Forty years ago, it was widely assumed that high interest rates were the only responsible policy to deal with the economic problems of the day. Now it is widely assumed that only low interest rates can suffice. Clearly the decline of high inflation has played a large part in this change. But it is not the only factor. There has also been a change in mindset about the importance of government debt (and deficits), the relative merits of savers and borrowers, and the role of the financial markets. It has amounted to a revolution in economic policy.

Thatcher’s people

Margaret…


It has been portrayed as the revenge of the underdog, of Main Street getting one over on Wall Street. The saga of Gamestop, a video game retailer, has been all over the news in recent days, thanks to its incredible share price surge.

As the company’s annual report makes clear, the firm had been struggling. In the five years to January 31, 2020, its share price fell 85%, while the S&P 500 rose 79% over the same period. Its sales were down 28% over that period and the losses from continuing operations in the two most recent years totalled around…


The President is an agent of international communism. Elites are surrendering American sovereignty to the United Nations. Foreign troops are massing in Mexico, and the Georgia swamps, prior to a takeover of the US.

Those rumours sound contemporary but they are not. They were circulating in the late 1950s, when Dwight Eisenhower, a military hero (and Republican) was the President, and persisted well into the 1960s when American democracy suffered one of its greatest trials. The 1960s were marked by three terrible assassinations (the two Kennedys and Martin Luther King), riots in major cities and huge political division.

A look…


Some call it the “culture war”. Others refer to identity politics. But the language we use and even, in a specific instance, the clothes we wear, identify which “tribe” people belong to. Use the wrong term and you risk being drummed out of the tribe or condemned for being in the wrong group.

It all brings to mind the story in Judges, chapter 12 where the people of Gilead used the word “shibboleth” to identify their enemies, who could not pronounce it. …


It seemed to take forever but it has finally been confirmed that Donald Trump has lost the Presidency and Joe Biden has been elected. The result was rather closer than pollsters expected and took far longer than seems sensible for the world’s most powerful nation.

But it is worth reflecting on the result. In 2016, Trump’s initial election and the Brexit referendum vote were portrayed as a crushing rejection of the “liberal elites” by forgotten communities in the two countries. …


CONSIDER THE attributes of the ideal modern manager. Such a boss would consider a wide range of factors before making a decision. He or she would earn the loyalty of their staff by treating them fairly, and listening to their views. Good managers do not seek to take all the credit when things go right, and nor do they assign blame to others when things go wrong. The best bosses also choose their words carefully when speaking or commenting in public.

President Donald Trump earned his fame as a businessman, and as a host of a reality TV show about…


Steve Bannon, the former political adviser to Donald Trump, regularly portrayed himself as a crusader against an “out-of-touch, cosmopolitan, liberal elite”. So it was a nice irony that, when he was recently arrested on charges (which he denies) relating to the “We Fund the Wall” campaign group, he was onboard a Chinese billionaire’s yacht at the time.

It is pretty presumptuous for anyone to claim to speak for “the people”. The people think quite divergent things. Donald Trump’s election in 2016 caused a lot of commentators to proclaim that “the people” had rebelled against political correctness or neoliberalism or some…


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Thirty years ago, these financial truths would have been seen as self-evident. First, profligate governments pay a price in terms of higher borrowing costs. Second, the magic combination of economic policy would be to keep both inflation and unemployment low; that would keep the voters happy.

But here we are in 2020 and the British government has just borrowed £62bn in the last month, more than it did in the previous financial year. It is on target for a budget deficit of 15% of GDP in the current financial year. …


The Greek tourism minister appeared on the BBC’s Today programme, saying that he hoped Britons would visit his country this summer. But at the same time he suggested that social distancing rules would need to be observed, for example by separating beach chairs.

But it doesn’t take much thought to see how difficult this will be to organise. When people go on holiday, they tend to eat in restaurants, and drink in bars. The only way of enforcing social distancing rules will be to reduce the number of customers in each venue. But how will everybody be fed? …


The coronavirus pandemic has overwhelmed the recent global health debate. But worrying developments were occurring in America even before the virus appeared. And those developments are brilliantly outlined in the recent book by Anne Case and Angus Deaton: Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism. This book is a genuine must-read when you are whiling away those long hours of quarantine. It is also relevant to the discussion of whether the economic shutdown will cause more deaths than the virus.

The book builds on previous work by the two economists which focused on the sudden rise in mortality among…

Philip Coggan

Economist columnist, opinions generally my own, typos always my fault. Author of Paper Promises, The Last Vote and The Money Machine

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