To manage the latest wave of automation, we must have ends that are more compelling than merely wanting more products and services.
The Next Stage Of Women’s Emancipation?
February 6, 2018, marked the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, which enfranchised (some) women in Britain for the first time – a reward for women’s work during World War I. In honor of this historic event, statues of two leaders in the struggle for women’s suffrage, Millicent Fawcett and Emmeline Pankhurst, are […]
Racing The Machine
Dispelling anxiety about robots has become a major preoccupation of business apologetics. The commonsense – and far from foolish – view is that the more jobs are automated, the fewer there will be for humans to perform. The headline example is the driverless car. If cars can drive themselves, what will happen to chauffeurs, taxi […]
Inconvenient Truths About Migration
Sociology, anthropology, and history have been making large inroads into the debate on immigration. It seems that Homo economicus, who lives for bread alone, has given way to someone for whom a sense of belonging is at least as important as eating. This makes one doubt that hostility to mass immigration is simply a protest […]
Who runs the European Union? On the eve of Germany’s general election, that is a very timely question. One standard reply is, “The EU’s member states” – all 28 of them. Another is, “The European Commission.” But Paul Lever, a former British ambassador to Germany, offers a more pointed answer: Berlin Rules is the title of his […]
Britain’s Deepening Confusion
“Enough is enough,” proclaimed British Prime Minister Theresa May after the terrorist attack on London Bridge. Now, it is clear, almost half of those who voted in the United Kingdom’s general election on June 8 have had enough of May, whose Conservative majority was wiped out at the polls, producing a hung parliament (with no majority for any party). […]
The Varieties Of Populist Experience
Emmanuel Macron’s decisive defeat of Marine Le Pen in the French presidential runoff was a major victory for liberal Europe. But it was a battle, not a war. The idea that one in three French citizens would vote for the National Front’s Le Pen was inconceivable only a few years ago. Commentators have affixed the […]
The Scarecrow Of National Debt
Most people are more worried by government debt than about taxation. “But it’s trillions” a friend of mine recently expostulated about the United Kingdom’s national debt. He exaggerated a bit: it is £1.7 trillion ($2.2 trillion). But one website features a clock showing the debt growing at a rate of £5,170 per second. Although the tax take is far […]
The Failure Of Free Migration
The horrendous attack by a French-Tunisian man on a crowd in Nice celebrating Bastille Day, which killed 84 and injured hundreds more, will give National Front leader Marine Le Pen a massive boost in next spring’s presidential election. It doesn’t matter whether the murderer, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, had any links to radical Islamism. Throughout the […]
Basic Income Revisited
Britain isn’t the only country holding a referendum this month. On June 5, Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected, by 77% to 23%, the proposition that every citizen should be guaranteed an unconditional basic income (UBI). But that lopsided outcome doesn’t mean the issue is going away anytime soon. Indeed, the idea of a UBI has made […]
The False Promise Of Negative Interest Rates
As a biographer and aficionado of John Maynard Keynes, I am sometimes asked: “What would Keynes think about negative interest rates?” It’s a good question, one that recalls a passage in Keynes’s General Theory in which he notes that if the government can’t think of anything more sensible to do to cure unemployment (say, building houses), burying […]
A British Bridge For A Divided Europe
The European Union has never been very popular in Britain. It joined late, and its voters will be asked on June 23 whether they want to leave early. The referendum’s outcome will not be legally binding on the government; but it is inconceivable that Britain will stay if the public’s verdict is to quit. Over […]
Keynes’s General Theory At 80
In 1935, John Maynard Keynes wrote to George Bernard Shaw: “I believe myself to be writing a book on economic theory which will largely revolutionize – not, I suppose, at once but in the course of the next ten years – the way the world thinks about its economic problems.” And, indeed, Keynes’s magnum opus, The General […]
How Much Debt Is Too Much?
Is there a “safe” debt/income ratio for households or debt/GDP ratio for governments? In both cases, the answer is yes. And in both cases, it is impossible to say exactly what that ratio is. Nonetheless, this has become the most urgent macroeconomic question of the moment, owing not just to spiraling household and government debt […]
The Decline Of The West Revisited
The terrorist slaughter in Paris has once again brought into sharp relief the storm clouds gathering over the twenty-first century, dimming the bright promise for Europe and the West that the fall of communism opened up. Given dangers that seemingly grow by the day, it is worth pondering what we may be in for. Though […]
Can The West Deal With The Refugee Crisis?
The tragic exodus of people from war-torn Syria and surrounding countries challenges the world’s reason and sympathy. Since 2011, some four million people have fled Syria, with millions more internally displaced. Syria’s neighbors – Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey – currently house the vast majority of the externally displaced. But, as the crisis has progressed, hundreds […]
Taking Corbynomics Seriously
Fiscal austerity has become such a staple of conventional wisdom in the United Kingdom that anyone in public life who challenges it is written off as a dangerous leftist. Jeremy Corbyn, the current favorite to become the next leader of Britain’s Labour Party, is the latest victim of this chorus of disparagement. Some of his […]
No Pain, No Gain For Britain?
The economic historian Niall Ferguson reminds me of the late Oxford historian A.J.P. Taylor. Though Taylor maintained that he tried to tell the truth in his historical writing, he was quite ready to spin the facts for a good cause. Ferguson, too, is a wonderful historian – but totally unscrupulous when he shifts into political gear. Ferguson’s […]
Debating The Confidence Fairy
In 2011, the Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman characterized conservative discourse on budget deficits in terms of “bond vigilantes” and the “confidence fairy.” Unless governments cut their deficits, the bond vigilantes will put the screws to them by forcing up interest rates. But if they do cut, the confidence fairy will reward them by stimulating private spending more than […]
The Moral Economy Of Debt
Every economic collapse brings a demand for debt forgiveness. The incomes needed to repay loans have evaporated, and assets posted as collateral have lost value. Creditors demand their pound of flesh; debtors clamor for relief. Consider Strike Debt, an offshoot of the Occupy movement, which calls itself “a nationwide movement of debt resisters fighting for economic […]
Since I believe that the Scots are sensible, I think that they will vote “no” this week to independence. But, whichever way the vote goes, the spectacular rise of nationalism, in Scotland and elsewhere in Europe, is a symptom of a diseased political mainstream. Many are now convinced that the current way of organizing our […]