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February 17, 2021



Does economic policy matter less to our politics today than it did in the 90s? I would argue yes, and so would you I think Chris.

Follow that theme a little further and you could argue the reasons Labour lost in 2010 - the first post crisis election - are the same as those that will lose it in 2024 and have little to do with economic policy: in divide and conquer Britain Labour is portrayed to be siding with the feckless and unloved groups of society instead of 'hard working people'.

A New Labour mantra was to 'concede, and move on' whenever new realities struck. Might that explain Sir Keir's current positioning better than other factors?


"The banking crisis taught us that the economy is not naturally stable, thrown into recession only by policy error."

The lesson from 2008 is 1) the Fed tightened too fast, precipitating a mortgage default crisis; and 2) the Fed made a further mistake by not bailing out Lehman's, causing a financial panic that reverberated into the real economy.


"Secondly, our long stagnation has strengthened illiberal populist sentiment – just as Ben Friedman predicted."

So Trump really did have the election stolen from him?


I must admit to a vacuum of ideas. I cannot think of a large scale business to invest in. Sure, a spot of retail or holidays or care homes or windmills, but nothing really very new, just same old - same old. Green looks good and attracts subsidies but mostly the physics and chemistry don't really work. So I might take a bit of money for a while - until reality catches up.

Worse, there are large scale business ideas - but they need large homogenous markets with access to plenty of cash and no barriers to trade. The old competitive advantage idea has gone, nations are all equally capable and compete on price/distance/transport/communication. The internet has been a great leveller, unfortunately the hill we sat on has been levelled.

Which leaves political parties with a problem. For now the Tories can roll the printing presses but may face a problem in say 2023 when despite serious cranking of the engine nothing has happened. The economy has evaporated. The 2024 election looks like one to lose - for anyone.


"So Trump really did have the election stolen from him?"...or perhaps it explains how he got elected in the first place and why he got yuuuge numbers to come out for him, (at the polling stations) even despite the widespread mirth and loathing that he inspired in the media and across the globe. Hmm.


The problem with this article is in my view the statement that
"the economy is now stagnating"
I assume based on the apparent slow growth in productivity figures but which , in my view is wrong. I do not believe that GDP whether in total or per head is accurately reflecting the giant strides that are being made . Look around, or even look in your hand . The "hedonic adjustments" which are meant to account for the improved functionality of the tools we all use every day , the mobile phone(hand held personal computer ?)our TV, our laptops and the myriad software tools they support have changed the world fundamentally and at diminishing cost for increased functionality. I suspect that when the economic history of the last two or three decades is finally compiled we will find a very rapid productivity growth .


Do you think that stagnant aggregate productivity is an example of Simpson's paradox?
Many individual sectors have continued to experience productivity gains (most obviously tech but also manufacturing and some professional services).
However, at the same time, there has been a shift in employment towards:
1) Sectors with lower productivity (e.g. retail).
2) Sectors with lower potential for productivity improvements (e.g. care).

Gary Fuentes

I do believe that because the economics has changed since the 90s, so too has the politics. When it comes to voting rights, people now are over using their rights that even if the candidate has no experience into leading people but because of popularity, they will choose it over the candidate that has a good record of leading people and making the economy to be in a better position.

Dennis Smith

"The banking crisis taught us that the economy is not naturally stable, thrown into recession only by policy error."

Maybe the banking crisis taught us that there is no such thing as ‘the economy’? What kind of thing is it that is thought to be ‘naturally stable’? (Note that it is natural, not cultural: cultural change is assumed to be non-existent or non-effective.)

Maybe the thing is stable because it can be analysed into a system with feedback loops? But what is this system made up of? Maybe sub-systems, such as corporations? And what are the sub-systems made up of? Is there an infinite regress looming ahead?

Maybe we can find a solid base in individual persons or agents? But lots of people – call them post-humanists for want of a better name – have been telling use lately that personhood and agency are bourgeois myths that must be deconstructed. Deconstructed into what?

Maybe at this point the whole idea of rational agency vanishes into the sands, taking the discipline of economics with it?


Follow that theme a little further and you could argue the reasons Labour lost in 2010 - the first post crisis election - are the same as those that will lose it in 2024 and have little to do with economic policy: in divide and conquer Britain Labour is portrayed to be siding with the feckless and unloved groups of society instead of 'hard working people'....

[ Jeremy Corbyn sided completely with 'hard working people' and for that the BBC literally portrayed Corbyn as a Russian communist. Then Corbyn was continually portrayed as anti-Semitic even by a working class detached Labour elite. ]


February 17, 2021



Cases   ( 4,071,185)
Deaths   ( 118,933)

Deaths per million   ( 1,746)


Cases   ( 2,362,352)
Deaths   ( 67,074)

Deaths per million   ( 799)



UK 170 deaths per 100K
Belgium 190
New Jersey 253
New York 237
Massachusetts 226
Slovenia 187


@Dipper. Saw what you did there lol.
Comparing nation states though...UK covid deaths per million 3rd highest behind only Belgium and Slovenia and far worse than disorganised, distracted and dysfunctional USA. Only the impressive rollout of vaccines and strict lockdown has given us a belated get out of jail card. So instead of 'the' worst in the world which we were last month we're now just one of the worst!


@ Paulc156 what is wrong with comparing densely populated UK with densely populated states in the USA?

The stats for the states are very interesting in that they are quite choppy. Although there are a lot of northern densely populated states at the top there are also some southern less densely populated states in there too. And the Dakotas.

It is almost as if there is little rhyme or reason behind which states did well and which didn't.



February 16, 2021

COVID-19, experts and the media

On February 4th, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published an editorial * which suggested that the actions of most government’s in mishandling the COVD-19 pandemic could be described as "social murder." They write:

"The 'social murder' of populations is more than a relic of a bygone age. It is very real today, exposed and magnified by covid-19. It cannot be ignored or spun away. Politicians must be held to account by legal and electoral means, indeed by any national and international constitutional means necessary. State failures that led us to two million deaths are 'actions' and 'inactions' that should shame us all."

The biggest state failure of them all is the UK Chancellor persuading the UK Prime Minister to ignore his expert scientific advisers last autumn.

This damning verdict should come as no surprise, as in most countries most medics have despaired at the failure of politicians to be able to lockdown hard and early. Time and time again leaders want to delay what is inevitable, which just means that more people die, and the lockdowns when they come last longer than if they had been put in place earlier. Equally academic economists with some expertise in pandemics have despaired when governments have used the economy as an excuse for not saving lives, because these economists know there is no trade-off between health and the economy beyond a few weeks.

The interesting thing about this editorial was not that it was written, but that it received virtually no coverage in the mainstream media....

* https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n314

-- Simon Wren-Lewis


February 18, 2021



Cases   ( 4,083,242)
Deaths   ( 119,387)

Deaths per million   ( 1,753)


Cases   ( 2,372,201)
Deaths   ( 67,547)

Deaths per million   ( 805)



The Lancet is basically Socialist Worker for doctors.

Many investigations have failed to establish a clear link between lockdowns and deaths.

There has been a suggestion that lockdowns have made matters worse by making hospitals a primary source of infection so serious strains get preferentially spread. It is suggested the same thing happened with Spanish flu.

Perhaps, given that 40% of covid cases were caught in hospitals, the BMJ should instead ponder the mistakes made by the medical profession in failing to prevent the spread within their establishments.


"perhaps it explains how he got elected in the first place"

This is a great example of how those who agree with Ben Friedman cherry-pick their data. Why did Trump lose in 2020 if the economy was still stagnating? That was the point my sarcastic response, which obviously went over the head of our outraged commenter ...


@rsm...Why? duh! Covid is only one obvious possibility dullard. Enough dems were scared by his indifference to post their votes in. Of course a few might have been swayed by his series of attempts to subvert the actual election process. I don't think I've ever read Ben F. Seems like you respond like Pavlovs dog every time Dillow mentions him though. Try to be a little less obsessive and you might be less biased as a result. Just saying...


Ben F's story does not remotely hold together. At times of greatest stagnation, the US has repeatedly elected lefties like FDR, Obama, Biden. Dillow and Friedman are simply pushing a mainstream economic agenda that growth is good for tolerance, but the Reagan growth years were accompanied by great intolerance towards drugs that ruined my life. Of course, Ben F and Dillow just ignore my personal time-series, writing me off, eliminating me entirely from their analysis because I inconveniently bring up glaring
counterexamples to their narrative.

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