The Great Debate UK

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Time to stop following defunct economic policies

Can economists contribute anything useful to our understanding of politics, business and finance in the real world?

I raise this question having spent last weekend in Toronto at the annual conference of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, a foundation created in 2009 in response to the failure of modern economics in the global financial crisis (whose board I currently chair). Unfortunately, the question raised above is as troubling today as it was in November 2008, when Britain’s Queen Elizabeth famously stunned the head of the London School of Economics by asking faux naively, “But why did nobody foresee this [economic collapse]?”

As John Maynard Keynes observed in 1936, when he challenged the economic orthodoxies that were aggravating the Great Depression: “The ideas of economists, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist.”

This remark is as relevant today as in 1936. Joseph E. Stiglitz, the Nobel laureate, asked rhetorically in Toronto: “Why are central banks and governments still trying to predict the effects of their policies with an economic model that is manifestly absurd?”

from Nicholas Wapshott:

Yellen shows her hand

The difference between the Federal Reserve Board of Chairwoman Janet Yellen and that of her immediate predecessor Ben Bernanke is becoming clear. No more so than in their approach to the problem of joblessness.

Bernanke made clear that in the post-2008 economy, his principal goal was the creation of jobs, not curbing inflation. He settled on a figure, 6.5 percent unemployment, as the threshold that would guide his actions.

from The Great Debate:

Odessa: Ukrainian port that inspired big dreams

Tensions have been rising in many corners of Ukraine as the threat of a Russian intervention looms. Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odessa is one such corner of dispute between Moscow and Kiev, where macro-battles have been transformed into a seemingly endless chain of micro-conflicts.

Supporters of both countries have taken to marching through the streets, ominously threatening each other. The Ukrainian government is trying to wrest control of the local oil refinery -- one of the country’s most important -- away from a Russian bank. Tension is visible in the smallest aspects of life.

Mental accounting – the jar fallacy

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–Ian Bright is Senior Economist at ING. The opinions expressed are his own.–

When Dustin Hoffman was first starting out as an actor, struggling to make ends meet, he managed his money in a simple – but potentially financially dangerous – way.

Help, I want my email back…

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The web-based Heartbleed bug has dominated discussions about online security in recent days. We’ve been told to change passwords, and if you were a regular user of Mumsnet then you’ve probably had your data stolen, the forum said in a message earlier this week. While I was reading all of these articles not once did I think to actually change any of my passwords. This is not because I think that I am immune to Heartbleed and its evil ways, but rather I don’t think the data this super bug could steal from me would be of much use to anybody.

Take my email. First it started with my personal email, an account I have had since 2001, provided by a major internet company headed by an extremely glamorous CEO. For years now it has been hijacked by marketing types. I get hundreds of emails every day, all adverts. It’s worse than watching an episode of Game of Thrones in the US. There are literally adverts coming at me every minute of the day. Some even use my name in the subject line. Just today I have had a cleaning company asking me if I am ready for Easter (who gets ready for Easter???), a website telling me the secret to perfect “standout eyes” and an Easter gift from a clothing site.

from The Great Debate:

Post Rwanda: Invest in atrocity prevention

In the 20 years since the horrific 1994 genocide in Rwanda and its terrible spillover into the Congo, it has been clear that the global community remains ill-equipped to address such human-made catastrophic tragedies.

While many have worked to heal Rwanda, crises of unfathomable mass violence have continued to unfold in places like Sierra Leone, the former Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Syria. In each case, the international community has failed to live up to a global commitment to prevention, protection and accountability for mass crimes.

from Nicholas Wapshott:

The EU-U.S. love-hate relationship

The elaborate gavotte between the American and European economies continues.

While the Federal Reserve has begun to wind down its controversial quantitative easing (QE) program, the European Central Bank (ECB) the federal reserve of the eurozone, has announced it is considering a QE program of its own.

It is a belated acknowledgement, if not an outright admission, from Mario Draghi, president of the ECB, that five years of the European Union’s austerity policy has failed to lift the eurozone nations out of the economic mire. The ECB has presided over a wholly unnecessary triple-dip recession in the eurozone and sparked a bitter rift between the German-dominated European Union bureaucracy and the Mediterranean nations that must endure the rigors imposed from Brussels. All to little avail.

How cities can help protect citizens from air pollution

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–Julian Hunt is former Director-General at the Met Office and Visiting Professor at Delft University of Technology. Amy Stidworthy is Principal Consultant at Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants. The opinions expressed are their own.–

The Saharan dust in London last week affected the atmosphere, and caused irritation to the many people who suffer from breathing difficulties. Just as in the smog of the 1950s and of Dickens’s day, which was caused by soot from coal burning, the cloud of dust particles was dense enough that less sunlight made it through to ground level.

from The Great Debate:

Afghanistan votes on its future

The coverage on the impending Afghan presidential elections has been filled with death and chaos -- the tragic shooting at the Serena hotel where an international election monitor was killed, the shocking attack on the Afghan Election Commission's headquarters, the killing of a provincial council candidate and the news that several international monitoring groups are pulling out.

These tragedies, however, shift the focus from the major news in Afghanistan this week: Election fever has gripped the nation. I hear from Afghans as well as many foreigners now working in Afghanistan that the excitement about the coming April 5 presidential election is palpable and encouraging.

The Consumer Student

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–Priyamvada Gopal is a University Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of English and Fellow of Churchill College, University of Cambridge. The opinions expressed are her own.–

The once highly-regarded British public university is not quite dead but it is in terminal care. After half a century of global success on public funding that amounted to less than 1.5% of Britain’s GDP, in the space of two years we’ve seen the partial withdrawal of the state from the sector, and it is expected that this is a precursor to full withdrawal followed by extensive privatisation.

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