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]

Lend-Lease 2.0 explained

An interesting demystification by the excellent Perun…

Samizdata quote of the day

“A majority of Americans want companies to stay out of politics. They want to have a separate space for where they shop, where they work, and where they invest from the places where they cast their ballots or engage in their political debates.”

Vivek Ramaswamy, a young businessman and author of Woke Inc. He is critical of the current trend of firms, and asset managers such as BlackRock, seemingly putting non-financial goals before those to do with actually earning a return for investors.

A visual illustration of how much money printing has been going on


As a supplement to Johnathan’s post. A couple of points:

  • This is M2 which is cash and bank deposits. There are other measures like M3 and M4 which measure other forms of money. I would have preferred to have used M4 because – if I recall correctly – it is the broadest measure, but I couldn’t find a graph for that.
  • The black line is money supply growth; the red line is inflation (CPI).
  • The percentage increase in 2020 was greater than at any time since before the Second World War. Even in the middle of a world war there was less money printing.

Update 10/5/22. As Douglas2 points out this is a graph for the US. Ugh. Luckily TomJ has found a graph for the UK which looks like this: 

This is very similar so long as you are aware that the blue line has been moved 18 months to the right. It also suggests that this bout of inflation is likely to be short-lived.

Samizdata quote of the day

“If you decided to stop working for the better part of two years, and to maintain your income solely through borrowing, you’d end up worse off. Almost everyone understands that on a personal level. But we struggle to extend the logic to the nation. During the lockdowns, the Government paid people not to produce things, and funded the difference by printing money. A decline in the production of real-world goods and services, combined with an increase in the number of pounds and pence in circulation, would mean inflation even without the Ukrainian conflict. Yet commentators and MPs who opposed every loosening of restrictions (including Starmer) now talk about the cost of living crisis as if it were some wanton act of ministerial sadism.”

Daniel Hannan, Sunday Telegraph (£)

The problem in my view is that on economics, or indeed on certain other topics where people need to understand cause and effect, the education system in this country, and indeed much of our culture, is against an understanding of cause/effect beyond the concrete experiences of daily life. People seem unable to think in terms of concepts. The question is whether there are sufficient people to point these links out between rising prices, poverty, and a policy of “work for nothing” paid for by printing money. Much hinges on making the case.

People can collaborate in free markets too

The author of this Reuters article on the German jobs market plainly hasn’t heard of Linkedin, or jobs advertising, or even old-style labour exchanges where people can go to find out where vacancies are and retrain. Time for a good old fisking:

Germany’s industrial heavyweights are teaming up to retrain workers in areas such as software and logistics to fill a growing skills gap and avoid layoffs among workers of all ages as the economy shifts to clean energy and online shopping.

There is nothing wrong with firms exchanging ideas with one another to fix an issue. (Although ironically, government “anti-trust” laws might work against that.) It is worth noting, of course, that losses of jobs in areas such as petrol-driven cars are partly caused by government policy itself, such as the Net Zero decarbonization efforts that, depending on your point of view, are necessary or barking insane.

More than 36 major companies, ranging from auto suppliers such as Continental (CONG.DE) and Bosch (ROBG.UL) to industrial firms BASF (BASFn.DE) and Siemens (SIEGn.DE), have agreed to coordinate on redundancies at one firm and vacancies at another, training workers to move directly from job to job.


The scheme underscores Germany’s long-term social market economy model, which gives more influence to labour unions as opposed to free-market capitalism focused on maximizing profits.

Does it? I mean, I assume German firms want to pursue a profit. They’re not charities.

The costs of the initiative will be shared by the companies involved on a case-by-case basis. So if a factory closes, a dialogue will begin on what to do with its workers and then involve another company which may be seeking new skills.

Again, this seems like rational self-interest to me. There’s no objection I see to firms liaising with one another, and forming pacts about dealing with the need for skilled people. The key is that the State keeps its nose out of it. Also, if firms try and steer staff who might lose a job to another firm, that needs to be weighed against whether and how the employee might want their lives to go. The tone of the article seems to be that what is needed is a sort of hand-holding paternalism, but that creates a vicious circle where employees lose the desire to manage their working careers in a proactive way.

A study by think-tank Ifo Institute warned that 100,000 jobs linked to the internal combustion engine could be lost by 2025 if carmakers failed to transition fast enough to electric vehicles and retrain workers.

Forcing an entire industry to abandon a reliable, effective technology used for a century and switch to an arguably less reliable, and more costly one. Yep, there are going to be consequences. It also doesn’t help that German government policy in the past 20 years on energy has been almost calculated to harm its manufacturing base in the long run.

Engineering, metalwork and logistics are among the sectors seeking high numbers of people in Germany, alongside care work, catering and sales.The demand for skilled workers is coming from overseas companies too, highlighted by Tesla’s (TSLA.O) decision to build its European electric vehicle and battery plant in the state of Brandenburg, where it will create 12,000 new jobs.

Good news, so long as the jobs are financially viable.

Ariane Reinhart, board member responsible for human resources (HR) at Continental and chief spokesperson of the [jobs] business-led initiative, was quoted as saying: “Leaving it to the free market is not enough – it would not be what’s best for workers, or the economy.”

Wrong. For a start, none of the ideas about firms collaborating to move workers with desired skills around could not happen in a free market without state interference. Employers (I am one) know that finding talented staff is one of the most important issues there is, and in an open economy, there are all kinds of ways people with skills in demand can find jobs. Further, it is hardly a mystery to employees that they should keep on top of new skills to make themselves more desirable and increase what they earn. That’s the “free market”. The author of this article might want to reflect that it was the free market economy, and not some sort of top-down socialism, that helped propel West Germany after 1945 into being one of the richest economies on earth. By 1960 or thereabouts, that country had matched the UK in terms output per head.

To repeat an important point: there is no reason why firms could not and would not collaborate, if their self-interest coincided, in figuring out how people with desirable skills could be moved from place to place. What the author of this article cannot or will not address is whether firms in the article are not just doing what they might do anyway? Why did this question not get asked? Why just accept, at face value, that this sort of collaboration is some wonderful example of a less market-based system? After all, I can log on to the internet and find jobs, homes, flights, hotels, courses for training in new skills, etc, without anyone from government or some official entity holding my hand. Amazing, isn’t it, this “free market” of ours.

What a difference a year makes: the green dream dies in Sri Lanka

April 2021:

“Sri Lanka will become first country to be free of chemical fertilizer”, the Sri Lankan news website News First reported:

COLOMBO (News 1st); President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has stated that he will take up the challenge in making Sri Lanka the first country in the world to eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers without reversing any of the steps that have been taken.

The absence of any country in the world that has eliminated the use of chemical fertilizers is not an obstacle to achieving the goal, President Rajapaksa noted.

The President urged all to unite to educate the farmer and create a healthy generation at a discussion held at the Presidential Secretariat on Thursday (29) to raise awareness on the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides and the ban on such imports.

“The government must guarantee the right of the people to a non-toxic diet to produce a healthy and productive citizen,” said the President.

April 2022:

“How Sri Lanka’s shift to organic farming left it in the manure,” reports the Times:

What turned Sri Lanka’s economic situation from difficult to catastrophic was the decision by the Rajapaksa government to implement a nationwide ban on synthetic fertiliser. It was made not at the behest of neoliberal economists doing the bidding of global capital, but rather on the advice of environmentalists in the name of sustainable agriculture.


But that strategy backfired in spectacular fashion. Domestic rice production fell by 14 per cent from 2021 to 2022, forcing the nation, long self-sufficient in rice production, to import hundreds of millions of dollars of rice and more than eroding all of the savings from ceasing fertiliser imports. On top of that, the ban decimated tea production, leading to a $425 million economic loss to the industry in its first six months of implementation. Tea, one of the nation’s primary crops, is a key source of its total export income, making a bad foreign exchange situation far worse.

Inflation: what happened last time

A lot of people in the media are calling it the “cost of living crisis” but us lot who were around in the 1970s know it as “inflation”. Back then – if the government’s figures are/were to be believed – it peaked at 25%. The 1970s were a pretty horrible decade all round. As well as inflation, there were constant strikes, bankrupt nationalised industries and a general air of doom. A Samizdata contributor, growing up in France even had an economics text book with a chapter entitled, “Britain: headed for the Third World?”

Since the mid-1980s inflation has been much lower. It’s been present but until now it has been far less of a day-to-day problem. So, what happened? The Thatcher government put up interest rates. For reasons that I may have once understood, but no longer do, this reduced inflation. But it came at a price. Huge numbers of businesses went bust or reduced their workforces. Unemployment skyrocketed. By the mid-1980s growth had returned but many previously industrialised areas did not recover and still haven’t. I doubt they ever will.

Are there lessons in this? Harbingers more like. Interest rates have been very low for a very long time. Homeowners – as opposed to businesses last time round – have borrowed a lot. If you are on an average income and want to own your own house and bring up a family that is what you have to do. Should interest rates go up, millions will find they cannot pay their mortgages. A cynic might argue that at least in the 1980s, the pain was borne by people who weren’t going to vote Conservative anyway. This time, that’s not so clear.

Update 16/4/22. I see from the comments that a lot of people in the US have fixed rate mortgages. Very sensible. I wonder if that is the case here in the UK? Also, how easy is for banks to call a loan in?

It occurs to me that lots of people with fixed-rate mortgages might not be all that good a get-out-of-jail-free card. If interest rates do go up that would severely depress house prices. Sure, homeowners would still be able to pay off their mortgages but their properties would be worth a lot less.

Homeowners of course are not the only borrowers. A few years ago – when I was into this sort of thing – I came across a couple of reasonably-large, barely-profitable companies with large amounts of debt that periodically needed to be refinanced. If interest rates go up they would be in a lot of trouble. I wonder how prevalent this is?

Saying it like it is

Samizdata quote of the day

“As long as life sustenance remains the ultimate goal of individuals, they are likely to assign a higher valuation to present goods versus the future goods and no central bank interest rate manipulation is likely to change this. Any attempt by central bank policy makers to overrule this fact is going to undermine the process of wealth formation and lower individual’s living standards. It is not going to help economic growth if the central bank artificially lowers interest rates whilst individuals did not allocate an adequate amount of savings to support the expansion of capital goods investments. It is not possible to replace savings with more money and the artificial lowering of the interest rate. It is not possible to generate something out of nothing. Likewise, by raising interest rates the central bank cannot undo the damage from the previous easy interest rate stance.”

Dr Frank Shostak, writing at the Cobden Centre website. (Thanks to Paul Marks for the pointer.)

What new depravity is this?

“UK supermarkets accused of ‘bombarding’ shoppers with cheap meat”, whispers the Guardian’s Denis Campbell in shock:

Britain’s biggest supermarkets stand accused of “bombarding” shoppers with offers of cheap meat, despite pledging to promote more meat-free diets to improve health and tackle global heating.

They are using money-saving promotions, such as two for the price of one, as a way of “pushing” meat, at odds with moves in the UK and globally for consumers to eat less of it, research found.

Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons are each offering scores of deals every week on meat products such as burgers and sausages to drive sales and boost their profits, according to a report from the

Marketing directors of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons? Apparently not. This disturbing news comes from the…

charity Eating Better. It is an umbrella group representing more than 60 organisations including WWF UK, Greenpeace, public health bodies, dietitians, the RSPCA and food charities.

Net Zero is “in Nigel Farage’s sights”

I have considerable respect for the Guardian‘s John Harris. Though a Remainer himself, he was one of the first left-wing journalists to see that the campaign to leave the European Union had popular support, particularly among the working class, and the reason he could see that while others could not was because he and his colleague John Domokos did what others did not and put in the legwork to report from “Anywhere But Westminster”.

But respect does not mean agreement. Mr Harris writes that “Nigel Farage’s hard-right faction won Brexit. Now net zero is in its sights” like that’s a bad thing.

Mafia Economics

This description of Russia’s economy grows into an interesting analysis of how power and economic reality interact.

Some bits may strike you as not so very unlike Biden’s US.

Of course, it was all investigated. Of course, dishonest CEO of Russian factory was arrested. Fortunately, they found out that the governor was innocent & didn’t know about CEO’s shady schemes. … Fortunately her patriotism and hard work were well-noticed by Putin and he promoted her. Now she’s an Auditor of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation. She’ll be checking the transparency of other branches of government and make sure they use government funds efficiently.

Other parts, however, give examples of how economic activity in places like Russia and Mexico is determined by things that we in the anglosphere are not too familiar with (yet!).

Russians are good in sciences and very good in math. … How come Russia can’t produce anything competitive on the world market? Apparently it’s not a technical skill that is a limiting factor.

Having asked the question, he goes on to provide answers.