Dermot Smyth

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.

Ban the banks

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Socialists should welcome Barack Obama's initiative to ban banks from investing primary deposits in hedge funds, private equity or the casino of investment banking.

But the question is whether it could ever work. Even Will Hutton and his Work Foundation have gone very quiet on the idea of separate "good" banks, and for very good reason. Such an attempt to resurrect the US Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 will either be insignificantly small-scale, easy to circumvent or will trigger the very collapse it is intended to avoid.

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