Ordinary people are becoming more interested in economics as more of them are adversely affected by economic conditions. They start to sense what is obvious when you look into it; that our leaders either don’t understand the subject or else they are more concerned to remain “on message” with their respective tribal allegiances than to utter any sense at all.
I know a fireman who recently posted online a comparison of UK government, business and household debt, correctly noting that it is not government spending that led to the levels of debt in the UK exploding, spiralling or rocketing in such an uncontrolled way. Amid these pyrotechnics, firemen are at the sharp end of cuts, like other public service workers. They have the same self-interest as the rest of us in what they say, but unlike for example teachers [it’s tough to prove the obvious point that if you reduce education resources, education suffers] they can see a more direct impact to what is happening. Unless you believe that the UK was in the habit of maintaining extra firemen on the payroll just because we like the uniform, it is only honest to admit that taking resources and manpower out of the service means that more victims of fire will die than would otherwise be the case.
Maybe as a nation, we are cool with that. Everyone has their own views on what’s important. But we shouldn’t be pretending that we hate to do this but we don’t have a choice because we just have to cut everything back for the sake of the future; i.e. everything we’ve been told since the great bank scam of 2008.
We are sunk in debt, we’re told and if we don’t take the bitter medicine (substitute any other sadomonetarist image you prefer) right now, then Our Grandchildren will suffer for it. All right thinking people should be prepared to suffer for this noble objective (with the exception of those in upper level taxable income bands, whose goodwill we must beseech by offering sacrifice, for truly these are the Creators of Wealth). Read More→
I don’t review or recommend books that often. It’s tough to know whether the things you like would be enjoyed by other people; and about the things you don’t like, what needs to be said? Useful reviews tell you stuff – what a book is about; if it may be similar to other writing that you know and will have a view on; whether there is a context that can help you understand the book more. Useless reviewing is where the reviewer rather than the work is the star of the show. Then it’s just an entertainment, that depends on being able to draw the reader into complicity with the reviewer’s smug sense of superiority.
I know what I’m talking about: I’ve been guilty of that sort of thing, when I was fifteen, bored and showing off at school. Also I used to read the New Musical Express back in the day.
Due to popular demand (i.e. more than one person) detectives Oscar and Jose return in the Cat in the Box (see other writing page)
letter to a spanish friend who works in banking following a recent conversation (you can see why friends sometimes avoid me):
When I said that Germany was more concerned to save Spain’s banks than its economy or its people (because if those banks didn’t pay up, the German banks who lent money to them would lose out) you said that I was wrong, because the German banks had never behaved so irresponsibly as their Spanish and English counterparts and anyway the German banking sector was smaller.
I have checked out the numbers: according to the Financial Times, official statistics show that at the end of 2011 German banks were owed $146bn by Spain, of which $53bn is owed directly by Spanish banks. No country in the world is owed more by Spain than Germany. It may be true that before the crash Deutsche, Commerzbank and the rest were more reluctant than most to lend on derivatives – they preferred “safe” investments like property, which was why their money flooded into the peninsular. Spanish house prices have officially dropped 22% since then and we know the only reason the reported fall is not greater is because no-one can buy or sell – so the safe investment wasn’t. The potential hit is worse for Germany just because its banking sector is not bigger. Read More→
Results of elections in the world’s biggest democracy (plus Florida). In the end a comfortable victory for Obama as Professor Krugman and Bob Dylan predicted. Now Florida will stay Democrat until medical science finds a way to reduce Hispanic birth rates and/or make seniors live even longer, or else the local Republicans come up with new ways to influence the vote.
the close-race narrative seemed like a right wing construct for a while, but it was a strange tactic, because if you persuade people that their vote counts, turnout is bigger, which tends to favour “progressive” candidates. Sure that they wanted to present Romney (my fingers want to type Rooney, which brings a truly frightening image to mind) as a runaway winner, so that the poor might as well stay home and despair; but the opinion polls would have made that claim ridiculous.
Clearly Americans take their duty to vote more seriously than most and that (plus the obscene sums spent on campaigning) makes them consider their electoral choices with some care. Has there been another leader of an established democracy who was serving when the financial crisis hit but has managed to get re-elected? We’ll see what happens to Mrs Merkel next.
From the outside, what’s worrying is the increased polarisation of the country and that such a low proportion of white American males (who still basically run the world) support Obama – how many of them actively hate him. It says something about the state of the union when a tax avoiding billionaire adherent of a fringe religion who made his fortune exporting jobs from the USA and whose big idea is to give more money to the rich can get this close to the White House even hampered by the ascendant lunatic tendency on the right of his own party.
Interesting times for the world. We all tend to incline more to the liberal when it’s someone else’s country, but Romney as a “moderate” candidate was scary enough for most of us. Will the Republican party, which still wields so much power, now move to the centre ground as European conservatives (with dissenting voices) seem to have done, or will it align itself more closely to its fundamentalist wing?
In the UK our newspapers inform us that we are astonished by revelations that one of our recently deceased “much-loved” entertainers maintained an unhealthy interest in the young and vulnerable throughout his career. It turns out this man was thoroughly bad, in spite of raising huge sums of money for charity. The supposed trauma could only be compared to finding out that someone like, say, Lance Armstrong was a fraud.
I think that many of us have been less surprised by the details than that they were published so soon after the libel laws that (over)protect the rich and famous while they are alive ceased to apply. In fact there has been a queue of media people who had professional associations with this individual over the years, lining up to tell us that for decades they knew that wrong things were going on. Read More→
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