The Bear’s Lair: The environmental blight of environmentalists

I was shocked this week to discover that the Pan American Highway, much admired in my youth as a potential connector for the entire American continent, is still incomplete, with a 66-mile Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia that has been held up by environmentalists since 1972. Given the hyperbolic multiplier from completing first-move infrastructure, that is total economic insanity – I cannot offhand think of a stronger word, but if there were one, I would use it. It is just one of the appalling costs and blights that the environmental movement has imposed upon humanity since its 1960s genesis. The time has come to declare freedom from this scourge. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: There are no independent central banks

It has long been a nostrum among economists that central banks should be independent of their countries’ governments. The 1998 decision granting “independence” to the Bank of England was specifically motivated by that thesis. Yet in practice, central banks have not stood staunchly against the free-spending proclivities of their governments; instead, they have indulged them, forcing down interest rates to unprecedented levels in a way that enhanced government profligacy. If indeed central banks are not independent of their governments, what use are they? Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Skirting round the 1930s drain

President Biden’s denunciation of the takeover of the modest remnants of U.S. Steel by Nippon Steel, the premier steel company of the United States’ most important ally, leads to only one conclusion: protectionism and autarky are reaching 1930s levels. There are other parallels; for example, wars are breaking out all over the world, as they did in the 1930s. Are we indeed bound to slide down the same slippery slope as did the 1930s, ending in the toxic drain of global war (which would be infinitely more destructive this time round)? There are disquieting indications, though we can hope to take measures that will avoid disaster. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: The yawning global fiscal pit

President Biden recently produced his Budget for the next fiscal year, with projections for the next ten years; even with swingeing tax rises on the “wealthy” and sharp cuts over the decade in real defense budgets it proposes a series of trillion-dollar deficits, beginning with $1.78 trillion in the year to September 2025. When you look around, nearly all rich countries are running similarly unprecedented deficits and running up their debts rapidly as a percentage of GDP. Without a dramatic worldwide reversal in policy, the entire planet will go bankrupt by around 2040. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Tory “Modernization” project was a total disaster

At a lunch in 2002, British political commentator Iain Dale horrified me by proposing a “modernization” of the Conservative party. My view was that it had gone badly left under John Major and needed a “re-Thatcherization” or even better a “re-Liverpoolization” rather than a further trek in the wrong direction. However, under David Cameron and his successors “modernization” won, although Dale himself never entered Parliament. As we look back on nearly 14 years of Conservative government, we can assess the true value of the “modernization” project – and conclude that in terms of Britain’s real needs or the electorate’s long-term support, it was an utter failure. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: The road not taken for British finance

Jacob, Lord Rothschild, who died this week at 87, was mourned mostly as a philanthropist, his 1980s venture with Charterhouse J. Rothschild lost in the mists of time. That is a pity, because Rothschild’s vision should have been the way forward for British finance after the foolish 1986 Financial Services Act had destroyed its traditional structure. Today’s City of London is a mere shell of battling foreign-owned trading-floor behemoths, vulnerable to every whim of its globalist masters. This loss is incalculable; it is also not clear why it happened. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Traditional regimes governed better

In studying the economic history of the last two centuries, I am struck by the fact that the various revolutions of the 19th and 20th centuries by and large did not produce improvements in economic governance. Most traditional societies adapted to economic change perfectly adequately, whereas post-traditional societies have shown themselves vulnerable to dictatorship and government bloat, both seriously detrimental to economic health. In the very long run, our modern ideals of how to organize government may be flat-out wrong. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Biden’s people have lost the denominator

In the recent Congressional Budget Office projections of the budget deficit to 2033 (which as you would expect, make gloomy reading) there is one morsel of good news: revenues in 2024 (and extrapolated to 2033) are higher than previously expected because immigration brought more people into the workforce. That caused me to wonder: to what extent are Biden administration economists counting the output of immigrants, legal and illegal, without counting their costs? If they have missed the post 2021 influx, causing the “denominator” of worker numbers to be understated, productivity is much lower than reported, as is GDP per capita, since the denominator of “capitas” is higher than reported. Since the officially reported figures are inexplicable to any rational economic thinker, the unreported and more negative estimates are likely to be the truth. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Smith, Keynes, Marx or List?

I am always careful to stay out of arguments with professional economists because my economic knowledge is back-of-an-envelope stuff and comes unstuck when folks get technical. Still, the general principles are important. Adam Smith’s free markets have served us well for 250 years and were (mostly) the basis of the Industrial Revolution; Karl Marx’s economic principles have been a disaster wherever they have been tried and Maynard Keynes’s formulations are so attractive to bureaucrats that whenever possible they use them to distort well-functioning economies, awarding themselves more power. Then there is a fourth economic system, mostly used in German-speaking countries: that of Friedrich List. In today’s world, List’s views may well be optimal. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Trump’s policies represent traditional Republicanism

Donald Trump dressed as Abraham Lincoln (AI gen)Former President Donald Trump is often accused of not having a policy program for a potential second administration. Commentators talk of his followers as being mere cultists and suggest that the soft-left belligerence of the George W. Bush administration represented more authentic “Conservatism.” This is wrong; on most subjects (I will discuss the exceptions) Trump has a clear policy position that is close to that of pre-1952 traditional Republicans and chimes in well with his followers’ policy instincts. Trumpism is not a cult; it represents a reversion to the sound policies of Presidents James Garfield, William McKinley and Calvin Coolidge. Continue reading