Thursday , June 17 2021
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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

How should we think about talk of an impending US inflationary spiral?

 In 2013 I was presenting at a Bank of England conference. The UK recovery had stalled for three years. I cannot remember the details, but I was probably arguing that the economy desperately needed fiscal stimulus, not more austerity. A very well known academic and ex central banker started talking about inflation and the dangers of expectations becoming 'unhinged'. In my response I came quite close to losing my cool. I wrote this post afterwards, which attempted to analyse why I had got...

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Worried about another COVID wave? Here are some pictures of Johnson getting married again

 When cases in another country start growing rapidly, you quarantine in hotels people coming from that country. If they have existing variants of concern, you do the same. You do not wait becausethe PM has a state visit planned hoping things will get better. Once a variant of concern enters the country, you direct all resources to isolating that variant and preventing spread. You do not persist with a failed test and trace system because it is politically embarrassing to overhaul it. You...

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Cummings, a puzzle about delayed lockdowns and more parallels between Johnson and Trump

 Much (unfortunately for Hancock not all) of the material Cummings talked about in his morning testimony we already knew. Like the plans for Herd Immunity (all over by September) and how various people in and outside government realised those plans were time inconsistent (were bound to be changed as hospitals were overwhelmed). As I wroteat the end of April last year, our “Prime Minister and some in his cabinet, even in the face of predictions of hundreds of thousands of deaths, was too...

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Johnson leads a populist government which should not be normalised

 Did Trump move Republican policy to the left? Before you think too hard about that, I want to suggest it misses the point. Trump was a populist. Populism is a much abused word, but I want to use it in the way set out by Jan-Werner Müller. For him populism is a form of anti-pluralism, a government that does not accept any constraints on its power beyond the electorate (at least as long as they win elections). I want to look at two recent discussions of the Johnson government in this...

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Is the spread of the Indian variant in the UK an inevitable result of living with COVID?

 Acting fast The Indian variant (B.1.671.2) of COVID-19 is now fairly well entrenched in parts of the UK and is increasing rapidly. Cases in the North West are rising, sharplyamong the young. For detailed analysis of what we know about this variant and how quickly it is spreading (once we exclude carriers who came from India) it is best to follow Christina Pagel (@chrischirp) e.g. here. She and other experts think that it is of sufficient concern that we should have stopped today's...

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Some lessons in how to combat the Tory propaganda machine

 The initial results of voting last Thursday are very easily explained. First, voters had a terrible year in 2020 and government help in getting the vaccine out means 2021 is looking much better, so naturally voters will reward the government. That means the Tories in England, Labour in Wales and the SNP in Scotland (modified by tactical voting against a second independence referendum). It’s like Brown’s poll bounce as he saved the banks, and therefore large parts of the economy, from...

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How most of the West got the pandemic so badly wrong?

It takes a lot to shock me nowadays, but the failure of most OECD countries over this pandemic I do find shocking. Not in the case of the UK under Johnson, the US under Trump, Brazil under Bolsonaro or India under Modi, as the reasons for their failures are all too obvious. After all Johnson had the idea before the pandemic that the UK should be the one country to opt out of restricting the economy to save lives, and that this would give the UK some big global economic advantage. Only when...

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Eurozone fiscal rules should be based on national macroeconomic stabilisation, not national debt stabilisation

 In memory of Andrew Hughes Hallett Eurozone fiscal rules have been suspended during the COVID crisis, thankfully. But I have argued on this blog since it began in 2012 (e.g. here) that the Eurozone fiscal rules, or any modified version thereof, were not fit for purpose. Now is the time to rethink the whole basis on which those rules were introduced. Olivier Blanchard, Álvaro Leandro, and Jeromin Zettelmeyer also think the existing rules should be scrapped, but their alternativestill has...

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Why neoliberalism’s evolution into a populist plutocracy was inevitable

If anyone gets these blogs via an email alert, unfortunately the platform I use is ending these in July. Sorry about this (outside my control), so please find another way to regularly receive this blog. In last week’s post I referenced an earlier post I had written in 2017 called “Was Neoliberal Overreach Inevitable? The question it posed was whether Trump and Brexit were an inevitable consequence of Thatcher and Reagan, or whether there was an alternative ‘fork in the road’ which if taken...

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Two types of recovery from the COVID recession, or how you cannot effectively fight plutocratic populism by returning to the recent past.

 I don’t normally talk about forecasts, but last week’s IMF World Economic Outlook illustrates a point a number of people have made. While both the UK and EU countries are prepared to gradually return what they believe as their non-inflationary level of output from below, the approach in the US is to overshoot, running the economy slightly hot for a period. This table from the Outlook shows expected GDP growth. The key figure is the last column, which shows overall growth from the start...

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