We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

And the idea that is the bedrock of all economics is the understanding that complex economic order emerges spontaneously, without central design or guidance, when private property is secure and markets are at least reasonably free – when, in short, there reigns what Adam Smith called the “the obvious and simple system of natural liberty.”

Too many economists today, busy mastering mathematical technique or striving to make their work relevant for current holders of political power, lamentably never learn – much less master – these and other foundational ideas. But no amount of mastery of the idea of the likes of Nash equilibrium or of the Stolper-Samuelson theorem is worth a damn without a mastery of these older, less sexy, yet foundational ideas.

Donald Boudreaux

Samizdata quote of the day

Whenever dismal scientists agree so passionately about the impact of a complex, one-off and multi-faceted event, alarm bells deserve to go off

Allister Heath

Samizdata quote of the day

If that sounds familiar, it’s because this amounts to Mr. Corbyn’s People’s Quantitative Easing concept in all but name. The idea much derided last year is becoming so mainstream that even a leadership candidate for Britain’s Conservative Party, Stephen Crabb, could recently propose a £100 billion ($130 billion) public-works investment fund that wasn’t so different from PQE. Mr. Corbyn’s PQE is essentially indistinguishable from the suggested 50-year Japanese bonds.

This probably says more about the central bankers’ desperation than Mr. Corbyn’s prescience. With government spending and borrowing constrained by slow growth and high debt, and supply-side reforms still politically far off in many economies, the pressure is mounting on central bankers to act as magicians pulling rabbits out of their hats. The longer this continues, the deeper they’ll have to rummage around for the next rabbit. It’s enough to make one wonder what will be the next extreme idea to follow the journey from crank to orthodoxy.

John Phelan

Samizdata quote of the day

For those that already have, Mark Carney is the gift that keeps on giving. Borrowed imprudently and struggling to make those interest payments ? Worry not; the Bank of England has your back. For those that don’t have, the Bank of England is taking away your chance of ever realistically saving anything, now that interest rates have been driven down to new historic lows of 0.25%, and may go lower yet. For the asset-rich, for the 1%, for property speculators, and for zombie companies and banks, Carney is your man. For the asset poor, or for savers, or pensioners, or insurance companies, or pension funds, the Bank of England has morphed from being anti-inflationary fireman to monetary arsonist.

Tim Price

“They like to fill out forms”

Boy, the Guardian‘s commenters are not happy with this offering: “The secret life of a trade union employee: I do little but the benefits are incredible”. My respects to the paper for printing it. For all its faults the Guardian does present a variety of opinion.

Many Libertarians and like-minded folk are reflexively against trade unions. I am not. I believe that any two people, or any two groups of people, should be free to come up with whatever deal suits them, and it is nobody else’s business to tell them they cannot operate under those conditions. A single union workplace? Fine, so long as you do not impose it by force or threats. (A comment from Laird below prompts me to add that perhaps the most common sort of imposition by force is the use of law. Neither employers nor unions need hire goons any more – they hire legislators instead.) Free competition between unions will in the long term raise the general standard, just as it does between companies or nations. If they are wise, trade unions will not simply compete to provide the highest wages or the best services for their members. They should also compete to promote the prosperity of the industries in which their members work. Militant trade unions have killed whole industries – ask the old men who used to be printers or dockers in the 1970’s – and smart workers know this. It looks like the anonymous writer of this piece is dimly aware that the union for which he or she works is beginning to pay the price for featherbedding:

There are disadvantages to these perks though, as nobody feels they can leave until they retire or are offered a fantastic redundancy package. Even that doesn’t work sometimes, as people realise they are on to such a good thing that they refuse the redundancy offer and stay here to do little more than open the post for the rest of their working lives, while still picking up the same salary.

As a result we have an ageing workforce with no fresh ideas. The activists are computer illiterate, preferring to print out emails instead of send them on electronically. I was once scoffed at for suggesting that we try to have a paperless office instead of killing rainforests. “We have too many old members. They like to fill out forms,” I was told.

Macroeconomics Today

The Bank of England just cut interest rates to 0.25%, announced it will buy 60bn government bonds and 10bn corporate bonds, and reduced its growth predictions (for what they are worth) from 2.3% to 0.8%. There is talk of reducing the rate of VAT. There is talk of reducing corporation tax, which incidentally worries Northern Ireland pundits because a plan to do the same thing there might lose some of its advantage.

I am not sure whether to be happy or sad. I will stick to happy for now, because I am an unrelenting optimist. Could Brexit panic the establishment into turning Britain into Chris Patten’s Hong Kong to save the economy?

Edit: I should have said John Copperthwaite, not Chris Patten.

Samizdata quote of the day

“The advocates of the minimum wage and its periodic boosting reply that all this is scare talk and that minimum wage rates do not and never have caused any unemployment. The proper riposte is to raise them one better; all right, if the minimum wage is such a wonderful anti-poverty measure, and can have no unemployment-raising effects, why are you such pikers? Why you are helping the working poor by such piddling amounts? Why stop at $4.55 an hour? Why not $10 an hour? $100? $1,000?”

Murray Rothbard.

Alice in Wonderland economics

Has the Bank of England finished its campaign of driving down UK base rates and forcibly impoverishing savers ? On the evidence of last week’s Radio 4 programme ‘How low can rates go ?’ hosted by my dear and highly valued friend Martin Wolf, the answer is unclear. But a host of government-appointed technocrats from around the world, including Mr. Kuroda, were wheeled out in defence of a monetary policy that severed any ties it might once have had with the real world quite some time ago. (Victor Hill, reviewing the programme, calls it ‘Alice in Wonderland’ economics.)

– Tim Price writing about Monetary Terrorism.

One has to wonder about the true motives of people opposed to “sweatshops”

In June, the Sun newspaper in the UK claimed that a factory in Sri Lanka that produces a line of clothing for a popular singer Beyonce is using sweatshop “slaves.” The report attracted little interest in Sri Lanka, partly because attention was more focused on the devastating floods that hit the island. But perhaps the report also failed to make waves because it simply did not ring true; the mainstream apparel factories in Sri Lanka are seen as responsible and respected employers in the formal sector.

– Ravi Ratnasabapathy, writing an article called Why Sri Lankans want to work in Beyonce’s “sweatshop”

However I think Ratnasabapathy might overestimate both the wits and honesty of the people who criticise such forms of employment in the Third World.

Samizdata quote of the day

Attempts to stabilise the economy have frustrated capitalism’s creative-destructive tendencies. Depressed economies need disrupting, not preserving

Phil Mullan

Working behind a bar more dangerous than being a cop in the US

Via the Marginal Revolution blog, which has lots of useful and eye-catching facts, as well as more high-minded economics stuff, is this bar-chart from “Ninja Economics” showing that, according to presumably US figures, working behind a bar carries more risk of death than being a police officer.

The most dangerous occupation is that of a logger, followed by a fisher and then pilot/flight engineer.

Many of the jobs involve working outdoors with heavy machinery, in areas such as mining, or in occupations such as roofing, maintenance, agriculture and ranching. Somehow, I don’t think the “snowflake” generation is interested, but those who are interested in Mike Rowe’s “dirty jobs” might be.

Venezuela: an evolving story

Misreporting Venezuela’s economy – Mark Weisbrot, writing for the Guardian in September 2010

Venezuela’s devaluation doom-mongers – Mark Weisbrot, writing for the Guardian in March 2013

Sorry, Venezuela haters: this economy is not the Greece of Latin America – Mark Weisbrot, writing for the Guardian in November 2013

For some reason Mr Weisbrot has not written much for the Guardian comment pages on the subject of Venezuela recently, but to its credit the Guardian has covered developments in that country in the news pages:

‘At least 35,000’ Venezuelans cross border to Colombia to buy food and medicine – a story from the Associated Press appearing in the Guardian on 17 July 2016.

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans poured into neighbouring Colombia to buy food and medicine on Saturday after authorities briefly opened the border that has been closed for almost a year.

A similar measure last week led to dramatic scenes of the elderly and mothers storming Colombian supermarkets and highlighted how daily life has deteriorated for millions in Venezuela, where the economy has been in a freefall since the 2014 crash in oil prices.