Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived
A subtle change has been made to the comments links, so they no longer pop up. Does this in any way help with the problem about comments not appearing on permalinked posts, readers?
Update: seemingly not
Update: Oh yeah!
Monday, June 25, 2012
From my email outbox, an occasional series ...
"Blaming the markets for why the USA has so many financial crises is like
blaming the arms manufacturers for why the USA has so many wars -
they're certainly involved, and they're certainly guilty of some very
bad practices, but if that's where your analysis starts and stops then I'd say you're
missing the big picture."
Labels: 'occasional series' with only one post in them
this item posted by the management 6/25/2012 01:12:00 AM
Friday, June 22, 2012
I say "cultural criticism", you say "trolling beer nerds", the truth's probably somewhere in between
I like this comment a little too much to let it languish at the bottom of Phil's blog, at the bottom of a debate about "craft beer" and (once more) the general project of paying four quid for a half pint. The context is branding, the goods and evils of, and in particular the pub chain "Brewdog", whose marketing material irritates beer nerds to hell.
Update! Four quid for half a pint? Those were the good old days. I remember when you could get one third of a pint of lambic IPA with cherries and still get change from a fiver. No more. "Anarchist Alchemist" (I know, I know) currently selling across the road from me for £5.95 for a 190ml glass, or shall we say roughly the same price per bottle as single malt from Sainsbury's. There can be no possible rationale to this pricing decision other than that the head barman guesstimated that there was about a £1500 market for the stuff locally, a barrel contains 88 pints and did the division accordingly.
Thinking about that a bit more, every subculture has this complicated
relationship with its “trendy” element. And it is not exactly difficult to map
the Brewdog flamewars onto a generic template which also fits “heavy metal bands
with a pop single”, “Twenty20 cricket”, “New Labour” etc etc. We have:
1. What they’re doing has nothing to do with us and our subculture and I just
find it boring and can’t see why we’re all talking about them actually.
Boooring. Can we talk about something else please please.
2. It is good to see all these young people and new people jumping onto our
bandwagon but we should not compromise any of our own traditions at all. So
popular and trendy representatives of our subculture must demonstrate regularly
to the rest of us that they are only working in a missionary role, and we will
monitor their progress regularly to ensure that the educational mission is
delivering a steady stream of hardcore enthusiasts.
3. This dillettantism just annoys me, all these people pretending to be like
us when they haven’t suffered like us or put in the hard work which it took to
establish our image and culture. It’s insulting! Worst of all, people are using
goodwill that WE built up for them in order to build popularity with a different
audience. They’re rejecting us, what ingratitude.
4. Actually the purists are the really annoying ones, nothing will ever be
good enough for them and they just alienate people. It’s their fault that our
subculture are looked at as weirdoes. If it wasn’t for the awful bloody purists,
everyone in the land would be just like us and wouldn’t that be great!
5. Errr … um … don’t jump on me for saying this mmkay … I just … sometimes
think … maybe it wouldn’t actually be all that great if we were the mainstream.
I kind of liked it better when it was just this small community who all knew
each other. Of course I don’t really mean that nononono I realise that some
people have built businesses on our culture and I want them to succeed! I just …
I’ll shut up now.
6. One of these days the trend is going to move on and all these half-hearted
types and trendies will leave you know. Then we’ll be back where we started, or
probably worse off because some of us have overextended. We’ll regret any and
all compromises we ever make with the mainstream.
7. They’ll never leave us! We’re so great and everyone’s going to realise it!
WE’LL TAKE OVER THE WORLD! We don’t need to compromise with anything, we’re so
great. Just any moment now, the real, hardcore version of our culture is going
to go mainstream and everyone will forget about the compromise version. Really
soon. Any minute now …
8. Oh come on guys can’t we talk about something else please, these internal
squabbles are what really puts people off. I just find it all rather boring
actually and can’t we talk about something else please.
this item posted by the management 6/22/2012 03:13:00 AM
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Consider this ...
With respect to my quixotic and tasteless campaign for realistic assessment of sadly departed musical heroes, who will disagree with me that for a period of roughly ten days after his death, Willie Nelson will be a more important songwriter than Bob Dylan?
this item posted by the management 6/20/2012 06:13:00 AM
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Germany demands austerity! that's what they do, right?
Why would Germany demand austerity from its trading partners? Exactly? oh probably because they're all right wing conservatives, all of them, and also really Teutonic and uptight, also Weimar or something possibly.
That's the level that the European debate is being conducted at, it seems. I have absolutely no brief for the German political class and was indeed quite early to harangue them as being parochial and smug when to do so was neither popular nor profitable, but ... I don't think much is being gained by such studied mindlessness.
And is it even true? I wrote this to a couple of email correspondents today.
Well we need to define terms here. "Demand austerity" often just seems to mean "declines to provide free money with no say about how it's spent". This was the issue in Greece; it is actually quite correct to worry that providing more fiscal deficit financing in the absence of a functional budget apparatus would just be financing a) capital flight for the Greek rich, and b) another six months of denial and toxic labour relations in the nationalised industries.
In Spain there have been no terms imposed by the troika because it doesn't have a program yet; what it does have is a promise that the program it gets will impose no major fiscal conditionality. Spain has been cutting its budget, but this is a result of the massive liability forced onto it by the regional savings banks and its inability to borrow on the market - it's not anything to do with Germany.
The Euroland Pact isn't an austerity program either; it's "Hard Keynesianism" of the sort advocated by Henry Farrell and John Quiggin in their "Foreign Affairs" article. It refers to the structural rather than cyclical deficit and has an explicit exception for emergencies.
The one case where there has been genuine austerity in the sense of clearly counterproductive procyclical policy in my view is Ireland, but the Irish program was the first one to be agreed, and every party to it believed in confidence-fairy expansionary austerity reasoning. Germany didn't need to force Lenihan and Ahearn to think that the road to recovery was slashing the state and a load of supply side bullshit. If Germany had been able to force any conditionality on Ireland then they would have done something about corporate tax.
Greece would be another case of austerity (and a lot of people, including Paul Krugman, Doug Henwood and Brad Delong, think it is and I'm wrong on this) but in my view people are looking only at the fiscal arithmetic and not at the underlying politics. If you just look at the numbers and assume that Greece is a normal economy that works like any other OECD state, then the budget package looks completely wrong. If you come at it from an emerging-market rather than a developed-market perspective and recognise that there is a limit to the amount of lending you can pour into the leaky bucket that is the Greek fiscal sector, then you get a different perspective - the governance problem is the fiscal problem is the austerity problem.
In any case, none of Germany's policy stance is based on being "righteous". It's all based on not wanting to pay an unknown and possibly unlimited amount of money with no effective control on how it's spent and no ability to prevent further debts being run up in future. In actual fact, Germany's unwillingness to act this way has disastrous effects, and their technical and ideological legacy to the ECB even more so, but you can see their reasons for believing what they believe. When Greece has riots over the suggestion of a technical assistance mission to their tax collection authorities and the biggest Sunday newspaper in Ireland talks about "jackboots" (and the French as their "collaborators", presumably in the vague hope that everyone had forgotten De Valera's neutrality), the temptation to say "well screw you guys, remember that *we* can export to China" must be overpowering.
And if we're going to ignore political possibility, it would help a lot if Greece would implement labour reforms and undo the crony networks, Ireland could reform the tax system and break the links between politicians and property developers, Italy could improve tax collection and Spain could bring the regional governments under the central budget.
Seriously, after two years of having it explained to me that a Democratic president can't pass a centrist healthcare bill through a House and Senate with Democratic supermajorities, it is now my turn to suggest that implementing a high-wage, high-inflation policy in Germany is also not quite as simple as that.
And just before taking my contrarian jester's hat off, I'll rejoind to the Paul Krugman access that there is, actually, one example of a European country carrying out an internal devaluation when faced with an overvalued exchange rate which is generally regarded as a success ... obviously, the policy mix for Germany wouldn't be appropriate for countries that don't have its particular endowment of technology and human capital. But if you start thinking about what it might be like to see things through their eyes, you get a bit of a different perspective.
this item posted by the management 6/19/2012 12:48:00 PM