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A point in favour

Stephanie Flanders | 12:49 UK time, Friday, 3 July 2009

Things could be worse. With so much of the week spent digesting bad news about the economy and the public finances, I thought I'd end it with some reasons to be cheerful.

The first is that, all things considered, UK plc has come out of the past year rather better than you might have expected. Outside the banking and energy sectors, corporate profits have fallen by far less than in either of the past two recessions.

Non-financial corporate profits have now fallen by 7.5% from their peak. That's roughly the fall we saw in 2001-2, despite a recession we now know to have been on a par with the early 80s, and twice as bad as 1990-1992. In the early 80s recession, the total fall in non-financial corporate profits was 23%. In the early 90s, it was 11%.

This recession isn't over yet. Profits may yet fall further. But clearly, something has gone right this time. And that something appears to be the labour market.

As Jamie Dannhauser, of Lombard Street Research, points out in his latest UK report, the greater flexibility of the labour market seems to have made it possible for firms to squeeze labour costs over the past year, without laying so many workers off.

British Airways planeAll those "voluntary" pay cuts or wage freezes, reductions in hours, and slashing of bonuses (this is outside the financial sector, remember) means that total labour costs per worker have actually fallen by 1.2% in the past year.

That's quite remarkable. We think of the US having the most flexible labour market - and companies there have also fared less badly in profit terms than in past recessions. But even there, labour costs per worker are still going up.

One year into the last recession, costs per private sector worker in the UK were still growing at 10%, which ultimately led companies to shed 7% of the private sector workforce to rebuild profits.

Of course, you may not care what has happened to corporate profits (even though you probably should). But we can all be cheered if greater flexibility has meant fewer people losing their jobs.

Unemployment has risen by 1.9 percentage points since the recession began, to 7.2%, and we know that it will rise further. That is a big rise. But the scale of the decline in national output during this period would have led you to expect a lot worse.

We saw a similar increase in the first year of the last recession, when the decline in GDP was only half as great (at this stage in the last recession, the unemployment rate stood at 8.7%).

Yes, there are plenty of caveats about who is included in that headline figure, and who is not. But even with all the caveats, a given percentage point decline in GDP seems to be translating into a smaller number of jobs lost.

As I said at the start, there's much that's going badly in this economy - and plenty of room for more bad news in the future. But at least some things appear to be going better than they have in the past.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Is this partly because some of the GDP growth was illusory (the banks) and so part of the GDP decline is as well?

  • Comment number 2.

    I was so glad to hear that the financial sector has been spared the pain of the recession and that the majority of losses have been carried by the commercial and corporate sectors.
    I think I would have problems sleeping at night if I thought that those financiers in the City of London were down to their last Porsche!

  • Comment number 3.

    ...says you!...in a job from which you can't be made redundant with an index linked final salary pension to boot.

    Risk and reward...eh!

  • Comment number 4.

    It's good that businesses have tried to retain their staff, rather than immediately resorting to redundancy and "downsizing".

    It's a case of playing for time though, as businesses can't employ this tactic forever. If order books don't reflate, they will eventually have to lay staff off permanently.

    History teaches us that recessions generally last for 2 years, with unemployment increasing for around 5 years, and house prices falling for around 6 years.

  • Comment number 5.


    "the greater flexibility of the labour market seems to have made it possible for firms to squeeze labour costs over the past year, without laying so many workers off."

    Is the BBC preparing to do its bit then? perhaps with some "voluntary" pay cuts et al.

  • Comment number 6.

    tell it to the folks on less than obscene wages, tell it to the student who is working a holiday job on minimum wage doing 12 hour shifts with one 20 minute break in the day to pay back the increasing accommodation fees and increasing food prices for a job that probably wont be there ( biomedical field) bottom line the ones in the club got the dough everyone else will be left with the tab
    that's really cheered me up

  • Comment number 7.

    Stephanie, were is your head girl?

    So corporate profits have stood up better than expected but at what cost and to whom? It's peoples livelyhoods and health that you are talking about here. Flexibility and reductions in labour costs come at a price - and it is being paid by the workers!

    In your piece you exclude the financial sector. Perhaps it's just as well you did because then you would have been unable to avoid the conclusion that the 'workers' are being screwed twice. It's their money that has bailed-out the bankers and it's their wages that are being driven down - if they can keep a job!

    So rather than posting pictures of a BA plane as an indicator of 'flexibility' why not do some research on the true social cost. "This recession isn't over yet." Too true its not over because its not a recession its a Depression and will last for the best part of this decade. So getting a handle on what the social costs are likely to be may be far more useful for economic planning than short term corporate profits. This is just yet another example of the Green Shoots mentality that says "Things must be getting better because they appear to be getting worse less quickly".

  • Comment number 8.

    Let us rewrite reality on Friday night....

    End the week on a high...

    P45....

    Nothing has yet been done to fix the causes of the problems

    and

    money is still worthless....

    So, all in all, good for bankers!

  • Comment number 9.

    All those 'voluntary' cuts in hours, wages, and pay rises may well be good for firms who can squeeze labour costs down, but all those workers are trying to live on 3 or 4 days wages a week and still pay their rents or mortgages and put food on the table. This may look good from a traditional perspective but the differance this time round is that never before have we had any kind of recession with this level of personal debt hanging over the economy. All those people may not show up on the unemployment figures but they are not earning enough to pay their outstanding debts let alone go out and start spending money in the shops again. All that will happen is that these peoples debts will just pile up leaving them in an even worse position when things do eventually pick up again. Or they will default on their debts leading to more losses for companies and banks. It seems to me that our whole economy is held together by a web of debt in a way it never was in any previous economic cycle, and if things do not get better rapidly then as individuals fall futher and further behind with their bills and companies see demand trailing off even more the whole thing could spiral away until we really will be in trouble.
    What are we doing to make sure this never happens again? Not much!

  • Comment number 10.

    John_from_Hendon (#8) "So, all in all, good for bankers!"

    That's what it comes down to. Darling et al. just won't say it. Neither will SF.

  • Comment number 11.

    Stephanie,

    If you want to know what it going to happen to the economy in the near future, just interview somebody like me, who grew up in the austerity years after WW2; that's the last time we got into the level of debt we are getting into now. The difference today is, in WW2 our industry grew to fight the war, so we could turn swords into ploughshares to pay off the debt we had incurred defending our country. What industry with overseas earning potential have we built up in the last thirty years defending MPs' perks?

  • Comment number 12.

    So Stephanie, you are rejoicing that on average every worker is 1.2% worse off in this country. Perhaps we can make it to 10% worse off and you and all your fellow economists and industrialists can throw some champagne parties to celebrate.

    If things carry on, we might even make it back to the industrial heyday of the victorian era, where we all work twelve hours a day for a pittance !

    That may sound ridiculous, but you are stating that workers earning less is good news, but how far do you take that argument !

  • Comment number 13.

    The only cause for optimism is that every day brings us nearer to a general election and a chance to consign the Labour party to the dustbin of history , hopefully forever. Every time we have had a labour government, as is happening now , the workers of this country get it in the neck, and as you pointed out, the financiers and stockbrokers barely feel the pinch. Labour surely is the party of the worker; I don't think.

  • Comment number 14.

    There is almost unaminous agreement here that wage cost reduction is not the welcome relief that Staphanie portrayed above.

    We really must start to re-definie our economic psychology. According to the present psychology then firms must do everything they can to reduce costs when faced with an economic downturn. This results in more unemploment and wage reduction/freezes. This is good for the firm and hence the economy - in the short term at least.

    However, let's stand that argument on its head. Commercial and industrial organisations have no unique right to existence or profit. They only exist to serve the wants and needs of their customers and end-users. If those customers/end-users now have less/no money to spend then these firms go out of exitence. Hence the wellbeing of the economy is really the wellbeing of the people and not the firms that serve them.

    Since, at least 1979, the worker argument has been almost totally ignored. The result is that the few have become very much richer whilst the many have become poorer and mired in debt. The dynamic, necessary for a healthy competitive market, between capital and labour has become totally skewed. Why else would GB have rushed to spend scarce resource on proping-up the banks? The people of this country only have parliament to represent their interests in the control and direction of the economy. However, successive governments have shown that they side with the employers to the detriment of the people. Hence we have the absolute stupidity of the RBS situation where the 'people' own a company which then sheds labour and out-sources even more of its IT functions to India!

    It's way past time that we reviwed some of the sacred cows that attach themselves to our view of what an economy acually is.

  • Comment number 15.

    foredeckdave (#14) "Since, at least 1979, the worker argument has been almost totally ignored. The result is that the few have become very much richer whilst the many have become poorer and mired in debt."

    When that happens, politics has gone statist/totalitarian - something which requires a large and loyal army to enforce policy. Ours has been emasculated, crippled/cut by legislation and is a bit busy/pinned down elsewhere right now. The country is being devolved too, as is Parliamentary control. The sacred cow is the markets, enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty. As our demographics continue to change, watch the country spiral down into a Third World country with Third World politics. A country is the sum of its people.

  • Comment number 16.

    #15 JJ

    "A country is the sum of its people." For once I agree with you. However, we diverge when it comes to the use of the army to "enforce policy". In the UK, at least, the use of the army has been very limited indeed since the begining of the 18th Century. Also, you have to note that Britain has never had a large standing army.

    My argument is not a call for totalitarianism, neither is it a call for radical socialism. Rather, it is a call for a re-balancing of economic thought. If you like a micro approach to macro-economics.

  • Comment number 17.

    foredeckdave (#16) "Rather, it is a call for a re-balancing of economic thought."

    'Thought followed a muck-cart thinking it was a wedding'
    (Northern idiom long before W.V.O Quine).

    The incumbents and opposition(s) know this. They just think that they can get away with fooling vast numbers of the people most of the time so long as they keep importing more duffers and breeding dunderheads. They're probably right. Bloggers don't matter much as really literate people are now in a minority these days or else they're highly prevalent amongst the predators ;-)

  • Comment number 18.

    The unique factors today are that firstly most households have two workers, one male one female and their mortgage moves accordingly. If one or both lose their jobs it is catastrophic.

    Secondly, the amount of personal debt each household has, with two working is an all time high.

    Thus, if houses keep falling in value, unemployment keeps rising and inflation returns as many predict, we are left with no way out. Debt management and debt reduction is now essential for every household in the Country. We need less debt and save more, contradictory positions

  • Comment number 19.

    JohnnyZero66 (#18) "The unique factors today are that firstly most households have two workers, one male one female and their mortgage moves accordingly. If one or both lose their jobs it is catastrophic."

    Which goes some way to accounting for a) the low birth-rate and differential fertility b) the high rate of family/relationship stress/breakdown. In the end, the Liberal-Democratic system does not work judged in terms of the important outcome: - i.e the population replacing itself. The TFR UK 1.8, that of Russia/East Europe post liberalisation is 1.2-1.3 - the rest of Europe's is much lower than the UK's (less immigration oddly even though many EU states are en route). All EU states have ageing populations. Yet, see Iran for an example of resistnce to Western libertarian economics. It has a young population. The UK young population is ever more Muslim/BME (99% of London's growth in the next 30 years will be in BME groups where unemployement is already highest because fo lower means skill level).

    These are the important economic factors which SF, RP and PM and the BBC in general should be focusing upon if seriously interested in covering 'recovery'.

    Where is GDP growth going to come from? A simple, straight but critical important question surely? Ironically, describing the 'psychology' of the situation is irrelevant. It's all about demographics, behaviour and genetics.

  • Comment number 20.

    THE UKs PATH TO RECOVERY?

    THERE IS NO PATH EXCEPT NULABOUR'S PATH TO MORE & MORE DEBT.

    WE COULD DIG FOR VICTORY BUT FARMING A BUSTED FLUSH TOO.

    WE COULD TURN TO INDUSTRY BUT MOST OF THATS GONE ASWELL.

    SO GORDY/MANDY GET TO THE IMF AND KEEP ON WITH THE SMOKE & MIRRORS. .

  • Comment number 21.

    alexander-curzon (#20) You've gone all Ecclestonian Perhaps it's a Mosely thing?

    Oslwald Mosely was, at one time, a Fabian. We should remember perhaps, that The Battle of Cable Street was a battle against Trotskyites/anarchists not Statists.

  • Comment number 22.

    #19 Jadedjean Who can be "seriously" interested in covering recovery? There will be no recovery, because, as explained by Mr. Curzon, there can be no recovery.

  • Comment number 23.

    armagediontimes (#22) Then the question must be why, since 1979, the electorate allowed successive anarchistic governments to asset strip/economically undermine the UK? Why did the Conservatives and New Labour promote Human Rights and a 10x expansion of higher education in the name of social justice when these measures were in fact contra-indicated by all known research evidence? Why do SF, RP and PM continue to write as if this is not the case? There are a large number of well informed reseachers out there who are puzzled.

  • Comment number 24.

    Why not just quote (paraphrase) Herbert Hoover; "good times are just around the corner." ???? The ship is sinking. So you're grateful the bilge is only half submerged so far. That doesn't change the fact that it is still taking on water faster than it is being pumped out. Experts don't say the economy is recovering at all, they just say the rate of decline is slowing. As I understand it, that is the nature of economies, they do not go in one direction all the time but in fits and starts with occasional minor reversals. It's the trend that matters. It's not clear that has changed at all.

    The economies of the world have collapsed because wealth was destroyed on a massive scale by transferring assets to people who didn't have the money to pay for them and could never hope to get it, selling their debts to unsuspecting "bankers" who never checked whether or not they could actually be paid back, and then insurance companies placed very heavy bets that most of them would be paid back. A perfect storm and all man made. The world's economy will not recover until much of the value of those debts in absolute currency amounts are paid by someone. This means that the debt must be "monetized" out of default by printing enough money for someone to buy those assets who can afford to pay the debts off. Who will get hurt? The very financial institutions, individuals, and governments who made the bad loans and issued the faulty insurance policies in the first place. Since they control the money supply it's clear why they are reluctant to do it. Do you think Mr. Geitner wants to hurt his friends and those he worked for in the past? But the stark choice of their folly is that or perpetual depression that will only get worse. What we need is massive inflation and devaluation of currency, I'd say about 200 to 500 percent. We aren't nearly there yet. That is not the real damage as the bankers will paint it, it is only one possible consequence of the damage the bankers created themselves. It's the one most of the rest of us need ASAP.

  • Comment number 25.

    #25 MarcusA,

    Have to agree with your first paragraph and with the essence of your second.

    There is a question that I would like to ask - somewhat conveluted so bear with me.

    In Europe there is the possibilty that we could take a more socialistic responses i.e. the EU or national govenments supporting or taking control of industry. This may help to offset some of the worse effects of the financial upheaveal that 200-500% inflation/devaluation would cause. However, in the US the kneejerk reaction to any government involvement is fiercely negative. Therefore, what do you foresee as the outcome for both the US and Europe economies?

  • Comment number 26.

    As I see it, nothing is going to substantially change until the ethnic critical mass in NYC (see #5) changes. It is truly multi-ethnic, but few seem to ask where all the WASPs have gone. History is littered with the damage which has been caused by groups looking after their own at the expense of others (families do this) and when this is done in a predatory way but rationalised as 'business is business' and seemingly with no empathy, this philosophy has always led to disaster, often wit hthe perpetrators seemingly genuinely asking what they've done wrong to incur the 'persecution' of those they've preyed upon. That it is self-serving at others' expense with the perpetrators always justifying it as if they are oblivious to what's wrong with it, suggests to me that this can only be explained as an incorrigible personality disorder where a minority of people, working as a self-selecting group, prey upon others oblivious to the harm they are doing.

  • Comment number 27.

    Just to be clear:

    "New York State is the location of both the oldest and largest Jewish community in North America. With nearly 2 million Jews, New York City alone accounts for over one-third of all Jews in the United States."

    New York State Archives

    One has to look at this in conjunction with the other ethnic groups (Hispanic, Black, Asian, Other White). [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 28.

    The US must jump first. No other nation could get away with printing that kind of money and survive. Case in point, Zimbabwe. When it does, the rest of the world's economies will have to follow suit. If they don't, they will price themselves out of the US market. I use the "cheese index" I invented as a benchmark to compare the relative buying power of American dollars for European goods vis a vis American goods. This compares two desirable kinds of protien at a large nearby supermaket, Shoprite in Flemington NJ. Two weeks ago, porterhouse steak was on sale at $4.99 a pound, this week rib steak will be on sale for the same amount. Domestically manufactured mild cheeses such as cheddar and meunster the US market likes are about the same or even less. Imported typical European cheeses are at around $15-$18 a pound. Stilton $18-$20 and Roquefort around $21-$22. Guess what I buy.

    Government control and management of industry in Europe reflects Europe's basic enfatuation with socialism. It is based on a long history of collectivist security going back to feudal times. Its more modern intellectual rationalizations under one form or another flies in the face of the basic nature of human behavior. Humans do not act the way bees in a hive or ants in a colony do. Individual greed is an important and inherent element in human survival but it cannot go completely unchecked or it becomes destructive as we've seen endless times. (this is the genius of the American system, it pits people assumed to be equally greedy and corrupt against each other, each suspicious and wishing to beat their opponents. It only fails not when they compromise but when they find common cause for different reasons as in the legislation relaxing government regulations that led to the current financial fiasco.) The notion that you can legislate greed out of existance and that people will work for the greater good of society is naive and dangerous, it always fails. Those who control the fruits of society inevitably become corrupted by power. Look at your own Parliament, look at the EU itself for evidence.

    The redistribution of wealth through unbearable taxation and enormously complex and endless regulation has made Europe the least competitive and least desirable place to manufacture anything in the developed world. China is killing it in labor intensive lo tech goods, the US and Japan killing it in high technology, and the US and others are killing it in agriculture. More of the same will only serve to accelerate Europe's inevitable demise. IMO Europe is now in an economic death spiral it cannot escape. It is caught on the horns of a dilemma where its social safety net is an unaffordable luxury it can no longer keep while it is at the same time a poltical bomb its populations will not live without. Damned if it does, damned if it doesn't, the ultimate outcome won't matter. Neither will it matter if they drown individually as separate nations or together as a European "Union."

  • Comment number 29.

    #23 Jadedjean. The "electorate" have not voted for any of this. Who voted for the EU? Why are the electorate specifically denied a vote on this matter? Who voted to kill who knows how many Iraqi´s? Who has voted to send young men to die in Afghanistan? Who voted for globalisation, giant banks, and an asset price bubble? Who voted for MP´s to systematically abuse their expenses regime? Who voted for unlimited immigration? Who voted for the destruction of a basic diet and the development of an obesity epidemic?

    Human rights may have been promoted in the name of social justice, but only a fool would not understand in an instant that this is a lie.

    The promotion of higher education was and is another lie. It´s only aim is to supress, hide and manipulate unemployment figures.

    In any event the UK is largely irrelevant - all the action is in the US. The British just do what they are told. (By the way who in the UK voted for economic and military subservience to the US?)

    why would you expect mass media to report anything other than what is required by corporate/oligarch interests? Why do you think so many oligarchs have bought up media outlets?

    There is no need to be puzzled, everything is very simple. The whole deal is to concentrate on having a "perfect present" - so you ignore the future, and manipulate the past. Just so long as next quarters earnings are rising then everything is perfect. Because nothing can rise for ever more and more banal and idiotic schemes have been implemented to make sure that (for the next quarter at least) the fantasy can be maintained.

    Now that the party is over the fantasists become ever more fanatical. A bit like your mate Hitler, they think that force of will alone will be sufficient to ensure a final victorous outcome. But it didn´t work then, and it won´t work now. This is the end, my friend. Meltdown is upon us, reality is coming, and no more lies or mass fantasies will postpone the inevitable.

    California is about to default on its bonds. This tells you two things: (i) California is not "systemically" important i.e. less important than Bradford and Bingley, and (ii) Given that (i) is a lie, if something as big as California is insolvent then how can anyone think that "recovery is around the corner" or that bailing out banks served any purpose other than to further enrich the already fantastically wealthy.



  • Comment number 30.

    "this is the genius of the American system, it pits people assumed to be equally greedy and corrupt against each other, each suspicious and wishing to beat their opponents."

    The point of my posts is that the above is an egregious subterfuge. People are no more equally greedy than they are equally tall.

    There are, alas, those who know this only too well whilst preaching the opposite, precisely so they can take advantage of others' gullability.

    This nasty game (which has recently blown up) is played by making people feel bad about questioning the truth of what is a predatory myth..... :-(

  • Comment number 31.

    armagediontimes (#29) "A bit like your mate Hitler, they think that force of will alone will be sufficient to ensure a final victorous outcome. But it didnt work then, and it wont work now."

    I don't disagree with your overall assessment of how things look and feel. It's odd that Bernie Ecclestone has said what he has don't you think? I do think Hitler and Stalin were genuinely trying to protect their peoples against predators, although I am still a bit puzzled about what happened in June 1941, unless it was a master-stroke of Machiavellian sacrifce/complicity in order to secure most of Eastern/Central Europe under socialism.

  • Comment number 32.

    JJ

    "People are no more equally greedy than they are equally tall."

    Maybe and maybe not but the greediest always go into politics either by running for office themselves or buying those who have won. Donors to American political parties often give generously to both Republicans and Democrats hedging their bets. They feel they have inflence and are owed favors regardless of who wins. Those who base their political hopes on finding saints to rule them invariably wind up with tyrants. Every one of them gained supporters by making promises they never kept. Every born tyrant who assumes power through violent revolution knows that the first thing you do when you get into power is to destroy those who put you there because those are the ones who can bring you down too.

    Seperation and division of powers is the mechanism the US invented to limit just how much power any one faction can control. Whenever they get out of hand, the other factions feel threatened enough to clobber them. Unlike European systems, this system favors paralysis over tyranny.

  • Comment number 33.

    #31 Jadedjean. I think it unlikely that Bernie Ecclestone has many insights to offer the world. More likely he realises that his business (F1) is also terminally bust and he is just trying to drum up some publicity - maybe an outside hope that some trillionaire bankster gangster may agree with his views of the world and cough up enough to keep the show on the road for another year or so.

    #32 MarcusAurelius11. it is the case that recent history proves the accuracy of your contention that "Those who base their political hopes on finding saints to rule them invariably wind up with tyrants"

    Is this a consequence of a universal aspect of human nature, or could it be nothing more than a consequence of Anglo-American policy? By way of example they have overthrown Allende, the Sandanistas, and Mossadeq, and replaced them with Pinochet, paramilitary death squads trained at Fort Benning Ga, and the Shah. They also installed and eventually overthrew Saddam Hussein, and also spent a large amount of time and money equipping and training a force that mutated into the Taliban.

  • Comment number 34.

    armagediontimes (#33) "Is this a consequence of a universal aspect of human nature, or could it be nothing more than a consequence of Anglo-American policy? By way of example they have overthrown Allende, the Sandanistas, and Mossadeq, and replaced them with Pinochet, paramilitary death squads trained at Fort Benning Ga, and the Shah. They also installed and eventually overthrew Saddam Hussein, and also spent a large amount of time and money equipping and training a force that mutated into the Taliban."

    You're on form tonight!



  • Comment number 35.

    #32. MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    "Unlike European systems, this(US) system favors paralysis over tyranny"

    Don't kid yourself - just pack the Supreme Court with you paid for friends! And what about the nonsense of the Presidential power to wage war being circumscribed by Congress - no President has even let it get it their way - they just do it illegally Your CIA just goes ahead and does it anyway. (e.g. Iran/Contra - where illegally generated funds were diverted to carry on illegal activities in another foreign state. It is all about the money!)

    Barbarious - your system 'stinks' just like ours! It 'stinks', because its operators are mainly greedy, small minded, selfish individuals just like the majority of politicians (and people!).

  • Comment number 36.

    If as has been discussed in detail elsewhere in this blog, libertarianism has indeed just an apriori dogma/makeover of anarchism, how can it possibly be the case that nobody's enlightened Mr Darling and The Treasury?

  • Comment number 37.

    John_from_Hendon (#35) "your system 'stinks' just like ours! It 'stinks', because its operators are mainly greedy, small minded, selfish individuals just like the majority of politicians (and people!)."

    Our thespians/politicians have learned to commission reports, reviews, Green and White Papers like Wizards of Oz. They've learned to occupy legislators with Bills, knowing full well that unless there's the means to enforce the end products (i.e an effective executive/state), it's all just sound and fury. That's where the nihilism has been in the UK over the last 30 years or so.

  • Comment number 38.

    erratum (#36) libertarianism has indeed just been an apriori dogma...

  • Comment number 39.

    "Barbarious - your system 'stinks' just like ours!"

    Maybe but at least I don't have to pay taxes for a Queen and a Prince to rub my nose in it.

  • Comment number 40.

    armagediontimes (#33) "More likely he realises that his business (F1) is also terminally bust and he is just trying to drum up some publicity"

    Someone from the Middle-East perhaps? It's a possibility I suppose. I don't know much about his behaviour/business, just that he appears to be rather short and that sport, like so much else these days, appears to be a vehicle for advertising, celebritism and money-laundering.

  • Comment number 41.

    "The first is that, all things considered, UK plc has come out of the past year rather better than you might have expected."

    "Non-financial corporate profits have now fallen by 7.5% from their peak. That's roughly the fall we saw in 2001-2, despite a recession we now know to have been on a par with the early 80s, and twice as bad as 1990-1992"

    Ever thought of the fact that they are living off the fat they gathered in the good times ?? What happens when the fat is gone ??

    The first statement is a bit like saying "that person is not *starving* because his BMI does not indicate so despite a fall of 30%; before, he was fat but now, he's just trimmed down" !! Does he have to become a skeleton to "prove" he is starving ?? Just as do companies have to go bust just to prove that the times are really are bad ??

    The horror stories will be brought by "The Ghost of Christmas yet to come" !! 2009 ?? 2010 ?? Which Christmas will we see Tiny Tim finally expire !!

  • Comment number 42.

    #37. JadedJean wrote:

    "That's where the nihilism has been in the UK over the last 30 years or so"

    That is where we differ. I believe that 'so long as there is life there is hope', whereas you believe 'so long as there is life there is despair'! I would maintain that your belief system leads to compliant acceptance of the status-quo whereas mine makes it worth getting up in the morning to fight to convince others that it is worth striving to correct error. The powers-that-be 'love' you, but 'hate' me. I want them to reform. You want them to do nothing. (Alas neither of us are destined to be entirely successful!)

  • Comment number 43.

    When times are good, the job of an economist is to be a technical mis-expert, defunct theories and all that. When time are bad, economists see their role as actually being part of the solution this is based on one of their defunct theories. Stephs look on the bright side piece is part of this. The defunct theory is this : I pay you 1p to make 1 widget and you buy that back off me as a consumer for 1p. I then use this 1p to pay you to make another widget next week and so the economy goes round. Bad times are caused when consumers stop spending because they have lost confidence hence its Stephs job to sing a look on the bright side song to give consumers confidence and get them spending to that business can have the money to pay them next week.
    In reality, if I pay you 1p to make a widget then I will want to sell it for 2p and you only have 1p so we live in a perpetual situation of financial crisis. It is only by a continual rise in mortgages, credit cards, financial bubbles and things like that that the extra 1p can be found. This is what causes the problem shortage of money not shortage of confidence. An easy solution for this has been worked out and its called NEFS Net Export Financial Simulation it should be Stephs job to tell people about this or think of something better.

  • Comment number 44.

    John_from_Hendon (#42) "That is where we differ. I believe that 'so long as there is life there is hope', whereas you believe 'so long as there is life there is despair'!"

    You still don't appear to have grasped that I've just been describing what has been going on, i.e policy in terms of outcome indicators. I am not endorsing any of it. In fact, I actively worked against it to sustain infrastructure, possibly more than you ever have. I am saying that those who were behind Thatcher and Blair (and co) were state asset strippers. They released years of capital invested in the state for the besnefit of minority group personal gain. The same was done to Russia in the 1990s, and we then saw Putin try to claw it back when the country went bankrupt. It's been happening here and in the USA, just more slowly.

    What has been effectively anhilated is the means whereby policy is implemented at the state level, i.e the Civil Service. It is now full of self-interested opportunists. It has been shaped that way over the years so it will collapse. Do you not see that? Until people see that their appeals for something to be done are falling on sinecures, they will not see how they are wasting their breath. It's wasted/misdirected effort. To change this requires a strong state, a benign dictatorship. Sp long as the likes of David Milband are busy finding fault with Iran, China, N Korea and the Taliban etc, nothing is going to change. They show their true domestic colours through their anarchistic foreign polices.

    Don't shoot the messenger.

  • Comment number 45.

    Look at what's been happening. The Chinese and Russians (most Arab states are long term allies of the Russian) have been buying up our means of production using their people's assets to do so. They effectively get our technology and industry, and can then export the products using their cheaper labour. They will benefit. In Russia, the state assets are still under the control of a few individuals, which could easily be reaquired by the state. China is being more direct about it whilst window dressing with a few SEZs. In time, all we'll have here is Service Sector workers.....i.e indebted workers, indebted to the East who will control what matters. Meanwhile, economic anarchism in the West has just been helping that agenda has it not?

  • Comment number 46.

    #44 Jadedjean - Of course Thatcher and Blair were state asset strippers. This is merely a symptom of the broader disease. The aim is to monetize and commoditize everything. An attempt has been made to create a perpetual growth machine. This is obviously impossible, but the unyielding refusal to accept reality has resulted in a faster and faster pace of monetization and commodotitization.

    Look at anything you want, and you will find the same forces at work. People used to grow their own food - now they don´t because the land has been converted to "higher value" uses, and so people buy food from giant combines. People used to raise their own children - now they don´t because parents have been converted to "higher value" uses. Even the act of becoming a parent has been commoditized - with the commercial development of IVF and the commercialisation of adoption.

    Look at foreign policy - and it is the same. The Pentagon developed a sophisticated computer program that "valued" the life of 1 US Marine as equivalent to 80,000 Rwandans. Unsurprisingly the corporate media propaganda machine did not call for intervention in Rwanda.

    Immigration has nothing to do with your favorite subject, but everything to do with a differential monetary value that is ascribed to human beings.

    No government or state agency can help you or anyone else. It matters nothing what form any government takes. The end of this insanity is upon us.

  • Comment number 47.

    #44. JadedJean wrote:

    What you do not seem to understand is that by continuing to "describe" as you put it, and to suggest that what you are describing is novel that by doing so you are yourself giving an excuse for the powers that be to do nothing about the problems, and that is the root of your personal nihilism and why it is, in my view, counter-productive. In other words in this case 'shoot' the messenger! In all things one should strive to be positive and forward looking! (more than just an economic policy!)

  • Comment number 48.

    John_from_Hendon (#47) "In other words in this case 'shoot' the messenger! In all things one should strive to be positive and forward looking! (more than just an economic policy!)"

    But the polices per se are not the problem. We know what polices could be implemenetd. What's absent is the means to enforce them within the current system of government. To enforce them requires the abandonment of libertarianism, i.e free-market Liberal-Democracy (and you've seen how they behave in these blogs - totally detached from reality). This is what Hitler and Stalin were desperately coping with in the 1920s/30s. Do you not see that it all comes down to this? This is why all sorts of politicians have been howling like alarmed primates in recent times... They know this. You, I fear, do not.

  • Comment number 49.

    I believe that ideas and/or political thinking are also subject to the second law of thermodynamics. Eventually they spread out uniformly and become the accepted norm. This is a form of totalitarianism... no other ideas are tolerated, rival ideas are quashed, trashed or marginalised.

    It seems to me that the differences between western politicians are the tyranny of small differences - we'd do it like this, not that.

    This is hardly surprising. Original thought takes effort and work and unfortunately the quick easy sources of 'data' are standardised, simplified and reflect the accepted norms. They are usually churned out by products of the accepted system.

    Collectively, we come to accept the tired old mantras as if they are fundamental truths whether, individually we believe them.

    I can't see that sufficient individuals will, long term accept the notion that wage control is good. In 'free market' economies dependant on consumption for survival, its not a sustainable concept. Eventually, as costs for basic items rise, consumption of other goods and services has to fall. When the history books are written, I feel sure that it will be possible to see that when US gas prices reached $4 a gallon, retail consumption fell, particularly in those areas most dependent on the internal combustion engine.

    Likewise, the more the state takes, the more consumption will fall.
    That the state can provide or optimise for all is not a sustainable concept, despite the accepted notions. The more this is accepted, the greater the degree of totalitariansim - one solution fits all.
    We either have to change our ideas about how we survive or revert to accepted norms.

    Quite where the ideas for change are going to come from is the matter for greatest concern.

    Nevertheless, I remain optimistic.


  • Comment number 50.

    mrsbloggs13c2 (#49) "Quite where the ideas for change are going to come from is the matter for greatest concern. Nevertheless, I remain optimistic."

    You put far too much store by 'ideas'.

    'Idea' is a lazy term for behaviour which people usually can not explicitly reference, along with the contingencies (usually economic) which control it. If one can't articulate either the behaviour or controlling contingencies in an evidence based manner, what is one doing in fact? Your optimistism/confidence (call it what one will, it's intensional like 'ideas') is just irrational spin is it not? The very stuff which brought about this economic mess. Perhaps by saying positive things you believe you'll earn social approval? That's exactly the wizardry which politicians (and cognitive psychologists) have been peddling for decades in lieu of governance whilst growth was fuelled by debt, i.e. avoidance/fantasy.

  • Comment number 51.

    Hello all

    I have just got back from London. First time in the UK in years. Three things really struck me:
    a) Public transport is so horrifically expensive it truly shocks
    b) Food, especially cheese, groceries and consumer electronics are really cheap. Restaurants are generally fantastic
    c) There is a lot of litter and poorly maintained buildings

    So, for all those looking for what to export - try food. If you want to make a mint through a new business, try offering transport.

  • Comment number 52.

    #50

    Really? Here's an idea that is gaining popularity where I live - someone has invented a kind of catalyst thing. You just put it somewhere outside your window, on the balcony, roof, or anywhere where it can catch a breeze, and it takes the CO2 and converts it to a spectrum of hydrocarbons, including for example pentane, ethanol and I cannot remember what.

    It costs about 250$, is solar power assisted (though you can add your own power from other sources via a normal power socket), and generates about 2 litres of this hydrocarbon mixture a week. It doesn't sound like a lot, but that can be sold for about 2 dollars. So, after about two years, you get your investment back and start to make a profit.

    However, what people are hoping for is some kind of subsidy. If people could get 10 or 20 of these things, and in large numbers, not only would we be sucking the Co2 out of the air and possibly evading climate catastrophe, but we'd end up being able to run our current vehicles on the byproducts sustainably.

  • Comment number 53.

    #48. JadedJean

    "...They know this. You, I fear, do not"

    JJ...

    The one thing that is certain is that all it requires for evil to succeed is that good people cease opposing it - I know I have tried to communicate this to you before but it seems that you did not understand this on the several previous occasions. Further, your nihilism and personal hopelessness and despair let the powers-that-be of off the hook. Get with the programme and speak up for common sense! Or what is the point of your contributions? I find that I am unable to understand why you bother, given the obvious hopelessness of your existence!

  • Comment number 54.

    Why are ideas "lazy"? The whole of scientific and philosophical experimentation begins with ideas!

  • Comment number 55.

    FrankSz (#51) Go tell the BBC's Ethical Man....

    Have you checked out the TFR where you live? (I have). Why has it fallen since the end of communism if there are so many good prospects 'ideas' out there? Is not that there are lots of gullible (and I use the word nicely as I think socialist sytsems are humanist if acceptably 'inefficient') consumers, which were easily bred in socialist cultures I believe, as citizens were educated to care about one another and to (rightly in my view) treat predators as enemies of the people.

    Did you say that you work in a ......predat.....bank? ;-)

  • Comment number 56.

    There is never any mention about personal wealth and the loss thereof. Does that have any impact on things and is it factored into any of this type of evaluation?
    Politicians and economist have decided to ignor the loss of whatever trillion figure one wants to guess and the possible impact on the economy. That dirty little secret that no one wants to talk about. All the retirement accounts and individual investments that disappears have simply been wiped clean, like they never existed and so if the banks and companies are doing this or that what happens to the individual doesn't matter. Anyone getting the sense of the issues here and why it will all happen again. You, the worker, at whatever level,simply no longer matter.

  • Comment number 57.

    John_from_Hendon (#53) "I find that I am unable to understand why you bother.."

    Yes, but oddly that doesn't seem to prompt you to do much thinking. Have you asked yourself why? Yiou appear to be smitten with the merits of 'motivational (aka magical) thinking' rather than practical empirical analysis of what is going on.

    foredeckdave (#54) "The whole of scientific and philosophical experimentation begins with ideas!"No. That is not true. But you have not grasped why. This was the error held up to the beginning of the C20th. I have explained this at length before (clearly to no avail). Since the middle of the last century, we moved from intensional notions like 'ideas' to concrete linguistic entities - i.e to words and statements which are truth-functional. The educated/cognoscenti in the last century were trained to work with language and with reality not with ideas.

    This is why law is (contentiously to scientists and other well educated persons) all that matters in modern politics and economics. The structure of legislation (if one looks into it), is sructured to appear like computer programs, albeit written in intensional Natural Language (which makes it conveniently open to interpretation, which is why there's been a proliferation of lawyers in recent decades). It's more opportunism premised on absence of truth. You should mark these words well....and if not mine, those of the Muslim world or SCO.

  • Comment number 58.

    #57 JJ

    that's your biggest load of tosh yet! You may think that to be the case and therefore that is your IDEA. Whichever way you slice it what has not be proved or done before starts with an idea.

    The whole premise of experimentation is to prove the validity, or otherwise, of ideas. If what you say were true then it gives a lie to the whole lifes work of Stephen Hawking who said that he had been trying to prove an idea that he originally had when he was 16!

    It is because you have such a 'closed' view of human behaviour that you cannot raise your thoughts above process and control - hence your final paragraph. That is why you have absolutely no conception of the true elements that underlie this thread.

  • Comment number 59.

    #55

    Not sure I understand that post at all JJ.

    Anyway, on the topic of population, the stats are here http://www.czso.cz/eng/redakce.nsf/i/population_hd

    My view is that the incentive to have children decreased as it became increasingly difficult for young people to get new accomodation. During the socialist era accomodation was given by the state and that meant going on a waiting list. After the socialist era ended the free accomodation vanished but there were no credit products like mortgages available until about 1999 or thereabouts. It was quite common to meet 30year olds who were still living with their parents and the only way they'd be able to get a new flat or house was to wait for a relative to die.


  • Comment number 60.

    foredeckdave (#58) The basic difference between what I post and what you post is that whilst I endeavour to describe how the real world actually is, (inclcuding how people have been formally educated in the appropriate disciplines over the last six decades or so), you, like so many people these days, appear to be content to describe your own private world and folk psychology.

    From the 80s on, psychologists started studying how and why people talk the way you do as an interesting subject in its own right (it's just ignorance of part of the world if you think about it), but this was, in effect, only a matter of studying irrationality or 'judgement under conditions of uncertainty'. That subject (which took off in the 60s) became known as 'cognitive science', and Kahneman was awarded a Nobel for his contribution to it (if Herrnstein had been alive, I personally think he might have been in the running too).

    You simply don't know any of this. Nor do you appear inclined to learn. Writ large it's why our culture's future looks rather bleak to me.

  • Comment number 61.

    FrankSz (#59) "Not sure I understand that post at all JJ."

    I have known this for some time. You (like John_from_Hendon and foredeckdave) really should put some time aside and work on the assumption that I have something to tell you which is going to rock your core assumptions.

  • Comment number 62.

    #61

    You should work on the assumption that what you are saying is a monotonous repetition of a few observations that are not unknown to me at all.

    The reason I don't understand your post is because it appears to be unrelated to what I posted - a change of topic.




  • Comment number 63.

    #52 "You just put it somewhere outside your window, on the balcony, roof, or anywhere where it can catch a breeze, and it takes the CO2 and converts it to a spectrum of hydrocarbons, including for example pentane, ethanol and I cannot remember what."

    Way back in the late 1800s/early 1900s, your Western neighbours did a lot of calculations on the energetic costs of converting CO2 to hydrocarbons. Primarily, they were interested in the conversion of CO2 into starch - photosynthesis - but they were also interested in the conversion into hydrocarbons since they were starting to be interested in "cheap fuel" as you put it !! It would be interesting to re-visit their works, in light of what you have posted.

    Either it is the most important invention since sliced bread *OR* it is something that will make Mr. Bernie Madoff green with envy !!

  • Comment number 64.

    Addendum to #63 As far as I'm concern, the only useful scientific fact from those early German experimenters is that of Professor Sir Hans Adolf Krebs. His Krebs cycle of the oxidation of starch to CO2, H2O and energy is what interest me most !! Specifically, half-way through the cycle, starch is converted to alcohol which is then further oxidised to produce energy.

    From that, I postulated that if some other organism, e.g. yeast, can provide the work for the first part of the cycle, I will proceed to use the second part of the cycle !! Hence my predilection for certain Czech products - specifically a pale golden bubbly liquid from Pilsen or thereabouts !!

    At least, that's *MY* excuse !! :-)

  • Comment number 65.

    FrankSz (#62) "The reason I don't understand your post is because it appears to be unrelated to what I posted - a change of topic."

    Not the reason, but a reason which you have given to yourself in order to explain your bafflement. In fact, you, like many oters in recent decades, have great difficulty (see foredeckdave) in identifying what's real from what is not. That is, you argue from a priori assumptions in order to present a persuasive case rather than describe what is the case, warts and all. Alas, this is the way of the image-maker, not the realist. This alas, is how a generation has been encouraged to behave (in my view as 'useful idiots' to further libertarian destruction of the state) for the last few decades.

    You may not wish to answer this (I wouldn't, but I do like to see people make errors of assessment as it reveals a lot about what they know and what they do not), but is it fair to say that you work in a bank in East Europe, as a programmer/IT worker?

    The only measure of success that matters in the end is biological fitness and East Europe is the least fit of Europe. You may find me repetitive, but that said, it doesn't seem to be sinking in nonetheless, does it? Maybe you are not grasping what you are being told? It is far more radical than you appreciate I suspect.

  • Comment number 66.

    Nothing new about photosynthesis: 6 CO2 + 6 H2O = C6H12O6+ 6 O2

    Plants and trees do it all the time and need CO2 and water to survive; we need carbohydrates and oxygen to survive.

    Grow more food and fuel for free, and cut down on fossil fuel consumption. Easy-peasy.

  • Comment number 67.

    #65

    Yes, I work in Central Europe (Czech Rep), as developer/manager/systems analyst. I have been fairly up front about those details.

    Well, whether or not fitness is a measure of success is subjective. Whether or not East or Central Europe (or some other arbitrarily selected region or demographic slice) is 'fit' is unimportant to me. I really don't care if we get claimed by an asteroid, and I don't care if my children will decide to reproduce or not. It is up to them.

    But I agree it is important to policy makers, or should be. Examples:
    - When in the eighties the UK govt was drawing up policies for dealing with HIV AIDS, they decided to invest in campaigns promoting condoms and the like. What they should have done was targeted African immigration and homosexual promiscuity. They didn't, because of "political correctness". Now people are dying and there is an epidemic.
    - If you are drawing up laws, byelaws, education policies, and so on, it is important to you what kind of people you are dealing with. If the 'native' British population is in decline, while say the Asian population is ascending, then it is a matter of time before you have to effectively alter the national identity of the country to Asian and make policies accordingly. If the national identity is important to you, which it may or may not be, you may wish to alter policies so that fertility rates change. Or in the case of Israel you may wish to just vent some pre-election spleen my bombing a neighbouring district of minorities.
    - And so on

    However it's all a matter of opinion. Some people might not care about the idea of a nation, might not care about extinction, etc... Perhaps policymakers do not either and perhaps their apathy is representative.


  • Comment number 68.

    #65 Jadedjean. You are in manifest error on substantially all counts.

    As a consequence of the uncontrolled expansion of debt the western world is irredeemably insolvent. The Bank of International Settlements advise that globally there is some $592 trillion of outstanding derivatives. You do not need any special insights to understand the severity of the problem.

    In addition to the actual problem of debt, policy is designed to accentuate the problem, and mainstream media is fully devoted to to the denial of the existence of the problem.

    The amount of deleveraging required will have catostrophic effects for complex, atomised societies. The question you should be asking is how are you going to survive as society collapses, and what are you going to do to help other people survive.

    Eastern Europe, in sofar as it was in the ambit of the Soviet Union, has much to teach. You may consider their populations to be biologically unfit (whatever thst means), but they have survived the kind of economic collapse that will shortly engulf the west.

    By and large Eastern Europeans, Africans, and all of the rest of the populations that displease you so much, do not sit around waiting to be force fed cheeseburgers by imported cheap labour. In general terms these populations survive without fast food, supermarkets, financial services, and bogus education. How are you going to survive?

  • Comment number 69.

    FrankSz (#67)

    "Well, whether or not fitness is a measure of success is subjective."

    Fitness refers to population size. With a TFR of 1.3 the population halves in 60 years. If you have differential fertility too, it not just gets smaller it gets less skilled too. Central/Eastern Europe has TFRs between 1.1 and 1.3. Has this point sunk in now? This is not 'subjective'. One has to ask why this has got worse in libertarian times.

    "Whether or not East or Central Europe (or some other arbitrarily selected region or demographic slice) is 'fit' is unimportant to me."

    You don't surprise me but at least you are honest about it.

    "..I don't care if my children will decide to reproduce or not. It is up to them."

    What a wonderful libertarian philosophy, people just 'choose' to do things or not. Everything and nothing can be explained that way. It's magic. People get sick and some do not, it's their 'choice'. people learn things or they don't, it's their 'choice'. People get rich or poor, it's their 'choice'. Such is the language of intension.

    "But I agree it is important to policy makers, or should be."

    Good, because that's what we should be focusing on, not magical thinking. A note in passing, pure mathematicians and programmers (especially the old GOFAI folk) are prone to magical thinking because they live in the Glass Bead Game world of tautology, i.e. extensional language without reference. All three GOFAI chaps are/were Jewish by the way.

    "When in the eighties the UK govt was drawing up policies for dealing with HIV AIDS, they decided to invest in campaigns promoting condoms and the like. What they should have done was targeted African immigration and homosexual promiscuity. They didn't, because of "political correctness". Now people are dying and there is an epidemic."

    Especially in Africa. But yes, fair point. Europe needed immigrants as it's population was falling. Is the govenment ignorant or malicious? They know about these skill differentials. Before the 60s, most of applied psychology was based on asssessment, i.e putting the (innate) right skills into the right jobs. Why did psychology go all Jewish/magical in the late 1960s do you think?

    "If you are drawing up laws, byelaws, education policies, and so on, it is important to you what kind of people you are dealing with. If the 'native' British population is in decline, while say the Asian population is ascending, then it is a matter of time before you have to effectively alter the national identity of the country to Asian and make policies accordingly."

    Yes, but have you seen how effective they arte in Bangladesh and Pakistan? India is not much better. That is what will happen. Is that a good thing? If so, why is migration in one direction?

    "If the national identity is important to you, which it may or may not be, you may wish to alter policies so that fertility rates change."

    That is what China is doing. See its economy as a consequence.

    "Or in the case of Israel you may wish to just vent some pre-election spleen my bombing a neighbouring district of minorities."

    Israel/Jewish politics is truly enigmatic/irrational. It is an exampl of highly feminized thinking. It is becoming very popular in the West.

    "However it's all a matter of opinion. Some people might not care about the idea of a nation, might not care about extinction, etc... Perhaps policymakers do not either and perhaps their apathy is representative."

    Ah yes, the 'it's all a matter of opinion' anarchism....

    Sadly, it isn't. There is a real world out there FrankSz. It is not one fully grasped by pure mathematicians and computer programmers for reasons which I have given elsewhere. See analyticity and core constructs. Godel was a nice example of the extreme consequences of such thinking.

    Note: what you like and dislike verbally is often what you have been politically shaped to like and dislike as words are just discriminate stimuli.

  • Comment number 70.

    armagediontimes (#68) "#65 Jadedjean. You are in manifest error on substantially all counts."

    Of course of course, how silly of me ;-).

    "As a consequence of the uncontrolled expansion of debt the western world is irredeemably insolvent. The Bank of International Settlements advise that globally there is some $592 trillion of outstanding derivatives. You do not need any special insights to understand the severity of the problem."

    Derivatives, insurance, debt (household, business and personal insurance etc), can be hard to pin down given that in many cases no claims are made.

    I've been talking about the 'hard to perceive' socio-economic costs to slow demographic change in the West. People like FrankSz don't care, but what do they care about? Socialist countries worked on the basis of duty coming before rights out of fear that the opposite is self-destructive. They even built walls to keep the West out. They talk of the West as Satanists or 'foreign white devils'.... ;-)

  • Comment number 71.

    "..I don't care if my children will decide to reproduce or not. It is up to them."

    What a wonderful libertarian philosophy, people just 'choose' to do things or not.


    Well of course, nothing is truly completely up to the individual. Free will is subjective, n'est ce pas?

  • Comment number 72.

    I heard Stephanie Flanders discuss the debate that is raging and will continue to rage between monetarists and Keynesians in the US, the UK, and in many other nations. The discussion of who oversaves money (China) and who overspends it (US, UK, Europe) seems inadequate to explain the current problem. The money supply vis a vis the total existing non monetary wealth and the velocity of money seem much more germaine. What government spending will do in the US is try to increase the velocity of money. But without increasing the money supply substantially, the effect may fall far short of what is desired which is a return to something like the conditions we had before the crisis had its full impact without recreating the kind of market bubble that was allowed to develop. The actual total amount of wealth consists of the sum of the two. When the bubble burst, the value of non monetary wealth decreased radically as the perceived monetary value of houses fell off a cliff. But what made it worse was that the prospect was for a sudden shift of where the money would move to. It would move away from financial institutions that provide the "grease" that keeps the entire economy moving as expected cash receipts in the form of mortgage payments stopped coming in and the prospect was that they would shut down altogether. Draining money from large insurance companies like AIG by having to pay out on far more policies guaranteeing that income than they ever dreamt only multiplied the impact further. The mistake of the stimulus package was to try to prop up the failed banks by replacing their lost money. Having been burned badly by lending it and probably still hiding much of their liabilities, they are unwilling to lend their newly acquired money out. What should have been done was that the government should have become the bank of last resort lending directly to qualified borrowers at slightly higher interest rates than the banks would. This would have put the banks on notice that they either lend or die. And many of them should have as the logical consequence of gross mismanagement. Instead, not only was the money misdirected but the huge bonuses these institutions were allowed to pay out to their executives only made the taxpayers angrier. The disappearance of failed banks would have been of no consequence becuase if new money were made available in sufficient quantity, new banks not burdened with uncollectable debts would have come into existance to replace the failed ones. This is what a market does to self regulate, prune the dead wood, grow new shoots when opportunity arises. Now we have the prospect of economies still in decline, an inadequate stimulus scheme, banks sitting on money, and the downward spiral continuing only making matters worse. The longer the US government waits, the more money it will have to print as otherwise sound borrowers join the ranks of unqualified borrowers in defaulting on loans including mortgages. Someone must pay for the folly of lending money to those who couldn't afford to ever pay it back and those who took a huge bet that they would. If they jumped in with their eyes closed, they have nobody to blame but themselves for having leaped over a cliff. Once the economy finally begins to show signs of recovery, the monetarists will try to sabotage it as they did in the 30s by rasising the spectre of inflation as Stephanie Flanders pointed out. The stock market spiked and then fell back again as they killed off the recovery. There must be inflation making money easily available to wipe out these debts or there will never be a recovery.

    How long will it take for the economy to get back to normal? It depends on how long it takes creation of new real (non monetary) wealth to to catch up with the increased money supply the US government needs to create. In the great depression, that wasn't accomplished in real dollar buying power until the mid 1960s, 35 years later. This time it could be worse. Watch for a crash in the bond market. When governments print money faster than wealth is being created, the value of each unit of currency declines and old debt not tied to inflation decreases in value. That's the beauty of a 30 year fixed rate mortgage from a borrower's point of view, same with long term treasury bonds from the government's point of view. As time goes on, inflation makes it increasingly easy to pay it off with ever cheaper dollars.

  • Comment number 73.

    #70 Jadedjean Clearly $592 trillion is a gross number. However with a number so incomprehnsible by virtue of its sheer size, only a small fraction of claims are necessary to sink the economic ship.

    It is beyond doubt that the necessary number of claims are in the pipeline. Precise analysis is not necessary - albeit encouraged by those who wish to delude themselves and/or others as to the gravity of the situation.

    Socialist countries could not prevent their own economic collapse. Economic collapse inevitably means a sudden decline in population and hence a sudden shift in demographics. There is nothing that can be done about it, and so it is irrelevant.

    Your subject of interest is as about as useful as a book on how to feed a dead horse.

    Take a look around you, and ask yourself how are you going to survive when all the for profit organisations that sell you the basics of life work out that there is no more profit and so stop selling their products.



  • Comment number 74.

    FrankSz (#71) "Well of course, nothing is truly completely up to the individual. Free will is subjective, n'est ce pas?"

    Indeed.

    One can lead a horse to water ;-).

  • Comment number 75.

  • Comment number 76.

    armagediontimes (#73) "Economic collapse inevitably means a sudden decline in population and hence a sudden shift in demographics."

    Why have the populations of the Liberal-Democracies been below relacement level for decades whilst their economies were growing? The USSR and Warsaw pact countries did not have this problem before being gifted Liberal-Democracy. Iran does not have this problem. In fact, the Muslim world does not have this problem. Are you sure you are wearing you special thinking cap?

  • Comment number 77.

    #74

    Looks interesting, I'll take a look at it.


  • Comment number 78.

    #76 Jadedjean. You really do need spoon feeding don´t you. Economic decline results in a slow decline in population, and economic collapse results in a steeper decline (or collapse) in population.

    Western economies have not been growing for a long time. The absence of growth has been masked both by debt and by commodotitization and monetization of substantially everything including human beings.

    Meltdown is coming both because debt has reached the peak of the cycle and because there is nothing left to commoditize. The days of fantasy are at an end.

    Iran has growth in population because it also has economic growth. It has economic growth because growth is easier from a low base and because it has a government interested in the general wellbeing of its population - and not interested in subservience to a small clique who in turn are subservient to the interests of the US. Perhaps you recall that there was a popular revolution in Iran some 30 years ago, and that the revolution was subsequently successfully defended despite the best efforts of Mssrs Reagan and North.

    You seem to be reading far too much propaganda.


  • Comment number 79.

    armagediontimes (#78) "Iran has growth in population because it also has economic growth. It has economic growth because growth is easier from a low base and because it has a government interested in the general wellbeing of its population - and not interested in subservience to a small clique who in turn are subservient to the interests of the US. Perhaps you recall that there was a popular revolution in Iran some 30 years ago, and that the revolution was subsequently successfully defended despite the best efforts of Mssrs Reagan and North."

    OK, bear with me, as I think I may be gettig the hang of this. So, what you're saying, is that Iran etc are not really the evil-dooers at all.

    If that's the case, who are the evil-dooers?

  • Comment number 80.

    imanogetitthisatime;

    Iran has growth in population because it also has economic growth.

    How inventive, they manufacture babies in factories? It's a growth industry? How unique. Most other nations' populations grow because more babies are born than there are are people dying and visa versa when they shrink. So would this also explain why populations of failed third world nations are also growing, because their economies are growing too? Do you know which way is up?

  • Comment number 81.

    #79 Jadedjean. It is a question of empire and not evil. When the Roman empire fell great hardship and suffering became the lot of those in the colonies. As the US empire collapses under a mountain of unsupportable debt great hardship and suffering will be the lot of those in the colonies.

    Peoples that have remained outwith the ambit of the US empire will likely fare better than those within the empire.

    It is not so complicated to understand.

    The besmirching of Iran (and other nations) has been undertaken for propaganda purposes. Liars tell lies - that also is easy enough to understand.

    They tell these lies for the same reasons that they tell lies about economic recovery, the prevailing unempolyment rate, prevailing GDP, and the importance of Michael Jackson to world history.

    At a micro level the numbers of lies are fantastically complicated, at a macro level they are all lies designed to shore up a system that can no longer be shored up.

    The people telling the lies do not consider themselves evil - they merely do the jobs that the system demands of them. They are mere system lackies, and they do what they are told. Rather like a soldier who follows orders and kills, but without malice and without hatred. The more dedicated a lacky they are the harder they will find it to cope as the system destroys not only itself, but also the personal ambitions and sense of self worth that the lacky rewards himself with.

    Free your mind - and ask how are you going to survive what is coming.

  • Comment number 82.

    armagediontimes (#81) "Rather like a soldier who follows orders and kills, but without malice and without hatred. The more dedicated a lacky they are the harder they will find it to cope as the system destroys not only itself, but also the personal ambitions and sense of self worth that the lacky rewards himself with."

    I think you are right there.

  • Comment number 83.

    For goodness ake when are we going to return to thr real topic of this thread? Apart from Marcus's #72 there hasn't been an 'on-topic' post all day!!!

  • Comment number 84.

    foredeckdave (#83) "For goodness ake when are we going to return to thr real topic of this thread? Apart from Marcus's #72 there hasn't been an 'on-topic' post all day!!!"

    He who rates Quine 'a second tier philosopher' is likely to fail to recognise the power of irony or be able to judge what is and is not 'on-topic'.

    Scientists do not try to prove ideas. In fact, they try to falsify their hypotheses, which are statements.

  • Comment number 85.

    JJ#84

    You don't think, therefore you aren't?

    "Scientists do not try to prove ideas. In fact, they try to falsify their hypotheses, which are statements."

    They are doing a darned good job of it in my book. The physicists have put the string theory back in their mental pockets with the rest of the lint balls and now have a new toy, membrane theory. They now assure me that an electron can have both positive and negative quantum spin numbers at the same time even though they used to be equally adamant telling me that they couldn't. I'm so confused, I don't know who or what to believe anymore. I'm just glad when the day is over. The unconsciousness of sleep brings temporary relief from these endless contradictions. Hell must be eternal wakefulness wondering who is right, the monetarists or the Keynesians and never finding out.

  • Comment number 86.

    #85

    Yes and now Prozac apparently doesn't have effects beyond placebo.

  • Comment number 87.

    Now this is going to be interesting...
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8138705.stm

    Up until now it's all been hot air from the leaders. Even Obama has kid gloves on for the banks. One outcome everyone has been predicting (apart from a few free market nuts) is increased regulation, a return to traditional banking, restricted credit, restricted debt-based speculation on assets.... I really want to know how far these new policies will go. They will set the scene for the future.

  • Comment number 88.

    MarcusAureliusII (#85) "I'm so confused, I don't know who or what to believe anymore. I'm just glad when the day is over."

    The secret there is a) don't get into language-games one is not fully trained in as one needs the whole language to be able to understand what the terms refer to and b) do not to popularisation of science too seriously as it can't be translated back into Natural language without severe loses (see a).

    FrankSz (#86) "Yes and now Prozac apparently doesn't have effects beyond placebo."

    It's all of the SSRIs, not just fluoxetine. This is another example of the above and it bears on the problem which regulatory bodies like NICE and the MHRA have in assessing clinical efficiacy and safety when up against the pharmaceutical companies and their lawyers/lobbying/funding power.

    All in all, this is very good evidence of how libertarianism and its poorly regulated free-market system works to undetermine true value.

    PS. foredeckdave's posts are a social hazard to the extent that they show little respect_for/awareness_of truth. This is a public service notice.

  • Comment number 89.

    JJ

    Just had a thought. If I were to remove the part of someone's brain responsible for language, would you expect that person to demonstrate any useful,predictable behaviour at all? I mean, would you expect that person to be able to take care of himself?

  • Comment number 90.

    armagediontimes (#81) "It is a question of empire and not evil. When the Roman empire fell great hardship and suffering became the lot of those in the colonies. As the US empire collapses under a mountain of unsupportable debt great hardship and suffering will be the lot of those in the colonies.
    //
    It is not so complicated to understand."


    That's a relief.

    This chap had had me really worried. But as foredeckdave says, perhaps I am a bit too easily impressed by 'second tier' thinkers, [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator], and stuff.

    Is that why nobody seems to be paying much attention do you think?

  • Comment number 91.

    FrankSz (#89) "Just had a thought. If I were to remove the part of someone's brain responsible for language, would you expect that person to demonstrate any useful,predictable behaviour at all? I mean, would you expect that person to be able to take care of himself?"

    It happens all the time - strokes which affect posterior artery. The effect is very hard to put into words but peole are indeed initally at least, severely incapacitated/disabled. Such people have problems with words and their referents, i.e accurately naming things, some lose the ability to speak altogether which is in fact less confusing than the former, especially or others (see also 'blindsight' as a part half the visual field at the high cortical level can go too). Language is essentially shaped verbal behaviour, and 'thinking' is largely covert verbal behaviour which is just not as accessible to the reinforcing verbal community.

    Even normal people have a hard time discerning what is true from what is not when then speak/write.

  • Comment number 92.

    addendum (#90) The link was just to the ETS 'America's Perfect Storm' Feb 2007 material.

  • Comment number 93.

    FrankSz

    "If I were to remove the part of someone's brain responsible for language, would you expect that person to demonstrate any useful,predictable behaviour at all? I mean, would you expect that person to be able to take care of himself?"

    Haven't you been paying attention? Half the people who post on these blogs have been lobotomized. But with enough Prozac in them, anything is possible. Actually Prozac is a drug I know something about having had a chance to observe someone who took it daily for many years. It is a serotonin (nerual transmitter) precursor. While it is usually believed to take two weeks to have an effect, in people with very low serotonin levels, it can have a surprisingly marked effect within half an hour to an hour. Based on the speed of its effect, this person was incorrectly diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. It eventually turned out to merely be a sleep disorder. Used in conjunction with another drug Seroquel which is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (prevents the body from breaking down serotonin) they can alter brain chemistry to the point of changing someone's personality completely. Enough Seroquel will turn a human brain to mush until it wears off. Prozac was originally proscribed as a diet pill. It doesn't appear to be particularly dangerous and may not have much effect on people whose serotonin levels are adequate. Personally I'll stick with Scotch although almost any form of alcohol will get people to babble on interminably brain or no brain at all. In fact the less grey matter they have, the more talking alcohol will stimulate in them. Why do you think Soviet Politburo members gave speeches that lasted for days? I'm sure one of those bottles in front of each of them was vodka.

    A return to financial market regulation will definately impact the profits bankers can make on misrepresenting repackaged credit obligations as sound when they know they aren't. It would hardly surprise me if we don't have something akin to Sarbanes-Oxley for bankers putting them on notice about finding out the truth about credit worthiness of borrowers and reporting it when they market them. Or as Oscar Madison put it in The Odd Couple "It's bail before jail so you'd better not fail." It's one of the penalties investment bankers will have to pay for government preventing yet another depresssion. I'm sure they'll find that depressing. Maybe they should also take Prozac....or scotch.

    JJ, considering that the string is going back in that mental pocket, prehaps membrane theory should be called handkerchief theory instead. It seems to me to be made from the same bolt of whole cloth. I sometimes wonder if these guys actually understand it themselves or are just faking it so as not to be seen as unable to understand what may have been concocted as nothing more than a joke by other physicists. I never know when physicists are just putting me on. Investment advisors on the other hand are as transparent as celophane. I've yet to meet one of them who actually knew what he was talking about. In their case, it's the ones with the brains (if there are any) who shut up and make money for themselves in the market rather than waste time losing other people's money for a fee.

  • Comment number 94.

    #83 foredeckdave. So what is the real topic of this thread?

    How about the corporate media publish another puff piece alerting us all to the fact that things are not as bad as may have been expected, and quote a few corporate profit numbers to support this contention.

    It is not considered relevant to mention that accounting standards have been semi secretly changed so as to positively impact numbers. There is no mention of the routine manipulation of CPI, GDP and unemployment figures. No mention that California has unilaterally decided to meet part of its short term obligations with IOU´s instead of cash. (Can you pay your BBC licence fee with a foredeckdave IOU?) No mention that 1 in 50 children in the US are now homeless. No mention of $592 trillion of outstanding credit derivatives. No mention of the fact that official US unemployment is now above what Obama stated it would be absent the stimulus package. No mention that Sweden now has negative interest rates. No mention that the US has $11.4 trillion in current debt and rising, and no mention that US outstanding future debt is currently coming in at $102 trillion.

    No mention that some serious economists now estimate that US banks will (post bail out) require to raise a further $300 billion of capital. Contrast this with the record bonus payments at Goldman Sachs. (Note also that someone is alleged to have stolen their software for low latency trading, and that GS are on record as stating that this software could be used to manipulate markets). Does anything about this statement strike you as odd?

    No mention of the obvious impossibility of curing a debt problem with more debt.

    Is that the thread you have in mind?

    You tell me, in the light of the above, (and there is much more in the same vein) on what basis you think the economy can recover.

    There can be no recovery, and there can be no return to the past. You cannot will a recovery into being and most people will be unable to occupy a place on planet fantasy for much longer.

    You could criticise the corporate media for engaging in wilfull dissembling and sophistry. You could even enquire as to whether the rule of law has been overthrown so as to facilitate the routine manipulation of markets. However it seems likely that the corporate media and market manipulators (if they exist) are actually providing a customer service, as a large number of people actively want to be lied to.

  • Comment number 95.

    #80 MarcusAurelius11 - No, Iran largely contents itself with natural biological reproduction. The manufacture of babies (in laboratories as opposed to factories) is something left to the enlightened west.

    So the population of "failed 3rd world countries" is growing. Perhaps you have in mind Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia. They are certainly failed states, although their populations are not growing. (Do you know whay that is?) Or perhaps you have in mind the plethora of countries that have yet to develop an obsession with cheeseburgers and flat screen TV´s. Perhaps countries like Mexico, Bangladesh or the Philipines who use population as a mechanism for growth through exporting their people to earn hard currency. Although they are not "failed states" unless you consider an absence of cheeseburger munching obese people to be a sign of failure.

  • Comment number 96.

    "It is a serotonin (nerual transmitter) precursor."

    It isn't, it's a reuptake inhibitor. That's what SSRI stands for (Serotonic Selective Reuptake Inhibitor) although it's more of a marketing term than an accurate description, as SSRI's are still a bit messy). Whilst the clinical/therapeutic effect may take a while to manifest itself, there is an immdiate chemical effect just as there is with cocaine (which also works on monoamines like most drugs of abuse). The indoleamines (5-HT, precursors and metabolites) like the catacholamines (dopamine, noradrenaline and adrenaline, precursors and metabolites) have a number of steps in their synthesis from amino acids. The anti-depressants all tend to work as reuptake inhibitors (except MAO Inhibors which limit metabolic breakdown of transmitters) which are pre-synaptic on the terminals of neurones and 'suck back up' unused quanta of transmitter after release. The diet pill bit you are confusing with amphentamine and fenfluramine which work on catecholoamine and indoleamine turnover. Depression may be a deficit of 5-HT (Serotonin) but cleary dopamine and Noradrenaline are involved too. None of this can be easily into ordinary words, as they don't exist, and although the monoamines appear to be critically involved in the regulaton of affective (emotional) behaviour or 'value' (nb economists, there is genetic variation in receptors as these are proteins)....... even after half a century of inesnive work (I once thought most of Index Medicus seemed to cover these neuromodulators!) exactly how they work is still a bit unclear despite a Nobel on the Catecholamines a few years ago.

  • Comment number 97.

    armagediontimes (#94) For the record, I think your basic message is essentially sound, but I think you need to tone it down a bit and read the posts of sympathetic others a little more carefully. Difficult, I know, in such difficult times, but try..

  • Comment number 98.

    "PS. foredeckdave's posts are a social hazard to the extent that they show little respect_for/awareness_of truth. This is a public service notice."

    That comming from a person who re-writes hitory to deny the Holocaust. Now if you have proof then publish if not at least preface your posts with "in my opinion". Silly little person!

    BTW you wouldn't recognise an ironic statement if you fell over it

  • Comment number 99.

    foredeckdave (#98) I have no wish to offend you, but this seems to be inevitable. The fact is that I'm just telling you the truth about your posts. You are wrong on many points of fact, and you simply don't appear to know this, nor will you be corrected because of your self-esteem issues.

    There were 15.x million Jews in the world in the mid 1930s and there are 14.x million today. Jews have below replacement level fertility like oter Europeans (and Liberal-Democracies everywhere in fact), and as a group they are also subject to shrinkage through assimilation too. Most interned Jews in WWII ultimately found themselves in Eastern territories which became Soviet. People lost contact through the Iron Curtain and the subsequent Cold War. Many people forget this. I am sure Jews died in WWII just as others did. Some died through disease in large numbers no doubt, but that was probably due to allied bombing of supply lines and lack of medicines and 'gas chambers' to fumigate clothes to eradicate typhus vectors etc. There has been a lot of propaganda since the end of WWII in order to render the West pro libertarian. This has been at a considerable cost, not just in terms of the current economic crisis, but also as indexed by a continual fall in population becaue of the below replacement level TFRs or Europe. This will turn out to be much greater than any loss of life in WWII. It is just harder for most people to see.

  • Comment number 100.

    #94 armagediontimes,

    The original topic was based upon the premise that the 'good' news was that corporate profitability in the UK had not declined as quickly as expected because of wage cost flexibility. Therefore I totally agree with your first paragraph in #94.

    You then go on to draw attention to the great unresolved debt dilema. As you present it, it would appear to be the nemises of Western economies. It certainly has skewed economic thought and processes. Perhaps the answer lies in the nature of debt itself and its realtionship to 'real' wealth.

    If all the debt in the world was cancelled tomorrow, what would the consequences be? Who would be the winners and losers? How could we prevent a future mountainous rise in debt?

    These thoughts link back to the original theme of the thread as the real scarce resource within our economy is the people themselves - all the rest is merely consequential.

 

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