Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Why are drugs so unpopular?

Here's a blog for you, yes I stole it from an essay I did but it works pretty well, though I have rejigged it slightly so that it makes sense for people who aren't economists. Actually that sounds like a bit of a pain so I'll use this as a chance to expand your vocabulary, if you don't know what vocabulary means then stop reading now, I don't want your kind reading my blog.

"Utility" here refers to the concept of pleasure acquired through an action. Economists generally use the word utility rather than pleasure, because it sounds fancier and hence makes us seem smarter, but also because its less likely to be confused with a crude innuendo.

"Substitutes" here refers to a similar good that a person could consume instead of the original. For example cider vs beer or the cinema vs watching television.

"Opportunity cost" here refers to the cost of an action in terms of not doing other actions instead. For example if I go to the pub, there is an opportunity cost in the form of time I could have spent working on essays or whatever other fun filled activities the university has deigned to bless me with.

According to an NHS study, in 2006 72% of men and 57% of women reported drinking an alcoholic drink on at least one day in the week prior to the interview. This contrasts with marijuana, which according to a study for the UK drug policy commission in 2007, less than 9% of people in England and Wales had used in the past year, with the figures for stronger drugs such as ecstasy, heroin, and cocaine all being lower than 3%. The reasons for this relative unpopularity can be explained as a simple case of lower demand, but we can also look deeper and assess why demand may be lower for these substances as opposed to legal ones.

Firstly there is the rather obvious case that crack cocaine is a tad worse for you than alchohol, so theres that. But the health effect only applies to the stronger drugs, with weaker ones having health effects that according to some are no worse than legal alternatives. Due to this, looking at the effects of illegalisation may be more insightful.

The illegality of drugs disincentivises people from using them, this effect is boosted by the existence of legal substitutes such as alcohol. This means that when a person makes a decision they not only make it based on whether they will gain utility by consuming illicit drugs but also whether this utility gain is greater than the opportunity cost of using the time and money consuming illicit drugs as opposed to consuming a legal substitute.

Firstly, the illegality means that buying the drugs in the first place is harder. While in the case of alcohol a person can easily walk into a shop, many of which have signs identifying them as places where alcohol can be purchased, with drugs a person has to somehow find a dealer, which is tricky due to their inability to advertise. This adds an extra cost to illicit drug consumption in both terms of time and effort.

Secondly, the illegality adds an extra risk to the activity. A person who desires to relax through recreational drug use, also has to deal with the risk of being caught purchasing, carrying or using the drug. This lowers the utility of consuming drugs.

Thirdly, the utility is limited due to the consumer only being able to consume their illicit drugs in certain places. Due to the fact they need to keep their use relatively hidden, drug users are unable to consume their drugs in many social settings and choosing illicit drugs over legal substitutes may limit their ability to socialise with their non-drug using friends. This restriction limits the net utility of drugs by adding an extra opportunity cost relative to legal substitutes, for example if a person is choosing between cocaine and alcohol, this may also translate into a choice between staying at home or going to the pub with their friends respectively.

Finally, the illegality creates a disincentive in terms of both ethics and the way a person is viewed by society. On the first point, if a person does not think of himself or herself as a criminal and has a strong objection to breaking the law, then they are unlikely to consume illicit drugs while they will have no impediment from consuming alcohol. On the second, a person may fear being perceived by their social circle as either a “junkie” or a “criminal” in general and so may decide against drug use for the sake of maintaining their social standing.

So there is basically a brief analysis of why drugs are so unpopular in the form of a list of what illegalisation does to the demand for the product. Not a complete analysis admittedly, but it was written for an essay that could only be 3000 words and I'm not currently in Manchester so I'm not really in a position to focus and write new material. Also in a continuation of my laziness I do my next blog on the practice of "cutting cocaine" as that's also a bit in my essay. Either way I'll at least try do something original at some point. Not much of a promise that, but you know.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

A short blog wherein I explain how to solve the Eurozone debt crisis.

Basically the problem appears to be that Greece can't might default and if it does that will create problems for the rest of us as a lot of Greek debt is held by banks in a lot of countries.

The solution is basically to merge all the debt into a central fund managed by the ECB and give the ECB/European Parliament powers to set upper and lower bounds for spending and taxation respectively. The latter part would be necessary in order to prevent one member just borrowing lots and passing the cost onto the other members. This would also allow some of the poorer members to be allowed deficits funded by the issuing of "Euro-bonds" or through the surpluses of the richer members.The Eurozone as a whole would be in a decent position to service its debt, but at the moment the entire thing is at risk because of one member.

Now firstly I should mention that I'm not a fan of the Euro, I do not support the UK joining it, but if there is going to be a single currency then there needs to be some degree of fiscal union for it to be stable. The Eurozone must either go forwards or backwards, it cannot remain where it is. To use a metaphor, they are standing in the middle of a bridge during a gale, they should either go back to where they came from (as in return to their own currencies) or go to the other side (as in enter a fiscal union).

So there, a solution to the problem. You're welcome world, I'll await my medal.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Time to party....(with bonus moaning about protestors)

Or rather to do party stuff, yes this of course  is my obligatory blog about the fact I have now crossed over from the world of interesting and principled politics and dived head first into the world of bitter partisanship. I've got my card and everything. Well here's something of a blog on the party.

My half-watching of the recent conference, I had studying to do so I couldn't watch everything, gave me a couple of things to say about Labour, and surprisingly one is positive.
1. Ed Miliband can actually answer a question. I know, I'm as surprised as you but in his little "Question and answer" thing he did with an audience of members of the public he actually provided a decent answer to a question on outsourcing, pointing out that due to the global nature of the modern economy its hard to force firms to keep jobs here and its better to focus on trying to making Britain a better place to do business. I was actually impressed by how good an answer it was for a politician.
2. But not if the question is "how?". Seriously he mentioned lots of things he wanted to do but no ideas as to how he was going to do them. The one time he tried to provide an answer as to how was even worse than nothing, he suggested that the way to get young people into work was a bank bonus tax. While a bank bonus tax could help fund a method of getting young people into work its not actually a method in itself. I wouldn't be as miffed about this whole thing, but the man was talking about "restructuring our economy" to make it "[insert standard buzz words here]" and frankly the idea of someone trying to restructure the economy without a clear plan scares the hell out of me.

Now for the aforementioed moaning about protesters. Now while I generally agree with your cause, what I don't agree with is some of the more crazy participants of the protests in Manchester yesterday. Here is a quick list of things that don't help anything.
1. Trying to attack people simply for being conservatives having the audacity to try and enjoy some fresh air.
2. Chants about wanting an eighty five year old woman, who is not even relevant to the issues at hand, to die.
3. Littering. (Seriously, people live here)
4. Trying to incite others to break off the protest route and storm a conference, though admittedly this was just one crazy person with a megaphone who was mostly ignored.

And I will leave you with some wise words "If we amplify everything, we hear nothing".

Sunday, 24 July 2011

On the Euro

In light of recent events, I figured I'd do a blog about the rather silly business of the Euro.

Firstly let me start of by saying that a shared currency isn't always necessarily a bad thing, it's just that the Euro expanded over too wide and economically diverse an area. I could completely see the argument for a United BeNeLux currency or the creation of an Iberian Dollar as these are smaller areas enabling for the benefits of easier trade without creating the problems of having to attempt a one size fits all approach to monetary policy across an entire continent, the problems of which are being experienced in Greece and Ireland and will be experienced again next time there is a major recession.

Those who say that the collapse of the Euro would have major negative effects for both the Eurozone and Britain are of course correct, I'm not going to lie about that as it would be silly, but in the long run its better for everyone if the currency is ditched and national currencies/regional currencies are (re)instated. This would allow for monetary policy to be tailored to the specific economies as well as hopefully shaking of the disturbing trend in the activities of the EU. This trend is the way that many seem to think that prefixing something with "European" automatically makes it a good thing regardless of the actual facts, similar to how in Maoist China "redness" was seen as more important than being productive or efficient.

Despite the fact it would be better for everyone in the long run, the Eurozone won't collapse, as too many powerful people have too much political capital invested in the idea that the European Union is the solution to every policy objective and so German taxes will continue to prop up Greece, then Spain, Italy and Portugal. However I would say that even if the Euro does survive, then I would advocate them trimming the fat, by which I refer to the PIGS. (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain, not actual pigs, although the actual EU farming policy is in dire need of reform, but that is an issue for a different blog.)

However I must concede that now is probably not the best time for either a dismantling, or at least trimming the membership of, the Euro and that waiting until the global economy has stabilised is preferable.

So in summary what they should do is start planning for the abolition of the Euro, with an aim to do it once the global economy is stable, if however they don't want to do that then they should at the very least cut the membership down, its better for everyone if Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece revert to the Escudo, Peseta, Lira and Drachma respectively, and would you believe I only had to look one of those up? (It was the Portugese one)

No topical quote today, I couldn't find a decent one on the Euro. So here is something completely different.

And I feel just like Sigourney Weaver when she had to kill those aliens and one guy tried to get them back to the earth and she couldn't believe her ears. -  John Grant.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

On the news media

I'm somewhat outside my area of expertise, but I figured "Get journalists to respect peoples privacy and not break the law in search of stories" how hard can it be?

Basically as far as I can tell there is a problem with journalists doing rather evil things in pursuit of a story, granted its somewhat less evil than William Randolph Hearst starting a war just so he can sell papers by writing about it but its still pretty bad stuff. I won't go into detail as I don't want to write about it. The thing is though, hacking is illegal, so is bribing policemen, as well as, last time I checked, filming people without their consent and attempting to access other peoples personal information, which raises a point as to how they get away with it. The answer is rather simple in that they don't have to tell anyone they do it, and that the people who know they do it are in on it.

So my solution to this is a rather simple one. Make them tell people they are doing it. To clarify, I would argue that it should be law that journalists must reveal their sources and if these sources were illegal, such as phone hacking or breaking into peoples houses and putting cameras there, then they would be arrested as is appropriate. Granted this would need to be coupled with measures to protect people who reveal the nefarious activities of governments and businesses, as well as greater transparency in government so that "whistle-blowing" isn't needed. This would also negate the ability of the press to print outright lies that a "senior civil servant" apparentaly said.

Also I'd probably have some kind of law placing further limits on the amount of media one individual/company etc can own, makes sense really.

I read the newspapers avidly. It is my one form of continuous fiction- Aneurin "Nye" Bevan

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

On inflation

 Just thought I'd do a brief outline of a few, less than orthodox, methods of controlling inflation. (Sorry, it's not very funny, I wanted to make it funny but I could not for the life of me think of anything funny about prevention of the year on year increase in prices from being too high).

When it comes to inflation, the left has always, it seems, treated it as a secondary priority compared to the primary priority of keeping unemployment low. However, as a recent IFS report shows ( inflation disproportionately affects the poor, and if the left wishes to continue to see itself as the "champion of the poor" then it should really start seeing inflation as more of a priority. There are a number of ways in which inflation can be tackled, ignoring the frankly laughable suggestion of simply  "giving independence to the Bank of England", the idea that you can simply partition the economy saying "monetary policy and inflation here" and "everything else over here" is childish at best and dangerous at worst.

1. Price rise controls
Explanation: A legal limit on the rate at which prices can rise. This is the most direct approach to controlling inflation.
Advantage(s): This is inherent in its directness. Inflation literally cannot exceed whatever limit the government places on it.
Disadvantage(s): The problem with this however, is that it can only work to combat "demand pull" inflation, that is inflation caused by people being more willing and/or able to pay higher prices. A prices policy would run into serious problems in tackling inflation caused by increases in raw materials prices as it could reach a stage where firms cannot increase prices to avoid selling at a loss.

2. Government mediation.
Explanation: Here I refer to a policy, similar to the one pursued by the Callaghan government, whereby the government is given a role in mediating between the unions and employers to keep both wage and price rises at a low level, although preferably with the former being slightly higher than the latter.
Advantage(s): Like the previous policy it is rather a direct one, tackling inflation by directly trying to limit wage and price rises. However, unlike the previous one it is more flexible and exceptions can be made for special cases. Also if applied on a national level, the government could promote an element of standardisation so that employees doing the same work for different firms get the same pay and conditions.
Disadvantage(s): A problem with this is that the government element would be subject to a problem caused by our political system, namely that every decade or so the party, and hence objectives and philosophy, of the government element in this system would change, thereby removing stability from this method as well as potentially turning inflation into a "political football".

3. Leave CAP
Explanation: Agricultural prices are kept artificially high through the CAP, removing it would lower them.
Advantage(s): In addition to lowering the price of agricultural goods, the removal of the CAP from Britain's agricultural sector could hopefully remove the ludditism that is prevalent in the CAP with its fondness for "organic" foods and hostility to GM crops. Also the removal of the CAPs protectionist elements could lead to increased agricultural trade with the third world, many of whom's economies are far more dependent on agriculture than ours, providing these countries with an export market is arguably better for all parties than foreign aid.
Disadvantage(s): On its own, not a solution. As a method of reducing inflation on a long term basis, this would not be an ideal one due to Britain's agricultural sector being somewhat minuscule, less than a single percent of GDP. Also the removal of protectionism would likely impact upon Britain's farmers, resulting in a number of farms being unable to compete. For these farms I would suggest either the government help them diversify, specifically into products where western technology allows them to be competitive or into other, non agricultural, uses of the land or to help the farmers seek employment elsewhere. While many people probably don't like the idea of anything that impacts upon farmers, who for some reason seem to be strangely popular, this as an ethical point fails to stand up when there are countries trapped in poverty as they can't sell their crops.
(Note, the leaving of the CAP by Britain is a much wider policy consideration than simply inflation)

4. Green tech
Explanation: Investing in methods of production, fuel and transport where oil plays a minimal as possible role.
Advantage(s): The cost of living in Britain is very much linked to the price of oil in the long term. This is because the cost of production is linked very much to it, what with many goods using oil in fueling the production, some in the actual production and many in the packaging of the product. Furthermore transport costs are also linked to the price of oil due to petrol (duh!). Due to the closeness of the cost of living with the price of oil, and with oil prices likely to considerably rise as demand from India and China continues to grow and the world rushes ever closer to the "oil apocalypse" when the oil runs out, leading to supply steadily falling until it reaches zero, there can be no doubt that the rising cost of oil will be a main driver of "cost push inflation", inflation caused by an increase in the cost of production.
Disadvantage(s): Cost, simply the fact that the government will need to spend a lot of money to make these technologies viable, but ideally through cooperation with the private sector and the fact it will cost less than the "oil apocalypse" means this isn't a major issue.

5. Lead by example
Explanation: Rather simply the government could set a standard pay rise for the whole public sector that is the same each year.
Advantage(s): Would hopefully lead to the private sector aiming for a similar rate of wage rise, and at the very least this would control demand pull inflation to an extent. Furthermore it prevents problems caused by having to continually renegotiate wages.
Disadvantage(s): The private sector could simply ignore it.

And there you go, something or a long boring blog on inflation and stuff. Granted if you thought economics and politics in general were all fun and games, you were wrong.

Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hit man. - Ronald Reagan.

Monday, 27 June 2011

A Monetarist limerick wrote in a single minute.

I have absolutely no idea why I felt the need to do this.

There once was a man called Keynes
Who thought we should spend above our means
He would bring inflation
Down on the nation
And it would be £9 for beans.

But its good to see I've still got my somewhat decent ability to write limericks.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

On inequality

A rather short blog today, as there isn't really much you can say about inequality. Well there is, but a lot of it is just listing figures and that kind of thing won't really help with what I'm going to be saying today. Plus I have a bit of a headache so there may be But anyway to the matter at hand.

Inequality as bad thing in itself is often seen as dogma in socialist circles, but I find this to be rather a simplistic approach. While before I have made points about how reducing income inequality is a good thing for the economy, this doesn't necessarily translate into an absolute. I feel inequality should exist in some form or another, it acts as a reward and incentive for hard work and intelligence. It is right that if a man works hard and uses his brain, he should profit from this, and I say we let him live the luxury that his work enables him to do.

But at the same time I feel that it is wrong that a man can have so much money that he can't wear all the clothes, can't live in all the houses, can't ride all the yachts and can't drive all the cars. When someone is earning that kind of money its more than fair that they contribute a lot of their excess income to Her Majesty's treasury. This isn't because its morally wrong to be rich, it's because Her Majesty's government has things it needs to spend money on, things we all like regardless of how rich or poor we are, things like hospitals, street cleaners, firefighters, traffic lights (except red ones), libraries, parks, pensions and police, and when it comes time to ask someone to pay for all these wonderful things, its preferable that we ask Mr Usmanov, Mr Mittal, His Grace The Duke of Westminster, Mr Blavatnik etc to pay a bit more, because they won't miss it, consumer spending won't miss it and if we didn't tell them they wouldn't notice it was gone.

In summary, inequality isn't bad, those who work hard, study hard and hence earn more should be able to enjoy the fruits of their labour and enterprise, but when it comes time to fund the business of government, they should be more than willing to help foot the bill for government to make it so they can keep living in such a lovely country, as God knows if they didn't think it was lovely they'd leave on their private jets.

How many men ever went to a barbecue and would let one man take off the table what's intended for 9/10th of the people to eat? The only way to be able to feed the balance of the people is to make that man come back and bring back some of that grub that he ain't got no business with! - Huey Long

Friday, 10 June 2011

A few economic policies and the arguments for them

Just thought I'd do a blog on various economic policies and their merits. Probably not that interesting unless you like that sort of thing, but wahey if you don't like that sort of thing you may have picked the wrong blog. If you have picked the wrong blog why not try one of these?

But if you've not picked the wrong blog, enjoy this magical mystery tour of economics

1. Redistributive tax changes
This is a rather simple concept, reducing the direct taxes on those on lower income bands and financing this via increasing the taxes on higher bands. While the political arguments for this are obvious, redistribution of income, fairness, alleviating the problems of the working class at the cost of those who can afford it without much change to their standard of living, etc, I am more interested in the economic argument for it. This is based around the idea that people with lower income are likely to spend more of any money they recieve. For example a poor person who recieved £300 would be more likely to spend it than a millionaire. This principle also works in reverse, as a loss of £300 would have a far greater impact on the spending of the poor man than the rich. Therefore, if we take £300 from this rich man via increased taxes and take away £300 less from the poor man in taxes, the amount spent by them collectively on goods and services will increase. Increased spending on goods and services leads to increased employment and higher growth etc. Although it must be noted that this policy must be done in moderation due to the fact that the rich find it much easier to leave if they are overtaxed, although the extent to which they do this is often exaggerated.

2. Inactive asset tax
This is slightly more complicated policy, it is a tax levied per square foot on all land zoned for commercial or industrial use that is left unused. Actually it wasn't that complicated, but I digress, there is currently over 75,000 hectares of unused industrial land in United Kingdom. ( When one considers why this may be there are two plausible reasons, either the owner of the land is unable to put it to use, or they don't want to. If its the first case then they should sell the land to someone who can. It could however be the latter, for example supermarkets are known to buy up land so that their competitors cannot open stores, and there are countless examples of companies shutting down some of their production facilities in order to benefit from the price rises caused by a fall in supply. This tax helps solve these problems as if a person/firm cannot use the land effectively they will sell it to avoid paying the tax and if the firm can but refuses to use the land productively then the tax will disincentivise such behaviour, hopefully negating the extra profit earned through lower production levels and hence forcing the firm to use the land again. Even if this latter one fails, it will however still raise revenue for government spending, which is good.

3. 6 month unemployment guarantee
This is another rather simple one, well they all are really although I suppose thats as economics is the art of explaining the really complicated things behind doing something simple, basically it means that if a person is on unemployment benefit for a cumulative 6 months, they would then be provided with a job on minimum wage by the government which they would do for 6 months, after which they would be elligible for unemployment benefit again. These jobs could be doing a wide range of things from helping public services, to cleaning the streets, to helping the police patrol etc. In doing this we combat both the perception that the unemployed are unwilling to work, as well as hopefully instilling some work ethic into the minority of unemployed who are lazy and would rather live on benefits than do an honest days work. Finally this would benefit those who cannot find work due to lack of "experience" or past employers as references, this would provide a chance for them to show they are capable of working hard and are not unemployed due to being unfit for, or unwilling to, work. In summary it will raise both the percieved average productivity of labour, as well as to an extent the actual average productivity of labour, increasing employment through the desire by firms for profit maximisation.

While of course these are generally quite vague policies with pros and cons, this isn't exactly a party manifesto, its a blog, granted if my blog was a political party it would have three more policies than does the Labour party (seriously guys, please try to at least have one policy by the time I join in September), but this is irelevant and I shall simply summarise by saying: Behold my economic ideas, judge as you will and remember at the same time that nothing is more dangerous than economic policies driven by political ideology, rather than by economic analysis.

Economics is a complex and complicated world about all the simple things we see everyday. - Justin Val R. Virtudazo

Monday, 30 May 2011

Why we should be nice to people, especially those we don't like.

Since joining this ragtag bunch of misfits known as the left wing, I have noticed a rather unsavoury trait that seems to plague it, and I'm not talking about that the songs suck compared to the fascist songs I used to listen to although they do, but rather the fact that for an ideological wing that seeks to promote love, equal treatment and whatnot, some elements seem rather prone to preaching hatred.

While admittedly, this isn't as much of a problem in the mainstream left as it is in those rather unpleasant SWP types that plague the area near my university library, it is still there under the surface.While I enjoy a good satirical joke, I do tend to shy away from the more vulgar ones that are based more on the depiction of Conservatives as a kind of goblin in a cave, grabbing as much money as they can regardless of how it affects others, in a manner rather worryingly similar to old Jewish stereotypes. While I do concede, some members of the Conservative party are rather unsavoury characters, at the same time many of them are most likely rather nice people who the only difference between us is political persuasion. Granted some may counter this by pointing to their political persuasion and screaming "EVIL!" in a voice that would give a banshee a headache, while some of the less crazy elements of our ragtag bunch of misfits would eruditely point out the flaws in the Conservative ideology and use this as elements of their unsavoury nature. I will address these two approaches separately.

1. To the partisan Banshees: Be quiet, you are making the rest of us look bad.
2. To the erudite: If they seek to pursue a program, based upon their ideology, that will result in a negative outcome, remember "Hanlon's Razor" which states that we must "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.". Remember that our opponents are, like us, human and are as such capable of being swayed by facile arguments.

Finally I have a few reasons as to why we should be nice to people, even if they are mistaken in their view of what the correct course of action is.

1. It makes them more likely to listen- This is rather a simple point, as I'm sure all of you are more likely to listen to the views and points made by someone who is polite to you than someone who calls you evil. If we are to convince people as to why they should follow a more left wing ideology then we have to start treating them as human beings.

2. It's kind of a duty- A key part of left wing ideology pertains to the idea that poor people are just as good as rich people. Our argument is undermined if the left, regardless of where on the income scale they are from, has reason to be seen as a rabble.

3. Its nice- While manners may at time seem rather "Victorian", I would prefer to live in a society with them than without. Just its a good thing to hold the door for people, to let the elderly have your place on the tram and to help people when they drop things, it is also a good thing to be friendly towards other people, regardless of ideology.

(note: I do aim to do a bit less moaning about how we need to get our shit together in my next blog, and a bit more advocation of economic policies)

These two great gentlemen are dedicated to a proposition which was true in my time, just as it's true today. Be excellent to each other. And... PARTY ON, DUDES!  - Abraham Lincoln. (Kinda)

Monday, 23 May 2011

On Huey Long part 1: State politics

Just thought I'd do a quick blog on someone who is fast becoming one of my favourite historical figures, Mr Huey Pierce Long, and before anyone makes that joke, no he is not a porn star, although if he had dropped his first name he would have had an awesome name for one. Also sorry if this gets a bit gushy.

Huey Pierce Long August 30, 1893 – September 10, 1935, certainly provides an interesting example of the radical economic and political renaissance that made the 1930s such a beautiful and horrifying time in world history. Originally a lawyer with a habit of taking on cases against big business, often proudly stating that he "never took a case against a poor man", Huey first entered politics by being elected to the public service commission, where he continued his attacks on big business. Huey unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1924, losing he said due to rain making the dirt roads that his primarily rural voter base had to use to get to the booth unusable. Don't worry I will get to the point soon, bare with me.

After his eventual election in 1928 Huey quickly began firing his political opponents from any office he could and replaced them with his supporters, bullied state senators and effectively became the Dictator of Louisiana, even after he stopped being Governor. But the thing is, it worked. Due to him having absolute power he managed to abolish a poll tax that prevented the poor from voting, started night schooling programs that taught over 100,000 formerly illiterate adults to read, broke the political monopoly that big companies, especially oil interests, had, provided free school textbooks for children at a time when many parents couldn't afford to buy them and gave the state one of the most modern road networks in America. He also established scholarships for less well off students and some credit his strong regulation of the banking sector as the only reason the majority of Louisiana's banks stayed solvent. He also moved many of the mentally ill out of prisons and into newly funded institutions, increased funding for health care and provided free immunisation to 70% of the population.

While he later went into national politics and intended to run for president before his assassination, this blog shall focus on Huey's impact on his home state.

The problem with looking at Long with modern eyes is that we tend towards frowning upon firing people who don't agree with you and bullying elected representatives, and rightly so, but can we really say it was wrong in this instance? If not for his willingness to break the rules he would never have got anything done, but at the same time we have rules for a reason. But I feel that we socialists can probably cut him some slack based on the following points.
1. Before Huey, the state was de facto ran by big business and the wealthy, with the poor living in very bad conditions and many of them unable to even read which prevented upwards mobility. This was not a state of affairs that could morally be allowed to continue.
2. The poll tax prevented the poor from overturning this state of affairs through legal means. Hence Louisiana can be said to have been in a state of Plutocracy, rather than Democracy. This latter point is especially relevant due to the idea held by many on the left that when there is no legal means for the people to remove a government and a system that keeps them in the dirt, they must turn to other means.
3. Huey was basically better than a revolutionary if you think about it. While many revolutionaries have to start wars and kill people in order to get control and then when they do they turn out to be not much better than the oppressors they just overthrew, Huey took control without killing anyone and then once he dealt with the problems of his state with an efficiency that Hitler and Mussolini could only dream of.

So in conclusion I shall end this first part of my look at Huey Long, which by the way may not have a part 2 for a while as I'm probably going to blog about something else after this although the next one about him will be an analysis of his Presidential plans, by stating that despite his dictatorial tendencies, Huey Long was a man who knew what was wrong and knew how to fix it and never let the law get in the way of justice and so I say he is a historical figure worthy of admiration by socialists. Plus he exchanged death threats with a KKK leader, which is freaking bad ass.

Sometimes you have to ignore the rules. I'm not in this business to protect the rules, I serve justice. - Batman

Thursday, 12 May 2011

The case for Tripartism

Blog time again, and today I'm gonna be writing about a, in my view superior, method of handling industrial relations, and I'm not talking about the Tin Man dealing with his racist uncle, no I am instead talking about dealings between employers and employees.

The method I am referring to, as you will have guessed from the title, is tripartism. While this is a general term referring to cooperation between the state, workers and business, I am using it in this context to refer to the idea that things such as wage rises, price rises, working conditions etc, should be set by agreement of these 3 groups rather than the present situation where the state simply sets a minimum and the two other groups wage a needless battle to decide the rest. Not only does the current system promote hostility between business and workers, it also impacts negatively on all three parties as well as everyone else through the problems caused by strikes and even the threat of strikes. This is one of the many reasons I advocate tripartism, better that representatives of each group sit down and make an agreement that all parties must follow rather than have two of the parties simply war with each other over every little thing. And in a suddenly abrupt transition, I shall now list the arguments for tripartism.

1. Prevention of strikes. Strikes are a disruptive and destructive force that hurts everyone, except maybe for sellers of picket signs those guys actually do quite well out of it. Rail strikes for example harm the public transport sector, which is the exact opposite of what we want to do, what with the environment and all, as well as disrupting the sectors of the economy where those commuters work. Energy sector strikes have an even worse effect, no one needs reminding of such atrocities as the three day week and rolling blackouts. Also lets not forget that the strikes harm the workers themselves, many of whom have families to feed, families the workers shouldn't have to jeopardise the welfare of just so they can negotiate for better conditions.

 2. Stability. The guarantee that there will be no strikes, as well as the ability to negotiate long term contracts, gives business and workers a greater degree of stability and ability to plan in the long term. Also the stability will make our exports seem more reliable, making foreign firms more likely to make deals with British firms.

3. Controlling inflation. This is is a slightly unusual benefit of tripartism, if price and wage rises have set borderlines then we can control inflation, allowing for an expansionary fiscal policy without its effect being eroded by inflation, as well as the positive impact low inflation has on peoples real income, investment and pensions. I may come back to this at a later date when I discuss the fact that the Bank of England has about the same effect as a witch doctor on inflation.

4. Standardisation. If there are pre-set agreements across the industry, we can avoid or at least lessen the rather unpleasant situation whereby two people can be doing the exact same job at the same level of skill but there can exist a great disparity between their pay and conditions.

5. Gives all parties a chance to put forward their case. Self explanatory really, and I don't just mean its obvious, I literally cannot think of a way to expand on that, hence I am using this as filler.

So there are what I consider to be the main arguments in favour of tripartism, maybe they have swayed you, maybe not, maybe your a robot just learning of its own existence and learning at an alarming rate, in which case I am impressed by modern science, but that's not the point.

Live with a man forty years. Share his house, his meal, speak on every subject, then tie him up, and hold him over the volcano's edge. And on that day, you will finally meet the man. - Xiang Yu

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

On the Labour Party

 Okay first actual blog time, not really sure how to do this, most of my old blog was just me ranting about how much I hate Ben Bradshaw which I can't even remember why I do, but thats not the point. Anyway, 1 2 3, here we go, Bedlam Bedlam, HO HO HO.

What with my recent new-found appreciation for democracy, there comes a new problem and I'm not referring to the lack of cool uniforms, although that is rather annoying. No I am in fact referring to the problem that I must now enter the world of political parties. After some deliberation I came to the conclusion that I should probably join Labour, as they are likely to be more receptive to my Keynesian economics, they are the party that in my view has the most potential to rebuild this country. It should be known that I bear no ill will towards the other parties, simply that they aren't what I'm looking for, I am not going to engage in the kind of "ZOMG TORIES EAT BABIES!" nor "LIB DEMS PUT G-23 PAXILON HYDROCHLORATE IN OUR AIR!" vulgarity that is making politics in this country unbareable. But while I am a future Labour member, I'm gonna join just as soon as I get to my new address in Manchester to avoid paperwork, I am not a Labour supporter.

There are various reasons why a description of myself as a Labour supporter would be inaccurate, firstly their last government, which while not awful, was pretty irresponsible. The fact they were running a deficit during boom times is ridiculous, it doesn't take a genius to work out that if  expenditure exceeds revenue at the point where revenue is at its highest and expenditure on unemployment benefit is at its lowest then obviously this is unsustainable. While this spending probably did a lot of good, I'm not disputing that, I'm simply saying that those  who thought that was viable in the long run without tax increases were living in a fantasy world, probably one filled with double rainbows and robot unicorns.

Some would respond to this by saying "That was the old leadership, theres a new leadership in the Labour party", fair point, but this leads to my second reason for not being a Labour supporter, the current Leadership. No I'm not talking about the fact Ed Miliband is about as inspiring as a deflated balloon, but rather the fact that at the moment the Labour party doesn't really seem to exist for any reason other than to be the Labour party. For example, if you take a walk over to the party website ( then you will notice a number of headings; Home, News, Ed Miliband, Our People, Support Us, Conference 2011 and membersnet. There is not however a heading called "Policies", all the website seems to do is whine about the government. Seriously is this what politics has come to? Am I the only one who sees how ridiculous this is? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills. It seems that the Labour party is taking the idea of being "the opposition" a little too seriously and have become nothing but whiney little girls. For comparison lets look at the BNPs site ( The third heading is policies. Also the UKIP site ( There is also a heading called policies. In fact lets look at a few other parties and see which have a list of policies on their site.

The Green party:
The SNP:
Plaid Cymru:
The Liberal Democrats:

Seeing a pattern here?

Now this may seem harsh, to be fair it is, I have pretty much just attacked the party I intend to join, but the Labour party shouldn't see this as me whining about them, as unlike them I am going to actually say what they should be doing instead. So here are the areas I feel Labour has "room for improvement", to use that frightfully politically correct term they used in high school.

1. The aforementioned lack of policies. This is really annoying, rather than simply moaning about "BLOODY TORY BLOODY CUTS" the party should say "Here is what we would do, here is why we would do it and here is what we hope it would achieve". Its not really that hard to do, I mean its the kind of thing you learn in high school.
2. Attitude. There is a problem with the fact the Labour party seems too in love with sound bites and spin, as well as this rather annoying habit of using shortened versions of their names to sound cool. Listen "Tony", "Ed" and "Ed", you're not cool, you never will be nor will I. Politics isn't about being cool. Politics has nothing to do with being cool, hence there was no Arthur Fonzarelli MP.
3. Be the "Labour party" not the "Not the Conservative party". While this is kind of a retread of the first point, I feel its important. Stop defining yourself by your opposition to the government, define yourself by what your intend to achieve and how you intend to achieve it. Stop trying to make politics into some kind of war.

Basically the party, like Bishop Brennan, needs a kick up the @&$£, but that is not to say its all bad, the party has a lot of potential, and I believe that if it starts acting like a grown up political party it could do wonders for the country. So m'yeah if you could just go ahead and sort out those things I talked about by the time I join that'd be great.

The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. - O'Brien. (1984, George Orwell)

Monday, 9 May 2011

Lets get this awkwardness out of the way

Well heres the first blog, its not really about anything other than that I now have a blog. Which in retrospect you are already aware of otherwise you wouldn't be reading this and if you're reading this you are probably aware of who I am, but for those of you who aren't I shall provide a brief outline of who I am and what I am likely to blog about.

Basically I am Thomas Hyde, also known as hamsterwaffle, wobblebolt or Emperor Barbossa V, depending on where you know me from. I am an economist, but this blog will not pertain solely to economics, it will also cover other topics such as politics, history and how awesome the music of Genesis is. I used to be a fascist, but am no longer, now I have drifted towards the left. Basically I'm a bit like Mussolini in reverse, except I wasn't born upside down at a petrol station.

Also a warning, I am sometimes prone to making obscure references for like, no reason and like to end with quotes I like.

Anyhoo, hope you enjoy.

The greater the man, the less is he opinionative, he depends upon events and circumstances. -Emperor Napoleon I.