It’s the Most GERSmassy Time of the Year

Merry #GERSmas Everybody!

shallow focus photography of red bauble on christmas tree

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

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Measuring A Nation

“When moral posturing is replaced by an honest assessment of the data, the result is often a new, surprising insight.” – Steven D. Levitt

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The SNP conference was marked by several important topics that were thrashed out on the floor on the day and in the press and online in the weeks and months preceding. On the Growth Commission in particular, I was personally invested in a great deal of that discussion so I know how many tens of thousands of words were written around that topic.

The following day saw another topic discussed which was somewhat less well covered in the press was the motion presented by Agnes McAuley and Ronnie Cowan MP on the creation of a Scottish Statistics Agency. Continue reading

Nowhere Left To Grow

“Perhaps the answer is that it is necessary to slow down, finally giving up on economistic fanaticism and collectively rethink the true meaning of the word “wealth.” Wealth does not mean a person who owns a lot, but refers to someone who has enough time to enjoy what nature and human collaboration place within everyone’s reach.” – Franco Bifo Berardi

This weekend will see the SNP conference and the long awaited vote on whether or not to adopt the Sustainable Growth Commission’s report as the party’s main economic strategy for an independent Scotland. After almost a year of discussing this document, the party will have their final say on whether or not to adopt it as party policy.

I have written tens of thousands of words of critique, commentary and policy work on this topic. There will be more to come between the time that this blog is published and the vote on Saturday afternoon. Much of it has been centred around currency and the macroeconomic policies. Here, I’d like to look at things from a slightly different lens. How does the Growth Commission reflect upon Nicola Sturgeon’s plan to introduce a Scottish Green New Deal?

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Book Review: The Economics of Arrival

“In the industrialised world, the great challenge is not to remain competitive, or to increase efficiency or production. It is to slow down without derailing, to reimagine progress beyond more of the same. The challenge is to make ourselves at home in the world.” – Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams, The Economics of Arrival

It has been a very long while since I’ve written a book review for this blog but I have one that’s worth that wait. A wee while ago, the CommonSpace team received an advance copy of a book I have been eagerly awaiting. I “volunteered” to give it a read through instead – by which I mean that I nabbed it before anyone else could.

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Those who’ve followed me for a while now know the distain I hold for those who still somehow believe that infinite economic growth is possible on a finite (and dying) planet.

The economics that brought us to this point have very clearly hit their limits and we really need to look where we go next. Trebeck and Williams have thrown their hats into the ring with this effort to lay out the scale of the problem and where we go from here.

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Exporting Scotland

“Trade negotiations are exercises in mutual self-interest. They are not power plays, or coercions” – David Davis. Former Brexit Secretary.

The annual ESS report came out last week and – as is traditional in Scottish politics – it was pounced on by those eager to make a quick headline out of the numbers. When statistical reports like this come out it’s always better to take a bit of time to dive a little deeper into them and to discuss the details that can often be far more interesting than those initial headlines.

The Carta Marina showing some of Scotland’s important trading partners in the 1500s.

First though, we should talk a little about what ESS is and what it measures (as well as what it doesn’t measure). Continue reading

Fishing Lines

“Teach all men to fish, but first teach all men to be fair. Take less, give more. Give more of yourself, take less from the world. Nobody owes you anything, you owe the world everything.” – Suzy Kassem

A political declaration has been published jointly by the UK Government and EU which aims to take the first small steps along the very long road between where we are right now with the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement out to the final trade deal and future relationship between the UK and EU beyond the expected transition period post March 2019.

Others will go through the whole thing in detail with far more competence than I can manage. I particularly recommend Ian Dunt’s Twitter thread here.

I do want to comment on one are in particular because it has already caused more than a bit of a fight up here in Scotland and as it does a good job of highlighting the political divisions involved in Brexit in certain interesting ways. Let’s discuss fishing.

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The UK/Iceland “Cod Wars”: The UK is no stranger to getting into a fight over fish

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Excluding Growth

“Anyone who thinks that you can have infinite growth on a finite planet is either a madman or an economist” – David Attenborough

I have a bit of a bugbear about the way many of us approach economics and the future potential of things like an independent Scotland. We focus rather too much on chasing after “growth”.

This focus permeates much of our thinking about the economy and what we should do to improve it. It frames our analysis of policy to the point where we can sometimes struggle to imagine any kind of alternative. “Growth is good”…even when it’s not.

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But we live in an economy where we have experienced near-constant growth for decades. We have not all been equal participants in that growth. Of the nearly $4.5 trillion added to global GDP between 2016 and 2017, 82% of it was captured by the richest 1% of people. The poorest 50% of people saw no increase in their wealth at all.

Faced with such rampantly growing inequality, there have been steps taken to try to, if not solve the problem, at least make a it more palatable to voters.

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