Friday , August 23 2019
Home / Chris Dillow: Stumbling and Mumbling

Chris Dillow: Stumbling and Mumbling

Stumbling and Mumbling is a personal blog of Chris Dillow, an economist who spent eight years with one of Japan’s largest banks. He blogs about British politics and provides thoughtful analyses on the British economy and sports.

Smart consumers. stupid voters

What do ordinary folk know about economics? This question has been revived by Simon, who argues that support for a no-deal Brexit is based upon “information failure” caused by our biased and inadequate media. This is in a similar spirit to Jason Brennan and Bryan Caplan, who argue in different ways that voters are irrational and/or misinformed. My chart offers a corrective to this view. It shows that the ratio of retail sales to share prices has been a fantastic predictor of equity...

Read More »

The dubious logic of commodification

The proposal to raise the pension age to 75 reminds us of an under-appreciated fact – that there is, at least sometimes, a conflict between human flourishing and economic rationality on the one hand and the logic of capitalist accumulation on the other. We can immediately dispense with the claim that working longer is good for our mental and physical health. If this is the case, it is a reason for banning age discrimination and encouraging lifelong learning so that older people’s skills...

Read More »

The Peterloo paradox

From one perspective, there’s something odd about the commemorations of the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo massacre. You can be forgiven for thinking that there should be nothing party political about these. The protestors were demanding a wider suffrage. One would expect those Tories who sanctify the “will of the people” to celebrate such demands. And we’d expect lovers of freedom to condemn those who killed the protestors: they were, after all, doing just what Stalin did later –...

Read More »

The trade deal fetish

John Bolton says the UK can strike a quick trade deal with the US. This reminds me of an under-appreciated fact – that it is not trade rules that are significantly holding back UK exports. Brute facts tell us this. As part of the EU, the UK and Germany have the same trading rules. Last year, however, Germany exported $134bn of goods to the US whereas the UK exported only $65.3bn. Per head of population, Germany’s exports to the US were therefore 60% higher than the UK’s. Much the same is...

Read More »

Tories against Thatcher

Stephen Bush expresses a widely-held opinion when he writes: Boris Johnson sees more Thatcherites when he looks at his cabinet than Margaret Thatcher did with any of hers. In a sense, however, this is very odd – because in one respect this government is fundamentally anti-Thatcherite. What I mean is that a cornerstone of Thatcherism was the belief that a major role of government was to provide stability so that businesses could plan without having to worry about policy...

Read More »

Economics & identity

Simon says that a no-deal Brexit is pretty much in nobody’s interest and so represents a victory of the “force of ideas rather than interests”. I largely agree, but I wonder whether the distinction between ideas and interests is so clear-cut. To see my point, consider a different case: young people. These are more left-leaning than others: a recent Ipsos Mori poll (pdf) showed Labour leading the Tories by 34-28% among 25-34 year-olds, and that 46% of this group support either Labour or...

Read More »

The missing backlash

Dani Rodrik asked a good question on twitter the other day: why has there been so much backlash against free trade but so little against finance? In the UK, it’s moot whether there has been a backlash against free trade. But there certainly hasn’t been one against finance, so Dani’s question holds. Three things make it especially puzzling. One is that the costs of the financial crisis are vastly greater than any even half-plausible estimate of the cost of being in the EU, and yet there’s...

Read More »

Johnson’s spending challenge

The old myth of government finances being like household ones is about to hove back into view. Johnson is promising to increase spending on the NHS, as well as on schools and higher public sector pay, as well as offering a big tax cut. To the question, “how can he afford this?”, Tories reply: It is because we took tough and necessary decisions to cut Labour’s borrowing after 2010 that we can afford to spend more now. In this way, popular spending rises now can be used to...

Read More »

Against adaptation

One under-rated determinant of political debate lies in the fact that we become accustomed to some things but not others. I’m prompted to say this by reactions on Twitter to my questions about Mark “Herr Juncker in the bunker” Francois: how did this idiot achieve prominence? Why does the BBC think him an acceptable guest on what it considers a serious show? Why have our selection mechanisms & standards gone so badly awry? Some replied that the BBC is chasing click bait, or that it is...

Read More »

Centrists against evidence

In an excellent piece, Martin Sandbu says the state has more power to tax companies than we had thought, and calls for us to move away from “learnt helplessness in the face of inequality and stagnation”. What we need, he says, is “centrist radicalism”: That requires centrist politicians to move out of their incrementalist comfort zone and pursue policies that measure up to the scale of our problems. The challenges include the overhanging burden of past mismanaged economic crises and...

Read More »