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Economics and the end of growth - headlines

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Occupy Wall Street activists buy $15m of Americans' personal debt

Adam Gabbatt, The Guardian
A group of Occupy Wall Street activists has bought almost $15m of Americans' personal debt over the last year as part of the Rolling Jubilee project to help people pay off their outstanding credit.

Rolling Jubilee, set up by Occupy's Strike Debt group following the street protests that swept the world in 2011, launched on 15 November 2012. The group purchases personal debt cheaply from banks before "abolishing" it, freeing individuals from their bills.

By purchasing the debt at knockdown prices the group has managed to free $14,734,569.87 of personal debt, mainly medical debt, spending only $400,000.

"We thought that the ratio would be about 20 to 1," said Andrew Ross, a member of Strike Debt and professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University. He said the team initially envisaged raising $50,000, which would have enabled it to buy $1m in debt.

"In fact we've been able to buy debt a lot more cheaply than that."...
(14 November 2013)
Read more about the Rolling Jubilee project.


A Permanent Slump?

Paul Krugman, New York Times
Spend any time around monetary officials and one word you’ll hear a lot is “normalization.” Most though not all such officials accept that now is no time to be tightfisted, that for the time being credit must be easy and interest rates low. Still, the men in dark suits look forward eagerly to the day when they can go back to their usual job, snatching away the punch bowl whenever the party gets going.

But what if the world we’ve been living in for the past five years is the new normal? What if depression-like conditions are on track to persist, not for another year or two, but for decades?

You might imagine that speculations along these lines are the province of a radical fringe. And they are indeed radical; but fringe, not so much. A number of economists have been flirting with such thoughts for a while. And now they’ve moved into the mainstream. In fact, the case for “secular stagnation” — a persistent state in which a depressed economy is the norm, with episodes of full employment few and far between — was made forcefully recently at the most ultrarespectable of venues, the I.M.F.’s big annual research conference. And the person making that case was none other than Larry Summers. Yes, that Larry Summers.

And if Mr. Summers is right, everything respectable people have been saying about economic policy is wrong, and will keep being wrong for a long time...
(17 November 2013)


To tackle pollution, China to drop pursuit of growth at all costs

David Stanway, Reuters
China will steer local governments away from the pursuit of economic growth at all costs and beef up their powers to punish polluters as part of a campaign to reverse the damage done by three decades of unchecked expansion...

With public anger mounting over a series of scandals involving hazardous smog, contaminated soil and toxic water supplies, China has identified the environment as one of the biggest potential sources of instability. But despite a pledge to create a "beautiful China" over the next decade, Beijing continues to struggle to bring polluting state-owned industrial enterprises and growth-obsessed local governments to heel.

The new policy document said China would "correct the bias towards assessing (officials) on the speed of economic growth and increase the weight placed on other indicators such as resource use, environmental damage, ecological benefits, industrial overcapacity, scientific innovation, work safety and newly-added debt."...
(18 November 2013)

Editorial Notes: Interesting to revisit Richard Heinberg's 2009 article Temporary recession or the end of growth?

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