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Weekly Link Roundup 12.11

This week roundup is more concerned with economy, specifically with the Greek elections and the problem of debt. Alan Taylor’s photographic blogs has a collection of portraits depicting students who couldn’t find a job related to the diplomas they earned. Meanwhile a German bank issued a credit card with a portrait of Karl Mark printed on it (by popular demand, no less). There’s also a trailer for the upcoming documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. And if all this sounds too bleak, one can still read a colorful interview with Slavoj Žižek who was once described as “the Borat of philosophy”.

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  • Greece was the center of attention this week as commentators and analysts were trying to predict the outcome of a new parliamentary election. On Sunday June 17th, 2012, Greeks voted for the second time in six weeks, choosing the party that support a bailout though by a very slim margin. Slim was also the relief this victory provided to observers as well as to the financial market. The fact is an economic crisis still threatens many important countries in Europe and, by association, the whole world economy. Here are some relevant links collected during the week:

  • Michael Hudson: “Debts that can’t be paid, won’t be” April 10, 2012.

    A common denominator runs throughout recorded history: a rising proportion of debts cannot be paid. Adam Smith remarked that no government ever had repaid its debt, and today the same can be said of the overall volume of private-sector debt. One way or another, there will be defaults – unless debts are paid in an illusory fashion, simply by adding the interest charges onto the debt balance until the sums finally grow to so fictitious a magnitude that the illusion of viability has to be dropped.

    But freeing an economy from illusion may be a traumatic event. The great policy question therefore concerns just how the various types of debts won’t be paid. The choice is between forfeiting property to foreclosing creditors, or writing debts down at least to the ability to pay, and possibly all the way down to make a fresh start. Somebody must lose, and their loss will appear on the other side of the balance sheet as another party’s gain. Debtors lose when they have to forfeit their property or cut back other spending pay their debts. Creditors lose when the debts are written down or go bad.

    Michael Hudson is a Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Missouri, the author of a number of books on economy and the President of The Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends. He also acts as “an economic advisor to governments worldwide including Iceland, Latvia and China on finance and tax law”. (About).

  • The Atlantic – In Focus: “Not Where They Hoped They’d Be” by Alan Taylor, June 15, 2012 (17 photos).

    Reuters recently assigned a number of photographers to capture images of a struggling generation. The result is this series of portraits of graduates from around the world who have been unable to find work in their degree fields and have ended up in poorly paid service industry jobs. Although their current positions may be disappointing, the subjects in these photos may count themselves lucky to have any job at all — the International Labor Organization estimates the number of people aged 15 to 24 without a job at almost 75 million. From a cook in Athens with a degree in civil engineering to a waiter in Algiers with a masters in corporate finance, these young people have spent years studying hard to compete in the 21st century, only to discover that even the most desirable qualifications mean little in a distressed global economy.

    Francesca Baldi, 32, as she cares for a seven month-old baby in a private household in Rome, on May 11, 2012. Baldi studied for five years at university in Pisa where she received a degree and a doctorate in literature and philosophy. She hoped to find a job as a teacher but has been working in child care for five months. (Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi)

  • Reuters: “Karl Marx bank cards prove hit in eastern Germany”, June 15, 2012.

    Master Card with Karl Marx portrait

  • Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry a documentary by Alison Klayman. Watch the trailer below and visit the official website for more information.

  • The Guardian: “Slavoj Žižek: ‘Humanity is OK, but 99% of people are boring idiots’” by Decca Aitkenhead, June 10, 2012.

    “I always emphasise: don’t expect this from me. I don’t think that the task of a guy like me is to propose complete solutions. When people ask me what to do with the economy, what the hell do I know? I think the task of people like me is not to provide answers but to ask the right questions.” He’s not against democracy, per se, he just thinks our democratic institutions are no longer capable of controlling global capitalism. “Nice consensual incremental reforms may work, possibly, at a local level.” But localism belongs in the same category as organic apples, and recycling. “It’s done to make you feel good. But the big question today is how to organise to act globally, at an immense international level, without regressing to some authoritarian rule.”

    Slavoj Z iz ek at his hom 008