Posts

School Books with Apple

Established Professor Claims ‘Higher Education In The UK Is Morally Bankrupt’

Ulf Schmidt has been living and working in the UK for the past 25 years, but after seeing how the educational system in the country is responding to the coronavirus pandemic in relation to keeping students/staff safe, he’s ready to leave.

Wealth

Study Finds 22 Men Own More Wealth than All Women in Africa

One of the major topics of political concern both in the United States and around the world is the problem of economic inequality, which continues to increase by the day. Oxfam International, a charity that focuses on alleviating global poverty, has released a study that found that economic inequality has become so severe that the world’s richest 22 men own more wealth than all 326 million women who live in Africa. According to Oxfam, much of the world’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few billionaires, whose fortunes contribute little to society even as women and people of color are excluded from the economy because of biased economic systems. To address the problem, Oxfam has called on governments around the world to institute policies that ease the financial burden on women who care for children and the eldery, often without pay. Oxfam recommends that governments increase taxes on the wealthy in order to fund programs to support child care and health care.

Embed from Getty Images

The report included a number of surprising statistics that highlight just how bad economic inequality has become. For example, it found that the world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than 4.6 billion people; that the world’s richest 1% have over twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people; that the value of unpaid care work by women is $10.8 trillion annually; and that the number of billionaires in the world has doubled over the past decade. The report links economic inequality with gender inequality, arguing that economic policies that have been instituted around the world are biased towards men, allowing them to dominate in business in government. As a potential remedy to this problem, Oxfam recommends that governments recognize the unpaid yet essential care work performed predominantly by women by expanding the public sector’s role in providing care to children, the elderly, and others who cannot care for themselves. As populations age and governments around the world cut access to public services, this problem is expected to worsen with time.

Embed from Getty Images

Oxfam believes that the influence of the super-rich on governments is too great, as the wealthy have the power to influence governments to enact policies that benefit themselves at the expense of the world’s poor, which disproportionately affects women and people of color. There is much disagreement around the world as to whether or not the existence of billionaires is good for society. Some argue that the fact that billionaires exist is evidence of the success of the capitalist system that has raised millions of people out of poverty, whereas others say that increasing taxes on the super-wealthy would lead to a more fair, just, and equal world where fewer people suffer unnecessarily. According to Oxfam, the capitalist system is broken because of the massive and growing economic inequality it generates and how it allows wealth to essentially be taken from the poor and given to the rich.

USA China Trade War 2

Promising Progress Made In US-China Trade War Negotiations

A new easing of trade tariffs between the US and China has sparked fresh hope that an end to the trade war between the countries could now be in sight.

Since Donald Trump was elected President, discussions with China’s Xi Jinping have remained tense. However, new revelations that some tariffs are to be rolled back has led analysts to predict real potential for growth in the coming months.

The stock market has also responded enthusiastically, and there has also been unprecedented steps by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to increase their global growth forecasts, should a deal to ease trade tensions come to fruition.

Although the details are yet to be finalised, it has been revealed that the deal will reintroduce the movement of US agricultural goods to China alongside a reduction in tariffs on Chinese imports entering the US. There are also suggestions that US poultry imports could also start flowing back into China.

Embed from Getty Images

The first phase of the deal relies on the US rolling back tariffs on over $350bn of Chinese imports. If this is achieved, Xi Jinping will make the historic journey to the US to sign a partial trade deal with Donald Trump. Such progress is unprecedented and there has been excitement from investors, leading to a surge in stock markets and an all-time weekly high for the S&P 500.

Less than six months ago, further tensions were added as China announced new tariffs on $60bn of US imports, after warnings from Donald Trump against adding further fuel to the fire were ignored. Currently, China’s tariffs affect US imports of soybeans, beef, pork seafood, vegetables, liquefied natural gas, whiskey and ethanol. They range between 5% to 25%. The US currently levies a 15% duty on a range of Chinese imports, from meat through to musical instruments. According to Wikipedia, in 2018, over 1,300 categories of Chinese imports were listed for tariffs, including aircraft parts, batteries, flat-panel televisions, medical devices, satellites, and various weapons. In September, it was announced that China has implemented a 5% levy on US crude oil, the first time fuel had been affected by the ongoing trade battle.

Trump has long believed that China has been operating unfair trade practices which have significantly disadvantaged the US economy. He also accused them of intellectual property theft. The objective of the tariffs was to help boost sales to US companies by making imports more expensive. As overseas imports can often be much cheaper to produce, consumers have increasingly shifted towards the cheaper options, even if it takes a little longer for them to arrive. By focusing on making US products and companies more attractive to consumers, he hoped to give the economy a much needed boost.

Embed from Getty Images

Unfortunately, this objective has not been easy to achieve, nor has it been supported by a wide range of industry experts. The reality is that the ongoing trade war is continuing to not only impact politics but wider businesses and consumers too. And whilst the intention may have been to encourage more sales towards American businesses, the tariffs could in fact have the opposite effect and prevent those same businesses from expanding their operations overseas to lucrative international markets.

With Singles Day fast approaching, this is likely to be the next major event impacted by the ongoing trade war. Similar to Black Friday in the US, Singles Day is a huge sale event which takes place on the Alibaba shopping platform. Most popular with young Chinese people, the event takes place on November 11th, chosen because the number 1 is thought to closely resemble a single person alone. Also known as ‘Guanggun Jie’, analysts have suggested that the ongoing trade tensions between the US and China could affect sales of US products on Singles Day, mainly driven by the loyalty of Chinese consumers, who could actively avoid purchasing products from US companies in retaliation for the way China has been treated.

This viewpoint is reflected in the findings of a recent survey by AlixPartners has revealed that 70% of respondents felt the trade war was influencing their purchasing decisions. Interestingly, over 50% stated that their national loyalty was preventing them from purchasing American brands, suggesting that these brands could see sales adversely affected on Singles Day due to the trade war struggles.

Although the future is still somewhat uncertain, the potential olive branches which are being presented by both parties are being taken as a positive sign that we could be entering a new phase of arrangements between China and the US. Any positive steps towards a renewed deal could not only help to reignite the flow of products between the two countries, but help to stabilize the stock market and provide an optimism across the wider global economy too.

Capitalism

Museum of Capitalism Offers Scathing Critique of American Culture

Love it or hate it, capitalism is an economic system that is so deeply entrenched into each of our lives that we simultaneously don’t notice its presence and can’t imagine living without it. We spend our entire lives learning how to operate within the capitalistic economic system that surrounds us, yet most of us spend little time contemplating the nature of capitalism and what it really means in our day-to-day lives. In light of this contradiction, the Museum of Capitalism, a roving art exhibition currently on display in Manhattan, imagines what capitalism would look like from the perspective of someone living in a future after the economic system has collapsed.

While the museum is based on a fictional premise, it incorporates so-called “artifacts” of capitalism from the real world to offer social commentary. Energy bars and cheeseburgers, for instance, were passed around on trays and offered as “edible artifacts,” and a hand-cranked “minimum wage machine” dispenses pennies at a rate of roughly one cent roughly every three seconds, allowing them to earn money at the same rate as a minimum-wage employee. Another of the museum’s exhibits is a disassembly line, where visitors were invited to destroy discarded shoes and cell phone chargers with hammers and pliers. The idea is to portray capitalism as if it were an alien concept or an artifact of a bygone era to encourage the public to contemplate the economic system in a new light.

Embed from Getty Images

The project started in 2017, in Oakland, California, opening in a failed retail space in a gentrified warehouse district. The first exhibition included a gift shop, as well as an exact replica of this gift shop but with all of the items for sale removed. Over the years, as the museum opened in various places, the curators added and removed art pieces, such as an installation of barbed wire which, as the museum notes, played an instrumental role in the spread of capitalism as it enabled westward expansion by allowing individuals to more effectively protect their property, as well as informing intellectual property laws. The barbed wire, installed within the museum’s windows, is visible from both inside and outside the museum, raising the question of whether the “real” museum of capitalism is within the gallery’s walls, or outside on the streets of New York.

Museum visitors can take the pennies they earned at the minimum wage machine to the “anti-capitalist coin crusher,” which adorns these coins with slogans like “property is theft,” turning them into souvenirs.

The gallery explores the various aspects of capitalism from a number of perspectives, including labor, gentrification, and fossil fuels, with the intent of making the system of capitalism seem strange, such as in a label that reads “The F.D.I.C. was a corporation of the United States government whose role was to provide deposit insurance,” describing a shelf lined with books with the logos of companies that failed during the 2008 financial crisis. Other installations include a collection of American flags made by prisoners and a collection of pens used for marketing pharmaceutical companies.

Embed from Getty Images

The museum has invited guests to donate objects that “speak to the lived experience of capitalism.” One guest brought an empty bottle of Adderall. Museum visitors can take the pennies they earned at the minimum wage machine to the “anti-capitalist coin crusher,” which adorns these coins with slogans like “property is theft,” turning them into souvenirs. As a whole, the museum is overtly political, with an organizer saying “until capitalism is over, the Museum of Capitalism will still have work to do.” The museum’s website deadpans, “Our educational work is crucial for establishing justice for the victims of capitalism and preventing its resurgence.” Perhaps one of the most emotionally stirring installations in the museum is a 6 by 9 by 7 foot room, equalling the size of a prison cell, which visitors are invited to stand inside and listen to more than a hundred voicemails left by people responding to a fictional apartment ad offering a room of this size for $612 per month. This piece speaks to the effects of income inequality on people’s ability to find decent living conditions, and invites visitors to contemplate the oftentimes-invisible effects capitalism has had on their lives.