Thursday , December 3 2020
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.

Maxxed out?

Laura Kuenssberg said yesterday: “This is the credit card, the national mortgage, everything absolutely maxxed out. Enormous levels of the country basically being in the red.” This is obviously the most abject drivel. (Hint: how many credit card companies will pay you to borrow when you are at your credit limit?) What interests me, though, is: how can any sentient being utter something so stupid? Some of you will blame dishonesty and partisanship. But I suspect some more...

Read More »

Full employment, capitalism & regress

The Guardian is reinventing the wheel. Its leader yesterday said: Nobody but the government can take responsibility for maintaining the total level of spending in the economy at a level that keeps the country as close to full employment as possible. Like all the best ideas, this is not original. In fact, it’s as new as powdered eggs or Woolton pie. It echoes this from William Beveridge in 1944 (pdf): It must be a function of the State in future to ensure adequate total...

Read More »

Our priorities

One of the dafter genres of political writing is the offering of unsolicited advice to leaders. Nevertheless, I’d like to suggest what I would do if I were Sir Keir Starmer. You can think of this as advice if you’d like, but I’d rather regard it as a way of contrasting two different types of politics. What I’d do is to greatly beef up the party’s National Policy Forum, giving it more resources, a much higher profile and emphasising that it is open to all. We need ongoing informal and...

Read More »

Farage’s dangerous appeal

Nigel Farage’s effort to rebrand the Brexit party as an anti-lockdown faction poses the question: what’s the link between being pro-Brexit and anti-lockdown? It might seem there’s none. Sure, anti-lockdowners are proclaiming the virtues of freedom. But the anti-migrant sentiment Farage stirred up during the Brexit referendum is the antithesis of libertarianism. If we put it nicely, Reform UK is an unstable coalition between cultural conservatives and libertarians. Less nicely, it’s just...

Read More »

“A great deal of ruin”

“There is a great deal of ruin in a nation” wrote Adam Smith in 1777, suggesting (possibly) that countries can cope with poor policies. These are wise words, in many contexts. Take for example, the NAO’s claim that there is “likely to be considerable amounts of fraud and error” in the government’s furlough scheme and the Resolution Foundation’s estimate that the government has paid around £1.3bn to self-employed workers who in fact suffered no loss of income. No doubt this is sub-optimal,...

Read More »

The economic base of culture wars

The long boom of the post-war period gave us trades union militancy, “women’s lib”, the Black Panthers, the gay rights movement and the legalization of abortion and homosexuality. Our recent stagnation has given us Trump and Brexit – and of course the economic crisis of the 1930s yielded much worse. Which is another way of saying what Ben Friedman wrote in The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth – that economic growth gives us liberalism and demands for equality whilst stagnation and...

Read More »

Stealing “libertarianism”

What exactly is libertarianism? I ask because of something Janash Ganesh says about Trump: His populism tends more to the libertarian than the repressive. The mask-spurning, the cavalier gatherings, the call to not let the virus “dominate”: it is personal freedom to which the president has shown a heedless attachment. Now, the notion that Trump is a libertarian will come as news to the families of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor or the 829 other people killed by the American...

Read More »

On feudal exploitation

“We have abolished capitalism in Poland. Now we must abolish feudalism.” So said Michal Kalecki in the 60s. I suspect that western economies today face a similar task, as feudalism is still rife. By this, I don’t mean merely that we have the high inequality and low social mobility that characterised feudalism, nor that immigration controls are a form of feudalism in that they ensure that one’s life chances are determined at birth. Instead, I’m thinking of modes of exploitation. We must...

Read More »

Savers, capitalism & self-interest

Do people vote in their own material interests? I ask because of the decision last week by NS&I to cut interest rates to almost nothing. In doing so, it is only bringing its rates into line with market rates. Which tells us two big things. One is tha the pandemic has exacerbated a long-term downtrend in interest rates. The second is that from the point of view of savers (let alone anybody else) the government is not borrowing enough. One reason for NS&I’s decision is that it was...

Read More »

Blaming the voters

In the Times, Matthew Parris wrote: "this Prime Minister is ultimately our [the electorate's] fault." I tweeted that this was absolutely right, but got a little pushback. I should therefore elaborate. What I and Matthew meant was that Johnson is not doing anything unexpected. He is merely living down to what everybody knew about him. As Matthew wrote: There was never any reason for confidence in Boris Johnson’s diligence, his honesty, his directness, his mastery of debate, his...

Read More »