Something for the weekend: 11 September 2015

If you’ve got nothing better to do this weekend, here’s our pick of the best economic(ish) stuff we’ve seen on the web recently. If you’ve found something we should read, watch or listen to, drop us a line at and we’ll include it in a future selection. Have a great weekend!

Screenshot 2015-09-09 23.14.54Mariana Mazzucato has lunch with the FT

Financial Times,  14 August 2015.

“We are living in a depressing era in which we no longer have courage. We no longer think governments should have missions. But the market never chooses anything. IT wasn’t chosen by the market. Biotech wasn’t chosen by the market. Nanotech wasn’t chosen by the market. So why should green technology be chosen by the market?”

Mariana is one of the most interesting economists working today. Professor of the economics of innovation at Sussex University, the Italian born Mazzucato specialises in making mincemeat of mainstream opponents. Which is always good to see. And she stings the FT for a 40-quid glass of vino. Even better.

Budget changes hit single parents hardestScreenshot 2015-09-10 17.56.46

The Guardian, 7 September 2015.

“The summer budget has transformed the relationship between pay, benefits and work incentives. Lone parents, even those working full time, face sharply declining living standards.”

No great surprise here, but good work from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, showing how George Osborne’s budget will leave single mothers £86 short by 2020.

The Phillips curve is broken

Jared Bernstien, On the Economy blog, 23 August 2015.

Screenshot 2015-09-10 21.32.09Quite a lot of “dirty talk” here, but this is the gist: they used to tell us you can have high inflation and low unemployment, or low inflation and high unemployment. We might call it Hobson’s choice, but economists call it the Phillips curve – after A.W. Phillips, the Kiwi professor who came up with the idea in 1958. The trouble is, it’s not true any more, and might not have been true since, well, about 1958. Let’s face it – those are funny looking curves.

The Other France

George Packer, The New Yorker, 31 August 2015.

Screenshot 2015-09-10 22.10.10 “This is not about poverty, this is not about improving people’s conditions. It’s about hatred, to some extent. Purification.” He likened it to the Fascism of the nineteen-thirties. Jihadism doesn’t have the contours of ordinary politics. “This will turn you from ‘I am nothing’ to ‘I should be everything.’”

Not strictly economic (you know we take a very eclectic view of the subject), but a superb, in-depth piece of writing from George Packer on Paris’s immigrant suburbs, the “Charlie Hebdo” attacks, and France’s problems with Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and Islamist radicalism. Reportage doesn’t come much better than this. (Best open a bottle, it’s not a short read!)

ScotPound: a new digital currency for Scotland

New Economics Foundation, 10 September 2015.

Screenshot 2015-09-11 13.14.21
“Scotland does not have to give up sterling in order to introduce its own new domestic digital currency. Such a new payment system could operate alongside sterling and provide social and economic benefits that complement the continued use of the UK’s national currency.”

Interesting proposal from the New Economics Foundation for a new digital currency for Scotland (to run alongside sterling), which opens up a discussion about what money is for and how we can make it work better for most of us.

Thomas Piketty: New Thoughts on Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Thomas Piketty,, June 2014.

Only just found this, so if you didn’t get round to reading Piketty’s blockbuster on inequality when it came out last year, this 20 minute talk covers most of what you need to know. (You get used to the French accent after a while.) If you don’t have time for that: basically, he says that returns from investing capital are generally greater than increases in wages, so the rich will get richer and poor poorer – unless we do something about it.