Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes review – more than the sum of its parts

Review of Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes
by Richard Davenport-Hines

Splitting a biography of the influential economist into parts pays dividends

I admit I came to Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes with a certain prejudice. I knew Richard Davenport-Hines as an accomplished writer and biographer. But he has no background in economics. How could he write a successful life of the most fascinating and influential economist of the 20th century, the economist who gave governments the tools to fight slumps? (Not that they always use them!)

Continue reading “Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes review – more than the sum of its parts”

Cameron is right to warn of another recession, but wrong to blame the world

Ministers are up to their old game of blaming everyone but themselves for Britain’s economic woes. First, they said they were “clearing up the mess” left by Labour. When recovery stalled in 2010, it was because of the Greek crisis. Now David Cameron warns of a new recession even before it has happened– because Europe is not doing its job of recovering properly.

Continue reading “Cameron is right to warn of another recession, but wrong to blame the world”

Labour must expose the fallacy of George Osborne’s ‘recovery’

Where has the conference silly season left the debate on economic policy? George Osborne claims to have routed his critics: fiscal austerity has produced recovery. Labour, seemingly amazed that recovery has happened, has promised that a Labour government will continue to cut the deficit, albeit a little more slowly. The Liberal Democrats would join them in the slower lane. The main point of difference seems to be that “Labour cuts” will be fairer than “Tory cuts”.

Continue reading “Labour must expose the fallacy of George Osborne’s ‘recovery’”

Labour should hammer home one simple message on the economy

The Labour party faces a political dilemma. Barely a day goes past without the more excitable parts of the British press trumpeting some new signal of Britain’s economic success. Every other headline screams that Britain is “booming” or that its factories are “roaring to life”. Every little jump in the flimsiest of economic indicators, every upward revision of economic forecasts, is celebrated as if it were a triumph worthy of song. And the propaganda seems to be working: voters’ confidence in Conservative economic management has soared, and in Labour’s has slumped.

Continue reading “Labour should hammer home one simple message on the economy”

High-speed rail could set Britain – and Europe – on the path to recovery

The chancellor’s fiscal policy has been a disaster – a growth-first strategy driven by a bond-funded HS2 could be the answer

When George Osborne took over the Treasury, he decided that fiscal policy would be governed not by the state of the real economy but by the state of the public finances, as measured by pre-set fiscal targets, particularly the rate of deficit reduction. Those targets were designed to reassure investors in government debt that the state was solvent and would remain so.

Continue reading “High-speed rail could set Britain – and Europe – on the path to recovery”

Dear George… Advice to George Osborne

Dear George,

Cutting public spending when there is no other source of growth in the economy is a sure-fire strategy for recession. As if the lack of recovery wasn’t bad enough, the lack of growth also scuppers your deficit-reduction goals – the very reason for austerity in the first place. Like throwing away the engine to trim a car, you have offset the lack of revenue recovery by slashing capital spending. The results are already being seen in the forecasts: there will be no spurt of growth to regain the losses of the recession. The best we can hope for is a slow crawl along the bottom.

Continue reading “Dear George… Advice to George Osborne”

Let’s abolish retirement

Retirement is not as old as you think. According to the Bible, God expelled Adam from Paradise with the terrible words: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.” And that’s more or less how it was until about a hundred years ago. Most people worked till they died. Pensions in the UK date from 1908, and the cost of the first pension schemes was tiny, as the retirement age of 70 was 20 years beyond average life expectancy. Retirement was for heaven – if one had lived a virtuous life.

Continue reading “Let’s abolish retirement”