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March 2, 2024

Analysis

Oil Linkages

State-led development in Angola and Nigeria

Oil and gas producers in Africa face unique challenges in pursuing state-led development. The resource curse, and specifically the phenomenon of “Dutch disease”, which inflates the value of the local currency, makes exporting local products abroad difficult. As long as…

February 29, 2024

Analysis

Total Peace?

Gustavo Petro’s government negotiates with the ELN

Gustavo Petro’s presidency marks a turning point in Colombia’s democratic history. Not only is Petro the first leftist in government, but he has also made achieving peace a central objective of his progressive agenda. The Colombian armed conflict has been…

February 29, 2024

Analysis

¿Paz Total?

Negociaciones entre el gobierno de Gustavo Petro y el ELN

La llegada a la presidencia de Gustavo Petro en Colombia marca un punto de inflexión en su historia democrática, por ser la primera presidencia de izquierda al frente del gobierno, pero también por el papel central que le otorga a…

February 24, 2024

Analysis

The G20 in the South

The Brazilian Presidency in 2024

In December 2023, Brazil began presiding over the G20. The one-year presidency, which will culminate in the annual summit being hosted in Rio de Janeiro in November 2024, is the third of four terms from the global South—following Indonesia in…

February 24, 2024

Analysis

O G20 Olha Para o Sul

A presidência brasileira em 2024

Desde 1º de dezembro de 2023, o Brasil preside o G20. O mandato de um ano, que culminará na cúpula anual de novembro no Rio de Janeiro, sucede duas presidências do Sul Global—Indonésia (2022) e Índia (2023)—e antecede mais uma—África…

February 15, 2024

Analysis

Red Sea Rivalries

Egypt, Ethiopia, and histories of maritime war

Every few years, a crisis in the Red Sea makes global headlines. In 2014, the Yemeni Civil War spilled into the Red Sea after the Houthis captured the capital Sana‘a and dissolved the parliament. As a warning, the Houthis allegedly…

January 27, 2024

Analysis

The Falling Lira

Turkey’s state of permanent crisis

Since late 2021, the Turkish economy has been shattering conventional economic expectations. With deeply negative real interest rates, high inflation, a large and persistent current account deficit, an external debt stock exceeding 50 percent of GDP, and a central bank…

January 17, 2024

Analysis

Miracle in Reverse

The trials of South Korea’s growth models

The South Korean economy has widely been recognized as the paragon of the East Asian miracle, with rapid economic growth and a fairly equal income distribution. The country continued its upward growth trajectory even in the aftermath of the 1997…

January 6, 2024

Analysis

External Imbalance

Inflation, exchange rates, and the Argentine peso

In August 2023, a week after winning Argentina’s primary elections, now-president Javier Milei, publicly stated that the Argentine peso was “worth less than excrement.” In the next two days, the dollar-peso parallel exchange rate climbed almost 20 percent, intensifying the…

December 22, 2023

Analysis

Learning Curves

The trials of offshore wind and tech forecasting

Over the last ten years, the surface of the Earth warmed by another 0.5°C. At the same time, renewable energy grew its share of world electricity production from 5 to over 11 percent. These are the basic coordinates for the…

December 21, 2023

Analysis

Anarcho-Capitalism

Argentina between the IMF and China

Since the early 2000s, Argentine development finance has undergone a profound transformation. Amid cyclical debt defaults and endless negotiations with Western investors and the IMF, Chinese overseas investment loans have slowly crept to the fore. Between 2007 and 2020, Argentina…

December 21, 2023

Analysis

A Year in Crises

Trade, war, labor, and South-North dynamics in 2023

When we launched The Polycrisis a year ago, we set out to examine the intersecting crises in the economy, energy system, commodities markets, geopolitics, and climate. Our aim was to break intellectual and political silos to give a fuller picture…

December 15, 2023

Analysis

Constitutional Odysseys

In the upcoming vote, a battle over Chile’s identity

On September 11, 1980—seven years after Augusto Pinochet seized power from democratically elected Salvador Allende in a brutal American-backed military coup—the dictatorship passed a constitution that laid the groundwork for one of the world’s earliest and most enduring neoliberal experiments.…

December 9, 2023

Analysis

Climate Divergence

The politics of green central banking at the Fed and ECB

Ten years ago, the current predicament of central bankers would seem unthinkable: to what extent should they contribute to society’s response to climate change? As the impacts of climate change have escalated, most central banks have begun to appreciate the…

December 5, 2023

Analysis

Sectoral Strategy

Free trade and the resurgence of industrial policy in Africa

Industrial policy in Africa is back. Beginning last January, Nigeria moved forward with the second phase of  its “Sugar Master Plan,” a flagship industrial policy that began in 2013 to stimulate domestic production. It does this by offering numerous incentives…

November 30, 2023

Analysis

Industrial Experiments

Variants of industrial policy in the global South

The turn of the twenty-first century brought a reassessment of development economics. The global commodity boom of the 2000s ushered in windfall profits for resource-rich countries in the global South, and with them came new agendas for growth. In 2002,…

November 22, 2023

Analysis

The Doom Loop

Insurance markets and climate risk

Recent coverage of insurance markets has highlighted the industry’s involvement in the so-called “climate risk doom loop”: looming climate risks and greater disaster damages are raising the price of insurance for real estate and infrastructure assets, exacerbating their owners’ vulnerability…

November 16, 2023

Analysis

Bearing Risk

Why “derisking” finance is an oxymoron

For the past two centuries in Britain, the US, and other high income countries, financial markets have been venues in which the government provides a relatively safe investment opportunity in the form of government bonds. At the same time, private…

November 9, 2023

Analysis

October War

An interview with Guy Laron on the Gaza War, failure of the Netanyahu doctrine, and risks of Middle east conflagration

It is now over a month since Hamas launched its attack on Israel, killing an estimated 1,400 Israelis and taking more than 200 people hostage. Israel’s response has, in Netanyahu’s words, sought to “crush and destroy” Hamas, but the main…


Rate Transformation

Interest rate swaps are modern repos

On September 28, 2023, the Bank of England opened permanent liquidity facilities to nonbanking financial entities—such as pension funds, insurers, and investment funds— many of whom have a role in the interest rate swap market. The move is unprecedented. Historically,…

October 28, 2023

Analysis

The Dollarization Threat

Javier Milei and Argentina’s pivotal election

The results of Argentina’s first-round elections on October 22 were not to be expected. Conservative former security minister and election favorite Patricia Bullrich came in third place, knocking her out of the running for the presidency, which will be decided…

October 25, 2023

Analysis

A Second Twenty Years’ Crisis?

Revisiting E.H. Carr one hundred years on

E.H. Carr’s The Twenty Years’ Crisis (1939), has a well-deserved reputation as a classic text that helped launch the academic discipline of International Relations (IR). Not only did Carr identify and dissect what would emerge as the two leading schools…

October 21, 2023

Analysis

Democratic Preconditions

Post-Communism and Poland’s recent elections

Poland’s parliamentary elections last Sunday have led to victory for Donald Tusk and his party, Koalicja Obywatelska (Civic Coalition). Although the ruling Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Right and Justice, or PiS) Party received the largest share of the vote, 35.4 percent,…

October 17, 2023

Analysis

The Oil Revolution

The myths and realities of the oil price shock of 1973

The abrupt quadrupling of the oil price in the final months of 1973 is widely held to have marshalled the end of “a golden age of world capitalism.” Eric Hobsbawm’s standard-setting interpretation defines 1973 as the turning point when the…

October 14, 2023

Analysis

The Renters’ Constituency

The politics of homeownership in Australia

In developed economies around the world, housing has been transformed into a major asset. It is no coincidence that rates of homeownership have precipitously increased at the same time as governments in formerly social-democratic countries have reduced basic social safety nets.…

October 12, 2023

Analysis

Hot Labor

Labor movements, labor markets, and mining

The energy transition is underway and the global North is putting up the cash. In our series, we have investigated questions about the international hierarchy of money, the distribution of economic power, and trade wars. Today, we turn to labor,…

October 7, 2023

Analysis

Downstream Industries

Indonesia’s export ban on nickel

A pillar of Indonesia’s unprecedented economic growth over the last decade has been its ban on the export of raw nickel ore. This national experiment in downstream industrial policy began with the 2009 Mining Law signed by former president Susilo…

October 5, 2023

Analysis

The Politics of Fiscal Restraint

Three decades of rule-based fiscal policy in Brazil

The adoption of fiscal rules has emerged as a global trend over the past four decades. While institutional constraints to fiscal policy were uncommon before the 1990s, recent data indicates that they have since been put in force in more…

September 16, 2023

Analysis

Crisis in the Bread Basket

Investment and agriculture in Punjab

In the run-up to the general elections of 2014, Narendra Modi was hailed across mainstream quarters of journalism and policy-making as the crusader of economic reform and growth in India, a spirit that was only bolstered by the resounding majority…

September 15, 2023

Analysis

Trading Order

Protectionism and interdependence pact?

Export Bans. Sanctions. Investment screens. The liberal trading order has been weaponized; security, not efficiency, is the new watchword. And yet, 2023 has seen an all-time high of goods traded across borders. Even bilateral trade between the warring great powers,…

September 12, 2023

Analysis

Labor’s Green Capital

Pension funds, asset managers, and solar energy

Global investment in solar energy has skyrocketed in recent decades: from 1 TWh of solar power in 2000 to 1,284 TWh in 2022. The trend is likely to be magnified in the United States by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA),…

September 7, 2023

Analysis

The IRA and Public Schools

Green investment for school infrastructure

Public school buildings in the United States are crumbling. National school infrastructure received a D+ rating from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2021, and in serious cases, learning environments have become toxic. Given the segregated and unequal nature…

August 31, 2023

Analysis

Grievance and Reform

Will the BRICS bargaining chip bear fruit for smaller and lower-income countries?

The precursor of 2022’s energy crisis was 2020–2021’s vaccine apartheid. These shortages were in no way natural but reflected financial and geopolitical hierarchies: those with more power and resources bid up prices and developing countries lost out in the process.…

August 26, 2023

Analysis

The Investment Climate

The limits of private financing

The world urgently needs financing for renewable energy, infrastructure, public transit, land restoration, and much more to face the storm of climate change. But these necessary capital investments in the green transition face real barriers, such as a high cost…

August 23, 2023

Analysis

Coercion and Inequality

The distributional effects of sanctions in Iran

“Plumbing” is an oft-used metaphor for understanding how sanctions work. Sanctions are intended to stop the flow of money to the targeted government; reserves are frozen, trade is blocked, export revenues dry up, and government budgets are drained. Even the…

August 17, 2023

Analysis

Hockey Sticks and Crosses

Images that define the globalization debate

Images that define the globalization debate

August 10, 2023

Analysis

Elusive Boundaries

The politics of public-private relations in Brazilian water provision

In April 2021, private investors gathered at B3, Brazil’s stock exchange, to bid for water concessions in Rio de Janeiro. The former capital city and its surrounding municipalities had been divided into four “concession blocks,” all of which were up…

August 5, 2023

Analysis

The Agribusiness Pact

The “reprimarization” of the Brazilian economy

Over the past two decades, Brazilian media and political discourse have exalted the uncontroversial success of a magical entity known as “agribusiness.” Closely associated with the rise of commodity exports such as soy, sugarcane, and corn, “agribusiness” has come to…

August 3, 2023

Analysis

Global Boiling

Stocks and flows, action and inaction in the planetary impasse

This July has been the hottest in our recorded history and, most likely, over the last 120,000 years. Four “Heat Domes” across the northern hemisphere—over West Asia, North America, North Africa and Southern Europe—contributed to soaring temperatures, not just breaking…

July 20, 2023

Analysis

Washington-Paris-London Calling

Modi, Mottley, Zelenskyy’s attempts to change the existing world order

On June 22, three leaders of developing countries made expeditions to three different Western capitals to plead their case for greater support from the rich world. Viewed jointly, these demands—largely successful—provide a neat panorama of the escalating global crises of…


Global Payments

Systemic risk and the end of LIBOR

The last day of June marked the final printing of the London Inter-Bank Offered Rate (LIBOR)—an average of anticipated interest rates among London banks which has thus far served as the benchmark for short term and off-shore lending around the…

July 8, 2023

Analysis

Solar Ambitions

Can Spain become a leading producer of renewable energy?

In Spain’s forthcoming snap elections, the energy transition is high on the agenda, and solar power at the forefront. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has often expressed ambitions to make Spain the lead producer of solar electricity on the continent, positioning…

July 5, 2023

Analysis

The Myth of Underdevelopment

Legal autonomy and land reform in Jammu and Kashmir

On August 5, 2019, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah presented the draft of the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Reorganization Bill in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s parliament. The bill threatened to permanently alter the legal, political, and…

July 1, 2023

Analysis

Parallel Systems

China, the IMF, and the future of sovereign debt financing

At the start of her three-nation tour of Africa this January,  US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen spoke to the Associated Press in Senegal, bemoaning the “piling, unsustainable debt” that, she said, “plagued” many African countries. This was a “problem,” she…

June 29, 2023

Analysis

Carbon Budget versus Fiscal Budget

What’s at stake in the fiscal rules debate?

Negotiations at the Summit for a Global Finance Pact in Paris last week took place between fifty heads of state. They revolved around how poor countries might develop and decarbonize, within the confines of the existing financial system. A common…

June 24, 2023

Analysis

Semi-Politics

Intel and the future of US chipmaking

Since the late 1970s, cutting edge semiconductors have figured at the heart of the political economy of the United States. Often called the “crude oil of the information age,” they have become increasingly ubiquitous and are now considered the basic…

June 21, 2023

Analysis

Feasibility Pact?

Systemic reform, debt, and political feasibility at the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact in Paris

A brewing sovereign debt crisis threatens to engulf as many as sixty-one countries in debt distress over the coming year. Aid flowing from the global North—which carries the most responsibility for the atmospheric carbon stock—to the global South—which bears the…

June 15, 2023

Analysis

Mottley in Paris, Modi in DC

Prospects for the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact

Next week, a couple of dozen heads of state—from countries including China, Brazil, Indonesia, and almost a dozen African countries, among them Kenya, Zambia, and Senegal—will gather in Paris for the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact. Instigated by…

June 7, 2023

Analysis

Risk Politics

ESG and the politicization of finance

In 2022, Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) accounted for 65 percent of all new inflows in exchange traded funds in Europe. Investments in the US are also projected to grow—PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) observes that more than eight out of ten…

June 1, 2023

Analysis

Friends With (Metal) Benefits

Australia’s bid for “friendshoring” in the shifting green world order

When Americans ran short on baby food last year, President Joe Biden made use of a Korean War-era authority—the Defense Production Act (DPA)—to airlift goat milk from Australia, despite protectionist howls from American formula companies. Operation Fly Formula funded the…

May 31, 2023

Analysis

Industrial Transformations

Lessons from development economics for industrial policy design

The latest US experiment with industrial policy—exemplified by the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—has sparked outright opposition and pleas for restraint, but also calls for a far more ambitious action.

May 27, 2023

Analysis

Pecuniary Salvation

Monetary financing at the Bank of England, the Federal Reserve, and the European Central Bank

Monetary financing—the issuance of public money to support public expenditure—has in recent times become a policy taboo. The message from economists to politicians, policymakers, and society more broadly is often that any central bank support for public expenditure is likely to destroy…

May 20, 2023

Analysis

Green Industrial Strategy

The scale and scope of Biden’s landmark climate investments

The Inflation Reduction Act is the most significant piece of climate legislation in US history. Alongside its three other major legislative achievements, the Biden administration has passed between $500 billion and $1.2 trillion worth of new climate spending, depending on…

May 18, 2023

Analysis

A New Foreign Policy

To beat China you must become China

Leaders need followers. Last month, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan delivered a speech outlining the Biden administration’s international economic policy at the Brookings Institute in Washington. The “New Washington Consensus” was not directed at citizens but at capitals abroad.…

May 13, 2023

Analysis

Reforming the IMF

The global monetary hierarchy and steps towards change

In March 2023, the US Federal Reserve expanded its balance sheet by $300 billion. Following the run on Silicon Valley Bank, the Fed provided emergency lending through a brand-new bank lending facility that accepted US treasuries at face value (higher…

May 10, 2023

Analysis

Two-Price Economy

Minsky, First Republic Bank, and the paradox of contemporary monetary policy

The crisis affecting US and some European banks shows little sign of abatement. Following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank earlier in the year, First Republic last week became the latest mid-size US bank to be bought up by a…

May 5, 2023

Analysis

The End of the Cold Peace

Can the Asian growth miracle survive?

Watch the Korean Peninsula. It is in South Korea that the New Cold War has most visibly upset the delicate balance between industry, security, and domestic politics. South Korea’s growth miracle has been based on deterrence and detente between China,…


Best Execution?

SEC regulations and the future of retail trading

Recent years have seen the rise of the meme stock frenzy—a wave of stock purchases driven by social media trends. This tendency culminated with the Gamestop bubble of 2021, in which the value of the company’s stocks increased more than…

April 27, 2023

Analysis

The Revival of Neomercantilism

Global rivalries and prospects for cooperation

Amid intensifying geopolitical and economic rivalries, policymakers around the world—including those in the United States and European Union—are increasingly turning to neomercantilist industrial policies to promote the wealth and power of their states. This trend has been reinforced by the…

April 20, 2023

Analysis

The Gigantic Austerity Drive Underway

Two billion people are suffering austerity as governments follow IMF diktat

We are quietly witnessing the largest shift to austerity undertaken in this century. Debt-strained developing countries are making further cuts to already ragged budgets, in many cases as they battle to meet punishing new conditions demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which held…

April 19, 2023

Analysis

Testing Loyalties

A year later, the Russia sanctions and an emerging geopolitical order

Pain and resolve: have we reached the beginning of the end of sanctions?


Inside the Black Box

Examining the microstructures of the financial system

We live in a period of unparalleled financial complexity, and, as the history of recent decades has demonstrated, unparalleled financial risk. The recurring crises which plague the global economy have brought theorists of systemic instability to the fore. Key among…


Illusions of Decontrol

The myth of Germany’s “social market economy”

The founding myth of modern Germany can be traced back to June 20, 1948, when Ludwig Erhard, economic director of the Anglo-American occupation zone in Germany, created the Deutsche Mark. To stabilize the new currency, he paired the paper issue…

April 6, 2023

Analysis

Mercantilist Deals of the Great Powers

Decoupling from China is an uphill task in both the global North and the global South

This is the twelfth edition of The Polycrisis newsletter, written by Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox. The maiden flight of a new cargo route between Shenzhen and São Paulo took off on…

April 5, 2023

Analysis

The Eurochip

The quest for the European microchip from the 1980s to the present

The headline “World trade war looms over microchip accord” might recall current commercial disputes around semiconductor supplies. In fact, it appeared in an issue of Nature in February 1987, when the US had signed bilateral agreements with Japan to promote…

April 1, 2023

Analysis

Banks as Hedge Funds?

The failure of Silicon Valley Bank

Silicon Valley Bank’s (SVB) short lifespan—from October 17, 1983 to March 10, 2023—has been witness to crucial transformations in the world of modern banking. The bank’s collapse has sparked wide ranging reflections on the roots of the crisis, the utility…

March 30, 2023

Analysis

The Imperial Fed

Colonial currencies and the pan-American origins of the dollar system

The Federal Reserve is commonly depicted as an institution set up to fulfill domestic functions, only later taking on its significant international and geopolitical dimensions. This view sees the Fed’s origins in various domestic concerns, such as bankers’ desire to…

March 23, 2023

Analysis

Stranded Countries and Stranded Assets

Outsourcing the energy transition to the Gulf

This is the eleventh edition of The Polycrisis newsletter, written by Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox. The US routinely flouts its international climate financing commitments, rarely delivering on its promises. Last year, for example,…

March 16, 2023

Analysis

Red Finance

The wartime communist market experience in China

In terms of its size, dynamism, and degree of global integration, China’s market economy is extraordinary. Though it’s known officially as a “socialist market with Chinese characteristics,” its market features far predate the 1978 decision on “reform and opening.” The…


Profits, Prices, and Power

The first postwar tightening cycle and perspectives on today’s inflation

If they are remembered at all, the 1950s are now thought of as a lost golden age of stable growth and political economic consensus. But the second half of the decade saw rising prices, tightening financial conditions, diminished industrial employment,…

March 9, 2023

Analysis

Cash, Cars, Chemicals (and Corn)

Three big decarbonization plots

This is the tenth edition of The Polycrisis newsletter, written by Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox. Decarbonization—reducing the output of invisible CO2 molecules into the atmosphere—requires nothing less than remaking the chemical basis of…

March 3, 2023

Analysis

Wall Street Consensus a la Française

Development agendas at the Gabon One Forest Summit

Since his election in 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron has periodically committed to resetting France’s relationship with Africa. In 2020, his so-called Macron Doctrine denounced the Washington Consensus for creating a “capitalism that has become financialized, that has become over-concentrated…

March 1, 2023

Analysis

The IMF Trap

Debt, austerity, and inequality in Sri Lanka’s historic crisis

Massive demonstrations that swept Sri Lanka last year exposed the serious challenges at the heart of the global economy. In July 2022, former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was forced to flee the country, only a few months after announcing a hasty…

February 23, 2023

Analysis

Debt and Power in Pakistan

The subcontinent’s embattled debtor isn’t merely the passive victim of the climate crisis— it is being plundered by its elites

The subcontinent’s embattled debtor isn’t merely the passive victim of the climate crisis—it is being plundered by its elites.

February 22, 2023

Analysis

Crisis Response

European Central Bank policy in 2008 and 2020

At the dawn of the newly implemented Eurozone, Lorenzo Bini Smaghi and Daniel Gros argued that three broad issues might present problems for Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Bini Smaghi, then Director for International Affairs at the Italian Treasury,…

February 15, 2023

Analysis

Securitizing the Transition

The logic of privatization in climate finance

In the eyes of the IMF, a G20 panel, and, lately, the US Treasury Secretary, the time has come for multilateral development banks to adapt their development mandates to the logic of derisking. This tactic—lauded as a solution for “mobilizing”…

February 11, 2023

Analysis

The Carbon Triangle

China’s real estate bubble and global emissions

China has ended zero-Covid. The resultant viral tsunami is crashing through China’s cities and countryside, causing hundreds of millions of infections and untold numbers of deaths. The reversal followed widespread protests against lockdown measures. But the protests were not the…

February 9, 2023

Analysis

The EU and the IRA

Supply and demand in the great powers’ decarbonization race

This is the eighth edition of The Polycrisis newsletter, written by Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox. At Davos last month, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced Brussels’ “Green Deal Industrial…

February 8, 2023

Analysis

The Long Run

Austerity’s impacts on GDP

Few economic terms over the last few decades have been more influential than “austerity,” invoked by governments and financial institutions as a blanket solution for economic crises, and inspiring intense debate in the public sphere. Austerity, defined by economists as “a…

February 1, 2023

Analysis

Unraveling Dollarization

State-building, accumulation, and debt in post-revolutionary Georgia

The financial crises of the 1990s in Asia, Argentina, and Russia sparked growing interest in the phenomenon of dollarization—the use of a foreign currency to perform national currency function. Dollarization, however, has a history dating back to the nineteenth history.…

January 28, 2023

Analysis

Gender and the Great Resignation

Dynamics of gender and class in the Covid-era labor market

The much anticipated “return to normal” after the Covid-19 pandemic has been anything but. In contrast to the aftermath of previous economic crises, workers have not rushed back to work. Each month over a period of nine months in 2021,…

January 26, 2023

Analysis

Don’t Say “Scramble for Africa”

Debt and diplomacy on the African continent

Debt, diplomacy, and the risks of a new Cold War.

January 25, 2023

Analysis

Militarized Adaptation

War, energy, and NATO’s new climate framework

This essay first appeared in GREEN, a journal from Groupe d’études géopolitiques. When NATO held its two-day summit in Madrid in June 2022, the Spanish government deployed ten thousand police officers to cordon off entire parts of the city, including…

January 21, 2023

Analysis

Unmaking Orthodoxies

The reputational limits of central banks

After a decade of low or negative interest rates, central banks are back in the business of fighting inflation. One of the clearest signs of the change in monetary policy stance is the largely synchronized tightening across high-income countries—last year,…

January 14, 2023

Analysis

The Dollar and Climate

How US dollar hegemony fuels the climate crisis

The climate crisis offers a new angle from which to evaluate US dollar hegemony, since carbon emissions are tied to economic activity.

January 12, 2023

Analysis

Inflation and Energy

Can clean energy reduce inflationary pressures?

This is the sixth edition of The Polycrisis newsletter, written by Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox. There has been little research into the inflationary implications of either climate change itself, or of responses to climate…

January 4, 2023

Analysis

The Nokia Risk

Small countries, big firms, and the end of the fifth Schumpetarian wave

In the early 2000s, Finland was the darling of industrial and employment policy analysts everywhere. This small country with a population of 5.5 million and a GDP roughly equal to the state of Oregon experienced what looked like a high…

December 22, 2022

Analysis

Facts on the Ground

Uncertainty and information in the global energy system

Assessing the crisis The energy system that underpins contemporary life is marked with blindspots. Take the fossil fuel sector. Facing simultaneous existential and geopolitical vulnerability—due to Russia invading Ukraine, advances in renewable energy, and the climate imperative—there is profound uncertainty…

December 20, 2022

Analysis

Indian Big Business

The evolution of India’s corporate sector from 2000 to 2020

“The systemic, long-term nexus between the political elites and big business will not go away anytime soon,” wrote journalist M. K. Venu  in 2015. Writing in the aftermath of Obama’s second visit to India, Venu suggested that “crony capitalism” had…

December 17, 2022

Analysis

Droughts and Dams

The troubled future of World Bank-funded hydropower in Zambia

Most of Zambia’s grid electricity is generated by hydropower. Over the past decade, recurring droughts—in 2015, 2016, 2019, and now again in 2022—have exposed the deep vulnerabilities in the system. These droughts have unleashed unprecedented power outages, with low reservoir…

December 15, 2022

Analysis

Europe’s “Leap Into the Future”

Do exceptional crisis-fighting policies signal the arrival of an interventionist Europe? 

This is the fifth edition of The Polycrisis newsletter, written by Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox. In 2020, as demand for liquefied natural gas boomed in Asia, the shippable fuel was an afterthought in…

December 8, 2022

Analysis

Money and the Climate Crisis

COP27 and financing the green transition

The conclusion of COP27 reflected persisting uncertainties around coordinated global action towards decarbonization. Major agreements—including the establishment of a loss and damage fund—were reached, but the burden of mounting debt among global South countries continued to limit climate ambition. The…

December 3, 2022

Analysis

Realignments

Bolsonarismo and Brazil’s shifting middle-class vote

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva may have won last month’s presidential elections, but the strength of Bolsonarismo has been confirmed. In both houses of the National Congress, Bolsonarismo and its allies made gains, overcoming the traditional right wing. In the…

December 2, 2022

Analysis

Development Bank Self-Sabotage

What’s stopping MDBs?

This is the fourth edition of The Polycrisis newsletter, written by Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox. When the World Bank and IMF make radical noises, the US is typically the voice of restraint. So…

November 19, 2022

Analysis

The Wall Street Consensus at COP27

The derisking roll-out at COP27

At COP26, US Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry sanguinely declared the need to “de-risk the investment, and create the capacity to have bankable deals. That’s doable for water, it’s doable for electricity, it’s doable for transportation.” UN Special Envoy…

November 18, 2022

Analysis

Collective Action and Climate Finance

Can the COP move markets?

This is the third edition of The Polycrisis newsletter, written by Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox. At UN climate summits, the items that appear on the agenda are usually those that advocates have fought…

November 12, 2022

Analysis

The Sacrifice Zone

Mining communities in the wake of Chile’s constitutional referendum

In September 2022, 62 percent of Chilean voters rejected the country's proposed new constitution. The defeat took many by surprise—the demands to rewrite the existing charter had been loud and seemingly unanimous. For followers of Chile’s extractive industries, however, the…

November 9, 2022

Analysis

A New Non-Alignment

How developing countries are flouting Western Sanctions and playing the great powers off each other

This essay first appeared in GREEN, a journal from Groupe d’études géopolitiques. In March of this year, as Russia’s war in Ukraine intensified, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a trip to New Delhi to speak with his Indian counterpart…

November 3, 2022

Analysis

Domestic Politics & Planetary Change

Will a Lula victory be better for the climate than anything that happens at COP27?

Will a Lula victory be better for the climate than anything that happens at COP27?

October 26, 2022

Analysis

Town & City

Reading Brazil’s first round election results

Earlier this month, Brazilians went to the polls in an election billed as the most momentous since democratization in 1985. Far-right president Jair Bolsonaro faced off against former two-term president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva. Though Lula did win the…

October 20, 2022

Analysis

An Introduction

An introduction to The Polycrisis

This is the first edition of The Polycrisis newsletter, written by Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox. What crisis? A year ago, one might be forgiven for thinking there was a moment of relative calm…

September 24, 2022

Analysis

Africa’s Century of Growth?

On Morten Jerven’s The Wealth and Poverty of African States

On May 1, 2014, Nigeria’s then-president, Goodluck Jonathan, addressed a crowd of workers in the country’s capital Abuja.  He declared that “the challenge of the country is not poverty, but redistribution of wealth.” The prompt for his comment was a…

September 20, 2022

Analysis

The Finance Gap

Poverty finance from colonial Kenya to microcredit markets

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ foreword to the UN’s Inter-agency Task Force on Financing for Development’s 2021 Financing for Sustainable Development report, speaks to a prevalent piece of common sense in global development: Financing for sustainable development is at a crossroads.…

September 15, 2022

Analysis

Technocracy and Crisis

Stagnation and technocratic rule in Italy

On September 25, Italians will be called to elect a new Parliament. The snap election follows on the heels of the forced resignation of the government in late July, led by former European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi. That…

August 24, 2022

Analysis

A Permanent Bailout?

Central bank interventions in noncrisis times

The 2008 crisis heralded a new age in central banking. The scale and nature of central bankers’ interventions was unprecedented. Traditionally, as lenders of last resort, central banks lend at escalating rates against good collateral to solvent institutions in times…

August 13, 2022

Analysis

Rating Sovereigns

Sovereign ratings in a financialized world

As dark clouds gather on the horizon of the global economy in the third year of the pandemic—with debt stocks swollen, interest costs rising, and growth undermined by energy insecurity and war—policy makers and pundits are anxiously watching sovereign credit…


Pragmatic Prices

An excerpt from How China Escaped Shock Therapy

European and American traditions of economic theorizing on price control are intimately connected with war—practices and debates over price control peaked amid the two world wars. The experience of the First World War had been one of inflation and limited…

July 30, 2022

Analysis

Odious Debts

Iraq, Haiti, and the politics of illegitimate debt

In the aftermath of its 2003 invasion of Iraq, the United States was eager to restructure the ailing country’s sovereign debt. International sanctions since the Gulf War meant that Iraq was economically isolated, yet the country had a large stock…

July 16, 2022

Analysis

Development Engines

NAFTA, electric vehicles, and the evolution of Mexico's auto industry

In December 2021, President Joe Biden announced a proposed consumer tax incentive for electric vehicles (EV) made in the US by unionized autoworkers. The tax incentive aims at tackling climate change while also strengthening unionized jobs. It promises to support…

July 9, 2022

Analysis

A New Labor Regime

The BJP's new labor reforms, the construction industry, and the mounting challenges for India’s trade unions

Since coming to power in 2014, India’s right-wing government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has introduced sweeping reforms aimed at strengthening the union government at the expense of the states, and catering to large corporations over smaller establishments and…

June 29, 2022

Analysis

Geographies in Transition

Mining-based development and the EU's critical raw materials strategy

Though it failed to resolve a number of contentious issues, the COP26 meeting in Glasgow solidified a consensus around the need for a global transition towards clean energy. Implicated in this transition is the widescale adoption of renewables—we must build…

June 10, 2022

Analysis

Leapfrog Logistics

Digital platforms, infrastructure, and labor in Brazil and China

In Spring 2018, two significant labor disputes broke out at opposite ends of the earth. The first, in Brazil, was a two-week-long mass strike of 400,000 truckers in response to successive price increases unleashed by the state oil company, Petrobras,…

May 28, 2022

Analysis

Farmland Assets

International finance and the transformation of Brazil’s agricultural lands

The election of Jair Bolsonaro in 2018 commenced a long agenda of environmental destruction in Brazil. Before taking office, Bolsonaro had openly threatened Indigenous communities with racist attacks, commenting that Indigenous peoples should not have “an inch of land” and…


The Price of Oil

The history of control and decontrol in the oil market

In October 2021 the price of gasoline in the United States rose to its highest level in seven years. There were many reasons for this: surging demand following a year-and-a-half of lockdown, a slower than expected recovery of oil production,…


Politics and the Price Level

Inflation and the governance of prices

In 1959, the leaders of the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC, now the OECD) appointed a Group of Independent Experts “to study the experience of rising prices” in the recent history of the advanced capitalist countries. Between the end…

May 14, 2022

Analysis

Persisting Paternalisms

The Auxilio Brasil in perspective

In recent months Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro appears to have shape-shifted. From a staunch ally of business interests, he now presents himself as a president of the poor. The basis of this transformation is his new conditional cash-transfer programme Auxilio…

May 12, 2022

Analysis

Financing Schools

America’s kleptocratic public school divide

As the arrival of the pandemic forced schools shut, the Public Schools of Robeson County in North Carolina scrambled to save the rural district’s closed and crumbling buildings. At the same time, they faced the major task of providing education…

May 4, 2022

Analysis

Weimar Themes

Hilferding, Sohn-Rethel, and Hamilton

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has flung the international order into crisis. Understanding the causes of such cataclysms requires understanding not only the interests of states, but also the shape of society—its internal tensions, as well as its material and cultural…

April 30, 2022

Analysis

The Whole Field

Markets, planning, and coordinating the green transformation

In recent years, an intense debate has unfolded over the policy and politics of the green transition. Politically, the tide appears to be receding: As the Biden agenda has lost momentum and rising inflation moves center stage, the near-term prospects…

April 27, 2022

Analysis

Regime Change?

The evolution and weaponization of the world dollar

The centerpiece of shock and awe of the West’s economic response to Russia’s invasion and bombardment of Ukraine was the freezing of Russia’s central bank assets. In the March 7 edition of his Global Money Dispatch newsletter, the Credit Suisse…

April 15, 2022

Analysis

Economic War and the Commodity Shock

A discussion on sanctions and global commodity markets

The war in Ukraine has unleashed both geopolitical and economic strife, and nowhere is the latter clearer than in the volatile commodities market. Commodities prices have fluctuated wildly since the Russian invasion began and the US-led coalition retaliated with extraordinary…

April 13, 2022

Analysis

Austerity and Renewables

A new IMF-approved tax regime is crippling Pakistan’s green energy sector

After weeks of rising domestic pressure, a spiraling economic crisis, and the swift loss of crucial military support, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was removed from office last weekend following a vote of no confidence. The political turmoil is the…

March 23, 2022

Analysis

A New Public Housing Model

Addis Ababa's Urban Transformation

In 2006, the government of Ethiopia embarked on a mission to construct half a million condominium apartments over a twenty-year period in its capital of Addis Ababa—a city of only five million. Now, sixteen years later, the initiative has transformed the…

March 9, 2022

Analysis

Bargaining Chip?

On the speed and scope of the Russia sanctions, and the prospects for off-ramps

For the global hegemon, pulling the trigger on crisis management seems to consist primarily of posting PDFs to government websites. During the March 2020 financial panic, as the coronavirus first spread throughout the Global North, the Federal Reserve feverishly published…

February 14, 2022

Analysis

Eskom, Unbundling, and Decarbonization

The history of South Africa’s state utility and the future of the energy transition

South Africa has one of the most carbon-intensive economies in the world. It is also in a staggering and protracted unemployment crisis—the real unemployment rate, including discouraged work-seekers, is near 50 percent. But there remain tens of thousands of workers…

February 11, 2022

Analysis

A New Developmentalism?

On the stages of Argentine developmentalism.

In 2003, led by the government of Néstor Kirchner (2003–2007), Argentina’s developmental agenda regained momentum. From the ashes of privatization, deregulation, and liberalization emerged a consensus agenda that put the public sphere at the center of the growth engine. The…

February 3, 2022

Analysis

Acute Dollar Dominance

The dollar system, original sin, and sovereign debt since the pandemic.

In early 2020, the “dash for cash” in the US Treasury market prompted the Fed to relaunch its dollar swap lines, which it eventually did in mid-March of that year. In the aftermath of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC),…

January 12, 2022

Analysis

Controlled Prices

The history and politics of price controls and economic management in the United States

In the decades after the Civil War, Andrew Carnegie captured the American steel industry by pushing down prices. So effective was the Scottish-born telegraph operator at reducing costs, breaking cartels, and driving competition into bankruptcy during the downturns of the…

December 23, 2021

Analysis

Stop, wait, go

Is Germany's new coalition government a return to the status quo?

The new coalition government in Germany, led by Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, is the first time that the SDP, the Greens, and the Liberals have joined together in a single government. The cooperation agreement, published on November 24, was the…

December 18, 2021

Analysis

Homeownership & the Student Debt Crisis

Rising student debt burdens in the past decade have contributed to a decline in homeownership for young adults.

The benefits of owning a home in the United States cannot be overstated. The housing market in the United States both reflects and causes widening cleavages in American society; owning a home is a functional prerequisite for financial security. The…

December 17, 2021

Analysis

Death or glory?

New forms of fascism haunt Chile’s presidential election

In October 2019, a proposed thirty peso hike in public transport fares triggered protests in Santiago that spread to other major cities across the country, denouncing the country’s economic infrastructure with the slogan, “It’s not thirty pesos, it’s thirty years.” Chileans…

November 23, 2021

Analysis

Trade and Growth

Revisiting the effects of trade liberalization on economic growth

According to a survey on free trade from the University of Chicago, economists overwhelmingly agree that free trade’s net effects are good. A recent article by several  IMF economists affirms that, “perhaps more than on any other issue, there is…

November 18, 2021

Analysis

The Wall Street Consensus at COP26

Finance Day at COP26 shows a ruthless dedication to voluntary decarbonization

Wednesday, November 3, was private finance day at COP26. For those who follow central banks closely, the event was a chance to gauge whether their recent turn to climate-conscious policy making would translate into ambitious decarbonization announcements. After all, private…

November 12, 2021

Analysis

Growth Towns

The Evergrande crisis, “common prosperity,” and the transformation of the Chinese growth model

The ongoing crisis for Chinese property developer Evergrande has made the giant company the focal point of global concern. Creditors, investors, contractors, customers, and employees of Evergrande within and outside China have watched anxiously to see whether the Chinese government would…

November 6, 2021

Analysis

Titans

Tracing the rise and the politics of asset manager capitalism

In mid October 2021, when BlackRock revealed its third quarter results, the asset management behemoth announced it was just shy of $10 trillion in assets under management. It’s a vast sum, “roughly equivalent to the entire global hedge fund, private…

November 4, 2021

Analysis

Negotiations

The Federation of German Industries’ agenda in the formation of the new German federal government

The new German government will be called upon, at a highly critical time for the global and European economy, to draw up a new economic and political strategy not only for Germany but also for the EU/Eurozone. The outcome will…

November 4, 2021

Analysis

Manufacturing Stagnation

Intellectual property, industrial organization, and economic growth

$5.3 trillion of US federal government stimulus and relief spending have returned the economy to its pre-Covid growth trajectory. But that growth trajectory was hardly robust—either before or after the 2008 financial crisis. Nor was the slow decay of GDP…

November 2, 2021

Analysis

The Diverging Gap

The history of the global infrastructure gap

On June 11, leaders at the G7 summit signed the Build Back Better World (B3W) Partnership, an agreement which commits signatories to meet the infrastructure needs of low- and middle-income countries. The deal is an explicit response to China’s Belt…

October 30, 2021

Analysis

Uneven Channels

Climate diplomacy and the global financial architecture

This year’s Conference of the Parties (COP), opening October 31, is hosted by the United Kingdom, whose agenda-setting privilege as host has made private finance a central focus of the 2021 meeting. The UK ambition to center the City of…

October 19, 2021

Analysis

Gas and Labor

The UK‘s petrol shortage is also a labor shortage driven by worsening conditions of work

The United Kingdom is in the midst of a protracted crisis in the supply of petrol. In the face of a plummeting sterling and severe disruptions to essential public services, military tanker drivers have been deployed to transport fuel to…

September 18, 2021

Analysis

Developmentalisms

The forgotten ancestors of East Asian developmentalism

2021 marked the centenary of the creation of the Chinese Communist Party, born of the May Fourth Movement of 1919. History textbooks tend to claim that the Movement emerged out of a widespread realization that China’s rights as a victorious…


How Schools Lie

The deceptive financial aid system at America's colleges.

No matter how talented, hard working, and committed a student is, if financing falls through, the dream of obtaining higher education can be dashed. But much of the financial data that prospective students receive is misleading. In the cost information…

August 24, 2021

Analysis

Legitimacy Gap

A history of central bank independence.

We live in the age of the central bank. The financial crisis of 2008 and the COVID-19 crash of 2020 have made visible the central role of the US Federal Reserve and its overseas counterparts in the international financial system.

August 11, 2021

Analysis

Built Trades

Employer claims of unavailable labor are rooted in an unwillingness to raise wages and the long-term decline of the nation’s system of training and allocating labor

As the American economy reopened in the first half of 2021, reports of a “labor shortage” spread throughout US industries. But there was one sector where employer panic about hiring was old news: the massive and decentralized US construction industry.

July 20, 2021

Analysis

Path Persistence

Global trade hierarchies across two eras of globalization

What is the legacy of the First Globalization of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries on the economic fortunes of countries during the Second Globalization? To what extent have countries’ positions in the international economic order been persistent across the…

July 2, 2021

Analysis

Repressing Labor, Empowering China

Cheap money will boost inequality and geopolitical tension but not inflation

Though the lockdown in 2020 threw many workers out of work, the big fiscal stimulus, fueled by government debt and an unprecedentedly large monetary expansion, offered stimulus checks and elevated unemployment benefits to millions of Americans.

June 24, 2021

Analysis

Preferred Shares

Inflation, wages, and the fifty-year crisis

In one of her first statements as Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen said that the United States faced “an economic crisis that has been building for fifty years.” The formulation is intriguing but enigmatic. The last half-century is piled so high…


Hysteresis & Student Debt

How the Great Recession fueled the student debt crisis.

The geographic character of the Great Recession of 2008–2009 is, by this point, well-known. While everywhere in the United States experienced a sharp increase in unemployment, some areas suffered disproportionate exposure to subprime mortgages and the consequent bursting of the…

June 8, 2021

Analysis

The Crisis Canal

Trade, bond markets, Suez, and the Ever Given.

Why did the Ever Given capture our collective imaginations? At the end of its week in the spotlight, the poet Kamran Javadizadeh wrote: “I too am ‘partially refloated,’ I too remain stuck in the Suez Canal.” Two fluorescent yellow-vested construction…

May 13, 2021

Analysis

Investment and Decarbonization: Rating Green Finance

A proposal for a public ratings agency for green finance

The Biden administration has committed the United States to cutting its carbon emissions in half by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

April 28, 2021

Analysis

Reconstruction Finance

Popular politics and reconstructing the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.

Like the world system as a whole, segregated cities in the United States have their own finance driven core-periphery dynamics.

April 6, 2021

Analysis

Risks and Crises

On market makers and risk managers post-2008.

For a long time, Bagehot’s rule, “lend freely, against good collateral, but at a high rate,” restored the Fed’s control over the money market and helped end banking panics and systemic banking crises. This control evaporated on September 15, 2008,…

February 20, 2021

Analysis

Democracy or the Market

Third wayism and the problem of representation.

The problem of democratic representation has always turned on the question of the “have-nots”—that is, not only those without wealth and property, but also those marginalized on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, origin, religion and education. Even in a…

February 20, 2021

Analysis

Revolution, Reform, and Resignation

In the 1980s, the left abandoned its language of transformation. Can it be regained?

Some time in 1991 I was invited to give a talk to the Andalusian Confederation of the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party (PSOE). Afterwards, the secretary of the confederation walked me back to my hotel. I asked him why there was…

February 20, 2021

Analysis

François Mitterrand’s Austerity Turn

The rise and fall of the French Road to socialism.

The history of French socialism is filled with famous and heroic dates: 1789; 1848; 1871 1936; 1968. But less well remembered is another date of great significance: 1981. It was in May of that year that the French left achieved…

February 20, 2021

Analysis

Transitions

Four voices on Spain's transition from the Franco dictatorship to parliamentary monarchy — and what didn't change.

It’s been some time since the term “transition” was fully incorporated into day-to-day usage in contemporary Spanish. It refers to the process of political change that began during the second half of the 1970s, a process which transformed Spain from…

February 5, 2021

Analysis

The Italian Left After Keynesianism

From stagflation to the transformation of Italian left parties.

In 1977, Eric Hobsbawm published a book of interviews with Giorgio Napolitano, a leading figure in the Italian Communist Party (PCI)’s gradualist wing, the miglioristi. Hobsbawm proclaimed himself a “spiritual member” of the PCI and intended this book to depict…

January 22, 2021

Analysis

Inflation, Specific and General

The many causes and effects of inflation.

Concerns over a generalized “inflation” loom in the recovery. Yet the prices that most heavily factor into the cost of living for US workers—housing, health, and education—have already been rising for decades. The question we should be asking is whether…

January 16, 2021

Analysis

Supercomputer

The Control Data Corporation and global value chains.

In March 1976, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Defense (DOD), William “Bill” Clements invited William “Bill” C. Norris, CEO and Chairman of the supercomputer producer Control Data Corporation (CDC) to a closed-door meeting at the Pentagon.

January 9, 2021

Analysis

The Deflationary Bloc

Hyman Minsky and the politics of inflation

An effective way to write the history of the last thirty years of the twentieth century,” economist Albert Hirschman wrote in 1985, “may well be to focus on the distinctive reactions of various countries to the identical issue of worldwide…


The Student Debt Crisis is a Crisis of Non-Repayment

Borrowers are increasingly unable to pay down their student loans, leading to mounting balances and an intensifying debt crisis.

Think of the student debt crisis as an overflowing bathtub. On the one hand, too much water is pouring in: more borrowers are taking on more debt. That is thanks to increased demand for higher education in the face of…

October 16, 2020

Analysis

Data as Property?

On the problems of propertarian and dignitarian approaches to data governance.

Since the proliferation of the World Wide Web in the 1990s, critics of widely used internet communications services have warned of the misuse of personal data. Alongside familiar concerns regarding user privacy and state surveillance, a now-decades-long thread connects a…

October 1, 2020

Analysis

A Popular History of the Fed

On Populist programs and democratic central banking.

Since Lehman collapsed in 2008, central banks have broken free of historical norms, channelling trillions into the banking system to prop up global finance and the savings of depositors from Germany to Hong Kong. The corona crash has only accelerated…

September 25, 2020

Analysis

Direct Effects

How should we measure racial discrimination?

A 2018 National Academy of Sciences report on American policing begins its section on racial bias by noting the abundance of scholarship that records disparities in the criminal justice system. But shortly thereafter, the authors make a strange clarification: “In…


Unceasing Debt, Disparate Burdens: Student Debt and Young America

JFI’s interactive map presents the geography of student debt.

Since the Great Recession, outstanding student loan debt in the United States has increased by 122% in 2019 dollars, reaching the staggering sum of $1.66 trillion in June of this year. Student loan debt has grown faster than other debt…

September 5, 2020

Analysis

Hot Oil

Gardiner Means, administered prices, and why the Texas Railroad Commission should regulate oil production again.

Even at the depth of the Great Depression, oil producers were always paid a positive price for their product. But on April 20 of this year the price of West Texas Intermediate oil traded for negative prices, reaching a record…

August 15, 2020

Analysis

Another Lost Decade?

The systemic character of the global periphery debt crisis.

Contrary to common beliefs on fiscal fundamentals, the current debt crisis in the global periphery demonstrates that the solvency of sovereign states is determined by their monetary power. Crucially, liquidity has a cyclical character in the periphery of global capitalism…

July 27, 2020

Analysis

Essential Infrastructures

The case for sovereign investment in telecommunications infrastructure

How should the fabric of social life, especially as it is rewoven by the pandemic, relate to the private ownership of telecommunications?

July 22, 2020

Analysis

Laws of the Land

Property rights and extraction in the mineral frontier

“The Mining Law of 1872,” reported California Democrat Alan Lowenthal in May 2019, "is one of the most obsolete laws still on the books.”

July 16, 2020

Analysis

The Dollar and Empire

How the US dollar shapes geopolitical power

What does the US dollar’s continued dominance in the global monetary and financial systems mean for geo-economic and geo-political power?

July 10, 2020

Analysis

The Crisis and the Free Market

On crisis, partisanship, and public policy

Will the current crisis transform America’s politics and economic institutions? With unemployment higher than at any point since the Great Depression, rising food insecurity, and an increasingly muscular role for government—are we witnessing the beginning of the end of the…

July 3, 2020

Analysis

Pandemic and Poverty

What the pandemic teaches us about poverty measurements

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, more than 40 million people have applied for unemployment benefits.


Mapping concentration and prices in the US higher education industry During and after the Great Recession, public funding for higher education was slashed as part of state budget austerity. Staff and programs were cut and tuition rose; in many states,…

May 28, 2020

Analysis

Digital Scab, Digital Snitch

On automation and worker surveillance

Before Covid-19 hit, we'd become used to reports about Amazon's robotics innovations and the impending large-scale automation of warehouse jobs. But recent strikes and protests by Amazon's very human workers have exposed how far we are from robotic warehouses.

May 1, 2020

Analysis

The Class Politics of the Dollar System

Managing an international public good

The global dollar system has few national winners. The typical frame for understanding the US dollar is that of “exorbitant privilege.”

April 17, 2020

Analysis

Inside Out

Shaping the base of a renewable economy

The transition to a post-carbon energy economy will require extraction.

April 3, 2020

Analysis

Crisis and Recovery

The underlying problems in the US economy

Today’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report hardly registers the cataclysm in the US job market. The sharp 0.9 percent uptick in unemployment—itself newsworthy—only grasps the very beginnings of the shutdown of the American economy.

March 25, 2020

Analysis

The First Services Recession

The shape of the Covid-19 recession

It is hard to see how the United States can avoid a recession. Unemployment insurance claims have already surged, and this week's numbers look to be in the millions.

February 27, 2020

Analysis

The Economics of Race

On the neoclassical and stratification theories of race

Black America has had less wealth, less income, less education, and poorer health than white America for as long as records have been kept.

February 6, 2020

Analysis

Decision Making in a Dynamic World

Exploring the limits of Expected Utility

I once wrote a post criticizing modern microeconomic models as both overly complex and unrealistic, leading their practitioners into theoretical dead ends without much corresponding increase in explanatory power. I suggested the entire enterprise of Expected Utility (EU) was a…

January 30, 2020

Analysis

The Long History of Algorithmic Fairness

Fair algorithms from the seventeenth century to the present

As national and regional governments form expert commissions to regulate “automated decision-making,” a new corporate-sponsored field of research proposes to formalize the elusive ideal of “fairness” as a mathematical property of algorithms and especially of their outputs.

January 23, 2020

Analysis

What Would a UBI Fund?

Lessons from the 1970s experiments in guaranteed income

One of the questions at the heart of contemporary debates over the merits of UBI is ‘what would it fund?’ In other words, what type of activities would it encourage? There are of course the widely debunked quibbles about guaranteed…

January 17, 2020

Analysis

UBI & the City

A new working paper models the effects of a basic income in New York City

Skeptics of guaranteed income tend to worry about the policy’s inflationary effects; absent rent regulation, for instance, one might expect housing costs to rise in proportion to the increase in disposable income generated by the policy.

January 16, 2020

Analysis

Macro Modeling in the Age of Inequality

On incorporating distributional concerns into macroeconomic models

Recent years have seen the revival of academic conversation around rising wealth inequality and its distributional consequences. But while applied, microeconomics-oriented fields like public and labor economics have long engaged with questions around inequality, macroeconomics has historically paid less attention…


Mapping market concentration in the higher education industry In much of the existing higher education literature, “college access” is understood in terms of pre-college educational attainment, social and informational networks, and financial capacity, both for tuition and living expenses. The…

November 22, 2019

Analysis

Development and Displacement

The effects of big development initiatives

Infrastructure lies at the heart of development. From transportation and telecommunication networks to electrical grids and water pipelines, large-scale infrastructure projects play a pivotal role in the global development landscape.

November 7, 2019

Analysis

Collective Ownership in the Green New Deal

What rural electrification can teach us about a just transition

This year, we once again shattered the record for atmospheric carbon concentration, and witnessed a series of devastating setbacks in US climate policy—from attempts to waive state protections against pipelines to wholesale attacks on climate science.

October 17, 2019

Analysis

Disparate Causes, pt. II

On the hunt for the correct counterfactual

An accurate understanding of the nature of race in our society is a prerequisite for an adequate normative theory of discrimination.

October 11, 2019

Analysis

Disparate Causes, pt. I

The shortcomings of causal and counterfactual thinking about racial discrimination

Legal claims of disparate impact discrimination go something like this: A company uses some system (e.g., hiring test, performance review, risk assessment tool) in a way that impacts people. Somebody sues, arguing that it has a disproportionate adverse effect on…

September 12, 2019

Analysis

Money Parables

Three competing theories of money

In the past year, Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) has shifted the policy debate in a way that few heterodox schools of economic thought have in recent memory.

August 23, 2019

Analysis

Statistical prediction is increasingly pervasive in our lives. Can it be fair? The Allegheny Family Screening Tool is a computer program that predicts whether a child will later have to be placed into foster care. It's been used in Allegheny…

August 1, 2019

Analysis

Decentralize What?

Can you fix political problems with new web infrastructures?

The internet's early proliferation was steeped in cyber-utopian ideals. The circumvention of censorship and gatekeeping, digital public squares, direct democracy, revitalized civic engagement, the “global village”—these were all anticipated characteristics of the internet age, premised on the notion that digital…

July 18, 2019

Analysis

Student Debt & Racial Wealth Inequality

How student debt cancellation affects the racial wealth gap

The effect of cancelling student debt on various measures of individual and group-level inequality has been a matter of controversy, especially given presidential candidates’ recent and high-profile proposals to eliminate outstanding student debt.

July 3, 2019

Analysis

The Politics of Machine Learning, pt. II

The uses of algorithms discussed in the first part of this article vary widely: from hiring decisions to bail assignment, to political campaigns and military intelligence.

Across all these applications of machine learning methods, there is a common thread: Data on individuals is used to treat different individuals differently. In the past, broadly speaking, such commercial and government activities used to target everyone in a given…

June 27, 2019

Analysis

The Politics of Machine Learning, pt. I

On prediction, profits, votes, and militarism.

Terminology like "machine learning," "artificial intelligence," "deep learning," and "neural nets" is pervasive: business, universities, intelligence agencies, and political parties are all anxious to maintain an edge over the use of these technologies.

May 31, 2019

Analysis

Copyright Humanism

It's by now common wisdom that American copyright law is burdensome, excessive, and failing to promote the ideals that protection ought to.

It's by now common wisdom that American copyright law is burdensome, excessive, and failing to promote the ideals that protection ought to. Too many things, critics argue, are subject to copyright protections, and the result is an inefficient legal morass…

March 28, 2019

Analysis

Experiments for Policy Choice

If we wish to pick good policies, we should run experiments adaptively

Randomized experiments have become part of the standard toolkit for policy evaluation, and are usually designed to give precise estimates of causal effects. But, in practice, their actual goal is to pick good policies. These two goals are not the…

March 22, 2019

Analysis

The Emerging Monopsony Consensus

On the theory of monopsony

Early on in The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith asked who had the edge in negotiations between bosses and wage laborers. His answer: the bosses. In the case of a stalemate, landlords and manufacturers “could generally live a year or…

March 19, 2019

Analysis

Ideology in AP Economics

Uncovering the ideology embedded in economics

When the media talks about ideological indoctrination in education, it is usually assumed to refer to liberal arts professors pushing their liberal agenda. Less discussed is the very different strain of ideology found in economics.

March 1, 2019

Analysis

The Case for an Unconditional Safety Net

The 'magic bucket' of universal cash transfers

Imagine a system where everyone had a right to basic material safety, and could say “no” to abuse and exploitation. Sounds utopian? I argue that it would be quite feasible to get there, and that it would make eminent economic,…

January 24, 2019

Analysis

Why Rational People Polarize

Explanations of political polarization

U.S. politics is beset by increasing polarization. Ideological clustering is common; partisan antipathy is increasing; extremity is becoming the norm (Dimock et al. 2014). This poses a serious collective problem. Why is it happening?

November 9, 2018

Analysis

Banking with Imprecision

How medieval financiers lent in the age of uncertainty

​In 1596, Spanish troops under the leadership of the Duke of Medina-Sidonia set fire to their own ships in the waters near Cadiz. The sinking of these thirty-two vessels was a tactical necessity: a joint Anglo-Dutch navy had annihilated the…

October 18, 2018

Analysis

Machine Ethics, Part One: An Introduction and a Case Study

Artificial intelligence, ethics, and public health social work

The past few years have made abundantly clear that the artificially intelligent systems that organizations increasingly rely on to make important decisions can exhibit morally problematic behavior if not properly designed.

October 10, 2018

Analysis

Who cares about stopping rules?

Can you bias a coin?

Take a coin out of your pocket. Unless you own some exotic currency, your coin is fair: it's equally likely to land heads as tails when flipped.

October 2, 2018

Analysis

The “Next Big Thing” is a Room

New realities in Dynamicland

If you don’t look up, Dynamicland seems like a normal room on the second floor of an ordinary building in downtown Oakland. There are tables and chairs, couches and carpets, scattered office supplies, and pictures taped up on the walls.…

October 1, 2018

Analysis

Phenomenal World is a new publication that distributes research, analysis, and commentary on applied social science. We chose this name for our blog because we hope to publish work that addresses the social world in all its apparent complexity. Our…