Thursday, March 19, 2009

Monetary Easing and the UK Downturn - Brown must bail out the poor!

Monetary easing has begun.
The problem is that it looks unlikely to push pounds into the spender's pockets. Instead, it will provide banks with assets which have dematerialized since the meltdown, rather than increase the amount of money in circulation.
Here is a quick heads-up on monetary easing. PQ=MV (where P is Price, Q is Quantity, M is amount of money available and V is its speed of circulation). A slowdown generates primarily a reduction of V, which the treasury is trying to address by increasing M (so as to keep P, but more importantly Q, constant). The problem with the current situation - and this has already shown when the Bank of England cut down interest rates in order to facilitate lending - is that banks do not lend anymore. Banks are doing what every business that has not gone under is doing right now. They are simply trying to stay afloat. The sad truth is that we cannot really blame them for that. Do you really want to see your bank lending money to a poor Joe about to lose his job?
If monetary easing is to work (and stimulate the economy) in the current situation, the money put in circulation must well, circulate (i.e. it must be spent). The general feeling among consumers is not to spent (clue the past two quarters retail figures and this kind message on the high street). If money is to be provided efficiently, it has to be made available not for those who need the money (i.e. banks, mortgage owners, etc.) but for those who need to spend it (i.e. those with the smallest disposable income).
In short, the only way to see this measure work is to ensure that those who will spend money (because they must; i.e. because they are hungry, because they are cold, etc.), have access to it.
By providing employment to the chronically unemployed - even part time employment - Gordon Brown can ensure that this additional money will find its way into the economy. Ideally, this newly created employment should be in the sector of renewable energy (two birds, one stone, anybody?), but providing additional resources to traditionally state funded sectors that have notoriously failed in the past (NHS, education, etc.) would also benefit from the support of the public opinion (a thing that bank bail outs have failed to do).
The argument is that making this money available to someone slightly better off could be counter-productive as they would create a cushion (saving) in case things really get worse (recession could become depression). Whilst savings are essential in a healthy economy (E=I where E=savings and I=investments), it would not work in the time available. As we have seen, the banks have stopped lending and it will take some time before they start lending again.
Is it time for New Labour to go old-school?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Breaking up and public space - the strange appeal of the movie theatre.

Let's get something straight, I am in a relationship which is well beyond break-up stage. Not that we could never break-up, just that our break-up would be more than a one-off affair; they'd probably be a lot of back and forth.
Whereas for those who have just started going out, it can probably be resolved with a single push. As suggested in Jerry McGuire, a public place is a good way of avoiding a scene. Where better than at the cinema? Picture the scene: a couple walks into the cinema (the breaker and the breakee). Breaker buys two tickets for the chosen movie of the breakee (snacks, drinks, etc.) with plenty of time to spare before the start and keeps conversation to a minimum. Stubs are checked, seats are taken, preferably before the beginning of the "soon, at a movie theatre near you" presentation. Breaker stares at the red curtain, lets the conversation drop and then "listen, [insert breakee's name] ...". Timing is everything and should be assessed in relation to the length of the relationship, as the subsequent conversation must take place: breaker has five minutes to whisper her/his reasons. The presentation starts (remember, talking is still allowed) and breakee has now ten to fifteen minutes to talk / sob his/her way through a half-hearted attempt to salvage what remains of what is obviously a pretty poor relationship (imagine, having to end it at the movies...).
In due course, the movie start, imposing silence over the audience. Breaker to get up and whisper the closure line, leaving breakee to reflect that all is not that bad. "Well, I've got popcorn, a drink and the movie just about to start..."