Category Archives: economics

Brexit: Britannia’s Stumble

economics, politics Leave a reply

“Left out in the cold, cobbling our own shoes” or something like that. I don’t remember the exact phrase, but my father’s words to me leading up to the vote on the Maastricht Treaty left an impression on my 14yo self that has not left me, not for one second, even though it was over 20 years ago.

As someone who grew up in the growth and development of the EEC, then the EC, then the EU, it’s been as much a part of my life as anything else in Ireland. Without the EU, it’s clear to me, Ireland would have been locked out, looking in at the well-to-do folk, over near-impassable trade barriers that would have left us in the continual state of poverty that Ireland was ever so slowly dragging itself out of in the 1980s and 1990s.

And the UK just voted for that outcome? In the immortal words of Miley: “Well, holy god……”

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Overtime, Wages and Theft

civil rights, crapitalism, economics, ethics, law Leave a reply

I know a number of people here in Vancouver working in restaurants and bars, and the prevalence of unlawful behaviour is just astounding. Of course, I don’t mean the staff stealing from employers, but employers just stealing wholesale from the staff.

While BC has some fairly mediocre labour laws, it has labour laws that employers are obligated to abide by. Unfortunately, as the laws are civil in nature (rather than criminal), the enforcement of these laws falls on the shoulders of the employees: if the staff don’t report the breach to the Employment Standards Branch, then the company happily trundles on, stealing from the employees.

This isn’t theft, you say? Since the staff have implicitly agreed to this state of affairs, it’s no-one else’s business to intervene? I’m sure that it’s possible that you could be more wrong about this, but it’s not obvious how. Allow me to explain.

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Unpaid Internships Need to Go

civil rights, economics, ethics, liberalism, philosophy, politics Leave a reply

As the job market becomes more and more competitive (i.e. there are more and more people in the world), people in the recruiting world seek quick and easy ways to distinguish candidates from one another. If you’ve got a stack of 500 resumes in front of you, and the bulk are simply people who have graduated from University, how do you even begin to create a short-list? You can’t (legally) discriminate on the basis of the candidates age, ethnicity, gender, or religion, so… what now?

As a candidate for a position, you want to present the best possible picture to a prospective employer. Getting a job while at school, however, isn’t really an option: the kinds of jobs that will allow part-time work that doesn’t interfere with your classes during the day are not really all that useful when applying for the kind of work that a university graduate has the education for.

The solution to both problems is: internships. And this is deeply problematic.

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Jon Stewart, Healthcare.gov, and Ignorance

culture, economics, health Leave a reply

I want to talk about ignorance. I mean, I often talk about ignorance, but this post will be about addressing Jon Stewart’s ignorance, regarding Information Technology (IT), specifically as it applies to the healthcare.gov website. I understand that Stewart’s main goal is to ‘be funny’, and to poke fun at the politics and policies of the US government. I get that. But it would also seem that he sees his mandate as poking fun in an informed manner, given his endless barbs and jibes for those politicians and public figures who say all manner of ignorant things. And with regards to healthcare.gov, his attacks on the US administration are embarrassingly uninformed.

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Equality of Outcome

civil rights, crapitalism, culture, economics, ethics Leave a reply

One of the tensions in the economic arguments about the world is whether we should focus on equality of outcome, or equality of opportunity.  The short version of each reads as follows:

Equality of Outcome:

It describes a state in which people have approximately the same material wealth or in which the general economic conditions of their lives are similar. Achieving equal results generally entails reducing or eliminating material inequalities between individuals or households in a society, and usually involves a transfer of income or wealth from wealthier to poorer individuals, or adopting other measures to promote equality of condition. [From the wiki]

Equality of Opportunity:

The aim according to this often complex and contested concept[2] is that important jobs should go to those “most qualified” – persons most likely to perform ably in a given task – and not go to persons for arbitrary or irrelevant reasons, such as circumstances of birth, upbringing, friendship ties to whoever is in power,[3] religion, sex,[4] ethnicity,[4] race, caste,[5] or involuntary personal attributes such as disability, age, or sexual orientation.[5][6] Chances for advancement should be open to everybody interested[7] such that they have “an equal chance to compete within the framework of goals and the structure of rules established.  [From the wiki]

The claim that they are in tension is almost uniformly submitted by people who self-identify as Conservatives (in the American political sense), and that we should favour Equality of Opportunity over Equality of Outcome because the latter is Communism and therefore bad.

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Giving Back

crapitalism, economics, Libertarianism, philosophy Leave a reply

Sometimes you read something so poorly written that it leaves you wondering ‘how the hell did this get published?’ But then you notice that it was in a business magazine, and all is explained.

A recent example of this kind of drivel is “Give Back? Yes, It’s Time For The 99% To Give Back To The 1%“, by the self-proclaimed philosopher Harry Binswanger, at forbes.com, where he writes under the sub-heading of “I defend laissez-faire capitalism, using Ayn Rand’s Objectivism.” This appears to be the standard the Forbes holds itself down to: defending the indefensible, using a wholly inadequate tool.

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Translink: ‘screwing the poor is our business model going forward’

civil rights, crapitalism, culture, economics 4 Replies

Here in Vancouver, we’re serviced by a combination of light rail and buses. Both of which are fairly regular, and cheap. I’ve lived in a couple of different countries, visited many cities, and I have to say that the transit system here is easily one of the best in the world. (Do I need the standard caveat of “of course, there’s room for improvement”? I’m assuming I don’t)

The company that runs the show, Translink, is bringing in a new RFID card called the Compass Card. I have to admit, I’ve been looking forward to this as it’s a standard of convenience that I got somewhat used to in Japan. To some extent, this should speed up boarding on buses (fewer people using paper tickets means less waiting for cards to feed, and less mis-feeds or dodgy tickets). It’ll have about zero effect on the skytrain, however. So really, the benefit is minimal.

On the other hand, this card is really about screwing the economically disadvantaged.

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Taxes ARE Theft (but so what?)

crapitalism, economics, philosophy 69 Replies

One of the oft-made claims by self-styled Libertarians is that ‘taxes are theft’ (and are therefore ‘bad’). This kind of assertion underpins most of the Libertarian position, and also the bulk of any anti-tax/pro-small-government arguments by folks of any political stripe. Unfortunately, it’s rare to hear this position defended as the self-styled Libertarians don’t seem all that well-read with regards to their own literature.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Ayn Rand was gaining prominence, but there were no Philosophers backing her corner, partially because she spouted utter drivel and partially because to side with Rand was engage in self-loathing (Rand was notoriously anti-Philosophy/ers).

Enter Robert Nozick, with his tome “Anarchy, State and Utopia”. Nozick is well-regarded in Philosophy for articulating what was inarticulate, and defending the generally indefensible. Nozick sketched out the Libertarian claims, largely as a response to John Rawls’s defense of Social Justice, and, well… His arguments are not obviously terrible (as much as we may disagree with them). His arguments are certainly compelling, if you have a tendency to ignore all counter-arguments to your position. But hey, that’s the human condition, right?

So let’s dive in. And hold your nose (and your breath), because Nozick doesn’t make the argument that ‘taxes are theft’. Nope: “Taxation of earnings from labor is on par with forced labor.” Yeah, he went there.

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