fredag 30 juli 2010

Hur kan finanssektorn ha gjort så stora vinster de senaste decennierna?

Att det görs stora vinster, till exempel i finanssektorn, när ekonomin går bra är inte konstigt. Men hur kan vinsterna ha varit större, oavsett konjunkturläge, i finanssektorn än i övriga sektorer de senaste decennierna? Det är en intressant fråga. Varför, som The Economist skriver, har inte vinsterna "konkurrerats bort"? (I inlägget länkat till nedan visar Simon Johnson att finanssektorns andel av vinsterna i privata sektorn i USA sedan mitten av 80-talet legat mellan 20 och 40 procent, efter att ha legat runt 10-15 procent de föregående 40 åren.)
"The huge sums earned by banks and their employees over the past 30 years is a recurring puzzle. How has finance done so well for itself and why haven’t its returns been competed away?

Andrew Haldane, the executive director for financial stability at the Bank of England, has co-authored another incisive contribution to this debate in a chapter of a new book* published by the London School of Economics on July 14th. Analysing the recent performance of the banking industry, he concludes that it has been “as much mirage as miracle”.

Mr Haldane and his colleagues start with a statistical oddity. The fourth quarter of 2008 almost saw the meltdown of the global financial system, with banks’ share prices falling by an average of 50%. Yet according to the British national accounts, the same quarter witnessed the fastest-ever increase in the contribution of the financial sector to the country’s economic growth.

That suggests there is something wrong with the calculations. The standard measure is gross value-added—the output of an industry minus the costs of production. That is a pretty easy sum to calculate when it comes to manufacturing. In finance, however, a lot of the gross value-added comes from making loans. Economists calculate this by measuring the difference between the rate charged on loans and a “reference rate”, which is pretty much the risk-free rate.
Was the finance industry using a larger share of the nation’s resources? In the British case, the industry’s share of labour and capital has been on a declining trend since 1990. Combine the gross value-added figure with the declining share of resources, and you might assume finance has enjoyed a productivity miracle over the past 20 years. This miracle could explain the very high returns on equity achieved by the banks and the very high wages given to bank employees (an international, not just a British, phenomenon).

But if the value-added figure is driven by a mistaken assessment of risk, a quite different picture emerges. Mr Haldane suggests that banks increased risk-taking by pursuing three different strategies: using more leverage, both on and off the balance-sheet; holding more assets on their trading books, where capital charges were lower and rising asset prices boosted profits; and writing “out-of-the-money” options, in other words selling insurance policies that offered steady returns in good times but disastrous losses in especially difficult times.
The financial industry has done so well for itself, in short, because it has been given the licence to make a leveraged bet on property. The riskiness of that bet was underestimated because almost everyone from bankers through regulators to politicians missed one simple truth: that property prices cannot keep rising faster than the economy or the ability to service property-related debts. The cost of that lesson is now being borne by the developed world’s taxpayers."
Economist Buttonwood, "A mirage, not a miracle", 15 juli

Jfr 24 nov 09, "Johnson om bankernas alltför stora politiska makt".

Uppdatering 1 november

Sam Jones, "'A trillion dollar mean reversion'", FT Alphaville 15 juli 2008

Uppdatering 30 mars 2011
WSJ:s Real Time Economics-blogg uppmärksammar att finanssektorns vinster i USA gjort en storstilad comeback sedan finanskrisens botten. 2010 är finanssektorn tillbaka på över 30 procent av de totala vinsterna i USA.

Kathleen Madivan, "Like the Phoenix, U.S. Finance Profits Soar", Real Time Economics 25 mars 2011

tisdag 27 juli 2010

Högre inkomstojämlikhet mellan VD:ar och arbetare gör VD:arna jävligare?

"The topic of executive compensation has received tremendous attention over the years from both the research community and popular media. In this paper, we examine a heretofore ignored consequence of rising executive compensation. Specifically, we claim that higher income inequality between executives and ordinary workers results in executives perceiving themselves as being all-powerful and this perception of power leads them to maltreat rank and file workers. We present findings from two studies - an archival study and a laboratory experiment – that show that increasing executive compensation results in executives behaving meanly toward those lower down the hierarchy. We discuss the implications of our findings for organizations and offer some solutions to the problem."
Sreedhari Desai, Arthur Brief, Jennifer George, "When Executives Rake in Millions: Meanness in Organizations", 2010

Kommentarer: Harvard Business Review 19 juni; Linda Beale, "Overpaying CEOs", 17 juli; Maxine Udall, "Trickle down meanness", 23 juli.

Ojämlikhet i Egypten

"For all of Egypt’s abundant riches, the plain fact is that most Egyptians remain poor. The government insists that less than a fifth of the population (and falling) subsists below the global poverty threshold of $2 a day. Yet household expenditure surveys show that four-fifths of families have less than $3,000 a year to spend. That sounds about right: $200 a month is considered a good salary for an Egyptian. /.../

It is possible to live a comfortable rich-world sort of life in Egypt, and many people do; in some ways it is easier than in well-off countries because maids and cooks and drivers are cheap./.../
Among the wealthiest fifth of Egyptians, some 82% say they are generally satisfied with their living standards; among the poorest fifth only 29% do. Nearly all rich kids but scarcely a quarter of poor ones brush their teeth, largely because toothpaste is an unaffordable luxury. The poorest are also more than twice as likely to die as infants, or to suffer from hepatitis C. /.../
Nearly all Egyptian homes have piped water and electricity, but away from Cairo the power is often cut and taps often produce mere dribbles of water whose poor quality explains high levels of kidney disease. Nationwide, less than half the homes (and less than a third in the poor south) are connected to public sewage systems. In a survey of Egypt’s poorest villagers 91% said the service they needed most urgently was sewers. Visitors to Egypt invariably remark on the grubbiness of its streets. Statistics show that among the poorest fifth of Egyptians 85% of households have no proper means of rubbish disposal, so they burn it, dump it by the side of roads, tip it into canals or feed it to wandering goats and chickens. /.../
recently Egypt has seen an uncharacteristic flaring up of strikes and protests of every kind. For the first few months of this year the streets around the parliament were occupied around the clock by angry factory workers, disgruntled tax inspectors or junior doctors, all protesting against their miserable pay. Nor is the disillusion just about money. At least in spirit, more and more Egyptians have joined the small core of political activists, many of them Islamists or leftists, who insistently demand civil rights and an end to police brutality and sham democracy."
Economist, "No paradise", 15 juli

Egypten rankas som ett "low middle income"-land (i spannet $736-2,935) av Världsbanken. Enligt CIA World Factbook var landets gini-koefficient år 2001 34,4; ungefär på samma nivå som Estland, Storbritannien, Algeriet och Laos.

söndag 25 juli 2010

Minimilön i Hong Kong

"Hong Kong is poised to shortly adopt its first minimum wage, with grudging support from even such die-hard opponents as Mr Cheung and the local chamber of commerce.

Debate has moved on to just what level to set the minimum at, with most views in the range of HK$23 to HK$35.

Malaysia is beginning to track Hong Kong’s footsteps and Brunei is showing interest as well. Officials are more adamant in Singapore and Macao, east Asia’s other hold-outs against a minimum wage, but the opposition in both cities has latched on to the issue."
Zach Coleman, "A boost to equality or a drag on business?", Financial Times 9 juni

Hong Kong har större BNP/capita (lite mer än 40 000 PPP-USD år 2009) än Storbritannien, men en arbetare på t ex McDonald's tjänar cirka 20 kronor i timmen.
The Economist, "End of an experiment", 15 juli


I grannprovinsen Guangdong har minimilönen höjts i år:
"Factories struggle to attract enough workers

The Chinese province of Guangdong, the country's biggest export centre, announced yesterday that it would raise the minimum wage by an average of more than 20 per cent.

The move comes amid worries about inflation in China and complaints from factories in Guangdong and elsewhere about unfilled jobs as they rush to complete a surge in orders since February.

"A lot of our workforce traditionally come from the poorer regions in western China, but factories are moving out there to take advantage of cheaper wages and lower taxes," said Au Yiu-chee of Hong Kong, who owns a textile factory in Dongguan, a manufacturing centre.

Mr Au said that he had only about a third of the workers required to complete an order due in May from a European brand. The People's Daily, the Communist party's flagship newspaper, has reported that factories in the Pearl River Delta have more than 2m unfilled positions.

Guangdong, which abuts Hong Kong, said that the wage rise would help attract workers from other areas and improve the lives of low-income earners faced with rising inflation. China's consumer price index rose by 2.7 per cent in February from a year before.

Jiangsu province, the region near Shanghai, and one of Guangdong's closest export rivals, last month raised its monthly minimum wage rate by 13 per cent to Rmb960 ($140).

Guangdong's rise, which takes effect on May 1, will bring the minimum wage up to Rmb1,030 in Guangzhou, the provincial capital, to Rmb920 in Dongguan and three other larger cities and to between Rmb660 and Rmb810 in smaller towns.

Mr Au said that the spectre of a renminbi appreciation, which would make Chinese exports more expensive, rendered the wage increase doubly worrying, even if it helped counter the worker shortfall.

Yesterday, the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade said that a survey of 1,000 businesses showed that exporters in labour-intensive sectors generated profit margins as low as 3 per cent.

Guangdong exported $53.3bn of goods in January and February, 22.1 per cent more than the same period last year.

The province, once dubbed 'the workshop of the world' as the preferred location for low-cost manufacturers, now competes with cheaper centres elsewhere in China and Asia."
Enid Tsui, "Guangdong raises minimum wage by 20% amid China inflation fears", FT 19 mars

jfr 24 mars, "De mest ojämlika länderna" (Hong Kong världens 17:e högsta gini-koefficient enligt CIA World Factbook, på 53,3), 22 mars "Fattigdom i Hong Kong", 22 mars "Höjd minimilön i Guangdong".
Också: 23 juli 10 "Dokumentär om arbetare i Buffalo, NY", 29 januari 09 "Utvidgning av minimilönlag i Tyskland".

En av 1990-talets stora debatter i arbetsmarknadsekonomin (labor economics) handlade om effekter av statligt reglerade minimilöner: stör de jobbskapande, som frimarknads-teori skulle förutsäga? I USA kan man ofta göra nationalekonomiska studier genom att jämföra delstater, eftersom delstaterna har olika lagar men också mycket gemensamt, de är tillräckligt lika för att man ska kunna jämföra dem och isolera den skillnad mellan de stater som man jämför som man i studien är intresserad av att se effekten av. År 1992 höjde delstaten New Jersey sin minimilön kraftigt, från $4.25 till $5.05 i timmen, och Princeton-ekonomerna David Card och Alan Krueger bestämde sig då för att studera effekterna av denna höjning genom att jämföra sysselsättningsutvecklingen i New Jersey med utvecklingen i grannstaten Pennsylvania, som inte hade höjt minimilönen. Närmare bestämt kollade man på sysselsättningen i snabbmatsbranschen, där lönenivån för många ligger runt minimilönnivån.
David Card & Alan B. Krueger, "Minimum Wages and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast-Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania" (pdf), The American Economic Review, september 1994
Vad Card och Krueger fann var att sysselsättningen i snabbmatsbranschen i New Jersey faktiskt ökade efter höjningen av minimilönen, medan sysselsättningen i Pennsylvania stod stilla. Kontra-intuitivt utifrån en frimarknads-teori. Därmed ledde förstås artikeln till en stor diskussion.

EDIT 14 oktober:
ett nytt paper som fortsätter i Card-Kruegers spår:
Arindrajit Drube, T. William Lester och Michael Reich, "Minimum Wage Effects Across Borders: Estimates Using Contiguous Counties", UC Berkeley Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, oktober 2008

Uppdatering 16 december 2012
Economists nationalekonomiska kolumn Free Exchange har gått igenom diskussionen om minimilönernas effekt på sysselsättningen i USA och Storbritannien. Dube, från U Mass Amherst, och Reich, från UC Berkeley, som refereras till ovan i detta blogginlägg, tas upp som Card och Kruegers efterföljare på "minimilön skadar inte sysselsättningen"-sidan av debatten. David Neumark från UC Irvine och William Wascher från Federal Reserve företräder "minimilön skadar sysselsättningen"-sidan. Neumark och Wascher har dock delvis gett med sig med åren, och menar i ett paper från 2011 att höjningarna av USA:s delstatliga minimilöner 2007-09 kombinerat med Earned Income Tax Credits, USA:s motsvarighet till jobbskatteavdraget, faktiskt har ökat sysselsättningen bland ensamstående mödrar.

Storbritannien införde en lagstadgad minimilön år 1999, vilket erbjuder forskarna ännu ett case att studera och dra slutsatser utifrån. Minimilönen låg på 46 procent av medianlönen, vilket är lite högre än USA:s men lägre än t ex Frankrikes som ligger på nästan 60 procent. Utvärderingarna av införandet av minimilönen visar att den inte skadat sysselsättningen, och har haft positiva effekter på inkomstfördelningen:
"The most striking impact of Britain’s minimum wage has been on the spread of wages. Not only has it pushed up pay for the bottom 5% of workers, but it also seems to have boosted earnings further up the income scale—and thus reduced wage inequality. Wage gaps in the bottom half of Britain’s pay scale have shrunk sharply since the late 1990s. A new study by a trio of British labour-market economists (including one at the Low Pay Commission) attributes much of that contraction to the minimum wage. Wage inequality fell more for women (a higher proportion of whom are on the minimum wage) than for men and the effect was most pronounced in low-wage parts of Britain."
IMF och OECD, "bastions of orthodoxy", menar numera att en "moderate" lagstadgad minimilön, definierat som på en nivå av 30-40 procent av medianlönen, inte har negativa effekter på sysselsättningen. Economist påpekar att Storbritanniens utveckling antyder att en hållbar minimilön kanske är högre än så. I vilket fall, så tycks debatten överlag ha skiftat sedan Card och Krueger 1994-95 var avvikarna.

Economist, "The argument in the floor", 24 november 2012
Ryan Avent, "Raise the floor?", Economist Free Exchange-bloggen 27 november 2012

fredag 23 juli 2010

Löneandel och kapitalandel-klipp

"Last year, America's after-tax profits rose to their highest as a proportion of GDP for 75 years; the shares of profit in the euro area and Japan are also close to their highest for at least 25 years. UBS, a Swiss bank, estimates that in the G7 economies as a whole, the share of profits in national income has never been higher. The flip side is that labour's share of the cake has never been lower. So are current profit margins (and hence equity values) sustainable? Are they fair?

Corporate profits may be inflated in various ways. If firms made full provision for the future cost of pensions, their earnings would be smaller. And especially in America, the share of profits in national income has been bolstered by the surging profits of the financial sector which have benefited hugely from falling interest rates. Even so, the impressive efforts of American firms to boost productivity and cut costs are genuine (see article). Firms elsewhere, notably in Japan and Germany, are also restructuring aggressively. The share of profit in GDP always rises sharply after a downturn, but in the United States a bigger slice of the increase in national income this time has gone to profits than in any previous post-war recovery. Over the past three years American corporate profits have risen by 60%, wage income by only 10%.

If the share of wages in GDP continues to slide, there could be a backlash from workers who feel short-changed. Yet the chances of this are lower than before. The old divide between “them” and “us” is becoming blurred: many workers also own shares directly or through pension funds, which sooner or later will give them a slice of profits. In any case, there are good reasons to believe that profits growth will soon slow sharply and that workers will make up some of their lost ground.
there is another factor that might have raised the return on capital relative to labour in a lasting way, namely the integration of China and India into the world economy, along with their vast supply of cheap labour. To the extent that this increases the global ratio of labour to capital, it will lift the relative return to capital. Outsourcing may not have destroyed many jobs in developed economies, but the threat that firms could produce offshore helps to keep a lid on wages. As a result, the share of profits in national income could stay relatively high for a period. Labour's share would remain low, though workers may still be better off if the cake itself is growing faster. But this is not a reason to expect profits to continue to grow faster than GDP; indeed, in a competitive market profit margins will eventually narrow. Even if outsourcing reduces costs, competition will eventually force firms to reduce prices, distributing the benefits back to consumers and workers.

Stockmarket investors seem to think otherwise: current share valuations appear to assume that profits will continue to outpace GDP growth. Most analysts still expect American profits to grow by an annual 10% over the next couple of years. With nominal GDP growth of around 5%, that implies the proportion of GDP going to profits growing still larger. But this looks unlikely, and if so, share prices are overvalued. Both economic theory and historical experience argue that, in the long run, profits grow at the same pace as GDP. Such long-standing rules deserve more respect.
Economist, "Breaking records", 10 februari 2005

"Some years ago, looking at data from the OECD Secretariat, I became concerned about the rather steep fall of labor’s share of Gross Domestic Product in France and Italy among the large economies. Now there is also a discernible fall in Germany and about the same in the U.S. (Evidently the temporary lows in investment activity in the early years of the decade lowered the profit share, which masked the downward trend.)
This is a problem not only because it presages low levels of employment but also because it may augur social problems caused by depressed rewards from work relative to non-wage income. In addition, wage rates at the low end have increased very slowly, if at all, for a couple of decades or more.
This fall in labor’s shares in all or most of the G7 economies is surely linked to the large rise in the trade with Asia and to the new information technologies, the creation of which were facilitated by globalization."
Edmund S. Phelps, "Some costs of globalization", presentation vid ASSA-konferens 7 januari 2006 (pdf)

"'Nothing contributes so much to the prosperity and happiness of a country as high profits,' said David Ricardo, a British economist, in the early 19th century. Today, however, corporate profits are booming in economies, such as Germany's, which have been stagnating. And virtually everywhere, even as profits surge, workers' real incomes have been flat or even falling. In other words, the old relationship between corporate and national prosperity has broken down.

This observation has two sides to it. First, as Stephen King and Janet Henry, of the HSBC bank, point out, companies are no longer tied to the economic conditions and policies of the countries in which they are listed. Firms in Europe are delivering handsome profits that are more in line with the performance of the robust global economy than with that of their sclerotic homelands. In the past two years, the earnings per share of big listed companies have climbed by over 100% in Germany, 50% in France, 70% in Japan and 35% in America. No wonder Europe's and Japan's stockmarkets have outpaced those in America, despite the latter's faster GDP growth.

Second and more worrying, the success of companies no longer guarantees the prosperity of domestic economies or, more particularly, of domestic workers. Fatter profits are supposed to encourage firms to invest more, to offer higher wages and to hire more workers. Yet even though profits' share of national income in the G7 economies is close to an all-time high, corporate investment has been unusually weak in recent years. Companies have been reluctant to increase hiring or wages by as much as in previous recoveries. In America, a bigger slice of the increase in national income has gone to profits than in any recovery since 1945.

The main reason why the health of companies and economies have become detached is that big firms have become more international. The world's 40 biggest multinationals now employ, on average, 55% of their workforces in foreign countries and earn 59% of their revenues abroad. According to an analysis by Patrick Artus, chief economist of IXIS, a French investment bank, only 53% of the staff of companies in the DAX 30 stockmarket index are based in Germany; and only one-third of those firms' total turnover comes from there. Only 43% of all the jobs at companies in France's CAC 40 are in France. With the profits of these firms so dependent on their global operations, it is not surprising that corporate prosperity has failed to spur 'home' economies."
Economist, "Decoupled", 23 februari 2006

"CAPITALISTS are in clover. Profits have soared since the dark days of 2001 and companies are so flush with cash that they are buying back their own shares, merging and acquiring each other as if the good times will never end.

A Marxist would say this is a classic case of big business exploiting the workers. Funnily enough, some out-and-out capitalist economists would agree. They argue that profits in America, for example, are at a 40-year high as a percentage of GDP precisely because capital is winning at the expense of labour. Globalisation has brought the Indian and Chinese workforces into the world economy, which has kept the lid on wage costs. That has allowed the economy and profits to grow, without the kind of pay-and-price spiral that occurred in the 1970s.

That is the theory, at least. But economists have always been tempted to dream up grand theories for trends that are just part of the economic cycle. Profits are very dependent on whether the economy is expanding or contracting: businesses have fixed costs and when demand is strong, revenues rise faster than costs; when demand is weak, they fall faster.

So the reason American profits have been remarkably strong may originate closer to home than in Shanghai. Nick Carn, a strategist at Odey, a hedge-fund group, says it is pretty simple: companies' revenues are determined by the pace of consumer spending; their costs are largely driven by wages. Profits have grown because Americans have borrowed money to spend more than they have been earning. This cannot continue forever.

Another reason why profits cannot remain permanently high is the iron discipline of capitalism itself. If returns on capital are high, then new companies will emerge to take advantage of this. And as existing businesses invest more capital, eventually more competition will drive profits back down."
Economist Buttonwood, "By the sweat of their brows", 30 november 2006

"In its semi-annual World Economic Outlook, the IMF examines how trade, technology and immigration have stitched the world's labour markets together at an astonishing rate, leaving rich-country workers unsure of where they stand. Weighting each country's workforce by its ratio of exports to GDP, the IMF estimates that global labour supply has in effect risen fourfold since 1980 as China, India and once-communist countries have opened up. Most of the extra workers got no further than secondary school (although the relative supply of graduates has gone up by 50%). With this surge of competition, you might expect labour's share of the pie to shrink.

In some cases, the competition is direct: workers cross borders to take jobs in rich countries. Although unwelcome in many places, immigrants' share of the workforce has risen a lot in some European countries (notably Britain, Germany and Italy) and in America, where it is close to 15%. The more important channel, though, is trade: largely because of China, developing countries' share of rich countries' manufacturing imports has doubled since the early 1990s. “Offshoring”—shifting production, especially of intermediate goods and some services, abroad—has been on the rise, although the IMF notes that it has grown more slowly than total trade.

Globalisation is not the only possible reason why labour's share has shrunk. New technologies have probably taken a few degrees off the workers' slice too. Several countries have also fiddled with labour-market regulation, pushing the wage share one way or the other.

The IMF has made perhaps the most valiant attempt so far to weigh these competing explanations. It is impossible to disentangle technology and globalisation entirely: advances in telecommunications, for example, are what enable Indian software engineers and call-centre workers to serve customers in America and Europe. That caveat noted, the fund's results, for 18 countries split into four groups, are shown in the chart.

It finds that both technological change and the globalisation of labour markets have depressed labour's share in all four groups. For the 18 countries as a whole, reckons the IMF, technology has mattered more. However, there are marked differences among them.

Technological change had the biggest effect in Europe and Japan. In Anglo-Saxon countries (America, Australia, Britain and Canada) it was much smaller. In America, indeed, technology seems to have raised labour's share. The fund thinks this may reflect America's lead in using information technology. When a country first exploits IT, labour's share of the national cake goes down. As time goes by, though, workers adjust and learn. Once their skills match the technology better, their productivity and their share go up.

The effects of labour globalisation were most evident in Anglo-Saxon and small European countries. However, it has touched different places in different ways. In Europe the effects of offshoring and immigration have been more marked than in the Anglo-Saxon world; in Japan they have scarcely registered. The labour-intensive goods that rich countries import have fallen in price, pressing down on the workers' share. But this has been broadly offset by price falls in the capital-intensive goods they export. In Japan these prices fell by enough to yield an overall net gain in the labour share."
Economist, "Smaller shares, bigger slices", 4 april 2007

"in 2006 American profits achieved their highest share of GDP since the second world war. /.../
In terms of operating earnings, the best calendar year for the S&P 500 was 2006, when profits reached $88 a share. According to Citigroup, which has just raised its forecasts, earnings will not regain that level until 2013. The current era rather resembles the biblical dream of seven lean years.

Tim Lee of pi Economics reckons that American profits may be depressed for some time, because the country is headed for a prolonged period of slow growth. This argument depends on a number of assumptions. Is America headed for slow growth and, if so, why? One reason could be a demographic shift, with baby boomers dropping out of the workforce; if labour becomes more scarce, real wages will rise, at the expense of profit margins.

However, other nations are in a worse demographic position. In addition, the conventional explanation for the high share of profits in 2006 was the downward pressure on wages arising from the growing Chinese manufacturing labour force, a factor that is unlikely to disappear soon. /.../

Mr Lee says slower growth implies a lower return on assets and thus subdued profits. Indeed, a casual look at the ratio of corporate profits to net assets since the early 1950s shows two peaks: in the mid-1960s and late-1990s, both periods of robust growth. The lows for the ratio came in the stagflationary 1970s."
Economist Buttonwood, "A fair share", 27 augusti 2009

jfr 16 maj 2010, "Lindgren och Linder och löneandelen"; 9 juli 2009 "Ett försök till Freeman-Robinson-syntes"; 20 juli 2009 Sven Oskarsson-citat om globalisering och relationen arbete-kapital.

Uppdatering 28 april 2011
Buttonwood-kolumnisten i Economist konstaterade förra månaden att efter krisens botten har en anmärkningsvärt stor del av den åter växande kakan gått till profiter. Detta sätts också in i ett långsiktigare perspektiv: "Wages still account for a much greater slice of income than profits, but labour’s share has been in decline across the OECD since 1980."
Economist Buttonwood, "Marx, Mervyn or Mario?", 24 mars 2011

Uppdatering 12 juli 2011
Tony Jackson spekulerar i sin senaste kolumn i FT om de uppdrivna vinstmarginalerna och om huruvida det nu finns strukturella faktorer som kommer ta ner vinstmarginalerna igen.
Han åberopar en ny rapport från Morgan Stanleys "Europa-analytiker" (vilka?) som hävdar att två faktorer som ligger bakom den ökade vinstandelen i de rika länderna de senaste trettio åren är a) lägre räntor och skattesänkningar, och b) teknologi, outsourcing och fallande råvarupriser.
Jackson, "Forces behind margins may be on the wane", FT 11 juli

Uppdatering 8 augusti 2011

New York Times konstaterar att vinsterna som andel av BNP nadde sin hogsta andel nagonsin i USA ar 2010, och att lonernas andel (alltsa oraknat benefits/fringisar) for forsta gangen sjonk under 50 procent.
Floyd Norris, "As Corporate Profits Rise, Workers' Income Decline", NY Times 5 augusti

Uppdatering 23 oktober
Peter Orszag, "As Kaldor's Facts Fall, Occupy Wall Street Rises", Bloomberg 19 oktober
Mike Konczal, "Labor Share, Long-Term Trends and Financial Crises", Rortybomb 20 oktober

Uppdatering 27 april 2012
Lawrence Mishel på Economic Policy Institute har två nya papers - ett mer formellt, ett mer informellt - ute om urkopplingen mellan produktivitetsutvecklingen och kompensationsutvecklingen i USA:s ekonomi. Han bloggar om det nyare, mer informella pappret:
"the paper identifies the relative importance of three wedges driving the median compensation-productivity gap: 1) rising compensation inequality, 2) declining share of labor compensation in the economy (the shift from labor to capital income), and 3) divergence of consumer and output prices. /.../
The most important factor in the 2000-11 era was the decline in labor’s share of income and the corresponding increase in capital’s income share. In contrast, the period of sharply rising productivity and falling unemployment in the late 1990s saw a rise in labor’s share of income. Growing inequality of compensation was very important throughout the 1979 to 2011 period. Growing inequality of compensation and the erosion of labor’s income share are the key overall drivers of the wedge between productivity and median compensation, accounting for two-thirds of the wedge since 1973 and about 85 percent of the wedge since 2000. These factors, in turn, reflect the various ways that the typical worker has lost bargaining power in the economy over the last three decades: excessive unemployment, eroded labor market institutions such as the minimum wage and unions, globalization, deregulation of industries, privatization, and the rising power of finance. The third factor, the fact that output prices (covering investment, exports, imports, government as well as consumption)  grew more slowly than the prices of consumer purchases—sometimes labeled a deterioration in “labor’s terms of trade”—was evident throughout most of the last three decades and was most important in the 1970s and least important in the 2000s."
Mishel, "Understanding the wedge between productivity and median compensation growth", 26 april

Uppdatering 27 juni 2012
"From the late 1970s, the capitalist model underwent another transformation, one characterised by a backward shift in the way the proceeds of growth were divided. By 2007, the share of output going to wages had fallen to 53 per cent in the UK. In the US, the fruits of growth became even more unevenly divided, with the workforce ending up with an even smaller share of the economic cake. There were similar, if shallower trends in most rich nations.
This process of decoupling wages from output has led to a growing “wage-output gap”, with a very profound, and negative, impact on the way economies function. This is for three key reasons. First, by cutting the purchasing power needed to buy the extra output being produced, the long wage squeeze brought domestic and global deflation. Consumer societies started to lose the capacity to consume. The solution to this problem – which would have brought a prolonged recession much earlier – was to allow an explosion in private debt to fill the demand gap./.../

Second, the intensified concentration of income led to the growth of a tidal wave of global footloose capital – a mix of corporate surpluses and burgeoning personal wealth. According to the pro-inequality theorists, these growing surpluses should have led to a boom in productive investment. Instead, they ended up fuelling commodity speculation, financial engineering and hostile corporate raids, activity geared more to transferring existing rather than creating new wealth and reinforcing the shift towards greater inequality. Little of this benefitted the real economy. /.../

Third, the effect of these trends has been to intensify the concentration of power with wealth and economic decision-making heavily concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority. In the US, such is the concentration of income, 5 per cent of earners account for 35 per cent of all consumer spending. A new elite has been able to exercise their muscle to ensure that economic policies work in their interest. Hence the inaction on tax havens, the blind-eye approach to tax avoidance and the scaling back of regulations on the City and Wall Street, policies that have simultaneously accentuated the risk of economic failure."
Stewart Lansley, "Inequality, the Crash and the Crisis, Part 2: A model of capitalism that fails to share the fruits of growth", OECD Insights-bloggen

Uppdatering 25 juli
"The irony here is that a high share of GDP for profits automatically results in a low share for wages and thus may eventually be self-limiting—a positively Marxist outcome."
Buttonwood, "Capital gains", Economist 21 juli

Dokumentär om arbetare i Buffalo, NY

Buffalo är delstaten New Yorks näst största stad med 1,2 miljoner invånare i regionen, och en gammal industristad, numera i rostbältet. När jag var på konferens på State University of New York at Stony Brook för en månad sedan, såg jag bland annat en intressant, fängslande film om arbetare på minimilöner i Buffalo idag. Filmen 'Round the Clock, producerad av civilsamhällegruppen Coalition for Economic Justice, följer och intervjuar en sopgubbe, en undersköterska, en skolbussassistent och en ambulanstekniker i Buffalo med fokus på deras (låga) löner och anställningsförhållanden. Hela filmen kan ses på nätet genom sidan Vimeo.

'ROUND THE CLOCK: BUFFALO WORKERS AND THE FIGHT FOR JOBS WITH JUSTICE (16:26) by Christine Zinni from Squeaky Wheel on Vimeo.

Jag tycker att filmen ger en fascinerande inblick i arbets- och livsförhållanden för arbetarklassen i en US-amerikansk stad. I Sveriges politiska och ekonomiska diskussioner tas USA:s "liberala samhällsmodell" upp som ett alternativ, som en förebild eller som en skräckbild. Den diskussionen blir ofta rätt "förkortad" - förenklande, övergeneraliserande. Jag tänker då framför allt på två aspekter: a) att man överdriver hur konsekvent USA:s samhälle är som "liberalt"*. b) att USA förstås är ett väldigt stort land med stora skillnader mellan delstater och städer.

'Round the Clock ger en lokal inblick i en aspekt av USA:s "liberala" arbetsmarknad med svaga fackföreningar. Inte minst var det förhållandena för renhållningsarbetarna/sopgubbarna som jag fastnade för, utifrån intervjuerna med Abraham McKinney. Många av dem sägs upp två gånger om året så att de inte ska räknas som tillsvidareanställda, deras lön sätts unilateralt av företaget, och de har ingen sjukförsäkring, ingen semester, ingenting. Upp till 2008 tjänade de, enligt filmen, $8,15 i timmen.

Inkomstspridningen är större i USA än i Sverige, det vet vi: vi kan kolla på gini, vi kan kolla på 90/50-relationer eller kvintiler eller vad det nu är. Men med just sådana lokala exempel som en viss yrkesgrupp i en viss stad, som renhållningsarbetare i Buffalo, konkretiseras makro-siffrorna och blir mänskliga.
*Jfr t ex Fred Block, The Hidden Developmental State in the United States-projektet.

Enligt Wake Up (pdf) tjänar en genomsnittlig Wal Mart-anställd i USA år 2009 $11,24 i timmen.

onsdag 21 juli 2010

Rodrik om "marknadens förtroende"

"A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of 'market confidence.'

It may have been fear of communism that agitated governments when Karl Marx penned the opening line of his famous manifesto in 1848, but today it is the dread that market sentiment will turn against them and drive up the spreads on their bonds. Governments all over are being forced into premature fiscal retrenchment, even though unemployment remains very high and private demand shows few signs of life. Many are driven to undertake structural reforms that they don’t really believe in – just because it would look bad to markets to do otherwise.
if economic logic were clear-cut, governments wouldn’t have to justify what they do on the basis of market confidence. It would be evident which policies work and which do not, and pursuing the 'right' policies would be the surest way to restore confidence. The pursuit of market confidence would be superfluous.

So, if market confidence has a meaning, it must be something that is not pinned down simply by economic fundamentals. But what is it?

In his Communist Manifesto, Marx went on to say that it is 'high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the specter of Communism with a Manifesto of the party itself.' Similarly, it would be nice if markets would clarify what they mean by 'confidence' so that we would all know what we are really dealing with.

Of course, 'markets' are unlikely to do any such thing. This is not just because markets comprise a multitude of investors and speculators who are unlikely ever to get together to publish a 'party program,' but more fundamentally because markets have little clue themselves.

A government’s capacity and willingness to service its debt depend on an almost infinite number of present and future contingencies. They depend not just on its tax and spending plans but also on the state of the economy, the external conjuncture, and the political context. All of these are highly uncertain, and require many assumptions to reach some form of judgment about creditworthiness.

Today, markets seem to think that large fiscal deficits are the greatest threat to government solvency. Tomorrow they may think the real problem is low growth, and rue the tight fiscal policies that helped produce it.

Today, they worry about spineless governments unable to take the tough actions needed to deal with the crisis. Perhaps tomorrow they will lose sleep over the mass demonstrations and social conflicts that tough economic policies have spawned.

Few can predict which way market sentiment will move, least of all market participants themselves. Even with hindsight, it is sometimes not clear why markets go one way and not the other. Similar policies will produce different market reactions depending on the prevailing story, or fad of the moment. That is why steering the economy by the dictates of market confidence is a fool’s errand.

The silver lining in all this is that, unlike economists and politicians, markets have no ideology. As long as they make money they do not care if they have to eat their words. They simply want whatever 'works'—whatever will produce a stable, healthy economic environment conducive to debt repayment. When circumstances become dire enough, they will even condone debt restructuring—if the alternative is chaos and the prospect of a greater loss.

This opens up some room for governments to maneuver. It permits self-confident political leaders to take charge of their own future. It allows them to shape the narrative that underpins market confidence, rather than play catch-up.

But to make good use of this maneuvering room, policymakers need to articulate a coherent, consistent, and credible account of what they are doing, based on both good economics and good politics. They have to say: 'we are doing this not because the markets demand it, but because it is good for us and here is why.'"
Dani Rodrik, "The market confidence bugaboo", Project Syndicate 12 juli

Jfr Dino Viscovi, Marknaden som mönster och monster (avhandling, 2006).

Uppdatering 17 april 2012
"If I wanted to be unkind, I might suggest that these [market] pundits want to appear like high priests, with a unique ability to understand the mysterious mind of the market. As high priests have discovered over and over again, if you can convince people that you have a direct line to an otherwise mysterious but powerful deity, you can do rather well for yourself. And sometimes financial markets can appear a bit like vengeful gods, capable of sudden acts of destructive anger that appear to come from nowhere.
If I wanted to ratchet up the unkindness I could go on as follows. It is in the priest’s interest to tell the faithful that the god is indeed quite fickle in its mood, and while placid at the moment, it could turn nasty at the slightest provocation. Keep those offerings coming, to make sure that the god stays happy (and don’t think about where those offerings go). If you are particularly generous, the priest will promise to give you the heads up if any changes in mood are imminent. If you cannot be a priest yourself, you can always set up as an advisor (HT DeLong), who will tell people which priests have a better line to the financial market god. /.../ 
The importance of confidence can be overdone, as it is often a symptom rather than a prime cause. To treat financial markets or the economy as a whole as always behaving like a vengeful god whose mood and confidence can ebb and flow at the slightest provocation is not the way to make good policy. " 
Simon Wren-Lewis, "The Financial Market as a Vengeful God", 12 april

torsdag 8 juli 2010

Hur påverkas ungdomsbrottslighetens nivå av offentliga utgifter ("icke välfärdens kärna" etc)?

Folk som gillar välfärdsstaten hävdar ofta att välfärdsstatliga utlägg på utbud av fritidsaktiviteter samt skola för ungdomar minskar brottslighet och andra sociala problem. Vad finns det för empiri på den frågan? Lars Lindvall erbjuder ett paper i sin avhandling.
"Essay 3 studies, using Swedish municipal panel data, the effects of leisure and school expenditures on the rate of four ‘typical’ youth crimes; robbery, moped theft, assault and graffiti. The low aggregation level of crime data coupled with small populations in many municipalities bring out the discrete nature of crime data, which motivates a count data framework for the analysis. Departing from an exponential model specification, three different estimators are discussed and employed; pooled Poisson, fixed effects Poisson and quasi-differenced GMM. Controlling for demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, the essay finds statistically significant effects from overall municipal leisure related expenditures on three of the four crimes. Moreover, the effects differ between the crimes and types of municipalities. No effects are found from upper secondary school expenditures, however."
Lars Lindvall, Public Expenditures and Youth Crime (doktorsavhandling i nationalekonomi, Uppsala universitet 2006), pdf

UPPDATERING 29 december 2010
Mer om samband mellan sociala faktorer och brottslighet: Bradford Plumer, "Crime Conundrum: Why are rates of violence and theft falling in the recession?", The New Republic 22 december 2010

Marglin om löner

Ungdomars och invandrades inträde på arbets-marknaden 1985–2003
Marx talade om “subsistence wage” som en jämviktsnivå för den outbildade arbetaren: subsistensnivå, som vad han eller hon inte kan leva under. Denna nivå var till viss del naturlig – utan mat, kläder och boende kan man rent fysiskt inte överleva – men bara till viss del. Vidare var subsistensnivån socialt bestämd, menade Marx. I olika samhällen finns olika delade normer för vad en människa behöver för konsumtion. Marx menade att lönenivåer bestäms av subsistensnivån plus klasskampen.

Harvardekonomen Stephen Marglin har använt en makroekonomisk modell som bygger på en kombination av Marx och 1950- och 60-talens Cambridgeskola – Kalecki, Robinson och Kaldor. I sin analys av efterkrigstidens ”gyllene år” formulerar Marglin sin löneteori så här: 

”it is not primarily through the demand of labour, as mainstream theory would have it, that productivity has affected wages. Rather, it is through the cultural assumption, common to the advanced capitalist countries, that workers may, by right, lay claim to a share of productivity growth. Community standards combine with the power of the working class to dictate that real wages should rise roughly with productivity.” (1990, s 28)
Stephen Marglin, “Lessons of the Golden Age: An Overview”, i Marglin och Judith B. Schor (eds), The Golden Age of Capitalism: Reinterpreting the Postwar Experience (Clarendon Press, 1990)

Lewis (1954) “unlimited supply of labour”

tisdag 6 juli 2010

Företags profiter och sparande

Mycket diskussion nu om stort företagssparande ffa i USA. Yves Smith och Rob Parenteau har en intressant op-ed i NYT om detta:
"Over the past decade and a half, corporations have been saving more and investing less in their own businesses. A 2005 report from JPMorgan Research noted with concern that, since 2002, American corporations on average ran a net financial surplus of 1.7 percent of the gross domestic product — a drastic change from the previous 40 years, when they had maintained an average deficit of 1.2 percent of G.D.P. More recent studies have indicated that companies in Europe, Japan and China are also running unprecedented surpluses.

The reason for all this saving in the United States is that public companies have become obsessed with quarterly earnings. To show short-term profits, they avoid investing in future growth. To develop new products, buy new equipment or expand geographically, an enterprise has to spend money — on marketing research, product design, prototype development, legal expenses associated with patents, lining up contractors and so on.

Rather than incur such expenses, companies increasingly prefer to pay their executives exorbitant bonuses, or issue special dividends to shareholders, or engage in purely financial speculation. But this means they also short-circuit a major driver of economic growth."
Yves Smith & Rob Parenteau, "Are Profits Hurting Capitalism?", New York Times 2 juli

Se också spencer på Angry Bear, "Labor's Share", Angry Bear 27 okt 2009

Minskande ojämlikhet i Brasilien

"The statistics of social progress in Brazil are remarkable. The number of people living in poverty has fallen by 20m under Lula, from 49.5m (or 28.5% of the total) in 2003 to 29m (16% of the total) in 2008, according to calculations by Marcelo Neri, a social-policy expert at the Fundaçao Getulio Vargas, a university. Although the world recession and its brief impact in Brazil temporarily halted the progress, it did not reverse it. Using different criteria, Ricardo Paes de Barros of the Institute for Applied Economic Research, a government-linked body, paints a similar picture. He finds that the number of Brazilians too poor to feed themselves properly has fallen from 17% of the population in 2003 to 8.8% in 2008.

Levelling the playing field
At the same time Brazil’s notoriously unequal distribution of income is becoming a bit less so. The Gini coefficient, a standard statistical measure of inequality, has fallen steadily since 2001 (though it remains very high by international standards). Over that period the income of the poorest 10% of the population has grown at 8% a year, while that of the richest tenth has grown at only 1.5% a year, according to Mr Paes de Barros.

In various ways Brazil is starting to become a more homogeneous society. Regional inequality has been diminishing, too: average income in the poor north-east has been growing faster than the national average. A majority of Brazilians (some 52%, up from 44% in 2002) now belong to what marketers call social class C, or the lower-middle class, meaning that they have a monthly household income of between 1,064 and 4,561 reais.

This progress stems from a mixture of faster economic growth and government policies. Though there is debate about the details, around half of the fall in poverty comes from higher income from employment. Better social policy accounts for a big share of the fall in inequality—or at least of the narrowing of the bottom of the pyramid. Bolsa Família has been particularly effective in helping the poorest.

How much of the credit does Lula deserve for all this? His government turned Bolsa Família from a small-scale experiment into the world’s biggest conditional cash-transfer programme. He also raised the minimum wage by two-and-a-half times since 2003, taking its purchasing power to its highest level since 1979. This has not destroyed jobs: some 13m new jobs in the formal (ie, legally registered) economy have been created since 2003. Lula is also proud of a government programme under which 12m people in rural areas have gained access to electricity, and another programme that provides subsidised housing for the poor. Above all, the polls suggest, he has given poorer Brazilians a new sense both of self-esteem and that their government is not just for the rich."
Economist, "In Lula's footstep", 1 juli

Jfr 11 februari, "Liberalism i Brasilien"
Jfr om partisan effects, "Presidentval och ekonomisk utveckling i USA", 15 juli 2008.
Jfr 27 april, "Indiens ekonomiska politik: pro-poor growth?"

Economist fortsätter att skriva om framsteg i Brasilien. Senast i en briefing om landets program, Bolsa Família, som ger familjer bidrag avhängiga att man har kvar barnen i skolan och går till hälsokontroller. Världsbanken kallar, enligt artikeln, programmet "a model of effective social policy".
Economist, "How to get children out of jobs and into school", 31 juli

Jordreform för ökad jämlikhet (från extremt ojämlik nivå) på gång i Colombia:
"The government of Juan Manuel Santos, who took over from Álvaro Uribe as president last month, wants to restore this land. Officials are careful to avoid calling the new effort a land reform, a policy that failed in the past. But if it achieves even half of what it sets out to, it will amount to a revolution in rural Colombia.

Extremely unequal land ownership is both a cause and a consequence of the political conflicts that have plagued Colombia for decades. In 1954 fewer than 24,000 people (or 3% of landowners) held 55% of all farmland; by 2005, 16,350 landowners (0.4% of the total) held 62.6% of the land, whereas about 3.3m smallholders owned just 8.8%, according to official figures. Drug traffickers and paramilitaries (often the same people) snatched huge tracts of rural land in the 1980s and 1990s to launder their profits in what amounted to a violent and illegal agrarian 'counter-reform'."
Economist, "This land is our land", 18 september 2010

UPPD. 18 mars 2011
Joe Leahy har en helsida i FT i onsdags om upptäckter av olja i Brasilien och farhågor att landet ska drabbas av "Dutch disease" eller en "resource curse". Han skriver att regeringen etablerat en sovereign wealth fund att ta hand om oljepengarna, och som ska investera i långsiktigt bra saker som infrastruktur och utbildning.
Dilma Rouseff har nyligen genomfört en lag som garanterar facklig representation i styrelserna för statsägda företag.
Joe Leahy, "Platform for growth", Financial Times 16 mars 2011

Uppdatering 21 juli 2011
Joe Leahy har ännu en gång en helsida i FT om Brasilien; denna gång är fokus problem i lulismen. De samhällsekonomiska problem som Leahy pekar på är att Brasiliens tillväxt de senaste åren i hög grad främjats av en global råvaruboom, (för Brasilien relevant är att priserna på t ex soja och järnmalm ökat kraftigt) och att trots denna gynnsamma situation sparande och investeringar ligger på en för låg nivå. En ekonom på Capital Economics i London säger: "The longer it continues to grow like this, the harder the adjustment will be as and when it does come - and it inevitably will at some point. So we are now kind of in the realm of soft versus hard landing." Inflationstakten är tämligen hög på 6,8 procent och skuldsättningen är också hög, vilket hänger ihop med konsumtionsboomen.
Leahy, "Credit to redeem", FT 13 juli