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July 12, 2007

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Alex

in 25 years' time, many of today's 30-year-old graduates might still be working.

Who but the happy few ever expected otherwise?

mark Brinkley

Where is the evidence that a big housebuilding programme will have any effect on house prices? It won't. It will simply encourage more people to move to the UK. Check out what's happened in Ireland in the past ten years. They have been building new homes at an astonishing rate, nearly seven times more per head of population than in the UK. Result? House prices have trebled.

john b

I think Mark may be confusing cause and effect...

dearieme

If the next election looks as if it's going to be close, suddenly graduates and students will be offered substantial relief from debt bondage if only they vote for Gordy. So don't try to pay down your debt early, kids: just be patient.

Thomas

Isn't the argument that higher debt leads to longer working lifetimes and therefore lower growth perilously close to the broken window fallacy? Middle-age/older workers won't be paying down as much debt, which means they will have more disposable income. This too will drive growth, although whether it will offset possible early retirement is unclear.

As they age, workers may retire earlier....or they may just continue working or even do late-life career switches -- "70 is the new 50" as they say.

Also, what really has higher marginal utility to the average worker: Paying down your debt a little faster, or spending on just about anything else? Given the high levels of consumer debt, revealed preferences seem to indicate the latter. If people refinance and take advantage of slower-paydown programs then savings and debt rates may not be affected significantly.

cityunslicker

however, on housing they have been threatening to do something for 10 years and have never actually achieved anything. In fact the market has less supply in relative terms.

What Brown says he wants to do and what he actually does are entirely seperate things.

Kevin Carson

I don't know if the policies will have the effect you predict, Chris, but your argument about the effect of low mortgage and consumer debt sounds remarkably similar to predictions made by the individualist anarchists a century ago.

They argued that the low interest rates resulting from a free market in banking would enormously increase the bargaining power of labor, not only by reducing personal debt, but by making cheap capital more readily available for worker-owned businesses. If the average person were able to pay off his mortgage ten or fifteen years earlier, and were free from high-interest credit card debt, people would (as you say) downshift by retiring early or cutting back to part-time hours even earlier. A considerable number of others on the margin might cut back hours and supplement their income by part-time self-employment. And for those who remained on the job, the fact that they owned their homes free and clear and were free from monthly credit card payments (and as a result probably had some savings as well), would mean they'd be a hell of a lot less likely to put up with any indignity for the sake of hanging on to their jobs like grim death. In short, labor would become the party with the greater power to walk away from the table, and as a result jobs would start competing for workers instead of the other way around.

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