Fiddling with taxes won’t fix the economy

Britain’s grim combination of record indebtedness and anaemic economic growth is desperately calling out for a vigorous government response to shake up and restructure the economy. Unfortunately, the two lightweight contenders for Britain’s next Conservative Party leader and prime minister have not heeded this call.

Instead, all Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss have been able to offer is a choice between tax cuts now versus tax cuts a bit later. The media may claim that this shows an ‘enormous’ gap between the candidates’ economic policies, but that is just empty hype. Both Sunak and Truss share the same illusions about taxation’s ability to revive or depress the economy.

But recent economic history confirms that tax reductions have no determinate effect on business investment and therefore do not contribute to improved productivity performance and economic growth. If the government is serious about tackling our dismal economic situation, it needs to drop its fixation on taxation. And it needs to lead with a genuine plan for economic transformation to drive productivity growth and lift living standards. Anything else is just fiddling while the economic crisis deepens.

Read the full article here.

Brexit is not to blame for our economic woes

There is little doubt that the British economy is in a worse state than most other advanced industrial economies. This calls for a nationwide debate over the causes and potential fixes for this productivity slump. But to say that it’s all Brexit’s fault is a specious thesis that has little to do with economics.

Moreover, the determination to blame Brexit for everything going wrong is letting the Tory government off the hook. Politicians used to blame the EU for their own inaction on economic policy. Now that Brexit gets the blame for Britain’s continuing economic woes, the failure of successive governments to pursue a programme for productivity growth can be downplayed.

Read the full article here.

We are lurching from crisis to crisis

The cost-of-living crisis is not just a question of increasing prices. The reason the current inflation can be considered such a crisis is that the UK has not been creating enough wealth for people to afford these higher prices. And while the recent dislocations and disruptions caused by the lockdown reopenings and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have had a huge impact on prices, the British government still seems incapable of acknowledging that things were not going well economically both before the war and before the pandemic.

Even when the current rapid pace of inflation eventually slows, many households will still be struggling to meet those higher prices of essentials like food and energy. And even if those particular costs began to subside, many people would continue to live on the edge, until the next shock sends them deeper into privation. These scenarios reveal that today’s cost-of-living crisis is not just a product of price increases.

Why have the increased costs become so unbearable for so many households? Why is there so little capacity at an individual, business or societal level to cope with these price spikes? Without addressing these historical issues underlying the current hardship, we are likely to see a continuation of crisis management rather than a durable fix.

Read the full article here.

The end of the American century

Many believe that the war in Ukraine will reverse or bring an end to globalisation. However, this is not the first time that globalisation has been declared dead. Obituaries were published after the financial crash of 2008, after the Brexit vote in 2016 and after the election of President Trump in 2016. Yet more obituaries were penned following the pandemic lockdowns and the accompanying disruption of global supply lines.

When a phenomenon is repeatedly declared dead, only to repeatedly survive, it should raise questions about the usefulness of the concept used to describe it. That certainly goes for the concept of globalisation. World economic developments simply do not follow an either / or, more-or-less logic of globalisation or de-globalisation.

In order to understand today’s economic developments, it is better to start not with globalisation, but with the idea that the world economy is always in flux – that the balance between international and national is always changing. We can therefore ask: which features in the world economy are likely to be magnified or sped up by Russia’s invasion and why? The most important impact will be the acceleration of the existing fragmentation within the world economy, both at the regional level and at the national level.

Read the full article here.

The cost-of-living crisis has been decades in the making

The soaring cost of living, aggravated now by the fallout from the war in Ukraine, is bringing dreadful difficulties and hardship for huge numbers of people. This is the latest in a long series of economic crises which successive governments have been unable to manage effectively. How can Britain stop stumbling from one crisis to the next? By escaping from the sustained underinvestment and rising borrowing that have left Britain trapped in the Long Depression and that have robbed governments of the slack they should have to help people get through such challenges.

Read the full article here.