W-Z: Watered Stock to Zero-Sum

Parts W - Z in the Insider's Economic Dictionary War: Economically, the major cause of national debt and inflation, and often of postwar deflations. Politically, war serves as an excuse to centralize control of government in the hands of the few, and in the Executive Branch of government. Washington Consensus: The neoliberal “conditionalities” imposed on debtor countries by the IMF and World Bank since 1980, forcing their governments to sell off the public domain to U.S. and other international finance capital. Its greatest success was achieved in Russia after 1991, supporting the kleptocrats to privatize – and then sell off – the nation’s mineral and oil wealth, dismantle industry, and impose monetarist austerity rolling back wage levels and living standards, leading to ...

U-V: Usury to Vested Interests

Parts U-V in the Insider's Economic Dictionary Underdevelopment: The term coined by Andre Gunder Frank to describe the policies which former European colonies and more contemporary third-world countries have been turned into indebted raw-materials exporters rather than balanced economies capable of feeding themselves. (See World System.) Unearned income: See Free Lunch. Unexpected. Whenever bad economic news is announced in the United States, the media almost always attach the adjective “unexpected” to it. This is because it is deemed politically incorrect to expect bad news – to expect unemployment to rise, or to expect retail sales to be down. To accurately expect bad news may be realistic, but to anticipate this reality is something like becoming a premature anti-fascist. So it has become almost ...

S for Saint Simon

Part S in the Insider's Economic Dictionary S-curve: The typical shape of growth in nature, such as human beings whose height tapers off as they reach maturity. They also typify most business cycles, which taper off after an upswing as employment, raw-materials and resource limits are approached and wages and commodity prices rise, slowing profits. The demand for specific products likewise tapers off as markets become saturated. Meanwhile, the fact that financial claims and debts tend to grow at compound interest means that financial dynamics tend to outrun the S-curve of production and consumption, creating business crises which end the upswing. Saint-Simon, Claude Henry de (1760-1825): French reformer best known for recognizing the need to replace debt relations by turning saving into ...

R is for Rentier

The latest instalment to the Insider's Economic Dictionary. Race to the bottom: A term for dog-eat-dog competition by which countries compete by cutting wage levels so as to produce in the cheapest market, not by raising wages and labor productivity. The effect is to shrink the circular flow between producers and employee-consumers, leading to declining living standards. Under these circumstances productivity is increased only by working the existing labor force more intensively and cutting back medical insurance, old-age pensions and other social welfare expenditures. (See Free Market.) The state of Alabama shows the inner contradiction inherent in this policy. When the state cut back educational and health spending in order to minimize taxes, ostensibly to attract business, global companies pulled out on ...

P is for Ponzi

Part P in The Insiders Economic Dictionary. Panic: The abrupt culminating stage of the business cycle, in which inflated asset prices collapse in price as financial securities and properties are sold to pay off debts. Parallel Universe: The objective of modern economic methodology. A hypothetical exercise in science fiction depicting a world that conceivably could exist, given a sufficient number of internally consistent assumptions. (See Neoclassical Economics.) Parasite: A “free luncher,” from the Latin word meaning an uninvited guest brought along to a meal or crashing the party. Parasites avoid detection by camouflaging themselves as part of the host itself, and then disable the host’s brain to prevent it from taking counter-measures to protect its own growth. The economic analogue most often cited ...

N is for Neo-Serfdom, O for Offshore Banking

Part N, O in The Insiders Economic Dictionary. Neoclassical economics: The school that arose in the last quarter of the 19th century, stripping away the classical concept of economic rent as unearned income. By the late 20th century the term “neoclassical” had come to connote a deductive body of free-trade theory using circular reasoning by tautology, excluding discussion of property, debt and the financial sector’s role in general, taking the existing institutional environment for granted. (See Marginalism and Parallel Universe, and contrast with Structural Problem and Systems Analysis.) Neoconservatives: Ideologues who oppose government authority and taxation of wealth, except where governments are controlled by the financial and property sectors. Neoconservatives view democratic governments that impose progressive income taxes to finance public infrastructure ...

M for Marginalism

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Part M in The Insiders Economic Dictionary. Malthus, Thomas Robert (1766-1834): British economist and spokesman for its landlord class. His Principles of Political Economy (1820) countered Ricardo’s critique of groundrent by pointing out that landlords spent part of it on hiring coachmen and other servants and buying luxury products (coaches, fine clothes and so forth), thus providing a source of demand for British industry, and part capital improvements to raise farm productivity. This emphasis on consumption and investment endeared Malthus to Keynes, but did not deter Ricardo and the financial classes from pressing to repeal the Corn Laws in 1846 so as to minimize domestic food prices and hence groundrent. Matters have worked out in a way that neither Malthus nor his ...

L is for Land

Part L in The Insiders Economic Dictionary Labor: The labor theory of value resolves the value of products and capital goods into labor costs, while Say’s Law focuses on how employees spend their wages. Hence, labor often is euphemized as “consumers” rather than focusing on the terms of their employment by capital. Labor capitalism: Industrial capitalism is based on employing labor to produce goods to sell at a profit. The essence of “labor capitalism” is to extract money from labor by deducting payroll income for the purpose of inflating stock-market prices. First used by the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, the term was adopted by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as a populist label for her policy of channeling labor’s paychecks into the ...

J is for Jubilee, K for Kleptocrats

Part J in The Insiders Economic Dictionary Jubilee Year: In Judaic Law (Leviticus 25) a Clean Slate to be proclaimed every 50 years annulling personal and agrarian debts, liberating bond-servants to rejoin their families, and returning lands that had been alienated under economic duress. Long thought to have been merely a literary religious ideal, the policy has now been traced back to royal proclamations issued as a matter of course in Sumer and Babylonia in the third and second millennia BC. (See Bronze Age.) Junk bonds: High-interest bonds, developed in the 1980s primarily by Michael Milken at Drexel Burnham to finance corporate takeovers. Mr. Milken was sent to jail for securities fraud and Drexel was disbanded as a result of insider trading ...

I is for Ideology

Ideology: A set of assumptions so appealing that one looks at their abstract logic rather than at how the world actually works. (See Insanity.) Ignorance: Socrates said that ignorance was the source of evil, because nobody knowingly commits evil. But by pursuing their own narrow interests, the financial and property sector destroy the social unit, which is the essence of evil as viewed from an evolutionary vantage point. Thomas Hobbes wrote in Leviathan (1651) that “Ignorance of remote causes disposeth men to attribute all events to the causes immediate and instrumental: for these are all the causes they perceive.” Corporate practice has become a combination of the Ken Lay “Enron” defense of executive ignorance (“We didn’t know what was going on”) and ...