Category Archives: Community

Marilyn Waring: Economics as if people mattered

Marilyn Waring is one of the world’s most remarkable economists, a former New Zealand legislator — the youngest-ever national lawmaker when elected in 1975 — who brought a government down over her opposition to nuclear weapons, then went on to earn her doctorate in political economy.

She won her degree with a revolutionary thesis on the  a thesis on the United Nations System of National Accounts, the system of valuing a national economy solely on the financial value of tangible goods produced.

That system was devised by British economist John Maynard Keynes to engineer the British Empire’s participation in World War II, and ignored, among other things, all of the household labors of women, labors which, literally “kept the home fires burning.”

Waring’s critique forced the U.N. to revise its accounting system, and as Bloomberg reported three years ago:

Waring gained international prominence with “If Women Counted,” also published as “Counting for Nothing.” Praised by the feminist Gloria Steinem and the economist John Kenneth Galbraith, the book lambasted national accounting systems as sexist for excluding unpaid women’s work. Canada’s National Film Board in 1995 made it into a documentary called “Who’s Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics.”

While Waring wasn’t the first to criticize the exclusion, her book drew attention for its thorough and persuasive analysis, said Joann Vanek, a former director of social statistics at the UN.

“She demystified the national accounts,” Vanek said. “Many feminists had taken pot shots at national accounts, but Marilyn went into the body of it and disaggregated the specific assumptions that were made and how that really shaped what ended up being a bias against women.”

Waring’s knowledge and outspokenness made the critique credible, Vanek said. “She was unafraid. These guys, these national accountants, are somewhat oracle-type figures, and she would confront them.”

In 1993, the UN revised the system of national accounts to recommend that all production of goods in households for their own consumption be included in the measurement of economic output, a definition excluding childcare, elder-care, cooking and cleaning.

But Waring’s critique is much broader, and is superbly outlined in a just-re-released 1995 documentary from the National Film Board of Canada:

Who’s Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics

Program notes:

In this feature-length documentary, Marilyn Waring demystifies the language of economics by defining it as a value system in which all goods and activities are related only to their monetary value. As a result, unpaid work (usually performed by women) is unrecognized while activities that may be environmentally and socially detrimental are deemed productive. Waring maps out an alternative vision based on the idea of time as the new currency.

Police violence leads to reluctance to call the cops

Following up on our previous post, a new study reveals that the distrust of police in America’s black community leads directly to a reluctance to call on police when violence and crimes occur in the nation’s black neighborhoods.

From the American Sociological Association:

A new study shows that publicized cases of police violence against unarmed black men have a clear and significant negative impact on citizen crime reporting, specifically 911 calls.

“This is the first study that empirically investigates what happens to crime reporting after publicized episodes of police violence against unarmed black men,” said sociologist Matthew Desmond, the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University and the lead author of the study. “In showing that citizen crime reporting drops precipitously after such events, this study suggests that police misconduct can actually make cities less safe by suppressing one of the most basic forms of civic engagement: calling 911 for matters of personal and public safety.”

Titled, “Police Violence and Citizen Crime Reporting in the Black Community” [$36 for 24-hour access], the study, which appears in the October issue of the American Sociological Review, investigates how publicized cases of police violence against unarmed black men — most prominently the 2004 beating of Frank Jude by white police officers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — affected 911 calls in Milwaukee. Desmond and co-authors Andrew V. Papachristos, an associate professor of sociology at Yale University, and David S. Kirk, an associate professor of sociology, at the University of Oxford, relied on data from the Milwaukee Police Department on every crime-related 911 call in Milwaukee from March 2004 through December 2010.

In the Jude case, the researchers analyzed patterns of crime-related 911 calls for roughly the same period of time before and after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel broke the story in February 2005. According to court and news reports, Milwaukee police officer Andrew Spengler and several other off-duty police officers beat Jude so badly that the admitting physician at the hospital took photographs of Jude because his injuries were too extensive to document in writing.

“We estimate that the police beating of Frank Jude resulted in a net loss of approximately 22,200 911 calls reporting crime the year after Jude’s story came to light,” Papachristos said.

More than half of the total loss in calls — 56 percent — occurred in neighborhoods where at least 65 percent of the residents were black, which according to 2000 U.S. Census data accounted for 31 percent of Milwaukee’s neighborhoods. For comparison purposes, there were approximately 110,000 crime-related 911 calls from all Milwaukee neighborhoods during this time period.

“Once the story of Frank Jude’s beating appeared in the press, Milwaukee residents, especially people in black neighborhoods, were less likely to call the police, including to report violent crime,” Kirk said. “This means that publicized cases of police violence can have a communitywide impact on crime reporting that transcends individual encounters.”

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U.S.: Give land to indigenous people to save it

How incredibly sensible.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Indigenous people are better than governments at preventing forests from being cut and should be seen as a solution, not a barrier to protecting them, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People said on Tuesday.

Indigenous peoples and communities have claims to two thirds of the world’s land but are legally recognised as holding only 10 percent, according to think tank World Resources Institute (WRI).

Without title deeds, indigenous communities may find their land is taken over for major development projects such as palm oil plantations and logging.

“Society thinks that indigenous peoples are claiming land that they shouldn’t be having because it should be used for expanded food production,” U.N. Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But giving indigenous peoples rights to land was a guarantee that forests, which store carbon and contribute to food security would continue to exist, Tauli-Corpuz said.

Headline of the day II: Backlash in blue

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Dallas shootings might give a new reason for police to look like soldiers

  • Sept. 11 attacks, Ferguson unrest sparked competing police approaches
  • Analysts fear retreat from community policing in wake of Dallas killings
  • Pentagon has sold departments cheap tanks, grenade launchers, other equipment

Quote of the day: Evils of privatizing the commons

From The Privatising Industry in Europe, a Transnational Institute report by Sol Trumbo Vila and Matthijs Peters:

The evidence shows that state companies are consistently undersold and even end up costing governments extra money (undermining the argument that privatisation generates revenue). Particularly in Greece, state assets have often been sold for prices far below their true market value. Research also shows that privatisation has negative implications for labour rights and what consumers pay for public services.

Due to the different, complex levels of financial and legal advice and the many parties involved in privatisations, the processes tend to be very susceptible to different kinds of corruption and conflicts of interest if they are not strictly supervised and monitored. Whereas cases involving flagrant corruption occur relatively often in countries accused of loose transparency and accountability like Greece, conflicts of interest also take place in countries that serve as global hubs for financial and legal services, like the UK.

The question remains therefore why the Troika insists on making privatisation a cornerstone of the austerity packages it has imposed on European debtor nations. Not only do the privatisations fail to deliver the revenues and efficiency that justify them, they are also fuelling nepotism, corruption and profiteering by small privileged groups at a time when the social costs of austerity are more blatant than ever. They are therefore exacerbating a social crisis of growing inequality and leading to social unrest and growing disaffection with the political system at national and European levels.

The fact the EU institutions are responsible for overseeing the implementation of privatisation programmes makes their capacity for good governance an additional concern, especially in the current circumstances where there is an increased transfer of sovereignty from member states to bureaucrats in Brussels.

The fact that the European Commission (and the Troika) persists in its privatisation agenda despite the evidence of its failures and the growing economic and social costs suggests two possible motives. One, that the European Commission is so ideologically wed to neoliberal policies that it unwilling to even consider the concrete evidence of the economic, social and political costs of privatisation for its own member states. Or two, that there is such a powerful corporate industry at work in support of privatisation, from the advisers to the corporations that buy up state assets, that it is impossible for the EU institutions to reverse course. Either motive or the likelihood that both are true reflects very badly on the European Union. It also goes along a way to explain the growing disaffection and popular resistance to the privatisation agenda and more broadly to the whole European Union project.

Xenophobia runs amok in post-Brexit Britain

And the frankly xenophobic character of pro-Brexit propaganda has played a leading role in the epidemic of racial and religious violence sweeping Old Blighty:


We begin with a roundup from Deutsche Welle:

According to initial police figures, there has been a sharp spike in hate crimes since last week’s referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU: an increase of 57 percent in reported incidents between Thursday and Sunday, compared with the same days four weeks earlier. In addition to the incidents reported to police, accounts of verbal abuse have proliferated on social media. “I suddenly feel a lot further away from home,” German national Karoline Weber, who works in London, told DW.

While much of the aggression has been targeted at EU nationals, non-white Britons have also been affected. BBC journalist Sima Kotecha was called a “Paki” while reporting on the responses to the Brexit vote in her home town of Basingstoke. Channel 4 News correspondent Ciaran Jenkins heard three people shout “send them home” in the space of five minutes as he reported on the referendum in Barnsley in northern England.

“The attacks are mostly on eastern European migrants – but not all,” says Liz Fekete, director of the Institute for Race Relations. “What we’re observing is Muslim women are a prime target and a lot of children as well. A lot of damage has been done to social and community cohesion. There’s a hell of a lot of work to be done to repair that.”

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Next up, two stories from U.S. Uncut, the first reporting on on attack targeting Muslims:

Kashmir Meat & Poultry, a halal butcher shop owned and operated by a Muslim man, was attacked with a “petrol bomb” this Monday evening in the West Midlands in England.

Bashir Hussain, who was managing the store at the time of the attack, luckily escaped with only minor bruising from being struck by the weapon itself, but most of the store itself was destroyed by the flames.

The owner, Jamal Hussain, was dismayed by the attack and still seemed in shock when he spoke with reporters.

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Next, even Western Europeans are begin singled out by bitter xenophobes:

British radio host James O’Brien and his guest Simon Woolley were stopped in their tracks this morning when an elderly German woman named Karen called in hysterical tears after facing an onslaught of xenophobic attacks following the Brexit vote last week.

“I came from Germany in 1973,” she said, her speech punctuated by sobs throughout the entire conversation. “My husband, my late husband, was British. I’ve lived here for 43 years, and I’m so scared now.”

Despite having lived in the country for over four decades, Karen has been the victim of vandalization and hate speech so consistently that she has now locked herself in her house.

“I’ve gotten dog turds  thrown at my door on Friday… I’ve got nobody in Germany… I haven’t been out of the house for three days because I don’t know what to do,” she sobbed.

Finally, from Al Jazeera, a call for action from the United Nations:

The United Nations raised alarm as a series of racist incidents against minorities and foreigners were reported in the United Kingdom, following the country’s decision to leave the European Union.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on Tuesday that “racism and xenophobia are unacceptable in any circumstances” around the world.

“I urge the UK authorities to act to stop these xenophobic attacks and to ensure that all those suspected of racist and anti-foreigner attacks and abuses are prosecuted,” Hussein said.

“All of us must refuse to tolerate discriminatory acts in our daily lives – to ensure that there is nothing ‘everyday’ about discrimination.”

Violence, intimidation and calls of “Go home” directed at minorities – from Europeans in England to non-white Britons – have surged since the referendum last Friday.

Chart of the day: Neighborhood bloc party

Political party, that is, and how party affiliation affects relationships in the neighborhood, via the Pew Research Center:

BLOG Party