ECONOMIC NOTES

Capitalism and Discrimination between Workers

THERE is a peculiar paradox at the centre of capitalism. Since it is a system that institutes free mobility of workers between sectors, real wage rates should be equalised across occupations which are not too dissimilar from one another in terms of their arduousness, or hazardousness, or unpleasantness, or skill requirements, or intensity of effort etc. In other words, more arduous, more hazardous and more unpleasant jobs should be better paid compared to less arduous, less hazardous or less unpleasant ones, other things being equal (i.e., per unit of homogeneous labour-time).

The Dalits And Undernutrition

IT is as if the fact that we still have manual scavenging six and a half decades after independence were not enough; it is as if the fact of the daily perpetration of the most horrendous atrocities on the Dalits was not enough; in the realm of nutrition itself, which constitutes the most elemental necessity of life, the condition of the Dalits has worsened quite remarkably over the decade-and-a-half between 1993-94 and 2009-10. This fact has got hidden until now by the utterly spurious “poverty” estimates that the Planning Commission under the neo-liberal regime has been putting out.

The Phenomenon of Student Loans

THE deputy chairman of the Planning Commission that has just been wound up, when asked on one occasion about the exorbitant fees that private educational institutions, whose weight in the education system has been increasing at an astonishing pace of late, were charging, replied that it did not matter, since students could always study on loans. He was simply articulating the neo-liberal position that since education enabled one to increase one’s earnings, the acquisition of education was like the acquisition of an asset.

Understanding Inflation

RULING class offensives against the labouring poor in conditions of economic crisis are typically sought to be justified by advancing theories that attribute the crisis to the labouring poor themselves. A theoretical exercise to justify an attack on the labouring poor is on at present, with regard to the inflation that has been raging in the country.

SHAMELESS PROPAGANDA

THE news was splashed everywhere: India’s GDP in the first quarter (April-June) of  2014-15 had increased at the rate of 5.7 percent over the corresponding quarter of the previous year, and that this was the highest quarterly growth rate recorded for the past two and a half years. The growth rate for the previous quarter (over the corresponding quarter a year ago) was only 4.6 percent; and the growth rate for the first quarter of 2013-14 (over the corresponding quarter a year ago) was only 4.7 percent.

“Depending On the State”

RAJASTHAN chief minister Vasundhara Raje is planning to reduce several government schemes of social support to the poor because she says that the “people should not become too dependent upon the State”. If she was only re-casting the schemes, or getting rid of some schemes to put in place others with similar intent but greater effectiveness, or removing support to the poor in one form to provide it in another form, then her proposals might merit scrutiny; and a discussion at an empirical level might ensue on which of the alternatives would be more effective.

The Case of the Argentine Debt

WHAT is happening to Argentina’s debt at the present moment is instructive for all. In the 1990s when Carlos Menem was the president of Argentina, his government tried what it thought was a neo-liberal masterstroke. It kept the value of the Argentine currency pegged to the US dollar (in the ratio of 1:1) through what is called a “currency board” arrangement, in the hope that this would keep “investor confidence” high in that country.

The Resurrection of Orthodoxy

THE social importance of the capitalist class arises from the fact that the level of activity and employment in a capitalist economy depends upon the “state of confidence” of the capitalists (or what Keynes had called their “animal spirits”). Marx had theorised that the capitalists, competing against one another (a competition or “rivalry” that does not disappear even when they collude), are caught in a Darwinian struggle where they are compelled to accumulate.

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