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Fairy Tales

I’ve been following a blog for the the last few months called Flip Chart Fairy Tales, written by a business insider called Rick. His strapline is “Business bullshit, corporate crap, and other stuff from the world of work”, and from what I’ve read so far you get exactly what’s advertised: straightforward analysis of of business … Continue reading


  • Here is the Scottish Greens' Briefing Note on a Citizen's Income (aka Universal Basic Income) for an independent Scotland. The amount they're proposing is barely adequate and only partially removes the need for benefits, all because they're stuck with the idea of funding it from income tax. It is, however, a bold and encouraging move from a political party that's edging into the mainstream of Scottish politics.
  • Here's a good video from RSA Animate in which David Harvey shows the nonsense of capitalism in its current form. He's coming from a Marxist perspective but don't let that put you off. His description of the inherent flaw in finance capitalism is good and, as usual with RSA Animate, the graphics are excellent: http://www.thersa.org/events/rsaanimate/animate/rsa-animate-crisis-of-capitalism
  • Here's a good article from Frances Coppola on the idiocy of the tax credit system - a cack-handed attempt at distributing spending money to people who don't get enough of it passing through their hands every week. As Frances says at the end of the article, a universal basic income is the only sensible alternative to our ludicrous system of means-tested benefits that require battalions of civil servants to administer yet fails to provide everyone with the money that they need.
  • The Yes Movement & Political Engagement.  Supporters of a "No" vote in September's referendum on Scottish independence and enthusiasts for keeping the UK intact need to read this article from Jen Stout. This is where the groundswell of support for independence is coming from and tells us what needs to happen in the whole of the UK, not just Scotland.
  • Here's a great piece of analysis from Flip Chart Fairytales which uncovers the truth behind the recent boom in self-employment in the UK. Turns out declaring yourself as self-employed is an effective way to get the DWP off your back. If you move from Job Seekers Allowance to Working Tax Credits they can tick you off their list, which keeps their managers happy, and the government can claim you're back in work. The sooner we have a Universal Basic Income the sooner we can get rid of this nonsense.
  • Very encouraging to see Martin Wolf in the Financial Times talking seriously about full reserve banking. His proposals for are a step in the right direction but are only part of the solution. They highlight a set of additional underlying problems that also need to be addressed. He takes no account of one of the main features of our culture, namely the desire to capture and hoard as much money as we possibly can. With Martin's/Positive Money's proposals most money will end up in risk free transaction accounts regardless of the fact that they won't pay interest (witness the last few years of interest rates lower than real inflation combined with paltry investment in business activity).  Our desire to hoard will starve business of investment (as he admits) but more importantly the lack of money available for lending will strangle consumption. There is a net linear flow of money from consumers to hoarders which currently fed by credit. If you cut off the credit feed the buyers soon become strapped for cash, which means business has fewer customers, which further reduces the flow of money to consumers (i.e. fewer wage earners), which leads to permanent recession.This video gives an idea of how the mechanism currently works and how Martin's proposals could be part of a sustainable solution: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gue9Q6wgdjQ&feature=youtu.be
  • Anyone who's encouraged by George Osborne's claims of having steered the UK through the stormy waters of recession into a period of growth that's "the largest in the G7" needs to read this piece: Comparative Recovery from Flip Chart Fairy Tales. Personally I don't think GDP is a very useful measure of economic performance but if it's the yardstick by which Mr Osborne measures his own performance then we might as well hold him to account against it.
  • Even in the USA the debate about universal basic income is coming out into the mainstream. Here's a substantial piece on PBS News Hour in which people from right and left talk of the advantages of UBI. Not much discussion about how to fund it but that will come, I'm sure.
  • Welcome to Collaborative Scotland. I've just become a signatory to Collaborative Scotland's commitment to engage in the independence debate with respect and courtesy, and continue in the same spirit after the referendum regardless of the result. There are many other debates in life where a similar commitment from both sides would save a lot of grief.
  • Here's another video from Positive Money for those of you who have yet to catch on to the fact that our financial systems are dysfunctional by design. I know lots of people find this stuff dull but if we don't change the ways that we use money then the financial crises will keep coming, one after the other, each one worse than the last, until the whole thing collapses around us. The video is easy to follow and sticks to the simple message of how money being created as debt is the root of the problem, and offers three simple steps for reform. The three steps aren't enough, as far as I'm concerned, but they are absolutely the right place to start.
  • Splendid stuff from Jim Sillars on the currency options in an independent Scotland. He's scathing about the SNP's choice of a currency union with the remainder of the UK and argues his case with commendable clarity. It's encouraging to see a well-known politician getting to grips with the substance of an issue and expressing his views so well. The Scottish independence debate in the mainstream media is in desperate need of someone who can drag it away from the tiresome ping-pong match between the Yes and No campaigns. We need to get people thinking and talking about the big questions: how in an independent Scotland can we reform our systems of democracy and finance so that they work properly for everyone?
  • Here's a nice clear article by Iain Macwhirter about currency options for an independent Scotland. He looks at the experience of Slovakia which entered a brief currency union with the Czech Republic before being forced to go its own way, eventually joining the euro in 2009. He's careful not to make direct comparisons with Scotland's position as the circumstances but Slovakia shows that both the money markets and the euro-bashers can get it spectacularly wrong. There are no hard facts when it comes to economic forecasting, only opinions.
  • Here's an excellent article by Frances Coppola on a late 18th century version of basic income in the parish of Speen in Berkshire, and more general history of poor relief in English parishes at the time. Sadly the perverted "morality" of the wealthy demanding work-for-welfare from the poor is still alive and well today. Consider how many people get plenty money for doing nothing (or doing nothing useful), living fat and happy while condemning those who have to rely on welfare to survive. We need to get it into our thick skulls that money is as much of a necessity as air and water, and we have an obligation to make sure that everyone has enough of it flowing through their hands to pay for the things that they need. A universal basic income is the most sensible solution that I've come across to keep money circulating throughout the economy.
  • Another economist catching onto the idea of a a universal basic income. John Aziz, writing for The Week, argues that minimum wage is a flawed concept that should be replaced by a universal basic income, which solves the problem of low wages as well as getting rid of welfare benefits and the huge unproductive government machinery that is required to run the welfare system.
  • Just finished reading Blossom by Lesley Riddoch. It's an account of Lesley's investigations into various aspects of Scottish life over the years and her analysis of what needs to happen to allow the people of Scotland to flourish. The topics that she covers could easily have dragged the book down into the "worthy but dull" category but everything is tackled with pace and verve. bringing the subjects to life. There's a gaping hole in the book where a discussion of finance should be, but otherwise it's enlightening and thought-provoking. Anyone with any interest in the debate about Scottish independence should read this book because it gets to the nitty gritty of politics - what's happening to people in their local communities.
  • This is a good video from Jon Krajack, exploding the myth that government debt and deficits are a problem. If you follow it to the end you'll discover that without government deficits there would be no private sector surplus - no savings for you and me, no spare money for business investment. You'll also find out that government debt isn't a burden on future generations because it can be paid off by shifting money inside the central bank, which has zero cost for the rest of us.
  • Not only is Help To Buy stupid in terms of pumping up the housing debt bubble (as explained here), it's also an expensive alternative to renting, according to this analysis by pricedout.org.uk. Apparently you're better off renting than being an average first time buyer using Help To Buy.
  • Don't Panic - The Truth About Population. Professor Hans Rosling telling us how it actually is. Entertaining and inspiring. Please share this far and wide.
  • Here's a nice short and easy to read article from Tom Streithorst on the economics of supply and demand that highlights the stupidity of austerity in the midst of a recession. It begins with a little homily on the inevitability of a universal basic income, which is always good to see.
  • The notion of creating new money and giving it in equal share to the citizens of the UK may sound ridiculous, but this article by Mehdi Hasan in The Huffington Post explains that the idea isn't as radical as it sounds. For an economy to thrive money must be available and mobile so creating and distributing new money is a logical response to a system where too much of the money is being hoarded or used for financial gambling. Logical but not sensible, in the long term. There are better ways of making sure that enough money is always available and mobile to keep the productive economy healthy.
  • Here's some good news: economics students demanding that they get taught stuff about the real world instead of the nonsense that's been gospel for the last 40 years.
  • Those of you who suspect that our politicians (Salmond, Swinney, Cameron, Osborne, Miliband, Balls, etc.) are clueless when it comes to sorting out our economy please watch Ben Dyson explaining how our money system actually works. Then you'll understand why no-one from left, right, centre, or independent Scotland will be able to save us from economic catastrophe unless we change how money is created and how our banks are allowed to operate.
  • This article by David Greig is inspiring. He argues that the debate over Scottish independence is stirring up all sorts of ideas about how we should manage our lives and suggests that these are beginning to filter through into the mainstream media. I hope he's right.
  • For those of you who have been following the Ralph Miliband story here's an article from John Simkin that puts Miliband's diary entry into context and exposes the extent of the Daily Mail's breath-taking hypocrisy where love of country is involved.
  • Why don't we have a Dylan Ratigan anywhere in our mainstream media? What a breath of fresh air. Watch this and be inspired.
  • HS2 (high speed railway) is going to cost at least £55,000 million to carry an estimated 5.4 million passengers per year. For the same money we could spend an average of £4,500 on making half of the UK's homes (12 million of them) more energy efficient, which would be of direct benefit to around 30 million people. If we started with homes where people are in fuel poverty maybe Ed Milliband wouldn't have to go to war with the energy companies.
  • This is an interesting article from David Graeber in which he suggests that much of the "work" we do has no tangible benefit apart from making us feel that we're part of the workforce. He maybe overstates the case a bit but who hasn't spent time at work doing stuff that's utterly pointless? Another good argument in favour of a universal basic income?
  • Another great video from RSA Animate in which Roman Krznaric argues the case for empathy as a force to make the world a better place for all of us. I love his ideas for exhibits in the museum of empathy.
  • Simon Heffer has caused a bit of a stooshie with this stunningly mendacious article in the English version Daily Mail, which has given Yes Scotland the opportunity to publicise some corrections. I'm a long way from being a Yes Scotland supporter but facts are facts and I thought my friends from south of the border might appreciate them.
  • Take a few minutes to listen to Bruce Davis telling us about how to take control of our spare money. Don't "save", invest. You might not want to invest in the same stuff that he does but it shows us that things can change, are changing, in the money world.
  • Interesting article by Gerry Hassan suggesting that the tedious binary bickering of SNP yes and establishment Labour is now being challenged by a wave of independent thinking on where we might go with an independent Scotland. He calls it "a third Scotland", people who are interested in independence in order to change the way that we do things, rather than independence for the sake of it.
  • A good article here from Jonathan Portes at The New Statesman about the effect of the UK government's austerity programme on economic growth, which supports my contention that George Osborne is either an idiot or a liar.
  • Another breathe of fresh air in what has been a very superficial debate on Scottish independence. This one's from David Greig at Bella Caledonia who tells us that the referendum has prompted lots of serious thinking about how we manage our society. But you have to know where to look and have an appetite for long paragraphs. It's a pity that the mainstream media appear to be incapable of digging out the meaty stuff and serving it up in ways that are attractive to the ordinary punter.
  • They just don't get it, these "experts". Here's Adair Turner (former Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry, former Chairman of the UK Financial Services Authority, member of the Financial Policy Committee, part-time lecturer at the London School of Economics) explaining very clearly why debt is the main problem with the UK economy and then completely missing the point about how to fix it. He either doesn't know (or doesn't want to admit) that banks create money as debt, which means that debt (private and public) will always rise, which means interest payments rise, which means the economy will be progressively starved of money. Tinkering with bank regulation will not reverse the trend, ever. Nothing less than comprehensive reform of how we create and use money will do it.
  • Good article from Fraser MacDonald on theguardian.com about how the possibility of Scottish independence has energised debate about policy amongst those of us who lie between the dull tub-thumping of the Yes and No campaigns. He suggests that momentum for positive change will persist regardless of which way the vote goes. I hope he's right.
  • Good article from Tom Streithorst in which he argues that the problem we now have is a lack of consumption due to a lack of money. He suggests this is because our industry has become very good at producing stuff with very little labour, which means money isn't being distributed widely enough to allow people to buy the stuff that is being produced.  In the short term his solution is to reverse the austerity nonsense and get government to invest in infrastructure. For the future he says we have to break the link in our minds between work and consumption so that we can empower consumers to consume, and suggests a basic income as one way to help this happen, which chimes with the proposals in my book.
  • In response to the conflict in Syria there are many alternatives to military action that are infinitely more worthwhile for the innocent civilians in Syria, and for the UK's global reputation. Bernadette Meaden gives us a few good ones here. Just because Parliament voted against getting involved in more killing doesn't mean that we can do nothing to help.
  • Here's an illuminating post from Andy Wightman on media reports of booming prices for farmland. The detail is worth reading as it exposes the "news" as nothing more than market-boosting propaganda by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, whose members live off fees from property sales. A call to journalists: if you're too lazy/incompetent to do your job properly please at least check with Andy Wightman before publishing any old press release about land issues in Scotland.
  • If you're interested in people and place, and how they conspire with time to build human history, have a read of this piece at fifepsychogeography.com. Wonderful stuff.
  • Merryn Somerset-Webb at Money Week making some good points about the (probable) wasted opportunity of Scottish Independence.
  • Great article by John Aziz explaining why you can't get a return on hoarded, idle, stagnant money during a recession. For an economy to thrive money has to be used to fund productive activities. Recession is caused by too much money rotting in bank accounts.
  • This article via Positive Money is gratifying. Looks like Frederick Snoddy came to similar conclusions as myself back in the 1920s. Especially that one of our biggest mistakes is to pretend that money = wealth. The article is also good on the utter failure of orthodox economics.
  • A nice clear summary from Positive Money of why the reported economic recovery is an illusion, and why we will suffer from ever-increasing debt until we change the way that money is created and used.
  • Here's a very clear, easy to read analysis of the utter failure of the UK government's current economic policy. Demonstrating, by the way, that economists are perfectly capable of talking sense in language that we can understand (thanks Ann Pettifor and Jeremy Smith).
  • A studiously thoughtful article from Jeremy Warner in the Telegraph about the ideological battle between followers of Keynes, Hayek, and Friedman, all of whom have been proved wrong in one way or another. When will the debate move on from dead men's flawed theories to something pragmatic that might actually solve our problems?
  • I'm very harsh on economists in my book but here's some good stuff from Bill Black at Naked Capitalism, proving that there are some diamonds amongst the dross.
  • :: For anyone who's following the $15/hour minimum wage debate in the USA here's an interesting article from an Australian academic published on Truthout.
  • Here's some straight talking by Ross Ashcroft of The Renegade Economist about UK economic policy. He's absolutely certain that the people in charge have no interest in energising the productive economy, preferring to feed the greed of what he calls the "rentiers" - people who extract money from from the system in whatever way they can. Hard to disagree with him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Drt-LDn4mdc&feature=youtu.be
  • I came across this quote from FDR's 1944 State of the Union address and thought it was worth repeating: "... true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. ... People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made."
  • George Osborne appears to be having some success in boosting the housing market if this report in the Mail Online is to be believed. Why on earth anyone would want to claim the credit for inflating the price of houses when we haven't yet recovered from an economic crisis that was caused in no small part by a massive house price bubble, is beyond me.


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