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What We Read Today 13 August 2017

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


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Topics today include:

  • Is UBI Better than Welfare?

  • Universal Basic Income Needed to Break 'Addiction to Economic Growth Killing Us'

  • The False Promise of Universal Basic Income

  • Basic Income vs. Job Guarantee

  • Why a universal basic income is a poor substitute for a guaranteed job

  • The Basic Income and Job Guarantee are Complementary, not Opposing Policies

  • UBI Is Even Worse Than Welfare

  • Scientists discover 91 volcanoes below Antarctic ice sheet

  • Police face criticism following eruptions of violence in Charlottesville

  • The Hidden Meaning of Trump's Charlottesville Remarks

  • White House clarifies: We condemn all violence

  • When Bigotry Paraded Through the Streets

  • Immigrants are driving overall workforce growth in the U.S.

  • Millennials are the United States’ largest living generation

  • Brace for Pound Turbulence as U.K. Economics, Politics Collide

  • Merkel challenger remains confident of unseating chancellor

  • Top South Korean official: Trump comments 'very worrisome,' causing 'confusion'

  • China's Xi Grapples With Rising Cost of Supporting Kim Jong Un

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Scientists discover 91 volcanoes below Antarctic ice sheet (The Guardian)  This brings the total of known volcanoes in Antarctica to 138.  These volcanoes constitute the largest volcanic region on Earth – two kilometres below the surface of the vast ice sheet that covers west Antarctica.  The highest is as tall as the Eiger, which stands at almost 4,000 metres (over 13,000 feet) in Switzerland.  Geologists say this huge region is likely to dwarf that of east Africa’s volcanic ridge, currently rated the densest concentration of volcanoes in the world.  The map below shows some of the newly discovered volcanoes.



  • Police face criticism following eruptions of violence in Charlottesville (abc News)  Protesters from both sides of Saturday’s conflict in Charlottesville, Virginia, have criticized the efforts of police to reign in the violence that took place prior to and during a large gathering of white nationalists in the college town.  The violence, which started on Friday night and then intensified on Saturday, killed Heather Heyer, 32, an activist who was marching against the white nationalists who descended on Charlottesville this weekend.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, which tweeted that counter-protesters were not happy with the police, also reported police saying that they would "not intervene until given command to do so."

  • The Hidden Meaning of Trump's Charlottesville Remarks (The Atlantic)  Econintersect:  The meaning was hidden?  The most favorable interpretation would be that all protesters are alike.  Less favorable interpretations are widely offered.

  • White House clarifies: We condemn all violence (The Hill)  On Sunday, the White House was forced to clarify that President Trump "condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred" in a statement following up on the Saturday protests in Charlottesville, Va.  "Of course" the president condemns violence by "white supremacists, KKK Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups," a White House spokesperson said in a statement.  Trump the previous day declined to name the groups behind the rally, instead blaming "hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides — on many sides."

  • When Bigotry Paraded Through the Streets (The Atlantic)  A century ago, millions of Americans banded together in defense of white, Christian America and traditional morality—and most of their compatriots turned a blind eye to the Ku Klux Klan.  On August 8, 1925, more than 50,000 members of the Ku Klux Klan paraded through Washington, D.C. Some walked in lines as wide as 20 abreast, while others created formations of the letter K or a Christian cross.

  • Immigrants are driving overall workforce growth in the U.S. (Pew Research Center)  As the Baby Boom generation heads toward retirement, growth in the nation’s working-age population (those ages 25 to 64) will be driven by immigrants and the U.S.-born children of immigrants, at least through 2035.  Without immigrants, there would be an estimated 18 million fewer working-age adults in the country in 2035 because of the dearth of U.S.-born children with U.S.-born parents.

By some measures, Millennials have very different lives than earlier generations did when they were young. They’re slow to adopt many of the traditional markers of adulthood. For the first time in more than 130 years, young adults are more likely to be living in their parents’ home than in any other living arrangement.

More broadly, young adult geographic mobility is at its lowest level in 50 years, even though today’s young adults are less likely than previous generations of young adults to be married, to own a home or to be parents, all of which are traditional obstacles to moving.


  • Brace for Pound Turbulence as U.K. Economics, Politics Collide (Bloomberg)  The pound may be in for a bout of volatility, according to analysts at ING Groep NV, after a week that saw the currency confined to its tightest range versus the dollar in almost three years.  Sterling slipped to its lowest level in six weeks against the dollar on Aug. 10 as data signaled sluggish U.K. growth, prompting money markets to push back bets on the timing of a Bank of England interest-rate hike. Morgan Stanley revised its forecasts to predict parity in euro-sterling, which would be a record. 


  • Merkel challenger remains confident of unseating chancellor (abc News)  Angela Merkel's main challenger in the country's upcoming general election said Sunday he remains confident he can unseat the chancellor despite her wide lead in the polls.  Martin Schulz, who was president of the European Parliament until January, said on Germany's ZDF television's "Berlin Direkt" program that there are still six weeks of campaigning to go before the Sept. 24 vote.

South Korea

  • Top South Korean official: Trump comments 'very worrisome,' causing 'confusion' (abc News)  President Trump's recent aggressive threats against North Korea appear to have opened new fissures between the United States and its most important ally against Kim Jong Un's regime – South Korea.  While the country’s new president Moon Jae-in has largely kept quiet and reaffirmed the strategic alliance with the U.S., his outspoken top aide, Moon Chung-in, openly criticized Trump for his bellicose language.  The South Korean ambassador-at-large for international security told ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz:

“This is very unusual. We do not expect that the president of the United States would make that kind of statement,”  “It is very worrisome for the president of the United States to fill [fuel] the crisis.”


For weeks, Xi has been caught in the middle as leader Kim Jong Un lobbed intercontinental ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan and U.S. President Donald Trump vented his frustration with warnings of “fire and fury.” China has urged calm while backing tighter sanctions against North Korea to ward off U.S. threats of punitive tariffs and military strikes.

The prospect of nuclear war has sparked a debate in Beijing about maintaining support for the Kim dynasty, which dates back to the Korean War in the 1950s. The two countries have grown apart over the decades, with China opening up to become the world’s second-biggest economy while North Korea has become more isolated and impoverished.

Other Scientific, Health, Political, Economics, and Business Items of Note - plus Miscellanea

  • Is UBI Better than Welfare? (Foundation for Economic Education)  The author likes the idea of Universal Basic Income, provided it's done well, but doesn't think it could ever possibly be done well. But what about a theoretical UBI? If we could actually figure out how to implement that well, would that work? And why wouldn't that work in the real world?

  • Universal Basic Income Needed to Break 'Addiction to Economic Growth Killing Us' (Common Dreams)  As some tech giants throw their weight behind the idea of a universal basic income, one anthropologist says it's a key component of a strategy to break the "addiction to economic growth [that] is killing us" and the planet.  Offering his views on BBC's "Viewsnight," Jason Hickel, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics and author of books including The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions, says "we can't have infinite growth on a finite planet."  That argument—which others have made as well—should be clear by evidence of the "climate change, deforestation, and rapid rates of extinction" taking hold, he says.  The primary blame, according to Hickel, rests with "over-consumption in rich countries," and addressing that entails "planned de-growth," which will put the reins on "our plunder of the earth."

  • The False Promise of Universal Basic Income (Dissent)  It’s often noted that Milton Friedman as well as Martin Luther King, Jr. supported basic income—and the new generation of advocates is similarly eclectic, running the gamut from Trump-supporting venture capitalists like Thiel to “fully automated luxury communists” like Peter Frase. There are, in short, many different reasons for supporting UBI—and just as many versions of what it could be.  One version functions as a kind of noblesse oblige—a handout to the unfortunates being made obsolete by robots smarter and more efficient than they are. Another version aspires to egalitarian universalism and challenges the legitimacy of privately accumulated wealth. There’s a version that sees UBI as the spark for a generation of entrepreneurs, and another that simply attempts to stave off a revolt of the precarious masses.

Basic income is therefore often posited as a post-ideological solution suited to a new era of politics: the odd confluence of interest from the left and right tends to be read as a sign that political positions should be eschewed in favor of rational compromise. But UBI’s cross-ideological appeal is the bug, not the feature. Because basic income is politically ambiguous, it also has the potential to act as a Trojan horse for the left or right: left critics fret that it will serve as a vehicle for dissolving the remains of the welfare state, while proponents herald it as the “capitalist road to communism.” The version of basic income we get will depend, more than policies with a clearer ideological valence, on the political forces that shape it.

Which is why the prospect of pushing for basic income in the United States right now—when the right controls everything—should be cause for alarm: UBI’s supporters on the left should proceed with caution.

But that doesn’t mean basic income is a lost cause. To the contrary, capitalism’s inability to provide a means of making a decent living for the over 7 billion people currently alive is one of its most glaring defects—and one of the most significant opportunities for the left to offer an alternative. A universal basic income, though not the only answer, might point us in the right direction.

  • The Basic Income and Job Guarantee are Complementary, not Opposing Policies (Evonomics)  The author says that all current "welfare" programs programs provide support by doling out income or necessities, with or without a requirement that the recipient be working. BIG (basic income guarantee) and JG (job guarantee) would both be ways to consolidate all of these programs, and then the debate becomes how much does someone have to work in order to receive assistance. A lot of people who advocate for BIG think that our current system has a lot of pointless jobs, and BIG would be away to allow those people to pursue something more creative. Considering that most entrepreneurs have one thing in common — access to capital — that may not be too far off. Then there are JG proponents who probably agree with that point, but think we can use the policy to help organize jobs that need to be done (liking cleaning up our environment, or building our infrastructure). Most people who support BIG worry that a JG would create “make-work”, quoting Keynes famous “bury bank notes and dig them back up” line. To them, just giving people the bank notes makes more sense. On the other hand, JG proponents worry about losing the social utility of work. People want to contribute to society, and they see work that needs to be done. Both policies seem hard to pass in today’s political climate.  He proposes:

I think proponents of both the BIG and JG are disappointed with a U6 unemployment rate of 9.5%, current companies lack of interest in maintaining our environment, and over 45 million Americans living in poverty. Call it whatever you want, let’s guarantee every American access to the necessities: healthy food, shelter, and healthcare. Clearly this is going to require some people to do some work, so let’s make sure that work gets done with our social structure as well. Calling it a BIG or a Basic Necessities Guarantee (BNG) or a JG doesn’t matter so much to me.

In fact, I’d probably start with calling it the EITC. Get rid of the minimum income phase in, and we instantly have a “BIG”, with all the infrastructure already in place. It would only go to unemployed or low income citizens, since the EITC phases out, which helps it be a progressive policy. So that it can cover the housing benefits and others, we could expand the credit a bit too. How do we pay for this? It’s simple. Scrap the other welfare programs (keep Medicaid, that one’s complicated). The overhead of having all of these programs is gross. 

  • UBI Is Even Worse Than Welfare (Foundation for Economic Education)  The video that follows below is a debate between the author and  UBI proponent.  The author uses the following standard set of fundamental criticisms of the welfare state to evaluate his argument:

  1. Forced charity is unjust. Individuals have a moral right to decide if and when they want to help others.

  2. Forced charity is unnecessary. In a free market, voluntary donations are enough to provide for the truly poor.

  3. Forced charity gives recipients bad incentives. If the government takes care of you, you're less likely to take care of yourself by work and saving.

  4. The cost of forced charity is high and growing rapidly, leading to a future of exorbitant taxes or financial crisis.


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