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Michael Hudson: A clear thinker and fearless economist

Michael Hudson, an economist based in the US, along with that other great bunch of unclubable economists from Kansas writing in Economic Perspectives from Kansas City illustrates why the US is still a great source of critical energy for social change.

Michael has published a new paper on an old and neglected field of knowledge – that of political economics.  I believe his criticism is particularly relevant today and less obviously, particularly relevant to Ireland.  The privileged classes have much to fear from his refutation of magic of markets that ‘legitimises’ their disproportionate wealth. Here is an excerpt …

Most wealth through the ages has come from privatizing the public domain. Europe’s landed aristocracy descended from the Viking invaders who seized the Commons and levied groundrent. What is not taken physically from the public domain is taken by legal rights: HMO privileges, banking privileges, the rezoning of land, monopoly rights, patent rights everything that falls under the character of economic rent accruing to special privilege, most recently notorious in the post-Soviet kleptocracies, and earlier in the regions of the world colonized by Europe. (The word “privilege” derives from the Latin, meaning “private law,” legis.) These bodies of privilege are what make national economies different from each other…..


Mathematizing economics and its claims to become a science overlooks these institutional differences, including the land rent and other revenue that John Stuart Mill said landlords made “in their sleep.” What this approach leaves out of account is the social policy wrapping for technology. If we lived back in 1945 and were told of all the marvelous technological breakthroughs of the past half-century, we would imagine that societies would now be living a life of leisure. Why has this not occurred? The reason is largely to be found in the predatory behavior that has enriched the finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sectors.

For classical and Progressive Era economists, the word “reform” meant taxing economic rent or minimizing it. Today it means giving away public enterprise to kleptocrats and political insiders, or simply for indebted governments to conduct a pre-bankruptcy sale of the public domain to buyers (who in turn buy on credit, subtracting their interest payments from their taxable income). The global economy is being “financialized,” not industrialized in the way that most economic futurists anticipated would be the case a century ago.

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