Read a thread by Imran Khan (Twitter)
📖 I’m 10% done reading Economy, Society, and Public Policy by CORE Team

Finished chapter one. I like that this text has so many linked resources, but some of the links to the sister texts make me think I’d be getting a deeper and more technical understanding by reading them instead of this more introductory text. Still, this has some tremendous value even as a refresher.


Annotations from Unit 1 Capitalism and democracy: Affluence, inequality, and the environment

Government bodies also tend to be more limited in their capacity to expand if successful, and are usually protected from failure if they perform poorly.

They can expand in different ways however. Think about the expansion of empires of Egypt, Rome, and the Mongols in the 12th Century. What caused them to cease growing and decrease? What allowed them to keep increasing?
Annotated on February 10, 2020 at 04:50PM


Capitalism is an economic system that can combine centralization with decentralization.

How can we analogize this with the decentralization of the web and its economy?
Annotated on February 10, 2020 at 04:50PM


Market competition provides a mechanism for weeding out those who underperform.

Note how this has failed in the current guilded age of the United States where it is possible for things to be “too big to fail”.
Annotated on February 10, 2020 at 04:50PM


First, because capital goods do not fall from the sky: all countries that have successfully moved from poverty to affluence have done so, of necessity, by accumulating large amounts of capital. We will also see that a crucial feature of capitalism is who owns and controls the capital goods in an economy.

Annotated on February 10, 2020 at 03:11PM


Yet some things that we value are not private property—for example, the air we breathe and most of the knowledge we use cannot be owned, bought, or sold.

Annotated on February 10, 2020 at 04:49PM


We should be sceptical when anyone claims that something complex (capitalism) ‘causes’ something else (increased living standards, technological improvement, a networked world, or environmental challenges), just because we can see there is a correlation.

Great and ridiculous examples of this can be found at https://www.tylervigen.com/spurious-correlations
Annotated on February 10, 2020 at 08:59PM


Figure 1.16 Graph with y-axis that jumps around in scale

Note the dramatic inconsistency of the scale on the left hand side. What is going on here?
Annotated on February 10, 2020 at 09:23PM


Firms should not be owned and managed by people who survive because of their connections to government or their privileged birth: Capitalism is dynamic when owners or managers succeed because they are good at delivering high-quality goods and services at a competitive price. This is more likely to be a failure when the other two factors above are not working well.

Here is where we’re likely to fail in the United States by following the example of Donald Trump, who ostensibly has survived solely off the wealth of his father’s dwindling empire. With that empire gone, he’s now turning to creating wealth by associating with the government. We should carefully follow where this potentially leads the country.
Annotated on February 10, 2020 at 09:31PM


In some, their spending on goods and services as well as on transfers like unemployment benefits and pensions, accounts for more than half of GDP.

What is the Government’s proportion of the US GDP presently?
Annotated on February 10, 2020 at 09:34PM


James Bronterre O’Brien, told the people:‘Knaves will tell you that it is because you have no property, you are unrepresented. I tell you on the contrary, it is because you are unrepresented that you have no property …’

great quote
Annotated on February 10, 2020 at 09:53PM


Yet some things that we value are not private property—for example, the air we breathe and most of the knowledge we use cannot be owned, bought, or sold.

Annotated on February 10, 2020 at 04:49PM

Listened to The three C's of historical economic growth by Candace Manriquez Wrenn and David Brancaccio from Marketplace

The economic boom of the 19th century cannot be attributed to capitalism alone, according to Professor Homa Zarghamee.

This interview is part of our “Econ Extra Credit” project, where we read an introductory economics textbook provided by the nonprofit Core Econ together with our listeners.

For most of human history, the standard of living remained flat, not changing much from year to year, even century to century. Until the Industrial Revolution, that is, when the world population and standards of living skyrocketed.

Read Disruption’s legacy by Martin Weller (blog.edtechie.net)
Clayton Christensen passed away yesterday. I never met him and he was by many accounts a warm, generous individual. So this is not intended as a personal attack, and I apologise if it’s timing seems indelicate, but as so many pieces are being published about how influential Disruption Theory was, I would like to offer a counter narrative to its legacy.
One of the most important points here:

It legitimised undermining of labour – the fact that Uber, Tesla, Amazon etc all treat their staff poorly is justified because they are disrupting an old model. And you can’t bring those old fashioned conceits of unions, pensions, staff care into this. By harking to the God of Disruption, companies were able to get away with such practices more than if they had simply declared “our model is to treat workers badly”.

Originally bookmarked on January 29, 2020 at 06:38AM

Read Lemon socialism (Wikipedia)

Lemon socialism is a pejorative term for a form of government intervention in which government subsidies go to weak or failing firms (lemons; see Lemon law), with the effective result that the government (and thus the taxpayer) absorbs part or all of the recipient's losses. The term derives from the conception that in socialism the government may nationalize a company's profits while leaving the company to pay its own losses, while in lemon socialism the company is allowed to keep its profits but its losses are shifted to the taxpayer.

Mark J. Green coined the exact phrase in a 1974 article discussing the utility company Con Ed.

Read Privatizing profits and socializing losses (Investopedia)
Privatizing profits and socializing losses refers to the practice of treating company earnings as the rightful property of shareholders, while losses are treated as a responsibility that society must shoulder. In other words, the profitability of corporations are strictly for the benefit of their shareholders. But when the companies fail, the fallout—the losses and recovery—are the responsibility of the general public. Popular examples of this include taxpayer-funded subsidies or bailouts.
Read What’s the LMS Worth? by Jim LukeJim Luke (EconProph)
Herein, against my better judgement, I wade into the Great Instructure social media wars of 2019. Last week, Instructure Inc., the publicly traded (NYSE: INST) company announced it had agreed to go private and sell itself to private equity firm Thoma Bravo. For people who teach in higher education this is big news. Instructure, is the current name for the company founded in 2008 that created and sells the Canvas LMS. Canvas in the last decade has toppled the previous king-of-the-LMS’s, Blackboard. Canvas is now widely reported to have largest market share of higher ed LMS market at least in North America. Moodle, the open source system, appears to dominate outside North America.

Capitalists and market-thinkers inevitably seek to enclose the commons, privatizing benefits and externalizing costs onto society.

It’s nice to see this reminder every now and then.
–highlighted December 09, 2019 at 09:00PM

Some pragmatic and solid analysis here. Better than some of the FUD I’ve seen bandied about.

Liked a tweet by #AbolitionMeansNoPrisons#AbolitionMeansNoPrisons (Twitter)
This is an interesting economic idea…

👓 The mindfulness conspiracy | The Guardian

Read The mindfulness conspiracy by Ronald Purser (the Guardian)
The long read: It is sold as a force that can help us cope with the ravages of capitalism, but with its inward focus, mindful meditation may be the enemy of activism

🎧 Economic Ripples: Hospital Closure Hurts A Town’s Ability To Attract Retirees | NPR

Listened to Economic Ripples: Hospital Closure Hurts A Town's Ability To Attract Retirees by Blake Farmer from NPR | Nashville Public Radio

When a rural community loses its hospital, health care becomes harder to come by in an instant. But a hospital closure also shocks a small town's economy. It shuts down one of its largest employers. It scares off heavy industry that needs an emergency room nearby. And in one Tennessee town, a lost hospital means lost hope of attracting more retirees.

Here’s a great example of why pure capitalist competition doesn’t work in areas like health care and education in large swathes of America. Small communities like this one often have only one option of a hospital to go to, and often they don’t even have that. And many health care issues don’t allow for direct competition and choice because they are emergent and one can only go to the closest provider with their fingers crossed.

📑 ‘The goal is to automate us’: welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism | John Naughton | The Guardian

Annotated 'The goal is to automate us': welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism by John NaughtonJohn Naughton (the Guardian)

As it turns out his vision perfectly reflected the history of capitalism, marked by taking things that live outside the market sphere and declaring their new life as market commodities.  

🔖 The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshana Zuboff

Bookmarked The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshana Zuboff (PublicAffairs; 1 edition)

Shoshana Zuboff's interdisciplinary breadth and depth enable her to come to grips with the social, political, business, and technological meaning of the changes taking place in our time. We are at a critical juncture in the confrontation between the vast power of giant high-tech companies and government, the hidden economic logic of surveillance capitalism, and the propaganda of machine supremacy that threaten to shape and control human life. Will the brazen new methods of social engineering and behavior modification threaten individual autonomy and democratic rights and introduce extreme new forms of social inequality? Or will the promise of the digital age be one of individual empowerment and democratization?

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is neither a hand-wringing narrative of danger and decline nor a digital fairy tale. Rather, it offers a deeply reasoned and evocative examination of the contests over the next chapter of capitalism that will decide the meaning of information civilization in the twenty-first century. The stark issue at hand is whether we will be the masters of information and machines or its slaves.

book cover of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff

Can’t wait to get this…

On first blush, I’ll note that the cover looks a lot like that of Pikkety’s Captialism in the 21st Century. Certainly an interesting framing by the publisher.

🎧 Triangulation 380 The Age of Surveillance Capitalism | TWiT.TV

Listened to Triangulation 380 The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Leo Laporte from TWiT.tv

Shoshana Zuboff is the author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. She talks with Leo Laporte about how social media is being used to influence people.

Links

Even for the people who are steeped in some of the ideas of surveillance capitalism, ad tech, and dark patterns, there’s a lot here to still be surprised about. If you’re on social media, this should be required listening/watching.

I can’t wait to get the copy of her book.

Folks in the IndieWeb movement have begun to fix portions of the problem, but Shoshana Zuboff indicates that there are several additional levels of humane understanding that will need to be bridged to make sure their efforts aren’t just in vain. We’ll likely need to do more than just own our own data, but we’ll need to go a step or two further as well.

The thing I was shocked to not hear in this interview (and which may not be in the book either) is something that I think has been generally left unmentioned with respect to Facebook and elections and election tampering (29:18). Zuboff and Laporte discuss Facebook’s experiments in influencing people to vote in several tests for which they published academic papers. Even with the rumors that Mark Zuckerberg was eyeing a potential presidential run in 2020 with his trip across America and meeting people of all walks of life, no one floated the general idea that as the CEO of Facebook, he might use what they learned in those social experiments to help get himself (or even someone else) elected by sending social signals to certain communities to prevent them from voting while sending other signals to other communities to encourage them to vote. The research indicates that in a very divided political climate that with the right sorts of voting data, it wouldn’t take a whole lot of work for Facebook to help effectuate a landslide victory for particular candidates or even entire political parties!! And of course because of the distributed nature of such an attack on democracy, Facebook’s black box algorithms, and the subtlety of the experiments, it would be incredibly hard to prove that such a thing was even done.

I like her broad concept (around 43:00) where she discusses the idea of how people tend to frame new situations using pre-existing experience and that this may not always be the most useful thing to do for what can be complex ideas that don’t or won’t necessarily play out the same way given the potential massive shifts in paradigms.

Also of great interest is the idea of instrumentarianism as opposed to the older ideas of totalitarianism. (43:49) Totalitarian leaders used to rule by fear and intimidation and now big data stores can potentially create these same types of dynamics, but without the need for the fear and intimidation by more subtly influencing particular groups of people. When combined with the ideas behind “swarming” phenomenon or Mark Granovetter’s ideas of threshold reactions in psychology, only a very small number of people may need to be influenced digitally to create drastic outcomes. I don’t recall the reference specifically, but I recall a paper about the mathematics with respect to creating ethnic neighborhoods that only about 17% of people needed to be racists and move out of a neighborhood to begin to create ethnic homogeneity and drastically less diversity within a community.

Also tangentially touched on here, but not discussed directly, I can’t help but think that all of this data with some useful complexity theory might actually go a long way toward better defining (and being able to actually control) Adam Smith’s economic “invisible hand.”

There’s just so much to consider here that it’s going to take several revisits to the ideas and some additional research to tease this all apart.

🎧 Gillmor Gang: Day Zero | TechCrunch

Listened to Gillmor Gang: Day Zero from TechCrunch

Esteban Kolsky, Denis Pombriant, Keith Teare, Gené Teare, and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Saturday, February 3, 2018.

An entire episode on water and sustainability.

Without seemingly knowing it they dance around the idea of needing a mixed economy. It’s almost as if they only know about capitalism and competition and there are no other options out there. We need protections (read “regulations” if you’re a Republican) put in by a planning and forward thinking government and then we can use capitalism as the fulcrum to ramp up and accelerate potential solutions when competition will bring them about.

🎧 “The Daily”: What the West Got Wrong About China, Part 2 | New York Times

Listened to "The Daily": What the West Got Wrong About China, Part 2 by Michael Barbaro from New York Times

The U.S. misunderstood not only how China would respond to economic growth, but how the U.S. would respond to China.