Tuesday, September 01, 2015

A substituição do trabalho por máquinas, de Marx a Stiglitz

The rule of robots in Stiglitz and Marx, por Branko Milanovic:

It is always instructive to speak to Joe Stiglitz. In a conversation in Paris which we had after his talk at the INET conference, he pointed out that the elasticity of substitution between capital and labor greater than 1 (which is often assumed by Piketty in his “Capital in the 21st century”), combined with technological progress which does not fall like manna from heaven but develops in response to the existing factor prices, would lead to an explosive process that would end only with capital owning the entire net income of a country. How?

Suppose that we have a given r (...) and a given wage (w). Suppose also that at this ratio of factor prices, it is profitable to invest in more capital-intensive processes (that is, they reduce unit cost of output). So capitalists will replace labor by capital and K/L and K/output ratios will both increase. Since elasticity of substitution between K and L is greater than 1, r will only slightly decrease while wage will only slightly increase. Although factor prices, being sticky, will not have budged much they would have moved ever slightly further in making capital intensive processes even more attractive. So there would be another round of increased capital investment, and again K/L and K/output will go up with only minimal effects on prices.

This will continue round after round until the entire output is produced practically only by using capital and perhaps just an infinitesimal quantity of labor. Both r and w will remain almost as they were at the beginning, but instead of (say) 100 machines and 100 workers, we will, at the end, have 100 robots and 1 worker. Almost all output will belong to the owners of capital. (...)

But, (...) I thought of something else. Isn’t this in some ways almost the reverse, and in some ways, very similar, to Marx’s process of increased “organic composition of capital” eventually leading to the euthanasia of a capitalist (to use Keynes’ term in a Marxist framework)? In Marx, the assumption is that more capital intensive processes are always more productive. So capitalists just tend to pile more and more capital and replace labor (very similarly to what we have seen they do in the Stiglitz example). This in Marxist framework means that there are fewer and fewer workers who obviously produce less (absolute) surplus value and this smaller surplus value over an increased mass of capital means that the rate of profit goes down.

The result is identical if we set this Marxist process in a neoclassical framework and assume that the elasticity of substitution is less than 1. Then, simply, r shoots down in every successive round of capital-intensive investments until it practically reaches zero. As Marx writes, every individual capitalist has an interest to invest in more capital-intensive processes in order to undersell other capitalists, but when they all do that, the rate of profits decreases for all. They thus work ultimately to drive themselves “out of business” (more exactly they drive themselves to a zero rate of profit).

What are the similarities and differences between the two outcomes? In both cases, labor will be replaced by capital to an extreme degree, so in both cases, production will be conducted mostly by robots. Employment will be negligible. In Marx, the ultimate equilibrium would be with r at almost zero, and wage (by assumption in Marx) at the subsistence—with of course a huge “reserve army of the unemployed”. In the Stiglitz case, capitalists will end up with an unchanged r and with pocketing the entire net product. In the Stiglitz equilibrium, that sole remaining worker will have a higher wage, but again, no one else would be employed.

Ainda sobre este tema - Revisitando a "quebra tendencial da taxa de lucro"

Monday, August 31, 2015

Quando anti-racistas usaram a bandeira confederada

When Anti-Racists Adopted the Confederate Battle Flag, por Jesse Walker:

This is my favorite picture of a Confederate flag:
Like "The South's Gonna Do It" mashed up with "Ebony and Ivory."

That was the emblem of the Southern Student Organizing Committee, a New Left group founded in 1964. At a time when the activists most likely to be waving a Confederate banner were affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, SSOC decided to adopt—and adapt—the battle flag for the other side of the civil rights struggle. The group did most of its organizing among southern whites, and it went out of its way to draw on regional iconography (...)

But not everyone in the movement thought the emblem was a good idea. "Explaining to their white counterparts that the battleflag had only one meaning to them," Michel writes, several "black activists stressed that no matter how SSOC altered the flag's image, African Americans forever would see it as a symbol of racial oppression." SSOC was predominantly white, but it wanted to become the biracial alliance implied by those clasped hands. And so it dropped both the emblem and the name New Rebel at the end of 1964. (...)

By that time, SSOC wasn't the only New Left group playing with Confederate signifiers. The Young Patriots were a Chicago-based organization made up mostly of working-class whites who had migrated to the city from the Appalachians; the Patriots joined the Black Panthers and the Young Lords (a Panther-like Puerto Rican group) in an partnership called the Rainbow Coalition. (This was unrelated to Jesse Jackson's outfit, which was launched much later.) "In a decade when symbolism mattered like never before, most Left groups chose their radical dress code—whether the dignified suits of civil rights leaders or the sleek leather jackets of the Panthers—to consciously send a message," Amy Sonnie and James Tracy write in Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power. "For better or worse, the Patriots adopted the Confederate flag as a symbol of southern poor people's revolt against the owning class."

Sunday, August 30, 2015

POUS falha primeira eleição?

O Expresso noticia que "Carmelinda [Pereira] pela primeira vez não vai a votos".

Na verdade já em 1991 não foram (se olharem para a coluna dos resultados de 1991, não encontram lá "POUS" - nem sequer "MUT", outro nome que o POUS usava ocasionalmente).

Porque é que eu sei (e me lembro d') isto? É que em 1991, com 18 anos, eu era um trotskista entusiasta e simpatizante do PSR; esta foi a primeira eleição (voltaria a acontecer em 1995) em que Francisco Louçã foi dado como eleito no principio do escrutínio, para horas depois a RTP, no fim da contagem dos votos, informar que afinal não o tinha sido. E lembro-me de nessa altura durante uns tempos ter achado que Louçã não tinha sido eleito por culpa da FER, que teria "roubado" votos aos PSR (que, com a estreita margem que ocorreu, teriam bastado para a eleição); ora, se o POUS tivesse concorrido, em principio eu não diria que a culpa tinha sido da FER, mas sim que teria sido da FER e do POUS, o que quer dizer que o POUS não tinha concorrido.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Subsídio implícito aos vendedores e fabricantes de armas

Martin Scorsese elimina armas reais cada vez que filma uma falsa

Gun Neutral é o nome da campanha criada por Carl McCrow para promover a redução de armas de fogo. O objetivo é que os cineastas que nela participem se comprometam destruir uma arma verdadeira por cada uma que apareça no seu filme.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Os limites à ascensão social (no Reino Unido)

Introducing the ‘class’ ceiling, por Sam Friedmane Sam Friedman:

There has long been a perception that Britain’s traditionally high-status occupations, such as law, medicine, and journalism, remain stubbornly elitist and research has continually shown that these occupations recruit disproportionately from the socially privileged and/or the privately educated.

Yet there is a danger of reducing social mobility to this one-dimensional issue of access. In particular it assumes that social mobility finishes at the point of occupational entry. But the reality is that while many working-class people may secure admission into elite occupations, they don’t necessarily go on to achieve the same levels of success as those from more privileged backgrounds. In a recent project, we have been investigating exactly this issue of social mobility within elite occupations.

In doing so, we have purposively borrowed the ‘glass ceiling’ concept developed by feminist scholars to explain the hidden barriers faced by women in the workplace. In a working paper recently published by LSE Sociology, we argue that it is also possible to identify a ‘class ceiling’ in Britain which is preventing the upwardly mobile from enjoying equivalent earnings to those from upper middle-class backgrounds. (...)

We are also able to look at individual elite occupations, where we find striking variations. At one end of the scale, engineering provides a notable exemplar of meritocracy, with negligible differences in pay regardless of social background. In contrast, our results reveal the arresting scale of disadvantage experienced by the children of the working classes in law, media, medicine and finance. The socially mobile (of any range) in finance have predicted earnings of £11,200 less per year than otherwise similar privileged colleagues, in media £9,440, law £8,830 and in medicine £5,050. This disadvantage also tends to increase the longer the range of mobility. In law, for example, the long-range upwardly mobile face a huge estimated annual pay gap of £19,700.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

James Corbyn e o "Quantitative Easing para o povo"

People's QE and Corbyn’s QE, por Simon Wren-Lewis:

Politicians can be adept at co-opting attractive sounding terms to their own cause, even when they distort their meaning while doing so. (...)

Is Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘Peoples QE’ an example of the same thing? It is certainly true that the way that some macroeconomists, including myself, have used the term is different from Corbyn’s idea. For us Peoples QE is just another term for helicopter money. Helicopter money was a term first used by that well known radical Milton Friedman. It involves the central bank creating money, and distributing it directly to the people by some means. It is a sure fire way [1] for the central bank to boost demand: what economists sometimes call a money financed fiscal stimulus. (...)

The genesis of Corbyn’s QE seems rather different. Corbyn adviser Richard Murphy had previously suggested what he called a Green Infrastructure QE, which is that a “new [QE] programme should buy the new debt that will be issued in the form of bonds by the Green Investment Bank to fund sustainable energy, local authorities to pay for new houses, NHS trusts to build new hospitals and education authorities to build schools.” (...)

The main difference between helicopter money and Corbyn’s QE therefore seems to be where the money created by the central bank goes: to individuals in the form of a cheque from the central bank, or to financing investment projects. (...)

[However] suppose that a [National Investment Bank] is created, not on the back of QE but using more conventional forms of finance. (If the government wants to encourage it, just directly subsidise that finance with conventional borrowing. Don’t be put off doing so by deficit fetishism.) Suppose we also like the concept of helicopter money - not for now, but for the next time interest rates hit their lower bound and the central bank wants more stimulus. In those circumstances, it might well make sense for helicopter money to be used not only to send cheques to individuals, but also to bring forward investment financed by the NIB, or public sector investment financed directly by the state. If those investment projects could get off the ground quickly, and crucially would not have happened for some time otherwise, then what I have elsewhere described as ‘democratic helicopter money’ would make sense. [2] This is because investment that also boosts the supply side is likely to be a far more effective form of stimulus than cheques posted to individuals.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Um motivo para colonizar o espaço?

How (and Why) SpaceX Will Colonize Mars, por Tim Urban (via Tyler Cowen):

Let’s imagine the Earth is a hard drive, and each species on Earth, including our own, is a Microsoft Excel document on the hard drive filled with trillions of rows of data. Using our shortened timescale, where 50 million years = one month, here’s what we know:

■Right now, it’s August of 2015
■The hard drive (i.e. the Earth) came into existence 7.5 years ago, in early 2008
■A year ago, in August of 2014, the hard drive was loaded up with Excel documents (i.e. the origin of animals). Since then, new Excel docs have been continually created and others have developed an error message and stopped opening (i.e gone extinct).
■Since August 2014, the hard drive has crashed five times—i.e. extinction events—in November 2014, in December 2014, in March 2015, April 2015, and July 2015. Each time the hard drive crashed, it rebooted a few hours later, but after rebooting, about 70% of the Excel docs were no longer there. Except the March 2015 crash, which erased 95% of the documents.
■Now it’s mid-August 2015, and the homo sapiens Excel doc was created about two hours ago.

Now—if you owned a hard drive with an extraordinarily important Excel doc on it, and you knew that the hard drive pretty reliably tended to crash every month or two, with the last crash happening five weeks ago—what’s the very obvious thing you’d do?

You’d copy the document onto a second hard drive.