Reading on Thursday 9 February

Having completed my CPD for the year I can ease up on the non-fiction until 1 March (start of the new year).  This means I can squeeze in a couple of novels.  Currently reading Caliban’s War, book two of sci-fi series The Expanse (which has been adapted for TV, very well in my opinion, on Netflix).  One thing I really love about these books is that they don’t have wildly advanced technology (seems to be based on a relatively conservative projection of tech two centuries from now) and they don’t over-explain it as so many do.  In this respect, it fits in the same sort of profile as the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica.

Anyhow, just because my non-fiction book reading is on hiatus doesn’t mean I’m not reading articles, blogs, papers and reports.  I’m taking a breather, I’m not on holiday!

There has been a war of words in the press since the Brexit vote last year on “why economists got it wrong”.  The really important question is, however, did they?  Simon Wren-Lewis (caveat: he is an economist who has been critical of Brexit so is parti pris) writes extremely clearly about these issues and is a fierce critic of what he calls media macro.  Here he is on the scoreline so far between economists and Brexiteers.

This blog post by Peter Geoghan starts out talking about towns but it becomes clear that the decline of towns and small cities, and the attraction of their population to siren song populism like Trump or Brexit, are symptomatic of a much wider issue linked to globalisation – which is itself coming under sustained attack.

Dani Rodrik’s book The Globalisation Paradox, for example, has made it onto my reading list following a recommendation from a friend but I am familiar with some of his work in this area – his famous globalisation trilemma has been a major influence on my thinking in relation to free trade.

This article in The Economist about the retreat of multinational companies indicates that we may be witnessing the first steps to a fundamental retrenchment of globalisation, with companies increasingly localising supply chains and doubling down on those markets in which they are already active.

Will this be enough to save the towns in Peter’s post?  He says no, due to the other part of the puzzle – increasing automation dramtically reducing the number of jobs.  Now, I have seen a wide range of material on the job losses from automation, and that isn’t even taking into account that every time technology has threatened to destroy employment as we know it economists say “this time is different”and are are proved wrong every time.  Ok, maybe this time is different (I’ll bite) but if that is the case then radical solutions will be needed, as David Smith said in a recent Times column.

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