Tag Archives: Economics

SFD Short—Monopolies

SFD Short—Monopolies
Safe For Democracy

00:00 / 34:02

It’s the last of all news shows, folks, and it’s barely newsy at all. We’re talking about monopolies in the American economy, which was, incidentally, the subject of Robert Reich’s last book, Saving Capitalism.

The show explains itself, and as it promises, here’s some graphs for you:

This is an Econ 101 graph of perfect competition. S is supply, D is demand, MC is marginal cost, and P is price. Then we’ve got something more complicated, monopoly:

MR is marginal revenue, MC is marginal cost again, ATC is average total cost. Without getting into the technical stuff, which you can find right here, a monopoly produces quantity where marginal costs are equal to marginal revenue for units produced, that’s line Q1, but they charge price P, much higher than what would be determined in perfect competition, and they take home the difference as profit.

Likewise, since for monopolies, the marginal cost curve acts as the supply curve, everything in that triangle that says deadweight loss is product that the firm would have produced in perfect competition but now does not.

I’m not even going to try to type this one out, but here’s a video.

Liberal Arts, Again

Liberal Arts, Again
Safe For Democracy

00:00 / 33:10

I’ve been saying, for longer than it was exactly true, that everything’s bad and it’s only getting worse. The world’s come around to my point of view though, and at least in the US, almost a year out now from the inauguration, it certainly seems to be going that way. The President’s interviews, when anybody can work up the stomach to go read them, are getting less and less coherent all the time; the man’s tweets more unhinged; the Mueller investigation ever closer even as the Republican Congress shows itself totally unwilling to accept the results and Republicans in investigatory committees complicit in covering up wrongdoing. The country’s shaking itself apart up top, and while the reason those people are there might well be down to grand historical forces, the stuff they’re doing now that they’ve arrived is down to deeply broken humanities and very personal failures.

I think some of that’s down to education, and like all people who think a problem’s due to lack of schooling, I think it’s down to the right or wrong kind of education, and that’s what we’ll get to in this show.

Liberal Arts is the previous show on this subject, and Liberal Arts is the previous essay.

Musical credit to Ryan Little this time out.



00:00 / 26:34

Hey Everybody—

The folks on Patreon have voted the news shows into wider circulation, so they’ll be coming out either regularly or when we have a blank Monday to fill. That should make it easier for anybody who wasn’t into listening on Patreon (and who really wants, no sarcasm, to leave their podcast app to hit play on an actual website) and, obviously, for everybody else, to hear them.

Today we’ve got what was September’s show, but have no fear: even if the news isn’t super fresh, the question it addresses is still up in the air and the essay that’s the real heart of the show is evergreen.

I’m not on hiatus this month as much as just trying to be up front about a possibly mixed ability to hit my release dates. But I’m taking my mic home with me, so we might get every week done anyway.

One last thing here that I didn’t think to mention in the intro but that I’ll work in at some point is that I’ve put together an Amazon wishlist. I hopefully won’t need to purchase any of these books (because hopefully I’ll track them down in a library), but Amazon makes it easy to put together and share a list. So, this is pretty much the full, ideal wrap-up to all the reading I’ve already done on Vietnam. It’s a fascinating set of books. And I’m still working out how to get my mitts on a bunch of period RAND Corp documents. I’ll keep the few interested posted.

Alright, enjoy the show guys (and as promised, here below, an easier explainer on comparative advantage).

Goethe’s Oak

I’m running a day late this week, mostly due to hangover, but I’ve got an excuse. This was a three day weekend in Mexico, commemorating the birthday of what wasn’t their first president, or even their first republican president, but what was, because of a messy political century from 1820 to 1920 or so, their first real republican, democratic president, and the first indigenous president elected anywhere in Latin America.

Viva Juarez.

Another EO

We only got one real new executive order last week. The new travel ban was actually written two weeks ago, and since it was stopped by a federal court as soon as it was supposed to go into effect, until the next wrinkle on that shakes out, the one worth paying attention to is EO 13781, the “Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch.”

The EO, on its face, appears to be pretty tame, and definitely to appeal to the folks who got POTUS elected. It directs the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, who puts together the budget for the executive branch, to:

…submit to the President a proposed plan to reorganize the executive branch in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of agencies. The proposed plan shall include, as appropriate, recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and to merge functions. The proposed plan shall include recommendations for any legislation or administrative measures necessary to achieve the proposed reorganization.


Continue reading Goethe’s Oak

Aftermath Part IV

Aftermath Part IV

00:00 / 2:09:19


Hey guys.

Welcome to the fifth episode of Safe for Democracy, the podcast about the foreign policy disasters of the United States in the 20th century.

This is the fourth part of a series exploring the violent aftermath of the US-backed coup against Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, which was itself the subject of the first show.


Maybe some photos this time for context?


Up at the top there is General Efraín Ríos Montt, found guilty of genocide, hanging out with Ronald Reagan, who once said that the Guatemalan government had gotten a “bad rap” from the liberal press.

Reagan went on to give the man tens of million dollars in arms.


Here we’ve got what’s basically the letterhead of the EGP, the Ejercito Guerrillero de los Pobres, or the Guerrilla Army of the Poor. Their actual emblem is up at the top left, Che Guevara’s Korda Photograph in high relief with EGP down at the bottom.

It’s not easy to see from college campuses in the US, but actual revolutionaries also revered Ernesto. Especially appropriate since Che participated in the Agrarian Reform in the 1950s, and it was the US coup in 1954 that convinced him that the only way forward against imperial powers like the US was armed revolutionary action.


This is the emblem of the Organización del Pueblo en Armas, or the Organization of the People in Arms. I’m no expert in Guatemalan culture, but if its mythology is anything like Mexico’s, the volcano is a deeply national and deeply indigenous symbol of power and strength.


Continue reading Aftermath Part IV

So What About the Why?

So the podcast has been out for about twelve weeks now, and I’ve gotten a couple of scattered comments and responses on two different subjects that I think, in the end, come to the same thing.

And I think they’re valid and I think they’re important.

So I’m going to talk about them.

This is me
Big surprise, right?

The first suggestion is that I ought to make an effort, in the podcast, to avoid offending listeners who might come from somewhere further to the right on the political spectrum. And the second is that I ought to be getting more into why all this happened, why the government of the United States was somehow invested in these terrible goings-on in Guatemala. It’ll take a while for my responses to come back around and meet each other, but bear with me.

In response to the first thing, I guess I’d ask a question. Is it that the show is partisan? Or could it be that listeners are coming to the show with a pre-existing and  implicitly partisan complaint?

Because the only way that the show could immediately turn you off is if you were under the impression that the US could do literally no wrong.

Credit NBC — Safe for Democracy
Which is tough, right?

I could try to emphasize at the beginning of every episode that Democratic presidents were just as culpable as Republican ones or vice-versa, but that would put the show in the “fairness” business, and it’s not in the fairness business. It’s in the history business.

Continue reading So What About the Why?