Showing posts from September, 2017

Marx Capital turns 150

Marx's capital (Volume 1) was published September 14, 1867, exactly 150 years ago. Below a few links to posts on Marx written over the years.

What makes capitalism capitalism? (on the definitions of capitalism as a mode of production)

Sraffa and Marxism or the Labor Theory of Value, what is it good for? (on the labor theory of value)

Was Marx right? Nice of you to ask, but... (on common misconceptions about Marx)

A Note on the Concept of Vulgar Economics (an important idea, often neglected)

Garegnani on Sraffa, Ricardo and Marx (on the relation of Marx with classical economics)

The last Marxist? Or shortchanging Hobsbawm (a critique of The Economist's obituary)

And this one on why Marx and Keynes are essential for a coherent heterodox alternative to the mainstream:
The meaning of heterodox economics, and why it matters

Seminar in Mexico

The 8th international seminar on Coordination of Fiscal, Monetary and Exchange Rate Policies in Developing Countries at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Facultad de Estudios Superiores Acatlán (UNAM-FES-Acatlán) will take place later this month. Ignácio Perrotini and I will give the opening talks the 26, and Ariel Dvoskin the following day. Many local economists will present too, like Flor Brown, Lilia Domínguez, Noemí Levy, Teresa López, and Luis Ángel Ortiz to name a few. Will post a link to the program soon.


A graph that shows, for a longer span, essentially the same information presented in Robert Allen's graph of manufacturing production, and discussed before here. It is evident that the rise of China (India is not quite yet visible, even if its share did increase) represents a certain rebalancing, which is inevitable as the income per capita grows in that country, even if it does not scape what mainstream economists refer to as the middle income trap. Source here, and the data is, as expected from Maddison.
Note that the first millennia, where Asia (China and India essentially) is much smaller in terms of the graph, which is a result of the paucity of data. In a sense, the graph shows the relatively brief rise, and now relative decline of Western GDP dominance, as Asia regains a space more proportional to its population share.
PS: On issues with GDP measures see here.

Sunday Reading: Economic Letters of Note

Rick Holt edited a superb book with John Kenneth Galbraith's letters from the 1930s until his death in 2006. He wrote to everybody, friend and foe, and displays his usual wit. Here I reproduce parts of his letter to Joan Robinson, that he wrote after having invited her to give the Ely Lecture (subscription required).

The letter is from January 12, 1972. It says:

Dear Joan:

Many thanks for your note. If the meetings were slightly less stuffy and neoclassical than usual, it was owing more to you than to anyone else...

The president of the Association, as I think I said once in New Orleans, has powers closely paralleling the President of Italy, but perhaps less. Indeed this is the way in which all establishments maintain themselves. One diffuses power through people who are reliably like of mind. But I hope to have some slight influence on the Journals, and I'm going to make a particularly determined effort to revise hiring practices in the profession... A good deal has been do…

Don't be evil... oh well, perhaps a little bit

Don't be evil was, of course, Google's motto. The New York Times had a piece recently on the firing of Barry Lynn from the New America Foundation, a Democratic think tank that, if memory doesn't fail me, was at least initially connected to the Clintons. The whole thing resulted from the fact that Lynn was favorable to the European Union regulation of Google, a major donor to the think tank.

Given that I've been writing about the influence of corporate money in academia, I thought it was a good idea to link to this other story about Google's perverse influence in the public debate. In my view, Google is not on the cancer-denying or climate-change-denying business simply as a result of a market structure phenomena. And in many ways Google and Facebook (don't get me wrong Amazon is also dangerous, but in a different way, they still sell stuff, whereas the other two sell your information), or Big Internet, are more dangerous than Big Tobacco and Big Oil.

'Edupreneurs,' Corporate Universities and Pluralism in Economics

I posted recently on the increasing influence of corporate money in academia, specifically the new Marriner Eccles center funded by the Koch brothers at the University of Utah. The piece by David V. Johnson in the Baffler on this subject is worth reading. As he notes, the new breed of private money goes beyond what they used to do in the past, trying to directly influence what kind of research, the curriculum and what ideas should be disseminated, and, indirectly who should be hired and retained. This is all the more problematic in the context of the retreat of public funding and the rise of the the corporate university, which implies that increasingly money equals voice in academia.

Johnson says that:
private funding that burrows within the very body of public institutions, the better to influence related departments and curricula across the university. In other words, the edupreneurs sell academic acceptability and prestige for ideas that might have a more difficult time entering t…

The Economist and the natural rate of unemployment

The Economist new series on 'big ideas' tackled in a recent issue the concept of the natural rate unemployment (subscription required; other ideas included Say's Law and Human Capital, just to give you the broad picture of what they think it's big). I will only comment very briefly on two issues, one related to the history of ideas and the other to the concept itself.

The Economist suggests that the natural rate of unemployment can somehow be connected to the ideas of Keynes. In their words:
John Maynard Keynes, the great British economist, took a first step towards the natural-rate hypothesis when he focused minds on 'involuntary' unemployment. In his book 'The General Theory'. The idea of a natural rate of interest can be clearly traced back to marginalist economics, and was a central concept discussed by Knut Wicksell. The idea of the natural rate of unemployment, as The Economist correctly points out, is essentially related to Milton Friedman's A…