It’s more like a vortex that circulates along the natural currents of the Pacific Ocean: millions of small, often microscopic bits of plastic junk in the water column, stretched over about 5,000 square kilometers. And there’s at least two, a western and an eastern patch.

The surprising economics of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Yes, it’s damaging the environment — but there’s even more to be learned from the swirling mass of junk

"Do personal experiences of economic fluctuations shape individuals’ willingness to take risk? For the generation of “Depression babies,” it has often been suggested that their experience of a large macroeconomic shock, the Great Depression, had a long-lasting effect on their risk attitudes."

Read more from “Depression Babies: Do Macroeconomic Experiences Affect Risk Taking?” in The Quarterly Journal of Economics. Articles on economic behavior and psychology are available for free until March 31 in the latest Economic Virtual Issue.

Image: Wall St, by Predrag Kezic. Public domain via Pixabay.

The growing wages of a minority of workers corresponded with another shift: the growing importance of the sales effort and circulation for the realization of value. Under monopoly capitalism, wants, often perfunctory, are more and more created via the sales effort rather than simply satisfied by the production process. Likewise, the physical qualities of products are increasingly adapted to this sales effort. While the generation of surplus value or realization or profit under [pre-imperialist] capitalism corresponded to the satisfaction of some human want, under monopoly capitalism the wants which are satisfied are more and more artificial and thus tend “to bear adiminishing relation to the requirements of human welfare.” Moreover, “a large and growing share of total human efforts [becomes] directed towards waste and destruction.” Baran saw this growing irrationality as a hallmark of imperialism:

As an important proportion of the total human effort is devoted to the production of goods the demand for which is artificially generated by profit-seeking corporations, the rationality and productivity of the effort itself can no longer be taken for granted.

Under monopoly capitalism investment is increasingly geared not towards the development of productive forces but instead “towards advertising and the build up of trademarks, towards construction of sumptuous palaces housing the executive offices of giant corporations, towards the development of marketing and production variety,” as well as “ever new factories producing the means of mass destruction.” Thus, monopoly capitalism is not just directly against the class interest of the proletariat but gradually becomes a system increasingly at odds with the long-term interests of humanity in general and specifically against the very conception of humanity set forth under capitalism: that of individual free agents.

— Third Worldism: Marxist Critique of Imperialist Political economy

In the United States, just three out of ten workers are needed to produce and deliver the goods we consume. Everything we extract, grow, design, build, make, engineer, and transport – down to brewing a cup of coffee in a restaurant kitchen and carrying it to a customer’s table – is done by roughly 30% of the country’s workforce.

The rest of us spend our time planning what to make, deciding where to install the things we have made, performing personal services, talking to each other, and keeping track of what is being done, so that we can figure out what needs to be done next. And yet, despite our obvious ability to produce much more than we need, we do not seem to be blessed with an embarrassment of riches. One of the great paradoxes of our time is that workers and middle-class households continue to struggle in a time of unparalleled plenty.

We in the developed countries have more than enough to cover our basic needs. We have enough organic carbon-hydrogen bonds to break to provide us with calories; enough vitamins and other nutrients to keep us healthy; enough shelter to keep us dry; enough clothing to keep us warm; enough capital to keep us, at least potentially, productive; and enough entertainment to keep us from being bored. And we produce all of it for an average of less than two hours a day of work outside the home.

John Maynard Keynes was not off by much when he famously predicted in 1930 that the human race’s “economic problem, the struggle for subsistence,” was likely to be “solved, or be at least within sight of solution, within a hundred years.” It will take another generation, perhaps, before robots have completely taken over manufacturing, kitchen work, and construction; and the developing world looks to be 50 years behind. But Keynes would have been spot on had he targeted his essay at his readers’ great-great-great-great grandchildren.

And yet there are few signs that working- and middle-class Americans are living any better than they did 35 years ago. Even stranger, productivity growth does not seem to be soaring, as one would expect; in fact, it seems to be decelerating, according to research by John Fernald and Bing Wang, economists in the Economic Research Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Growth prospects are even worse, as innovation hits gale-force headwinds.


Hi guys.
So I’m currently studying economics and finding it semi-difficult. One of my main problems is my teacher. She’s lovely however her powerpoints are copied from a textbook. The book is good but really complex and a little too informative. I’m trying to write notes going by the syllabus, combining the powerpoint and another textbook which was compulsory. So my problem is, the powerpoint has information which isn’t in the syllabus or in the compulsory textbook so should I write it down? I understand that knowing more is probably better but there is a lot of extra information which I don’t know if I’ll need for our exams! Please let me know what you think, either by messaging me so we can chat, or answering this question! Thank you x

The constant accusation of undocumented immigrants being the problem for the country’s economy is a mere distraction from the real issue. Keeping 11 million people invisible allows for employers to mistreat their undocumented workers by paying them below minimum wage and demanding excessive working hours.

But if politicians did get their wish to deport all undocumented people, the National Immigration Law Center concluded that citizen unemployment would increase by 1.6 percent and citizen wages would reduce by 0.8 percent. It is virtually unrealistic to deport all undocumented immigrants and it would cost around $20 billion to do so.

The reality is that undocumented immigrants do pay taxes. I know this because I am one. Undocumented immigrants are not taking jobs from native-born Americans. We are actually doing the jobs no one else wants to do and receiving ridiculously low wages for doing them. Undocumented immigrants are not benefiting from social welfare programs because we don’t qualify for them!

I do hope that enough people acknowledged Alejandro Gonzalez Iñaritu’s comment when winning the Academy Award for best picture award for Birdman, who asked his audience to recognize the oppressive lives that undocumented people face daily and discarded Sean Penn’s horrible attempt at a joke about the acclaimed director’s residency.

There needs to be more recognition and raised awareness on this American problem to encourage politicians to make the right decisions. Congress is not incapable of compromise across political parties but instead, it chooses to perform on petty disagreements that benefit no one. The lives of people are being played with little to no consideration on how this is affecting undocumented immigrants in real life.


SIDESHOW: Sometimes there are other ideas that I think would be awesome. So think of these as guest blog entries from other sections of my brain.

This is from a Tumblr that doesn’t exist called Emma Goldman Sachs. All captions are quotes by famed anti-capitalist activist Emma Goldman

my friend's assessment of That Capitalism Post

or as she so eloquently titled it, Ramblings from Someone who May or May Not Understand Econ (and citing Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan):

"The argument that capitalism requires people to be poor so as to fill up the "distasteful" jobs of modern society is very appealing, but fundamentally wrong from an economic perspective.

It comes down to the idea of opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is the foregone benefits of alternative choices. For example, you have to decide whether or not to stay home and study or go and watch a movie. If you study, the opportunity cost is watching the movie, and vice versa.

In the real world, salary is a reflection of opportunity cost. The opportunity cost of working at one job is the potential earnings of another job. So, in order to attract people to work for you, you must offer them a salary that is greater than their potential salary in another job.

Currently, there is a lot of inequality in education, which could be broadly categorized as human capital. Those with low human capital work jobs that require less of it, such as janitors and so forth. These janitors and people who do other “dirty” work are not paid very much because their opportunity cost is low. They do not command skills that would get them paid more in another job, and their current salary reflects that. But the question comes when everyone is a millionaire or everyone has high human capital (e.g. everyone has a PhD), then who will clean our toilets?!

The answer is actually really simple. You pay the toilet cleaner relative to his or her opportunity cost. If he or she can easily command a high paying job with his/her skill set, then just pay him/her a higher salary (to make up for the opportunity cost and maybe a little extra to get over his/her reservation about cleaning toilets) and he/she will clean the toilet (assuming this person is a completely rational actor that only cares about maximizing budget). In this world where everyone is a millionaire, the toilet cleaner might be the one commanding the highest wage!

This sounds ridiculous, but a lot of jobs work this way. Plumbers and other people who have dirty jobs command a higher salary than you imagine. This is because plumbing requires skill, but also because not a lot of people wish to be plumbers and thus the salary needs to be high to attract people to the profession. This goes into another concept of reservation wage, which we will not cover today.

In short, capitalism does not need a “lower class” of people to do the “distasteful” jobs. If wage is flexible, it will adjust itself so that all demands of the market are met. There will always be people willing to work if the price is right, and these people do not need to be the lower class.”

(this is in response to this post)