Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Currency

Stephen Hawking’s Israel Boycott

Stephen Hawking was scheduled to do a conference in Jerusalem, but has backed out, choosing to respect the academic boycott of Israel. The academic boycott seeks to show the Israeli case to be analogous to the South African case–during the apartheid era in South Africa, many academics chose to boycott that country. Is Stephen Hawking right to respect the academic boycott?

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Plight Flight: Austerity’s Unintended Demographic Disaster

The austerity policies racking the economies of the European Union have had an interesting negative externality–they have put to flight vast swathes of the populations of entire countries. The sheer scale of the flight, as I will shortly show below, is on par with the kind of mass exoduses normally associated with the wars Europe has tried to forget, and will have devastating long-term consequences for European prosperity and growth.

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Jon Stewart is Not an Economist

Today the treasury ruled out the magic coin, the denarius ex machina meant to save us from yet another debt ceiling fight. But before it did, Jon Stewart decided to give his opinion on the coin to his nationwide audience of over 2 million people, many of whom get their news from his show and from few other places. Unfortunately, Stewart decided to use his show to misinform the public. While many pundits and programmes disinform the American population on a daily basis, Stewart is often viewed as credible. What I am about to detail should remove that hard-won credibility.

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Misconceptions: “America is Like Greece”

The other day I found myself in conversation with one of my fellow students about whether or not the British government had too large of budget cuts too soon in the economic recovery. I argued that it was fairly self-evident that it had done so, considering the superior economic performance of most nations that had refrained from issuing cuts or embarked on a policy of stimulus. The response he gave me was an interesting one–he argued that the advantages being enjoyed by the stimulus countries were short term, and advised me to look at France, a country that had refrained from austerity and has recently had its credit rating reduced by Moody’s, is seeing stagnant growth rates, and has a host of other problems. I responded that Eurozone countries were in a different kind of economic crisis from countries like Britain and America, and that different rules applied–this was met with scepticism, as if I were trying to weasel my way out of the point. So today I would like to make the broad argument that the economic problems being experienced in non-Euro countries like America, Britain, Japan, and Canada are of a fundamentally different nature from the kind being experienced in France, Spain, Portugal, and Greece. So different, in fact, that comparing the former to the latter is intellectually useless.

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Dragging Behind the Horse: Making States Bigger

Though history, states have been getting bigger. From tribes, we expanded to city-states, from city-states to feudal states, and from feudal states to the consolidated modern states of today. This process has never been easy, however. There has always been resistance to the expanding, consolidating state. The unifications of Germany and Italy required extensive military campaigning, the United States fought the civil war over the south’s resistance to a strong federal government, the French monarchs struggled to break the back of the nobility for generations, and the British struggled with rebellions from Scots, Welsh, and Irish. Yet, in the end, all of these countries unified and centralised, because it was economically necessary–as more territories became economically interlinked, the same economic laws needed to apply to larger swathes of territory. There was no other way to keep the medieval guilds in line, to achieve coordinated economic policies in the interests of the whole of society, rather than for one region against others, to reduce the need of every town and region to be self-sufficient in every economic category. The economy is the horse driving the  cart of the enlarged state, but there are always people dragging behind the cart, and they’re usually the very sort of people behind setting up the previous, smaller state. But this is not merely an historical tale–states are getting bigger right now for economic reasons, impeded by people who are, once more, dragging behind the horse.

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