French Doors

This is an archived version of the PW Sources newsletter from Saturday, March 9, 2024. Sign up to receive PW Sources directly to your inbox here.


Last year, the Brazilian senate enshrined the controversial Milestone Thesis (marco temporal) into law, whereby indigenous groups can only make land claims on territories they occupied before October 1988. The new legislation opens the door to road-building, dam construction, and mining activities in indigenous communities. 

In a 2022 essay, MARCELO FIRPO DE SOUZA PORTO and DIOGO ROCHA examine indigenous labor in the gold mining sector after 1971:

“With the end of the Bretton Woods agreement in 1971, gold stopped being a financial backing of the international financial system to become a commodity. At the first moment, this turn caused a strong increase on the price of gold and a run to the various auriferous reserves in the world, including in Brazil and the Tapajós region by means of artisanal gold prospection, which incorporates investments in its mechanization that amplify the socio-environmental impacts. As this process was poorly regulated by the State and had intense participation of economic agents from the lower circuits of capitalism, neo-extractivism involving illegal gold prospection has strong connections with illicit activities, which results in an even more violent dimension of its expansion. Gold prospection workers, often natives of the indigenous peoples and riverbanks communities, end up subordinated to local entrepreneurs who finance and organize an activity that is increasingly mechanized and expensive. On a local level, the neo-extractivism of gold prospection reproduces the inequalities and injustices that characterize this market on a global level in the relationship between the countries involved, but it aggravates the aspects of violence and spoliation typical of the colonial pattern that persists and is re-updated.”

+ “Government focus has been on the creation of environmental laws rather than technical assistance programs on the ground.” Rodolfo Sousa, Marcello Veiga, Dirk Van Zyl, Kevin Telmer, Sam Spiegel, and Jeff Selder on regulating Brazil’s gold sector. Link. And Sousa and Veiga on the Global Mercury Project’s efforts to train informal miners in the Tapajós river basin.  Link.

+ “By presiding over the legalisation of domestic illicit financial flows, the Bolivian state abandons higher tax revenues to perpetuate a long-running political settlement.” By Fritz Brugger, Felicitas Fischer, and Joschka J. Proksik. Link. And an edited volume on governing extractive industries in Bolivia, Ghana, Peru, and Zambia. Link.

+ “The three large-scale gold mining companies currently produce approximately 30% of the gold, while small-scale mining operations account for approximately 70% of the national production.” A 2013 chapter on gold mining in Colombia. Link. And see Kari Lydersen and Adriana Cardona-Maguigad’s multi-part investigation into the social conflicts resulting from artisanal, illegal, and large-scale mining. Link


Corporate Tax Codes

JORDAN RICHMOND is a PhD student in economics at Princeton University. His job market paper, coauthored by Lucas Goodman, Adam Isen, and Matthew Smith, studies how limiting interest deductions influences firms’ investment and financing choices. 

From the abstract:

“The 2017 law known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) implemented an interest limitation for big, high-interest firms. Using an event study design comparing big and small high-interest firms, we rule out economically significant impacts of the interest limitation on investment and leverage, and find evidence that the interest limitation led firms to increase their equity issuance. A triple difference design that accommodates size-varying impacts of other TCJA policy changes yields similar results, as does a regression discontinuity design focusing on marginal firms that are just large enough to face the interest limitation. Our results indicate many firms do not use debt as their marginal source of financing and provide evidence consistent with capital structure models with fixed leverage adjustment costs. Furthermore, our results suggest limiting interest deductions is unlikely to have large impacts on investment or to address concerns about rising corporate debt levels.”

+ + +

+  “Since Petrobras has a long tradition of ensuring industrial safety in exploring oil, expanding this tradition would allow us to invest in new energy sources.” New on PW, Hugo Fanton interviews Cibele Vieira about the history of Petrobras in the context of Brazilian development. Read it in English or Portuguese

+  “In the Gujarat of this time, state authority did not only rely on a ‘deep state’; it also ruled over people through the network of the Sangh Parivar and, more specifically, through vigilante groups which had penetrated and permeated society in such a way as to fashion a ‘deeper state.'” Christophe Jaffrelot on surveillance in BJP-ruled Gujarat, India. Link

+  “Sisi’s economic path is predicated on denying the people access to channels of dissent.” Hesham Sallam on a decade of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s rule in Egypt. Link.

+   L. Price and R. Mapes on oil exploration in the Guyana/Suriname Basin since 2015. Link.

+  “The vast majority of the companies that took part in the UK pilot decided to keep the policy in place—54 out of 61 organisations, with 31 confirming that the change is permanent.” Autonomy reports on the 2022 UK 4-day week pilot, one year on. Link.

+   Tobias Franz, Diana Gómez, C. Julián Idrobo, and Olga Corzo on maritime infrastructure and the Tribugá Port project on Colombia’s Pacific coast. Link

+  “Price increases in the 1970s were driven by contingent events propagating through politically constructed markets.” By Brian Judge. Link.

+  “In the first six months of 2023 alone, nearly 400 children in Gaza were denied permits to travel to the West Bank for critical healthcare, leaving many to die.” An al-Shabaka roundtable from November, featuring Yara Hawari, Tariq Kenney-Shawa, Fathi Nimer, and Alaa Tartir. Link.

+   “On May 21, 1963, American farmers voted down an administration proposal that would have required significant cuts in grain output in exchange for higher guaranteed prices. The farm programs inherited from the New Deal had not successfully controlled production (despite the goal of ‘supply management’) because a technological revolution in agriculture had raised farm productivity to unforeseen levels, and farmers were never really beholden to restrictions on output, only to limits on the acreage under cultivation. From the 1930s to the 1960s, the United States maintained farm prices higher than world market prices, and, at considerable expense, stored the portion—the surplus—that it could not sell, donate, or dump. At the peak of this storage regime, in the late 1950s, the government ran out of room in the usual holding spots—warehouses, elevators, and terminal markets—and started shoving grain into abandoned movie theaters and empty Texas oil tanks. By 1959, owing to commodity storage costs, agricultural expenditures made up the third largest item in the federal budget, following only defense outlays and interest on the debt.” By Sarah T Phillips. Link.

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