Tag Archives: Social economy

A world-class long jump to a more social Europe

By Patricia Scherer – Who would not like to go to a free public school in Finland or buy their groceries at a local cooperative in Italy?

Who would not want to receive quality community-based support for their grandparent suffering from dementia in some remote rural village, following the Swedish model?

Which working parent would not want to have access to all-day childcare, as in France?

And breathe in fresh air in a buzzling downtown, is the case in car-free Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital?

Who would refuse the support, rather than stigmatization, that the Danish flexicurity system provides to laid-off workers?

Would you not want to vote electronically from home, as in Estonia?

Or take part in the Irish citizens’ assembly to decide on legal and policy issues facing the society you live in today?

All that is Europe; all those are benchmarks to aspire to. more> https://goo.gl/qXmAUX

To Get the Best Results From Your Employees, Assemble Them Like a Team of Surgeons

By Oliver Staley – When assembling teams, managers should think about what the different members contribute. Teams where all the members share the same skills or background won’t cover the same breadth as one in which members bring a range of abilities and experiences.

There’s a growing body of research that shows that diversity strengthens teams, whether they’re juries or corporate boards.

Homogenous teams may have less friction and feel like they’re working productively, but as a study of problem-solving among members of fraternity and sororities shows, they’re are less likely to arrive at the right answer than groups where members can challenge assumptions and shared beliefs. more> https://goo.gl/KUDAIW

How to Avoid a Tech Counterrevolution

By Leonid Bershidsky – It’s easy to laugh at a juice squeezer produced by a relatively small startup, whose real competence is in making fancy fruit-and-vegetable packets. It’s not really problem-solving tech; it’s a money-raising gimmick.

The problem is deeper though. Musk, a slicker marketer than Zuckerberg, talks about initially releasing a technology that would help people with brain damage — from strokes, for example.

Facebook is talking about “sharing thoughts,” hitting precisely on the most worrying aspects of the nascent technology: Who wants to share uncensored thoughts, especially with a company that collects information about its users without explaining to them exactly what is harvested? Who wants to give a machine built by a corporate entity access to one’s brain?

Tasks that desperately need automation and tech solutions are narrow. Thinking smaller and applying resources and energy to narrow, specific problems could be a good chance to build trust before it disappears entirely. more> https://goo.gl/MEm63N

What a State-Owned Bank Can Do for New Jersey

By Ellen Brown – Consider the possibilities, for example, for funding infrastructure. Like most states today, New Jersey suffers from serious budget problems, limiting its ability to make needed improvements. By funding infrastructure through its own bank, the state can cut infrastructure costs roughly in half, since 50 percent of the cost of infrastructure, on average, is financing.

Again, a state-owned bank can do this by leveraging its capital, with any shortfall covered very cheaply in the wholesale markets. In effect, the state can borrow at bankers’ rates of 1 percent or less, rather than at market rates of 4 to 6 percent for taxable infrastructure bonds (not to mention the roughly 12 percent return expected by private equity investors).  The state can borrow at 1 percent and turn a profit even if it lends for local development at only 2 percent—one-half to two-thirds below bond market rates.

That is the rate at which North Dakota lends for infrastructure. In 2015, the state legislature established a BND Infrastructure Loan Fund program that made $150 million available to local communities for a wide variety of infrastructure needs. These loans have a 2 percent fixed interest rate and a term of up to 30 years; and the 2 percent goes back to the State of North Dakota, so it’s a win-win-win for local residents.

The BND is able to make these cheap loans while still turning a tidy profit because its costs are very low: no exorbitantly-paid executives; no bonuses, fees, or commissions; very low borrowing costs; no need for multiple branch offices; no FDIC insurance premiums; no private shareholders. Profits are recycled back into the bank, the state and the community. more> https://goo.gl/QrGLBD

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The internet of (economic) things

By Jonathan Sallet – Robert Gordon argues that, with the exception of a decade starting in the mid-1990s, information networks have not driven productivity in the way that electricity transformed the American manufacturing sector in the 20th Century. But some believe now that IoT (internet of things) can boost productivity growth by increasing the efficiency of traditional business operations such as manufacturing, transportation, and retail. Whether the United States can return to historical productivity growth levels is critical to the American economy.

IoT standards raise a series of policy questions: Are industry standards being set in a pro-competitive fashion?

Are companies complying with their obligations under standards (a question featured in an analogous context in the recent Federal Trade Commission complaint against Qualcomm)?

And what kind of role should government play in establishing the standards at the outset? more> https://goo.gl/p3Zwph

The End of Men? Not in the Retail Sector

By Virginia Postrel – The collapse of traditional retailing reverses a much-heralded trend: Jobs that involve working with things are disappearing, while those that demand a winning personality — celebrated as “emotional intelligence” — are growing.

Men lose while women win, especially at the bottom of the educational and income ladder.

Contrary to the feminine triumphalism that declares traditionally male skills obsolete, the economy is full of surprises and cross-currents. In the retailing world, demand for people-pleasing sales clerks is down.

Like capital-intensive factories, warehouses with robot assistants make workers more productive and hence more valuable. In Amazon’s cutting-edge facilities, they complement human skills. more> https://goo.gl/RNMzln

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Raising good robots

We already have a way to teach morals to alien intelligences: it’s called parenting. Can we apply the same methods to robots?
By Regina Rini – Philosophers and computer scientists alike tend to focus on the difficulty of implementing subtle human morality in literal-minded machines. But there’s another problem, one that really ought to come first. It’s the question of whether we ought to try to impose our own morality on intelligent machines at all. In fact, I’d argue that doing so is likely to be counterproductive, and even unethical. The real problem of robot morality is not the robots, but us.

Can we handle sharing the world with a new type of moral creature?

We like to imagine that artificial intelligence (AI) will be similar to humans, because we are the only advanced intelligence we know. But we are probably wrong. If and when AI appears, it will probably be quite unlike us. It might not reason the way we do, and we could have difficulty understanding its choices.

Plato’s student Aristotle disagreed. He thought that each sort of thing in the world – squirrels, musical instruments, humans – has a distinct nature, and the best way for each thing to be is a reflection of its own particular nature.

‘Morality’ is a way of describing the best way for humans to be, and it grows out of our human nature. For Aristotle, unlike Plato, morality is something about us, not something outside us to which we must conform. Moral education, then, was about training children to develop abilities already in their nature. more> https://goo.gl/cVSt0W

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Want to strengthen democracy? Exercise your freedom of religion

By Steven Paulikas – If Washington is correct, then the long-term decline of religious participation in America and other democratic countries is one of the root causes for the type of political decay we are experiencing—and the absence of a “national morality” is at the core of this. The first American president was not a religious zealot, but he nonetheless saw religious practice as an essential act of citizenship, especially among those of “refined education.”

There is a multitude of good reasons why Americans are deserting the faith institutions their forebears built, not the least of which is the litany of inexcusable abuses many have suffered in the name of religion. (And to be sure, not every faith group is dedicated to upholding peace and common human dignity.)

But the scale of exodus leaves one to wonder if the abandonment of “organized” religion is not something akin to the type of apathy that led left-leaning people like me to become complacent about our political institutions.

After all, the American state is guilty of just as many sins as religion, and yet there is no movement to abandon our institutions of democracy. more> https://goo.gl/Plgl03

Updates from Chicago Booth

Can we save retirement?
What the US and other countries can learn about social security reform
By Alex Verkhivker – When it comes to pension crises, American workers are not alone. In the United Kingdom, many of the country’s almost 6,000 employer-sponsored, defined-benefit programs are underfunded.

In Greece, Poland, and across the European continent, a demographic mismatch means there are not enough incoming taxes to fund promised payouts.

Privatization is often suggested as a solution to pension crises. Rather than have governments or employers fund workers’ retirements, why not give retirees more control over funding their retirements, with private individual accounts?

Many critics of privatization are quick to point to Chile as a cautionary tale. The Chilean government privatized its pension system in 1980, its secretary of labor and social security inspired by Milton Friedman’s book Capitalism and Freedom.

In Mexico, money is automatically deducted from workers’ wages and placed in individual accounts. Then individuals choose from a menu of assets in which to invest and work through regulated, professional money managers, each of which offers a single investment product.

But competition did not materialize as the government had hoped it would. Hastings, Hortaçsu, and Syverson looked at where investors lived, which fund managers they invested with, how much money they saved—and earned after fees. They find that while many people expected competition to drive down costs, the average asset-weighted load was a steep 23 percent, and balance fees were another 0.63 percent. Those fees ate away—a lot—at returns. more> https://goo.gl/usSmNP

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What Is Single-Payer Healthcare and Why Is It So Popular?

By Alicia Adamczyk – Single payer—or Medicare for All, as it’s sometimes referred to in the U.S.—is a system in which all healthcare financing is provided by one entity, such as (but not always) the federal government.

All residents receive core coverage regardless of income, occupation, or health status.

The U.S. is one of the only countries in the developed world that does not have such a system in place, but in other countries like Canada and England, the care itself is still provided by private organizations and doctors. But that care—everything from hospital visits to prescription drugs to mental health care—is covered for all residents by the state, via taxes determined by the state. In other words, public financing pays for private care.

Healthcare financing in the U.S. is an often complicated web of hospitals, doctors, and other care providers, middlemen like insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and public programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and state-run marketplaces. As many Americans know, it’s incredibly confusing and expensive for most parties involved.

According to Friedman’s report, Americans spend nearly four times as much on billing and insurance-related activities as doctors in Ontario do, where a single entity is in charge of billing and repayments. more> https://goo.gl/hdH62x