183 research outputs found

    Economic Growth as a Power Process -- Video

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    Is economic growth a miracle of the free market? According to mainstream theory, growth is best ensured through conditions of ‘perfect competition’. However, economic growth is tightly correlated with the concentration of power in the hands of large corporations. Why? The capital as power framework provides potential answers that turn mainstream theory on its head: growth seems to be intimately related to the formation of hierarchy. *** Blair Fix is a PhD student at the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University ([email protected]) This presentation is the second in the Second Speaker Series on the Capitalist Mode of Power, organized by capitalaspower.com and sponsored by the York Department of Political Science and the Graduate Programme in Social and Political Thought. Refreshments will be served and all are welcome. WHEN: Tuesday, October 27, 2015, 3:00-5:00 pm WHERE: Verney Room, 674 South Ross, Keele Campus of York Universit

    The Voldemort Index

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    distribution command power property resources sabotageFor centuries, philosophers have sought to understand concepts such as ‘equity’, ‘fairness’, and ‘justice’. The result has been widespread confusion. Fortunately, Lord Voldemort has rescued us from this moral daze by uncovering the truth. There is only one ethic — the pursuit of power. This is the ‘Voldemort principle’. Although it seems hard to believe (for the modern reader), the rulers of old spoke openly of following the Voldemort principle. For instance, the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser bragged of imposing a ‘heavy yoke of empire’ onto his enemies. Sadly, in the centuries that followed, tyrants grew more timid. During the Middle Ages, the masses began to demand ‘rights’ and sought to ‘limit’ the power of elites. Rulers responded by concealing talk of power inside a code called ‘Latin’. It’s a trick that the privileged have used ever since. Today, elites prefer to speak in a code called ‘economics’. Although it has the appearance of English, ‘economics’ redefines key words to aid the accumulation of power. Specifically, the word ‘power’ is coded into the word ‘free’. Thus, when economists speak of a ‘free market’, they mean a place where the rich get what they want. Regrettably, after articulating this utopia, economists tend to get lost within it. They forget that the real world can be quite different from the one they envision. The purpose of this essay is to explore the real world — to see how close it comes to the Voldemort principle. The key question is this: to what degree do the rich get their way? To answer this question, I construct a metric that I call the ‘Voldemort index’. The index measures the degree to which income buys access to resources. When we apply this index to the real world, the results are alarming. Far from getting their way, it seems that the rich are increasingly left wanting. Although the evidence that follows is disturbing, it should not be ignored. For it is only by understanding the world that we can once again rule it

    Economic Development and the Death of the Free Market

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    culture development energy free market hierarchy multilevel selection power socialityFree markets are, according to neoclassical economic theory, the most efficient way of organizing human activity. The claim is that individuals can benefit society by acting only in their self interest. In contrast, the evolutionary theory of multilevel selection proposes that groups must suppress the self interest of individuals. They often do so, the evidence suggests, by using hierarchical organization. To test these conflicting theories, I investigate how the ‘degree of hierarchy’ in societies changes with industrial development. I find that as energy use increases, governments tend to get larger and the relative number of managers tends to grow. Using a numerical model, I infer from this evidence that societies tend to become more hierarchical as energy use grows. This result is inconsistent with the neoclassical theory that individual self-interest is what benefits society. But it is consistent with the theory of multilevel selection, in which groups suppress the self-interest of their members

    The Truth About Inflation

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    inflation disaggregation distribution monetarismMilton Friedman has been dead for more than a decade, but his ghost still haunts us. In the 1960s, Friedman declared that inflation is ‘always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon’ — a problem of printing too much money. Since then, whenever inflation rears its head, you can count on someone to reanimate Friedman’s ghost and blame the government for spending too much. If only inflation were so simple. Like much of economic theory, Friedman’s thinking appears plausible on first glance. Inflation is a general rise in prices. And since prices are nothing but the exchange of money, more circulating money means prices must increase. Hence, inflation is ‘always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon’. Unfortunately, this thinking falls apart on further inspection. The problem is that it treats inflation as a uniform rise in prices. That’s theoretically convenient, but empirically false. In the real world, inflation is wildly divergent. At the same time that the price of apples rises by 5%, the price of cars could grow by 50%, and the price of clothing might fall by 20%. To understand inflation as it actually exists, we must look not to economics textbooks, but to real-world data. That’s what political economist Jonathan Nitzan did during his PhD research in the early 1990s. His work culminated in a dissertation called Inflation As Restructuring. In the real world, Nitzan observed, price change is always ‘differential’, meaning there are winners and losers. The consequence is that inflation is not purely a ‘monetary phenomenon’, as Milton Friedman claimed. Inflation restructures the social order. It is this real-world feature of inflation that is most important, because it means that inflation signals a change in society’s power structure. Predictably, it is this real-world feature that mainstream economists ignore — largely because it conflicts with their tidy theory of inflation as a ‘monetary phenomenon’. Fortunately, the evidence is clear. Inflation is (and has always been) overwhelmingly differential. Inflation is restructuring. Today, as inflation fears return and Friedman’s ghost is resurrected, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the real-world facts

    How the Rich are Different: Hierarchical Power as the Basis of Income Size and Class

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    capital as power class functional income distribution hierarchy inequality personal income distribution powerThis paper investigates a new approach to understanding personal and functional income distribution. I propose that hierarchical power—the command of subordinates in a hierarchy—is what distinguishes the rich from the poor and capitalists from workers. Specifically, I hypothesize that individual income increases with hierarchical power, as does the share of individual income earned from capitalist sources. I test this idea using evidence from US CEOs, as well as a numerical model that extrapolates the CEO data. The results indicate that income tends to increase with hierarchical power, as does the capitalist composition of income. This suggests that hierarchical power may be a determinant of both personal and functional income

    Energy and Institution Size

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    complexity energy human biology institutions hierarchy technologyWhy do institutions grow? Despite nearly a century of scientific effort, there remains little consensus on this topic. This paper offers a new approach that focuses on energy consumption. A systematic relation exists between institution size and energy consumption per capita: as energy consumption increases, institutions become larger. I hypothesize that this relation results from the interplay between technological scale and human biological limitations. I also show how a simple stochastic model can be used to link energy consumption with firm dynamics

    How the Rich are Different: Hierarchical Power as the Basis of Income Size and Class (Revised)

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    capital as power class functional income distribution hierarchy inequality personal income distribution powerThis paper investigates a new approach to understanding personal and functional income distribution. I propose that hierarchical power — the command of subordinates in a hierarchy — is what distinguishes the rich from the poor and capitalists from workers. Specifically, I hypothesize that individual income increases with hierarchical power, as does the share of individual income earned from capitalist sources. I test this idea using evidence from US CEOs, as well as a numerical model that extrapolates the CEO data. The results indicate that income tends to increase with hierarchical power, as does the capitalist composition of income. This suggests that hierarchical power may be a determinant of both personal and functional income

    Energy, Hierarchy and the Origin of Inequality

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    coercion function energy institution size hierarchy numerical model origin of inequalityWhere should we look to understand the origin of inequality? Most research focuses on three windows of evidence: (1) the archaeological record; (2) existing traditional societies; and (3) the historical record. I propose a fourth window of evidence — modern society itself. I hypothesize that we can infer the origin of inequality from the modern relation between energy use, hierarchy, and in- equality. To do this, I create a large-scale numerical model that is informed by modern evidence. I then use this model to project modern trends into the past. The results are promising. The model predicts an explosion of inequality with the transition to agrarian levels of energy use. Subsequent increases in energy use are predicted to have little effect on inequality. The results are broadly consistent with the available evidence. This suggests that the hierarchical structure of modern societies may provide a window into the origin of inequality

    Can the World Get Along Without Natural Resources?

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    growth energy natural resources neoclassical economics propertyIn the distant future, aliens come to Earth. They find a planet devoid of life. Looking closer, the aliens see that life on Earth was once abundant, but was wiped out by a mass extinction. Curiously, this event was driven not by geological disaster, but by one of the extinct species itself. In an orgy of consumption, an odd little animal put the planet under enough stress to drive itself — and the rest of life — extinct. Then comes a startling discovering. Preserved in the sediment lies a document written by a member of the doomed species. What secrets does it contain? The aliens work for years to translate it, hoping that it offers a clue about what drove the species to overconsume. And indeed it does. The document heralds a remarkable delusion: “The world can, in effect, get along without natural resources.” What a naive animal, the aliens conclude. While sucking the planet dry, the animal proclaimed its independence from natural resources. No wonder it went extinct. In this article, I discuss how economists reached such bizarre conclusions. And I offer some thoughts about the role that resources actually play in sustaining human societies
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