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Showing posts from August, 2017

Labor share and super firms

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I discussed on several occasions before the worsening of income distribution and the squeeze of the labor share in total income. Figure below provides updated information.
Professor Autor and some of his co-authors suggest this in part might result from the rise of the 'superstar firm.' In other words, Facebook, Google (Alphabet), Amazon, Apple, etc and the winner take all economy. This paper (h/t Santiago Capraro) argues that this results from market power reflected in higher mark ups.

Note that the paper by Autor et. al. suggests that superstar firms are more efficient and as their share of the market increase, their higher productivity and reduced labor force leads to a lower share for labor in the aggregate. It is mostly a technological effect for them.

I have my doubts, of course, about any story that leaves out the relative bargaining power of the labor force, and in this story the regulatory environment that has allowed the information age firms to have such large share…

The Routledge Handbook of Heterodox Economics

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(click to enlarge) The Routledge Handbook of Heterodox Economics presents a comprehensive overview of the latest work on economic theory and policy from a ‘pluralistic’ heterodox perspective. Contributions
throughout the Handbook explore different theoretical perspectives including: Marxian-radical political economics; Post Keynesian-Sraffian economics; institutionalist-evolutionary economics; feminist economics; social economics; Régulation theory; the Social Structure of Accumulation approach; and ecological economics. They explain the structural properties and dynamics of  capitalism, as well as propose economic and social policies for the benefit of the majority of the population. You can buy it here.

A theory of economic policy and the role of institutions

Nicola Acocella published a paper in the Journal of Economic Surveys (a free, preliminary version is available here) on the development of the theory of economic policy. Acocella is clearly fully aware of the differences between classical political economics and marginalism (neoclassical economics).* And he dismisses the pre-margnialist views on economic policy as being unsystematic and devoid of general principles.
In his words:
Most classical writers and the marginalists had suggested cases where public intervention was in order. This had been so for Smith (1776), Ricardo (1817), Mill (1848), Marshall (1890), Walras (1874-1877, 1898). But these cases were mainly what Walras called ‘examples of empirical policy’ rather than consistent policy. They were certainly dictated on the basis of an analytical evaluation of the circumstances suggesting them, but were not part of a systematic and consistent assessment of the foundations and the articulation of public policy. In his view, econo…

Racism, the election and more

After writing on Venezuela last week, Trump suggested that the US might intervene there. And then the predictable happened, violence and death ensued... in the US. I don't have much to say about what happened in Charlottesville. It is worth noting that even though the city and the University of Virginia are relatively progressive places these days, they do have a long history that ties them to slavery and white supremacy (see this on NPR; h/t URPE blog).*

At any rate, it's not surprise that Trump didn't condemn his base (and yes the racist voted for him; but as I noticed before 1964 those votes went mostly to Democrats). He certainly is more explicit than previous Republicans going beyond racist dog whistle  politics. I would insist that racism is not the main reason why he won the election, and that a left wing populist right have won.

The topic is still relevant (even in the middle of the violence and crazy confrontation with North Korea; btw, this is a must read for th…

On Venezuela, Democracy, Violence and Neoliberalism

Many pieces have been written recently on the situation in Venezuela, including some on the left, that are very critical of the Maduro government (see for example this Jacobin piece that has been widely cited). Interestingly, during the sleepy months of the summer in which I almost didn’t write anything here, this old post on Venezuela has become the most read on the blog (as we approach almost 3 million hits).

Let me first say that I am for democracy and against violence, irrespective of who is behind it. Calls to reduce violence on both sides should be at the top of the international agenda. So, any government constraints on the ability of the people to participate in its own government (some form of democracy) and government repression of manifestations (violence) is wrong. As far as I can tell, the current claims about the lack of democracy in Venezuela are not associated, for the most part, to the election of the president (even though right-wing activists insist, without proof, …

The wage share in Argentina

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In his book, Estudios de Historia Económica Argentina, Eduardo Basualdo has several tables with the data for the share of wages in income. Sources seem to be different and not necessarily compatible (although I 'm not sure about that). He also published a paper in 2008 with additional data. The graph below adds the numbers shown here, which I think are also from Basualdo (the newspaper only cites CIFRA; I couldn't find another source in their website).
To the extent that one can trust numbers on functional income distribution, these numbers give a reasonable picture of what happened in Argentina since the first Peronist government back in 1946. It is clear that the military coup in 1976 was implemented to reduce the share of wages. The graph also puts in perspective the last progressive administration of the Kirchners, which brought wages up from very low levels, but not quite to the pre-1976 level. I would expect the decline with Macri, that seems to have started (as I predi…

Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean

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The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean´s (ECLAC) Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean (“Dynamics of the current economic cycle and policy challenges for boosting investment and growth”) for 2016-2017 was published last Thursday (3 of August). It incorporates a number of heterodox concepts and ideas mainly in Part II. These include the notion of center and periphery (which provides the framework for Chapter III “The region’s current economic cycle and its various characteristics are partly a reflection of changes that have occurred in the international economy and in the way forces are transmitted from the more advanced to the developing economies.” p.117 ); the importance of the productive structure (Chapters III and IV) to analyze the impact of the impulses from the center to the periphery; aggregate demand as a key driver of the world slowdown in trade (pp. 123-124); the relative importance of income versus substitution effects (pp.147-149); the …

The positive profit with negative surplus-value paradox

New paper by Lucas (not that one) and Serrano. From the abstract:

This paper explains the “positive profits with negative surplus-value” example of Steedman (1975) and shows that while in joint production systems individual labour values can be negative, the claim that the total labour embodied in the surplus product of the economy (surplus-value) can also be negative is based on assumptions that have no economic meaning (such as negative activity levels). The paper also provides a way to measure the surplus-value of joint production systems which overcomes the problems of the traditional concept and restates the proposition that a positive amount of surplus labour is a necessary condition for positive profits. Read full paper here. A preliminary version was briefly noted here in 2012. Academic publications are slow indeed.

On job numbers, the stock market and more at the Rick Smith Show

Full show here. I'm interviewed at around 1:03 into the show, and the whole thing is about a bit less than 20 minutes long.

"Wages, prices, and employment in a Keynesian long-run" by Marglin

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New issue of ROKE with papers by Stephen Marglin, Amit Bhaduri, Esteban Pérez (with your truly) among others. Last issue of the several in honor of the 25 years of the Marglin-Bhaduri papers on profit-led/wage-led growth. From the abstract of Marglin's paper:
The central question this paper addresses is the same one I explored in my joint work with Amit Bhaduri 25 years ago: under what circumstances are high wages good for employment? I extend our 1990 argument in three directions. First, instead of mark-up pricing, I model labor and product markets separately. The labor supply to the capitalist sector of the economy is assumed à la Lewis to be unlimited. Consequently the wage cannot be determined endogenously but is fixed by an extended notion of subsistence based on Smith, Ricardo, and Marx. For tractability the product market is assumed to be perfectly competitive. The second innovation is to show how disequilibrium adjustment resolves the overdetermination inherent in the mod…