INNOVATION CAPITALISM COVID-19 

Patents versus the People

Prabhat Patnaik

IDEAs | May 17, 2021

On October 2, 2020, even before any vaccines against Covid-19 had been approved, India and South Africa had proposed to the WTO that a temporary patent waiver should be granted on all such innovations. In the following months, 100 countries had supported this demand. And on May 5, the US, usually the most ardent defender of the patent system, agreed to a temporary patent waiver on anti-Covid vaccines, committing itself to “text-based negotiations at the WTO”.

The basic argument for such a move arises from the urgent need at present to expand vaccine production. A patent works by creating artificial scarcity so that prices are kept high for a longer period and the innovating firm can make profits that are large enough supposedly to recoup the investment made in developing the patented product, but the scarcity of vaccines is precisely what the world can ill-afford at present. When thousands are dying around the world, saving lives has priority over firms’ profits, for which patents on vaccines must be removed.Read More »

ROSA LUXEMBURG

ROSA LUXEMBURG AND THE POLITICAL MASS STRIKE

Rida Vaquas

Prometheus | March 06, 2021

This paper was delivered to celebrate Rosa Luxemburg’s 150th Birthday at a panel organised by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung and the International Rosa Luxemburg Society. You can find a video of the complete panel and the discussion here.

If you ever went to an anti-austerity protest in the United Kingdom in the last decade, you may well have seen the ubiquitous placards demanding a ‘General Strike Now’. In the US ‘General Strike 2020’ briefly trended on Twitter in March 2020, spurred on by popular writers like Naomi Klein and Bree Newsom Bass. Most tellingly, shortly after this, multiple articles appeared explaining what exactly a general strike is. Of course, no socialist would be against a general strike were it to occur. But raising the demand for a general strike, through placards on demonstrations, or by popular tweets, suggests a decline in our ability to think about what mass strikes are, why they happen, and what can be achieved with them.Read More »

TREACHERY OF IMF

IMF and debt: a new consensus?

Michael Roberts Blog | April 15, 2021

There is much talk among ‘progressive’ economists that the IMF and the World Bank have turned over a new leaf.  Gone are the days of supporting fiscal austerity, demanding that national governments get public debt levels down and insisting on conditions for countries borrowing IMF-WB funds that their governments privatise their state assets, deregulate markets and reduce labour rights.

Now after the experience of the unprecedented COVID pandemic slump, the old ‘Washington Consensus’ is over and has been replaced by a new ‘consensus’.  Whereas the “Washington Consensus” for international economic policies of the 1990s saw government failures as the reason for poor growth performance and advised governments ‘to get out of the way’ of market forces, now the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation’s chiefs call for more fiscal spending, more funds for lending, and measures to reduce inequality between nations and within nations through higher taxes on the rich.Read More »

POLITICAL ECONOMY 

Aaron Benanav, Gavin Mueller, and Jason Smith, “Technology, Automation, and Socialist Strategy”

Science & Society | April 04, 2021

The sixth talk of the Science & Society Online Speaker Series. Please visit Science & Society at: scienceandsociety.com Or, write to us at: info@scienceandsociety.com —- Science & Society does not adhere to any particular school of Marxism. The viewpoints expressed by the speaker do not necessarily represent S&S’s editorial perspective.

Read More »

U.S. ECONOMY

The sugar rush economy

Michael Roberts Blog | March 21, 2021

Last week the US Federal Reserve raised its growth forecasts for the US economy for this year and next. Fed officials now reckon the US economy with expand in real terms by 6.5%, the fastest pace since 1984, a few years after the slump of 1980-2.  This is a significant rise from the Fed’s previous forecast.  Also, the unemployment rate is expected to drop to just 4.5% by year-end, while the inflation rate ticks up to 2.2%, above the official target rate set by the Fed.Read More »

POLITICAL ECONOMY 

The Drain of Wealth

Colonialism before the First World War

Utsa Patnaik and Prabhat Patnaik

Monthly Review | Volume 72, Issue 08 (January 2021)

British Indian Empire

British Indian Empire, “Political Map of the Indian Empire, 1893” from Constable’s Hand Atlas of India, London: Archibald Constable and Sons, 1893. Link.
The Western European powers appropriated economic surplus from their colonies, and this materially and substantially aided their own industrial transition from the eighteenth century onward, as well as the diffusion of capitalism to the regions of new European settlement. In the literature on economic growth, however, we find little awareness of the existence of such transfers, let alone their sheer scale, or the specific real and financial mechanisms through which these transfers were effected. Much research still remains to be done in this area. In the case of India, however, for well over a century there has been a rich discussion on transfers, termed the drain of wealth, initiated by two outstanding writers, Dadabhai Naoroji and R. C. Dutt.1 Here, we confine ourselves to discussing transfers only in the context of India.

With few exceptions, the literature on the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century industrial transition in the core countries ignores the drain of wealth, or transfers, from the colonies.2 The mainstream interpretation posits a purely internal dynamic for the rise of capitalist industrialization, and some authors even suggest that the colonies were a burden on the metropolis, which would have been better off without them.Read More »

ECONOMICS 

Mission Impossible

Michael Robert’s Blog | February 20, 2021

Italian-American economist, Mariana Mazzucato, who works and resides in London, has become a big name in what we might call ‘centre-left’ or even in mainstream economic and political circles.  She has a new book out, Mission Economy: a moonshot guide to changing capitalism.

Mazzucato was briefly an economic adviser to the UK Labour Party under Corbyn and McDonnell; she apparently “has the ear” of radical Congress representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; she advised Democratic presidential hopeful, Senator Elizabeth Warren and also Scottish Nationalist leader Nicola Sturgeon.  She was even accorded the title of “the world’s scariest economist because her ideas were apparently really shaking up things among the great and good.  According to the London Times newspaper, “admired by Bill Gates, consulted by governments, Mariana Mazzucato is the expert others argue with at their peril”.Read More »

CLASS POLITICS 

Whose Crisis, Which?

Farooque Chowdhury

Frontier | Vol. 53, No. 22-25, Nov 29 – Dec 26, 2020

Crises deluge this region considered a sub-continent in Asia. The questions are:
(1)   Which crises?
(2)   Whose crises are these?
(3)   At which stage are these crises?

A question, also, encounters a part of the progressives: Are the endeavours for a revolutionary change going through a crisis?

The first three questions–which and whose, and which stage–help find out answer to the question related to revolutionary change.Read More »

BEATING WALL STREET 

Stop The Game – I Want to Get Off!

Michael Roberts Blog | January 28, 2021

‘Hedging’ used to be a way of reducing the risk of selling or buying.  Farmers waiting for their harvest to come in are uncertain about what price per bushel they will get at the market: will they get a price that makes them a profit and a living for next year or will they be made destitute?  To reduce that risk, hedge companies offer to buy the harvest in advance at a fixed price.  The farmer is guaranteed a price and income whatever the price per bushel at the time of going to market.  The hedge fund takes the risk that it can make a profit by buying the harvest at a price below the eventual market price.  In this way, ‘hedging’ can smooth out the volatility in prices, often very high in agricultural and mineral sectors.Read More »