Roberts: More on global wealth inequality, Davos and the Chinese princelings

Much has been made of the headline from the recent Oxfam report on global wealth inequality that revealed that the richest 85 people in the world are worth more than the poorest 3.5 billion.wealth pyramid

The Oxfam data are actually taken from Credit Suisse?s 2013 global wealth report (global_wealth_report_2013.) But again this report comes from the earlier study by UN economists Tony Shorrocks (a former university colleague of mine) and Jim Davies using the UN wealth database. I reported on this study back in October.

Read moreRoberts: More on global wealth inequality, Davos and the Chinese princelings

How do we get from here to there? Socialist strategy and political participation

by Dara McHugh
Is there a clear path to a better world? All too often, the route is set from a single fork in the road; the old polemical division ? reform or revolution. For those who emphasise immediate reforms, we go via policy, driven by a competent and committed party, skilled at crafting reforms and winning support for them. For revolutionaries, the vehicle is a movement powerful enough to overthrow capitalism and institute a new society in its place, accompanied by a party to guide them there. For this camp, reforms are, at best, waystones in the development of a revolutionary movement; at worst, dangerous diversions that instill a false faith in the malleability of capitalism.

Read moreHow do we get from here to there? Socialist strategy and political participation

The great recession — interview with Michael Roberts

Michael Roberts works in the City of London as an economist. He has closely observed the machinations of the global financial system from the dragon?s den. He has been a follower of the Marxist view of society for over 40 years. This is an intreview released on the occasion of M. Robert’s new book appearing on the market — ‘The Great Recession’ — where he deals with the problem of the current economic crisis. He tunnels beneath the available statistics and extracts the Marxist categories in it. His main emphasis is on the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. The book is available HERE.

PART 1 *** The Great Recession took place between 2007 and 2009, Michael Roberts provides a Marxist analysis of the causes and consequences of the worst recession since 1929-1932. He has carried out a study of the profit rate data for the world’s major economies over 100 years. His book provides a unique and fascinating survey of the modern world and the forces shaping its fate.

Read moreThe great recession — interview with Michael Roberts

Bulgaria’s failed state ?xposed again

A whopping 250+ days of protests in a row demanding the resignation of Plamen Oresharski?s government have gripped Bulgaria since June 14 when the prime minister appointed Delyan Pehevski — a well-known Bulgarian oligarch — for head of the National State Security Agency. The public pressure led to his withdrawal, but Pehevski nonetheless became the summary image of the grotesque that is Bulgarian democracy today: brutal, short-sighted, cynical, oligarchic and shallow.

?If you want to know the truth — ask a child? says an old Bulgarian proverb. The current events in Bulgaria have actually confirmed the validity of this folk wisdom. While the analysts internationally had been scratching their heads trying to figure out the political background of the protests, a 7-years-old boy who came to demonstrate with his parents revealed this ?secret? — in very simple words — to a journalist of the Bulgarian National Television.

– There is no way we can stand it anymore. You can?t live here! We hate to politicians, we hate the parties, we hate the parliament, we hate the thieves, we hate the mafia, we hate the nonsense around us. No money, no jobs, no state really. Poverty and death around us. You can?t live here! — he shouted to the microphone held against this face and proudly waved the miniature Bulgarian flag he had in his hands. This clip recorded in the early fall last year became one of the major hits in the Bulgarian internet.

This short statement, no matter how childish in its form is — in fact — very exhaustive and explanatory. At first glance it appears very confusing, particularly to an external observer. What does one associate Bulgaria with in the West? Cheap tourist destination most of all. But in the political dimension, officially, Bulgaria has a lot of democracy going on — laws, elections, a parliament, a president, EU membership, free will… Look from the outside, and it?s clearly there. The inside of this strange hologram, though, feels completely different, especially if you are a Bulgarian. One little scratch of this liberal-democratic surface and the excrement starts leaking massively.

Read moreBulgaria’s failed state ?xposed again

Roberts: The failure of forecasting

All the talk among mainstream economics is that faster economic growth is just around the corner. All the august analysts at those grotesque investment banks like Goldman Sachs or Deutsche Bank expect global growth will move up to around 4% next year from a feeble 3% this year. And the chief economist of the IMF, Olivier Blanchard, always quick to try to keep up with the economic Joneses?, has announced that he intends to raise his forecasts for US real GDP growth for next year.

Well, I?ll look at prospects for 2014 in my next post after the Christian seasonal break. But while those of you who do, are eating their turkey or whatever, remember that economic forecasting is way less accurate than weather forecasting. And in the case of the period since the Great Recession, mainstream economic forecasts have been consistently too optimistic. In fact, since 2010, global GDP growth has declined every year and 2013 will continue this trend: 2010: 5.2%; 2011: 3.9%; 2012: 3.2% and 2013: 2.9%. For the advanced capitalist economies, growth has been even poorer: 2010: 3%; 2011: 1.7%; 2012: 1.5% and 2013: 1.2%.

Read moreRoberts: The failure of forecasting

Roberts: Greed is good, inequality is necessary and might is right — Ayn Rand & Pope Francis

Ayn Rand is very popular persona with the right-wing elite particularly in the US. Public followers of her philosophy of greed and self-interest include ex-Chair of the US Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan and Paul Ryan, leading Republican Congressman and Tea Party ?libertarian? Ron Paul.

Rand?s philosophy is really the epitome of thinking by the modern rich elite of the world. She did not believe in God, did not want a monarchy or an aristocracy and certainly not democracy. Society should be ruled by the wealthy and powerful who knew what to do. In this bourgeois Platonic world, the elite would operate purely on self-interest and greed would be their watchword. The rest of us were no more than human garbage to be used to make society function for the rich. The rich elites were the heroes and the masses were a dangerous mob that must be suppressed if they sought any democratic say in the running of this ?pure capitalist? society.

Read moreRoberts: Greed is good, inequality is necessary and might is right — Ayn Rand & Pope Francis

The transition

The period of transition between our current capitalist economic and social system and a socialist economy is a very controversial subject among socialists. Maintaining an active dialogue and critique of this period is absolutely critical to our strategic and tactical understanding of how to achieve a socialist society. Nothing springs from the naked void fully formed. We need to examine the best avenues open to us for changing our current social direction into a society we would like to bring into existence.

Read moreThe transition

Faster growth in 2014?

So here we are starting 2014 and heading towards seven full years since the global credit crunch began in summer 2007 and into the fifth year since the summer of 2009 when the Great Recession reached its trough and the global economic recovery began. What I said more or less at this time last year was:

In 2013, economic growth in the major economies is likely to be much the same as in 2012 ? pretty weak and below long-term averages. But 2013 is not likely to see a return of a big slump in capitalism. I do not expect the US to grow faster than in 2012 and Europe and Japan will struggle to grow at all. The key emerging economies may do a little better than in 2012, as China?s state-directed economy under new leaders invests more. But on the whole, it will be another poor year.

And so it has turned out more or less, even with the US economy. US average annual real GDP growth (including the Great Recession and an estimate for 2013) has been just 0.9% compared to 2.4% in the years before 2007 and way below the average real growth of the 1980s and 1990s.

Read moreFaster growth in 2014?