From Marx to Goldman Sachs: The Fictions of Fictitious Capital

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As published in Critique, based on a presentation given at the China Academy of Sciences, School of Marxist Studies in Beijing in November 2009, and at the Left Forum in New York City, March 20, 2010. Classical economists developed the labor theory of value to isolate economic rent, which they defined as the excess of market price and income over the socially necessary cost of production (value ultimately reducible to the cost of labor). A free market was one free of such “unearned” income – a market in which prices reflected actual necessary costs of production or, in the case of public services and basic infrastructure, would be subsidized in order to make economies more competitive. Most reformers accordingly urged – ...

China's Policy Checkmate

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Interview with Xulin Dong May 2010 DX: You have strongly advocated the use of taxation as a most effective and desirable way to prevent real-estate bubble. Now in the Chinese media there’s a good deal of discussion about the need to re-design China’s real-estate tax regime. In particular, about the merit of a US type of property tax. So what are the key elements of a good real-estate regime? MH: For starters, there is confusion about just what a “land tax” is. China has a policy of granting long-term leases, for up to 70 years for residential property. The price charged for these leases is NOT a land tax. It gives security of land title – that is, of land tenure. On the ...

Dollar Hegemony and the Rise of China

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Hudson to Premier Wen Jaibao, March 15, 2010 Dear Premier Wen Jiabao, I write this letter to counteract some of the solutions that Western politicians are recommending for China to cope with its buildup of excess foreign-exchange reserves. Raising the renminbi’s exchange rate against the dollar will not cure the China-US payments imbalance. The dollar glut will continue, and so will the currency fluctuation among the dollar, euro and sterling, leaving no stable store of value. The cause of this instability is that each of these three currency areas has grown top-heavy with by debts in excess of the ability to pay. What then should China should it do with its buildup of excess reserves, if not recycle its inflows into their bonds? ...

Latvia’s Third Option

Neither Devaluation nor Austerity, but Tax Restructuring A shortened version was published in today's Financial Times. As Europe’s banking crisis deepens, Greece’s and Spain’s fiscal crisis spreads throughout Europe and the US economy stalls, most discussions of how to stabilize national finances assume that only two options are available: “internal devaluation” – shrinking the economy by cutting public spending; or outright devaluation of the currency (for countries that have not yet joined the euro, such as Eastern Europe). The Baltics and other countries have rejected currency depreciation on the ground that it would delay EU membership. But as most debts are denominated in euros – and owed mainly to foreign banks or their local branches – devaluation would cause a sharp jump in ...