Monday , February 24 2020
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Be careful what you wish for

Wishing well

Recession was expected to follow when oil prices spiked up to $80 per barrel earlier this year.  Instead, increased output from Saudi Arabia and a series of exemptions for countries importing Iranian oil have helped prices fall back to a less recessionary $50 per barrel. In response, US President Trump …

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The view from outside the bubble

Economic media bubble

If there is one thing economic journalists love it is a “mystery.”  A popular favourite in recent years has been the famous “productivity mystery” in which, despite full employment, both output and wages have remained depressed.  This month saw another – somewhat similar – conundrum; the “energy-GDP mystery.”  A peculiarly …

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A dangerous exercise in self-delusion

Blind economists

Repeat after me, very slowly: There is no such thing as EXTERNAL on a finite planet.  This phrase ought to be printed in 24pt text at the very start of every economics textbook.  And no, I am not being pedantic here.  The prevailing belief among economists that there are things …

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Of rats, cobras and electric vehicles

Cobra effect

During the Vietnam War, American aid workers became concerned about the spread of disease resulting from a big increase in the rat population.  Since the ongoing conflict prevented any serious attempt to systematically eradicate the rats, the aid agencies devised a clever scheme to enlist the help of the indigenous …

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The Budget’s fundamental flaw


Yesterday’s budget statement by Chancellor Hammond was followed by the usual tired old pantomime media appearances this morning. “I’m ending austerity,” Hammond proclaims. “Oh no you’re not,” says Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell. “Oh yes I am,” Hammond retorts. There is, however, a fundamental point of agreement shared by both politicians.  …

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The royal ribbon problem

Royal ribbon problem

The image of some dignitary cutting a ribbon stands as an icon for the fruits of public spending.  The charity sector has its equivalent in the ubiquitous images of supersized cheques being handed over.  The image is supposed to reassure us that “something is being done,” and that we should …

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Cannibalism will begin before the collapse

Metal theft

There is still considerable disagreement among those who see a relatively near-term collapse of western civilisation as to exactly how that collapse will occur.  At one end of the debate are those who imagine an almost vertical descent into a new dark age.  In this vision an economic collapse far …

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Technofantasia in action

Pothole drone

The degree to which supposedly intelligent people can persuade themselves to believe techno-bullshit never ceases to amaze.  From hyperloops and colonies on Mars to solar roadways and devices that pull moisture from arid desert air, we – collectively – have spent billions on technologies that even a reasonably well-educated school …

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Online retail is the symptom not the disease

Retail apocalypse

French Connection – famous for its “FCUK Fashion” advertising campaign – is the latest UK retailer to run into trouble as the retail apocalypse unfolds:  “Shares in struggling fashion chain French Connection have risen 25% to 55p after it said it may be up for sale. “Following speculation at the …

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Car sales down; economy to follow

Car sales unsold

Further evidence that all is not well with the UK economy emerged with the release of the September new car sales figures.  These were more than 20 percent down on 2017.  The primary reason for the fall – the one latched onto by most mainstream media outlets – is the …

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