Opinion

Ben Walsh

from Felix Salmon:

Counterparties: Angela’s murky trip to Athens

Ben Walsh
Oct 9, 2012 22:00 UTC

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During Angela Merkel's six-hour visit to Athens today, her first in three years, she was officially given the "red carpet treatment", Reuters' Noah Barkin and Harry Papachristou write. The purpose of her trip was a symbolic show of support for Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his government's reforms aimed at turning around the country's battered economy. Ordinary Greeks seemed intent on producing a different kind of symbolism:

Tens of thousands of demonstrators defied a ban on protests, gathering in Syntagma square to voice their displeasure with the German leader, who many blame for forcing painful cuts on Greece in exchange for two EU-IMF bailout packages worth over 200 billion euros.

Some pelted police with rocks, bottles and sticks, and tried to bust through a barricade set up to protect Merkel and her delegation.

Some 7,000 police were needed to control an estimated 50,000 protesters, some of whom burned Nazi flags or clashed with police. (As usual, the Guardian's excellent live-blog has full details on the day's events.) Merkel attempted to convince Greeks that she understood there were "many people suffering in Greece" due to EU-mandated austerity measures, and said she hoped and wished that Greece would stay in the euro zone.

from Felix Salmon:

Counterparties: Hyperinflation is so hot right now (in Iran)

Ben Walsh
Oct 5, 2012 22:17 UTC

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The official Iranian rial-to-US dollar exchange rate has been surprisingly steady over the past several months. That's somewhat odd, because in 2010, the US and EU imposed tough new sanctions against Iran. But in recent weeks, says the Cato Institute's Steve Hanke, "hyperinflation has arrived in Iran":

Using new data from Iran’s foreign-exchange black market, I estimate that Iran’s monthly inflation rate has reached 69.6%. With a monthly inflation rate this high (over 50%), Iran is undoubtedly experiencing hyperinflation.

from Felix Salmon:

Counterparties: But are you happy?

Ben Walsh
Oct 3, 2012 22:24 UTC

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One of the most common economic assumptions is that, broadly speaking, economic growth makes us all happier. Grow GDP, the argument goes, and we all get more stuff, and more stuff makes us happier. But a recent paper, as Izabella Kaminska writes, says "economists [may] be considering too narrow a set of determinants of well-being".

The Chairman of the FSA, the UK's chief financial regulator, Adair Tuner (lead author of the eponymous 2009 review into the financial crisis) has been even more direct in his criticism, once calling most financial activity "socially useless". Robert Skidelsky writes that Turner's new book, Economics after the Crisis, attacks three basic economic tenets:

from Felix Salmon:

Counterparties: The misery of flying

Ben Walsh
Oct 1, 2012 22:15 UTC

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On some level, complaints about modern air travel are absurd. Think about that famous Louis CK bit: "You're flying! It's amazing!...You're sitting in a chair, in the sky!" But Gary Shteyngart's awesomely scathing rant about American Airlines relays an experience bad enough to go beyond Tyler Brûlé's the walk-to-my-gate-was-too-long-and-I-had-to-interact-with-plebes shtick:

You, American Airlines, should no longer be flying across the Atlantic. You do not have the know-how. You do not have the equipment. And your employees have clearly lost interest in the endeavor. Like the country whose name graces the hulls of your flying ships, you are exhausted and shorn of purpose. You need to stop ... Flight 121 from Paris to New York began on a clear autumn afternoon. It ended over 30 hours later.

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