Transitioning to Geocratia — the People and Planet and Not the Market Paradigm — First Steps

Parting from the fact that saving Planet Earth, our home, changes everything, we need to build a new ethos where the majority of humankind commits to a system whose only purpose is the pursuit of the welfare of people and Planet Earth. This requires that all Earth resources necessary for the enjoyment of life of all living things be managed to achieve true long-term sustainability. — Álvaro J. de Regil

Capitalism of Dispossession in the Palm Oil Plantations in the Countries of the Global South

The commodification of land has deepened the ecological, social and economic crises. The unprecedented global pandemic of the covid-19 virus comes from the destruction of the habitats of species of wild animals and plants and the subsequent migration to humans. The neoliberal model is unsupportable in the sustainable conservation of nature and the planet's economy. A change in the capitalist economy is urgently needed. — Nubia Barrera Silva

Back to Production: An Analysis of the Imperialist Global Economy

Debating whether or not this “guarded globalisation” is really happening is beyond the scope of this paper. But the worries are clear: capital wants to make sure that multinational corporations can engage in capital accumulation without significant disruptions. This shows that, despite their relentless attention to the market, the focus lies on global capital’s effort to export capital through various means, including by outsourcing their production to the global South. Thus, if we want to critically evaluate “globalization,” we cannot merely see the transactions that happen in the marketplace. Instead, we have to go to where commodities are produced, or – as Marx famously said – to the hidden abode of production. — Intan Suwandi

COVID-19 and Catastrophe Capitalism — Commodity Chains and Ecological-Epidemiological-Economic Crises

COVID-19 has accentuated as never before the interlinked ecological, epidemiological, and economic vulnerabilities imposed by capitalism. As the world enters the third decade of the twenty-first century, we are seeing the emergence of catastrophe capitalism as the structural crisis of the system takes on planetary dimensions. — John Bellamy Foster and Intan Suwandi

An Eco-Revolutionary Tipping Point?

Just a couple decades ago, we were told that neoliberal capitalism marked the “end of history.” Now it appears that the system’s ideologues may have been right, but not in the way they envisioned. The system of fossil-fuelled neoliberal capitalism is indeed moving toward an end of history, but only in the sense of the end of any historical advance of humanity as a productive, political, and cultural species due to the increasingly barbaric socio-economic and environmental conditions the system creates. There is now no alternative to the end of history as we know it. — Paul Burkett

Marxism and Ecology: Common Fonts of a Great Transition

This essay unearths the deep ecological roots of Marx’s thought, showing how he brought an environmental perspective to bear on the overarching question of social transformation. From there, it traces the evolution of Marxian ecology, illuminating its profound, formative link to modern ecological economics and systems ecology. It concludes by discussing the wider project of building a social movement broad and deep enough to halt and reverse ecological and social destruction. — John Bellamy Foster

To Die for Wall Street — Coronavirus, Social Classes and the Prevailing Culture

The COVID-19 epidemic has clearly revealed the process of decomposition—progressively accelerated over the past half century—of the capitalist system in its political, economic, social and cultural aspects. The leading political elites that presented themselves as—and long ago were to a certain extent—mediators between the economic power and society, have ceased to be so and, with nuances, are now simply transmission belts of real power: towering financial, industrial and commercial capital. — Alejandro Teitelbaum

Labour Value Commodity Chains — The Hidden Abode of Global Production

As in V. I. Lenin’s conceptualisation, imperialism can be broadly defined as the complex intermingling of economic and political interests, related to the efforts of large capital to control economic territory. Imperialism has several interrelated aspects: (1) geopolitical (including military) struggle by nation-states for positions within the international hierarchy of the system, encompassing the control of colonies or neo-colonies, (2) dispossession of petty producers outside of capitalist production, and (3) global exploitation (along with expropriation—or appropriation without an equivalent) of labour in capitalist production, particularly under the domination of multinational firms emanating primarily from the core of the system. This work focuses almost entirely on the third aspect, without in any way denying the significance of the other two. — Intan Suwandi

The Expropriation of Nature

To understand these rapidly changing conditions, it is necessary to dig much deeper than before into capital’s external logic of expropriation, as it was first delineated in Marx’s writings during the Industrial Revolution. Most important, because at the root of the problem, is the extreme expropriation of the earth itself and the consequent transformation in social relations. — John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark

The Underlying Causes of Immigration from Mexico to the United States

This paper focuses on the underlying causes of immigration from Mexico to the United States from a political and socio-economic viewpoint. However, the root causes behind the flows of emigrants in other regions of the world are consistently the same. They result from the impact of powerful geo- political interests on the general population of both the emitting and the receiving countries of the millions of migrants in their escape from unbearable conditions and in pursuit of a dignified life. From this perspective, we will uncover and review the underlying causes of immigration from Mexico to the US, which are structural, in an effort to shed light onto their real solution. — Álvaro J. de Regil

The Underlying Causes of Immigration from Mexico to the United States

English-language version of the presentation offered at the conference organized by the School of Mangement of California Lutheran University in October 2019. - Álvaro J. de Regil

Invisible Exploitation — How Capital Extracts Value Beyond Wage Labour

Capitalists have always used more than the wage form alone to extract surplus product from workers. However, this century is particularly distinguished by its growing reliance on alternate methods of extracting surplus. It’s time for Marxists to rethink our preoccupation with the wage and develop a theory encompassing a common ground of exploitation across a wide variety of extractive relations under capitalism. A recognition of that shared exploitation may prove key if the exploited “class-in-itself” is to become a “class-for-itself,” able to unite and act in solidarity. — Eva Swidler

Global Commodity Chains and the New Imperialism

This paper enlightens with rather strong evidence, anchored on theoretical and empirical research of commodity-chain analysis, our argument that the main driver of social inequality between North and South is the deliberate system of “Modern Slave Work”; a system imposed in the global South by the elites of both the centre and the periphery of the global capitalist system, to exploit the labour-value commodity chains to perpetuate what could best be described as a new global colonialism or imperialism. — Intan Suwandi, R. Jamil Jonna and John Bellamy Foster

"Representative" Democracy in a State of Advanced Decomposition

It is increasingly evident that the myth of"representative"or delegating democracy"as some call it, is in a state of advanced decomposition. Said democracy, where that citizens are periodically called upon to choose between different names that appear on the ballots and choose who they believe—after having suffered brainwashing during the election campaign—who will be the people who will best represent their interests and opinions, delegating in them—without limitation or some subsequent control—the power to decide on everything that may affect in one way or another their own existence. — Alejandro Teitelbaum

Where there is no vision, the people perish: a utopian ethic for a transformed future

This paper argues that thinking about our ethical responsibilities in the present and for the future is helped by looking through the lens of Utopia. I have addressed the plethora of uses of the term Utopia elsewhere, in The Concept of Utopia, and more recently the merits of Utopia as a sociological method in Utopia as Method: The Imaginary Reconstitution of Society; this paper draws substantially on these books. The imagination of a potential, different society in the future draws attention to the need for change, offers a direction towards that change, and a stimulus to action in the present. — Ruth Levitas

The Pharmaceutical Industry in Contemporary Capitalism

The pharmaceutical industry has remained near or at the top of the list for profitability for many decades. The myth is that its profits come from producing and selling the many therapeutic advances that industry research has generated, but the reality is far different. In the first place, after tax deductions only about 1.3 percent of the money that the industry spends actually goes into basic research, the type of research that leads to new medications. Second, most of the new medicines that come from the pharmaceutical corporations offer little to nothing in the way of new therapeutic options. — Joel Lexchin

Debunking the myths behind US malice towards Mexico

The US narrative plays it as if Mexico’s northern neighbour has had nothing to do with this. Now Trump has vitriolically defamed Mexico by trying to exponentially exploit the worst and least sustainable stereotypes of Mexico and its people. This paper debunks all the deliberately malicious myths advanced by the US’ elites with a vested interest in denigrating its southern neighbour and presents the true facts behind the lies. — Álvaro J. de Regil

The New Imperialist Structure

Contemporary capitalism is a capitalism of generalised monopolies. As a system, generalised and globalised monopoly capitalism ensures that these monopolies derive a monopoly rent levied on the mass of surplus value (transformed into profits) that capital extracts from the exploitation of labor. To the extent that these monopolies operate in the peripheries of the globalised system, this monopoly rent becomes an imperialist rent. The capital accumulation process—which defines capitalism in all of its successive historical forms—is consequently governed by the maximisation of monopolistic/imperialist rent. — Samir Amín

The Precariat: Today’s Transformative Class?

Since 1980, the global economy has undergone a dramatic transformation, with the globalisation of the labour force, the rise of automation, and—above all—the growth of Big Finance, Big Pharma, and Big Tech. The social democratic consensus of the immediate postwar years has given way to a new phase of capitalism that is leaving workers further behind and reshaping the class structure. The precariat, a mass class defined by unstable labor arrangements, lack of identity, and erosion of rights, is emerging as today’s “dangerous class.” As its demands cannot be met within the current system, the precariat carries transformative potential. To realise that potential, however, the precariat must awaken to its status as a class and fight for a radically changed income distribution that reclaims the commons and guarantees a liveable income for all. Without transformative action, a dark political era looms. — Guy Standing

What are we saying when we talk about sustainability? — An Ecological Political Proposal

If you consider 1987 (the Brundtland Report) as the official beginning of the idea of sustainability, the term has made a brilliant journey of almost three decades and is still alive. In its evolution, it has become at the same time a concept, paradigm, theoretical framework, technical instrument, utopia, pretext, ideology and many other things, but above all it has become the word that contains a vague desire of the educated and privileged masses of the planet for a better world in which the human race rediscovers itself ideally with nature and with social justice. Beyond the ideological dimension, and its multiple and ungraspable interpretations, this essay focuses on sustainability as a scientific concept that springs from an interdisciplinary vision of reality, and that for many authors achieves the status of a new paradigm. — Víctor M. Toledo

Why Ecosocialism: For a Red-Green Future

The capitalist system, driven at its core by the maximisation of profit, regardless of social and ecological costs, is incompatible with a just and sustainable future. Ecosocialism offers a radical alternative that puts social and ecological well-being first. Attuned to the links between the exploitation of labour and the exploitation of the environment, ecosocialism stands against both reformist “market ecology” and “productivist socialism.” By embracing a new model of robustly democratic planning, society can take control of the means of production and its own destiny. Shorter work hours and a focus on authentic needs over consumerism can facilitate the elevation of “being” over “having,” and the achievement of a deeper sense of freedom for all. To realise this vision, however, environmentalists and socialists will need to recognise their common struggle and how that connects with the broader “movement of movements” seeking a Great Transition. — MIchael Löwy

Absolute Capitalism

The French poet Charles Baudelaire wrote in 1864 that “the cleverest ruse of the Devil is to persuade you he does not exist!” I will argue here that this is directly applicable to today’s neoliberals, whose devil’s ruse is to pretend they do not exist. Although neoliberalism is widely recognised as the central political-ideological project of twenty-first-century capitalism, it is a term that is seldom uttered by those in power. In 2005, the New York Times went so far as to make neoliberalism’s nonexistence official by running an article entitled “Neoliberalism? It Doesn’t Exist.” Behind this particular devil’s ruse lies a deeply disturbing, even hellish, reality. The goal is nothing less than the creation of an absolute capitalism. All of this serves to heighten the extreme human and ecological destructiveness that characterises our time. — John Bellamy Foster

Why Corporate Social Responsibility is a Hoax?

If we had truly democratic societies, CSR would not exist, nor would it have to. Instead, we would have a global binding regulatory system of business practice determined by the people, not by multilateral organizations, corporate lobbyists, and revolving-door politicians. The usurpation of the democratic ethos was inevitable because capitalism and real democracy are inherently incompatible and thus cannot coexist. Consequently, we cannot pretend to fix the problems inherent to capitalism without replacing capitalism... Rather than corporate redesign, we need a social contract redesign. — Álvaro J. de Regil

Unequal Exchange

This Brief assesses economist Arghiri Emmanuel's theory of Unequal Exchange, to delve, from an economic analysis angle, into TLWNSI's central argument: that we endure a North-South system of exploitation, which, among other features, has a direct and premeditated impact on the misery wages paid in all countries in the South. This unequal exchange constitutes a trade imperialism that historically has generated vast earnings for the North, greater than the interests recovered by banks and the profits obtained by transnationals. — Claudio Jedlicki

Keynesian Economics and the Welfare State

This work explains in detail the emergence of the new Keynesian economic paradigm as a consequence of the experience of the Great War and the Great Depression and the results obtained through government intervention during the New Deal. The goal here is to show how the post-war era, with the government in the driver's seat of the economy, provided the greatest period of progress in the welfare of both rich and poor nations, in spite of the very powerful interests that continuously moved in the opposite direction. The essay opens by stating that the war economy pulled the capitalist world out of depression. — Álvaro J. de Regil

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Research and analysis to provoke public awareness and critical thinking

We contribute to the liberalisation of the democratic instituions of society, for they have been captured by the owners of the market. They work in tandem with their market agents, who, posing as public servants, are entrenched in the halls of government. The political class has betrayed its public mandate and instead operates to impose a marketocratic state to maximise the shareholder value of the institutional investors of international financial markets. They own the global corporations and think they own the world on behalf of their very private interest.

Our spheres of action: true democracy – true sustainability – living wage – basic income – inequality – ecological footprint – degrowth – global warming –human development – corporate accountability – civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, responsible consumption, sustainable autonomous citizen cells...

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Parting from an ethos of true democracy and true sustainability, We, the citizenry, work to advance the paradigm whose only purpose is to go in pursuit of the welfare of People and Planet and NOT the market.

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2020 Report: Living-wage assessment – PPP Wage rate gaps for selected "developed and emerging" economies for all employed in manufacturing workers (1996 up to 2018).

Our 2018 assessment reports divergent outcomes among selected economies that were predominantly the result of a meaningful increase of hourly wages in local currency (or lack of it), exchange rates and changes in their PPP cost of living. Six economies improved their position, four lost ground and four did not change. France, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Singapore and Australia improved their equalisation index (Eq-Idx). Canada, United Kingdom, Spain and Turkey lost ground compared to their 2017 position, whilst Brazil, Mexico, Japan and South Africa experienced no change.

Among the six economies that improved their living-wage equalisation position, the main factors were the substantial increase of their hourly rates in local currency combined with a revaluation of their currency or a decrease in their cost of living in PPP terms for private consumption. In the case of the three euro-area countries (France, Germany and Italy), it was specifically the combination of the increase of their hourly wage rates with a revaluation of the euro. This allowed France, Italy and Germany to increase their equalisation Eq-Idx. This combination served to offset their increase of their PPP cost of living, and increased their advantage over the increase of the US hourly rates in real terms. A similar behaviour took place in the case of Singapore and South Korea. In this way, they clearly outperformed the increase of the US hourly rate in manufacturing and thus increased their equalisation Eq-Idx In fact, Singapore’s Eq-Idx is its best recorded since 1996. Australia, in contrast, devalued its currency, but it achieved the highest improvement of its equalisation Eq-Idx among all 41 economies in our reports, which is equal to its best position previously achieved in 2014. This was the result of a strong increase of its hourly rate in local currency and a currency devaluation, which contributed to a drop of its PPP cost of living.

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2020 Report: Living-wage assessment – New assessment of Argentina's wage rate gap 1996-2018

Our analysis of Argentina’s living wages in the manufacturing sector from a global perspective (purchasing power parities) no longer assumes that Argentina’s government will continue to regard the appreciation of real wages as a fundamental element of its economic policy. As expected, the Macri government did everything possible to resume the old centre-periphery relationship that applies a neocolonial ethos to Argentina’s economic policies. Unfortunately, his economic policies have proven disastrous, and in his four years, inflation and devaluation have exploded, the country fell into default of its sovereign debt, real wages collapsed and poverty increased very meaningfully. One clear direct consequence is that the equalisation indices for at least the 2018 - 2020 period will drop dramatically, from 50 in 2017 to low to mid 30s, which is tantamount to the levels prevalent during the 1996 - 2000 period.

After the staunchly neoliberal Macri government left Argentina’s socio-economic conditions in dire shambles, the new Fernández government is doing its best to recover the gains for the common citizen of the preceding Kirchner-Fernández governments, which will be a rather daunting task, given the recurring crises since the start of this century. For now, living wage equalisation in the manufacturing sector vis-à-vis equivalent US wages has collapsed and is destined to drop to levels reminiscent of the 2002 crisis before it begins to recover.

The new government of Alberto Fernandez immediately implemented a countercyclical package to return to demand-side policies aimed at reducing as much as possible Macri’s neoliberal ethos and his economic policy errors. Some of these are tax hikes on foreign currency purchases, agricultural exports, wealth, and car sales as well as labour protections to increase compensation for unjustified work dismissals. Also, as it happened at the start of the century, Argentina was forced to default on its foreign debt, and has just reached an agreement with vulture funds and other foreign creditors that, for the most part, fulfils their demands and not those of Argentinians. Moreover, Argentina is once again under negotiations with the IMF to reduce its never ending sovereign foreign debt. Furthermore, the economic crisis has been convoluted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which will clearly exacerbate Argentina’s deep recession. So far, inflation appears to be substantially lower in 2020 than in 2019, at 13,5% for the first six months, but expected to hover at 30% by the end of the year, despite the effect of the pandemic on an already depressed demand. As with the rest of the world, GDP will fall drastically, at least 11% and then gradually recover, more as a technical rebound rather than as true growth in 2021. All of these factors will make it difficult for Argentina to recover real wages in manufacturing and gradually bring them to their previous equalisation position relative to the 2002 crisis.

Parting from this rather negative context, the socio-economic picture for Argentina looks a lot like a loss of two decades. This would entail a colossal hardship particularly for the lower ranks of society. One of the greatest benefits of the appreciation of real wages of any country –in the context of a living wage ethos in a market society– is the direct impact on the eradication of the conditions of inequality and exclusion; conditions that have prevailed in Argentina for many decades and were only reduced substantially between 2004 and 2015. It remains to be seen if the new government is capable of performing a successful balancing act between the different variables in an extremely complex scenario.


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2020 Report: Living-wage assessment – New assessment of Brazil's wage rate gap 1996-2018

Temer’s supply-side economic policies that continues with Bolsonaro’s government, have stopped any effort to improve the labour’s share of income and clearly reflect a policy of deliberate wage contention. Temer’s government passed a new law (PEC 55) that freezes all public spending for 20 years, which implies that constitutionally-protected government expenditures in the areas of health, education and other social sectors would remain stunted until 2036. This has ended Brazil’s commitment to sustain its minimum wage appreciation policy, after the minimum wage had more than doubled in real terms since 1996. As for manufacturing wages, they actually lost ground since 1996, which partially recovered from the recession at the start of the century, until the minimum wage appreciation policy had a positive influence from 2010 onwards that is now receding once again. Yet, with a renewed recession during the 2014-2016 period, that only began to subside in 2017 and will fall back into a deep recession due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the staunchly neoliberal and predatory supply-side approach followed by Bolsonaro’s government, Brazil will not resume any gains in real terms from a domestic perspective nor will it resume the closing of its Eq-Idx, from a global perspective, for the foreseeable future. In fact, it is likely to actually increase its equalisation gap with comparative wages in the US in the coming years.

For the entire 24-year period (1996-2018), living wage equalisation of manufacturing hourly wages have not made any improvement whatsoever, and they are slightly lower than in 1996. The hourly rates recovered gradually after the turn of the century recession but by 2018 their equalisation with equivalent US wages are down to a 32 index relative to the 34 index of 1996. Our estimate for 2019, indicates that their Eq-Idx would drop to 31 as the result of a meagre increase estimate in local currency, the actual erosion of the BRL and an increase of the PPP cost of living in local currency. The compounding effect of Bolsonaro’s government predatory economic policy that is clearly anti-labour and the COVID-19 pandemic, make any change for the better rather unlikely for the foreseeable future. Hence, the prospect for living wage equalisation appears grim.

Parting from the implications carried by the shift from demand-side to supply-side economic policy in Brazil’s current government, it appears to be unlikely that any meaningful progress will be achieved in increasing manufacturing wages and wage rates for the entire economy in real terms. In the best case scenario, wages will keep their current value. All of this is further complicated by the deep recession triggered by the pandemic.

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Textile Sweatshops in the US
Textile Sweatshops in the US
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Living-wage assessment – Table T5: 1996-2018 Real wage-gap rates for fourteen selected economies, in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, for all employed in manufacturing. *(The base table used for all PPP real-wage gap analysis)

Our 2018 assessment reports divergent outcomes among selected economies that were predominantly the result of a meaningful increase of hourly wages in local currency (or lack of it), exchange rates and changes in their PPP cost of living.

Germany continues to have the best position with an increasing equalisation advantage over the US in real PPP terms in its hourly wage rates, followed by France with a four-point advantage over US wage rates. All other countries continue to record wage gaps vis-à-vis equivalent manufacturing wage rates in the US. Six out of the twelve countries improved their position in 2018 vis-à-vis 2017 by increasing their advantage (Germany and France) or decreasing their wage gaps (Italy, Singapore, South Korea and Australia). Brazil and Mexico remained with the same gap since 2016. Only Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain and Turkey increased their gaps from the previous year. Mexico and Brazil continue reporting the greatest wage gaps.

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2020 Report: Living-wage assessment – New assessment of Mexico's wage rate gap 1996-2018

The staunchly predatory, corrupt and fraudulent governments of Mexico, imposed a policy of wage erosion and containment at an extremely precarious level in manufacturing and all economic sectors, as one of the pillars of their economic policy for nearly 36 years. With the current government, this appears to be changing.

Mexico’s track record since 1996 exposed a deliberate state policy of maintaining modern-slave-work real wages between 1996 and 2015. However, their wage policy appears to have changed in 2017 after the execution of consistent supply-side policies over more than three decades. For the first time the federal minimum wage was increased above inflation in 2017 and 2018. Through a so-called “Independent Recovery Amount”, the minimum wage for 2017 was increased arbitrarily by 9,6%, including 3,9% to offset the estimated CPI inflation rate. The same criterion was applied for 2018, for a total minimum wage increase of 10,4%, including a 3,9% increase to offset CPI inflation. In 2019, Mexico’s new government, vowing to implement a strong minimum wage recovery policy, increased the minimum wage by 16,2%, including a 5% increase to offset inflation and by 20% in 2020, including 5% to account for inflation. This changes appear to have a direct positive impact on manufacturing wages in real terms and on its equalisation with comparative US wages. Between 2015 and 2018 the manufacturing hourly rate in local currency increased 43,6%, and by 18,3% in US dollars after accounting for an erosion of the peso, which allowed the PPP conversion factor for private consumption to drop. The combination of these components allowed the Eq-Idx to gain five points in 2016 and then remain at this level in 2017 and 2018.

After two years, it remains to be seen if the government follows this path or resumes abiding by supply-side criteria. Mexico has the worst wages in Iberian America. We have observed 36 years of a deliberate policy of wage pauperisation that has forced a huge population to join the ranks of the precariat. While minimum wage policy appears to be moving on the right track, there are many instances of public matter with the government clearly siding with the interest of capital and not with the people. If, at the end, the labour’s share of income does not improve steadily and shows a marked increase by the end of 2024, we would have to conclude that the only goal of the government was to mitigate the worst characteristics of exploitation and not to change the structures that sustain them.

On the other hand, if the government complies with its campaign promises, it will take decades to both achieve a living-wage ethos and to close the gap with equivalent wages in the manufacturing sector, under the equal pay principle. At the very least, it will take five six-year terms to fulfil this expectation under the presumption that the current government sets the path and materialises the progress that can be achieved by 2024, as illustrated in our projections.

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2020 Report: Living-wage assessment – New assessment of Spain's wage rate gap 1996-2018

In 2018 Spain widened the gap of its equalisation index (Eq-Idx) after a meaningful four-point gain in 2017. The increase in its gap was largely the result of the combined effect of a drop of its hourly rate in euros and a meaningful increase of its cost of living in purchasing power parity terms, with the latter being in turn a consequence of the revaluation of the euro for the most part, since consumer prices increased less than two percent.

Since Spain joined the €uro area, hourly manufacturing wage rates generally performed better than the minimum wage, with rates consistently moving above CPI inflation, whilst the minimum wage increased at lower rates and lost value in real terms between 2001 and 2004. It was only until 2017 and 2018 that the minimum wage outperformed manufacturing wages in real terms relative to CPI inflation, ending 16% above the CPI versus only 9% for the manufacturing hourly rate. Undoubtedly, Spain’s minimum wage will greatly outperform manufacturing wages in 2019 and 2020. We will see to what extent manufacturing wages are influenced by the pressure exerted by the increases to the minimum wage when the hourly manufacturing rates become available. The government has pledged to push for powerful increases to the minimum wage in the next three years for a total increase of 26% by 2023. Yet mounting opposition from employers already forced them to increase the rate in 2020 at half of what they pretended. According to the government, the 2019 minimum wage of Spain was still below the average for the rest of Europe at 80,6%. For now, inflation has not been impacted whatsoever by the unprecedented minimum wage increase. As for unemployment, it continued to drop in 2019, from 26% in 2013 to 13,8% by the end of 2019. But, as could be expected, by second quarter 2020, it has climbed to 15,3% as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Living-wage assessment (1996-2018) twenty-eight European economies.

For the 28 European economies in our reports, far more economies increased their Eq-Idx with equivalent hourly wages of US workers than experienced a set back in 2018. As in the vast majority of cases
in the 41 economies included in all our reports, our assessment among European economies found divergent outcomes that were predominantly the result of a meaningful increase of hourly wages in local currency (or lack of it), combined by the behaviour of their exchange rates and their cost of living in purchasing power parity terms for private consumption.

The best performers in increasing their Eq-Idx among European economies in 2018 were Estonia (+6), Ireland (+4), Romania (+4) and Slovakia (+4), whilst the major under performers were Switzerland ((-7) and Hungary (-5). All European economies that improved their living wage equalisation index (Eq-Idx) with equivalent US workers, was primarily the result of significant increases of their hourly compensation wage rates in local currencies—vis-à-vis the US hourly wage rate increase of 1,8%— combined with the revaluation of the euro (4,79% or their national currency). This clearly offset their increase in their PPP cost of living and produced increases of their Eq-Id., Conversely, practically all under performers that widened their wage gap with US hourly compensation wage rates, increased their hourly rates in local currency less than the US hourly rate of +1,8% or actually decreased their hourly rate: Croatia (-1,4%), Hungary (-8,1%), Spain (-0,6%), Switzerland (-7,8%) and UK (+0,7%). Lithuania was one exception due to a high increase of its cost of living (+6,7%) despite its hourly rate increase of 2,6%, and Turkey that suffered a steep devaluation of 24,4% that offset its hourly rate increase of 13,2%.

•Among the 16 euro-zone economies, nine increased their Eq-Idx, Austria, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands and Portugal did not change and Lithuania and Spain widened their living-wage gap. The combination of the same variables described above for all Europe drew similar results in euro-zone countries: (1) a meaningful increase in the hourly compensation wage rate in local currency (averaging 4,5%), combined with (2) the significant revaluation of the euro against the dollar of 4,8%, were sufficient in most cases to offset the increase in their PPP for private consumption cost of living (averaging 4,9%) and the increase of 1,8% of the US hourly wage rate. This resulted in a 9,5% average increase in the hourly rate of the 16 euro economies in US dollars. Some economies experienced extremely strong increases of the hourly rate in local currency. Estonia recorded the strongest increase at 17,8% in local currency —which translated into a 23,5% increase of its hourly rate in US dollars and on its Eq-Idx, equivalent to a six-point gain, from 43 to 49— followed by Slovakia at 16,8% and Ireland at 11,4% in US dollars. Only Spain and Lithuania increased their living wage gaps due to increases of 4,1% and 7,5% in US dollars that were offset by increases of their PPP cost of living of 5,9% and 6,7%, respectively.

•Among the 12 Eastern European economies, including the euro-zone economies of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia, a marked improvement in their Eq-Idx is evident as a continuation of a powerful trend that has been closing the Eq-Idx gap since 1996, with Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia, more than doubling their 1996 Eq-Idx. The best performers in 2018 were Estonia (+6), Romania and Slovakia, with 4 points each, and The Czech Republic and Poland with 3 points each. Overall, performance was very positive for the 12 economies, once again as a result of the combination of the same variables with the same behaviour: (1) a strong increase in the hourly compensation wage rate in local currency (averaging 7,6%), (2) small change in their PPP for private consumption cost of living (averaging 3,7%), (3) a meaningful revaluation of their currencies against the dollar of 2,3%, which resulted in a strong increase of their wage rates in US dollars (averaging 9,8%), enough to offset the 1,8% increase of the US wage rate and thus increase the Eq-Idx for eight of the 12 economies. If we exclude the euro-zone economies in Eastern Europe, the gains are also considerable for Bulgaria (+1), Czech Republic (+3), Poland(+3) and Romania (+4), Conversely, Croatia, Hungary and Turkey lost ground, with Hungary recording the worst performance as the result of the steep drop of its rate in local currency (-8,1%) and increase of PPP (3,4%) and small revaluation of only 2,6%, which resulted in a drop of 6,6% in its US dollar rate and a loss of 5 points in tis Eq-Idx. Turkey recorded a steep devaluation of 24,4% but its hourly rate increase of 13,2% and the drop of 14,4% in the PPP cost of living allow it to lose only one point in its Eq-Idx.

•The United Kingdom lost two points in its Eq-Idx due to little change in its local currency wage rate (0,7%) and an increase of 4,2% of its PPP despite a 3,7% pound revaluation. Surprisingly, Switzerland recorded the worst performance in all of Europe due to a steep drop of its hourly rate in local currency of -7,8% and little change of its exchange and PPP rates, which resulted in a drop of -7,2% of its rate in US dollars and a loss of seven points.

•Scandinavia, including euro zone Finland, recorded a positive performance. Denmark gained three points, followed by Norway and Sweden with +1 in their Eq-Idx, Only Finland recorded no change. It is worth noting that Denmark, Norway and Sweden have Eq-Idx above 100 and only Finland lags with a 92 Eq-Idx.

 

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Living-wage assessment (1996-2018) eight Asia and Oceania economies.

In 2018 Australia, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand improved their equalisation index (Eq-Idx) in manufacturing, Japan recorded no change and China and India
experienced slight set backs. All gains are largely the result of increases of their hour wage rates in local currency in manufacturing, combined with currency devaluations or decreases in their PPP cost of living for private consumption. Conversely, set backs are, for the most part, the result of decreases in the hourly wage rates in local currency.

•In 2018, Australia recorded the best performance of its Eq-Idx among all 41 economies in our reports by increasing it nine points to a 90 Eq-Idx, which is equal to its best position previously achieved in 2014. This was the result of a strong increase (6,6%) of its hourly rate in local currency and a 2,5% currency devaluation, which contributed to a drop of its PPP cost of living of 2,9%.

•Singapore also recorded a strong performance with a six-point gain as the result of an increase of its hourly wage rate in local currency of 6,6%, a revaluation of its currency of 2,4% and minimal increase of only 0,4% of its PPP cost of living. In this way, Singapore clearly outperformed the 1,8% increase of the US hourly rate in manufacturing and thus increased its equalisation by six points to an 89 Eq-Idx, its best position ever and the second best performance after Australia in 2018.

•South Korea followed with a similar behaviour of the key indicators, gaining three points to a 72 Eq-Idx due to a 5,9% increase of its hourly rate in local currency and a 2,7% revaluation of its currency, which was enough to offset the 2,8% increase of its PPP cost of living.

•New Zealand gained one point in its Eq-Idx (56) due to a 1,8% increase of its hourly rate in local currency, a currency devaluation 2,6% and a drop of 3,5% of its cost of living.

•Japan experienced no change in its Eq-Idx (65) due to a PPP increase of 1,3%, little increase of its hourly wage rate in local currency (0,9%) and a currency revaluation of 1,6%.

•India recorded a one-point loss in its meagre Eq-Idx (14) due to a drop of its hourly wage rate in local currency of 1,7%. India recorded a meaningful currency devaluation of 4,8% and a 2,5% drop of its PPP cost of living, but they were not enough to offset the drop in its hourly wage rate and the 1,8% increase of the US hourly wage rate.

•China also lost one point in its meagre Eq-Idx (18) due to the scant increase of only 1,5% of its hourly wage rate in local currency and a very strong increase of its PPP cost of living of 10,3%, the strongest by far among the 41 economies in our reports.

•As for the Philippines, it has not reported yet an update to its “Compilation of Industry Statistics on Labour and Employment”.

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Living-wage assessment (1996-2018) – the four largest economies in the Americas (Canada, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina).

2018 in the Americas exhibits a clear set back or a stagnation in living-wage equalisation for the four economies in this assessment, with a dramatic loss for Argentina, also a loss for Canada and no
change for Brazil and Mexico in their equalisation indices (Eq-Idx) with comparable US hourly rates in manufacturing.

Canada lost a very meaningful three points in its Eq-Idx drop as the direct result of a rare drop of its hourly rate in manufacturing in local currency, with minimal change in its PPP cost of living and exchange rate. This puts Canada at an 82 Eq-Idx, which is one of the lowest positions recorded since 1996.

•Argentina has experienced a gradual erosion of its Eq-Idx as the direct result of incontrolable high inflation rates since 2008. This erosion began to deepen with the Macri government. In 2017, there was a slight recovery, just before the supply-side staunchly neoliberal economic policies of the, at the time, new government began to dramatically reverse the gains in real wages and labour’s share of income delivered by the previous governments. Contrary to its vow to reduce inflation, which averaged 25,6% in the previous government, the policies of Macri´s government averaged 41,4% in CPI inflation during its four years (2016-2019) and the Argentine peso devalued by 81%. Hence, as expected, in 2018 Argentina’s equalisation index collapsed by dropping 8 points, equivalent to a loss of 16%, the worst performance by far among the 41 economies included in our reports. A new economic crisis exploded closely resembling the 2002 collapse, and all wages have dropped dramatically. In 2018 the minimum wage increased 12,9% but inflation reached 47,8%. In 2018, manufacturing hourly rates increased 26,1% in pesos, but the 41% devaluation produced a drop of 25,7% of its hourly rate in US dollars. Thus, despite a drop of 13% in its PPP cost of living, Argentina’s equalisation index recorded a very steep drop and in 2019 will drop even more, as inflation and devaluation rates became even worse, at 54% and 42% respectively. This will take Argentina back to conditions reminiscent of its previous crisis of 2002-2004.

•After Brazil widened its manufacturing wage gap in 2014 and 2016, due to the devaluation of its currency since 2010 under a sustained recession, it managed to keep its Eq-Idx stable in 2017 and 2018, despite the fact that the neoliberal government of Michele Temer passed a law that put a freeze on public spending effectively ending compliance with the minimum wage appreciation law. Minimum wage policy serves as an indicator for all other wages and directly influences manufacturing wages. End of year inflation rates for 2015, 2016 and 2017, added up to 21%, but manufacturing hourly rates in local currency increased only 15,9% during the 2016-2018 period, As for exchange rates, Brazil’s real has managed to experience a minimal loss of only 4,5% during the same period. This has allowed Brazil’s manufacturing Eq-Idx to suffer a minimal erosion, from 32,2 to 31,6 for the same period, given that Brazil’s cost of living in PPP terms dropped 11,6% in 2018. However, Brazil’s Real lost 7,4% in 2019 and has lost 29,2% in 2020 up to the end of August. Thus the combination of Brazil’s increase in currency erosion and Bolsonaro’s reckless deepening of the anti-labour policies initiated by the Temer government, is bound to widen Brazil’s manufacturing hourly wage rates gap, in real terms, with comparable rates in the US in 2019 and 2020.

•After more than three decades of deliberate state policies to impose modern-slave-work wages, Mexico appears to be gradually reversing such policies. This has resulted in the increase of the minimum wage in real terms beginning in 2017 and 2018 with the previous government, a directive that has been reinforced in 2019 and 2020 with the present government. In 2016, Mexico’s Eq-Idx jumped to an unprecedented level of 24, an increase of 21,2% from 2015, as the result of the combination of a 15,1% currency devaluation, a low inflation (2,7%) and a nominal increase in pesos of 27,7%, which resulted in an increase of 8,4% in US dollars despite Mexico’s peso erosion. As for 2017 and 2018, the hourly rate has increased only 5,7% and 6,4% in nominal terms, somewhat above inflation rates of 2,8% and 6% respectively, resulting in a slight increase in its Eq-Idx from 23,6 in 2017 to 24,1 in 2018. It seams clear that, as expected, the government’s demand-side minimum wage policy is gradually pushing wages up in manufacturing and all sectors. 2019 should show this more clearly for the minimum wage increased 16,1%, inflation 3,6%, the peso only slid 0,1% and the US hourly rate in manufacturing increased only 0,8%, which should increase the manufacturing Eq-Idx at least one point.




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Back to Production: An Analysis of the Imperialist Global Economy

Flipping through the pages of Harvard Business Review in the last few years, there seems to be some worries expressed by the cheerleaders of capital regarding the future of globalisation. In their eyes, there are obvious threats to global market capitalism. For example, the increasing trend of what they call “state capitalism” – as shown by the rising power of “emerging markets” like China, Russia, and Brazil – is deemed to provide serious obstacles to the welfare of Western multinational corporations. What is interesting is that these perspectives acknowledge the growing income and wealth inequalities – a phenomenon that, they are afraid, “makes a mockery of the idea that economic growth benefits all.” But what they are really afraid of is actually how these growing inequalities can lead to “populist politics” that would result in “harmful government interventions” including the “overregulations of market transactions, confiscation of property, and other abrogations of property rights”.

Debating whether or not this “guarded globalisation,” as Ian Bremmer calls it, is really happening is beyond the scope of this paper. But the worries are clear: capital wants to make sure that multinational corporations can engage in capital accumulation without significant disruptions. Several suggestions are given, ranging from the need for businesses to engage in collective action and become leaders in defending the market, to the strategic move of “holding hands” with local partners to ensure the success of foreign investments – especially in countries where “state capitalism” thrives. These examples can illustrate the never-ending quest for profiteering by global North capital in the capitalist world economy, by navigating their way to invest – either directly or indirectly – in the global South. This shows that, despite their relentless attention to the market, the focus lies on global capital’s effort to export capital through various means, including by outsourcing their production to the global South. Thus, if we want to critically evaluate “globalization,” we cannot merely see the transactions that happen in the marketplace. Instead, we have to go to where commodities are produced, or – as Marx famously said – to the hidden abode of production.

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Transitioning to Geocratia

the People and Planet and Not the Market Paradigm — First Steps

Following up on my commentary to the March 2020 Great Transition Initiative (GTI) forum: “Planetise the Movement”,1 I assess the diverse ideas discussed in the forum and concurrently elaborate with far more detail in this essay how I envision the first steps to materialise the change of paradigm from the current unsustainable market-centred ethos to a global movement that rescues our planet and provides sustainable life systems for our future generations and all living things.

Parting from the fact that saving Planet Earth, our home, changes everything, we need to build a new ethos where the majority of humankind commits to a system whose only purpose is the pursuit of the welfare of people and Planet Earth. This requires that all Earth resources necessary for the enjoyment of life of all living things be managed to achieve true long-term sustainability. Beginning with removing the market from its encroachment of the institutions of society, this is a paradigm that will break many of the structures, beliefs and notions that we now regard as permanent into a sort of Geocratia—from Greek ge and kratos: government of the or by the Earth—which is the name I chose to refer to the new paradigmatic proposal. As you may expect, saving the planet will radically change our consumer-driven cultural frameworks and life systems, including the standards of living, consumption habits, use of energies, economic indicators, the conception of development, progress, growth and the concept of democracy. We do not know yet, but this may include a reconfiguration of the so-called nation states to give way to the formation of smaller social and geographical identities. Essentially, we must establish a new global citizens’ contract between us and Mother Earth, where we commit to design new structures of social organisation devoted to living in harmony with our planet, where the use of the resources necessary for life will be managed so that consumption does not happen faster than the time required by the planet to replenish them. Concurrently, by building Geocratia’s ethos we achieve happiness, peace and freedom, as in Epicurus’ ataraxia, the enjoyment of peace, absence of fear and happiness, and aponia, the absence of pain.

This paper argues that the underlying causes of the unsustainability of market societies belong solely to the intrinsic nature of capitalism, and of the unrelenting pursuit of the reproduction and accumulation of wealth, which requires the infinite consumption of resources, with no regard whatsoever for its impact on the economic, social and environmental dimensions. It also probes to demonstrate that this is completely incompatible—a true oxymoron—with the premiss of transitioning to a truly sustainable, democratic, equitable, peaceful and ecological paradigm. Lastly, this essay explores the key characteristics of the disastrous trajectory that we are still following, what we need to do to radically veer towards a sustainable path, my vision of where we should set course and the first steps to materialise a planetary movement to take us there.
 

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Work and Unionism in Mexico:

Challenges for MORENA and the Fourth Transformation Government

Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) landslide electoral triumph as Mexico’s president in 2018 has provoked wrathful criticisms by the groups and classes that see their privileges in danger. On the other hand, this win by AMLO and his Movement for National Regeneration (MORENA) party has raised huge expectations for the left about his promised fourth historical transformation (4T) of Mexico. AMLO compares such transformation with the three great historical transformations that have taken place in Mexico, each of which necessitated violent means for power ascension: the 1821 revolution of independence from Spain, the liberal reform expressed in the 1857 Constitution and, finally, the Mexican Revolution that yielded the 1917 Constitution. The vast contrast of the 4T pledged by AMLO and MORENA is that these actors reached power through an overwhelming, legal and legitimate electoral triumph with over 53% of the vote for the presidency and absolute majority control of both chambers of Congress. In this national-level election, MORENA won in all but one of the states in the federation of 32 states, although it did not win majorities in a few state legislatures. The 4T government thus unleashes both strong fears and hopes depending on the point of view. In this article we will only discuss the prospects for workers and unions. We start, first, by discussing the labour insurgency and strikes in the first few months of 2019 and their results. Next we briefly discuss the principal changes to the labour legislation approved, meaningfully, on 1s of May of the same year. Finally, we offer a preliminary assessment of real wages and labour conditions in Mexico during the first six-to-nine months of 2019 compared with earlier years. We then outline some questions for future research, highlight the absence of an explicit labour policy of the 4T government and outline some challenges for the labour movement.

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Capitalism Has Failed — What Next?

 

Less than two decades into the twenty-first century, it is evident that capitalism has failed as a social system. The world is mired in economic stagnation, financialisation, and the most extreme inequality in human history, accompanied by mass unemployment and underemployment, precariousness, poverty, hunger, wasted output and lives, and what at this point can only be called a planetary ecological “death spiral.” The digital revolution, the greatest technological advance of our time, has rapidly mutated from a promise of free communication and liberated production into new means of surveillance, control, and displacement of the working population. The institutions of liberal democracy are at the point of collapse, while fascism, the rear guard of the capitalist system, is again on the march, along with patriarchy, racism, imperialism, and war.

To say that capitalism is a failed system is not, of course, to suggest that its breakdown and disintegration is imminent. It does, however, mean that it has passed from being a historically necessary and creative system at its inception to being a historically unnecessary and destructive one in the present century. Today, more than ever, the world is faced with the epochal choice between “the revolutionary reconstitution of society at large and the common ruin of the contending classes.”

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The Propaganda Model Revisited

In Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (Pantheon, 1988) Noam Chomsky and I put forward a “propaganda model” as a framework for analysing and understanding how the mainstream U.S. media work and why they perform as they do. We had long been impressed with the regularity with which the media operate within restricted assumptions, depend heavily and uncritically on elite information sources, and participate in propaganda campaigns helpful to elite interests. In trying to explain why they do this we looked for structural factors as the only possible root of systematic behaviour and performance patterns.

The propaganda model was and is in distinct contrast to the prevailing mainstream explanations—both liberal and conservative—of media behaviour and performance. These approaches downplay structural factors, generally presupposing their unimportance or positive impact because of the multiplicity of agents and thus competition and diversity.

In this article I will describe the propaganda model, address some of the criticism that has been levelled against it, and discuss how the model holds up nearly a decade after its publication. I will also provide some examples of how the propaganda model can help explain the nature of media coverage of important political topics in the 1990s.

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 The Underlying Causes of Immigration
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2020 Report: Living-wage assessment – PPP Wage rate gaps for selected "developed and emerging" economies for all employed in manufacturing workers (1996 up to 2018).

Our 2018 assessment reports divergent outcomes among selected economies that were predominantly the result of a meaningful increase of hourly wages in local currency (or lack of it), exchange rates and changes in their PPP cost of living. Six economies improved their position, four lost ground and four did not change. France, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Singapore and Australia improved their equalisation index (Eq-Idx). Canada, United Kingdom, Spain and Turkey lost ground compared to their 2017 position, whilst Brazil, Mexico, Japan and South Africa experienced no change.

Among the six economies that improved their living-wage equalisation position, the main factors were the substantial increase of their hourly rates in local currency combined with a revaluation of their currency or a decrease in their cost of living in PPP terms for private consumption. In the case of the three euro-area countries (France, Germany and Italy), it was specifically the combination of the increase of their hourly wage rates with a revaluation of the euro. This allowed France, Italy and Germany to increase their equalisation Eq-Idx. This combination served to offset their increase of their PPP cost of living, and increased their advantage over the increase of the US hourly rates in real terms. A similar behaviour took place in the case of Singapore and South Korea. In this way, they clearly outperformed the increase of the US hourly rate in manufacturing and thus increased their equalisation Eq-Idx In fact, Singapore’s Eq-Idx is its best recorded since 1996. Australia, in contrast, devalued its currency, but it achieved the highest improvement of its equalisation Eq-Idx among all 41 economies in our reports, which is equal to its best position previously achieved in 2014. This was the result of a strong increase of its hourly rate in local currency and a currency devaluation, which contributed to a drop of its PPP cost of living.

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When Did the Anthropocene Begin…

and Why Does it Matter?

The term Anthropocene…suggests that the Earth has now left its natural geological epoch, the present interglacial state called the Holocene. Human activities have become so pervasive and profound that they rival the great forces of Nature and are pushing the Earth into planetary terra incognita. The Earth is rapidly moving into a less biologically diverse, less forested, much warmer, and probably wetter and stormier state.

In 1995, Paul Crutzen, then vice-chair of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP), received a Nobel Prize for showing that widely used chemicals were destroying the ozone layer in earth’s upper atmosphere, with potentially catastrophic effects for all life on Earth. In his Nobel acceptance speech, he said that his research on ozone had convinced him that the balance of forces on Earth had changed dramatically. It was now “utterly clear,” he said, “that human activities had grown so much that they could compete and interfere with natural processes.”3 Over the next five years that insight developed until, at an IGBP meeting in 2000, he argued that human activity had driven the earth into a new geological epoch, which he proposed to call the Anthropocene.

Earth is currently operating in a no-analogue state. In terms of key environmental parameters, the Earth System has recently moved well outside the range of natural variability exhibited over at least the last half million years. The nature of changes now occurring simultaneously in the Earth System, their magnitudes and rates of change are unprecedented and unsustainable.

A no-analogue state. Planetary terra incognita. Unprecedented and unsustainable. These phrases are not used lightly: the earth has entered a new epoch, one that is likely to continue changing in unpredictable and dangerous ways.

This radical transformation was first extensively described by the IGBP in 2004, in Global Change and the Earth System, a broad synthesis of scientific knowledge about the state of our planet that remains the most authoritative book on the Anthropocene. Since then, a great deal of scientific discussion has focused on a question that book did not answer: When did the Anthropocene begin? Of course this has involved technical discussions among experts in various disciplines, but it is not just a technical question. Technical studies can determine when an asteroid hit our planet or when an ice age ended, but a discussion of when human society pushed the Earth system into a no-analogue state must address social, economic, and political issues.

There is a reciprocal process here. Examining social, economic, and political developments can help identify social changes that might have changed the Earth system, and determining when radical physical changes in the Earth system happened provides a basis for determining which human activities were responsible, and thus what measures humans might take to prevent the change from reaching catastrophic proportions. In this article I offer an overview of the issues and stakes in the “when it happened debate.

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Castellano The Underlying Causes of Immigration