Horse Notations

This is an archived version of the PW Sources newsletter from Saturday, February 10, 2024. Sign up to receive PW Sources directly to your inbox here.


The inflation slowdown in the United States stabilized in the last half of 2023 at approximately 3.1 percent. A January report by Liz Pancotti and Lindsay Owens of Groundwork Collaborative attributes most of the rise in prices during the last quarter to corporate profits. 

In 1972, former Chief Economist to the Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly of the Senate Judiciary JOHN MALCOLM BLAIR proposed an “excess-profits” tax, designed to induce competitive pricing and alleviate the inflationary effects of concentration where antitrust enforcement could not reach.

“A precedent for preempting those corporate profits that by some designated standard are deemed to be ‘excessive’ is provided by the excess profits in which earnings above a certain specified return on investment or greater than those earned during a base period are returned to the Treasury. Its scope, however, could be broadened beyond disincentives to profiteering through a ‘forgiveness’ feature under which the tax owed would be forgiven to the extent that price reductions were made. With such a feature the objective of the tax would be to return monopoly profits to the public either through tax revenue or lower prices at the corporation’s discretion. The corporation would have full discretion in determining whether it simply wanted to pay the tax or whether it wanted to obtain ‘forgiveness’ through price reduction on all or any part of its output.” 

+  “Whether or not price increases are happening, shortages are a constraint on conducting additional economic activity.” Nathan Tankas on “non-price” adjustments to demand. Link. And Sandy Brian Hager and Joseph Baines find that the structure of tax obligations in the US has contributed to a concentration of ownership in the corporate sector. Link.

+  “Firms in the US increased their markups and profits in 2021 at the fastest annual pace since 1955.” By Mike Konczal and Niko Lusiani. Link. And a Bain report advises companies on “opportunistic” pricing strategies amid inflationary pressures. Link

+  Geoff Barnard and Patrice Ollivaud critique the use of decompositions of GDP inflation, as were employed in Groundwork Collaborative’s report. Link.


Pre-Colonial Egyptian Agriculture

AMR KHAIRY AHMED recently received his PhD in Human Ecology from the Department of Human Geography at Lund University. His dissertation studies the integration of industrial infrastructure in Egypt. 

From the abstract:

“How did fossil-fuelled technology find its way to Egypt on its way to global dominance? This thesis presents a socioecological history of energy technologies in agrarian production in pre-colonial Egypt (1820s—76). It situates them in the nineteenth century, understood as the beginning of the epoch of the Capitalocene; and in Egypt’s case, this is simultaneously part of the rise of Britain’s fossil empire. The thesis studies how the steam engine—and eventually the modern factory—was integrated into the Egyptian economy and society during this period, focusing on material aspects, as well as cultural dimensions. Several overlapping microhistories take the investigation to its conclusion in 1876 and bring the overarching research question down to the ground of Egyptian life. Historical analysis here identifies two phases for Egypt’s transition to steam technology in agrarian production. First, the predatory but frustrated empire-building project of Mohamed Ali that sought to compete with Britain, thwarted through the massive imbalance in coal endowments. Second, originating from this moment, the gradual growth of the dependency of Egypt on European fossil and financial capital, and its simultaneous integration into industrial capitalism.”

+ + +

+   “Argentina has never before had to choose between China and the United States.” New on PW, an interview with Maia Colodenco on Milei’s foreign policy agenda, available to read in English and Spanish

+   On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered evacuations of Rafah in advance of an IDF military offensive. Link. As has been widely noted, there is nowhere safe to evacuate to: four months of a historically brutal bombing campaign decimating civilian infrastructure has driven 1.3 million Palestinians into crammed tent dwellings at the southernmost edge of the Gaza Strip. Link to a NYT article from January using satellite imagery to document the growth of the humanitarian catastrophe in Rafah. Link to a thread by Itay Epshtain recalling the role of Rafah in documents published in October outlining a strategy for its campaign in Gaza. Link to Moody’s statement on its downgrading of Israel, link to Seth Ackerman’s newsletter on the volatility of domestic Israeli politics, link to Tim Sahay’s interview with Guy Laron from November on the failure of the Netanyahu doctrine, and link to Amal Saad’s thread on Rafah.

+   Brad Setser on China’s currency management. Link.

+   “To finance internal war, the government proposed to raise the value-added tax on non-essential items from 12 to 15 percent.” Michele Bertelli on militarization in Ecuador. Link

+   “Just as in 1936, when the colonial police went to great lengths to explain women revolutionaries, Delhi is struggling to understand what it means when women—young women, middle-aged mothers and older dadis—come out onto the streets.” By Atiya Hussain. Link

+   “The non-state actors in this alliance are acting in accordance with their own political beliefs and strategic interests rather than following Iranian diktat.” Amal Saad in The Guardian on the Resistance Axis. Link

+   “During the Anti-extradition Movement in Hong Kong, a wave of new unions surfaced—18 newly registered unions in 2019 and 491 in the first half of 2020.” By Anita Chan and Sallie Lau. Link

+   “The Sindhi Sikhs exhibit a severe disillusionment with the Congress’ violation of Harmandir Sahib in 1984, which led to the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the backlash against the Sikh community. In Tej Kaur’s interview, she displayed a continuing palpable fear because she had been a witness to the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984. While Mehrwan Singh, Hotusingh and Dayal Singh also referred to 1984 in their interviews, their articulations of the historical moment were accompanied by disillusionment and anger towards the Congress. Dayal Singh echoed Mehrwan Singh’s appreciation of the ‘government’ at the time of resettlement in India and his later antagonism towards Congress: ‘It helped us with groceries and shelter for two years. Congress was good. In fact the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] did not even exist then. However 1984 ruined everything. We lost our people and faith in the government.'” Rita Kothari & Jasbirkaur Thadhani on post-Partition politics in India. Link.

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