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Guida allo studio critico dell’economia politica

“Barbarians at the Gate” is a 1993 television movie based upon the book by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, about the leveraged buyout (LBO) of RJR Nabisco. The film was directed by Glenn Jordan and written by Larry Gelbart. It stars James Garner as F. Ross Johnson, the CEO of RJR Nabisco, and Jonathan Pryce as Henry Kravis, his chief rival for the company. It also features Peter Riegert, Joanna Cassidy and Fred Dalton Thompson. The film won both the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie and the Golden Globe for Best Television Movie while James Garner won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Movie.

by David Graeber and David Wengrow

We want to offer an entirely different account of human history. We believe that much of what has been discovered in the last few decades, by archaeologists and others in kindred disciplines, cuts against the conventional wisdom propounded by modern “big history” writers. ​​What this new evidence shows is that a surprising number of the world’s earliest cities were organized along robustly egalitarian lines. In some regions, we now know, urban populations governed themselves for centuries without any indication of the temples and palaces that would later emerge; in others, temples and palaces never emerged at all, and there is simply no evidence of a class of administrators or any other sort of ruling stratum. It would seem that the mere fact of urban life does not, necessarily, imply any particular form of political organization, and never did. Far from resigning us to inequality, the new picture that is now emerging of humanity’s deep past may open our eyes to egalitarian possibilities we otherwise would have never considered.

Robert Reich

American workers are now flexing their muscles for the first time in decades.

You might say workers have declared a national general strike until they get better pay and improved working conditions.

No one calls it a general strike. But in its own disorganized way it’s related to the organized strikes breaking out across the land – Hollywood TV and film crews, John Deere workers, Alabama coal miners, Nabisco workers, Kellogg workers, nurses in California, healthcare workers in Buffalo.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/oct/13/american-workers-general-strike-robert-reich

Joseph E. Stiglitz

.. a key part of the answer is a deep misinterpretation, especially among the right, of individual liberty. Those who refuse to wear masks or socially distance often argue that requirements to do so infringe on their freedom. But one person’s freedom is another person’s “unfreedom.” If their refusal to wear a mask or get vaccinated results in others getting COVID-19, their behavior is denying others the more fundamental right to life itself. The essence of the matter is that there are large externalities: In a pandemic, one person’s actions affect the well-being of others. And whenever there are such externalities, the well-being of society requires collective action: regulations to restrict socially harmful behavior and to promote socially beneficial behavior.

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/covid19-spike-in-us-reflects-misunderstanding-of-liberty-by-joseph-e-stiglitz-2021-09?

Bernardino Fantini |Professore onorario di storia della medicina e della sanità – Università di Ginevra

La vaccinazione è il più “eroico” dei rimedi sanitari, l’atto medico più celebre, un simbolo della tecnologia medica. Accanto al gesto che cura, presente sin dall’antichità in sculture, bassorilievi e vasi, si associa a partire dalla fine del Settecento, con la prima vaccinazione contro il vaiolo realizzata da Edward Jenner, il gesto che previene, che crea uno scudo protettivo della salute individuale e collettiva contro il vaiolo, la malattia all’epoca più temuta ma che diverrà poi anche la prima malattia grave ad essere eliminata, eradicata, con uno sforzo cosciente e globale di politica sanitaria internazionale basato sulla copertura vaccinale di intere popolazioni. La storia dei vaccini è relativamente breve, coprendo poco più di due secoli, dalla fine del Settecento a oggi, ma è estremamente densa di innovazioni scientifiche e tecnologiche, di  controversie intorno alle politiche vaccinali e di impatti profondi sulla vita delle persone e delle collettività. In questa breve storia si possono distinguere cinque periodi che si sono cronologicamente succeduti : 

1. Un periodo che si può chiamare di ‘preistoria’ della vaccinazione, con i tentativi anche antichi ma localizzati nel tempo e nel spazio di immunizzare i bambini con tecniche basate sul trasferimento di materia purulenta, in particolare la ‘variolizzazione’ per immunizzare contro il vaiolo.

2. La scoperta della vaccinazione jenneriana e la sua diffusione, con i primi programmi di vaccinazione obbligatoria, prima di determinati gruppi, poi di intere popolazioni. 

3. La rivoluzione pastoriana, le origini della microbiologia e dell’igiene scientifica, da cui deriva l’origine della ‘vaccinologia’, che sul modello del vaccino espande all’insieme delle malattie infettive l’idea di immunizzazione. Questo allargamento degli obiettivi vaccinali si accompagna allo sviluppo di movimenti contrari alla vaccinazione, in particolare obbligatoria.

4. Il primi decenni del Novecento, una vera ‘età aurea’ della vaccinologia, con la scoperta di nuovi vaccini, che insieme agli antibiotici e ai metodi di terapia intensiva, sono considerati come una delle tecnologie di punta e più efficaci, capaci di debellare per sempre la maggior parte delle malattie epidemiche. Da qui nasce una sorta di “illusione tecnologica”, la speranza che grazie allo sviluppo delle tecniche mediche sarebbe stato possibile disfarsi delle malattie infettive.

5. Il periodo fra la fine del XX e il nuovo millennio, caratterizzato dall’emergenza di molte nuove malattie infettive (‘malattie emergenti’, a partire dall’AIDS), dallo sviluppo di nuovi vaccini, ma anche da  una forte ripresa delle posizioni negative nei confronti della vaccinazione.

https://criticamarxista.net/2021/07/27/la-storia-dei-vaccini-%e2%80%a8medicina-politica-ed-economia/

Jeffrey P. Clemens, Associate Professor, UC San Diego

A thread

The US effort to suppress opium production in Afghanistan is an issue in which I’ve long taken an interest. It was the topic of my undergraduate thesis, which was later published in the Journal of Law and Economics. It also generated a follow-on project.

My first paper on the US effort to discourage Afghan farmers from cultivating opium poppy focused on the most basic question: can it work? The answer was a likely “no” for reasons that relate to the basics of supply and demand.

Policies to discourage poppy cultivation (promoting other crops or eradicating the poppy crop) involve efforts to shift the supply curve. But basic data on input costs, crop yields, and eradication efforts reveal that the plausible shifts in the supply curve were modest.

The impact of a shift in the supply curve on the quantity produced depends on the slope of the demand curve. Here, data indicate that the elasticity of demand (specifically, from traffickers for the opium they collect from farmers) will be quite low.

Why would the elasticity of demand from traffickers be low? Two reasons: First, retail demand elasticities are modest. But second, and more importantly, the price at Afghan farms turns out to account for a very modest share of traffickers’ total costs.

The cost of getting opiates to retail markets largely involve the risks of trafficking itself. Consequently, demand for opium from Afghan farmers, which is a crucial input in the chain, is highly inelastic: Large changes in price have modest effects on the quantity demanded.

Together, these basic economic factors imply that the effect of efforts to suppress poppy cultivation would be primarily to increase prices paid to farmers rather than reduce production. And indeed, this has been borne out over the long haul.

As documented in a recent report by the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime, Afghan poppy cultivation has if anything drifted gradually upward since the US first ramped up its expenditures on the effort to suppress opium production (roughly in 2005):

For my full paper on this first set of issues (published in the Journal of Law and Economics), see the link below: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/589673

Unfortunately, it gets worse. Not only did total opium production fail to decline, but it shifted (predictably) towards the regions of the country the government was struggling to control.

The effort to suppress opium production was premised in part on the idea that the drug trade was funding the insurgency. While there’s a sense in which this is true, the suppression policy quite severely aggravated the problem.

As shown in the figure below, US expenditure on efforts to suppress poppy cultivation escalated substantially during the mid-2000s. This was met with a shift in poppy cultivation towards areas in which the Taliban has long exerted its greatest influence.

The shift in poppy cultivation can most effectively be seen using maps: BEFORE the increase in anti-opium expenditures, poppy cultivation was quite prevalent in districts around the country. Afterwards, however, cultivation consolidated in Taliban-intensive areas.

So the US set out to reduce the Taliban’s ability to profit from the drug trade. But in effect, the US eliminated competition from government-friendly regions of the country, which INCREASED the Taliban’s ability to profit from the drug trade. A disaster.

I published some of these main ideas as a paper in the 2013 AEA Papers & Proceedings: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/aer.103.3.523

Some of the figures from earlier in the thread can be found in an expanded working paper, which is available here: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2201172

The outcome observed in Afghanistan can be generalized to many contexts in which a government lacks the capacity to follow through on policies of prohibition. The most successful suppliers of prohibited goods and services will tend to be “the bad guys.” (like Al Capone)

Long-run outcomes as they relate to the production of opium in Afghanistan are depressing in part because they were predictable. At the same time, this is a useful case study in the power of basic economics to shed light on difficult problems.

It is deeply disappointing, however, that such an ineffective and outright counterproductive policy towards Afghan opium production was sustained for such an extended period of time.

Recensione scritta da Giorgio Rodano, Sapienza Università di Roma

Sono tante le cose di questo libro di Bellofiore su cui mi sono trovato in accordo e ce ne sono invece parecchie (di più? di meno?) su cui mi sono trovato in disaccordo. Di alcune ho parlato nelle pagine precedenti. Di altre non ho detto per motivi di spazio, così come, per gli stessi motivi, non ho trattato di molti argomenti del libro che meritavano di essere illustrati e discussi. Per esempio non ho detto praticamente nulla sulla questione della liberazione dal lavoro, cui Bellofiore contrappone, sulla scia del Marx dei Grundrisse, quella della liberazione del lavoro, una questione intricata, che occupa uno spazio importante (quantitativo e qualitativo) del libro. Così pure non ho dedicato lo spazio che avrebbe meritato al tema dell’origine filosofica (che si trova in Locke) del “postulato” che anima tutta la ricerca di Bellofiore, ossia che la fonte del valore è il lavoro, un’idea con cui talvolta sembra civettare lo stesso Keynes (cfr. p. 338). Ma sono contento di aver letto il libro. Nonostante la fatica che comporta il confronto con tematiche complesse e spesso ardue, si esce dalla sua lettura diversi da come ci si è entrati. Riccardo Bellofiore ha scritto un libro ricco di spunti di riflessione, alcuni discutibili ma sempre stimolanti. Un libro che fa pensare, e di questo lo ringrazio.

https://rosa.uniroma1.it/rosa04/moneta_e_credito/article/view/17521/16721

Aporie dell’integrazione europea: tra universalismo umanitario e sovranismo è frutto di un percorso di studio e di ricerca che ha coinvolto studiosi afferenti all’Università di Évora e al Centro de Investigação em Ciência Política (CICP) in Portogallo e studiosi del DSU della Federico II di Napoli e di altre prestigiose università italiane. Il volume, articolato in tre sezioni, affronta con un approccio interdisciplinare la tensione tra l’universalismo – inteso tanto come principio filosofico proprio della tradizione culturale occidentale, quanto come principio giuridico-politico che è alla base del processo di integrazione – e il principio di sovranità che invece tende a preservare l’autonomia politica degli Stati all’interno del processo di integrazione.

Autori: Rosalia Peluso, Vittorio Morfino, F. M. Cacciatore, G. Giannini, S. Rocha Chuna, M. Boemio, Luca Basso, Giso Amendola, Alessandro Arienzo, Salvatore Tinè, Alex Höbel, Maurizio Donato, Salvatore D’Acunto.

http://www.fedoabooks.unina.it/index.php/fedoapress/catalog/book/238

Talha Burki

Cuba’s Henry Reeve Brigade was established in 2005. It has despatched cadres of health-care professionals all over the world to combat disasters and epidemics. Cuban doctors were on the scene in Haiti during the cholera outbreak that followed the 2010 earthquake; they arrived in west Africa during the 2013–16 Ebola crisis. And when COVID-19 spread to Europe, two Henry Reeve teams landed in Italy. By the end of April, 2020, more than 1000 Cuban health-care workers were helping foreign countries respond to COVID-19.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(21)00159-6/fulltext

Paolo Acciari, Facundo Alvaredo, Salvatore Morelli

The richest 0.1% saw a twofold increase in their real average net wealth (from AC7.6 million
to AC15.8 million at 2016 prices), making its share double, from 5.5% to 9.3% (equivalent
to a change from 55 to 93 times their proportionate share). In contrast, the poorest 50%
controlled 11.7% of total wealth in 1995, and 3.5% recently. This corresponds to a 80% drop
in the average net wealth (from AC27,000 to AC7,000 at 2016 prices). Strong concentration
increases were also recorded for the richest 10%, whose share went up from 44% in 1995 to
56% in 2016.

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