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What is Debt? – An Interview with Economic Anthropologist David Graeber « naked capitalism

31 Aug

Tell this to the Republicrats:

In fact, the first recorded word for ‘freedom’ in any human language is the Sumerian amargi, a word for debt-freedom, and by extension freedom more generally, which literally means ‘return to mother,’ since when they declared a clean slate, all the debt peons would get to go home.

Is ‘wage slavery’ a mere metaphor? Perhaps not. Read the following paragraphs (I bolded the last one, the ‘money graph, as it were):

What’s been happening since Nixon went off the gold standard in 1971 has just been another turn of the wheel – though of course it never happens the same way twice. However, in one sense, I think we’ve been going about things backwards. In the past, periods dominated by virtual credit money have also been periods where there have been social protections for debtors. Once you recognize that money is just a social construct, a credit, an IOU, then first of all what is to stop people from generating it endlessly? And how do you prevent the poor from falling into debt traps and becoming effectively enslaved to the rich? That’s why you had Mesopotamian clean slates, Biblical Jubilees, Medieval laws against usury in both Christianity and Islam and so on and so forth.

Since antiquity the worst-case scenario that everyone felt would lead to total social breakdown was a major debt crisis; ordinary people would become so indebted to the top one or two percent of the population that they would start selling family members into slavery, or eventually, even themselves.

Well, what happened this time around? Instead of creating some sort of overarching institution to protect debtors, they create these grandiose, world-scale institutions like the IMF or S&P to protect creditors. They essentially declare (in defiance of all traditional economic logic) that no debtor should ever be allowed to default. Needless to say the result is catastrophic. We are experiencing something that to me, at least, looks exactly like what the ancients were most afraid of: a population of debtors skating at the edge of disaster.

And, I might add, if Aristotle were around today, I very much doubt he would think that the distinction between renting yourself or members of your family out to work and selling yourself or members of your family to work was more than a legal nicety. He’d probably conclude that most Americans were, for all intents and purposes, slaves.

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Warren Buffet: Tax the Rich

29 Aug

And Buffet should know. He’s among the richest of the rich. This is an hour-long conversation with Charlie Rose.

A Cooperative Economy: The Time Is Now | Common Dreams

26 Aug

This is a perfect time for a cooperative economy. Considering the disproportionate struggles faced by women and people of color during a recession, the cooperative economy presents an opportunity for all people, to leverage more power by making themselves the bosses, sharing ownership, and taking a collective approach to good management. Many people have already been let down by a top-down corporate or non-profit model in a recession-ridden society. Now is the time to rebuild the system, and build a society founded on justice, dignity, and respect for people and the planet.

via A Cooperative Economy: The Time Is Now | Common Dreams.

How Much Tax Should The Rich Pay? | ThinkProgress

22 Aug

Close the loopholes in the tax system!

But the biggest takeaway that I’d like to see people take from this paper is that fans of progressive taxation should be fans of tax reform. As you see in the text, the optimal marginal tax rate for high income people soars if you first (or simultaneously) enact loophole-closing measures to broaden the tax base. In a tax code with many loopholes, higher rates is largely an incentive to exploit loopholes. Close the loopholes, and you can soak the rich with much more efficacy.

via How Much Tax Should The Rich Pay? | ThinkProgress.

Surely They Can Read a Spreadsheet –

21 Aug

Can’t read anything with your eyes closed and your brain draining out into the ether.

This is not the time for the usual demands by business for fewer regulations and lower taxes. The economy is too fragile and the deficit too high — in no small part because the George W. Bush administration spent eight years giving business and the wealthy exactly what they asked for.

Instead, business leaders should be pushing Washington for what is needed to avoid another recession: more near-term spending to stimulate the economy, more revenue to help pay for it, and a balanced approach to the long-term deficit by reducing health care costs and strengthening the tax base.

via Surely They Can Read a Spreadsheet –

Another Bailout Joins the Goofball Economy

10 Aug

How dare a credit rating agency that got it so wrong, and should itself be investigated for malfeasance in the creation of the banking meltdown, dictate public policy? For S&P to insist on massive government cuts that would only increase joblessness is like a burglar shifting blame for his crimes to the poor quality of locks.

This from a credit rating agency that, as NYT columnist Joe Nocera points out, “has consistently fallen short.” S&P judged Enron to be an exemplary company until shortly before the corporation imploded, and it gave its triple-A seal of approval to the toxic securitized mortgage debt that caused the great recession. There are serious problems with the US economy, but they are not the ones that Standard & Poor’s outlined when it sent the stock market into a tizzy.

via Another Bailout Joins the Goofball Economy | The Nation.

If the Top 25 Hedge Fund Managers Paid Taxes Like You and Me, We’d Cut 44 Billion of the National Deficit

6 Jul

The top 25 hedge fund managers in the United States collectively earned $22 billion last year, and yet they have their own cushy set of tax rules. If they operated under the same rules that apply to other people — police officers, for example, or teachers — the country could cut its national deficit by as much as $44 billion in the next ten years.

via If the Top 25 Hedge Fund Managers Paid Taxes Like You and Me, We’d Cut 44 Billion of the National Deficit | | AlterNet.

A Richer Shade of Green: The Wisdom of Sustainable Investment Funds | The Nation

24 Jun

The need to put a premium on sustainability is not widely acknowledged in the investment community and certainly not among our elected officials, policy-makers and advisers. This presents an opportunity for astute companies and investors. In the long term, companies will benefit from aggressive action to dematerialize, substitute renewable energy for fossil fuel–based sources, increase energy efficiency, reduce water use and promote reuse, and tighten up sourcing and distribution channels. Investors with an eye on long-term gains will seek companies that are addressing these issues.

via A Richer Shade of Green: The Wisdom of Sustainable Investment Funds | The Nation.

JOURNAL: The Mt.Gox Flash Crash – Global Guerrillas

24 Jun

BTW: BitCoin may be just the start of good things to come. The infrastructure that is being built around can pave the way for hundreds of different currencies, each with different characteristics and features. If so, the fragmentation of money has finally begun. Nice.

via JOURNAL: The Mt.Gox Flash Crash – Global Guerrillas.

Open Source Politics: Safeguarding the Free Flow of Information | The Nation

19 Jun

Copyright and patent laws are being used not for the public good, as intended by the Constitution, but to try and keep control of information and ideas themselves. Mega-corporations have extensively extended patents into areas such as information coding—including software and bioengineering, the two greatest examples. The past few decades have seen the extension of copyright far beyond the life of any personal creator, in order to ensure what might be deemed the immortal life of the corporate owner.

via Open Source Politics: Safeguarding the Free Flow of Information | The Nation.