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The author Simon Wren-lewis
Simon Wren-lewis
Professor of Economic Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University, and a fellow of Merton College. This blog is written for both economists and non-economists.

Simon Wren-Lewis

A government without common sense, and with class arrogance

Recently the Prime Minister urged workers and employers to use their ‘good solid British common sense’ to decide what was safe with the recent relaxation of the lockdown. Which prompts an obvious question (thanks @SuffolkJason). What has happened to the government’s common sense in dealing with coronavirus? When you see a pandemic sweeping China and with every chance of it coming to the UK, isn’t it common sense to prepare for that possibility by Checking your PPE stockpile and ordering what...

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On V shaped recoveries, and where the Treasury’s deficit obsession will matter

I should perhaps go through some of the thinking that lay behind this Guardian articleabout not repeating austerity, because I fear there is a danger of worrying about the wrong thing. I have always been reasonably confident that we would not get an exact repeat of 2010, where the Chancellor says at the low point of a recession (i.e. before a recovery has begun) that we have to start cutting back spending because the deficit is too high. There are two reasons for that confidence. First, the...

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The government is responding to pressure and not thinking clearly about defeating coronavirus

In this articlein the Guardian I lay out what the optimal strategy for handling COVID-19 should be for a country like the UK. How does the Prime Minister’s statement on Sunday evening compare to that strategy? The key to relaxing a lockdown is having a test, trace and isolate infrastructure in place, and very low infection levels. We do not have either. So why was Johnson talking to the nation on Sunday? He set out a general framework for relaxing the lockdown, all conditional on some...

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Why the media in UK and US has moved beyond manufacturing consent, and why that has led to a war about reporting COVID-19

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (hereafter MC) was a book published by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in 1988. From my point of view the key idea behind MC was that media organisations select the news and opinion that they show to viewers in a way that supports the existing economic, social and political system. This could be summed up as saying the mainstream media (MSM) is not subversive. The book talks about the “propaganda model for manufacturing consent” as...

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Did the scientists advising the government on COVID-19 make serious mistakes?

The government has now said it will begin to wind down the lockdown with an extensive test, trace and isolate (TTI) regime in place. Containment, having been abandoned on March 12th, is back but this time the UK government is serious about it. It has a much greater chance of success not just because there is more testing capability available, and there will be an app to help with tracing, but also because it will take place with a degree of social distancing. We can only hope that this works,...

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Now is not the time?

This post was written before the Sunday Times article on 19th April, and has been slightly changed as a result. The most serious failings of the government were already known to anyone who had the inclination to look. Rather than looking at the time line, this piece looks at the types of mistake made.  We keep hearing the phrase in the title (without the question mark), particularly but not only from those sympathetic to this government. Now is not the time to talk about what could have...

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Some myths about government debt and how it is financed

That the Bank of England was temporarily eliminatingthe limit on the Ways and Means Facility caused a bit of a stir last Thursday (9th April). It in effect meant that the Bank of England could credit the government with as much money as it needed in the current crisis. That it should cause such a stir illustrates how pervasive many of the myths are around government debt. Here are three familiar examples. It doesn’t matter that we are in a developing economic crisis, like a recession or a...

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Who still thinks austerity was a good idea?

It is getting towards autumn in 2020, and the new regime of test/trace and isolate with occasional local lockdowns seems to be working. The economy has begun to recover from the 30% fall in GDP compared to a year earlier in the second quarter. But the recovery is not what the media is talking about. Instead they are focusing on the massive government budget deficit that has been a natural consequence of that fall in GDP and the huge government support effort. In response to media concern, the...

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Following the Science or a National Scandal

We can see in the United States right now the dangers of having a populist [1] president running the country during a serious pandemic. Incredibly 90% of Republicans trustthe president to give them accurate information about the outbreak. A president who first called the pandemic a Democrat hoax, and then said it was under control and now wants to end social distancing to celebrate Easter. Some of those people will be paying with their lives for this misplaced trust, but by the nature of...

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The economic (and political) effects of this coronavirus pandemic

This is an update of an earlier postwhere I described the results of a study I did with others on a flu pandemic. (It also appeared in a VoxEU ebook.) I have had a lot of enquiries from journalists in Europe about this blog and the paper, and of course what everyone wants to know is how similar is our modelling to the impact of this coronavirus. The features of this pandemic are now clearer than when I wrote the post, so I can say a few things on this issue. Our study looked at two cases: a...

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