I talk to scientist Bjoern Brembs about the problems with proprietary journal companies control over scientific publishing. We imagine a better world of open science that is technologically feasible, discuss the German consortium negotiation with the journal companies, and think about what academics could start to do in this world about the problem.
For various reasons I found myself with several hours on public transit and with Raj Patel’s fine book “The Value of Nothing” in hand. I really liked a few things about it. First, it’s a very readable summary of a lot of economic theories (and ideologies) that guide policies today. For a more mathematical treatment of these I really like Steve Keen’s “Debunking Economics” which is recommended by Jonathan Nitzan, another very interesting political economist who argues that money is the commodification of power, and makes the argument utilizing some interesting analyses of data.
Yesterday’s headlines in Toronto newspapers were about how Rob Ford and City Council repealed the $60 vehicle registration tax. The Toronto Sun went as far as painting a beard on a picture of Ford, calling him Santa, and referring to the tax repeal as a christmas gift to Toronto. Another advance against the war on the car. Toronto’s progressive councillors, according to the reports, voted with Ford and apologized for implementing the tax in the first place. At the end of the reports, there was a statement about how Ford promised he would make up the $64 million shortfall in revenue without “major” cuts.
The things populist politicians promise – balanced budgets, reduced taxes, and jobs – are all in conflict with each other. A $64 million annual shortfall is enough to fund 1000 very good jobs. How much work gets done by 1000 full-time workers? How much does their spending affect the economy of the city? Ford has ensured either increased deficits (which means no balancing of the budget) or loss of services. By separating the tax cut from the service cuts or deferring them to the future, Ford has ensured that when the time comes to pay for these cuts, the people paying will have forgotten that it was “Santa” who forced the sacrifices on them. The Grinch is invisible behind the painted Santa beard.
Society pays for everything, one way or another. If it’s not taxes now, it’s unemployment now and broken infrastructure later. If Ford and the Toronto Sun can convince us that there’s a magical way to get something for nothing, they will end up helping us wreck the place we live in. In Toronto as in Canada, we are watching tomorrow’s problems being created, and the rest of the world could be forgiven for thinking that we are applauding.
The lecture hall slowly filled up as slides of families of the 200,000 farmers who committed suicide in India between 1997-2005 played on the flat screens on the side of the room. P Sainath, the day’s speaker, was the journalist who brought the farmer suicides to wide attention. He opened his talk by updating information on that story: between 2004-2010, an Indian farmer committed suicide every 30 minutes.