By Sanjukta Paul – Where does economic power come from? Does it exist independently of the law?
It seems obvious, even undeniable, that the answer is no. Law creates, defines and enforces property rights. Law enforces private contracts. It charters corporations and shields investors from liability. Law declares illegal certain contracts of economic cooperation between separate individuals – which it calls ‘price-fixing’ – but declares economically equivalent activity legal when it takes place within a business firm or is controlled by one.
Each one of these is a choice made by the law, on behalf of the public as a whole. Each of them creates or maintains someone’s economic power, and often undermines someone else’s. Each also plays a role in maintaining a particular distribution of economic power across society.
Yet generations of lawyers and judges educated at law schools in the United States have been taught to ignore this essential role of law in creating and sustaining economic power.
Instead, we are taught that the social process of economic competition results in certain outcomes that are ‘efficient’ – and that anything the law does to alter those outcomes is its only intervention.
These peculiar presumptions flow from the enormously powerful and influential ‘law and economics’ movement that dominates thinking in most areas of US law considered to be within the ‘economic’ sphere.
Bruce Ackerman, professor of law and political science at Yale University, recently called law and economics the most influential thing in legal education since the founding of Harvard Law School.
The Economics Institute for Federal Judges, founded by the legal scholar Henry Manne, has been a hugely influential training program in the law and economics approach. more>
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Tagged Business improvement, Capital, Congress Watch, Government, Inequality, Internet, Law
By Jochen Steinhilber – We are discussing the digital transformation, which will profoundly change how we live, work and participate in politics and society in the decades to come.
The political and social significance of digital networking, smart factories and big data depends on how technology is used. It can deepen social inequalities and cement domination and profit maximization, or it can improve working and living conditions and facilitate participation. That is why digitalization needs political direction and should be based on social agreements.
But how can this be achieved without, for example, bringing those companies under tighter democratic control that, for many years, have been engaged in secret negotiations on international trade policy to ‘protect’ the digital and services agenda from all state intervention for years to come?
Also, those who will rightly champion the ecological transformation in the coming years and want to pursue it in a maximally inclusive way will have to ask themselves how this can be achieved under the current relations of power between the economy, politics and democracy—especially under lower growth rates that allow less space for redistribution.
Anyone who now claims that, considering the challenges of climate protection, a debate on economic democracy is a diversionary tactic and at best of theoretical rather than political interest, ignores the fact that the important strategic decisions must be taken at the economic level.
Do we really want to leave crucial questions—where can growth continue because it serves the common good? what must be dismantled because it is ecologically and socially harmful? and who pays for the change?—for the most part to the dominant market players?
And finally, the frequently-invoked crisis of democracy at least suggests that we need to rethink how the economy works. more>
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Tagged Business improvement, Capital, Free market, Government, Internet, Technology
Funding an ecological transition in Europe via ‘green money’ bonds would be economically justifiable.
By Paul De Grauwe – To what extent can the money created by the central bank be used to finance investments in the environment?
This is a question often asked today. The green activists respond with enthusiasm that the central bank—and, in particular, the European Central Bank (ECB)—should stimulate the financing of environmental investments through the printing of money.
The ECB has created €2,600 billion of new money since 2015 in the context of its quantitative easing (QE) program. All that money has gone to financial institutions which have done very little with it. Why can’t the ECB inject the money into environmental investments instead of pouring it into the financial sector?
Most traditional economists react with horror.
Who is right? It is good to recall the basics of money creation by the ECB (or any modern central bank). Money is created when that institution buys financial assets in the market. The suppliers of these assets are financial institutions. These then obtain a deposit in euro at the ECB, in exchange for relinquishing these financial assets. That is the moment when money is created. This money (deposits) can then be used as their reserve base by the financial institutions to extend loans to companies and households.
There is no limit to the amount of financial assets the ECB can buy.
In principle, it could purchase all existing financial assets (all bonds and shares, for example), but that would increase the money supply in such a way that inflation would increase dramatically. In other words, the value of the money issued by the ECB would fall sharply. To avoid this, the bank has set a limit: it promises not to let inflation rise above 2 per cent. That imposes a constraint on the amount of money which the ECB can create. So far, it has been successful in remaining within the 2 per cent inflation target. more>
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Tagged Business improvement, Capital, Credit, Fiat money, Monetary policy