are met. Most importantly, that the bulk of the money go to payroll expenses and that the companies not terminate employees during the time of the loan.

The program was one means by which the federal government pumped money into the economy at a time when it was contracting feverishly. Most economists predict that the world's economies will actually contract this year, losing as much as 2.4 percent of the value of their GDP.

Behind those numbers are people who are now unemployed or underemployed, struggling to make ends meet, uncertain about the future. For the millions of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck these are very dark times.

The Paycheck Protection Program, along with other emergency measures, such as increasing unemployment benefits and forbidding evictions, helped to prevent a downward spiral from making the economy worse. The idea was to pump cash into the economy by virtually any means in order to prevent a negative domino effect — a waiter loses his job, so he can't pay the rent, and the landlord is having trouble making ends meet, and she misses her mortgage payment — from making the economy even worse.

[…]

The economic crisis demands that we consider the role of government in our national life, and for some people, this demand is more clamant than others. Many chuckled at the news that among those organizations that had received government loans under the Paycheck Protection Program were Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform and the Ayn Rand Society.

I completely support the right of these organizations to participate in the program, and am glad their employees benefited from that participation. But, wouldn't you think that such participation would cause them to rethink their ideological certitudes? Nope.

"It would be a terrible injustice for pro-capitalists to step aside and leave the funds to those indifferent or actively hostile to capitalism," said Ayn Rand Society board member Harry Binswanger. Injustice is made of sterner stuff.

As Catholics, libertarianism is never an option, indeed, it is the modern ideology most antithetical to Catholic social teaching. Surely those who subscribe to libertarianism have found in the pandemic plenty of reason to reconsider their position, both at the level of values and as a practical matter.

Selfishness writ large results only in more infections, more deaths, and more economic hardship. Only the apparatus of government, with its large and cumbersome bureaucracies, can find ways to confront this complex and multi-faceted problem.

Solidarity — as a value and as a governing methodology — will see us through these crises. That is as apparent as the hypocrisy of small government and libertarian ideologues standing at the government trough waiting for their funds.

That these crises are getting worse in America while in Europe they are ameliorating is a fact so appalling the American people should be reaching for their pitchforks by election day.

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"[T]he emergency of irregular migration has to be met with justice, solidarity and mercy. Forms of collective expulsion, which do not allow for the suitable treatment of individual cases, are unacceptable."
— Pope Francis, Morocco

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wosbald
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Re: Economics

Post by wosbald » Thu Jul 09, 2020 10:14 am

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Argentina's president tells Christian business leaders to recover 'best capitalism' [In-Depth]
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In a file photo, Pope Francis welcomes Argentina's President Alberto Fernández, left, on the occasion of their private audience at the Vatican, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Credit: Remo Casilli/Pool Photo via AP)

ROSARIO, Argentina — Closing the XXIII annual meeting of Argentina’s Christian Association of Business Executives (ACDE), the country’s president called for the recovery of the “best capitalism” exemplified by the ACDE’s founder Enrique Shaw, who is being considered for sainthood.

“We have to go towards a more noble capitalism,” said President Alberto Fernández during an online talk followed by over 2,000 businesspeople from Argentina and other parts of the world.

The Argentine president said that after the coronavirus pandemic, the world has a unique opportunity to be better, adding this can be achieved by reviewing capitalism, which before the global health crisis, “it was degrading, and it’s time to put it in its true dimension.”

The president did not challenge capitalism as the best possible economic model but said it must be conducted in a better way.

The annual meeting of ACDE took place on Tuesday and was completely online, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The motto of this year’s gathering was “Undertake: Co-create to rebuild.”

Enrique Shaw was born in 1921 into a wealthy family. He joined the Navy at a young age and eventually took several positions of leadership in his family’s companies, with the intention of promoting, and putting into practice, the Catholic Church’s social teaching.

He died from cancer in 1961.

In an interview with a Mexican TV station in 2015, Pope Francis said he’s moving forward with Shaw’s cause for beatification despite defining him as “a rich man.”

“Enrique Shaw was rich, yet saintly,” Francis told Televisa. “A person can have money. God gives it to him so he can administer it well, and this man administered it well. [He did so] not with paternalism, but by fostering the growth of people who needed help.”

[…]

Fernández called Shaw an example of the “best of capitalism, where businessmen like Enrique Shaw invested and gave work for the development of our societies.”

The president also emphasized that “when the financial manager became more important than the production manager, the worst capitalism surfaced. These are the debates that we’ll need to face.”

For Fernández, “Argentina must industrialize to the maximum, because industry is the great generator of work. The agricultural and livestock sector is very important for Argentina in a world that needs food. It is time to put value on that food and stop the export of grains to fatten animals. ”

“I am not the only one who is proposing these things, leaders such as [French President Emmanuel] Macron and [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel supported me at the G-20 meeting,” Fernández added.

He concluded saying: “I don’t think there’s an option for capitalism, but I do believe that it was degrading and it’s time to put it in its true dimension.”

Pope Francis too has had a critical view of capitalism.

[…]

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"[T]he emergency of irregular migration has to be met with justice, solidarity and mercy. Forms of collective expulsion, which do not allow for the suitable treatment of individual cases, are unacceptable."
— Pope Francis, Morocco

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wosbald
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Re: Economics

Post by wosbald » Tue Jul 14, 2020 9:30 am

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UK Catholic leaders join interfaith appeal for debt cancellation for poorest nations
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People take food distributed from a truck by a Haitian government program in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, April 6, 2020, amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. UK faith leaders have called on the government to support debt relief for poor nations. (Credit: Jeanty Junior Augustin/Reuters via CNS)

LEICESTER, United Kingdom — Several Catholic leaders have joined an interfaith call for the British government to cancel the debt of the world’s poorest 77 countries.

The call was made in a July 10 letter to the UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak. The signatories asked him to urge other G20 countries and the World Bank to also cancel the debt.

“This is a critical and rapid means of ensuring that health workers in developing countries have the best chance of helping to defeat the coronavirus and that countries have the resources at hand to build back from the economic devastation the pandemic has wreaked — including by assisting communities already being hit by the effects of the climate crisis,” the letter states.

“The immediate risks the coronavirus poses to poverty reduction efforts are both clear and shocking. In total, the World Bank estimates that between 71-100 million people risk falling into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic. The World Food Program forecasts that around 270 million people around the world will face acute food insecurity by the end of this year, a doubling of the approximately 130 million who suffered severe food shortages last year. The International Labor Organization predicts that up to 340 million jobs could be lost,” it continues.

The letter said to insist on debt repayment in the face of the suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic “would be an affront to the faith traditions” of the signatories, that included representatives of different Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other faith groups.

The signatories included four Catholic bishops: Bishop John Arnold of Salford, Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, Bishop Joseph Toal of Motherwell, and Bishop William Nolan of Galloway. Other Catholic representatives included Father Damian Howard, the provincial of the Jesuits in Britain; Christine Allen, the director of CAFOD, the international development and aid agency of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales, and Alistair Dutton, the director of SCIAF, the international development and aid agency of the Scottish bishops.

[…]

“We now ask you to work with your fellow finance ministers at this month’s G20 meeting to cancel, rather than merely suspend bilateral debt payments, as well as to urge the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and private creditors to cancel debt payments owed in 2020 and 2021 by these countries,” the religious leaders write.

“These are not normal times and we must respond accordingly. This crisis has emphasized the need to stand together and debt cancellation represents an urgent and essential means of assisting the most vulnerable communities to withstand the suffering the pandemic will otherwise unnecessarily cause,” the letter continues.

The letter noted that in his Easter Urbi et Orbi message, Pope Francis called for the reduction of the debt that is “burdening the balance sheet of the poorest nations” and said earlier this year that it is not right “to demand or expect payment when the effect would be the imposition of political choices leading to hunger and despair for entire peoples.”

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"[T]he emergency of irregular migration has to be met with justice, solidarity and mercy. Forms of collective expulsion, which do not allow for the suitable treatment of individual cases, are unacceptable."
— Pope Francis, Morocco

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Re: Economics

Post by wosbald » Wed Jul 15, 2020 11:22 am

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Intra-Thread Trackbacks: pg 6


Matt Malone, S.J.: The church has no need to apologize for Paycheck Protection Program loans [Opinion]
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U.S. dollars are seen in this photo illustration. Catholic entities that took part in the Paycheck Protection Program said the federal emergency bridge loans translated into rapid assistance for their communities in the early months of the pandemic's economic impact. (CNS photo/Kacper Pempel, Reuters)

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My late philosophy professor, W. Norris Clarke, S.J., was always telling me to “interrogate the premise” of an argument. He believed that, generally speaking, most conclusions follow logically from their premises; so if an argument is false, it is likely because one or more of its premises is false. I apply this skepticism to news stories published in America and elsewhere. This is important because reporters mostly live in a two-dimensional world. Their task is to record events quickly by reducing complex phenomena to their simplest formulation.

The problem with that approach is that it can distort the very reality reporters are seeking to make clear. A good example is a news story published by The Associated Press on July 10. The lead paragraph was as follows:
The U.S. Roman Catholic Church used a special and unprecedented exemption from federal rules to amass at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid, with many millions going to dioceses that have paid huge settlements or sought bankruptcy protection because of clergy sexual abuse cover-ups.
Shocking, no? But is that what happened? All of the facts cited are true. Indeed, as far as I can tell, all of the facts cited in the story are true. But how are those facts related to one another, if they are related at all?

The first claim is true. The Catholic Church received (“amassed” is a loaded word) somewhere between $1.4 billion and $3.5 billon in federal funds under the Paycheck Protection Program, the federal initiative designed to mitigate the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Ordinarily, businesses that employ more than 500 people and all faith-based organizations are not eligible for federal, small business loans. In this instance, however, Congress and the Trump administration waived those rules.

This was, then, as the A.P. story states, “a special and unprecedented exemption.” What the story does not state explicitly — because it would muddy the waters of the narrative — is that the whole paycheck protection program is a “special and unprecedented” response to a special and unprecedented event. The story also initially leads the reader to conclude that these exemptions were carved out specifically for the Catholic Church when in fact all religious groups were similarly exempted.

The A.P. story also states that the money went to “dioceses that have paid huge settlements or sought bankruptcy protection because of clergy sexual abuse cover-ups.” This is also true. But how, exactly, is it relevant? These federal funds were distributed to every kind of small business, without consideration for whether they had settled lawsuits related to sexual abuse, or environmental damage, or negligence or malpractice. The unspoken premise of the A.P. claim is that the church may have been undeserving of paycheck protection funds because it had settled lawsuits. Yet no other industry was subjected to such a test.

The A.P. story is correct to point out that religious institutions sought and won an exemption from the rule that companies with more than 500 employees are ineligible. The story characterizes this exemption as “preferential treatment,” which sounds terribly unfair. Yet the unasked question in the story is whether it would have been fair to exclude the church because of the 500-employee rule. The church in the United States is not a monolith. It is a network of affiliated but legally and financially independent institutions. There isn’t a parish in the country that employs more than 500 people on its pastoral staff; and it is the parish, not the diocese, that has to make payroll for the parish staff each month.

[…]

America Media will not apologize for joining thousands of other small businesses in seizing this opportunity. This event constituted a national emergency, which was also a family emergency for every one of our workers. Likewise, the church in the United States has no need to apologize, regardless of what The Associated Press implies to the contrary.

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"[T]he emergency of irregular migration has to be met with justice, solidarity and mercy. Forms of collective expulsion, which do not allow for the suitable treatment of individual cases, are unacceptable."
— Pope Francis, Morocco

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Re: Economics

Post by wosbald » Tue Jul 21, 2020 12:19 pm

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Ahead of G-20 meeting, Caritas urges debt relief for poor countries
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Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, president of Caritas Internationalis and prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, is pictured in Rome in a 2018 file photo. Cardinal Tagle said the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic go beyond health care and ultimately threaten the livelihood of already vulnerable populations. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Vatican City — As finance ministers representing the world's wealthiest countries prepare to meet online, Caritas Internationalis echoed Pope Francis' call for debt relief to poor countries reeling from war, poverty and the coronavirus pandemic.

Presenting the organization's annual report at an online media briefing July 17, Aloysius John, secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis, said the debt of poor countries "is often paid for by the sweat and toil of the poorest in these nations" who live in dire poverty and are "easy prey to all kinds of health problems."

"Caritas calls for the reduction of debt of the poorest nations and for the reallocation of the funds to reliable organizations who work with these communities, in particular faith-based organizations," John said.

"Only the reduction of debt and its reallocation for development at the grassroots will enable the achievement of the sustainable development goals and ensure the dignity of the poorest," he said.

The secretary-general also called for a global cease-fire, as well as an end to the use of economic sanctions in the Middle East, particularly against Syria.

"The effects of the sanctions as a political tool have proved to be useless, but they have shown enormous power to destroy the lives of poor civilians," he said.

John made the appeal as finance ministers and central bank governors of leading rich and developing nations, commonly known as the G-20, were set to meet July 18 to discuss the global economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

[…]

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, president of Caritas South Africa, said the pandemic highlighted "the powerless state of relations between the countries of Africa and the international community."

"That is particularly true of former colonizers of the continent," Napier said.

The South African cardinal noted "a huge gap" in the sharing of information with African countries in order to respond to and fight COVID-19.

"While there is no doubt there has been sometimes exemplary willingness and readiness to share expert knowledge and information about the disease, there is still a huge problem of communicating the requisite knowledge and information to people who are living in a very different social and cultural context," he said.

Napier also said that, in most cases, the relationship between African countries and the international community "has mutated from colonial occupation and control to quasi-freedom which is characterized by near total dependence on the former occupying power for virtually everything."

"For example, most African countries are still occupied by Europe and the West by the one thing that is still holding them back from taking their place in the world community as worthy and equal partners," he said. "That handicap is international debt — which has already been mentioned — which even in the best of times is a severe restraint on Africa's growth and development."

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"[T]he emergency of irregular migration has to be met with justice, solidarity and mercy. Forms of collective expulsion, which do not allow for the suitable treatment of individual cases, are unacceptable."
— Pope Francis, Morocco

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Re: Economics

Post by JudgeRusty » Wed Jul 29, 2020 7:57 am

Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple CEOs to testify today before Congress about out of proportion size of busine$$es.

Sears used to have local catalog stores in small towns with limited inventory and for pick up of orders. Wonder if something like that could work for Amazon to provide jobs without being cost prohibitive.
Doubt it.
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Re: Economics

Post by Craft » Wed Jul 29, 2020 1:22 pm

JudgeRusty wrote:
Wed Jul 29, 2020 7:57 am
Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple CEOs to testify today before Congress about out of proportion size of busine$$es.

Sears used to have local catalog stores in small towns with limited inventory and for pick up of orders. Wonder if something like that could work for Amazon to provide jobs without being cost prohibitive.
Doubt it.
I believe that some stores such as Wal-Mart do have local pickup as an option for online orders; I'm not sure that Amazon would build a "brick and mortar" store for that alone; maybe they could cut a deal with larger department stores to provide pickup locations in those stores. (Similar to how stores like Wal-Mart have deals with banks and restaurant chains offering locations to customers inside).
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