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from Edward Hadas:

The economic lessons from Scotland

Adam Smith, one of the leading figures of the 18th century Scottish intellectual enlightenment, liked free markets and restrained governments. The 21st century campaigns for and against a Scottish political liberation show that governments have acquired an economic importance which Smith could hardly have imagined.

If the government’s economic role was as limited as Smith would have liked, the debate preceding the Sept. 18 independence referendum would mostly have been about national identity and the advantages and difficulties of becoming a small country in a big world. The economy would hardly be an issue, since only the most rabid Scottish nationalist would accuse the English of cruelty in that domain.

In fact, though, the purely political issues seem less important than the question of what might be called political economy: would a Scottish government with full regulatory, fiscal and monetary control make the nation richer? The answers differ, of course, but there is a shared assumption that the government is right at the centre of the economy.

In a way, that is quite right. The remit of modern governments runs through the entire economy. They regulate, adjudicate and motivate. They are the largest employers and purchasers in any country. They run complicated welfare states. They build infrastructure, protect private property and make key investments. Their deficits help keep the economy on an even keel.

from Breakingviews:

No-debt mania continues to dictate German policies

By Olaf Storbeck

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Angela Merkel’s rhetoric on higher public investment is changing for the better. But the German chancellor remains unruffled by growing calls from her euro partners and the European Central Bank to change tack on fiscal policy. Germany’s excessive focus on balanced budgets remains unchanged and is likely to prevent any swift and significant increase in public infrastructure spending.

from Breakingviews:

Ecuador economic ‘miracle’ meets maturity

By Rob Cox

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. 

Turn on state television here, and within an hour or so a public service message will appear extolling the “Ecuadorean miracle” of President Rafael Correa. The advertisements highlight big new infrastructure projects and endorsements by experts, even an American or two.

from Edward Hadas:

A holistic economics of healthcare

By Edward Hadas

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Every country in the world seems to have a healthcare crisis. The problems are particularly severe in rich and ageing countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, where expectations are especially high and the systems were designed for a different reality. A new report from The King’s Fund, a British charity, suggests a better approach.

from Breakingviews:

France’s housing slump is sign of deeper woes

By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

François Hollande could live with a housing bubble. That would at least signal euphoria in a significant part of the French economy. But house prices are declining, a reflection of the depth of the country’s economic woes, and its president’s inability to address them.

from Breakingviews:

U.S. farm credit looks safer than houses

By Daniel Indiviglio and Kevin Allison

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own. 

The $200 billion-plus U.S. farm credit system looks safer than houses. Washington’s implicitly backstopped agricultural lending complex resembles its ill-fated housing finance counterpart in some ways, complete with a rural equivalent of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That’s cause enough to scrutinize Washington’s little-known farm lending apparatus. But despite a hot land market, the system looks ruggedly capitalized enough to avoid a similar fate.

from Edward Hadas:

Time to retire unemployment

Edward Hadas

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Give Janet Yellen credit. The chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve is keen to use monetary policy to help get more people into good jobs. Her priority – work is more important than finance – is reflected in the subject of this week’s get-together for the world’s central bankers: “Re-Evaluating Labor Market Dynamics.” One item should be on the agenda of the distinguished guests at Jackson Hole, Wyoming: how to replace the concept of unemployment.

from Edward Hadas:

Do autocrats and strong economies go hand in hand?

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By Edward Hadas

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Are authoritarian governments bad for the economy? Turkish voters do not seem to think so. On August 10, Tayyip Erdogan won an absolute majority in the country’s presidential election. Observers say that the country’s increasing prosperity is a big part of his AK Party’s appeal. Erdogan is not the only popular authoritarian around. Viktor Orban, who reportedly endorsed “illiberal” government, wins similar majorities in Hungary. If Russia had an election today, President Vladimir Putin would win big. And Xi Jinping, who seems to be making one-party rule in China more authoritarian, would undoubtedly triumph if the government bothered with elections.

from Breakingviews:

Pure politics can’t revive Italy’s coma economy

By Neil Unmack

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The minus sign in front of Italy’s latest GDP number was a reminder that Europe’s fourth-biggest economy remains stuck in a perma-recession. GDP has hardly increased in the last 15 years, and the 0.2 percent decline in the second quarter was the 11th fall in the last 12 periods. Matteo Renzi, the new prime minister, has offered only political changes. For the economy, much more is needed.

from Hugo Dixon:

UK prepares for possible EU failure

David Cameron looks to be preparing for the possibility that his plan to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the European Union will fail. The UK prime minister would then campaign for the country to quit the EU in a referendum he plans to hold by 2017. That seems the best way to interpret his appointment of a eurosceptic foreign minister and the nomination of a little-known former lobbyist as Britain’s European commissioner.

This is not to say that Cameron wants to take Britain out of the EU – which would be a historical mistake. It is rather that he apparently thinks quitting could be an acceptable Plan B that would keep him in his job and his Conservative party reasonably united.

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