Monthly Archives: April 2018


Universal Basic Income and Minimum Wages: Progressive or Regressive?

The Real News Network has a short video Universal Basic Income and Minimum Wages: Progressive or Regressive?

KATHERINE MOOS: I think that it’s certainly the case that we have a large-scale problem when it comes to good jobs, and there’s a lot of concern about automation. And it’s something that economist Guy Standing calls “the global precariat,” which is precariously employed proletariat. And so, I think that this is a big concern. And what we see from the World Bank’s perspective is that they’re saying, “Work has changed, work is not going to provide for people’s basic needs, so there should be something done to provide [what they call] a societal minimum standard, but it might not come from work.”

Now, Bernie Sanders’ plan, which– the details have not been released, but the general idea is to invest in things like infrastructure, and also things like child care and elder care, which, while there are some technologies that automate these, much of this actually does need to be done by people in place, when we talk about caring for children, caring for elderly people, and even infrastructure projects. So, we’re seeing, now, a response, and different political points of view, of how to resolve this very serious problem of both poor quality of jobs and the threat of automation.


Finally a rational discussion about a real problem that needs to be addressed. Of course, this is just the beginning of describing the problem, and then starting to consider some of the factors that might go into a solution.

In this interview, Katherine Moos correctly explained that the answer to the headline question depends greatly on the details of the proposed program and the context into which it is placed. If is foolish to think that any program is absolutely good or absolutely bad without knowing these factors.

The other point that I believe is true is that automation of jobs is an inevitable outcome of technological advancement. We need to accept that truth, and figure out how society can adapt to the change to make sure it is of the most benefit to the most people. The UBI and the Jobs Guarantee can be two responses that address different aspects of job automation adjustment. UBI addresses the truth that traditional work may no longer be the complete provider of everyone’s support for a minimum acceptable standard of living. The jobs guarantree addresses the problem that there is socially useful work that needs to be done that is not financially supportable by a completely free capitalistic market.


George Soros Lectures: The Way Ahead

The fifth and final lecture is George Soros Lectures: The Way Ahead.

Open Society Foundations chairman and founder George Soros shares his latest thinking on economics and politics in a five-part lecture series recorded at Central European University, October 26-30, 2009. The lectures are the culmination of a lifetime of practical and philosophical reflection.

Soros discusses his general theory of reflexivity and its application to financial markets, providing insights into the recent financial crisis. The third and fourth lectures examine the concept of open society, which has guided Soros’s global philanthropy, as well as the potential for conflict between capitalism and open society. The closing lecture focuses on the way ahead, examining the increasingly important economic and political role that China will play in the future.


If you want to go back to the beginning of this lecture series, see my previous post Soros: General Theory of Reflexivity


April 29, 2018

Here is the accompanying follow up to the lecture – George Soros Lectures: The Way Ahead Q&A.


George Soros Lecture Series: Capitalism vs. Open Society

The fourth lecture in this series is George Soros Lecture Series: Capitalism vs. Open Society.

Open Society Foundations chairman and founder George Soros shares his latest thinking on economics and politics in a five-part lecture series recorded at Central European University, October 26-30, 2009. The lectures are the culmination of a lifetime of practical and philosophical reflection.

Soros discusses his general theory of reflexivity and its application to financial markets, providing insights into the recent financial crisis. The third and fourth lectures examine the concept of open society, which has guided Soros’s global philanthropy, as well as the potential for conflict between capitalism and open society. The closing lecture focuses on the way ahead, examining the increasingly important economic and political role that China will play in the future.


This lecture identifies another issue that interferes with the best functioning of society, and that is the agency problem. Again, another astute analysis of yet another issue. This covers a lot of issues in our societal problems that had been missing in the previous lectures, but my hopes for a feasible proposal for a cure for the problem are fading.

One of the things that George Soros fails to address explicitly is that a lot of the thinking that went into the creation of the USA Constitution had to do with ethical considerations. Our Supreme Court of late has taken a decided turn to dismissing ethical issues, even to the point of pretending that there are no ethical issues involved. For example, in the Citizens United Case, some Supreme Court Justices opined that they couln’t imagine that money in politics could be a corrupting influence.

Here is a quote from the article Money in Politics After Citizens United: Troubling Trends & Possible Solutions.

The Court, in holding that corporations have the same right to engage in independent spending as natural persons, naively stated that political spending can only corrupt if it is directly coordinated with a candidate’s campaign.

The trouble with this interpretation is that you know that the Supreme Court Justices cannot possibly be that naive. Another interpretation for what they said is that the Supreme Court Justices are just as corrupt as other elements in our government. Another piece of evidence for seeing the agency problem as a corrupting influence.

If you want to go back to the beginning of this lecture series, see my previous post Soros: General Theory of Reflexivity


April 27, 2018

George Soros Lecture Series: Capitalism vs. Open Society Q&A.


I have to disagree a little with the idea that the inflation of the 1970s discredited Keynesian Theory because of flaws in the theory. If there was any discrediting of Keynes, it was because of the absence of thoughtful or courageous enough people to apply what Keynes taught (or at least what I had been taught about Keynesian theory). In fact, I believe that Ronald Reagan helped put a stop to the inflation by applying Keynesian theory. Ronald Reagan had the courage (or insensitivity) to drive us into such a deep recession that excess consumer demand was stopped in its tracks. It was the likes of Lyndon Johnson who thought we could blow up our resources in fighting the war in Viet Nam, and at the same time use those resources to fight poverty in the USA. There were not enough real resources to do both at the same time. Nixon could not control inflation either because he continued the over stimulation of the economy in the same way Johnson had done it. Carter was politically undone, because some of the damage was being done to the consumers. Reagan was fortunate to be able to do the damage and get it somewhat over with in the early part of his administration before he confronted a re-election.


April 27, 2018

You will find the fifth and final lecture in this series in my subsequent post George Soros Lectures: The Way Ahead


George Soros Lecture Series: Open Society

The third lecture in this series is George Soros Lecture Series: Open Society.

Open Society Foundations chairman and founder George Soros shares his latest thinking on economics and politics in a five-part lecture series recorded at Central European University, October 26-30, 2009. The lectures are the culmination of a lifetime of practical and philosophical reflection.

Soros discusses his general theory of reflexivity and its application to financial markets, providing insights into the recent financial crisis. The third and fourth lectures examine the concept of open society, which has guided Soros’s global philanthropy, as well as the potential for conflict between capitalism and open society. The closing lecture focuses on the way ahead, examining the increasingly important economic and political role that China will play in the future.


This episode broadens the discussion way beyond the previous focus om financial impacts of of the Soros philosophy. It is a very enlightening explanation of the fix this country found itself in in 2009. There is not much in this lecture to explain how we will fix these problems. The anticipated promise is that solutions will be discussed in the fifth lecture. I suspect there will be much more analysis of the problem in the next lecture which will be the fourth in the series.

I am prepared to be disappointed. While analyzing the problem in this way is a great contribution, I have found that as great a contribution as that is, analysis is yet easier than coming up with a solution. I always hope to be surprised by finding that exceedingly rare occurrence of being provided with a feasible solution, one that could conceivably be implemented.

If you are joining the lecture series here, and wish to get more into the background of how we got to this point, start with the first lecture which is presented in a previous post Soros: General Theory of Reflexivity.


April 25, 2018

George Soros Lecture Series: Open Society Q&A.


April 25, 2018

For the next lecture in the series see my subsequent post George Soros Lecture Series: Capitalism vs. Open Society.


George Soros Lecture Series: Financial Markets

The second in the series of lectures is George Soros Lecture Series: Financial Markets.

Open Society Foundations chairman and founder George Soros shares his latest thinking on economics and politics in a five-part lecture series recorded at Central European University, October 26-30, 2009. The lectures are the culmination of a lifetime of practical and philosophical reflection.

Soros discusses his general theory of reflexivity and its application to financial markets, providing insights into the recent financial crisis. The third and fourth lectures examine the concept of open society, which has guided Soros’s global philanthropy, as well as the potential for conflict between capitalism and open society. The closing lecture focuses on the way ahead, examining the increasingly important economic and political role that China will play in the future.


This lecture is much more practical than the abstract first lecture. Perhaps you can understand this lecture without hearing the first one, but if you find yourself wanting to know more about reflexivity, you can read my excerpt from the fist lecture which I put in my previous post Soros: General Theory of Reflexivity. If my excerpt isn’t enough, you may also want to listen to the full lecture or the transcript that are both embedded in that post. Seeing the whole thing is about a one hour time commitment, with the payoff way at the end.

This lecture series occurred in 2009. The Institute For New Economic Thinking has become a well established organizationi since this lecture.


April 24, 2018

George Soros Lecture Series: Financial Markets Q&A.


April 24, 2018

The third lecture in this series can be found in the subsequent post George Soros Lecture Series: Open Society


Soros: General Theory of Reflexivity

Financial Times has the article Soros: General Theory of Reflexivity. This is a key insight to which I refer occasionally. I have finally decided that it is time to record a link to the explanation here in my blog so that I can find it easily when I want to explain it to others. Here is a small excerpt that captures a hint of what the article explains.

But I had to abandon my reservations and recognize a dichotomy between the natural and social sciences because the social sciences encounter a second difficulty from which the natural sciences are exempt.

And that is that social theories are reflexive. Heisenberg’s discovery of the uncertainty principle did not alter the behavior of quantum particles one iota, but social theories, whether Marxism, market fundamentalism or the theory of reflexivity, can affect the subject matter to which it refers. Scientific method is supposed to be devoted to the pursuit of truth. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle does not interfere with that postulate but the reflexivity of social theories does. Why should social science confine itself to passively studying social phenomena when it can be used to actively change the state of affairs? As I remarked in The Alchemy of Finance, the alchemists made a mistake in trying to change the nature of base metals by incantation. Instead, they should have focused their attention on the financial markets where they could have succeeded.


April 20, 2018

YouTube has the video George Soros Lecture Series: General Theory of Reflexivity.

Open Society Foundations chairman and founder George Soros shares his latest thinking on economics and politics in a five-part lecture series recorded at Central European University, October 26-30, 2009. The lectures are the culmination of a lifetime of practical and philosophical reflection.

Soros discusses his general theory of reflexivity and its application to financial markets, providing insights into the recent financial crisis. The third and fourth lectures examine the concept of open society, which has guided Soros’s global philanthropy, as well as the potential for conflict between capitalism and open society. The closing lecture focuses on the way ahead, examining the increasingly important economic and political role that China will play in the future.


I will look into posting the other parts of this lecture series.


April 23, 2018

I have found the follow-on video George Soros Lecture Series: General Theory of Reflexivity Q&A. It is enlightening, but a little frustrating, because some of the answers are promised for later lecture sessions. I am anxious to get onto those later sessioins, but I couldn’t tear myself immediately away from this video.


April 23, 2018

You will find the second lecture in this series in my subsequent post George Soros Lecture Series: Financial Markets


May 15, 2018

Found this surprising news item on CNN George Soros foundation leaves Hungary amid government crackdown.

A foundation founded by Hungarian-born billionaire philanthropist George Soros is moving its Budapest operations to Germany following the right-wing Hungarian government’s crackdown on civil-society organizations and targeted attacks on Soros.


OAN Investigation Finds No Evidence of Chemical Weapon Attack in Syria

YouTube has the video OAN Investigation Finds No Evidence of Chemical Weapon Attack in Syria.

You can watch the above video, and decide for yourself whether this puts even the slightest doubt in your mind about the story you have been getting from the corporate media. Some of us can admit that we don’t know for absolutely sure what happened, but some people seem to need to think that they do know for sure.

Given how the Russians have reacted, I think that the USA and Russia have agreed to play a game. The Russians know that for political reasons our government has to have a reason to go to war with Syria. As long as we don’t screw up Syria’s war with rebels/terrorists, then the Russians will let us get away with whatever fabrications our political system requires.


April 19, 2018

WikiPedia has an article on One America News Network. This is just to give you some background information for you to decide how much credence you want to give to this report. This network may be better known to many others than it was known to me.


Framing the Progressive Platform

New Economic Perspectives has the article Framing the Progressive Platform. The following phrase is repeated several times:

This monetary system—which has been willfully misunderstood, but operational now for over half a century—pays Americans first, then collects taxes second.

Of course the author is referring to Modern Money Theory (MMT).

I have been a proponent of MMT for quite a while now, but I find it disturbing that most proponents of MMT do not notice (or do not address) the holes in MMT theory that are big enough to drive a truck through.

The main accounting identity that drives MMT is the sector balance. What MMT ignores is that accounting is a static snapshot of accounts, but the real economy is a dynamic system. Even quasi static analyses are inadequate. When a bank gives a borrower money to buy things now, but also enters a debt that must be repaid over the next 30 years, these two things perfectly cancel each other out in a static sense. Dynamically, buying now and paying later has significant economic impact.

Then there is mark-to-market. When we want to calculate our net-worth including our stock holdings, we value each share we own at the price of the last stock market transaction in that stock. For small, individual holders, you can sell out your stock position at very close to the market price snapshot. Large holders of stock, and the economy as a whole cannot liquidate their entire positions at the snapshot market price. We see the falsity every day of mark-to-market. As the market indices rise and fall every day, there are billions, if not trillions, of dollars created or destroyed by the end of every day.

Steve Keen (see the post Oliver Green in conversation with Steve Keen, Contrarian Economist and Author) seems to be one of the few that understands the essential dynamism of the economy that must be included in any model that wants to be accurate over a wide range of conditions.

If you want to sell the public on your model of how money works, you’d better have a darn good model that passes the tests of a few simple observations like the ones I have made above.


Who Checks The Fact Checkers?

Steemit has the article Huge Information Drop on Deep State Propaganda Arm: Fact Checking Outfit Snopes Rolls Out The Atlantic Councils Pro-War Armchair Propagandists To Cover For Mass Media And Government Lies About Latest White Helmets False Flag in Syria

On April 12, 2018 Facebook’s ‘Fact-Checking’ outlet “Snopes”, which has previously been exposed as employing partying drunks and prostitutes (link below), rolled out another publicly presented obfuscation piece on the White Helmets who are terrorists posing as rescuers of small children in Syria.

I have been warned before about Snopes. I have also found an article or two on Snopes that don’t pass the smell test, but I felt that Snopes could be trusted on some things. Now, I am pretty confused.

If nothing else, both sides will successfully destroy each other’s credibility.


IRS Fails To Protect You From Fraud

CBS News has the story New tax scam targeting preparers tricks clients with fraudulent returns.

The criminals get their hands on returns from previous years, then use that information to file new fraudulent returns on unsuspecting victims.
.
.
.
IRS agents showed us where criminals buy those tax returns on the dark web.

It’s too bad that the reporter was not adequately prepared to ask the IRS why they let a copy of your previous filing be enough to file a fraudulent filing for the current year.

When your employer sends you your W-2 form, they send a copy to the IRS too. Your bank, your mortgage lender, your stock broker, and other sources also send duplicate forms to the IRS. This information changes from year to year, so that a previous year’s return will not have this year’s numbers for the con artists to copy.

When the IRS matches the forms it receives with the numbers on your filing, they will see the discrepancies. If the IRS knows about the practice of fraudulent filings, then the IRS should have insisted that the originator of the forms should put a random number on every form. When you enter the random number of each form in your tax filing, and it does not match the IRS’s copy, they should insist on a correction before accepting the form and issuing a refund.

We should all be asking our Senators and Representatives why the IRS does not take simple steps to protect us from fraud. The IRS has, or should have, the computer power to make these safety checks.