Wednesday, June 30, 2021

RIP Steve Horwitz

Steven G. Horwitz died the day before yesterday of lymphoma at age 57.  Probably most reading this do not know who he was, but he was somebody I knew quite well, even as I disagreed with him quite a lot about economics. He was arguably the leading monetary economist out of the group of neo-Austrian economists who came out of George Mason University and who have been closely linked to Peter Boettke who is there, arguably the leader of the Hayekian branch of modern Austrian economics. Probably his most influential work was a book he published in 1992, Mometary Evolution, Free Banking and Economic Order. While I have never been a supporter of free banking what I liked about this book was that he clearly based his arguments on Hayek's view of economic complexity and how this brought about the spontaneous emergence of economic order, with Steve one of the leaders of thinking in such terms among Austrian economists. I cited this book in my one that has just come out, Foundations and Applications of Complexity Economics.

There is perhaps another reason why I am making this post.  I interviewed Steve for a job, not me being hired, but him being possibly hired at JMU when he came out of George Mason as a fresh PhD in 1990.  It was one of those hotel room interviews, and he did not get invited onto campus as the others from JMU in the interview did not support him coming in. But I found him interesting, and I am not surprised that he came to be quite well known, even if he was not at high powered places. Most of his career he was St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, followed by being at Ball State University in Indiana, where he held a chaired professorship.  Anyway, it seems odd to have someone clearly quite a bit younger whom I interacted with as a more senior person dying.

As I noted, he and I disagreed quite a bit. But somehow we ran into each other here and there quite a bit over the years, and I did have him in to JMU to speak some years ago. We never coauthored, but he did coedit a book I had a paper in on spontaneous order and political economy.  I always enjoyed talking with him as he could always stand his ground and provide strong defenses for his positions.  He indeed was probably the best monetary theorist of his group.

Anyway, I shall miss him. RIP, Steve.

Barkley Rosser 

Monday, June 28, 2021

Socially Necessary Labour Time: outline of a review

I have excerpted all the passages in Capital and Theories of Surplus Value in which Marx explicitly discusses the concept of socially necessary labour time by name and will go through them in manageable chunks. My first pass through the excerpts suggests to me that 13 segments would be a reasonable division of the material. Subsequent segments will superficially examine a few of the many Marxists and Marxologists who have discussed the concept in some detail. My examination will be superficial because those scholars did not address the relationship between Marx's concept and the "plain levelling principle" employed by C. W. Dilke in The Source and Remedy.

I will start with the Grundrisse specifically because Marx did not mention socially necessary labour time in those notebooks (unless the translator played a trick on us and called it something else). There is, however a key passage in the Grundrisse dealing with disposable time, which is dialectically related to socially necessary labour time. Next, I will discuss Theories of Surplus Value in five segments: chapter 4, chapter 7 and addenda, chapters 8, 9, 16 and 17, chapter 20, and chapter 21.

Following that, I will discuss the notorious manuscript "chapter six" that wasn't included in volume I of Capital. The published chapters of Capital will be divided into six segments: the afterward to the second edition and chapters 1 and 3, chapter 7, and chapters 13, 14 and 21 from volume I; Engels's preface to volume II of Capital; chapters 5 and 10, and chapters 38 and 49 from volume III.

Presumably, there will be some sort of summing up before I continue on to examine the views of the experts. Posting of the episodes may be somewhat intermittent as I have an unexpectedly busy schedule this summer. Right now there is a heat wave in B.C. so I won't be doing much posting until things cool off a bit.

Index to all posts on socially necessary labour time.

I will take the opportunity to plug my publication, "The Ambivalence of Disposable Time" in each of these episodes. I am linking to the published journal article. If anyone needs free access to the author's preprint, let me know in comments and I will leave a link there. 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Oedipus Marx and the Chimera of Socially Necessary Labour Time

Karl Marx: "Pamphlet No. 1 ends with the statement: 'Wealth is nothing but disposable time'"

No, it doesn't. 

The pamphlet Marx cited was The Source and Remedy of the National Difficulties. The phrase, "wealth... is disposable time, and nothing more," appeared on page 5 of the 40-page pamphlet. On page 6, the pamphlet's author asked,

"Why then is it that no existing society, nor society that ever had existence, has arrived at this point of time, considering that in all times, and in all societies, excepting only the very barbarous, a few years would naturally have led to it?

The subsequent 34 pages were dedicated to solving that riddle -- or at least illuminating it. In chapter 21 of Theories of Surplus Value and in the "fragment on machines" in the Grundrisse Marx wrote almost as many words misunderstanding the anonymously published pamphlet as its author, Charles Wentworth Dilke, had used to compose it. There were parts Marx obviously liked very, very much and there were others that he didn't mention. 

Marx's most glaring omission had to do with a calculation by Dilke of an unnamed quantity that one might describe as "socially necessary labour time." It wasn't the same socially necessary labour time that Marx would come up with some 40 years later. 

To arrive at "a rude guess" of capitalist exploitation, Dilke was compelled to "reason from a plain levelling principle." The rationale for such an assumption was unmistakably from William Godwin, whose ideas Dilke paraphrased liberally throughout the pamphlet -- including the "fine statement" that wealth is disposable time, or, as Godwin had written, "the real wealth of man is leisure."

Marx's comment that the pamphlet's author "stands rather on Ricardian ground," revealed what might be called an Oedipal blindness about the paternity of his radical intellectual project. In a notebook from the 1840s, Marx had written, "The theory of exploitation owes its further development in England to Godwin, and especially to Bentham... Godwin’s Political Justice was written during the terror..."

In The condition of the working class in England, Friedrich Engels acknowledged, 

...two great practical philosophers of latest date, Bentham and Godwin, are, especially the latter, almost exclusively the property of the proletariat... The proletariat has formed upon this basis a literature, which consists chiefly of journals and pamphlets, and is far in advance of the whole bourgeois literature in intrinsic worth. On this point more later.

Engels did not return to that point.

Remarkably, in a comment at the beginning of chapter 7 of Theories of Surplus Value, Marx explicitly excluded Godwin, by name, from consideration in the work:

In accordance with the plan of my work socialist and communist writers are entirely excluded from the historical reviews. These reviews are only intended to show on the one hand in what form the political economists criticized each other, and on the other hand the historically determining forms in which the laws of political economy were first stated and further developed. In dealing with surplus-value I therefore exclude such eighteenth century writers as Brissot, Godwin and the like, and likewise the nineteenth-century socialists and communists. The few socialist writers whom I shall come to speak of in this survey either themselves adopt the standpoint of bourgeois economy or contest it from its own standpoint.

Yeah, please try not to think of an elephant. Especially not the one that ends with the fine statement, "wealth is disposable time." 

I am working on a critique of Marx's category of socially necessary labour time and I am astonished that no one has thought to examine its history. They call it historical materialism, don't they? Do all these Marxists really just assume that socially necessary labour time sprung like Athena from the head of Zeus?

Toward the end of Time, Labor and Social Domination, Moishe Postone wrote,

The trajectory of capitalist production as presented by Marx can be viewed, then, in terms of the development of the social division of time-from socially necessary (individually necessary and surplus), through socially necessary and superfluous, to the possibility of socially necessary and disposable (which would entail overcoming the older form of necessity). This trajectory expresses the dialectical development of capitalism, of an alienated form of society constituted as a richly developed totality at the expense of the individuals, which gives rise to the possibility of its own negation, a new form of society in which people, singly and collectively, can appropriate the species-general capacities that had been constituted in alienated form as attributes of the Subject.

But Dilke had already asked, two hundred years ago, "Why is it that no existing society, nor society that ever had existence, has arrived at this point of time?" 

It seems to me as though Marx reverse engineered his category of socially necessary labour time to somehow reconcile his profound insights into capital's domination of labour with aspirations for the proverbial "realm of freedom beyond necessity." Dilke and Godwin made explicit the requisite conditions for realizing that realm of freedom: 

Dilke: "The accumulation of capital is very limited, if the happiness of the whole, and not the luxuries of a few, is the proper subject for national congratulation."

Godwin: "The commodities that substantially contribute to the subsistence of the human species form a very short catalogue: they demand from us but a slender portion of industry. If these only were produced, and sufficiently produced, the species of man would be continued. If the labour necessarily required to produce them were equitably divided among the poor, and, still more, if it were equitably divided among all, each man’s share of labour would be light, and his portion of leisure would be ample."

Marx presumed that capital's continual striving to exceed those limits would magically create the material conditions to "blow the foundation sky-high." What is being blown sky-high nowadays are carbon dioxide emissions.

There will be a continuing series of posts on SNLT. One of the tasks in preparation for these essays was to search through all volumes of Capital and Theories of Surplus Value for mentions of socially necessary labour time. I will be posting excerpts in manageable snippets. Postone's Time, Labor and Social Domination contains too many mentions of SNLT to excerpt. I will also refer occasionally to some of the voluminous literature on Marx's category of socially necessary labour time, none of which so much as mentions Godwin or The Source and Remedy

Index to all posts on socially necessary labour time.

I will take the opportunity to plug my publication, "The Ambivalence of Disposable Time" in each of these episodes. I am linking to the published journal article. If anyone needs free access to the author's preprint, let me know in comments and I will leave a link there.  

Thursday, June 24, 2021

I am invisible

 That is all.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Will Tether Bring All The Cryptocurrencies Way Down?

 I do not know, but there is a fairly serious argument now out there that this could happen.  It is made by Gennaro at , picked up on by Tyler Cowen on Marginal Revolution without comment. Among those Gennaro cites at least partly supporting his argument are Nassim N. Taleb.

So the argument is that bitcoin and most other major cryptocurrencies are now fundamentally based on stablecoins tied to the US dollar, with claims those stablecoins can be easily traded into dollars.  According to Gennaro, and I do not know if he is right, the various non-stablecoin cryptocurrencies now use stablecoins to trade between each other at low costs, with these stable coins providing liquidity, but at the cost of a dangerous potential instability.  If there is a rush on them, they have no ultimate backer, and a crash by them could drag all of the cryptocurrencies into an ultimate total crash into an effectively zero absorption barrier, with Taleb apparently providing some support for this possible scenario.

As it is, Tether is now the leading stablecoin, indeed the #3 cryptocurrency overall, behind Bitcoin and Ethereum.  According to Gennaro, the central fact of crypto trading is that the most important ratio is that between bitcoin and tether, not bitcoin and the dollar, although the latter is the ultimate measure of value, the de facto "gold" of the cryptocurrency markets, even as bitcoin itself has been claimed to the "new gold," and gold has definitely become quite boring.

Again, according to Gennaro, a major problem with Tether is that while on the one hand it has essentially centralized Bitcoin trading into itself, if not all crypto trading.  But unlike the dollar, which has the Fed to back it up, Tether has nothing. It is owned by a semi-murky Hong Kong based entity, Bitfinext, which has already been in legal trouble in the state of New York for misrepresenting and hiding certain transactions and assets.  Gennaro argues this shows that it has no backing, and that a run on it will make it unable to access actual US dollars, the world's actual key currency, which could lead to an implosion dragging down the entire cryptocurrency market, given the nonexistence of any entity capable of coming to its rescue.

For those who want to find this particular tale somewhere between laughable and unlikely, while Bitcoin, Ethereum, and several other leading cryptocurrencies have suffered major declines recently, driven by such things as the Chinese government imposing serious restrictions on their mining and use, the one cryptocurrency that has gained in the last week has been, oh yes, Tether.  But then pride goeth before a fall,. While I am going to stay out of forecasting anything in these markets, given how many important market manipulators are playing in them, regarding whom I have no idea what they will do, it does seem that the possible volatility and more deeply threatening threats in them has increased.

Barkley Rosser

TimeWork Web Reloaded

Publication of my article, "The Ambivalence of Disposable Time: The Source and Remedy of the National Difficulties at Two Hundred," felt very much like the culmination of a 26-year long research project that began when I answered a call for proposals from the B.C. Ministry of Employment and Investment. My proposal included a research hub website, which was pretty innovative for 1995. It turns out that no research contract was awarded because a provincial government spending freeze terminated the selection process. But the proposed website materialized as the TimeWork Web and endured until 2004 when it was integrated into the Work Less Party website as a resource for the Work Less Institute of Technology.

I had the old html files from 1995 and 2004 on hand so I decided to revive the TimeWork Web with pages featuring the publications that have resulted from the project, a couple of upcoming conference presentations and, of course, the historical archives from 1995, 2004 and a middle one I call "1999" reconstructed from files retrieved from the Internet Archives Wayback Machine.

There is also a pop-up economics page that embeds animated videos produced by Reuben Walker of three of my pop-up books along with a brief summary of the contributions of the theorists the books celebrate: Charles Wentworth Dilke, Sydney J. Chapman and Arthur O. Dahlberg.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Iranian Presidential Election

 The outcome is as expected, a solid victory with 18 out of 28 million votes or so for the hardline winner, Ebrahim Raisi, who is currently head of the Supreme Court.  He was previously Attorney General, ran four years ago for president, and has a long history of being a public prosecutor going back into his 20s (he is now 60). In 1988 he played a role in the killing of about 5,000 prisoners, which led him to be sanctioned from traveling in the US. He has regularly ordered executions, gaining a reputation as a "hanging judge," although I think they mostly use the electric chair there.  While has run against corruption, there are reports that he is involved in some, and this will probably be used against selected political opponents. He was clearly the favorite of the supreme leader, Vilayet-al-faqih (numerous transliterations of that title), often translated as "Supreme Jurisprudent," Ali Khamenei, age 82, who is Commander-in-Chief of the military as well as the top person of the police and judiciary, over Raisi in the court system.  Many see this a Raisi being positioned to succeed Khamenei in that position.

Turnout was unusually low at less than 50 percent, with many voters boycotting the election.  It is clear that Khamenei and the hardliners did not want any "surprise" moderate winners as has happened in the past, arguably 8 years ago with outgoing President Hassan Rouhani.  In 2013 Iran was suffering severe economic sanctions that President Obama organized, with Russia and China largely joining in, which had the goal of bringing Iran to the nuclear negotiating table.  Rouhani ran on doing that and went after he got elected.  This led to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement where Iran shut down some reactors and reduced its uranium enrichment to less than 3.75 percent.  Most of the economic sanctions were lifted, although the US retained some that had been on previously due to human rights issues, and the Iranian economy turned around and had positive growth again.  This led to Rouhani being reelected four years ago, even though then President Trump was talking about leaving the agreement, which all agreed Iran was keeping to.  But he had not done so at that point.  He did withdraw the following year, imposing even stronger sanctions and demanding European and other firms follow suit as well, although no other signatory to agreement supported Trump's decision.  But the sanctions hit, and the Iranian economy turned around and has been in a steep fall since with solid double digit unemployment and inflation rates.  Oil exports are now about one tenth of what they were before. 

Trump's SecState, Pompeo, whose arrival in office coincided with the move to leave the JCPOA, made 12 diplomatic demands on Iran and declared that either Iran would agree to some of these and return to the negotiating table or the regime would fall.  None of that happened, although the Iranian economy has suffered greatly with much suffering for the Iranian people.  Unsurprisingly this outcome completely discredited Rouhani and his allies, with their hardline enemies, some of whom had said the US cannot be trusted to make an agreement with, looking good and riding high.  Thank you, President Trump for this total failure on your part, possibly the worst foreign policy move of the whole administration.

Even though the moderates were seriously discredited, Khamenei was not taking any chances.  For candidates to run for office in Iranian elections they must be approved as being "sufficiently Islamic" by the Council of Guardians, a 12-person body half of them appointed by Khamenei and the other half by the judiciary, with now-President-Elect Raisi having selected three of them.  The body ruled out the two most serious moderate candidates in the mold of Rouhani, one of them his vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri, and the other, and apparently more substantial candidate, Ali Larijani, a former Speaker of the Majlis (parliament) who was the lead negotiator of the JCPOA nuclear deal.  

This left as the most substantial moderate candidate, much more conservative than either of those two, the head of the central bank, Abdolnasr Hammeti, who urged people not to boycott. But in the end he came in third, with the second place winner, Mohsen Rezaei, a former Revolutionary Guard commander and hardliner, getting about three million votes. Some of have noted that Raisi versus Hammeti was sort of like having Chief Justic John Roberts run against Fed Chair Jerome Powell in the US.

While this will almost certainly lead to some crackdowns on mild liberalizations in the treatment of women in Iran, it is unclear what many of Raisi's policies will be.  Given his solid frontrunner status he was reportedly quite vague about his plans during debates that happened (there were 7 allowed candidates in all).  He seems to have a pretty free hand, within limits.  

One area that may not turn out too badly has to do with the ongoing renegotiation of the JCPOA agreement, which Biden ran on reentering.  Those negotiations have reportedly made some progress, but had become stalled, with many essentially seeing the Iranian side as waiting for this election to do anything serious.  The big complication is that both sides ended up violating the agreement, so there is a timing issue of who undoes which violation before the other in order to get the agreement back in place.  Iran actually continued to obey the agreement for a year after the US withdrew, hoping the Europeans might either not go along with obeying the US sanctions or even convincing Trump to rejoin it.  But after this did not happen, they began to violate it in several ways, including now enriching uranium up to a 60 percent level (90 percent is weapons grade level).  

In any case, supposedly Raisi supports the negotiations, and in any case any return to the agreement will require the support of Khamenei, who presumably will be more supportive of something Raisi might come to. What is clearly not going to happen is that any of the additions to the agreement some in the US (and some other well-known outsiders) have been demanding be made, most notably to add restrictions on the Iranian ballistic missile programs. That is not going to happen, and now Putin has agreed to help then with a satellite program that will support that.  The best that can be hoped for is some sort of return to the old agreement, so stupidly trashed by Trump, but even that is not a slam dunk at all.

Addendum a few hours later: I have just read Juan Cole's analysis of the election. Mostly agrees with mine.  He makes a couple of extra important points. One is that there is a six weeks transition while Rouhani is still president.  He thinks Khamenei wants Rouhani to make the deal with the US on renewing the JCPOA during this period so that if things do not work out, Rouhani can be made the scapegoat, although he definitely wants a deal and the sanctions lifted.

The other point is that one reason he wants Raisi in, aside from perhaps grooming him as likely successor, is that he wants to resist opening the economy and society to outside influences.  Marina and I have long described Iran as the premier example of a New Traditional economy, one trying to combine a traditional cultural system (Shia Islam) with a modern economy. But this involves a serious tension between being open to new technologies and all that and preserving that cultural dominance the ulama have there in Iran.

He also commented on local foreign policy implications, but these seem fairly few.  Raisi visited Iraq in February and supported the pro-Iran parties there.  Would like US totally out, but this is not new.  Seems to have worked on improving relations with neighboring Iraq, who is clearly very important economically for Iran.  He supports Assad in Syria, and has said little about Yemen, although the Houthis welcomed his election.

Barkley Rosser

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Bottom Line On The Biden-Putin Summit

 According to Robyn Dixon of the Washington Post on 6/18/21 regarding the outcome of the Buden-Putin summit in Geneva, I shall simply quote directly from what looks to be the bottom line from Putin himself:

Despite a packed European tour schedule, Biden "looked fresh" and was "fully aware of the materials" during the two hours of talks, Putin said:

'Biden is a professional. One should be very observant when working with him in order not to miss anything. He misses nothing. I can assure you," he added.

 Barkley Rosser

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Why Are Infrastructure Cost So High In The US?

Sorry, but anybody wanting some simple answer on this one, especially an ideologically neat one, sorry, there is not one, Indeed, on this important issue, there is a large problem on this, but not remotely a clear answer regarding why there is this large and important problem.

For numbers on this problem I draw on a Washington Post column yesterday by Catherine Rampell. Here are some of the crucial data. In the early 1930s, just to pick one major infrastructure project, the Oakland-Bay bridge was approved and built within four months.  Yeah, the Great Depression.  But now compared to Europe, where supposedly they have higher labor costs and more regulations, well: a tunnel in Seattle cost three times as much as one in Paris and seven times as one in Madrid. This is not an oddball, this is how it is.  Infrastructure investments in the US now cost multiple times what is does abroad, and these are nations with labor and environmental concerns being taken seriously .

So, what is going on here? The very bright and knowledgeable Rampell confesses that not only does she not know, but she cannot find anybody who can explain it. In a way this looks like the high costs of medical care in the US.  This is  a much more politicized matter, but when one digs seriously into the research there seems to be no single reason, a whole series of matters, not easily resolved.

The issue of infrastructure lacks some of the matters healthcare has, such as how the US is the only nation in the world not having universal healthcare, which many of us think itself would lead to lower healthcare costs for various reasons. But what is responsible for the now high costs of infrastrucuture investment in the US, some of the obvious culprits there for healthcare are not there.

Of course there are many things involved here, which Rampell lays out, but again there is not remotely a "smoking gun," But her list contains the following: "poor planning, complicated procurement processes,  our multilayered federalist system, NIMBY-ism, and risks of litigation." Why all this is worse than so many other high income nations  I do not know. 

She also adds some other matters, such as a tendency of our political system to fund wasteful projects, although this is something that has always gone on, and that I find hard to believe also do not go on in other democratically run nations. Local economic interests have a way of getting their way in democratic political systems, and also do so in non-democratic ones, although even in those places, local economic interests get their way to the degree they get in with the Supreme Leader.

Barkley Rosser 

Sunday, June 13, 2021

The Zhou Enlai Paradox

A bit over a half century ago when Henry Kissinger was organizing Richard Nixon's visit to China, he was largely interacting on this matter with Zhou Enlai (Chou-Enlai in Wade-Giles transliteration). He reported that during their negotiations he asked Zhou what he thought of the French Revolution.  Zhou replied that "It is too soon to tell." This has since been taken as deep insight by Zhou on a deep historical issue, which indeed is still debated, at least in parts of the West. More recent scholarship has decided that probably rather than being Mr. Deep Historical Genius, Zhou was simply commenting on recent current events, most notably the student-worker uprisings in France in 1968, two-three years prior to their discussions. 

According to the Chaguan column in The Economist, 6/5/21, there is now a film out about the life of Zhou Enlai being shown to children from kindergarten on up, with this produced in anticipation of the centennial of the Chinese Communist Party's official recognition of its founding on July 1. That Zhou rather than many other possible figures is being put forward to children at this time as a role model is most curious and interesting.

I think what is involved here is the regime's effort to resolve its ongoing conflict between traditional Chinese Confucianism and the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist heritage of the ruling CCP. Zhou came from a scholar-bureaucrat family, which fell into pieces, with Zhou depicted as the deep student of traditional Confucianism that he was as well as finding works in his grandfather's library about peasants rising against "feudal aristocracy," with him moving to become a "great proletarian revolutionary." 

So this film about his life provides an effort to overcome this conflict between ancient Confucian Chinese tradition, with its respect for established hierarchies such as the CCP is now, with support for the ideologically revolutionary Marxist-Leninist-Maoist tradition that underpins the Chinese Communist Party on this time of its centennial.

A final note is that the Economist article observes that one reason why Zhou managed to survive through the worst machinations and reversals and upheavals of the Maoist era was precisely due to his deeply serious Confucian education from his youth, this allowing him to "a reverance for Coufucian teachings about self-restraint and the need for officials to swallow small insults in the national interest."

Oh, and as regards the reception by various age groups of this new film about the life of Zhou Enlai, the very young like a moment where he shows his bare bottom, a bit older like seeing him picking and selling wild vegetables as a boy to try to get his family out of debt, and older viewers liking the conclusion, which shows him "to swelling chords, young Zhou waxes indignant on learning that Russia and Japan have taken territory from the ailing Chinese empire, then declares that he studies hard so that China may rise. That phrase of Zhou's is taught in schools to this day and triggers murmers of recognition."

Barkley Rosser

The Cornwall Paradox

 The County of Cornwall has been in the news as the site of the G7 summit, just ended. In today's Washington Post an article "In Cornwall, a jarring contrast of power and poverty," by Karla Adam and Loveday Morris, a paradox of this visit is highlighted and brought out, indeed, that Cornwall is one of the poorest places in Great Britain, indeed in Northern Europe more generally, but that it is drawing much attention and some money, if not necessarily what it most needs.  

A deep part of this paradox is that Cornwall was probably the part of Britain that got more per capita aid from the EU than any other, certainly as much as any other, due to its poverty, but also was one of the most strongly supportive of Brexit, with much of this driven by a dislike of EU fishing regulations, but now with Brexit in place the Cornish fishers discovering that the gains they imagined getting from leaving the EU and its regulations are simply not there, including unsurprisingly because they are now blocked substantially from selling the fish they do catch to the EU.

A part of this particular moment is that UK PM Boris Johnson was the main leader of the Brexit effort and is also apparently half Cornish, from his father's side.  So he is personally aware of the gains and losses and attitudes there, and his desire to help Cornwall was why he chose to have the G7 summit there this year when UK was the host.  It apparently is bringing in money and attention, although probably not all that much to the third of the young population that is officially poor.  The booming industry seems to be tourism, but people coming in buying second hones are driving up housing prices for the locals, whose other industries have been in decline, the last tin mine closing in 1998 after many centuries of operating.

I have a rather odd perspective on this, one I think I shared here several years ago, but now it is updated with this odd occurrence and new information.  When the Brexit vote happened on June 23, 2016 I was in Antwerp with JMU students, with my wife Marina running our summer program there.  The day after that vote we took the students to Brussels to visit EU HQ.  The person who spoke to us was none other than a British man from Cornwall, who spent some time pointing out the peculiar situation of Cornwall, indeed the only part of the UK eligible for the largest amount of regional poverty payments.  Probably not well known in Cornwall was that nearly all local public infrastructure projects were being funded by the EU, something Boris Johnson is aware of and has made some moves to offset the loss of, but not enough to fully make up for it.

Indeed, this man noted the strong pro-Brexit vote there and was obviously frustrated by it.  He also commented at some length on the matter of the fisheries, which he identified as the big issue driving this sentiment.  He essentially forecast what seems to have come to pass, that the Cornish fishers would gain little if anything from Brexit, despite their strong belief they would.  The bottom line does seem to be that more in Cornwall have lost from Brexit than have gained, despite their strong support for it.

I close this by noting a bit about Cornwall and the Cornish people for those who do not know.  It is the the southwestern most part of the island of Britain, due south of Wales. While a part of England, in fact the people are largely Celtic, and their language, which died as a first-use language as far back as the late 18th century, is most closely related to Welsh and Breton. Apparently there is a movement to revive the language, and it is now being taught as a second language there, with a few families now attempting to raise children to speak it as a first language.  So maybe it is coming back.

Barkley Rosser

Friday, June 11, 2021

Global Polls

OK, so I think the nations surveyed are biased, but I have now seen two polls with roughly similar polls.  

So Pew, with a larger base and solid credibility has that among foreign nations polls in their nations data set showed an improvement in favorability rating for the POTUS have gone from 17% to 75% give or take a few percents. OTOH, the attitude towards the US among whichever nations Pew polled had the attitude towards the US only rising from 34% to 62%.  Most commentary has this as foreigners now fear that either Trump himself or some clone of his might well become POTUs in the not too far distant future.

In the meantime, I wish the best to the current POTUS on his current trip abroad.

Barkley Rosser

Monday, June 7, 2021

Treasury Secretary Yellen Achieves A Victory

 This is her getting the G-7 finance ministers to agree to a minimum 15% corporate tax. It is easy to sneer at this. Some of the nations involved may not pass it. There are many problems with details, such as whether the tax would be on gross or net income.  There are a lot of nations not in on this agreement, including especially large China.

But currently many large corporations are paying zero anywhere, with this reflecting their ability to shift earnings around from nation to nation.  Frankly, although I have long been a fan of Janet Yellen's I really did nor expect this plan to go anywhere.  There would simply be too much international opposition. But she has pulled off at least the quite significant agreement, supported by President Biden. So I would like to recognize this achievement and applaud it, even if in the end they are unable to push it all the way to through to full implementation.

Barkley Rosser

Sunday, June 6, 2021

#TangPing ("lying flat")

China's new 'tang ping' trend aims to highlight pressures of work culture

(from BBC)

Young people in China exhausted by a culture of hard work with seemingly little reward are highlighting the need for a lifestyle change by "lying flat".

The new trend, known as "tang ping", is described as an antidote to society's pressures to find jobs and perform well while working long shifts.

China has a shrinking labour market and young people often work more hours.

The term "tang ping" is believed to have originated in a post on a popular Chinese social media site.

"Lying flat is my wise movement," a user wrote in a since-deleted post on the discussion forum Tieba, adding: "Only by lying down can humans become the measure of all things."

The comments were later discussed on Sina Weibo, another popular Chinese microblogging site, and the term soon became a buzzword.

The idea behind "tang ping" - not overworking, being content with more attainable achievements and allowing time to unwind - has been praised by many and inspired numerous memes. It has been described as a spiritual movement. 

The War On Anthony Fauci

 This title may seem a bit over the top, but for those not paying attention to the Trump media bubble they may not realize how completely out of control and over the top this has become.  It is topped off by Trump himself going after Dr. Anthony Fauci big time in his speech to the NC GOP earlier this evening for having urged people to wear masks and for supposedly covering up the supposed lab source of the coronavirus in Wuhan. But this follows what has become an almost all the time attack on Fox, Newsmax, and OAN on nearly all their shows, with people now claiming that Dr. Fauci (along with Obama) actively encouraged and aided the development of Covid-19 in the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). He is personally guilty for every person dead in the US as well as every job lost due to the pandemic, and a string of prominent GOP politicians are now calling for his firing, if not more.  No fault or blame should lie on Trump at all. This tirade reached an especially bad peak on Friday evening when Donald Trump, Jr. sent out an Instagram post in which he looked forward to being able to say "Dr. Fauci did not kill himself" with apparent pleasure. This has truly gone way over the top.

The basis for all this is that indeed NIH did provide some funding that Fauci had some signing off on connection with, did not initiate it or lead it or inspire it, that did support some research on virus research at the WIV, one of the world's leading sites for such research, with some US scientists involved in this research with some at the lab, especially Dr. Shi Zhengli.  But this financial assistance was relatively minor and apparently limited to supporting the gathering of some past data.  Even if the virus was created out of "gain of function" or other research there, this assistance would have played a trivial role in that. And while it is now being taken for granted that for sure the virus was so created in that lab, the most that can be said is that as of now that cannot be ruled out and that US intel agencies are looking at that as well as other possible sources of where the virus originated and how it got into the human population as a pandemic.  

Of course the main alternative, pushed for some time last year by a number of scientists as clearly the likely explanation, as been one involving a zoonotic transmission from bats to some intermediate animal, with pangolins the leading suspect, with such intermediate animal then transmitting it to humans in a wet market, possibly the Huanwan one in Wuhan that certainly was a very early superspreader site for Covid-19. But it is not clear pangolins were actually for sale there, and research on this alternative has apparently not gotten anywhere, with this still sitting as a strong possibility with many viewing it as still the most likely source (or some variation on it).  It has also come out that the person who organized a prominent article in Lancet early last year arguing this was almost certainly it and definitely not any lab, Dr. Peter Daszak, has been involved in research with people at WIV, and thus subject to conflict of interest problems.  As it is, some who supported that view last year are now saying that a lab origin is possible and should be further investigated.

Curiously, what looks to me to be a highly likely source, possibly the most likely, has received only minimal attention, although it has gotten some renewed publicity with a front page story on June 4 in the Washington Post by Eva Dou and Lily Kuo.  While Dr. Shi of the highly secure WIV has loudly and publicly declared the virus did not come from her lab, no such loud denials have come from another researcher, Tian Junhua, associate chief lab technician at the Wuhan Center for Disease Control (WCDC), a lab located only 500 meters from the Huanwan market and operating at a much lower level of security than the WIV.  Dr. Tian is the "bat hunter" who has explored many sites including caves in search of animals with viruses, and apparently brought back as many as 155 bat viruses to the WCDC from a cave where several people became seriously ill, with Dr. Tian himself having been spattered with bat blood and urine there while not wearing protective gear  Dr. Tian has made no public statements and is currently refusing to do so.  That one of these viruses might have infected somebody at his lab and gotten out to the market or elsewhere is certainly a possibility, with this case sort of lying between the Fauci-did-it-artificially-through-WIV story favored by the racist Trump gang and the it-came-purely-out-of-nature-through-an-intermediate-animal story favored by those turned off by the Trump gang push.

Of course there are a lot of loose ends and rumors, such as one that there may have been three people who go seriously ill possibly from it, in November 2019 at the WIV.  Without doubt the Chinese government should facilitate and encourage all parties to help track down who were the earliest cases to try to determine the origins of this.  However, this does not seem to be happening, with if anything just the opposite the case, with reports that some Chinese posting reports on all this being suppressed.

I note that in the SARS pandemic of 2002-03 we saw both sources.  The initial outbreak of that pandemic looks to have been the zoonotic route from the wild through civet cats. But then a second round, smaller than the first, was due to two leaks out of a Beijing lab.  

Pretty much anything is possible here, and unfortunately I fear we may never be able to get to the bottom of this. But the current wave of attacks on Anthony Fauci rolling through the right wing mediasphere has become completely outrageous, with this recent Instagram post by Donald Trump, Jr. really going beyond despicable.

Barkley Rosser

Friday, June 4, 2021

My Latest Book

Heck, I might as well brag here when I have the opportunity, and I do.  

So, just a couple of days ago my latest book came out from Springer Nature.  It is called Foundations and Applications of Complexity Economics.  I am not going to go on about it or its contents other than to note that I have published on this general topic before on numerous occasions, with my last book out on it a decade ago in 2011, also from Springer.  

Anyway, it feels good to actually get those hard copies in your hands of something you worked on for a long time, and I am not one of those people who just knocks off books in a couple of weeks or months while riding on airplanes or whatever.  They have all taken years of work, even revisions for new additions, and this one took a few as well. But now it is over. Whew!

Barkley Rosser