Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

Democratic Planning – Part 4

In Climate Change, Economic Planning, Economics, Public Policy, Regulation, Social Democracy on September 28, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Introduction:

(For previous parts in the series, see here.)

For all that we think we live in a free market, the truth is that we plan all the time. As Matt Yglesias and others have pointed out, zoning is planning, and so is licensing of certain kinds of businesses (bars, restaurants, etc.) and all the other kinds of regulations that are so ground-level they become almost invisible.

The problem is that the kind of planning we do is fragmented, not systematic, unconscious not conscious (or at least not openly conscious – consider how bans on multiple-occupancy dwellings in suburbs are sold as “protecting housing values” as opposed to “keeping out poor people”, and not particularly intelligent.

And this won’t change until we start to learn from our actions.

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Job Insurance – Part 8 (What Is The Right to A Job?)

In Economic Planning, Economics, European Politics, Full Employment, History and Politics, New Deal, Political Ideology, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Public Policy, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Uncategorized, Welfare State, WPA on September 27, 2009 at 4:58 pm


Introduction:

In this series about Job Insurance, I have discussed both the technical and intellectual means of a Job Insurance system. But it’s also important to explain what the ultimate purpose of a Job Insurance system is – namely, the establishment in enforceable legislation of the right to a job.

And no term has been so abused – witness the capture of the term “the right to work” – or so contested as the right to a job. So we must begin within explaining what this idea means, and where it came from?

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50-State Keynesianism – Part 3

In Budget Politics, California, Economic Planning, Economics, Full Employment, Inequality, Living Wage, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes, Welfare State on September 22, 2009 at 11:12 pm

Introduction:

In part 1 of this series, I discussed the possibility of creating state economic recovery bonds that the Federal government could buy to lend its ability to deficit-spend in recessions to the state governments to counter-act their natural pro-cyclical tendencies. In part 2, I expanded on how we could adapt state governments to Keynesian economic policies by passing anti-recession budget reform initiatives allowing limited deficits during times of economic recession, establishing state banks to provide borrowing capacity for state governments, and establishing state job insurance programs.

So what remains to be done for Keynesian economic policy to be brought to the benefit of state government?

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Public Virtues – Part 4 (Self-Funding)

In Budget Politics, Economic Planning, Economics, Financial Crisis, Full Employment, History and Politics, Political Ideology, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Public Sector, Regulation, Social Democracy, Taxes on September 19, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Introduction:

For earlier parts in the series, see here and here.

In the history of public policy, like in other disciplines, sometimes the most fascinating topics are the most ordinary, the most overlooked. The things we don’t really notice can be the most powerful influences in our lives, because they can function unseen. And that brings us to the topic for today’s post.

We grumble about taxes, we handle money every day, but we don’t really think about what the power of the public purse means.

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Gas-Free Cars and High Speed Rail

In Climate Change, Economics, Environment, Housing, Mass Transit, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Regulation, Social Democracy on September 16, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Introduction:

With the introduction of the Chevy Volt (estimated fuel efficiency – 230 mpg) and the Nissan Leaf (estimated fuel efficiency – 367 mpg), we can begin to see the emergence of a new automotive industry. Eventually, when the Volt and the Leaf and their competitors’ models replace existing Accords, Camrys, and Civics, we will wind up with new vehicle fleets that are 100% gas-free. And with the passage of time, eventually every car on the road will be electric.

However, on its own, this isn’t going to solve America’s problems with oil and CO2 emissions.

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Job Insurance – Part 7 (Public/Private)

In Budget Politics, Economic Planning, Economics, European Politics, Full Employment, History and Politics, New Deal, Political Ideology, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Public Sector, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Welfare State, WPA on September 15, 2009 at 11:39 am

Introduction:

For earlier parts in the series, see here.

One of the largest ideological barriers to establishing Job Insurance, just as was the case with Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, is that it would in a fundamental way reshape the composition and relations of the public and private sectors. This more than anything else is what terrifies Republicans (it’s the reason why the GOP has targeted the public option especially) because it undermines one of the most important justifications for anti-statist and pro-corporate ideology. If the public sector and the private sector are not diametric opposites – if in fact, the public can do things that the private can, instead of the private sector being the only repository of competence and efficiency (and thus, capable of replacing the public sector) – then there is no practical argument against government intervention in the economy, and increasingly fewer philosophical arguments against it.

And so the argument will be made that this is socialist, that it’s un-American. And none of that is true.

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Making the Public (Transit) Beautiful

In Climate Change, Culture, Economic Planning, Environment, European Politics, Inequality, Mass Transit, Political Ideology, Public Sector, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Welfare State on September 13, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Introduction:

One of the rhetorical strategies of the economic right’s cultural politics is to associate the free market with individual pleasure, aesthetic beauty, and technological progress, while associating the public sector with the oppression of the crowd, the spartan ugliness of “civil service issue,” and general associations with low-quality, outmoded, cheap machinery. Nowhere is this better seen than in the rhetorical debate over public services.

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Weekly Roundup!

In Uncategorized on September 13, 2009 at 10:17 pm

PLACEHOLDER

Public Virtues – Part 3 (Institutional Continuity)

In Economic Planning, Economics, History and Politics, Political Ideology, Social Democracy on September 13, 2009 at 6:22 pm

Introduction:

The fear of destruction is supposed to be a key driving force in capitalism, the spur that drives competitors to ceaselessly innovate and seek efficiencies to stave off bankruptcy or takeover at the hands of their rivals. Indeed, Joseph Schumpeter held up the frequency of business collapses as a great virtue of capitalism – his “creative destruction” that brings innovation through the downfall of outmoded former leading firms. (Ironically, the term emerged in a book, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, that predicted the peaceful and fruitful downfall of capitalism at the hands of democratic socialism, which rarely comes up when the term is discussed in economics or business classes)

And indeed, one of the observations that Schumpeter made of the real economy – that, rather than perfectly adjusting to competition, many individuals and firms are destroyed – seems to bear fruit when you consider that a majority of new businesses fail in their first year. However, there is a cost that comes with the spur of fear; you lose the ability to look beyond the short-term. As Steve Perlstein notes, the 1980s shift to a “market for corporate control” (i.e, hostile takeovers for companies that don’t live up to 5% earnings growth per quarter) and the increasing shift to executive compensation that emphasized quarterly performance (performance bonuses at multiples of base salaries, stock options, etc.). As the people at the Aspen Institute note, this can be somewhat changed by public policy, but at a certain point, all companies have to focus on the short-term.

But the same is not true for the public sector.

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After Universal Health Coverage

In Health Care Reform, Inequality, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Public Policy, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Welfare State on September 12, 2009 at 11:17 am

labour poster 1945 2

Introduction:

The sad truth of the American health care debate is that all we get to do, all we get to talk about, all we fight over is how to pay for things. We don’t actually talk about health care itself very much. Given the intensity of the current debate, the sheer amount of mental and physical and emotional energy that is required to keep pushing through every challenge and setback, this is understandable.

However, it is crucially important to think about what comes after universal health care. Because, as any European who’s engaged in politics will tell you, the politics of health care do not end at the mere provision of access – there is an entire politics that emerges afterwards, a politics about quality of care, about comprehensiveness of services, about the actual impact of health care on our health.

And we have to get ready for that politics.

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