Minimum Wage Increases, Unemployment and Inflation

It is almost extraordinary to think that, in the context of the Australian election where cost-of-living pressures are causing such pain towards so many, that there's now a debate over the minimum wage. To give a brief summary, the Fair Work Commission is engaging in an annual review of the national minimum wage. On one side, employers represented by the Australian Industry Group is proposing an increase of 41c per hour (to $20.74) and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry suggests slightly more, whereas the Australian Council of Trade Unions is arguing that the minimum wage should be raised by an additional 61c per hour (to $21.35). The Labor Party leader, Anthony Albanese, has said that the increase should be at least the rate of inflation, that is 5.1%. The ACTU is pointing out that wage workers have received pay increases under the rate of inflation for successive years, an effective wage cut.

For his own part the LNP Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, attempted to claim that Albanese's claim was an "unprecedented" intervention (which simply is not true) and responded on whether workers should be paid in the minimum wage in very couched terms ("it depends", he responded, referring to those workers in the unprotected casual "gig economy"). For what it's worth, the Prime Minister is one of the highest-earning politicians in the world, at $549,229.

Refugees Welcome in Germany - Sometimes

Posted on streetlamps all over Germany are stickers showing fleeing silhouettes with the caption, "Refugees welcome - bring your families". Some have been blacked out with felt markers or ripped partially away. The Germans have mixed feelings about refugees, as demonstrated in the earlier waves from the Mideast and the current one from Ukraine. Germany took in over two million refugees from the Mideast wars, far more than any other country. The equivalent for the US population would be eight million.

This has created an enormous financial and cultural strain in a country that historically has had little immigration. It comes at a time when poverty is increasing and social services are being reduced. The once-generous welfare state is gradually being dismantled. This financial squeeze is worsening now because of expenses for the refugees. The two million newcomers receive enough money to live on plus free healthcare, education, and access to special programs. Some cheat on this, registering in several places under different names and getting multiple benefits. Many Germans resent paying for all this with high taxes while their own standard of living is declining. The trauma of war and displacement has caused a few refugees to lose their moral compass. They do things here they wouldn't do at home.

Two-thirds of the refugees are young men, some of them convinced Allah has ordained males to dominate females. In their view, women who aren't submissive need to be punished. Since being male is the only power many of them have, they feel threatened by women in positions of power, and they sometimes react with hostility. Over a thousand women have been physically attacked - some murdered and raped and many aggressively grabbed on the breasts as a way of showing dominance. Many more have been abused - insulted, harassed, spat upon.

Peace with Justice in Ukraine

Three weeks ago, as of writing, there was a massive Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is a major event in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War that began in February 2014 when Russia annexed of the Crimea oblasts, and the eastern Donbas and Luhansk oblasts were taken over by pro-Russian forces. That annexation itself comes on the back of the Euromaidan protests following the decision of then-president Yanukovych's decision not to sign a political and free trade agreement with the European Union, instead choosing closer ties to Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union, contrary to the wishes of the Ukrainian parliament. Those protests led to the President Yanukovych being overthrown, but since then the ongoing conflict has led to at least 13,000 deaths prior to the recent invasion.

Indeed, since the break-up of the Soviet Union, Ukraine's political map has consistently shown a divide between the eastern and western sides of the country. There can be no doubt, for example, that there is a genuine desire among many if not most inhabitants of the Crimea, Donbas, and Luhansk oblasts that they would prefer to be part of Russia. This was certainly evident in Crimea where opinion polls consistently showed an overwhelming majority supported becoming part of Russia. However, neither NATO, the CSTO, nor Ukraine were particularly keen on a properly-conducted referendum on such matters (e.g., UN-conducted, international observers and peacekeepers, etc), and as a result differences of opinion were determined in a battlefield by force of arms instead. All of this was discussed in some detail in 2014 by your author; "The Ukrainian Crisis: Electoral History, Great Powers, and Self-Determination".

China: International Relations and Responsibilities


I begin my remarks by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we are holding this meeting, the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation and I pay my respects to their Elders, past, present, and emerging. I also acknowledge we are occupying land stolen from them and that their sovereignty was never and will never be ceded.

Before diving in, a little about me.

My name is Anthony Leong. My family has had a long history with China, the Republic and then the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and fighting Japanese aggression. My family has had generational links with one of the oldest Chinese organisations in Australia, the See Yup (4 Districts) Society, as well as being inaugural members of the Australia-China Friendship Society (ACFS) some 70 years ago. As President of the ACFS Victorian Branch, I see our role as non-political and certainly not as a mouthpiece for the Chinese government.

I also have a further role as Secretary-General for the Pacific-China Friendship Association (PCFA), with membership being countries rather than individuals. In that position, I have also edited a facts and figures manual on China written by PCFA President Dr Hiria (Peter) Ottino.

The Labour Theory of Value is Commonly Misunderstood

Most right-wingers either haven’t studied the LTV, don’t understand it, or choose to deliberately misconstrue it. The typical right-wing misrepresentation of the LTV goes something like:

“Marx said that the value of a good is determined by how much labour was invested in producing it.”

In reality this is how the cost of production is determined.

The LTV is actually an amalgamation of the work of John Locke, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx, all building upon the same line of thought. This becomes apparent when laid out in an order that’s arranged to make it more comprehensible rather than being strictly chronological.

Privatizing Nature

The financial wizards of Wall Street have devised a new way to profit from Mother Nature. They’ve created a class of stocks called Natural Asset Companies that will "capture the intrinsic and productive value of nature and provide a store of value based on the vital assets that underpin our entire economy and make life on earth possible". The project was developed by the Intrinsic Exchange Group in partnership with the New York Stock Exchange, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the investment firm Aberdare Ventures.

According to the Intrinsic Exchange Group’ website, the purpose of these companies is the “conversion of natural assets into financial capital. … These assets make life on Earth possible and enjoyable. … They include biological systems that provide clean air, water, foods, medicines, a stable climate, human health and societal potential. … The potential of this asset class is immense. Nature’s economy is larger than our current industrial economy and we can tap this store of wealth and productivity.” They estimate the value of the “global ecosystem services market” at $125 trillion annually. Whilst presented as an ecological initiative (partners include the World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International etc), to protect the natural environment from externalities, their objective is take away public control of the environment into private control: "The primary purpose of these companies is to maximize Ecological Performance, the production of ecosystem services, to which they have rights and authority to manage."

Education Is An Imperfect Vaccine

It can be expected that many in the anti-vaccination corner not to be particularly well-informed in matters of virology, genomics, molecular modelling, epidemiology, and associated disciplines. To be fair, most of us who are not engaged in these disciplines on a professional basis are not particularly well-informed, but at least we have the sense to understand that we are not experts. Alas, if one communicates mainstream scientific opinion one often gets the response "do your research" from people who wouldn't be able to tell you which antibody chain is first to respond to an antigen [1], let alone an ability to determine what constitutes quality peer-reviewed research compared to those that can be generously described as "dubious".

Nevertheless, one is surprised when one's interlocutor on such matters claims to be a professor at a university. Subsequent information reveals that they're actually an associate professor of psychology at a polytechnic. Polytechnics of course perform an extremely valuable role in the training and teaching of practical skills, but let's not pretend that they're research institutions. I shall be kind enough not to mention their name or the institution that they belong to, but I will raise some of the matters of interest which concur with the sort of things that one comes to expect from those opposed to vaccinations.

The Political Economy of Workers' Cooperatives

Even with the global economic downturn due to the pandemic, there is a revived interest in workers' cooperatives as an alternative business structure. A great deal of the interest is simply factual. A summary of research [1] from Virginie Perotin of Leeds University Business School takes into account material from the past two decades and from across North and South America and Europe comes to the conclusion that productivity, employment, and employee well-being is typically improved in cooperatives than conventional businesses and that workers' cooperatives are more resilient. Whilst it is true that workers' cooperatives are a relatively small part of the global economy, they do raise some very interesting questions with regard to political economy: are workers' cooperatives a variation on capitalism, a type of socialism, or something else entirely? Do they represent some transitional state of affairs, and could society as a whole operate as one or many workers' cooperatives?

One must be careful to specify that that, in terms of political economy, that workers' cooperatives rather than cooperatives in general, are meant here. Cooperatives could mean consumer cooperatives, where consumer goods are purchased in bulk and then sold at lower than usual rates, or commodity or retailer cooperatives where businesses do the same. Another common misapprehension is that workers' cooperatives are limited in size or are only effective in a limited number of industries. With regards to size one needed only point towards organisations like the Mondragon Corporation in Spain and John Lewis Partnership in the UK, both of which have some 80,000 worker-owners. With regards to the variety of industries, one can refer to Scott Bader Commonwealth, composites and specialty polymer plastics. Danobat Group, sheet metal. Fagor Arrasate Group, machine tools. Isthmus, engineering and manufacturing. Earthworker, solar and heat pump hot water manufacturing. Motion Twin, video game studio, Swann-Morton, surgical equipment, Renew Development, construction, etc.

The Legal Abolition of the State

There are many good arguments and plenty of historical evidence of why any suggestion of a parliamentary road to abolishing the State, even in an advanced liberal democracy, is extremely unlikely. There is the argument that parliament is innately a bourgeois parliament that excludes substantive reform which is won by extra-parliamentary means. Then there's the argument that parliament will corrupt and weaken any who attempt reform. Finally, there are arguments that any threats to it will result in violence by the ruling class to protect their privileges. These arguments have a degree of legitimacy, however, they are not the point of this discussion. Rather, it is the identification of the special privileges embodied in law that create economic classes and thus a State. In doing so one can, at least in a pro-forma sense, map out what changes would be required to abolish the State through such a means.

In the first instance, it is necessary to differentiate between "the State" and "government". Many anarchists, like most people, have conflated and confused the two, but there is much to be gained by making a distinction. Bookchin [1] notes that whilst all states have governments, not all governments are states. "A government is a set of organized and responsible institutions that are minimally an active system of social and economic administration. They handle the problems of living in an orderly fashion. A government may be a dictatorship; it may be a monarchy or a republican state, but it may also be a libertarian formation of some kind". Proudhon, the first person who identified politically as an anarchist, argued: "Anarchy is... a form of government or constitution in which public and private consciousness, formed through the development of science and law, is alone sufficient to maintain order and guarantee all liberties."[2] Etymologically the two differ; governance means "to steer" (from the ancient Hellenic "kybernan"), whereas anarchy, rather than the early modern English usage of "disorder", means to have no archon, or ruler, i.e., "no ruler", not "no rules". In contrast the state is from the Latin, "stare", "to stand", where we also have such terms as "estate".

Money, Resources, and the Myth of the Gold Standard

Markets do not exist in a vacuum — they are a product of rules and social order. Markets function only because governments have created a system of institutions and rules that allow them to work. The free market works optimally only within the framework of rules created by government. Government created property titles, courts, police, money, and taxation — all of which are necessary in order for markets to function optimally. Without this governmental backdrop, markets could not exist, much less function efficiently.

The Origins of Money

The classical economic narrative of the origin of money, found in works such as Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations and Carl Menger’sOn the Origins of Money, assumes that people originally traded directly through barter and gradually adopted precious metals as a medium of exchange for the sake of convenience. Gold eventually became the universal medium of exchange because it had an inherent value. Eventually, banks developed as warehouses for people to store gold in and "dollar bills" were issued as warehouse receipts for the gold on store at the bank. Indeed, the term dollar originally designated a specific amount of gold. Over time, people began trading the warehouse receipts themselves in place of the gold. And this was the origin of paper money. While this narrative is quite elegant and seems to be a logically satisfying explanation of the origin of money, archeological evidence and anthropological research have thoroughly disproven this theory. In reality, the earliest forms of money were government-issued and credit-based currencies, not commodity-based mediums of exchange emerging spontaneously from market consensus. While the term dollar did originally designate a certain amount of gold, the “dollar bill” was not actually a warehouse receipt. In reality, the “dollar bill” was just a promissory note representing a credit valued at the amount of a dollar of gold. It was never actually backed by gold.


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