Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bad Attitude

“Every hero was once, every villain was once just a boy with a bad attitude.” ~ Meatloaf

Blogs like mine tend to be rather academic. I write about cooperatives and social investment. I post concerns about the existential effects of capital and globalization. While there’s a need for such talk (I wouldn’t keep writing this blog if I didn’t think it was needed) sometimes it seems rather cold and maybe even a little elitist. To use a term I heard as a boy one might call it “highfaluting.” What the discussion needs at times is a little attitude. Or maybe I should say what’s needed is someone with a bad attitude.

I’ve found a group that’s more than happy to provide exactly that.

The Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project exists to coordinate various groups whose goals are to protest the upcoming G-20 Summit that will take place September 24-25 in Pittsburgh, PA. According to the PG20RP web site their goal is to, “deepen ongoing social resistance locally, to demonstrate and build new and existing alternatives to the worldview represented by the G20 and the direct policies it promotes, and to disrupt the summit and undermine its attempts to gain legitimacy.”

Many of the events of the PG20RP are expected to be peaceful. On September 22 there will be an “Anti-G20 Community Gathering” that will consist of food and entertainment designed to spread the message of the dangers of globalization. While on the 23rd there will be a peaceful protest including a “Red and Black contingent,” which according to the site would “not be masked.”

After that it promises to get a lot more interesting. On the 24th there will be the “March on the G20” in which the site advises of the possibility of “direct actions” and that there would be ways made available to those who didn’t want to participate but want to show “solidarity with those do.” On the 25th the protests will continue and conclude at the local jail in a show of support to those who are arrested during the protests.

It’s very important that I stress here that I strongly oppose the use of violence, which many times occur at these protests. But I do have to say that I like the energy and passion that groups such as those associated with the PG20RP bring to the process. When these groups channel their efforts into non-violent direct action (such as marches, strikes and sit-ins) they can play a positive role in the creation of a more just system.

Sometimes it’s good to have a bad attitude.

What can you do?
* Post this promotion (Click Here) to your web site. (Warning: this flyer includes the use of the “F-Word.”)
* Link to the PG20RP from your site or blog: Link to PG20RP
* Organize a non-violent group to participate with the PG20RP events in Pittsburgh.
* Provide medical support to the participants. To learn how you can provide aid Click Here

Monday, August 17, 2009

Polly Want a Dividend?

Many of you might have already heard this story. Keith Olbermann included it one night in his program and several news outlets have carried it. AFP reported that a Korean researcher has compared the performance of a parrot by the name of Ddalgi, which translates as “strawberry,” with the performance of ten investors in choosing stocks to invest in. The human investors had free reign to pick any stocks they wanted while Ddalgi would use her beak to randomly pick blue balls that each represented a major corporation. Each investor started out with 60 million imaginary Won (which is the equivalent of $48,380).

The results were that Ddalgi beat all but two of the investors hands down. One human had a return of 64.4% and another human investor had a return of 21.4%. Ddalgi, because of simple random chance, came in third with a return of 13.7% from her investments. The other investors performed so poorly that the humans overall averaged a loss of 4.6%.

One might be inclined to assume that the reason that most of the humans performed so poorly compared to the parrot was that the researchers had the bad luck of picking some really bad investors to participate. But this was not the first study to show an illogic to the financial system.

Numerous studies have shown that the weather affects the volatility of the stock market. One such study was done by the Kurtz Chair in Finance at Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business, David Hirshleifer, along with Tyler Shumway, assistant professor of finance at the University of Michigan. In this study they compared the daily returns of the leading stock exchange in 26 countries over a 15-year period starting from 1982 until 1997 with the average cloud cover for those cities using data from the US government.

What they found was that when the weather was sunnier in those cities the stock market returns were higher. When the weather was cloudy the returns were lower. When they combined all of the cities data together the result was even a greater collation between weather and returns than it was when each city was taken individually.

So what can we learn from the parrot Ddalgi and the various weather studies? The lesson is that the claim that private investment is logical and that it’s necessary for efficient production is a myth. Private investment is nothing but a mechanism by which capitalists retain control over the means of production and redistributes wealth from the workers to themselves.

It’s time to replace private investment with social investment.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Health Care Cooperatives

Since I last wrote about the health care crisis the topic has moved front and center in Washington. At this time there are several proposals on the table. The House Democrats had proposed a public plan involving insurance exchanges that would be run by the secretary of Health and Human Services that, by last Wednesday, was watered down to nothing but negotiating with insurance companies. The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee of the Senate, along with President Obama, instead support legislation that would establish a public plan that would compete with private health insurers. The Republicans are proposing, well, nothing. All they’ve done is put out a vague outline with no details. Rather than providing something positive the Republicans spend most of their time on hate-radio trying to scare people with “socialized medicine.” A real solution such as the single-payer option, much less cooperatively-owned and non-profit hospitals/ clinics that I had previously endorsed, is nowhere among the choices.

But something exciting and new has recently been placed on the table.

A group of six Senators on the Finance Committee, which includes the highly controversial chairman of the finance committee Sen. Max Baucus (D – Montana), are proposing legislation that would establish non-profit consumer health care cooperatives as a solution to the health care crisis. These consumer cooperatives would receive “seed money” to start but would then be expected to be self-sustaining.

Let that sink in for just a moment. Government provided social investment (i.e. “seed money”) would be used to establish non-profit cooperatives. Sound familiar?

Originally proposed by Sen. Senator Kent Conrad (D – North Dakota) the proposal has started to gain steam in Congress. Reuters is predicting that it will ultimately be part of the health care package.

Of course it might not become law. Yet even if it doesn’t the fact that this discussion is taking place is wonderful for economic democracy. Reuters has already done a Q&A on Co-ops due to this. Newspaper articles have been written on this proposal. NPR has run several radio articles on the subject including one that was very positive.

One can’t help but daydream at times like these. What seeds are being sown by this proposal? What if health cooperatives based on social investment become a reality? People just might wake up one day, look around and ask, “Why aren’t all private-insurance companies organized as cooperatives using social investment?” Then there may a come a day when that people might ask, “Since socially funded insurance cooperatives work so well why isn’t the corporation that I work for also a cooperative using social investment?” When the day arrives that people ask that last question then the dream of economic democracy will become a reality.