Daily Archives: May 23, 2016

Economics’ Big Lie

BOOK REVIEW

Adam’s Fallacy: A Guide to Economic Theology, Author: Duncan K. Foley.
International Political Economy: The Business of War and Peace, Author: James H. Nolt.
Krugman’s Economics for AP, Authors: Margaret A. Ray, David G. Anderson.

By James H. Nolt – The big lie is that the economic “science” of efficiency requires that we treat rich people as vastly more important than everyone else.

Once disentangled from the jargon, the logic of this argument is no more persuasive than King George III claiming to be “king by the grace of God.” It is equally undemocratic, too. This dubious assertion is not stated so baldly. If it were, it would be too easily refuted. Instead, and more insidiously, it is embedded in all the methods of economics and of public policy studies involving cost-benefit analysis.

All economic relations are suffused with private power, at least. This is why I insist on the term “political economy” rather than “economics.” This reminds us that every study of the economy must also be a study of private power and strategy. more> http://goo.gl/XM9bXW

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What Was the Greatest Era for Innovation?

BOOK REVIEW

The Rise and Fall of American Growth, Author: Robert J. Gordon.

By Neil Irwin – Which was a more important innovation: indoor plumbing, jet air travel or mobile phones?

You could argue for any of them, and data can tell plenty of different stories depending on how you look at it. Productivity statistics or information on inflation-adjusted incomes is helpful, but can’t really tell you whether the advent of air-conditioning or the Internet did more to improve humanity’s quality of life.

It’s hard to overstate how revolutionary the advent of electric light was. In the 1870s, a kerosene lamp could produce 5,050 candle hours worth of light a year at a cost of $20. That same $20 in 1920 bought 4.4 million candle hours a year from bulbs.

Transportation was undergoing its own transformation, and people were becoming far more connected to one another physically.

In 1900, just 8,000 motorcars were registered in the United States, but there were 9 million in 1920 and 23 million in 1929. Streetcars and subways, unheard-of in 1870, were in all the major cities by 1920. Intercity trains were becoming steadily faster and more reliable — a train trip from New York to Chicago that took 38 hours in 1870 was 24 hours in 1900 and 16 hours in 1940.

Add it all up, and Americans who in 1870 would rarely travel farther than they could go on foot or horseback could suddenly range much more widely. more> http://goo.gl/AfjcZr

Updates from Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech Research Finds Fan Communities Are Reshaping the Social Web for the Better
By Joshua Preston – Modern fan groups predate the Internet by more than half a century (think Star Trek conventions), and their shared interests include everything from science fiction to knitting. But replicating the connections fans make in person in a digital space has proved difficult.

Instead, groups with special interests are often forced onto Facebook and other social media with a one-size-fits-all approach to interacting online.

By adopting a user-centric approach to design, this community has created a rarity on the web, a “digital commons” without advertising where harassment is almost nonexistent, and a large installed audience enjoys a culture of genuine diversity.

The study, from Georgia Tech and University of Colorado-Boulder, is based on the website Archive of Our Own (AO3), an 840,000 member community of fan fiction or “fanfic” writers who post and share user-generated content. The site was launched in 2008 and boasts nearly 2 million story posts to date.

“AO3’s success demonstrates how beneficial it is to have a technology’s users as part of its development team,” said Casey Fiesler, lead researcher on the study while a Ph.D. candidate at Georgia Tech, and now assistant professor at University of Colorado-Boulder.

“What makes the rise of this online platform exceptional is that it was built primarily by its fans, some of whom started with little or no programming experience,” said Amy Bruckman, a professor of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech and author on the study. more> http://goo.gl/KHngV9

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How free market ideology perverts the vocabulary of democracy

BOOK REVIEW

How Propaganda Works, Author: Jason Stanley.
The New Jim Crow, Author: Michelle Alexander.

By Jason Stanley – Free market ideology uses democratic vocabulary as propaganda, obscuring a non-democratic reality.

Take education. In a liberal democracy, education equips citizens with the tools and confidence to weigh in on policy decisions and play a role in their own self-governance. Hence, democratic education is at the very center of democratic political philosophy, as the philosophies of Jean-Jacques Rousseau [2, 3, 4, 5], W E B Du Bois [2, 3, 4, 5], John Dewey [2, 3, 4, 5] and Elizabeth Cady Stanton [2, 3, 4, 5] attest.

But the US rhetoric surrounding education is explicitly anti-democratic. Citizens prefer ‘efficient’ education systems that train children to perform vocational tasks, rather than education that fosters community, autonomy and civic participation.

The rhetoric politicians use when running for office is usually explicitly anti-democratic. Managerial culture is paradigmatically undemocratic: a CEO is like a feudal lord.

Free market ideology has perverted democratic vocabulary, transforming it into propaganda that, in turn, obscures an anti-democratic reality. more> https://goo.gl/jrSdxL