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August 14 2013

Half of Egypt's youth are « poor » : CAPMAS

Half of Egypt’s youth are “poor” : CAPMAS’s-youth-are-“poor”-CAPMAS/7725

CAPMAS announced in 2010/2011 that 25.5% of Egypt’s population is poor, whereas the World Bank has an even more shocking statistic, claiming that more than 40% of Egypt’s population lives under the poverty line of $1 a day.


July 08 2013

*Unchangeable educational system in Latvia* Educational system in Latvia in all levels needs huge…

Unchangeable educational system in Latvia
Educational system in Latvia in all levels needs huge changes both to survive and compete with other countries. There are many problems starting from too many universities in such a small country and ending with teachers' salaries. We need changes but till now we have not had any considerable improvement.
Newest discussions refer to teachers's salaries - as crisis in Latvia is perceived to be gone, Latvia's education and science labour union (LIZDA) demands to raise monthly salary. Prime minister promised to solve this question accordingly to budget. But my concern is if prime minister will be strong enough to allow salary raise just to level we really can afford. Because one of the reasons economic crisis hit us so hard was unreasonable salary raise.

Mudina ātrāk palielināt skolotāju algas - Latvijā -

Tiekoties ar premjeru Valdi Dombrovski, LIZDA vadība 5. jūlijā atkal akcentēja šo jautājumu, taču vienošanās par « konkrētiem cipariem un procentiem » nav notikusi.
Pēc tikšanās ar arodbiedrības pārstāvjiem premjers uzsvēra, ka pedagogu algas risināmas kontekstā ar nozarē veicamajām strukturālajām reformām. Vienlaikus esot jādomā par pedagogu darba samaksu, sociālajām garantijām un motivācijas sistēmu. Tikšanās laikā esot panākta vienošanās, ka jautājumus risinās atbilstoši budžeta iespējām, jau sākot ar nākamo gadu. Taču paralēli tam runāts arī par profesionālo izglītību un infrastruktūras attīstību, un šeit studējošo stipendijām. Neesot aizmirsta arī augstākā izglītība un zinātne – konkrētāk, granti un tas, cik lielā mērā nodrošinātas studiju izmaksas minimālās prasības.

#Economy #Latvia #Educational system

February 21 2013

Investigating the growth and influence of professional Makers

The growth of the Maker movement has been nothing if not amazing. We’ve had more than 100,000 people at Maker Faire in San Francisco, and more than 50,000 at the New York event, with mini-Maker Faires in many other cities. Arduino is almost a household word, along with Raspberry Pi. Now that O’Reilly has spun out Maker Media as an independent company, we look forward to the continued success of these events; they’re signs of an important cultural shift, a rejection of a prefabricated, shrink-and bubble-wrap economy that hasn’t served us well. The Make movement has proven that there are many people who want the joy of creating, whether it’s a crystal radio, a custom head for a Pez dispenser, or glowing e coli.

But the Maker movement is not just about hobbyists. We’ve seen a lot in print about the re-shoring of American manufacturing, the return of the manufacturing jobs that had been exported to China and the Far East over the past few decades. One of the questions we’re asking at O’Reilly is what the Maker movement has to do with the return of manufacturing. If the return of manufacturing just means lots of low-level industrial jobs, paying barely more than minimum wage and under near-slavery conditions, that doesn’t sound desirable. That also doesn’t sound possible, at least to me: whatever else one might say about the cost of doing business in the U.S., North America just doesn’t have the sheer concentrations of people needed to make a Foxconn.

Of course, many of the writers who’ve noted the return of manufacturing have also noted that it’s returning in a highly automated way: instead of people running around a warehouse, you’ll have Kiva robots doing the running. Instead of skilled machinists operating milling machines, you’ll have highly automated computer controlled machines with a small number of humans to test the parts and make sure they’re operating properly. This vision is more plausible — even likely — but while it promises continued employment for the engineers who make the robots, it certainly doesn’t solve any problems in the labor market.

But just as small business has long been the cornerstone of the U.S. economy, one wonders whether or not small manufacturing, driven by “professional Makers,” could be the foundation for the resurgence of manufacturing in the U.S. A number of innovations have made this shift conceivable. One of the most important is the ease with which makers can raise money to get a business started. Thanks to Kickstarter, initial funding for a small business is a lot easier than it used to be. Kickstarter isn’t alone; IndieGoGo, Selfstarter, and many others also enable Makers to raise money without running the venture capital gauntlet.

There’s also been an amazing drop in the cost of tooling. Not long ago, 3D printers, laser cutters, and computer-controlled milling machines were tools that enthusiasts could only dream about. Now you can get a 3D printer for a few hundred dollars, and a laser cutter for a couple of thousand. If you don’t want to own your own 3D printer, they’re starting to appear in storefronts and copy shops. Online fabrication services exist for everything from printed circuit boards to DNA. You design what you want online, click a button, and a few weeks later, a batch of PC boards, or 3D printed parts, or plasmids with custom DNA, arrive. This isn’t new, but it’s becoming easier all the time. Autodesk has apps for your iPad that let you design for a 3D printer; you can easily send the design to the copy shop or library for production.

In the 20th-century economy, one barrier to starting a new business was establishing a sales channel. That’s another problem that’s been solved recently. There are new outlets and sales channels that specialize in micro-manufacturing. Etsy is the most well known; Tindie is a newer entry that caters to electronics; and I believe we will see many more online marketplaces specializing in small manufacturers.

There’s more at stake in re-invigorating small manufacturing than just adding to the economy. Several years ago, I was in a meeting with Bunnie Huang, founder of Chumby, where he said that the United States had lost the engineering skills needed to do manufacturing. The engineers needed to do product development, to take a raw design and figure out how to produce it, no longer existed in the U.S., at least in sufficient numbers to support a manufacturing economy. As manufacturing had gone offshore, so had the people who knew how to do it. A product like the iPhone isn’t manufactured in China because it’s cheaper; it’s manufactured in China because that kind of manufacturing just can’t be done in the United States. Part of a reboot of American manufacturing means home-growing the product engineering and development smarts that we’ve lost over the years; and professional Making, Makers turning their ideas and passions into products, is necessary to re-develop the talent and experience that are in short supply.

If you’re a professional maker, we’d like to hear your story. What kind of a business are you running? Do you have, or foresee having, employees? What kind of an impact has your business had on your community? I’ve seen too many small towns going to ruin around an abandoned factory. The people with the skills are still there, but the jobs left years ago. Can the Maker movement make an appreciable change in local economies? And if small numbers of makers can contribute to a local economy, what can the entire movement do for the national economy?

We’re waiting for your answers.

October 08 2012

Four short links: 8 October 2012

  1. Beware the Drones (Washington Times) — the temptation to send difficult to detect, unmanned aircraft into foreign airspace with perceived impunity means policymakers will naturally incline towards aggressive use of drones and hyperactive interventionism, leading us to a future that is ultimately plagued by more, not less warfare and conflict. This. Also, what I haven’t seen commented on with the Israeli air force shooting down a (presumably Hezbollah) drone: low cost of drones vs high cost of maintaining an air force to intercept, means this is asymmetric unmanned warfare.
  2. Scanbooth (github) — a collection of software for running a 3D scanning booth. Greg Borenstein said to me, “we need tools to scan and modify before 3D printing can take off.” (via Jeremy Herrman)
  3. Bitcoin’s Value is Decentralization (Paul Bohm) — Bitcoin isn’t just a currency but an elegant universal solution to the Byzantine Generals’ Problem, one of the core problems of reaching consensus in Distributed Systems. Until recently it was thought to not be practically solvable at all, much less on a global scale. Irrespective of its currency aspects, many experts believe Bitcoin is brilliant in that it technically made possible what was previously thought impossible. (via Mike Loukides)
  4. Blue Collar Coder (Anil Dash) — I am proud of, and impressed by, Craigslist’s ability to serve hundreds of millions of users with a few dozen employees. But I want the next Craigslist to optimize for providing dozens of jobs in each of the towns it serves, and I want educators in those cities to prepare young people to step into those jobs. Time for a Massively Multiplayer Online Economy, as opposed to today’s fun economic games of Shave The Have-Nots and Race To The Oligarchy.

July 08 2011

The Great Reset: Why tomorrow may not be better than today

Growing up in the waning days of the Carter administration, I remember a societal malaise that was pervasive to the point of toxicity. A common sentiment then was that our best days were behind us.

How did we get there? Most fundamentally, a paralyzing period of stagflation meant double-digit interest rates and no economic growth.

However, it was also fed by an energy crisis; the first signs of Islamic fundamentalism's assent; and a lengthy political hangover that followed a scandal in the White House.

But as they say, it's darkest before the dawn, and in a flash, the malaise was gone.

To be sure, the next 30 years brought with it booms, bubbles and bursts, but the general sense, and one's expectation, was for a better tomorrow.

Today, however, I'd argue that our present no longer sits at such a simple, logical place where tomorrow is necessarily better than today.

Simply put, our society is undergoing a "great reset" where for many the future is a very scary place.

Understanding The Great Reset

Systemically speaking, these are confusing times. The recession is technically over, and you can tangibly see that fact from an economic growth perspective.

Yet, two-and-a-half years later, one has to ask, "Where are the jobs, and equally worrying, where are the drivers of job growth?"

Now I don't have to tell you that a jobless recovery is an unacceptable indicator of systemic success when you consider the sheer size of the unemployed, not to mention, the under-employed.

Similarly, is there any question that a certain chunk of society is getting dis-proportionally squeezed by the system on numerous fronts?

Case in point, over the past couple of years I have heard a troubling number of stories from people that I know well. More often than not, these are highly educated, historically successful people that have gone from flush to crushed, simply because their geographic region or industry has lost its footing, or because they've hit a certain age where they are no longer desired as a named employee.

1099 is the new W-2


The uncomfortable truth, in fact, is that everyone is now an entrepreneur, whether they like it or not. 1099 is the new W-2, which says something when you see how even basic services like insurance become exponentially more expensive when written as an individual policy vs. a company policy.

What type of hit does that represent to our national health, both metaphorically speaking and literally, in the pocketbook?

Homeless children: do we really care?

Along these lines, I was drawn to tears watching a recent CBS "60 Minutes" report about the growing ranks of homeless children, and what that life is like for all parties involved.

It is gripping stuff in that it raises tough questions about what kind of society we want to build, and how much we feel pain when others needlessly suffer.

This all seems so abstract until you ponder its effect in broader terms. Case in point, in the book "Outliers" Malcolm Gladwell brilliantly shows how those coming of age during the depression never fully recovered; yet those coming of age in the boom times of a Post-WWII America flourished, making this a generational imperative.

Tough questions, weak answers

This is the Great Reset, and an entire generation's outlook for a better tomorrow lies in the balance with it.

Remember the audacity of hope? It's been replaced with cynical, political pragmatism where big corporations necessarily get stronger on the premise that trickle down and laissez-faire are universal absolute truths.

Equally troubling, there's a sense of there being a protected class — seen in many forms across taxation, lobbying, generally accepted conflicts of interest, and low-touch regulation and enforcement.

Consider that it is no longer assumed to be fundamental that there be basic codicils protecting individuals from intentional harm, predatory behavior and malfeasance (read Matt Taibbi's damning "The People vs. Goldman Sachs" for more fodder on this topic).

Nor do the penalties meet the crime when this class crosses the line. Why not commit the crime if you don't fear doing any time?

As a result, the rest of us are getting the shaft. Health Insurance is more expensive and offensively priced than ever. It feels almost evil that we went through the Obama Care discussion, only to "win" universal coverage that results in insurance providers simply upping their premiums 40% or more, in some cases pushing 2-3 rate increases in a single year!

Want to really mess with people's minds? Threaten the availability of their health care coverage, both for themselves and their families.

On a lighter note, at least we aren't suffering from inflation in this recovery. Yes, I am being ironic.

So what's changed this go around?

I remember when I started my first career in real estate back in 1988, and the savings and loan crisis was in full force (it was a much smaller version of our current banking imbroglio).

Then, three things came about in its aftermath:

  1. Real structural change.
  2. A functioning marketplace for getting rid of non-performing assets.
  3. Readily identifiable perpetrators went to jail.

Not this time. Not only did the perpetrators not go to jail or even lose their jobs, but they got raises and got to keep their bonuses. This, even though the "profits" were disproportionately derived from a guaranteed arbitrage gifted by the U.S. government.

Even worse, most would agree that the reforms to the system were largely cosmetic, with the clean up of toxic assets occurring behind the public curtain with even more financial engineering.

Netting it out, we went through the worst financial crisis since the depression, and the only one who went to jail was Bernie Madoff — the guy who stole from the rich! That should tell you something.

Looked at holistically, it raises some troubling questions:

  • Is "Too Big to Fail" just a black hole that sucks our economy dry? You can certainly see the ripple effect at the level of state and local governments.

  • Does it matter if we have a middle class? Do we really care? Are our national priorities right?

  • What happens to all of the places in America that don't find real industry on the other side of The Great Reset?

  • What if it turns out that the Google Economy is a better destroyer of wealth and jobs than a creator of the same? Apocryphal, sure, but it's a fair question, given the number of industries that have been wiped out over the past decade.

  • Do we miss the video store, record store, book store, consumer electronics, newspaper, yellow pages and whatever intangibles they brought? What do we lose as a society when any brick and mortar business whose product or service can be digitized or improved by logistics (ease and convenience of access), or sold less expensively online simply goes away?

  • Is this the end of serious politics (real solutions, real compromise), and is the wall between government and private industry gone forever? Check out "Inside Job" and "Food, Inc." to see how two different industries have been re-shaped by this dynamic.

  • In the bigger picture, can we "afford" cheap Walmart goods, or does the race to the bottom actually destabilize our way of life by destroying domestic industries and permanently funneling those jobs overseas?

  • Would the Earth stop spinning if the Amazon sales tax exemption was lifted, putting local retail on closer footing with Amazon? Wouldn't this seem to lead to more local sales?

  • What "upside surprises" might occur from a prolonged period of creative destruction in terms of our consumption patterns, happiness index and/or new industry growth?

Some of this raises uncomfortable truths about the values of a society, how that society holds its leaders accountable, whether opportunity is expanding or contracting, and whether the value that our economic base is creating is sustainable or illusory.

Similarly, it begs the question: what is the proper role of government? For example, is it possible that in the same way that the government provided the funding that led to the Internet and, before that, our national highway infrastructure, that our leaders could seed new types of infrastructure investment in transportation, energy, health and education?

A sobering thought. Take a moment and watch this chunk of Eisenhower's farewell speech where he warns about the rise of the military industrial complex, and the threat that it represents to society and our way of life (while acknowledging it's essential inevitable).

Now, replace "military industrial" with "Wall Street" and "mega corporations" and ask yourself if history is repeating. It's kind of disturbing.

Like any diagnosis, the patient (and its guardians) has a say in the treatment. But ignoring the fact that The Great Reset is upon us in the hopes of not upsetting the apple cart of a strong stock market (the Skinner Box of our age) is akin to letting cancer metastasize to avoid the pain that treatment might bring.

Photo: Reset switch by renaissancechambara, on Flickr


April 12 2011

Big data: Global good or zero-sum arms race?

Last month, Netezza CEO Jim Baum gave a talk at the GigaOM big data event. If I'm honest, I was checking my email and missed most of it, but I do remember tuning in just in time to hear him say something like "big data is going to have a huge economic impact."

I spend most of my days considering how the component pieces of this big data transformation will impact the corporate enterprise. Baum's comment got me thinking, though, about a more meta question: Is "big data" a key to some kind of industrial revolution reboot? Or, is it just going to be expensive table stakes for previously simple-to-understand businesses?

For 200-plus years the industrial revolution* has been a kind of Moore's law of human productivity. Over that period our economic output per person has been growing like clockwork, and whatever you think of the various political -isms that sprung from industrialization, this march of productivity has pulled a lot of people out of poverty and is cause for the first sustained increase in wealth across human history.

But like Moore's law in a single core, our industrial revolution in advanced economies is kinda playing out. Our economy has been shifting for some time toward services that are proving to be impervious to order-of-magnitude productivity gains. The thousand-fold increases in productivity we saw on the farm and in the factory just don't seem likely to happen in health care and other service intensive sectors.

Of course our economy continues to grow, but at a rate that is staying just a skosh ahead of population growth. And since the top 1% are taking all of that (and perhaps more), for the first time in American history parents are worrying that their kids won't have opportunities better than their own. Voila! There stems the populist anger that feeds the Tea Party.

That's the U.S.-centric view. Of course on a global basis there is tremendous growth as late-stage industrial revolution innovations are applied with vigor to developing economies. The 8% growth rates many countries are achieving will double their population's wealth every 10 years. But for the U.S., achieving growth requires parallelism. Of course, in this context we call it globalism and it means if we can't be more productive in one place, we have to take advantage of modern communications to do it in a bunch of other cheaper places. The problem is, after a few decades of those 8% overseas growth rates, there will be less comparative advantage for us to take advantage of and if we want continued economic growth, we really will need to find ways to be more productive.

So, that's why Baum's comment stuck in my head.

At the risk of way over generalizing, so far "big data" has mostly been about behavioral analysis to better target ads. Is that what Baum meant? That more effectively matching producer and consumer long tails through precision ad placement is going to fundamentally change the economy? That type of matching can promote economic activity, which is good, but I don't see the link to fundamentally improved productivity. If this kind of innovation pulls another tranche of the bell curve out of poverty it will do it by putting more people to work doing the same stuff, not by making our economy fundamentally more efficient.

When I heard "huge impact on the economy," my first thought was maybe it's just a throw-away comment. Maybe he just meant the economy as seen through the narrow lens of his company revenues. But then I tried to think about this on a deeper level: What's here that I haven't considered? Could he somehow be saying that this is a catalyst for the next big phase of productivity growth in our 200-year-old industrial revolution? Is this the industrial revolution equivalent of nanometer chip design, which starts the next decade of doubling? Is it the thing that gets the middle class growing again and eases all this populist anger?

Yeah, that might sound kind of absurd, but that's how my head works — a daily stream of ADHD-fueled big dreams immediately dashed on the rocks of reality.

(As an aside, half way through writing this I came across a prediction of the "wine and roses" we'll all experience with this "New Information Age." Don't sweat the death of privacy, the surveillance state is highly unlikely.)

So, back to the question: Is big data an economic driver or just a must-have to be in the game?

As early as the 1950s it was obvious that robotic automation was going to fundamentally change manufacturing. As automobiles increasingly were built by robotic labor, the industry saw incredible productivity gains. The hours of human labor per automobile dropped by orders of magnitude over the next 30 years. Naturally, cars didn't just get cheaper, they also got more complex and feature-rich. But anyone could understand the return on capital of installing robotic lines. What's the return on capital look like for a Hadoop cluster?

It's worth noting that robots didn't just increase productivity, they also reshaped labor's relationship with management. If you're labor, competing with a robot sucks. This was presciently described by Norbert Weiner in his classic "The Human Use of Human Beings, Cybernetics and Society." Of course we don't need history's warning to know that big data might have a dark side, too. If you don't see it now, you will when you download a new car stereo software version and it resets all your radio station presets based on Toyota's notion of people like you. Of course, for a car company to be as obnoxious as your software and search bar providers have long been, they have to learn as much about you as those software guys do, and that's weird. We aren't really used to the idea of a manufacturer knowing where we go and who we go there with.

There obviously are places where large-scale data and analysis will improve efficiencies and productivity. Particularly in areas like smart grid, where it will reduce the investment necessary in power plant construction, or financial services, where it promises to help fight fraudulent transactions. What else? Are there big opportunities for order-of-magnitude productivity gains out there that come to mind? Or is most of the value created by this "new information age" going to be in some mushy upper region of Maslow's hierarchy? Some kind of middle class feel-good machine that remains completely irrelevant to the working poor dreaming of their first homes?

Norbert Weiner was concerned that automation-based productivity gains would disrupt the working man and woman's living. He held that concern in the face of the obvious and compelling productivity gains that were sure to flow through to GDP as wealth.

As we enter the big data era of the information age and give up what's left of our privacy, I'd like to think that it will be for more than a zero-sum game of musical chairs to decide the next winners.

* For the purposes of this post, I'm treating the industrial age and the information age as two parts of one continuum.

May 23 2010

"Social Theory and the Empirical Social World"

Daniel Little looks at the role of theory in the social sciences:

Social theory and the empirical social world, by Daniel Little: How can general, high-level social theory help us to better understand particular historically situated social realities? Is it helpful or insightful to "bring Weber's theory of religion to bear on Islam in Java" or to "apply Marx's theory of capitalism to the U.S. factory system in the 1950s"? Is there any real knowledge to be gained by applying theory to a set of empirical circumstances?
In the natural sciences this intellectual method is certainly a valid and insightful one. We gain knowledge when we apply the theory of fluid dynamics to the situation of air flowing across a wing, or when we apply the principles of evolutionary theory to the problem of understanding butterfly coloration. But do we have the same possibility in the case of the social world?
My general inclination is to think that "applying" general social theories to specific social circumstances is not a valid way of creating new knowledge or understanding. This is because I believe that social ensembles reflect an enormous degree of plasticity and contingency; so general theories only "fit" them in the most impressionistic and non-explanatory way. We may have a pure structural theory of feudalism; but it is only the beginning of a genuinely knowledge-producing analysis of fourteenth-century French politics and economy or the Japanese samurai polity. At best the theory highlights certain issues as being salient -- the conditions of bonded labor, the nature of military dependency between lord and vassal. But the theory of feudalism does not permit us to "derive" particular features or institutions of French or Japanese society. "Feudalism" is an ideal type, a heuristic beginning for social analysis, rather than a general deductive and comprehensive theory of all feudal societies. And we certainly shouldn't expect that a general social theory will provide the template for understanding all of the empirical characteristics of a given instance of that theorized object.
Why is there this strong distinction between physical theory and social theory? Fundamentally, because natural phenomena really are governed by laws of nature, and natural systems are often simple enough that we can aggregate the effects of the relevant component processes into a composite description of the whole. (There are, of course, complex physical systems with non-linear composite processes that cannot be deductively represented.) So theories can be applied to complicated natural systems with real intellectual gain. The theory helps us to predict and explain the behavior of the natural system.
The social world lacks both properties. Component social mechanisms and processes are only loosely similar to each other in different instances; for example, "fealty" works somewhat differently in France, England, and Japan. And there is a very extensive degree of contingency in the ways that processes, mechanisms, agents, and current circumstances interact to produce social outcomes. So there is a great degree of path dependency and variation in social outcomes, even in cases where there are significant similarities in the starting points. So feudalism, capitalism, financial institutions, religions, ethnic conflicts, and revolutions can only be loosely theorized.
That is my starting point. But some social theorists take a radically different approach. A good example of a bad intellectual practice here is the work of Hindess and Hirst in Pre-Capitalist Modes Of Production, in which they attempt to deduce the characteristics of the concrete historical given from its place within the system of concepts involved in the theory of the mode of production.
Is this a legitimate and knowledge-enhancing effort? I don't think that it is. We really don't gain any real insight into this manor, or the Burgundian manor, or European feudalism, by mechanically subsuming it under a powerful and general theory -- whether Marx's, Weber's or Pareto's.
It should be said here that it isn't the categories or hypotheses themselves that are at fault. In fact, I think Marx's analysis and categories are genuinely helpful as we attempt to arrive at a sociology of the factory, and Durkheim's concept of anomie is helpful when we consider various features of modern communities. It is the effort at derivation and subsumption that I find misguided. The reality is larger and more varied than the theory, with greater contingency and surprise.
It is worthwhile looking closely at gifted social scientists who proceed differently. One of these is Michael Burawoy, a prolific and influential sociologist of the American labor process. His book, Manufacturing Consent: Changes in the Labor Process Under Monopoly Capitalism, is a detailed study of the American factory through the lens of his micro-study of a single small machine shop in the 1940s and 1970s, the Allied/Geer factory. Burawoy proceeds very self-consciously and deliberately within the framework of Marx's theory of the capitalist labor process. He lays out the fundamental assumptions of Marx's theory of the labor process -- wage labor, surplus labor, capitalist power relations within the factory -- and he then uses these categories to analyze, investigate, and explain the Allied/Geer phenomena. But he simultaneously examines the actual institutions, practices, and behaviors of this machine shop in great participant-observer detail. He is led to pose specific questions by the Marxist theory of the labor process that he brings with him -- most importantly, what accounts for the "consent" that he observes in the Allied workers? -- but he doesn't bring a prefabricated answer to the question. His interest in control of surplus labor and coercion and consent within the workforce is stimulated by his antecedent Marxist theory; but he is fully prepared to find novelty and surprise as he investigates these issues. His sociological imagination is not a blank slate -- he brings a schematic understanding of some of the main parameters that he expects to arise in the context of the capitalist labor process. But his research assumptions are open to new discovery and surprising inconsistencies between antecedent theory and observed behavior.
And in fact, the parts of Burawoy's book that I find most convincing are the many places where he allows his sociological imagination and his eye for empirical detail to break through the mechanism of the theory. His case study is an interesting and insightful one. And it is strengthened by the fact that Burawoy does not attempt to simply subsume or recast the findings within the theoretical structure of Marx's economics.
(Burawoy addresses some of these issues directly in an important article, "Two Methods in Search of Science" (link). He advocates for treating Marxist ideas as a research program for the social sciences in the sense articulated by Imre Lakatos. )
So my advice goes along these lines: allow Marxism, or Weber or Durkheim or Tilly, to function as a suggestive program of research for empirical investigation. Let it be a source of hypotheses, hunches, and avenues of inquiry. But be prepared as well for the discovery of surprising outcomes, and don't look at the theory as a prescription for the unfolding of the social reality. Most importantly, don't look to theory as a deductive basis for explaining and predicting social phenomena. (Here is an article on the role of Marxism as a method of research rather than a comprehensive theory; link.)
Reposted from02myEcon-01 02myEcon-01

April 30 2010

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Hezbollah and the modern history of Lebanon
Traboulsi: Wealthy elites directly control government, indebted the state to their own banks
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April 19 2010

Chosen links - 20100419

Chosen tag & links on/via oanth - 20100419
>> tag_itec | >> PICOL

X========== posted the day(s) before ==========X

>> tag_srcript
>> rp10 | >> dctp_tv
oanth - CEST 01:30 20100420 -

April 16 2010

Chosen links - oanth - 20100416

Pointer - Wegweiser
Chosen links on/via oanth - 20100416

    concerning tags / Schlagwörter:

    just to inform you - there seems to be a bug for tag-signification inside the text space: it happend several times that it added automatically in the hyperlink-urls the path of the whole pointer/Wegweiser posting and the linked url was transformed to a ../tag/... path - up to now I have no idea, what precisely may have caused this; the only thing what stopped it was that I deleted the tags from the html text field and stayed inside the provided tag line. - oanth 20100418

    oanth - CEST 01:30 20100417 -

    April 15 2010

    Die Bertelsmann Stiftung und die Ökonomisierung der Politik - TP 20091010 - Frank Böckelmann

    [...] Was sich heute in den Staaten mit repräsentativem Regierungssystem auf beiden Seiten des Nordatlantiks vollzieht, ist die Privatisierung, genauer, die Ökonomisierung der Politik. Sie hat zwei Dimensionen: zum einen die Ablösung kollektiver und territorial gebundener Identitäten durch austauschbare Standorte, zum anderen die Neutralisierung demokratischer Verfahrensweisen und staatlicher Institutionen durch Absprachen in elitären Netzwerken. Politisches Handeln und Staatstätigkeit rechtfertigen sich in letzter Instanz als Garanten überlegener wirtschaftlicher Ratio. [...]
    Reposted bykrekkkellerabteil

    April 07 2010

    Entlassungsrisiko: Heuern und Feuern in der Zeitarbeits-Branche - Wirtschaftspolitik - Wirtschaft - 20100407 - Sven Astheimer - FAZ.NET

    [...] Monatlich verlieren im Durchschnitt rund 6 Prozent aller Leiharbeitnehmer ihren Arbeitsplatz, [...] Die Wahrscheinlichkeit eines Arbeitsplatzverlustes liegt in allen Wirtschaftszweigen in Ostdeutschland höher als im Westen. Dies geht aus einer Studie des Deutschen Gewerkschaftsbundes (DGB) hervor, welche dieser Zeitung vorliegt. Dafür wurden die Zugangszahlen der Bundesagentur für Arbeit von Oktober 2008 bis September 2009 ausgewertet. Während dieses Zeitraums verloren nach DGB-Angaben rund 430.000 Leiharbeiter ihre sozialversicherungspflichtige Beschäftigung. [...] Selbst in den Aufschwungjahren 2007 und 2008 seien rund 300.000 Betroffene erwerbslos geworden. Zu den Neueinstellungen wurden keine Angaben gemacht. „Dies zeigt, dass sich die Verleihbranche immer noch durch eine Politik des Heuerns und Feuerns auszeichnet und personalpolitische Risiken auf Beitragszahler und Steuerzahler abgewälzt werden“, heißt es in dem Papier. [...]
    Reposted bykellerabteilkrekksantaprecaria

    March 31 2010

    Why Germany cannot be a model for the eurozone - 20100330 by

    [...] [T]he prospect for the “improved economic co-ordination” mentioned in the Council statement is nil. Worse, Germany does wish to see a sharp move by its partners towards smaller fiscal deficits. The eurozone, the world’s second largest economy, would then be on its way to being a big Germany, with chronically weak internal demand. Germany and other similar economies might find a way out through increased exports to emerging countries. For its structurally weaker partners – especially those burdened by uncompetitive costs – the result would be years of stagnation, at best. Is this to be the vaunted “stability”? [...] [T]he eurozone will not work as Germany wishes. As I have argued previously, the eurozone can become Germanic only by exporting huge excess supply or pushing large parts of the eurozone economy into prolonged slump, or, more likely, both. Germany could be Germany because others were not. If the eurozone itself became Germany, I cannot see how it would work. [...]
    Reposted by02myEcon-01 02myEcon-01

    March 30 2010

    Robert Reich: Don't Wait for Reform
    There's already a law on the books that holds Wall Street CEOs and executives to account -- now it needs to be enforced.


    Banks fear genuine financial reform would cost them a bundle....


    So even as Wall Street sheds crocodile tears about the terrible things it's done, it is throwing money at Capitol Hill to thwart reforms that would prevent it from continuing to do terrible things. The political payoffs seem to be working. Proposed legislation from Treasury and the House (at this writing, the Senate Banking Committee hasn't reported out) has loopholes big enough to allow bankers to drive their Ferraris through them. Specifically, they permit secret derivative trading in foreign-exchange swaps (similar to what Goldman used to help Greece hide its debt) and in transactions between big banks and many of their corporate clients (as with AIG). Before you wallow in hopeless cynicism, though, it's worth noting that we already have a law against this. It's called the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002. It just needs to be enforced..."


    (Summarized on 20100329 | likewise on )



    Think back to the corporate looting scandals that came to light almost a decade ago when the balance sheets of Enron, WorldCom, and others were shown to be fake, causing their investors to lose their shirts. Nearly every major investment bank played a part in the fraud -- not only advising the companies but also urging investors to buy their stocks when the banks' own analysts privately described them as junk.

    Sarbox, as it's come to be known, was designed to stop this. It requires CEOs and other senior executives to take personal responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of their companies' financial reports and to set up internal controls to assure the accuracy and completeness of the reports. If they don't, they're subject to fines and criminal penalties.

    — read the complete article on | 20103029

    March 29 2010


    Die Zinsfalle schnappt zu

    Um der Finanzkrise und Wirtschaftsflaute Herr zu werden, haben Notenbanken und Regierungen massig Geld in die Hand genommen. Dafür mussten sie sich enorm verschulden. Die Schuldenlast ist jetzt schon so groß, dass es kein Zurück mehr gibt: Die Staaten werden daran zerbrechen. Eberhardt Unger vom Analysehaus Fairesearch sieht schwarz, wenn er die neuen Prognosen für das amerikanische Budgetdefizit verfolgt. Wie die unabhängige Haushaltsbehörde Congressional Budget Office (CBO) errechnete, werden die neuen jetzt von Präsident Barack Obama vorgelegten Ausgabenprogramme und Steuererleichterungen das Defizit massiv ausweiten. Demnach dürften die auflaufenden Staatsschulden während der nächsten zehn Jahre noch einmal 9,8 Billionen Dollar über dem bisher geschätzten Defizit liegen. Derzeit richten sich die Augen der Weltöffentlichkeit lieber nach Griechenland. Unter großem Bohei werden die Griechen aufgefordert, ihren Staatshaushalt in Ordnung zu bringen. Doch in dem ganzen Aufruhr geht unter, dass die USA viel schlimmer da stehen. Das Defizit in den USA im Monat Februar lag bei 220 Milliarden Dollar. Das war das höchste Monatsdefizit in der Geschichte der Vereinigten Staaten. Das ganze Ausmaß der Dramatik wird deutlich, wenn man die Zinslast betrachtet, die da auf die USA zukommt und die Jahr für Jahr schwerer wird. 2010 dürften die Zinsen etwa 1,4 Prozent der Wirtschaftsleistung auffressen. Schon im Jahr 2020 dürfte laut CBO-Berechnungen der Anteil der Zinsen 4,1 Prozent des Bruttoinlandsprodukt (BIP) ausmachen, erläutert Unger. Bis 2040 dürften die Sollzinsen dann so weit gestiegen sein, dass sie 25 Prozent des BIP verschlingen, wie Berechnungen der Bank für Internationalen Zahlungsausgleich (BIZ) ergaben. Zur besseren Einordnung: Derzeit werden als Messlatte für eine stabilitätsorientierte Budgetpolitik in Europa nicht etwa die Sollzinsen herangezogen, sondern das Haushaltsdefizit in Prozent des BIP. Als Obergrenze hat Maastricht für die Euroländer eine jährliche Neuverschuldung von maximal 3 Prozent des BIP festgelegt. Mit 12,7 Prozent des Bruttoinlandsprodukts lag die Neuverschuldung Griechenlands 2009 viermal so hoch wie die erlaubten 3 Prozent. Doch hier ist nur von den Zinsen für die Staatsschulden die Rede, die bereits heute die Handlungsfähigkeit der Staaten massiv einschränken. Die Zinslast dürfte in Griechenland übrigens in 30 Jahren genauso hoch sein wie in den USA. Laut den BIZ-Berechnungen werden die Zinsen 25 Prozent des BIP vertilgen. Deutschland steht auch nicht wirklich besser da: 2040 wird die Schuldenlast 15 Prozent der jährlichen Wirtschaftsleistung verbrauchen. Und in Großbritannien werden sogar 30 Prozent des BIP für Zinsen draufgehen. Die Realität könnte noch schlimmer aussehen, da in Schätzungen nicht berücksichtigt ist, dass die Budgets durch die rückläufige Bevölkerung und Überalterung zusätzlich belastet werden. Laut Unger sind soziale Unruhen so gut wie sicher. "Die USA tragen ebenso wie viele andere Industrienationen in ihrer absurd hohen Staatsverschuldung den Keim zum Untergang ihrer Gesellschaftsordnung", so sein beängstigendes Fazit.
    Reposted fromFreeminder23 Freeminder23

    March 27 2010


    If all goes well in China and India in the next generation—and if nothing goes catastrophically wrong in the rich post-industrial North Atlantic core of the global economy—then the next generation will see a real milestone. For the first time ever more than half of the world will have enough food not to be hungry and worry about famine, enough shelter not to be wet and worried about trenchfoot, enough clothing not to be cold and worried about hypothermia, and enough medical care not to be worried that they and the majority of their children will die of microparisites well short of their biblical three-score-and-ten years. The big problems of the bulk of humanity will then be those of finding enough conceptual puzzles and diversions in their work and play lives so as not to be bored, enough relative status not to be green with envy of their fellows—and, of course, avoiding and quickly disposing of the thugs who used to have spears and will have cruise missiles and H-bombs who have functioned as macroparasites infecting humanity ever since the first farmers realized that now that they had crops running away into the forest was no longer an option.

    How did this miracle come about?

    — complete blog entry The Long View... by J. Bradford DeLong on | likewise on

    March 25 2010

    Ein entscheidender Geburtsfehler des Euro ist sein Staatsschuldenbias. Von Anfang an wurde dem Problem der Staatsschulden wesentlich mehr Aufmerksamkeit gewidmet als dem weit wichtigeren Problem der Zahlungsbilanz- und Wettbewerbsfähigkeitsungleichgewichte. Seinen Niederschlag fand diese Einäugigkeit in den öffentlichen Defizit- und Schuldenstandsobergrenzen, die im Maastricht-Vertrag festgesetzt wurden, während Fragen der Auslandsverschuldung völlig außen vor blieben.

    [...] …, das nun von der Mehrheit der Eurozone angeordnete Sparen des griechischen Fiskus wird nicht wie erhofft zu einem ausgeglicheneren Staatshaushalt führen. Vielmehr werden die griechischen Sparanstrengungen genau wie in Irland oder dem Baltikum die Rezession verschärfen und dadurch die öffentlichen Kassen weiter leeren, so dass der angebliche Grund für das Misstrauen der Finanzmärkte auf diesem Wege keineswegs beseitigt wird.

    Ein pragmatischer und gangbarer Weg wäre es, dass die Südeuropäer einschließlich Frankreichs eine eigene Währungsunion mit einem „Süd-Euro“ gründen. Würde der Süd-Euro gleich zu Beginn gegenüber dem verbleibenden „Nord-Euro“ kräftig abgewertet, also etwa um 30 oder besser 40%, wäre die Wettbewerbsfähigkeitslücke mit einem Schlag mehr als ausgeglichen.

    Quelle: FTD [PDF - 126 KB]

    - 20100325 - Flassbeck/Spiecker: Lohnpolitische Konvergenz und Solidarität oder offener Bruch

    Reposted from02myEcon-01 02myEcon-01
    Christine Lagarde: her comments break a longstanding taboo between the French and German governments about macroeconomic imbalances inside the eurozone Germany’s trade surpluses built on holding down labour costs may be unsustainable for the other countries in the eurozone, France’s finance minister said in an unusually blunt warning to Berlin.
    "Lagarde criticises Berlin policy" By Ben Hall in Paris on 20100314
    Reposted from02myEcon-01 02myEcon-01


    Il est amusant et instructif de voir la ministre (UMP) de l’économie, Christine Lagarde, reprendre à son compte, dans l’interview qu’elle a donnée au Financial Times, lundi de la semaine dernière, une analyse qui est développée depuis 2007 par l’OFCE (politiquement situé à gauche). Selon cette analyse, c’est au détriment de ses partenaires européens que l’Allemagne a pu rétablir sa position de deuxième exportateur mondial (derrière la Chine). En pesant sur les salaires de ses travailleurs, en faisant subir une sévère cure d’amaigrissement à son Etat-providence (sous Schröder), en abaissant l’impôt sur les sociétés, en délocalisant une partie de sa production en Europe centrale, l’Allemagne se serait comportée en “mauvaise joueuse”. D’autant que la réduction de voilure de son Etat-providence aurait poussé les Allemands à épargner davantage et donc à consommer toujours moins. Xavier Timbeau (OFCE) n’hésitait pas à comparer cette stratégie d’étouffement de la demande intérieure et de “compétitivité par les coûts” à une forme de “désinflation compétitive”. Et il mettait en garde contre un “jeu non coopératif”, dans lequel d’autres Etats européens pouvaient avoir la tentation de s’engager à leur tour.

    Mais c’est précisément ce que rétorquent les Allemands. Plutôt que de reprocher à notre économie d’être vertueuse et compétitive, faites-en donc autant avec les vôtres, sinon l’Europe sera balayée ! Ainsi, le Commissaire européen Günther Öttinger : “En Europe, il faut plus de réformes telles que celles que nous avons mises en oeuvre.” L’Allemagne, mise au défi par les nouveaux exportateurs chinois et centre-européens a “fait ses devoirs”, (Klaus Schrader de l’Institut pour l’Economie mondiale de Kiel), réformé et musclé son appareil de production. Elle s’appuie sur son réseau de PME familiales à la longue expérience des marchés extérieurs - le Mittelstand. Les autres n’ont qu’à en faire autant, au lieu de se plaindre que nous, Allemands, serions devenus hyper-compétitifs. Face aux demandes françaises de baisse des taxes, afin de booster la consommation intérieure allemande, et de réduire l’excédent commercial avec la France (30, 3 milliards d’euros en 2008), Angela Merkel rétorque : “Nous n’allons pas renoncer à nos atouts dans les secteurs où nous sommes forts. L’Allemagne continuera à améliorer sa compétitivité.” Et Christoph Steegmans, Porte-parole du gouvernement allemand : “Il n’est pas possible de dire aux compagnies exportatrices de produire des biens moins attractifs…”

    En outre, ajoutent les Allemands, c’est l’existence de la monnaie unique qui a permis aux pays du “Club Med” de continuer à consommer à crédit : dans les pays comme la France, c’est, en dernière analyse, l’Etat qui s’endette pour booster la consommation des ménages. ...

    — lisez l'article complet France, Allemagne : qui est le mauvais joueur? | sur Le blog de Brice Couturier - 20100323
    Reposted from02myEcon-01 02myEcon-01
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