Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein trav­els across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Australia to witness the reality of disaster capitalism. He discovers how companies such as G4S, Serco, and Halliburton cash in on or­ganized misery in a hidden world of privatized detention centers, militarized private security, aid profiteering, and destructive mining.

Disaster has become big business. Talking to immigrants stuck in limbo in Britain or visiting immigration centers in America, Loewenstein maps the secret networks formed to help cor­porations bleed what profits they can from economic crisis. He debates with Western contractors in Afghanistan, meets the locals in post-earthquake Haiti, and in Greece finds a country at the mercy of vulture profiteers. In Papua New Guinea, he sees a local commu­nity forced to rebel against predatory resource companies and NGOs.

What emerges through Loewenstein’s re­porting is a dark history of multinational corpo­rations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valu­able commodity. Disaster Capitalism is published by Verso in 2015 and in paperback in January 2017.

Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

The old fashioned idea of backing public assets and keeping them

The corporate love affair with privatisation shows no sign of slowing down. But what if the economics are less than convincing?

Nicholas Gruen writes in Inside Story that governments should more closely examine what they’re backing and why public ownership of key assets needs to be seriously considered. It’s not socialism, you know:

Rather than simply getting budgets into operating surplus – mostly a very good thing – Australian governments have embraced the notion that all debt is bad. But most of the time debt is only bad if it’s used to fund recurrent expenditure – see Charles Dickens on the difference between small sustained operating profits and sustained losses; it’s the difference between happiness and misery. But debt can also help us fund investment.

By focusing on the costs of debt but not its potential benefits, we find ourselves where we could have expected to be. Australian government debt has been lowered to zero with a mix of asset sales and a string of Commonwealth surpluses made up of that portion of surging revenues from the mining boom that wasn’t refunded to taxpayers as tax cuts. State governments, which carry much of the capital investment burden of the Australian public sector, have also borne down on debt.

But the glories of unburdened balance sheets have been purchased at the cost of growing deficits in precisely the thing that higher government debt might have funded – infrastructure. Partly filling the gap has been private investment in some kinds of infrastructure, funded by tolls on roads and/or rent payments by government to investors. While superficially attractive, and almost certainly better than no investment at all, most of these public-private partnerships, or PPPs – in all manner of infrastructure assets, from roads and railway stations to hospitals and desalination plants – have been built at a higher cost to the public than would have been the case if they had been built the way they used to be, as government-owned assets built with debt finance.

There are many small reasons why PPPs generate bad value, and one big reason. The small reasons all relate to the artifice required to involve private investors in some specific piece of capital, like a road, a hospital or a desalination plant. They need reassurance from governments that some future government investment – say a competing road or hospital – won’t “strand” their asset. As a consequence, the transfer of risk to the private investor is always uncertain, and where it can be brought about it’s usually at the cost of the government’s binding its own plans for infrastructure well into the future. This can involve huge and uncertain costs.

The big reason is straightforward. Given that infrastructure assets are typically highly capital intensive, and even allowing for some reasonable loading for the risk of specific infrastructure projects, governments face much lower costs to mobilise the necessary capital to build them.

Just as arbitrary debt restrictions imposed upon a household or a firm would be a recipe for long-term impoverishment (at least relative to what it might otherwise have achieved), so too for the public sector – and obviously so. Indeed, as Australian households have borrowed more and more, there is a particular perversity in arbitrarily constraining the borrowing of the entity that enjoys the lowest borrowing cost – the government – especially at a time when our largest cities groan under the weight of a widely recognised infrastructure crisis.

If it means anything, fiscal conservatism should mean prudently building the net worth of the public sector and doing so in a measured way – that is, at an acceptable risk. In an environment in which some infrastructure assets typically enjoy a rate of commercial return well above the cost of borrowing (not to mention additional returns to society and improved environmental amenity), borrowing should be encouraged up to the point at which further borrowing would constitute an unacceptable risk. This is how public companies and many households are run.

Had the NSW government chosen to fund the toll roads that now encircle Sydney, the state would have acquired ownership of a stream of revenue with a net present value of around $12.8 billion (in 2009–10 dollars), at the cost of increasing its borrowing by $7 billion, according to indicative modelling in a recent study [2] my colleagues and I at Lateral Economics carried out for the councils of Western Sydney. In other words, by taking on a little more risk the state would have set itself up to increase its net worth by around $5.8 billion. Factoring in the additional risk the government was taking on, we calculate that its net worth could have increased by $4.6 billion. By today over 60 per cent of the original borrowing would have been paid off, leaving a cash flow to the budget of $379 million each year after interest payments and even after provisioning for further principal repayments. In the unlikely event that New South Wales suffered a credit downgrade as a result of funding these projects then the investment – even taking into account the additional interest costs associated with such a downgrade – would still have been very worthwhile.

One touted benefit of privatisation is that the owners of an asset have the incentive to manage it for the long term – in contrast to politicians whose objectives are often dominated by the next election. Alas, as Australians are beginning to realise, far from liberating us from the tyranny of the short term, private investment in infrastructure is yet another manifestation of the dominance of short-termism in politics.

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