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.Continue reading
Articles about economics
Angrynomics – Lonergan and Blyth
The Deficit Myth — Stephanie Kelton
Why can’t the government just print more money?
That’s a pretty obvious question, and I feel it’s not often answered satisfactorily. This book discusses the way money works from the viewpoint of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), which seems to make a lot of sense. As I understand it, here’s how things should work.Continue reading
Bike helmets should be optional
I think everyone agrees that riding is always safer with a helmet. But here’s a (the?) argument for making helmets optional:
1. If helmets are optional, then more people will cycle.
2. And there will initially be more cycling casualties
The Big Shift — Deirdre Kent
This slim volume sets out some pretty radical proposals for fixing New Zealand’s monetary and financial systems. These systems are not working as well as they should, and Kent’s ideas could improve society and help deal with climate change. I can’t see them happening anytime soon, but the future is a very long time…Continue reading
There was an interesting exchange in the NZ Herald recently. The NZ Initiative, a conservative “think tank”, published a report basically saying that it is bad for governments to fund deficits by printing money. (I told you they were conservative.) The NZ Social Credit Association responded with a full-page ad in the NZ Herald setting out their view of Modern Monetary Theory and how it could work in practice.
Bryce Wilkinson, one of the senior NZ Initiative fellows, then published an opinion piece in the newspaper trying to discredit the Social Credit article. Shortly after that, Chris Leitch of the Social Credit Association published another response.Continue reading
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists — Robert Tressell
A hundred or so years ago, the English working classes had terribly rough lives.They spent half their time working under harsh conditions and the other half desperately looking for work. They never had enough food or clothing. But despite their ragged clothing they were content to spend their lives working for the betterment of their fellow men — in particular, their employers, who did no productive work themselves but instead spent their time cheating and exploiting their clients and employees.Continue reading
The Road to Serfdom — Friedrich Hayek
Zombie Economics – John Quiggin
A taste for paradoxical reasoning is common among economists, to the point where it is a job requirement in some circles.
— Zombie Economics, p112
That’s a good summary of this book. It argues that a lot of the foundations of current economic thinking are outdated, and have in some cases been entirely disproved, and yet they still influence policies to everyone’s detriment.
Trickle-down economics has now been thoroughly discredited. An IMF discussion paper says, “The poor and the middle class matter the most for growth via a number of interrelated economic, social, and political channels.” It’s easier and easier to find similar views, even from authorities like the World Bank. Yet we still hear people saying that tax cuts for the rich will benefit the rest of us.
Wellbeing Economics — Dalziel & Saunders
This short but thought-provoking book describes a way that New Zealand’s economy could be reorganised to focus on the wellbeing of all its citizens, defined as
The ability to lead the kinds of lives that they value and have reason to value.
There’s a lot of NZ-specific information, but the ideas are universally applicable. The approach is a bit different from the ideas put forth by the usual suspects across the political spectrum. Paul Dalziel and Caroline Saunders believe a market economy is essential, but recognise that it must be managed to allow the markets to deliver their maximum benefit. Even the most free markets are still heavily regulated, most obviously by contract and property law, and this helps us see that regulation is not antithetical to free markets — it is essential.
As for the Big Government versus Small Government debate, Dalziel and Saunders argue that government should be big enough. Government’s job is to do the things that citizens cannot do individually or collectively, and to help them add value to the things they choose to do. But the onus is on citizens to initiate this process and to use this support for their own individual and communal wellbeing. This is a shift from the old welfare state to what Dalziel and Saunders call the wellbeing state.
Human Values and Energy — Ian Morris
Historian Ian Morris argues that in the evolution of human culture, changes in ethical values have been driven by energy. He thinks that in any given epoch, the dominant energy source sets limits on the kinds of societies that can succeed, and each society in turn rewards specific values.
As far as it goes, there may be some correlation, but he gets it backwards when he tries to base a grand theory on it. That’s my impression after listening to his talk at the RSA.
In the evolution of human culture from pre-history to the present, changes in ethical values have been driven by the most basic force of all: energy.