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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

The budget should create a balanced recovery, but instead it will be about the deficit

 Some obvious points first. We are still in a pandemic, and so support measures for employees, the self-employed and businesses should continue. The chancellor should also, belatedly, increase sick pay substantially. The success of the government’s COVID strategy will depend on persuading those who otherwise cannot afford to isolate to do so. The following remarks are based on the assumption that the government’s strategy works, and there is no return to NHS crises and lockdowns....

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Two paths to controlling COVID with vaccinations

 As vaccination is rolled out across advanced economies, the main danger has become mutations of the virus, or variants. We all know about the B.1.1.7 variant that emerged in the UK in September and helped generate the rapid rise in cases in December. We also know about the ‘South African’ variant (B.1.351), which appears to reducethe effectiveness of all vaccines to some degree. But these are just two of the better known variants, which seem to be emergingall the time (see also here)....

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COVID-19, experts and the media

 On February 4th, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) publishedan editorial which suggested that the actions of most government’s in mishandling the COVD-19 pandemic could be described as ‘social murder’. They write: “The “social murder” of populations is more than a relic of a bygone age. It is very real today, exposed and magnified by covid-19. It cannot be ignored or spun away. Politicians must be held to account by legal and electoral means, indeed by any national and international...

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Media radicalisation in the US and UK

 Perhaps many people outside the United States do not realise how dangerous the attack on the United States Capitol was. The views from outside the Capitol, which is all the media could immediately show, seemed harmless enough. The reality was very different. Five people died, including one policeman. As one Republican described, seeing the faces of those trying to force their way through a police barricade to get into the House Chamber “I saw this crowd of people banging on that glass...

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Why vaccines alone are not enough, how the UK government could mess things up again and which European country will eliminate COVID first?

 Why has the UK government decided to apply serious travel restrictions to incomers because of COVID now, almost a year after the pandemic began? What took them so long, and what has changed? The obvious answer to the second question is vaccination and mutation. We don’t know how much the vaccines so far approved will stop people passing on the infection to others, but what evidence we have suggests there will be at least some dampening effect. Israel is likely to provide the first firm...

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The two sides of austerity.

 I thought I’d use the FT’s mea culpa on austerity to make a point which is easily missed in public debate. Sustained austerity of the kind inflicted on the UK from 2010 until quite recently was terrible for two types of reason. The first, that most people focus on, are the cuts to government spending (shrinking the state) that went well beyond trimming any fat and caused real hardship. The second is macroeconomic. Cutting government spending in a recession is never a good idea, and when...

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Who caused our current COVID crisis: an example of public deception by the media and government

 Let me start with what the public thinks: It is a straightforward question and the majority of the public give a clear answer. Unfortunately that majority are wrong. There is no doubt that the rise in COVID cases over the last month is a result of government failure. Let me set out what the government’s mistakes were. Having ended a lockdown that still left the level of cases pretty high, the government reverted to their Tier system. Much the same tier system that had led to the...

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Trump tries to incite a putsch, and his UK cheerleaders reveal their own contempt for democracy

It appears as if the Facebook ban on referencing this blog has been lifted. Many thanks to all those who complained to Facebook. I doubt I will ever know who persuaded them to ban it. Would be democratic dictators, elected heads of state who want to ensure they can never lose an election, should know the first rule to staying in power. It is to control a sufficient amount of the media. Convincing your faithful that the mainstream media is fake news is not enough. What that sufficient...

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Why the UK’s COVID crisis should be personal for so many Tory voters

 There are around16 million over 60s living in the UK, nearly a quarter of the UK population. They are the most at risk from COVID: catching the virus could be a matter of life or death. To them the government’s handling, or rather mishandling, of the pandemic should be a matter of acute personal concern. It certainly is for me. Around60% of over 60s voted Conservative in the last election. The NHS is currently at breaking point. Tired and demoralised after almost a year of COVID,...

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It is inevitable that Labour in opposition will not be a champion of social liberalism

 Trump has been defeated, but only just. Trump, that most ludicrous and destructive of US presidents, still won 46.8% of the vote. More importantly, the number of votes between Biden and Trump in the Electoral College was very small. Voters still turned out for a Repubican party that backed Trump all the way. Perhaps worst of all, the aftermath of the election showed that the Republican party backed Trump’s attempts to overturn democracy. What Republicans do on a smaller scale with...

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