Dermot Smyth

The Age of Inequality: Corporate America's War on Working People

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This digest of 114 articles by 67 contributors from the US magazine In These Times (ITT) covers the years since its inception in 1976. David Graeber describes the massive increase in fortified borders that result when so-called free trade agreements simultaneously destroy traditional jobs in the global south and outsourced jobs in the north. Arundhati Roy’s opening paragraphs dismember the brutalities of neoliberalism with razor-sharp precision. In “Failed Prophet” (2009) Bernie Sanders rails against Chicago University’s neoliberal Milton Friedman Institute.

Universal Basic Income

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Michael Lavalette’s piece on Universal Basic Income (“Safety Net Without Stigma”, October SR) is spot on. And the two letters, one supporting the idea, one against (November SR), are an object lesson in our united-front politics.

We support transitional initiatives such as UBI with enthusiasm because they benefit our class and strike a crushing blow to austerity blame-culture.

Imperialism in the 21st Century

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Everyone remembers the 1,133 deaths from the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse. But who knows about Bangladeshi workers who earn just one euro cent for every 18 T-shirts they make, and take home €1.36 after a ten or 12 hour day?

Ultimate villains of this “super-exploitation” are corporate buyers from the Global North and race-to-the-bottom capitalist market competition.

Debt or Democracy

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This book addresses many popular misconceptions about money and debt. Ninety seven percent of money that circulates within the economy has not actually been created by the state, but by private banks, out of thin air, as fractional reserve loans.

Without the constant rolling-over of this debt-based money, there would be no economy. So GDP growth depends on maintaining high public, corporate and individual debt. This is why any level of austerity is a fraud.

BRICS

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Anyone involved with development NGOs or movements will find this collection of papers useful as a background reader because much of the content applies to countries far beyond the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

Greek experience

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Joseph Choonara’s comment that “Syriza could have stuck to its pledges in the hope that European finance ministers would cave in” (In perspective, March SR) might actually understate the strength of Syriza’s negotiating hand.

Greek reluctance to leave the euro is still widespread, but surely dwarfed by the dread experienced by German chancellor Angela Merkel and the banking Troika, for the reasons Joseph outlines.

Forecast

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Mark Buchanan's book, Forecast, is a demolition of the core assumptions of economic theory.

Buchanan draws on studies carried out by physicists and other scientists to demonstrate that markets are inherently chaotic -- rather like the weather, hence the meteorology in the subtitle, "What Physics, Meteorology and the Natural Sciences can Teach us about Economics".

The difference is that weather models allow a degree of accurate forecasting. Not so for economics. This comprises many interacting markets, driven by thousands of speculators gambling trillions of pounds.

Whoops!

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John Lanchester, Penguin, £20

Lanchester's exposé of the shenanigans inside the financial world is witty, scathing and sarcastic. It is thoroughly researched and contains clear explanations of all the significant events of 2007 and 2008. It includes loads of detail on the bank-quake of 2008 when Lehman Brothers went over the precipice, and how the banks' (relative) stability was restored only by the massive shifting of private debt to public debt.

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