Ominous noises. Brexit again.

“Just left Frankfurt. Great meetings, great weather, really enjoyed it. Good, because I’ll be spending a lot more time there. #Brexit.” Thus tweeted Lloyd Blankfein, Chief Executive of Goldman Sachs, on 19th October. It was the first time a major American financial services firm had signalled a shift of its European operations away from London …

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The crippling cost of zero interest rates

They used to say there are but three ways to ruin the class of petit-bourgeois savers who form the backbone of all successful democracies: a banking collapse (as in the 1929 crash); hyperinflation (as in banana republics); or straightforward state expropriation (as in oppressive taxation). Now we’ve invented a fourth. The introduction of zero to …

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Brexit

Ministers including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are reported to be plotting to scrap the EU working time directive.  This is a crucial piece of EU law that protects working people – and which working people were promised would still apply after Brexit.  If Johnson and Gove succeed, 7 million workers could lose their guaranteed …

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The Epicurean solutions to climate change

Climate change is without doubt the biggest threat facing the world. Although it doesn’t mean the end of civilisation just yet, the adverse effects of climate change are getting progressively worse. Extreme weather is becoming more frequent. Crop yields in many parts of the developing world are becoming more common. Drought has become a routine …

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Bribery and corruption

Earlier this year both houses of Congress voted to nix a bi-partisan law that would have forced US oil, gas and mining companies to disclose annually, and project by project, royalty, licensing and backhanders to foreign governments. As you can imagine the American Petroleum Institute labelled this more big government interference that puts US companies …

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The future of the Euro

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the Eurozone economy is growing surprisingly well. The countries of Southern Europe are recovering strongly from the recession and sovereign debt crisis, and now all of them are growing at a faster rate than an increasingly lethargic Britain. However, there is a broad consensus that the Eurozone is vulnerable …

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Trying to fix American education

Two dozen state lawmakers and legislative staffers spent 18-months studying some of the world’s top-performing school systems, including those in Finland, Hong Kong, Japan, Ontario, Poland, Shanghai, Singapore and Taiwan. They concluded as follows: 1: More help is needed for the youngest learners! In the U.S, poverty is a powerful drag on the youngest learners, …

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Israel and Palestine. Enough is enough

Just over a hundred years ago, Britain’s foreign secretary Arthur Balfour signed a 67 word long statement that committed Britain for the first time to backing “the establishment in Palestine of a national homeland for the Jewish people”. Israel and its supporters duly celebrated “the anniversary of a foundational moment” in their nation’s history. Palestinian …

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Is Israel ceasing to be a democracy?

This a bit long but important to know: Israel is in the news again these days. President Trump is proposing to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, contrary to international policy. Is Israel the country that many Americans, particularly evangelicals. imagine it to be? Read on: Arabs, peace activists and Israel’s left wing have long …

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Trickle up!

Republicans, unbelievably, are once again forcing trickle-down economics on the United States, despite the idea being almost unanimously derided by reputable economists and financiers. It’s almost as if Republicans are unaware that the latest experiment in trickle-down has practically bankrupted the state of Kansas and has done little or nothing for North Carolina. They can’t …

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Inequality in the United States

According to the Guardian Weekly (November 11th) the world’s 1,542 billionaires increased their wealth this year by 17% to $6tn, a return impossible to get on most stock markets and rather a distance from the average interest income of 0.35% offered normal people by normal banks. The IMF has told western governments to increase taxes …

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Should Epicureans approve of cannabis?

Brendan O’Neill is perhaps one of my least favourite British columnists. I disagree with him on almost everything, from Brexit to student politics and the populist right. But his article this week is really interesting. O’Neill laments the effect of legalised cannabis on the culture of Los Angeles. He decries how it has become all …

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A looming disaster

A “disorderly Brexit” is now seen as “almost inevitable” by the world’s biggest banks. That, at any rate, was the gist of the observations sent to the Chancellor by the City of London Corporation’s Catherine McGuinness, after days of meetings with Wall Street bosses and Washington policy wonks. With continued access to the single market …

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Universal Basic Income

I’m aware the topics I’ve been posting on have been very wonkish and policy-orientated recently. I’ll do something less serious next time, but I thought I’d give my take on an increasingly popular idea amongst economics. Also be warned, the post is necessarily lengthy.  Perhaps the most glaring contradiction of present-day ‘late’ capitalism is the …

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The under-taxation of tech companies and online retailers

As a general rule, I don’t believe in high taxes. Partly because I believe they make economies less vibrant by discouraging investment and reducing disposable income. But also because of the principle that people, for the most part, have a right to keep what they have earned. Governments should only take what is necessary to …

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Why do we still change our clocks in Autumn and Spring?

In the 19th century, the railroad connected people across distances so great that time zones needed to be implemented to align rail schedules. In the 20th century, the aeroplane eliminated all time zones, at least for pilots and airport personnel. Time is about coordination. Some people think that daylight saving time (DST) nowadays does more …

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The end of liberal democracy and humanism? (Part 2)

Continued. from yesterday: Writer Huval Noah Harari sees three broad directions for humankind: 1. Humans will lose their economic and military usefulness, and the economic system will stop attaching much value to them. 2. The system will still find value in humans collectively but not in unique individuals. 3. The system will, however, find value …

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Are Oxford and Cambridge being racist? Part 2

What is the job of a university? To produce people who can think laterally, not literally; who can think critically and for themselves; who can mentally assemble information in a logical way, and transmit the information to others in a clear, concise manner. It is not the job of universities to reflect the racial make-up …

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Are Oxford and Cambridge being racist? Part 1

“Oxford and Cambridge Universities are being accused of a form of “social apartheid”. More than 80% of their offers go to “the top two social classes, the children of barristers, doctors and CEOs”, many of them privately educated pupils from the south-east. In 2015, one in five colleges at Cambridge and one in three at …

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