Britain is a service economy with a lot of lousy services. The paradox is easily explainable. Service and cost-cutting are contradictions in terms. Good services are intrinsically expensive because they require a high ratio of labour to product; hence the old view that services could not be automated. Yet the main aim of those who run our service economy is to cut the costs represented by human labour as much and as fast as they can.
The view that services are automation-proof has been disproved. Think of the labour-saving devices in the home – vacuum cleaners, washing machines, dishwashers – that have reduced the burden of domestic drudgery and created leisure time that in the past only the rich enjoyed. Think of cash dispensers, ofContinue reading...
The economics of despair
Robert Skidelsky and Marcus Miller
| Friday, June 28, 2013
Across Europe, austerity policies have caused stagnation and despair. There is a more humane way to restore our fortunes
Lionel Robbins defined economics as the study of the allocation of scarce resources among competing uses. For an economy at full employment, where the opportunity cost of government spending is the private spending it displaces, this remains a good characterisation. But what if there is a deficiency of aggregate demand, so the nation’s resources are being underused – as evidenced by significant involuntary unemployment? In this case, in so far as it employs unused capacity, expenditure by the government will add to the resources available for investment and consumption. This is conventionally measured by theContinue reading...
Vince Cable has responded to Robert Skidelsky's September 2012 article on the economy, 'Go left, go right… go downhill'.
You can read Cable's article here at the New Statesman website:
And Robert Skidelsky's original piece, here:
Meeting our makers
| Thursday, January 24, 2013
In the early 1950s, Britain was an industrial giant. Today it is an industrial pygmy. Manufacturing was industry’s bedrock. In 1952 it produced a third of national output, employed 40% of the workforce, and made up a quarter of world manufacturing exports. Today manufacturing is just 12% of GDP, employs only 8% of the workforce, and sells 2% of the world’s manufacturing exports. The iconic names of industrial Britain are history: in their place is the service economy and supermarkets selling mainly imported goods. What happened? Was it inevitable? Does it matter?
Nicholas Comfort’s book is exactly what its title promises: a roll call of the dead and the dying. The broad outline of the story is well-known. Britain ended the SecondContinue reading...
Refreshed by his summer holiday, David Cameron vowed to “get Britain moving again”. A slew of kick-starting initiatives has followed, most of them the brainchild of his government’s one-man think tank, Vince Cable.
The figures are dire. After a tepid recovery from the collapse of 2008, the British economy has started shrinking again. Most forecasters expect a negative growth outcome for this year. The same is true of the eurozone.
What has gone wrong? In the spring of 2009 all the major economies, including Britain’s, were given a large fiscal and monetary stimulus. Then in June 2010 George Osborne, the Chancellor, entered the Treasury with a large dose of austerity. It is true that a correlation isn’t a cause, but could it beContinue reading...