Angrynomics – Lonergan and Blyth

People are always angry about something. These days they are either angry about vaccination, or angry about people who are angry about vaccination. But until recently, they were angry about things like worsening financial inequality, immigration, and lack of action on climate change. These things are affected by economic policies and events, and this book puts forth analyses and ideas to address some of the anger.

The book is structured as a conversation between the two authors, which keeps the tone nice and informal and makes the ideas much easier to follow.

Their ideas are, as they say, radical, but still achievable. For example, the idea of a Universal Basic Income is well-supported but would be extremely politically difficult to implement on a large scale. Their idea of a National Wealth Fund seems more doable – the idea is that governments should take advantage of low interest rates and borrow to build long-term investments, then distribute the proceeds to (means-tested) individuals in the form of trust funds. It’s a win-win: the government profits (and has good incentives as it is literally invested in the economy) and citizens who need a helping hand get a payout. 

I am less convinced by their idea of a Data Dividend, which would effectively force Google, Facebook and so on to pay a licence fee (or equity) to the government in return for using people’s data. The government would then distribute the money to those who opted in to the scheme. I suspect the sums involved would end up being quite small at the individual level, so I can’t see the scheme working in the way they present. Compared to their other ideas, this one seems quite specific and ad hoc and just not as compelling.

Their other ideas do sound intriguing though, from how to handle recessions to more efficient ways of dealing with fluctuating interest rates. These are the sorts of ideas that I have been noticing more and more in the media, so hopefully we might see some governments applying some creative thinking soon: Lonergan and Blyth think signs are good that the Czech Republic will head in this direction. Hopefully other countries will follow suit and we won’t all be held hostage by the current morass of outdated economic ideas. Then we’ll be able to go back to being angry about vaccination.

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