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By TheophileEscargot (Thu Jan 15, 2009 at 08:23:46 AM EST) MLP (all tags)
Economics, Web. Mostly links, more rambly format than usual.

Not sure about the government's Working Capital Scheme. I'd been calling for direct lending from government to businesses from the start, so at first it seemed like a pretty good idea. However, they're still going through the banks, just guaranteeing most of the loan, which sounds pretty dangerous for adverse selection: the banks may well only use it for debts they think are most likely to default. On the other hand, I think the bank staff are being irrationally reluctant to lend at the moment, so it might help on those lines.

Basically if bankers are rational actors it will fail badly; if they're irrational hysterics then it may work well. So it stands a chance at least.

I see the Lib Dems seem to be taking up my idea of a nationalized bank lending in competition with the private banks (though they want to use RBS instead of Northern Rock).

Tory Economics
Sorry to keep coming back to this, but I have been thinking about it.

Now as we know, there's a trade-off between budget deficits and fiscal stimulus to end the recession. If you borrow and boost spending you can boost growth, but at the cost of paying back those debts in the future.

I'd been thinking that the average guy doesn't necessarily understand that, so Cameron and Osborne's emphasis on debt in the middle of recession-panic wasn't necessarily doing them much harm.

But in fact, I think people do understand that when the Tories talk about govermment debt, the basic logic is that "doing stuff" costs money, and reducing the debt means doing less stuff. So, the Brown/Mandelson counter-attacks on the "do-nothing Tories" are actually pretty powerful. Even if most people don't understand counter-cyclical fiscal policy, they're shrewd enough to realise the implication of talking up debt is that you don't think you can afford to do much.

So, it's a bit puzzling that they don't seem to have a come-back to the "do-nothing" tag, and they keep on with the debt talk.

However, there are some positive economic indicators around. Scares don't last forever, and are quickly forgotten when the next comes along. So it could be that Osborne is cleverly playing a long game. Maybe he reckons that the recession will be over by the next election, and then he'll be able to ride a new scare about high deficits instead.

Maybe he's deliberately not taking advantage of the recession, guessing that it will be over by the next election, and not wanting Brown to get the credit for fixing it.

Gaza spin in the UK
Some interesting stuff that's come up. There was some hype lately about a plot by Islamic militants to assassinate prominent British jews like Alan Sugar. But apparently source behind that is a freelance scaremonger who posted the actual threats himself.

Spiked also has some stuff on anti-semitic imagery at a demo. And apparently a Starbucks was destroyed after internet rumours that Starbucks funds the IDF.

Civil Illiberties
Depressing stuff on all fronts. Germany is following the UK in censoring the web for fear of child porn. MPs expenses are to be excluded from the Freedom of Information act. UK personal data is now to be shared between government departments. Internet Archive partly or wholly blocked by UK censorship. Probationary citizenship for immigrants.

Tofu the Squash and stretchbot mimics cartoon cuteness technieques. (BotJunkie)

And there's a new version of the robot cat.

Modern Liberalism and Libertarianism: An Economist's View:

...modern liberal economists are wanderers who have been expelled from the garden of classical liberalism by the angel of history and reality with his flaming sword...
The Sphere of Deviance MeFi
Whereas journalists equate ideology with the clash of programs and parties in the debate sphere, academics know that the consensus or background sphere is almost pure ideology: the American creed.

Ursula Le Guin interview.

Some sf writers decided a while ago that true sf can only be based on the so-called hard sciences—astronomy, physics, chemistry, engineering, computer science, and so on. The word “hard” brings some gender luggage along with it. And sure enough, these guys find stories based on the “soft,” or social, sciences to be a debased and squashy form of the genre. They see it as chick lit for geeks. So, OK. If anybody wants to build a ghetto inside the ghetto and live there, fine with me. But I wish this sectarianism hadn’t infected Wikipedia. If they want to call my stuff social science fiction, that’s fair enough. But so much of what I write isn’t sf at all.

Pics: Gaza tunnels (MeFi)

Video. Star Wars trilogy explained by someone who hasn't seen it.

The latest /b/ drama seems to be Boxxy. [NSFW!]

Late breaking
Voodoo Neuroscience (PDF, via).

All these links are getting a bit much to do. Maybe I should do shorter, more frequent diaries with some kind of easy-to-type code describing the more common types of content.

< Dear Weather, | The angles are wrong >
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social science fiction ? by sasquatchan (4.00 / 2) #1 Thu Jan 15, 2009 at 08:39:40 AM EST
Wouldn't Asimov's Foundation series qualify as that ? psychohistory ?

Best kind by Alan Crowe (4.00 / 1) #5 Thu Jan 15, 2009 at 02:22:50 PM EST
I found Foundation inspiring in a way that hard science fiction could never quite match. The issue is that we know too much hard science. Back in 1900 there were alpha-rays, beta-rays, gamma-rays, and also X-rays and N-rays. The stage was set for more rays, more new physics. But N-rays turned out to be illusory, X-rays were just artificial gamma-rays, the fundamentals calmed down.

There is still plenty of interest in hard science. How is bio-technology going to play out? Computing and artificial intelligence? But the episodes of Star Trek with new fundamental physics are pure fluff. They are more fantasy stories than science fiction.

Social science is still struggling to become scientific. There are interesting developments. Public choice theory. Mechanism design. Behavioural economics. There is plenty of room to speculate just like there was in physics in 1900.

[ Parent ]
Tories... by Metatone (4.00 / 2) #2 Thu Jan 15, 2009 at 10:11:25 AM EST
It may be that they will stumble into the long game winning hand, as you suggest, but I very much doubt that they have planned it that way. Fundamentally, their entire economic belief system (from Friedman on) does not allow for this situation. Uncle Milt promised that it could never happen that monetary policy can't handle it. Throw in reading too much Amity Schlaes and you have the makings of their current policies. Essentially they are frozen in the headlights.

If they are lucky, it will all work out for them. And I suppose that would be best for democracy. Too much one party government isn't all that helpful. I'd be happier if there was any sign that Osborne et al could read a graph though.

cleverly playing a long game by clover kicker (4.00 / 2) #3 Thu Jan 15, 2009 at 12:21:06 PM EST
British politics must be profoundly different from Canuckistan politics...

Not sure about the Spiked article by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #4 Thu Jan 15, 2009 at 01:43:00 PM EST
They're right about the anti-Semitic imagery (and I'm very glad they picked up on it), but wrong I think to dismiss the identity politics of young Muslims - there really is nothing wrong in identifying with others you support in other countries.

It's political correctness gone mad!

Then people ask why I don't get British passport.. by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 3) #6 Fri Jan 16, 2009 at 03:19:04 AM EST
I don't feel welcomed. Since I got here it is always talk about how foreigners milk the system and make the country worse, the resentment against immigrants is always there, boiling under the surface, with the only basis of rumor, innuendo and right wing racist or quasi racist fear mongering.

Sorry to say, but it seems like this government, most illiberal and intrusive, is giving credence to that point of view and is now intent into making life of settled people in this country even more uncertain than it is now.

They may get their wish and have many of  the skilled foreigners currently living in the UK moving elsewhere and the unskilled ones stop doing those jobs that local people will not do (for multitude of reasons).

I have been considering leaving the country for a while,  maybe the government will actually push me explicitly to get the heck out of here.

Sad state of affairs....

rational actor by jimgon (4.00 / 1) #7 Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 05:03:18 AM EST
George Lakoff wrote in "The Politcal Mind" that the rational actor model is pretty much a fallacy.  Biologically people don't make decisions based on logic or best interest, but on an emotional level that's developed through their rearing and socialization.  Since corporations are run by managers making decision I would extend that fallacy to corprorate rational actors. 

Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
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