The second draft of history

Economic historians and others interested in the Great Depression still turn to the economic publications of the League of Nations as a basic source for understanding the economic catastrophe of the 1930s. While I don’t want to give anyone in Washington DC stage fright, the publications of today’s international organisations, such as the IMF’s World Economic Outlook which was published in full last week, will also serve as a first port of call for the historians of decades hence. So: how are they shaping up?

Extremely well, is my reaction after having finally given the April WEO the attention it deserves. This is essential reading for people seeking a global overview of the crisis,  and advice as to how to get out of it.

More comparisons with the 1930s

I have been thinking for a while that I should post to this article by Thomas Philippon and Ariell Reshef, particularly in the light of Irish (and worldwide) discussion about top bankers’ salaries and bonuses. Now Paul Krugman has based his latest column on it. The original article is worth downloading, if only for their Figure 1, which shows the ratio of the average wage in the financial industry to the average wage in the non-farm private sector. Philippon and Reshef say:

A sign of conflicts to come?

Remember last spring? It seems an age ago now. The fear then was of resource scarcity: of rising oil prices, and of rising food prices, as biofuels crowded out food production and population continued to grow. Environmental worries also reflect resource scarcity, albeit of another type. Once this crisis is over, whenever that is, all these concerns will inevitably come back on the agenda, and could easily dominate it for the rest of the century.

In that context, one of the most alarming news stories, to me, of last year, was that involving Korea’s Daewoo Logistics leasing almost half of Madagascar’s arable land on a 99 year basis. Here is a pretty positive account of the deal in Time magazine.

More G-20 bickering

The BBC and several other media report continuing Franco-German opposition to the calls by the US administration, the president of the World Bank, and many others, for the coordinated global fiscal expansion that would seem to be essential at this time. Irish auditors will however be interested in the following from Larry Summers:

Quote for the day

“We have reached our limits,” said Axel Weber, president of Germany’s Bundesbank, in Frankfurt on Tuesday. “The expectation that we could neutralise this ­synchronised recession through short-term fiscal policy measures is false. We should not even try. There will be costs.”

Lessons of 1000 years of trade history

To many seasoned observers of the world economy, today’s globalization is a largely technological phenomenon. Once learned, new technologies are typically not forgotten, which is why globalization can seem an irresistible force, destined to bind us ever more tightly together for the foreseeable future. History, however, suggests that globalization is as much a political as […]

Further thoughts on the Irish referendum

Thanks to two opinion polls which were commissioned in a hurry after the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, we now know a little bit more about the profiles of those who voted yes and no on June 12.  The first of these polls was conducted by Eurobarometer at the request of the EU representation […]

Thoughts in a pub

Like many of my compatriots, I spent Friday evening in a pub. In my case the pub was in the heart of France’s beautiful Chartreuse region, and it was full to the brim of French and Dutch football supporters, the latter increasingly rambunctious as the evening wore on. It was a good-natured and very European […]

Openness and independence

There has been an interesting debate recently in the web pages of the Financial Times regarding what needs to be done to maintain political support for globalization. In his contributions, Larry Summers raised among many other points the issue of whether globalization implies a race to the bottom in terms of regulation, corporate income taxes, […]