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The pandemic is demonstrating that we can resist neoliberalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/01/2021 - 6:22pm in



A few snippets today, being Wednesday and my short-form blog day (sometimes). I will have a few announcements to make early next week. One will concern a streaming lecture I will be giving next Tuesday as part of my usual work in Finland this time of the year. The title of my talk will be: Political economy thought and praxis post pandemic. I give an annual public lecture in Helsinki but this time it will be coming from the East Coast of Australia, given the pandemic. Details about access will be coming early next week (Monday’s blog post). For now some comments on the pandemic.

The power of the state

The Lancet editor, Richard Horton tweeted on December 7, 2020:

One issue about Brexit I don’t understand. COVID-19 has shown that sovereignty is dead. Global problems demand global solutions. The idea of “take back control” is illusory. Yet our govt believes we can be an island alone. We can’t. We depend on our neighbours for our future.

However, on June 23, 2018, he wrote an article in Lancet – Offline: Defending the left hand of the state.


Brexit did that to the Remainers.

Richard Horton discusses the work of French intellectual – Pierre Bourdieu – who died about 19 years ago today (January 23, 2002).

He is a very missed voice.

As a sociologist, he provided deep analysis on the “dynamics of power in society” and the capacity of societies to sustain social order.

Richard Horton focuses on Pierre Bourdieu’s “two hands of the state” distinction, where:

The left hand represented those ministries that “are the trace…of the social struggles of the past” — notably, health and education. The right hand was symbolised by “the technocrats of the Ministry of Finance”.

This is the classic dichotomy that neoliberalism has accentuated.

The powers of the technocrats under pressure from the corporate lobbies have so compromised the state – reconfigured it to advance their own narrow interests, that the state no longer necessarily works as our agents to advance the well-being of the majority.

Pierre Bourdieu considered the neoliberal era to be one of the significant retrenchments in our civilisation:

… the failure of the state as the guardian of the public interest.

We considered that reconfiguration and its consequences in our book – Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (Pluto Books, September 2017).

Pierre Bourdieu predicted that the consequences would see an erosion of support for the state as the public starting “treating it as an alien power to be used so far as they can to serve their own interests”.

I have written and talked about the anti-establishment revolt that is well developed in many countries.

Brexit, Trump, Yellow Vests, right-wing populism, storming of the Capitol, and more – are all examples of this disdain the citizenry have for the role of the state and the let down they are feeling as they realise that the promises made by the neoliberals of prosperity and security were just lies designed to cover the tracks as the raiders pillaged national income and took more and more for themselves.

Richard Horton, correctly notes that neoliberalism is a “specific form of capitalism, an intensification of capitalism”.

The reconfiguration of the state was not in the form that the neoliberals allowed the people to believe.

While they batted on about free markets and deregulation, which gave the impression that there would be less state, the fact is that they supercharged the state using its legislative and regulative machinery to work better for their own ends.

As Richard Horton writes:

Neoliberalism then takes a unique turn. It does not endorse a small laissez-faire state. Instead, it demands an interventionist state, one that clears away all obstacles to the market. If markets don’t exist, the state creates them (carbon trading). The state will create new spaces for markets to flourish, supranationally (the European Union’s single market) and subnationally (decentralisation of power to cities).

And the problem then is that the “left hand” has been compromised so badly that coopted that it no longer functions the way it was intended – to advance human well-being.

His special interest, obviously (as Lancet editor) is the health sector and he opines that “Medical and scientific institutions have warmly adopted the neoliberal project” and that has extended into our higher education sector, where bosses (managers, vice chancellors etc) now pay themselves grotesque salaries, claiming they have fundamentally modernised a corporate university sector.

Leeches don’t modernise. They suck.

The important message that I always took from Pierre Bourdieu’s work was that “neoliberalism was not inevitable”.

He taught us that the state is powerful and can be used for good (if so pressured) and bad (neoliberalism). He was not a fan of states surrendering their competencies to pan national structures.

But then again he also believed that strong states with coherent national identities could work towards global cooperation to advance well-being everywhere.

While the anti-establishment revolt is somewhat uncoordinated and has lead, in some cases (not Brexit) to very poor outcomes (Trump etc) we still have the overwhelming power as united citizens if we choose to coordinate and use it.

So I thought it was strange that Richard Horton would be out there Tweeting that the state is now powerless in the face of the pandemic.

Strong decisions by some national governments (lockdowns etc) supported by a citizenry that has clearly placed high value on saving human life has meant that some countries (Australia, New Zealand) etc have escaped the worst of the virus.

And it is also becoming clearer that the economic penalty for doing so has not been as great as it has been for nations that have tried to ‘stay open’.

The state has been far from powerless in dealing with the pandemic in Australia.

To some extent it has also demonstrated that political pragmatism (motivated by a knowledge of the sentiments of the population) has proven to be a bulwark against the neoliberals.

In the Australian setting, the neoliberals have been complaining about business being closed and border restrictions (domestic and international) right down to mandated mask rules.

Their voices have been drowned out by the massive scream by the vast majority of us who want to virus eliminated through lockdowns.

That should be an interesting model for progressives to build on. Find the right cause and the people unite.

Music – Bunny Livingston

This is what I have been listening to while working today. Getting mellow while staying angry.

This is the dub version

This is from Jamaican singer, poet, drummer – Neville O’Riley Livingston (aka Bunny Livingston, aka Bunny Wailer).

The latter assignation (Bunny Wailer) comes from his status as one of the original Wailing Wailers with step-brother Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. That band would split and produce three separate and brilliant musical contributions in the 1970s and beyond.

To some extent Bunny is my favourite despite the fact that he is probably the lesser known of that illustrious trio from the 1960s.

He was often backed as a solo artist by the premier Jamaican rhythm section – Sly and Robbie – which comprised Robbie Shakespeare on bass and Sly Dunbar on drums.

Horn sections were usually supplied by the Blazing Horns (Tommy McCook and Bobby Ellis).

This song – Rise and Shine – was off his 1981 release from Solomic Records (with Solomic Dub on the B-side). This is the 12 inch dub version and the best.

I regularly received shipments of Mento, Ska, Rock Steady, Reggae and Dub singles from the UK in the 1970s and beyond. They were very cheap and you could buy a big box of records for hardly anything.

Some of the gems of all time were in those boxes and I learned a lot of the diversity of artists, recording studios and their technical differences from those bits of plastic.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2021 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

BLM Activist Calls for Dictionary to Redefine Racism

Here’s something far more controversial after some of the posts I’ve put up recently. A few days ago, the writer and Youtuber Simon Webb put up on his channel, History Debunked, a piece about a worrying attempt by a young Black American woman, Kennedy Mitchum to change the definition of racism in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Webb states that most people would say that racism means racial prejudice, or that there are more profound differences between racial groups than their skin colour and physical appearance. The Merriam-Webster dictionary currently defines racism as

  1. A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities, and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.
  2. A doctrine or political programme based on racism and designed to execute its policies.
  3. Racial prejudice or discrimination.

This wasn’t good enough for Mitchum. Three days after the death of George Floyd, with riots breaking out across America, she emailed the publisher calling for the definition to be changed in accordance with Critical Race Theory. This holds that racism is due to the imbalance of power in society, and implemented by the dominant racial group. Instead of telling Mitchum where to stick her suggestion, as Webb himself would have done, the publishers responded to her, telling her that this issue needed to be addressed sooner rather than later and that a revision would be made. Peter Sokolofsky, one of the dictionary’s editors, stated that the second definition would be expanded to be even more explicit in its next edition, and would include systemic oppression as well as sample sentence, and would be formulated in consultation with academics in Black Studies.

Webb points out that if this is done, then it would redefine racism as something that only Whites do, and absolve people of colour of any responsibility for it on their part, or indeed see them as being racist at all, because Whites are the dominant race in Britain and America. This is, he claims, the attitude of many liberals and leftists, who believe that all White people are racist. It would also mean that Blacks, who hated Jews or Indians, would not be viewed as racist. He has personally seen such racism in the Caribbean street robbers of Hackney. They hated Orthodox Jews and used to go to Stamford Bridge to prey on the Jewish community there. He ends the video by stating that such a redefinition of racism would mean that all Whites in Britain and America are defined as racist but no other ethnic groups.

Changing the dictionary definition of racism – YouTube

There certainly is an attitude amongst some anti-racist activists that only White people can be racist and are never the victims. Way back in October 2019 Sargon of Akkad, the man who broke UKIP, put up a post commenting on a report in the Guardian about complaints about an EHRC investigation into racism at Britain’s universities by a group of Black and Asian academics and students. The group, which included Heidi Mirza, the visiting professor of race, faith and culture and Goldsmiths College, University of London, Fope Olaleye, the NUS’ Black students’ officer, Gargi Bhattacharyya, professor of sociology at the University of East London, and Zubaida Haque, the deputy director of the racial equality think tank, the Runnymede Trust, were outraged at the Commission because it dared to include anti-White, anti-English racism. This, they seemed to believe, detracted from the Commission’s true purpose, which was to combat White racism against Blacks and Asians.

Students of Colour Furious that Anti-White Prejudice is Considered to be Racism – YouTube

I’ve posted a number of pieces criticising the lack of attention and action against anti-White racism. At the moment the attitude that racism is something that only Whites are guilty of racism seems extremely prevalent. In fact, the situation regarding racial prejudice, abuse and violence is far more complex. About 20 years ago, before 9/11 and the subsequent massive rise in Islamophobia, Whites briefly formed the largest number of victims of racial abuse and violence. There are also tensions and conflict between different non-White minorities. In the 1980s or ’90s there was a riot in Birmingham, not between Blacks and Whites, but between Blacks and Asians. I’ve also heard that in one of the schools in Bristol in one of the very racially mixed areas, most of the playground fights were between different groups of Asians. Some people were aware that different ethnic groups also had their racial prejudices. Boy George mentioned it when he appeared on Max Headroom’s chat show on British TV in the 1980s, for which he was praised for his brave outspokenness by the world’s first computer generated video jockey.

There is, however, a real reluctance to tackle ethnic minority racism. A couple of years ago an Asian man told Diane Abbott that there should be more action on the racism members of ethnic minorities experienced at the hands of other non-Whites. Abbott told him she wasn’t going to do anything about it, because the Tories would use it to divide and rule. Like Kennedy Mitchum and the Critical Race Theorists, as well as the critics of the EHRC, she was solely focussed on tackling White racism.

That focus, in my opinion, explains why the Black comedian and anti-racist activist, Sophie Duker, felt she could get away with a joke about killing Whitey on Frankie Boyle’s podcast. Boyle had assembled a panel of mainly Black and Asian activists, to discuss the topic of how ethnic minorities were coming together to kill Whitey. Duker had made comments about racism being the product of an ideology of Whiteness, which was harming Blacks and Whites. She then said that they didn’t want to kill Whitey, before adding ‘we do really’. She was clearly joking, but her comment resulted in the corporation receiving 200 complaints. According to right-wing internet radio host and Youtuber, Alex Belfield, the Beeb is now being investigated by the Greater Manchester Police for what is described as a ‘hate incident’. His attitude is that while Duker’s comment was a joke, it should be unacceptable, just as making jokes about killing Blacks is unacceptable. See, for example, his piece ‘Reply BBC ‘Whitey’ Joker STAGGERING From Unapologetic Hate Lady Comedian’, which he put up on Youtube on the 8th January 2021. No, I’m not going to link to it. Even I have standards! I think one of the reasons she felt she could make the joke is because she and the other activists concentrate exclusively on White racism. Anti-White racism simply isn’t an issue with them. But anti-White racism, abuse and violence does occur, hence the angry complaints.

We really do need a study of anti-White racism and racism amongst ethnic minorities. Sir Alan Burns, a British colonial civil servant and former governor of the Gold Coast, now Ghana, discusses Black prejudice against Whites and other racial groups in his book, Colour Prejudice, published in 1948. Nigel Barley also discusses the blind spot Cameroonians had towards their own racism, as well as that of a Black American ethnologist in his The Innocent Anthropologist. The Black American was very racially aware. An idealist, he was inspired by notions of Black brotherhood and wished to live and be treated by the local people the same as one of them. He was shocked when they continued to regard him as they would White westerners, and failed to see how the Fulani traders rigged the local markets to exclude those from other tribes. As for the Camerounians generally, they commonly believed that only Whites were racist. Barley describes how they excused the massacre of French nuns in the Congo by the claim that the nuns were themselves racists. But they refused to recognise that their own hatred and contempt of the people he was studying, the Dowayo, was also racist.

Some Asian nations also have a reputation for racism. Back in the 1990s I found a book on Chinese xenophobia on sale in Waterstones in Bath. I’ve also read various books on Japan, which have also described how racist Japanese society is. I don’t know if it is still true, but one could only qualify as a Japanese citizen if both parents were Japanese. This meant that there was a sizable Korean community, who had lived in the country for generations, which had no civil rights under the law. In schools there was a strong suspicion of outsiders, so it has been claimed, which resulted in foreign students being segregated in separate classes. This is on the grounds that their Japanese language skills may not be good enough for inclusion with the rest of the pupils, but it is applied even to children who are fluent in the language. Outside Japan, expatriate or visiting Japanese will stick almost exclusively to themselves. Back in the 1990s there was a controversy in Australia, I believe, over the construction of a luxury resort there by the Japanese, because it was exclusively for Japanese and no-one else. I don’t mean by this to claim that all Japanese are racist. I’ve met people, who lived in Japan, who admire them and who told me that in their experience they were a very kind people. The travel writer and historian William Dalrymple also describes the anti-Black racism he encountered in India in his book, In Xanadu. Arriving at a railway station with a friend, a Black American soldier, he approached a group of Indian porters, only to see them turn away, sneering at the Black American simply for being Black. Again, I don’t wish to imply that all Indians are racist either.

Racism and racial prejudice exists amongst all peoples and ethnic groups to a greater or lesser degree, even in this country. It is about time that there were proper academic studies of it amongst non-White ethnic groups and anti-White racism in this country. At the moment there is a feeling amongst Whites that only White on Black racism is taken seriously, and that prejudice against Whites is not only acceptable, but being fostered by supposed anti-racist activists.

If the authorities are serious about tackling racism, and all forms of it, that needs to change.

The 1920s’ View of the Future

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/01/2021 - 3:44am in

I found this fascinating video on the ‘1920s Channel’ on YouTube. It’s about the decades view of the future, taken from the pulp magazine, Science and Invention, founded and edited by Hugo Gernsbach. Gernsbach is one of the major figures in 20th century SF. An immigrant to America from Luxembourg, he was passionately enthusiastic about science and technology and founded the first the first SF pulp magazines. He also wrote an SF novel, Ralph 124C41 + A Romance of the Year 2660, and coined the term ‘scientifiction’ to describe the new genre. This was shortened and altered by his successors and rivals to become the modern term.

The channel’s main man says he’s interested in 1920s futurism because it falls between the ‘Steam Punk’ predictions of the Victorians and the ‘Atom Punk’ of the 1950s and 1960s, although it also has some elements of the ‘Diesel Punk’ of the 1940s. He states that the 1920s and the 1950s were similar decades, in that both followed major wars but were periods of optimism. Most of the illustrations were by Frank R. Paul, Gernsbach’s artist, who is now justly respected as one of the foremost pioneers of SF art. Among the inventions and developments the magazine predicted are massive, skyscraper cities now a staple of SF in such classic films as Metropolis and Blade Runner. But the magazine also predicted underground cities, as well as improved scientific instruments like astronomical telescopes, devices for signalling Mars, bizarre machines for taking care of one’s health, like the ‘sun shower’ and health meter. There are new entertainment media, like television and a cinema with four screens, as well as new musical instruments like the Theremin. This last creates sound through the alteration of a magnetic field by the player’s hands. It’s one of the many instruments played by the hugely talented Bill Bailey. The magazine also looked at the vehicles of the future. These included moving walkways, cars and railways. Cars wouldn’t be confined to the road, but would fly, and the magazine also showed the new aircraft of the future. Humanity would master anti-gravity and fly beyond Earth into space. At the same time, new ships and flying boats would cross the oceans, while people would venture underneath the seas in diving suits that somewhat resemble the metallic suits created to withstand the crushing pressures of the ocean depths. And the magazine also predicted that SF staple, the robot. One of these was to be a ‘police automaton’, like Robocop.

The illustrations are taken from, where they’re available for free, and the video is accompanied by some of the music of the period, so be warned!

Futurism Of The 1920s – YouTube

It’s interesting watching the video to see how much of modern SF was formed in the decade, and to compare its predictions with reality. Most of these predictions haven’t actually become reality. Flying cars are still waiting to happen, we don’t have zeppelin aircraft carriers and skyscraper cities haven’t quite become the dominant urban form. Nor do we have truly intelligent machines and robots. On the other hand, I think the ideas and devices Gernsbach and Paul discussed and portrayed in the magazine still have the power to inspire, and think that they would make a great source of ideas for future, aspiring SF writers.

Bond investors see through central bank lies and expose the fallacies of mainstream macroeconomics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/01/2021 - 4:53pm in

It’s Wednesday and I usually try to write less blog material. But given the holiday on Monday and a couple of interesting developments, I thought I would write a bit more today. And after that, you still get some great piano playing to make wading through central bank discussions worth while. The Financial Times article (January 4, 2021) – Investors believe BoE’s QE programme is designed to finance UK deficit – is interesting because it provides one more piece of evidence that exposes the claims of mainstream macroeconomists operating in the dominant New Keynesian tradition. The facts that emerge are that the major bond market players do not believe the Bank of England statements about its bond-buying program which have tried to deny the reality that the central bank is essentially buying up all the debt issued by the Treasury as it expands its fiscal deficits. This disbelief undermines many key propositions that students get rammed down their throats in macroeconomics courses. It also provides further credence to the approach taken by Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).

Central bankers caught out

For years now, the ECB Board members have been out there trying to deny the obvious.

Economists have joined in the charade because to admit the obvious would expose the whole scam.

While the Bank of Japan began their large bond-buying exercise in the early 2000s, it wasn’t until the GFC that other leading central banks joined the party.

In Europe, the ECB, faced with the insolvency of many Member States of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), moved outside the legal limits of its operations under the various Treaties, and, in May 2010, introduced the Securities Markets Program (SMP) whereby they began buying up unlimited volumes of national government debt in the secondary markets.

They clearly should have done that sooner – back in 2008 – and the European Commission should have immediately suspended the Stability and Growth Pact provisions.

At that time, if the ECB had have announced that they would support all necessary fiscal deficits to offset the private spending collapse things would have been somewhat different for the GFC experience of the 19 Member States.

The former decision could have been justified under the ‘exceptional and temporary’ circumstances provision of Article 126 of the TFEU relating to the Excessive Deficit Procedure.

It was clear that the situation was ‘exceptional’ and with appropriate policy action would have been ‘temporary’. The Council had already demonstrated a considerable propensity to bend its own rules.

However, the ECB’s intervention came too late to curb the damage and was accompanied by moronic conditionalities, which morphed into the oppression dished out by the Troika (ECB, EC and IMF) on Greece and other nations suffering massive recessions.

If the SMP had been introduced in 2008 rather than 2010 and without the conditional austerity attached, things would have been much different.

No Treaty change would have been required for either of these ad hoc arrangements to be put in place.

While obviously inconsistent with the dominant neoliberal Groupthink in Europe, these policy responses would have saved the Eurozone from the worst.

Fiscal deficits and public debt levels would have been much higher but, in return, there would have been minimal output and employment losses and private sector confidence would have returned fairly quickly.

The response of the private bond markets would have been irrelevant.

The fact is though, that the ECB was out there buying up the debt issued by the Member States and suppressing bond yields in the process.
That began in earnest on May 14, 2010 when the ECB established its Securities Markets Program (SMP) that allowed the ECB and the national central banks to, in the ECB’s own words, “conduct outright interventions in the euro area public and private debt securities markets” (Source).

This was central bank-speak for the practice of buying government bonds in the so-called secondary bond market in exchange for euros, that the ECB could create out of ‘thin air’.

Government bonds are issued to selective institutions (mostly banks) by tender in the primary bond market and then traded freely among speculators and others in the secondary bond market.

The action also meant that the ECB was able to control the yields on the debt because by pushing up the demand for the debt, its price rose and so the fixed interest rates attached to the debt fell as the face value increased.

Competitive tenders then would ensure any further primary issues would be at the rate the ECB deemed appropriate (that is, low).

What followed was pure pantomime.

After the SMP was launched, a number of ECB’s official members gave speeches claiming that the program was necessary to maintain, in the words of Executive Board member, José Manuel González-Páramo during a speech delivered on October 21, 2011 – The ECB’s monetary policy during the crisis:

… a functioning monetary policy transmission mechanism by promoting the functioning of certain key government and private bond segments …

In other words, by placing the SMP in the realm of normal weekly central bank liquidity management operations, they were trying to disabuse any notion that they were funding government deficits.

This was to quell criticisms, from the likes of the Bundesbank and others, that the program contravened Article 123 of the TEU.

In early 2011, the fiscally-conservative boss of the Bundesbank, Axel Weber, who was being touted to replace Trichet as head of the ECB, announced he was resigning, ostensibly in protest of the SMP and the bailouts offered to Greece and Portugal.

On October 10, 2010, Axel Weber, a ECB Executive Board member, told a gathering in New York that the SMP was “blurring the different responsibilities between fiscal and monetary policy.”

Another ECB Executive Board member, Jürgen Stark also resigned in protest over the SMP in November 2011. He clearly understood that the ECB was disregarding the no bailout clauses that were at the heart of its legal existence.

The head of the Bundesbank, Jens Weidmann also was critical.

He knew that the SMP was what he erroneously called “monetary financing”.

In a speech given to the SUERF/Deutsche Bundesbank Conference in Berlin on November 8, 2011 – Managing macroprudential and monetary policy – a challenge for central banks – he noted that:

One of the severest forms of monetary policy being roped in for fiscal purposes is monetary financing, in colloquial terms also known as the financing of public debt via the money printing press. In conjunction with central banks’ independence, the prohibition of monetary financing, which is set forth in Article 123 of the EU Treaty, is one of the most important achievements in central banking. Specifically for Germany, it is also a key lesson from the experience of the hyperinflation after World War I. This prohibition takes account of the fact that governments may have a short-sighted incentive to use monetary policy to finance public debt, despite the substantial risk it entails. It undermines the incentives for sound public finances, creates appetite for ever more of that sweet poison and harms the credibility of the central bank in its quest for price stability. A combination of the subsequent expansion in money supply and raised inflation expectations will ultimately translate into higher inflation.

Whatever spin one wants to put on the SMP, it was unambiguously a fiscal bailout package.

Weidmann was correct in that sense.

The SMP amounted to the central bank ensuring that troubled governments could continue to function (albeit under the strain of austerity) rather than collapse into insolvency.

Whether it breached Article 123 is moot but largely irrelevant.

The SMP reality was that the ECB was bailing out governments by buying their debt and eliminating the risk of insolvency.

The SMP demonstrated that the ECB was caught in a bind.

It repeatedly claimed that it was not responsible for resolving the crisis but, at the same time, it realised that as the currency-issuer, it was the only EMU institution that had the capacity to provide resolution.

The SMP saved the Eurozone from breakup.

And, of course, this sort of behavour by central banks is now the norm.

Which is why a recent article in the Financial Times (January 4, 2021) – Investors believe BoE’s QE programme is designed to finance UK deficit – is interesting.

Note that Chris Giles (one of the co-authors of the article and Economics Editor at the FT) has been tweeting about the big U-turn from the OECD (which I will write about soon) supporting fiscal dominance and rejecting almost all of the claims that that organisation pushed for years about the benefits of austerity.

It seems that Mr Giles, one of the leading austerity proponents in the financial media, is also undergoing somewhat of an epiphany, as are many who are desperately trying to get on the right side of history, as the paradigm in macroeconomics shifts towards an Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) understanding.

The FT article relates to the bond-purchasing program of the Bank of England.

In the same way that the ECB officials denied what they were doing, the Bank of England govrnor claims that their massive quantitative easing program is about ‘inflation control’ – pushing inflation up to its 2 per cent target rate.

Of course, even that sort of reasoning reflects the flaws of the mainstream paradigm.

Central banks have proven incapable of driving up inflation rates as they increase bank reserves because the underlying theory of inflation (Quantity Theory of Money with money multiplier) is inherently incorrect.

But the FT article surveyed “the 18 biggest players in the market for UK government bonds” to see what their understanding of what the Bank of England was up to.

The results were:

1. “overwhelming majority believe that QE in its current incarnation works by buying enough bonds to mop up the amount the government issues and keep interest rates low”.

2. “most said they thought the scale of BoE bond buying in the current crisis had been calibrated to absorb the flood of extra bonds sold this year, suggesting they believe the central bank is financing the government’s borrowing.”

3. “investors place fiscal financing at the centre of their understanding of how QE works, a conviction that has strengthened in the current crisis compared with previous rounds of bond buying.”

The FT article provided this graph, which tells the story:

The bottom line is that the bond market players don’t believe a word the Bank of England bosses are saying.

And this bears on the so-called arguments about central bank credibility, used by the mainstream to suppress fiscal policy and central bank bond buying programs.

Apparently, if the bond markets think the way the central bank is behaving is not ‘credible’ then rising yields and inflation will follow quickly as the markets ignore central bank policy settings.

One has to laugh.

Here we clearly have the major players in the bond markets outrightly disbelieving the central bank statements and clearly understanding exactly what the bank is up to, yet yields stay around zero and there is no inflation remotely in sight.

The FT revealed that the survey respondents also did not believe the line pushed by New Keynesians (mainstream macroeconomists) that the Bank bond purchases would drive inflation up.

One respondent said:

While the idea of raising inflation expectations, to help reach the bank’s target of actual inflation, is very popular, it is arguably less clear to what extent central banks can really influence inflation expectations and actual inflation.

The game is well and truly up!

Music – Hymn to Freedom

This is what I have been listening to while working this morning.

It is a piano piece that I like to sometimes play on my own as a sort of practice routine.

The song – Hymn to Freedom – first appeared on the 1963 album – Night Train (Verve) – released by the incomparable Canadian pianist – Oscar Peterson – with the other players in his trio comprising:

1. Ray Brown (Acoustic double bass).

2. Ed Thigpen (Drums).

The whole album is one of the best out there.

Oscar Peterson wrote the song in support of the civil rights movement in the US in the early 1960s.

On the Freedom reference, which isn’t why I was listening to the album today, I saw that Kamala Harris is once again in the spotlight for a story about her childhood where she appears to rip-off an anecdote from Martin Luther King. It doesn’t augur well for the next administration in the US. See this story if you are interested – Kamala Harris’ ‘Fweedom’ story mirrors MLK account (January 4, 2021).

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2021 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Revolution of the Daleks Soundtrack

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/01/2021 - 2:01am in



Revolution of the Daleks Soundtrack<\/a>

The soundtrack for the Doctor Who New Year’s Day special, Revolution of the Daleks, is now available to download on Spotify, Amazon<\/a>, Apple, Deezer and Tidal.

Composer, Segun Akinola, who has composed the score for Series 11 and Series 12 of Doctor Who,  said:

Revolution of the Daleks is an emotional rollercoaster full of action, tension, old friends, old enemies and some heartfelt goodbyes, all of which are accompanied by music that utilises many of the musical themes from Series 11 and Series 12, and very often moves from a solo cello to orchestra, and much more in-between. 

It’s a ‘special’ in every sense of the word which I hope those who’ve enjoyed listening to the Series 11 and 12 albums will love. So, if that’s you, thank you - this album is dedicated to you!

Segun is an alumnus of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and part of 2017’s BAFTA Breakthrough Brit programme, with other works including Sundance 2019 favourite The Last Tree, Shola Amoo’s A Moving Image, (nominated for a Discovery Award, World Soundtrack Awards), David Olusoga’s Black and British: A Forgotten History. His work has screened at Sundance, the London Film Festival, LA Film Festival, BlackStar Film Festival and many others.


  1. 367 Minutes
  2. A Cuppa
  3. Something Revolutionary
  4. Breakout Ball
  5. The Clone
  6. The Production Line
  7. Stability and Security
  8. Thank You for Being My Friend
  9. Activate
  10. The Death Squad
  11. Bad Boys
  12. Bye Fam

Doctor Who Revolution of the Daleks Soundtrack is available now from £8.99.


My blog is on its ‘New Year’s Holiday’ today

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/01/2021 - 12:06pm in



My blog is on its ‘New Year’s Holiday’ today, while I devote more time to other writing commitments. To keep us amused, we have a great song from the 1960s, which might lead you down new musical paths to explore the musician featured. Regular transmission returns tomorrow. The photo is from the beach at Barwon Heads, Victoria, which is around where I was meant to be this week, prior to the border closures and flight cancellations last week due to the new Sydney virus outbreak. It is one of my favourite spots and I go there regularly.

A little Twitter comment

I am thinking of deleting my Twitter account. I only signed up because I used to get a lot of E-mails in the afternoons from people enquiring as to when I would be posting my daily blog update.

So I thought that if I conditioned readers to wait for my Twitter announcement that would reduce my (ridiculous) E-mail traffic and provide some consistency for those who were interested enough to read my work.

I think that is a good use of Twitter.

I think most of the way Twitter is used, however, more generally, is not useful.

There is a lot of character assassination practiced on a daily basis with misinformation and lies rampant.

So-called experts are out there every day, waxing lyrical about complex issues, that they have no real knowledge or limited personal experience of, and, have clearly have not taken the time to delve into the sometimes extensive work that those who do specialise in these issues have offered over many years of work.

Opinion is not knowledge.

Some views have to be privileged over other views if we are to respect knowledge. Otherwise, there is no progress on a rabble dominated by the loudest and aggressive voices.

I keep getting copied into interchanges like this and I hate the idea of ‘blocking people’.

I will never respond to personal attacks on me on Twitter, which seem to occur regularly. So save your time.

My position is laid out in my work over my career which spans multiple decades.

I have written millions of words in academic publications, my books, commissioned reports (many of which are publicly available), and, more recently my blog posts (which began in 2004).

I request that people read that literature before they pontificate as experts on what I think.

I always prioritise empirically-grounded knowledge over opinion.

Most of these Twitter-heroes would never say to a person’s face the things they so easily type into the Internet via Twitter. That tells you a lot about their character.

Music – Song for my Father

This is a song that I used to play a lot in one of my bands. Only four chords are involved but the secret is in the feel of the melody interacting with the rhythmic components.

The song – Song for My Father – was first recorded by US pianist – Horace Silver – and his quintet during their ‘hard bop’ years.

It appeared on their 1965 album – Song for My Father (Blue Note records) – which features:

1. Horace Silver – piano.
2. Carmell Jones – trumpet.
3. Joe Henderson – tenor saxophone.
4. Teddy Smith – bass.
5. Roger Humphries – drums.

It combines Brazilian rhythms with folk melodies from Cape Verde (where Horace Silver’s father was born).

The beauty of this song for an improvising musician is the scope to mix flattened third (minor scales) and modal forms on the Fm chord (key). That might not mean much but translates into considerable scope.

If you can find the version by the UK acid band – Heavy Shift – from their Conversation album, you will hear are very different interpretation of the song.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2021 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Talk Radio’s Kevin O’Sullivan and Rod Liddle Get Upset about British Universities’ Dictionary of British Slave Traders

And now for a much more serious subject. The day before yesterday, 30th December 2020, Talk Radio posted this video on YouTube of one of their presenters, Kevin O’Sullivan, talking about the compilation of a Dictionary of British Slave Traders by a group of British universities with that fixture of the right-wing press, Rod Liddle. The project is led by a professor Pettigree, and involves the universities of Lancaster, Manchester and University College London. O’Sullivan quotes Prof. William Pettigree, who said that after Black Lives Matter it was important that there should be further, accurate information on the breadth of Britain’s involvement in the slave trade. As you can imagine, neither O’Sullivan nor Liddle are fans of the project. Some of their arguments are good, but others are just them using the issue to ride the usual Conservative hobby horses of attacking state education.

Non-White Slave Trade Ignored

The Dictionary will have 6,500 entries, including small investors, women, and people, whose involvement in the Abominable Trade has not been mentioned before. O’Sullivan claims that this is a device for finding out whether a perfectly respectable living person had an ancestor 350 years ago, who invested £5 in a plantation, and then make their blameless descendant into a pariah and get them sacked. He states that we need the Dictionary ‘like a hole in the head’, denounces the obsession with the slave trade as a ‘national sickness’. Liddle, who is introduced as writing for the Sun, the Spectator and the Sun on Sunday, agrees, calling it ‘self-flagellating imbecilic obsessiveness’. He states that the Dictionary isn’t about anyone, but specifically the White English. It doesn’t mention the Ottoman Empire, the people, who profited from the slave trade in the West African countries, specifically Ghana. He states that he was in a cab a couple of months ago, whose driver was Ethiopian. The driver told him how much he hated Britain. When Liddle asked why, he was told that it was because Britain was the country that invented slavery and enslaved whole nations. He’d never heard of the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire or the slavery that continued in his own country for hundreds of years after Britain had stopped it. He’d never heard of the fact that Britain was the first country to abolish it. Liddle also makes the point that Ethiopia, where it continued, had never been colonised. Liddle goes on to claim that universities are implanting in people’s minds the notion that it was only the British, who were slavers and had this wickedness. This is, he said, reflected in ‘that very stupid woman, who is head of the British Library’, Liz Joly, who said that ‘White people invented racism’. Liddle goes on about how we also invented television, the printing press, democracy, but we invented slavery, sin and mosquitoes. It’s utter rubbish and time we got over it.

The Coronavirus Lockdown Prevented Criticism of BLM at Football Matches

O’Sullivan dismisses Pettigree’s comments about the need for the Dictionary as nonsense, and describes the obsession with the slave trade as a kind of ‘national insanity’. He asks why the country is obsessing about the actions of slave traders who lived three centuries ago. Liddle says we’re not obsessing. It’s a tiny, tiny minority, who are obsessing. And they’ve been partly able to get away with it because of the Coronavirus. This has allowed footballers to take the knee in support of an organisation that wishes to abolish the family and capitalism. This wouldn’t have happened if there had been fans in the ground, because as soon as fans were allowed, they booed. This occurred not just at Liddle’s club, Millwall, but also at Colchester and Dallas in the US. They’ve got away with this because this year has meant the lone voice of the common sense public has not been heard. O’Sullivan agrees with him, stating that the people have been eclipsed by the lockdown and the authorities in politics and football have been allowed to proceed without comment from the public and fans. Liddle states that it’s a salutary lesson that when these restriction are placed on our lives, there is nothing they won’t try to get away with. He then goes to tilt at the Beeb, stating that they used the Coronavirus as an excuse to ban the words to ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and ‘Rule, Britannia’.

Liddle Attacks his Daughter’s State School for views on British Empire

O’Sullivan agrees with him that the obsession with slavery and the ‘Woke’ thing is that of a tiny, tiny minority, who are vocal and noisy. He hopes that in this coming year, 2021, the Dictionary never gets published, and that the people’s voice gets heard and we are able to push back against these noisy people. Liddle then describes how, when his daughter went to state school last year, she was taught in her history lessons, which went uncontested, that the reason Africa was in poverty was because of colonialism. He states that this is easy to disprove, as Ethiopia, which was never colonised, is exactly the same as Eritrea. Both countries are equally impoverished and despotic. Liberia, which was never colonised, is as badly off as Sierra Leone next door. Singapore, on the other hand, was colonised for 200 years, and is the most affluent country in the world. There is, Liddle claims, a reluctance to face the truth because of this liberal mindset. This is based on a fallacy, which falls apart if you pick at it.

O’Sullivan then asks Liddle if they teach Critical Race Theory at his daughter’s school. This ‘controversial and very dubious philosophy’ is being taught in schools all over the country, which states that if you’re White, you’re racist, even if you don’t think you are. He states that it’s fine if adults want to learn this nonsense, but really dangerous to teach it to children in schools. Liddle again agrees with him, says he’s sure his daughter was, and that they got her out of it not just because they were teaching ‘that rubbish’, but because most of the time they weren’t teaching at all. There were no lesson during the Covid outbreak, not even online, O’Sullivan jokes that it was probably better that she was getting no lessons at all then. Liddle replies that she got lessons from him on how the British Empire brought decency and democracy to the world as a corrective for five minutes.

Rod Liddle criticises ‘self-flagellating’ Dictionary of British Slave Traders – YouTube

There are several issues to unpack here. Firstly, if the Dictionary was only an academic exercise in researching the depth of British public involvement in the slave trade, then I don’t think there should be any objection to its compilation and publication. There’s already been considerable research on the subject. A little while ago one historian of the subject said that they were actually astonished by how widespread participation in the slave trade and slavery was, with ordinary members of the public investing their money in it. In fact you could easily produce a list of British slaveowners simply by going through the government’s Blue Book published c. 1840 for the compensation given to the slaveowners after abolition. From the 1820s onwards the British government passed legislation designed to halt the illegal importation of slaves in their colonies by passing legislation demanding that all slaves be registered. This could also be used. The compensation returns and slave registries might have some surprises for those, who believe that only White people owned slaves. Several of the slaveowners in the Caribbean included the Maroons, the free Black communities outside British law. I also believe, though I’m not sure, that the free people of colour, the free Black population, may also have owned slaves.

Real Danger of Innocent People Demonised for Ancestors’ Involvement

O’Sullivan’s claim that the book would be used to denounce and pillory perfectly decent people for what their ancestors did hundreds of years ago is hysterical, but unfortunately also a real possibility. I had to make a similar decision myself when I was working in the Empire and Commonwealth Museum. It seemed that there was a strong possibility that some of the people described as slavers may have been the remote ancestors of people I knew personally. I had to think very carefully about telling them, and was eventually advised against it by one of their close friends. They told me that I shouldn’t tell this person about their possible connection to the slave trade, because they were very anti-racist themselves and the information would only upset them. I’ve no doubt that this is true of very many people. I also think that behind some of outrage from O’Sullivan and Liddle, but which goes unspoken, is the fear that it will be used by activists to demand reparations for slavery. I’m not sure how much this will affect ordinary people, though. In the 18th and 19th centuries most people in this country were the ‘labouring poor’, who comprised 90 per cent of the population. These had problems enough paying for food, clothing and accommodation. They wouldn’t have had the disposable income to invest in anything, never mind slaves or plantations, even if they were so inclined. Really we’re only talking about the middle classes and aristocracy as investors and slaveowners. Reparations for slavery are a different issue, but this has its dangers too. Over time, many of the wealthy or comfortably off people, who owned slaves, will have lost their money. All it would take to cause real controversy and angry backlash is if poorly paid people struggling to make ends meet get a demand for reparations from richer Black people. If that happens, you can expect the story to be all over the Heil, Depress and the rest of the press like a rash.

Need to Teach Extra-European, Islamic and Asian Slavery and Slave Trade

I also agree with O’Sullivan and Liddle that more should be taught about extra-European slavery. This includes that of the Arabs and Muslims in north Africa, the Ottoman Empire and the Islamic slave trade from east Africa across the Indian Ocean. Liddle is also quite right about the Ethiopians practising the slave trade. Way back in the 19th century we sent a punitive expedition into Abyssinia to stop them raiding British territory for slaves. One of the books we had in the library at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum was Major Darnley’s Slaves and Ivory. This was published in the early part of the 20th century and described Darnley’s own personal undercover investigation of slavery within the Abyssinian empire. Darnley published the book to make the public aware that the Abyssinians were still raiding British Uganda for slaves, and that the Ethiopian princes were destroying whole regions of their own empire through such raids. He wished to generate sufficient outrage that public opinion would swing behind a British invasion of the country. Dame Kathleen Simon, a determined foe of slavery, actually praised Mussolini and the Italian Fascists in her book on it for their invasion of Abyssinia, which she felt would at least extinguish slavery there. I do think there is a real need to teach this aspect of the slave trade to counter the notion that it was only Britain that was only, or primarily responsible for it. Britain wasn’t the first country to outlaw it – that was Denmark – but we were the leading country to do so and insist that other nations follow.

The East African Slave Trade in the 19th Century, from James Walvin, Atlas of Slavery (Harlow: Pearson Education 2006) 129.

Concentration on Western Slave Trade Product of Black Rights’ Movement

Research into the historic slave trade has been linked with the campaign for Black liberation since the time of W.E.B. Dubois. Hence the fixation on it by contemporary anti-racist activists. Driving this is the continued impoverishment and disadvantaged condition of the Black community as a whole. But real, Black chattel slavery has re-emerged in Libya and in sub-Saharan African countries like Uganda. There is little interest in combating slavery there. When right-wing critics urged western anti-racist activists to do so, the response has been that it should be ignored as a distraction from continued demands for racial equality here in the West. Kate Maltby, a White contributor to the I, made that argument in its pages a few months ago. She has a point, but it’s still no reason to ignore real slavery as it exists now in order to concentrate on angry denunciations for past crimes. There are books published on non-European slavery. Jeremy Black includes it alongside western slavery in one of his books. James Walvin includes maps of the African and Indian slave trade and routes alongside transatlantic slavery in his Atlas of Slavery. There are books on African slavery, and there is a particular study of the Islamic slave trade, Islam’s Black Slaves: A History of the Other Black Diaspora, by Ronald Segal. I think, however, that there may be some objection to teaching about these slave trades from some anti-racist activists, who may feel that it would somehow be racist or even islamophobic to do so.

Liddle Promoting Privatisation of State Education with Comments

But as you can hear from the video, O’Sullivan and Liddle were also determined to use the issue of slavery to attack other right-wing bugbears. Like the Coronavirus lockdown. This is there to save lives, but it’s too much for the right, who favour the economy at the expense of people’s lives. Hence the rant about footballers taking the knee for Black Lives Matter. Liddle also uses it, surprise, surprise! – to attack state education. We’ve been this way before. I remember the rants of the right-wing press under Thatcher, when the Scum, Heil, Depress and the rest ran stories about children in state schools being indoctrinated with left-wing propaganda, like Peace Studies, while anti-racist fanatics in Brent forced them to sing suitably altered nursery rhymes like ‘Ba Ba Green Sheep’. That was a lie put out by the Scum, supposedly, but I’ve met people, who swore they sang it at school. Thatcher used those fears to push through her creation of academy schools, telling the British public that it would put them in control of their children’s education. And this would be taken out of the hands of evil, left-wing Local Education Authorities. In fact, Thatcher’s academy school programme was a complete flop. It was being wound up by Norman Fowler before Blair took the idea out of the Tory dustbin, dusted it off and then made it official Labour policy. And unfortunately the wretched schemes been going ever since. In fact academy schools are not better than state schools and are far more expensive. They should be wound up and education renationalised. But this would upset the parasites running the academies. I don’t think it’s an accident that Liddle came out to rant against state education when he writes for the Scum, as Dirty Rupe would like to move into education as well.

Neo-Colonialism and African Poverty

As for the terrible condition of modern Africa and the legacy of British colonialism, it’s quite true that much of the continent’s problems don’t come from it, but from the rapacious venality and ruthless tyranny of their post-independence rulers. But we took over these countries partly to exploit their resources, and their poverty is partly caused by the Neo-colonial economic system that prevents them from industrialising and confines them to exporting raw materials to the Developed World. I can remember being taught all this in ‘A’ Level Geography nearly forty years ago from teachers, who were definitely not Marxists trying to indoctrinate us. As for the success of Singapore, this can be used to support the socialism Liddle and O’Sullivan fear and despise. Singapore’s leaders were influenced by the Fabians and their belief that the state should take a leading role in the economy. Singapore ain’t a socialist country, but its success does refute Thatcherite free market economics.

While O’Sullivan and Liddle thus are quite reasonable in their criticisms of the proposed Dictionary, they are using it as a tool to promote a wider, right-wing agenda. One that will cause further poverty and endanger lives, but will benefit their paymasters in the press barons and big business.

Boston Dynamics’ Dancing Robots

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/01/2021 - 10:53pm in

The American robotics company Boston Dynamics posted this video on YouTube a few days to wish everyone a happy New Year. It shows some of their various robots dancing to Gordon Berry and the Contours’ ‘Do You Love Me’. The robots include the bipedal, anthropomorphic Atlas robot, as well as a four-legged machine and one with two legs ending in wheels. The machines do an uncannily good display of human dancing. Some of the commenters on the video naturally felt that if robots can do all this, it won’t be long before they take over. Others suggest that the machines haven’t done any of it. It’s been done by human actors using green screen. I think this is probably right, following the video of a combat robot in action. This also looked unnervingly real, until the producers put up a video showing how they had made it. And it was all done by a human actor, whose image was replaced by that of a robot using CGI. If the dancing robots are similarly the product of computer graphics, then at one level it’s a disappointment and at another a profound relief that just yet they don’t quite have those abilities.

But regardless of how it was produced, it is hugely entertaining! Please watch and enjoy!

Do You Love Me? – YouTube

Support Philosophical Outreach to Those Who Lack Access to Universities

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/01/2021 - 2:11am in



Over the summer, Sophia Stone (Lynn University), creator of Wisdom’s Edge Foundation, asked for help collecting short philosophical sayings–the “golden nuggets” of philosophy.

At the time, I didn’t explain why she was doing this. In the following message from Professor Stone, she does, and makes a request. I encourage you to help her out.

Dear Philosophers,

Thank you for sharing the best philosophy quotes for Wisdom’s Edge. After collecting 556 philosophy quotes, we narrowed them down to twenty so that singer-songwriter and Alexander Star could write our anthem for Wisdom’s Edge: “I Think Therefore I Am”. I share it with you below. You may be wondering, why? 

We believe in the transformational power in studying philosophy, as philosophy can change the way one thinks about the world and one’s life. We are not only passionate about teaching philosophy, we want those who never got a chance to study philosophy in a formal way to have that opportunity. Therefore, our mission is to seek out those communities at the edges of society who don’t currently have access to the university and to bring philosophy to them. 

We incorporated on August 15, 2019. We received our 501c3 status in January 2020. So far we have given 17 philosophy classes to children and women in transition. This is just the beginning, but we need your support.

Currently we are raising money to help cover the costs of hiring philosophers, training them to teach their craft to a wider audience, and to offer more courses for our students in transition. We’d like to expand our services to children’s centers, retirement homes, Veterans’ halls, and prison centers. We need the support of private individuals and corporate sponsors until we qualify for institutional funding. 

Right now, Wisdom’s Edge provides wrap-around support for The Lord’s Place, a non-profit organization that seeks to stop the cycle of homelessness in South Florida. Particularly, we are focused on serving their two transitional houses for women. These women are transitioning from prisons, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, and homelessness. In every session, we see the women apply the principles they have learned from philosophy to their own lived experience of recovery. At the end of a session on Aristotle’s virtue ethics, one of the women said, “I wish they taught us this in high school.” 

As you can see, we are working to change people’s lives for the better.  

If you have not already met your $300 tax donation credit, or if you have but you’d like to help fund projects to expand our services, please consider making an end of the year donation to Wisdom’s Edge Foundation, Inc. Here is the link.

All donations are tax deductible according to U.S. Tax Code 26 §170. You will receive our EIN for any donation over $300.  

If you’d like more information about Wisdom’s Edge and our services, please visit our website.


Sophia Stone
President, Wisdom’s Edge Foundation, Inc.
Assistant Professor, Lynn University

Here’s the song:

The song is also available here. You can donate to Wisdom’s Edge here.

The post Support Philosophical Outreach to Those Who Lack Access to Universities appeared first on Daily Nous.

Sure, interest rates are negative, but so are some prices, and when you look around, they’re everywhere

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 30/12/2020 - 6:06pm in


copyright, Music

On December 10, it finally happened. Instead of demanding an interest payment from the government in return for lending it money, a group of investors offered to pay the government in order to lend it money.

Naturally enough, the offer was accepted.

The government needed A$1.5 billion which it promised to repay on March 26.

It sought tenders. What was the lowest return an investor would accept to lend it the money?

It wasn’t short of offers. It fended off $8.2 billion of bids, and some of them were prepared to accept very low returns indeed.

The lowest was -0.01%. The minus sign indicates that, instead of the government paying the lender a return for lending to it, the lender would pay the government a return for the privilege of lending to it – a perfectly-legal backhander if you like.


The government got a fair chunk of the $1.5 billion for less than nothing.

Some of the bidders demanded more, but nothing too far into positive territory.

It happened because the sale of bonds benefits both parties: the government gets to borrow money it needs and the investor gets a safe place to park their money.

Read more: The government has just sold $15 billion of 31-year bonds. But what actually is a bond?

In those circumstances, where benefits flow in both directions, there’s no reason to suppose that the final payment will flow in only one direction.

And sometimes the direction chosen is arbitrary. Economist Joshua Gans made the point on Twitter talking about the coronavirus vaccine.

He said “half of the economists out there think people should be paid to be vaccinated, the other half think they should pay to be vaccinated earlier.

He asked: "can we at least work out whether the price is positive or negative?”

Which bank pays which bank?

Two banks are involved when you whip out a debit card to pay for a purchase – your bank (that issues the card), and the seller’s bank (that accepts the card).

Which should pay which? Usually the seller’s bank pays a fee to buyer’s bank, but not always. Depending on the type of card and bank, sometimes the fee flows the in the other direction, from the buyer’s bank to the seller’s bank.

The truth is both parties benefit from the transaction, and who the banks ultimately manage to pass the fee on to (the buyer or the seller) is another question altogether.

Home taping is killing music?

The advent of cassette recorders frightened record companies, and throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s they persuaded governments in Australia, Canada, the United States and much of Europe to impose levies (taxes) on the sale of blank recording media such as cassette tapes and compact discs in order to compensate the companies that would suffer.

There was only one problem. The companies didn’t suffer. The advent of the cassette made it possible to listen to recorded music in places other than the loungeroom record player (most notably in cars and later, with the Walkman while walking or jogging).

The amount of time people spent listening to recorded music shot up, recorded music sales in the US more than doubled, and the record companies took in more money than ever before.

Radio stations should pay to play, or…

If anything, record companies should have been paying the purveyors of cassette tapes rather than the other way around.

The same sort of two-way exchange happens when radio stations play music.

Radio stations pay the artists, composers and record companies for the music they play (although not very much) and sometimes the recording companies pay the radio stations (payola) in order to ensure their records are played.

Read more: Spotify may soon dominate music the way Google does search — this is why

In 1970 Australia’s six largest record companies demanded more money from the radio stations, which they refused to pay. The resulting “record ban” saw commercial radio drop the British and Australian artists represented by the majors and instead play the American and independent local artists whose companies weren’t demanding more money.

Without airplay, sales faded. The Long and Winding Road cracked the top five most places it was released, but not in Australia.

Six months on, each side realised it needed the other.

Google should pay newspapers, or….

Now the government is insisting that platforms such as Google and Facebook pay news organisations for the content they link to, in something of a world first.

Or at least it seems to be. The original draft legislation released in April required the arbitrating panel to take account of the direct and indirect benefits of the news content to the digital platform.

After representations from Google and Facebook the revised final legislation released in December also requires the panel to take account of the benefit “to the registered news business” of having the digital platform pointing to its content.

That benefit is huge. Without Google and Facebook, news websites would be bereft of traffic (which is why they allow Google and Facebook to point to their content).

Means of accessing Australian news sites

2017-18. ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry, final report

The Treasurer calls it a “two-way value exchange”. At least to me, it’s no longer clear in which direction the money should flow.

Prices can be negative as well as positive.

Peter Martin, Visiting Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Peter Martin is economics correspondent for The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.

He blogs at and tweets at @1petermartin.