Category Archives: cpe blog

Socio-Economic Inequalities and Religious Extremism

By Danish Khan

We’ve had too many attacks of late: after a terrible March 22nd terrorist attack in Brussels which took away more than thirty lives, a bombing five days later in Lahore brought more misery and pain. This time the second largest city of Pakistan was struck by a devastating terrorist attack in which more than seventy people lost their lives, specifically targeted at Christian Pakistanis who were celebrating Easter in a public park, though the victims were both Christians and Muslims.

The brutality of the two attacks is similar, but both public outcry and modes of analysis have been wildly divergent. In the countries of the global North, and especially in the US, we did not see an outcry and outrage at the similar scale as we observed after a devastating attack in Brussels. We must sincerely ask, why? Is it simply because we in the US can better relate with Europeans (but not everyone has a European ancestry in the US)? Or is it because we don’t expect a rich European country like Belgium to be under attack? Or because terrorist attacks not something new for a third world Muslim majority country like Pakistan? Or is it just a coincidence and there is not a systemic rationale/prejudice behind it? We don’t know. But we want readers to think about it.

Similarly, in the mainstream media a lot has been said about the prevailing socio-economic and cultural aspects of Belgian society. But when it comes to country like Pakistan not much is said in terms of socio-economic and cultural aspects. This article is a modest attempt in this regard.


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The worst crimes are not always the punishable ones

By Alex Mozell


“The worst crimes are not always the punishable ones.”1

-George Orwell

George Orwell was an esteemed writer, political philosopher, socialist, and critic, who braved the Luftwaffe hellfire and joined the armed resistance against Franco’s rise to power.  He hated dictatorship in all forms, from dogmatic fascism in the West to the dehumanizing communism of the East.  He wrote against totalitarianism, and in his novel, 1984, imagined a world in which thoughts were punishable by death, while “vaporizing” political dissenters was not only legal, but official policy.

Indeed, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  And those with power use it to legalize their corruption. Their touch reaches far, scores of people harmed by their maneuvering.  Ultimately, corruption is a parasite, stealing much from the masses, and enriching only a few.  Of course, there are horrible people everywhere, who roam the streets, stealing, destroying property, or murdering, but they rarely hold political sway, and so their crimes are reviled and punished – and very rightfully so.

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Limited liability – Only for a Limited Few


By Kartik Misra

The Limited Liability Act of 1855 allowed British corporations to separate their firm’s financial liabilities from the assets and wealth of their owners. This was expected to encourage entrepreneurship and investment which in turn would generate employment, prosperity and lead to greater innovation. If a limited liability firm goes belly up, it’s investors are not required to liquidate their assets. However, if the firm’s owner is a sole proprietor, as is generally the case with small businesses, then there is unlimited liability and debts have to be repaid at all costs. Today most countries have some form of limited liability clause in their rule books, but only for a select few citizens. This disparity has consequences: wealthy entrepreneurs can take chances risk free, petty entrepreneurs live in danger, and governments are made subject to the will of lenders.

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“Jack and the Giant Joint-Stock”, a cartoon in Town Talk (1858) satirizing the ‘monster’ joint-stock economy that came into being after the Joint Stock Companies Act 1844. (Source: Wikipedia)

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A Primer On The BDS Movement

By the members of the graduate students’ Palestine Solidarity Caucus at University of Massachusetts Amherst

The legal and ethical foundation for the BDS campaign



It is by now clear that there is no viable two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since signing the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993 to supposedly pave the way for such a solution, Israel has actually expanded its illegal settlements, entrenched its occupation of the West Bank, tightened its grip over the Gaza Strip, escalated its eviction of Palestinians from Jerusalem and of Bedouins from their villages, and consolidated the attack on outspoken members of the Palestinian Israeli community.

A quick look at the map of the region evinces Israel existing alongside not a Palestinian territory that can form the basis of a state, but along numerous fragmented bantustans whose airspace, borders, and water Israel itself controls. Bantustans were territories set aside for black inhabitants of South Africa during the apartheid regime and are increasingly used to describe the fragmented and martially controlled territories set aside for Palestinians by Israel. The contrast between Israel and the Palestinians is striking in terms of territorial integrity and control, but also in terms of rights. In the occupied territories, Jewish settlers enjoy rights as Israeli citizens while the Palestinians next door are subject to martial law and stateless. Within Israel, Jewish citizens enjoy preferential citizenship rights relative to Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin, as enshrined in Israel’s Law of Return (1950) and the Citizenship Law (1952); less explicit but equally salient discrimination takes place in the redistribution of resources and social welfare and in access to economic assets including land.

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Overspending or Overempowered? Part II – The Transfer of Income from Taxpayers to Banks

By Amanda Page-Hoongrajok

Part II of of a two part series. Here’s Part I.

The implication of banks’ power over state and local budget management is that money is effectively being transferred from residents of the locality to big banks.  Public schools are being shut down, social services to the economically most vulnerable are cut while banks take in millions of dollars in fees and interest payments.


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Overspending or Overpowered? Part I – The Financialization of State and Local Debt

By Amanda Page-Hoongrajook


Part I of of a two part series. Here’s Part II.

Over the past decade and a half, the US has experienced a slew of municipal bankruptcies and defaults[1]. Most notably, the City of Detroit filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and even more recently Puerto Rico defaulted on its debt for a second time. Even non-defaulting municipalities’ finances are being scrutinized – Illinois has been singled out for its underfunded public pension funds.  Why are state and local budgets all of a sudden so fragile and does the financial crisis have anything to do with it?

One narrative claims that states and municipalities have simply spent more than their means, particularly on overly generous pensions for public employees[2]. If governments engaged in fiscally irresponsible behavior, imposing an austerity agenda that cut expenditures – such as public school budget allocation and benefits to pension beneficiaries – might be more justifiable.

The approach taken by Roosevelt Institute’s Refund America Project involves a thorough look at municipal income statements, inspecting both the revenue and expenditure side.  They conclude the story isn’t about municipalities overspending; it is about big banks leveraging their power over state and local governments to extract money through financial deals.     Read more

Bernie Sanders And The Definition Of Socialism

By Ricardo Fuentes Ramirez*


Among the most interesting aspects of the current electoral process in the US is that candidate Bernie Sanders openly identifies himself as a “democratic socialist.” It has prompted many to discuss what is, or what is not, socialism. The problem is that “socialism” is a word used to refer to many different things. Here are just a few of its unofficial definitions:

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Are Billionaires Fat Cats or Deserving Entrepreneurs?

By Didier Jacobs

The 62 richest people in the world own as much wealth as half of humanity. Such extreme wealth conjures images of both fat cats and deserving entrepreneurs. So where did so much money come from?

It turns out, three-fourths of extreme wealth in the US falls on the fat cat side.

A key empirical question in the inequality debate is to what extent rich people derive their wealth from “rents”, which is windfall income they did not produce, as opposed to activities creating true economic benefit.

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Source: Oxfam

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The Stories Hollywood Doesn’t Tell – How the Structure of the Film Industry Marginalizes Narratives of Minorities & Women

By Jonathan Donald Jenner

The #oscarssowhite and #oscarsstillsowhite not just because the academy snubs the contributions of non-white actors, writers, and directors who have excelled in a particular year, but also because of the many films that are never made by minorities and women.  Behind the film industry in Hollywood sits financial power whose whiteness, masculinity, and money is reflected both in the stories that are told and in those that are not told. Telling stories that are everyone’s stories requires thinking through and beyond the power structures which shape Hollywood. Here are some anecdotes, some facts, and some implications for building an inclusive cinema.

Oliver Law

Oliver Law, American hero seen here in real life fighting against the fascists in Spain, won’t be found on the silver screen.


Oliver Law’s true hero life story reads like a made-for-Hollywood film synopsis:

Son of West Texas and Army veteran Oliver Law becomes radicalized in Depression era Chicago, and joins the Abraham Lincoln Brigades to fight the fascists in the Spanish Civil War, quickly rising to become a battalion commander (the first African American to lead an integrated military unit), before being killed in Boadilla del Monte as the battle for Castille raged on, whose memory lived on as a martyr for the Spanish Republic.

This film does not exist, even though Paul Robeson attempted to make it. Read more

A Primer on Friedman’s Assessment of Bernie’s Economic Plans

By CPE Editorial Staff


On February 3rd, we posted a piece from Professor Gerald Friedman outlining the economic impact of Bernie Sanders’ economic proposals (both Friedman and the Center for Popular Economics have no connection to the Sanders campaign). The blog piece was based on Friedman’s full report, What would Sanders do? Estimating the economic impact of Sanders programs and can be found at Dollars & Sense.

As you may know by now, Friedman’s work has sparked a bit of controversy among some notable economists. Former CEA Chairs, Alan Krueger, Austan Goolsbee, Christina Romer, and Laura D’Andrea Tyson spoke out in an open letter to Sanders and Friedman calling the estimated beneficial impacts on growth rates, income, and employment “extreme” and “grandiose.”  New York Times columnist and blogger, Paul Krugman, referred to Friedman’s analysis as “voodoo of the left” and implied the economic estimates were the result of “fuzzy math,” though Friedman used entirely standard approaches combined with estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. Krugman and the former CEA chairs’ initial reaction failed to say much beyond that the numbers just didn’t seem right.

A host of economists and journalists have in turn criticized Krugman and the CEA chairs for failing to take on specifics, and pushed back at their characterizations of Friedman’s analysis as extreme and unrealistic.

With so much at stake, its no surprise that the ongoing debate has seen its share of hot air and grandstanding, particularly from those with the loudest mic, but thankfully we have also seen an abundance of reasoned and elucidating responses by academics, wonks, and financial analysts who have carefully analyzed Friedman’s numbers. We’ve collected key quotes from some of these responses and we present them here (in no particular order) to help highlight some of the disagreements driving the debate:

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