Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

New Left Economic Manifesto - Synopsis

by ATinNM Sat Sep 3rd, 2005 at 01:07:12 PM EST

This diary is a synopsis of Creating a New Left Economic Manifesto written by whataboutbob on July 23, 2005.  It is assumed the reader is familiar with the original diary.

The original diary entry and the comments on the diary entry have been broken into different segments:

  1.  Reference material
  2.  Web Links
  3.  Web Sites
  4.  Issues

The original comments are entered without attribution and edited to brief statements - sometimes drastically - without accompanying exposition.  This was done to reduce the length of this diary.

Please note any obfuscations, errors, and omissions in a comment.

Bibliographic References

Waring, Counting for Nothing

Daly and Cobb, For the Common Good

(No author given) _Parecon

Alperovitz, America Beyond Capitalism

Hawken, Natural Capital

Greider, The Soul of Capitalism

Bell, Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism

(No author given) The Predatory Economy

P. W. Anderson, K. Arrow, D. Pines, The Economy as an Evolving Complex System  

G. Cowan, D. Pines, and D. Meltzer, Complexity: Metaphors, Models, and Reality

M. Mitchell Waldrop, Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos  

John L. Casti, Complexification: Explaining a Paradoxical World Through the Science of Surprise  

James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science

Jane Jacobs, Dark Age Ahead

Note: The following were posted as subscription-only links.  I have moved them into the 'paper-media' section:

The New Ownership Society, The Nation, June 27 2005

Taking the Offensive on Wealth, The Nation, Feb 21 2005

Tax the Plutocrats!, The Nation, Jan 27 2003

Web Links


Germany's Industrial Relations System at Risk?

Germany's Industrial Relations System at Risk, Part II: The Coming Employer Offensive

Is the Euro Area Really Worse On Jobs Than the US?"

Euroland's Secret Success Story"

What's really wrong with the Eurozone labour market?

Way of the Leprechaun?

What's Really at the End of the Rainbow

Rebuilding confidence in our economy

Other Links

World Values Survey

Alternatives to GNP"

Where Should BEA Go on Non-Market and Near-Market Accounts?

Nature's Numbers: Expanding the National Economic Accounts to Include the Environment

Beyond the Market: Designing Nonmarket Accounts for the United States

The Soul of Capitalism, The Nation, Sep 29 2003

Calling All Keynesians, The Nation, Sep 29 2003  

The New Colossus, The Nation, Feb 28 2005

Riding Into the Sunset, The Nation, June 27 2005

The Last Farm Crisis, The Nation, Nov 20, 2000

Shopping Till We Drop, The Nation, April 10 2000

Time to Rein in Global Finance,  The Nation, April 24 2000

America Beyond Capitalism, Dollars and Sense, Nov/Dec 2004

A Refutation of Republican Economic Talking Points  [Note:  this is a dKos blog and has a limited life span, IIRC.]

Post-Autistic Economies

I found this definition of "development" on the UN Development Program website http://hdr.undp.org/hd/

Who Owns the Sky? Reviving the Commons By David Bollier, In These Times, Feb 27 2004

Understanding the Commons by Friends of the Commons


Steve Keen author of Debunking Economics.    

Paul Omerond (Death of Economics, Butterfly Economics)".


Notes:  These are drastically edited with only the first sentence, or so, included.  See orginal diary for complete explication.  Also, some comments will be cross-indexed.

Natural Resources:

Will someone please tell me how to "increase economic growth" without further drawdown of limited resources...?

I think a sustained effort to transform the economy can in itself generate more jobs (and GDP growth), including a sustained effort to get a self-sustaining economy, one not living off fast depleting fossil resources.

but clearly identifying what we really want to focus on first. Sustainable economy. What?


we have to figure out how to talk about this effectively, so people won't reject it out of hand as being anti-business or "kooky".

Right, and we might add "as being anti-jobs". The notion that if we don't have growth we don't have jobs, is now deeply ingrained into most people's mind

yes, this is a fundamental issue. We must redefine "growth" as doing the same with fewer resources, i.e. focus on efficiency and not on total output

I think a new leftist economic manifesto should argue hotly against the current productivity fetishism ... the current productivity fetishism results in a lot of totally silly decisions even from an economic point of view.  

The second issue is: what number do we consider the measure of progress? What if we somehow add the change in value of life in general to GDP?

I fully agree on the need for a redefinition of some of the most basic numbers we use to measure "progress". GDP is one of those.

how do we create something that "Joe Europe" can understand and get behind


We should fight hidden or implicit subsidies, and regulate eternalities.

Now, consider ... 'big new technologies' ... were successful not on their own on a free market, but benefitted from heavy pushing by the state, or other communal instances.

The other thing that we need to focus on is REGULATION, i.e. enforcement by the government of rules that apply to public goods and externalities. Thus the State must police the use of public goods, must measure their use or abuse, and must enforce the rules that apply (i.e. make people or corporates follow the rules and pay the requisite fee/fine for use/abuse of public good) RUTHLESSLY.

I am personally favorable to an elimination of corporate taxes, and a simplification of personal taxes via a flat tax with a high deductible

Queries in Original:

1.    Which countries to research that have successfully reformed their economies while maintaining their policies of social justice and responsibility?

I think this would be a wrong approach. On one hand, we are progressives, thus we don't need past examples - our proposals could (and in my personal opinion, should) be of something new.

You must also decide whether you are embarking on a nationalistic project to improve the economies of Europe ... at the expense of the third world, or are trying to solve the problems of both

Which countries are having "success" in Europe, and which are having a "success" after experiencing a downturn, and still supporting social justice?

I think we can have the freedom here of looking at parts of systems that are effective, not necessarily having to take whole political and social systems of a given country. In fact, I think we need to have a simple "manifesto" that could be applied independently by different coutnries, according to their needs.

2.    What specific methods should be considered to increase economic growth?

I will treat 2) and 3) together. If a big new technology goes economical, it will create a lot of jobs and growth, until 'the market is saturated'. In capitalism (but to some degree in an idealised socialism too), from this point on, companies can try marketing, product improvements - and rationalisation of production, which inexorably leads to loss of jobs.

[Alternative Energy]... wouldn't only replace fossil fuel wasting electricity production ... the end result would be a highly decentralised, but strongly interdependent system. ... the rural population would regain importance, and much of the third world would gain something that benefits the domestic population and can be sold to the North without a situation of exploitation and depletion.

I think a sustained effort to transform the economy can in itself generate more jobs (and GDP growth), including a sustained effort to get a self-sustaining economy, one not living off fast depleting fossil resources.

I agree that [German Alternative Energy Policy] has been a great way to kick start the industry, but we are getting now to the point where it is becoming slightly counter-productive as it creates rents for some green producers and encourages the exploitation of sub-optimal wind sites. I would recommend the Spanish regulatory framework, which has proven to be just as effective (including to help build a domestic manufacturign capacity) and which has fewer negative side effects

I strongly agree with your point of dectralizing the energy production, although it has to be applied differently wrt to rural and urban areas

on productivity, I am not sure that it is right ot fight that concept. we should focus productivity towards increasing efficiency instead of towards increasing output

We certainly do want to increase labor productivity, but people (especially in rich countries) don't necessarily need to enjoy the increase in the form of more material goods and services.

we do need to focus on value added, and we should probably adopt some of the more sensible rules of corporate accounting for public accounts and "wealth"-like statistics like GDP: depreciation of public assets, accounting of off-balance sheet liabilities, counting some activities as costs and not as value creation.

I think that localization should be applied to production more strongly.  

The basic purpose of development is to enlarge people's choices. In principle, these choices can be infinite and can change over time. The objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and creative lives.

3.    What specific methods to improve employment?

that we should not focus only on increasing the productivity of labor, but rather on increasing the productivity of capital, and even more the productivity of "rent",

The gradual expansion of the co-operatives is reflected in the growth of socios. a system of worker investment appears to carry more benefits than risks; rewarded by group profit more than the average, non-co-op employee, it is in the interest of each worker-owner to labor harder. To anyone who has slogged through a wage-slave job or had a domineering boss, a collectively run cooperative sounds like a workers' paradise. the profits, instead of enriching one or two individuals, are returned to all the worker-owners

4.    What about the social safety net? What exists and is working?

[No Posts were directed to this issue.]


a number of these ideas run against the fact that they are useless if only applied in one country

without strong trade barriers, one requirement of the project is that the resulting system must be able to compete with China, India, and the Americas.

And not only compete with the world, but wrestle with the question of building European wealth by the exploitation of the third world poor.


[Discussion needs to] clearly identifying what we really want to focus on first. Sustainable economy. What? Energy. Okay, that's one. What else

It is time and past time for us, the Left, to move into the 21st Century and junk the intellectual stagnation from the bloody-be-damned fixation with the 19th Century.  

whether we'll survive our infatuation with the 19th century is another matter -- its tropes and memes seem to have such a hold on our imagination that we are, literally, willing to die rather than let go of them


It would be very handy for those who posted any reference material to give a short description of the reference answering:

  1.  What is it?
  2.  Who Cares?

(To put it baldly.)

I should have done this but ... didn't.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Aug 27th, 2005 at 01:13:46 PM EST
It seems to me that you need to define carefully the metrics you plan to use to measure success or failure.

For example, there has been recent discussion of whether the unemployment rate is defined correctly, and then, even if it is, whether unemployment is bad (because people who want to work, can't) or good (because people shouldn't have to work so hard).

Another recent comment said that the goal should be to improve the happiness of the populace, yet in some attempts to measure happiness, socialist countries don't come out so well--while the relationship between GNP and happiness seems more solid.

So without arguing the system itself one way or the other at this point, there needs to be an agreed set of goals, with associated metrics...

by asdf on Sat Aug 27th, 2005 at 02:04:31 PM EST
What is society for, if not for the life improvement of ALL its members in the long term?

Then we have to define society. Is it a nation, a democracy, a continent, the world?

Until we can define what a society is, and how it should relate to other societies, it is hard to weigh up economic strategies.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Aug 28th, 2005 at 09:23:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
but it fits well here I think.

In a column in today's Observer (UK newspaper) Will Hutton addresses the economic pressures on the leaders of China. It's interesting in general, and the anchor of the article is the recent outbreak of "Bra Wars" over Chinese textile output, but it is the base assumption that seems to me to be our biggest challenge for the future:

Guangdong's strategists are worried that their wages are rising so fast that the province will have to move into smarter, higher-value-added textiles to maintain its advantage, hence the new zone. That's what makes China's impact so formidable. Other Chinese provinces will take advantage of China's vast pool of peasant workers and ship cheap textiles, while Guangdong and Zhejiang move up market.

As China's economy doubles in the next seven or eight years to become the world's second biggest, its textile exports will more than double across every category (from expensive lingerie to ultra-cheap jeans) and every form of textile manufacture in Europe and the US will virtually cease. Many other industries face the same fate.

Hutton goes on to ponder if the US will remain consumer of "last resort." For myself, these paragraphs ring a different set of alarm bells.

Basically, the grand unified theory of international trade </snark> suggests that trade results in an equilibrium where each area of the economy is located in the best position. One analogy is that certain areas of the world have the weather to get more harvests a year than others, so those farmers have an inherent advantage and over time that area specialises in food production, whilst the area they trade with specialises in light engineering for example.

Anyway, from this comes the concept that if the Chinese have become the best at cheap textiles, we (or mostly Italy, in Europe) move into higher end textiles. The Taiwanese dominated memory chips, so the US concentrated on CPUs, etc. etc.

However, we begin to see that China has a productive capacity that is going to extend to the high end in a lot of industries. As Hutton says (quoted above) in the end there will be no textile industry anywhere else.

(Of course, this is not wholly accurate, the cheap end is under competition from Vietnam and other areas, but it's fair to generalise that at this rate, textiles are gone from the West.)

The key here is the "conventional wisdom" is that our future is sustained by moving ever forward to new and more knowledge intensive industries. My concern is twofold:

  • The pace of change is overwhelming our ability to "stay ahead." The idea of our "staying ahead" was always predicated on competition with disadvantaged nations. Of course, in the long run, should China become rich off it's trade then wages will equalise and they will no longer have a wage advantage over us. But as Jerome's sig always notes, in the long run, we are all dead.

  • There is a fundamental question about the industries of the future. Not "will they exist" (although on my darker days I wonder) but will they ever require that many people? People talk about all sorts of industries as "the future" but they are not the heavy industries of the past and it's not clear that they will ever soak up as many workers.

  • The reality of the shift to "service industries" in the Anglo-Saxon model seems to be that a certain number of people are very rich, some are very poor and serve hamburgers to the rich and the rest sell each other insurance, credit cards and mortgage refinancing in enormous numbers. I can't see how it can continue.

So, if someone see how the circle is squared, I'd love to have it explained to me, but more importantly I think these are issues any economic manifesto has to grapple with.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sun Aug 28th, 2005 at 05:38:56 PM EST
Please cut and paste this into a diary...important considerations here!!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Aug 31st, 2005 at 03:47:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ATinNM - this took a LOT of work, thank you very much!! I'm oout of town until tomorrow, but will check back in to contribute more to this discussion. But...my first thoughts are 1. that society should be for the benefit and betterment of all (it's okay and good for business to make their profit, but not at the expense of others). And 2. as we consider moving this project forward, I think we should think of a short term view first, with a longer term view. What do you all think?

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Mon Aug 29th, 2005 at 07:04:41 AM EST
This is very interesting and useful.  But shouldn't it be on the ET Wiki?  A diary entry, and the ensuing comment stream, seems somewhat ephemeral for such an important bibliography.
by guleblanc on Mon Aug 29th, 2005 at 12:55:58 PM EST
The author of Parecon is Micheal Albert.  The
ISBN is 185984698X.
by guleblanc on Mon Aug 29th, 2005 at 03:38:50 PM EST
This is very interesting and useful.  But shouldn't it be on the ET Wiki?  A diary entry, and the ensuing comment stream, seems somewhat ephemeral for such an important bibliography.

I wrote a first diary awhile back, to try and get us all started on a project...my feeling is that ATinNM is trying to help nudge me forward on this project, by collecting and organizing all this data, thus re-kindling the conversation. Yes, it does belong in the wiki, for sure...but this is also crucial in helping me as I try to move the subject forward on the next diary...so most appreciative on ATinNM's help here in this diary.

Unfortuantely, I suspect few people dip into the wiki yet, as I think few people dig into diaries...I suspect most folks are front page focused, at this point...just us "blog-heads" go digging!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Wed Aug 31st, 2005 at 03:52:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am about 2/3 of the way through Debunking Economics and have confirmed that Cosma Shalizi is going to read it and hopefully review.  I am finding it a great read [who knew academic economists had a sense of humour?] and recommend it heartily, but Cosma is far more qualified than I to comment on the math (being a complex systems geek).  I have just about got to Keen's critique of Marxism (his book places Marx in perspective in the history of economics, very helpful for this reader) and am looking forward to it.  Jerome, pleeeeeze read this book :-)

I read it immediately after Jacobs' latest and found that DAA made a good intro to DE.  can't remember if I said this here already or at MoA, but her comments on credentialling and the abandonment of empiricism (as symptoms of a culture in decline) are echoed forcefully in Keen's critique of neoclassical econ.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sat Sep 3rd, 2005 at 03:54:10 PM EST
If you read through the original diary and all 28 comments, you will see what a brilliant job ATinNM has done here...

...there is, however, so real focused ideas from this and the original, which I hope to post soon in another diary. Thanks again, AT...great work on getting this moving forward again!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Sat Sep 3rd, 2005 at 06:05:58 PM EST
You're welcome.  Thank you for getting this off the ground.

Sorry I haven't been more active but with the wee problem in New Orleans my mind has been elsewhere.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Sep 3rd, 2005 at 09:05:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that little problem you speak of, has us all in a state of shock...and has our rapt atention too. (We will just keep plugging away here...)

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sun Sep 4th, 2005 at 03:56:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
1.  I didn't know there are libertarians in France.  

Here is an article in Reason magazine on
Sabine Herold and Liberté, J'ecris Ton Nom (Freedom, I Write Your Name)"

2. I'd like to see her debate Jerome!

by ilg37c on Sun Sep 4th, 2005 at 03:58:13 AM EST
Another thing possibly worth thinking about is the need for an in-depth underlying analysis and model for the proposed economy. Previously-defined political systems like communism, socialism, capitalism, national socialism, etc. all have a basic library of books that define and analyze the proposed new system. (Obvious examples: "The Communist Manifesto," "Das Kapital," "Wealth of Nations," "Mein Kampf...")

Is the proposal here to accept one of these or to develop something new?

by asdf on Sun Sep 4th, 2005 at 07:59:16 PM EST
Which one was based on the Wealth of Nations? I missed that one.

The problem with ideologies is that they're always too simple to apply to the real world. They deal in ideals, which never occur.

In any case, none of the political systems followed their text for more than about 15 seconds. Except maybe Nazism.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Sep 5th, 2005 at 05:35:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]