Category Archives: Harm through the market

Oligopolies and monopolies are very important ways of obtaining income without providing a productive service. They produce goods, a productive service. However, they receive additional income by raising prices, and their oligopoly/monopoly profits are distinguished by economists from normal profits and other expenses, which are the returns to productive activity. There are other harmful aspects to concentration and large firms as well, including restriction of innovation, using patents to defend market position, labor market power, including non-compete requirements for their employees, and substantial political power.  It is important to bring out that this harm involves the productive sector. Goods are being produced, but part of the income is from harmful activity. This is very often true–harmful activity is intertwined with productive. Also see Obtaining income from the government as both are often involved. Tax havens are another way in which taxes can be minimized and income from corruption can be laundered.

Harm through the market 2021

Revealed: The true extent of America’s food monopolies, and who pays the price Nina Lakhani, Aliya Uteuova and Alvin Chang The Guardian July 14, 2021
The Guardian and Food and Water Watch investigation into 61 popular grocery items reveals that the top companies control an average of 64% of sales. For 85% of the groceries analyzed, four firms or fewer controlled more than 40% of market share. It’s widely agreed that consumers, farmers, small food companies and the planet lose out if the top four firms control 40% or more of total sales.

The insect apocalypse: ‘Our world will grind to a halt without them’ Dave Goulson The Guardian July 25, 2021
Insects have declined by 75% in the past 50 years – and the consequences may soon be catastrophic. Biologist Dave Goulson reveals the vital services they perform.

The Department of Yes. How pesticide companies corrupted the EPA and poisoned America Sharon Lerner The Intercept June 30, 2021

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Cover of The Useless Man

The Useless Man: A political economy of populism by Pierre-Noël Giraud

Today, the “wretched of the earth” are no longer those oppressed by colonization, but rather the unemployed and the working poor, migrants and refugees, landless peasants depending on public or familial assistance to survive—in a word, the economically useless.
Uselessness is the most pernicious form of inequality, because it drives these men and women into traps of poverty from which escape is all but impossible.
Drawing on economic theory, political philosophy, and demographic and scientific projections on human population and natural resources throughout the twenty-first century, renowned economist and author Pierre-Noël Giraud exposes the alarming ways that the rise of uselessness defined as such—not only lack of value in a labor market, but also the inability to independently improve one’s own standing—fuels the global resurgence of populism, engendering social and political risks from demagoguery and intolerance to mass migrations and civil war.
Like environmental change, economic uselessness is a reality from which nations and societies can no longer hide—and it is this urgency that may show us the way forward. The Useless Man concludes with a series of carefully reasoned recommendations concerning nature and climate, globalization, and finance, all evaluating potential public policies by how effectively they stand to stem the growth of uselessness.
A lucid assessment of our current geopolitical situation and a stirring forecast of what will happen if we fail to act quickly and collaboratively on a global scale, The Useless Man is an essential, compassionate addition to the debate around economic inequality and its political consequences.

Pierre-Noël Giraud is professor of economics at Mines ParisTech, Paris Dauphine University, and the EMINES School of Industrial Management in Morocco, as well as a member of the National Academy of Technologies of France. He is the author of a number of landmark books on economics, of which The Useless Man is the first published in English. 

Harmful Economics will publish a review of The Useless Man when one becomes available. The text above is from the publisher’s website.

Damage to the U.S. economic and financial system 2020

A revealing report on the mid-March financial crisis Nick Beams World Socialist Web Site November 19, 2020 See the Financial Stability Board’s full report (60 page PDF file)

As the Financial Times noted in a report on the crisis in September: “The US government bond market is akin to the investment world’s bomb shelter, a safe space where everyone can seek refuge when the rest of the financial system is exploding. In March, the bomb shelter itself started to rumble ominously.”

According to the FSB report, the crisis was set off when foreign investors, primarily central banks, sold off almost $300 billion worth of US Treasury debt. “Market dysfunction” was then exacerbated by “substantial sales” of US Treasuries as speculative and highly-leveraged trades, based on taking advantage of the difference between the price of Treasury bonds and their futures, became loss-making.

The large-scale unwinding of these trades, amounting to $90 billion during March, was “likely one of the contributors to a short period of extreme illiquidity on government bond markets,” the report said.

The storm lasted for a “short period” not because of any self-correction mechanism in financial markets but only as a result of the massive intervention by the US Federal Reserve and other major central banks that prevented a meltdown of the entire financial system going far beyond what took place in 2008.

A hedge fund bailout highlights how regulators ignored big risks Jeanna Smialek and Deborah B. Solomon New York Times July 24, 2020
The Dodd-Frank financial law succeeded at making banks safer, but empowered shadowy corners of finance that nearly wrecked the system in March.

Businesses are supposed to cut debt in a downturn. Why not now? Matt Phillips New York Times July 20, 2020
The Federal Reserve’s efforts to stabilize markets have touched off an even bigger borrowing binge than corporate America was already on. Investors have been so emboldened by the Fed’s actions that even companies viewed as especially risky are having no problem borrowing heavily…. The low costs of borrowing will inevitably keep some companies alive that would otherwise have gone bankrupt this year, creating a class of so-called zombie companies that stagger along but are too weak to invest and grow while sucking up cash that could be put to better use elsewhere.