Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Jim O'Neill, and Antibiotics...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Blogger Ref http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Transfinancial_Economics

The solution is simple as far as funding new antibiotics is concerned. There is no reason in the world why sufficient new money could not be created electronically (with the right legal arrangements) This could then be gradually phased directly  into credible R&D projects concerned with the production of new antibiotics. This money could be largely non-repayable, or even repayable in part  like a loan to some extent. If this is done carefully, and properly there should be little, or no serious inflation.
However, it has been pointed out that an accurate diagnostic should be fully developed to determine whether someone needs antibiotics, or not. This could seriously reduce demand for them. Yet, this would still require funding, and the conventional way of doing it may be feasible. Moreover, this is a more ethical approach in the sense that if only antibiotics were produced to a large extent a lot of "valuable" resources in their making would have gone to waste. 
All the same, the unconventional financing posited by TFE would still be of value.


The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron established a commission chaired by Jim O’Neill, an accomplished economist, to lead a review of the antibiotic-resistance crisis and to make recommendations on what to do about it by mid-2016. The commission, with help and sponsorship from the Wellcome Trust and the British Government has already published three reports.  The first was a rather exaggerated view (my opinion) of the world if resistance had become so widespread that antibiotics no longer worked.  The economic consequences of such a catastrophe were estimated in the$100 trillion range globally. Of course, this provides a wide range for the economics of proposed solutions to come later . . .

The second report – the most interesting in my view – is a survey of folks carrying out research and development of antibiotics. The commission asked small, medium sized and large pharma companies and non-profits a number of questions. Barriers to investment in antibiotic R&D were those described in my book – Antibiotics the Perfect Storm.  The most important was one of return on investment where 30% of products from the 1990s failed to provide such. Next was the scientific difficulty of discovering new products. Third was the regulatory risk where the FDA was the most often cited problem but 55% cited Europe as well.  The respondents were encouraged by recent actions at these regulatory agencies but most felt they could go farther.

The most likely drivers of research according to the respondents are early grant funding (e.g. IMI and BARDA), higher prices and better hospital reimbursement.  I was surprised to see longer patent life at number 4 but I attribute this to the smaller companies and non-profits in the survey.  I was also surprised to see that patent vouchers was not a popular solution anymore.  This must be because pharma companies are rapidly running out of the double digit billion dollar blockbusters they had when patent vouchers swere first proposed back in the early 2000s. (A patent voucher would allow you to get extra years of exclusivity on a high earning product in return for introducing an antibiotic active against resistant pathogens to the market).
The first report to deal with proposed solutions is number three on O’Neill’s list of released reports. To me, one of the most important observations contained in this report is the paltry funding of antimicrobial resistance work by the NIH in the US.  Figures from the UK’s MCR are not presented (hmmmmm). One of the suggestions is a global innovation fund to supplement the obviously inadequate availability of funds from existing sources (NIH, MCR, IMI, BARDA, etc.).

The other issue O’Neill notes is related to attracting researchers into the field of antibioics and resistance research.  He suggests the establishment of centers (centres) of excellence to carry out this work.  In my view, this will only be practical if it includes training in antibiotic discovery and development with everything from preclinical to manufacturing to formulations to clinical development.  This is a tall order and it better happen soon because we are losing trained experts by the second.

All in all, the O’Neill effort will supplement  and in some ways surpass the US PCAST report in its detail and recommendations.  But, given Prime Minister Cameron's drive to austerity, we may end up with the same admonition at the end of it all.  Show me the money!!

Friday, 27 March 2015

The time for a new economics is at hand

Eric Piermont / AFP / AlJazeera America/


The crises we now face illustrate the limits of neoclassical orthodoxy

March 8, 2015 3:00AM ET
In early January I passed out a leaflet to my colleagues at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association in Boston, which brought together more than 11,000 economists and social scientists. The leaflet pointed out the profession’s failure to predict the 2008 financial crisis and challenged economics professors to incorporate new ideas into their teachings. As a self-proclaimed Marxist-feminist-anti-racist-ecological economist and economics professor, I was glad to take this opportunity to protest the lack of pluralism in the profession as well as the weaknesses of mainstream neoclassical economic theory, especially in the currently dominant free-market form.
The leafleting was part of an action organized by the kick-it-over campaign of Adbusters, the anti-consumerist Canadian nonprofit headed by Kalle Lasn, whose call to “occupy Wall Street” sparked the movement that swept the U.S. in the fall of 2011. Just as Occupy Wall Street aimed at exposing the failures of the financial industry, the kick-it-over campaign aims to expose the failures of the economics profession. The recent rise of Rethinking Economics and the International Student Initiative for Pluralism in Economics, with groups in more than 20 countries, is part of this heartening trend.
One of the biggest weaknesses of U.S. economists and economics these days is the inability to think creatively. Almost all introductory economics classes taught in the United States — and core theory courses for economics majors and Ph.D. students — teach a school of economic theory that historians of economic thought call neoclassical economics (opposed to the earlier, classical economics of Adam Smith, David Ricardo and Karl Marx). Neoclassical economists take the capitalist market economy as a given and focus on its allocation of scarce resources among competing individuals. They build models based on assumptions of narrowly self-interested, materialistic utility maximization by consumers and profit maximization by firms. Sharing this foundation, their liberal and conservative camps disagree about the type and extent of government intervention required to respond to market failures. Neoclassical economics provides a wealth of insights into capitalist market economies. The problem is that it represents itself as economics, per se.
The important insights of other forms of economics — which tend to be more historical, critical and visionary — are thereby banished. For example, radical and Marxist economics, which focus on the class inequality and power, bring crucial warnings about economic injustice and the corruption of political power by the wealthy and large corporations as well as visions of possible superior economic systems. And feminist economics, by foregrounding gender difference and inequality, elucidates the problems resulting from the nonpayment of reproductive labor and the banishment of feminine caring values from the goals of capitalist firms. These and other heterodox specialties exist in professional associations and journals, but they are almost never mentioned, let alone represented, in core economics classes at the undergraduate or graduate level. Students who question the narrowness of neoclassical assumptions and models are told to think like an economist — i.e., a neoclassical economist — or else. This narrowness of perspective is reproduced when students who were taught only neoclassical economics become professors who teach only it. 

The rise of neoliberalism

The hegemony of neoclassical economics and the relative power of its left (interventionist) and right (free market) wings have varied with the political economic climate of the country and the world. In the U.S. by the late 1960s, popular and student activist movements for civil rights, labor, feminism and environmentalism had reconnected to and revitalized the Marxist theories that had been suppressed during the McCarthy era. Students like me were drawn to economics because of their concern with the pressing economic problems of poverty, inequality, racism, gender inequality and environmental destruction and found that heterodox theoretical frameworks — which foregrounded power, class inequality and the role of economic institutions and culture in reproducing them — were more amenable to the kind of critical analysis they were looking for.
In this way, the radical social movements of the 1960s were able to gain a foothold in the economics profession. They revived and transformed theoretical traditions more critical of capitalism than neoclassicism. They formed an active left wing of the profession and engaged in healthy dialogue and alliances with left-leaning, Keynesian neoclassical economists who were convinced of the necessity of government spending to counteract unemployment and of other forms of market interventions such as anti-poverty programs, environmental regulation and anti-trust laws. Economists played a key role in creating the climate within which President Richard Nixon proposed the Environmental Protection Agency to Congress in 1970 and President Jimmy Carter signed the Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act in 1978. 
With capitalism beset by multiple interconnected crises, the hegemony of neoliberalism appears to have peaked.
The 1980s saw what can only be described as a counterreaction, both in the political economy and in academia. Building on the earlier work of conservative, Chicago School economists such as Milton Friedman and funding by conservative think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, new theories and fields expounding the ineffectiveness of government regulation rose to prominence and came to be known by heterodox economists and other outsiders as neoliberalism or free market fundamentalism. Prescribing deregulation, the weakening of the social safety net, free trade, privatization and tax cuts for the wealthy, they quickly gained political ascendancy, thanks to President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Neoliberalism has maintained the upper hand in policymaking ever since, contributing directly to the 2008 financial crisis through its disastrous undoing of post-Depression financial reforms and to the prevalence of budget-cutting austerity programs in the U.S. and Europe.
As neoliberalism gained ascendency, the center of gravity of mainstream, neoclassical economics moved to the right. Meanwhile, discrimination against Marxists and other critics has increased. We are ignored, ridiculed and told we’re not economists. There are very few job openings for us, mostly at liberal arts colleges rather than at universities with Ph.D. programs. This is the climate within which an interesting and sobering new form of McCarthyism occurred last spring. Six hundred liberal economists, including seven Nobel laureates, were red-baited by the Employment Policy Institute, a shady think tank funded by the restaurant industry, in a full-page New York Times advertisement because the letter they sent to President Barack Obama supporting increases in the minimum wage was also signed by eight radical/Marxist economists (including me).

New economics

But now, finally, economic change is afoot. With capitalism beset by multiple interconnected crises, the hegemony of neoliberalism appears to have peaked. The looming climate crisis and the power of the petroleum industry to corrupt governments and prevent a shift to a sustainable, carbon-free path reveal the oligarchic nature of unregulated free market capitalism. The intractable problem of poverty amid ill-gotten, empowered wealth, which sparked Occupy Wall Street, continues to draw attention, undermining neoclassical claims of the efficiency of labor markets. Last spring Pope Francis spoke forcefully for the “[rejection] of the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation” and for structural solutions to poverty and inequality. In January the Dalai Lama proclaimed that because of Marx’s focus on the alleviating the gap between the rich and the poor, “as far as social-economic theory is concerned, I am still a Marxist.” January also saw the widespread public outcry against the crippling austerity programs usher the leftist Syriza party, with Marxist Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, into power in Greece. The Spanish anti-austerity Podemos party looks as though it will follow in Syriza’s footsteps.
Change is also bubbling in the profession. One sign is the attention given to French economist Thomas Piketty’s best-seller “Capital in the 21st Century” at the American Economics Association meeting, including a webcast session in which Harvard conservative economist Greg Mankiw commented and Piketty responded. While Piketty is not a Marxist, he focuses on the unequal distribution of wealth (i.e., class) and chides mainstream economists for their “childish passion for mathematics and for purely theoretical and often highly ideological speculation, at the expense of historical research and collaboration with the other social sciences,” as he puts it in his book. Another sign of change is that three of the 10 most influential economists, as ranked by The Economist, are vocal critics of neoclassical economics, neoliberal capitalism or both: Paul Krugman (No. 2), Thomas Piketty (No. 5) and Joseph Stiglitz (No. 9).
It is time for the economics profession in the U.S. to open itself to the new thinking that the current systemic economic crisis requires. We don’t need to start from scratch. There is a wealth of Marxist and heterodox ideas, Piketty’s among them, that can be drawn on to create healthy dialogue about the blind spots of neoclassical theory and about the failings of the capitalist system in its current form. Varoufakis has put forward a “radical pan-European green New Deal,” which includes “centralized funding for large-scale green energy research projects with decentralized assistance to small cooperatives that create local, sustainable development in cities and rural areas.” A growing body of solidarity economy research identifies, evaluates and advocates for existing economic practices and institutions animated by postcapitalist values — social responsibility, cooperation, equity in all dimensions, community and sustainability. Cooperatives of all types figure prominently as well as social entrepreneurship, the sharing economy, the commons and economic human rights.
The time for a new economics is at hand. The field must seek out and welcome a diversity of views and engender substantive debate about economic theory and the solutions to the crises we are facing. It’s not a moment too soon. 
Julie Matthaei is a professor of economics at Wellesley College and a co-founder of the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America's editorial policy.

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Social Credit proposals explained in 10 Lessons


and viewed in the light of
the social doctrine of the Church
A study prepared by Alain Pilote
on the occasion of the week of study
that followed the Congress of the Pilgrims of Saint Michael
in Rougemont, September 5-11, 2006
Our regular readers know that every issue of this journal contains articles about the Social Credit financial proposals, which are more timely than ever to solve today’s economic problems. This Social Credit idea may raise many questions among our new readers, and one article is certainly not enough to answer all these questions, or to give a clear understanding of the whole concept of Social Credit. Besides, most people simply do not have the time to read long books on the subject.
So, here is the solution: the Social Credit proposals explained in 10 lessons, each one being the logical continuation of the previous one. The first lesson begins with principles, and from there, we lay the foundations to have a full knowledge of all that Social Credit implies. Here is the list of the ten lessons:
Lessons 9 and 10: Social Credit and the social doctrine of the Church (which explains, among other things, the four basic principles of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church and the study of Social Credit by nine theologians).
These lessons were published in the “Michael” Journal from the September-October, 2006 issue to the November-December, 2007 issue. There are of course available on this website, but we have also made a 150-page booklet that contains the 10 lessons, that you can order from our office at $11 each (postage included) if you live in Canada, $12 for the U.S.A., and $14 for overseas. Good reading !
Social Credit is a doctrine, a series of principles expressed for the first time by Major and engineer C. H. Douglas in 1918. The implementation of these principles would make the social and economic organism effectively reach its proper end, which is the service of human needs. Social Credit would neither create the goods nor the needs, but it would eliminate any artificial obstacle between the two of them, between production and consumption, between the wheat in elevators and the bread on the table. The obstacle today — at least in the developed countries — is purely of financial order, a money obstacle. Now, the financial system neither proceeds from God nor nature. Established by men, it can be adjusted to serve men and no more to cause them problems.
To this end, Social Credit presents concrete propositions. Though very simple, these propositions nevertheless imply a real revolution. Social Credit brings the vision of a new civilization, if by civilization one can mean man’s relationship with his fellow men and the conditions of life making easier for each one the blossoming of his personality.
Under a Social Credit system, we would no longer be struggling with problems that are strictly financial, which constantly plague public administrations, institutions, families, and which poison relationships between individuals. Finance would be nothing but an accounting system, expressing in figures the relative values of goods and services, making easier the mobilization and coordination of the energies required for the different levels of production towards the finished good, and distributing to ALL consumers the means to choose freely and individually what is suitable to them among the goods offered or immediately realizable.
For the first time in history, absolute economic security, without restrictive conditions, would be guaranteed to each and everyone. Material poverty would be a thing of the past. Material anxiety about tomorrow would disappear. Bread would be ensured to all, as long as there is enough wheat to make enough bread for all. Similarly for the other goods that are necessary for life.
Each citizen would be presented with this economic security as a birthright, as a member of the community, enjoying throughout one’s life an immense community capital, that has become a dominant factor of modern production. This capital is made up of, among other things, the natural resources, which are a collective good; life in society, with the increment that ensues from it; the sum of the discoveries, inventions, technological progress, which are an ever-increasing heritage from generations.
This community capital, which is so productive, would bring each of its co-owners, each citizen, a periodical dividend, from the cradle to the grave. And seeing the volume of production attributable to the common capital, the dividend to each one ought to be at least sufficient to cover the basic necessities of life. This dividend would be given in addition to those who personally take part in production, without prejudice to wages, salaries, or other forms of reward.
An income thus attached to the individual, and no longer only attached to his status of employee, would shield him from exploitation by other human beings. With the basic necessities of life guaranteed, a man can better resist being pushed about, and can better take up the career of his own choosing. Freed from urgent material worries, men could apply themselves to free activities, which are more creative than commanded work, and strive towards their own development by the exercise of human functions superior to the purely economic function. Getting the daily bread would no more be the absorbing occupation of their lives.
Note: The text of the following 10 lessons is essentially taken from Louis Even’s writings: In This Age of Plenty (a 410-page book), What Do We Mean by Real Social Credit? (a 32-page brochure); and A Sound and Effective Financial System (a 32-page brochure).
The full text of these three books are available on our website (www.michaeljournal.org), and you can also order them from our office in Rougemont: $25 for the book "In This Age of Plenty", and $3 for each of the two brochures. (All prices include shipping and postage.)

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Universal Debating Project, 2015

The following is an updated version of the UDP. An earlier version appears on this blog, but the one presented here is the most up to date, and authorative, and includes a longer listing of  "relevent" links. It has some importance for Economics in an indirect fashion in so far that discussions in connection with it could be subjected to a more "scientificially objective," "holistic,"  approach. RS

Basic Proposal by Robert Searle:

The Universal Debating Project (or UDP) is an extremely ambitious proposal for an ongoing programme in which "all", or most arguments for, or against any topic of human knowledge, or information could be presented in a clear form. In other words, an online "encyclopedia" for pros, and cons in any debate which could be continually updated in real-time on the internet. It would adopt the Networking P2P approach, and hence, be an Open Source of data emanating from laymen, experts,NGOs, scholarly papers, popular articles, documentaries,web feeds, aggregators (ie.feed readers, or news readers), et al.
Obviously, Wikipedia articles do present arguments for, and against particular subjects. But how "complete," and how unbiased are they? Moreover, they deal mainly with major arguments, and "minor" arguments maybe excluded at times. In effect, what is needed is the most objective presentation of "all" possible pros, and cons on most, if not "all" kinds of human knowledge, and "controversy". The Universal Debating Project should be publicly seen as being a highly reliable, and a credible central global source of such data.


The Problem of Complexity

As the world becomes increasingly complex it becomes more, and more vital to....
a) ...reduce most, if not "all" information into clear, and manageable levels of data...ideally using the least number of words..(similiar to "good" powerpoint presentations)
b) ...reduce "all" major, and "minor" arguments for, and against in a lucid manner....again ideally using the least number of words...
Special editors could do the above. Thus, any pro, and con arguments which are repeated could be "quickly" reduced into the least numbers of words. These could be emailed to those in a debate to see if the participants opinions are presented accurately.
Apart from Wikipedia mentioned earlier there are ofcourse on the internet any number of forums, and discussion groups.These are fine as far as they go. But as said before how complete are their arguments for, and against a certain topic? This is where the UDP becomes all-important.
A vital aspect of all this is that it should be possible for people to become "instant experts." In other words, people should be able to become reasonably "expert" in a shortest space of time in say some branch, or aspect of economics, or science such as biology, or physics.
Ofcourse, those who have formal qualifications, and training still play a vital role in this, but they must be prepared to submit their ideas, and discoveries onto the UDP, and not just universities. Thus, they could be "fully" scrutinised by other experts, and by the public without relevant credentials. This could all lead to online global "brainstorming" sessions leading to "new" ideas that may have value in society, and the world.
It should be added here that technical subjects such as physics, and the processes involved in mathematics could be presented verbally, and clearly. In the latter instance, a individual may have little, or no training. But with "simple" verbal step by step presentations he, or she could reach levels of "mathematical understanding."
It should become clear that the aim of the UDP is to help improve reasoned rational argument, and to appreciate all sides of a topic as clearly as possible. Such a holistic approach could be an aid in the process of personal decision-making. More importantly ofcourse, the UDP could also play a growing, and practical role in the world.

Basic Systemization of Presentation on the Universal Debating Project

The presentation of data on various subjects should be simple. It could be like "Pros, and Cons, a Debaters Handbook" edited by Trevor Sather which went through a number of editions since 1896. Here, two columns are presented, one of which is for pro arguments, and the other for con arguments. Each entry is numbered, and should be lucid, and precise .....ideally once again using the least number of words possible to present a case.
An intriguing aspect of the Universal Debating Project is that we could have what is termed a Rationality Count(RC). This would be the electronic tracking of peoples decision-making processes for, and against a specific topic. This could give us valuable insight as to the degrees of rationality people may have. For instance, 2,000 people may select pro argument a for topic C via the internet. Then, a con argument b could be presented online for the same topic C, and 1,500 decide to agree with it, and ofcourse, press the right button on their computers to transmit their decision...and so on. We may well find interesting patterns if RCs are used. At present, how new this concept is unknown but it is worth considering.

If the "Global Brain", or Universal Debating Project were ever set up, its initial concern would be with major issues notably social matters,economics, politics, and climate change/global warming. A site could be set up in time, and it could even have a motto such as "Fair Thinking, Fair World".

Also, it should be added that it is as yet unclear how such a proposal could be funded. It could use the Wikipedia model, or maybe not.

More Information

The following list of links may have direct, and indirect relevance to the above p2pfoundation entry. Yet, they are worthy of inclusion here. They also give us an idea of the immensity of the subject of debating, rationality, and thinking......

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straight_and_Crooked_Thinking A book by the parapsychologist Robert Thouless, and one in which he gave a "simplistic" presentation of the different forms of argument.
There are naturally enough a number of debating "organizations" on the internet. However, the scale, and indeed, scope of the UDP is generally far greater, and "infinitely" comprehensive.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_brain The UDP could play a "central" role in the Global Brain proposal
http://p2pfoundation.net/Category:Facilitation This has a list of links of great interest


The link below deals with games that have serious educational value, and could in certain situations even affect socio-economic change. Ofcourse, a pro, and con project such as the above could be presented in an attractive, and stimulating manner.
Mind Maps are another way of presenting issues other than the pro, and con approach. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map
Semantics can have relevance. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_technology

There are variety of ways for developing greater creativity. One such approach is lateral Thinking.
The importance of not to "cherry pick" evidential material in order to present an "objective"picture
The following deals with Upstream Engagement in which people can have informed dialogue about subjects (notably in connection with "controversial" scientific innovation)
Another area of likely relevance is media bias. If undertaken correctly, the Universal Debating Project should be able to present the most "objective" presentation in the world of various topics notably on emotive issues such as genetically modified food, and global warming.
A link of links http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complexity_theory
Big Data could play a big role in the all this. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_data
The following link is concerned with the idea(!) of Ideonomy which would probably be of great relevance to UDP.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nootropic (ie.Smart Drugs)

Also, some intersting info can be found on the discussion section of this page/subject entry.