The Bear’s Lair

The Bear’s Lair: Banknotes should be issued only by banks

The world’s central banks are working on issuing digital currencies, where through the “blockchain” they will have knowledge of all transactions. This idea is clearly a gross affront to civil liberties, but it raises the question: why do governments and central banks have the sole right to issue bank notes? Over the last 30 years, […]

The Bear’s Lair: The Oxfordshire School of economic thought

Oxfordshire, beautiful rolling land of small villages before 1900, may seem (outside the eponymous University itself) an unlikely seedbed for an economic theory. Yet in its idyllic villages and modest country houses, a theory of political economy developed, quite distinct from the Whiggish view of Adam Smith and William Gladstone that became known as “classical” […]

The Bear’s Lair: Financiers have learned nothing in 250 years

We are coming up next year on the quarter-millenary of the Ayr Bank crash of 1772 and last year we had the 300th anniversary of the 1720 South Sea Bubble. When looking at these 18th Century disasters I am reminded again and again that the financiers’ failures were very similar to those of 2007-08, or […]

The Bear’s Lair: Davos and China offer the same grim destiny

The World Economic Forum, sponsor of the annual Davos meeting, proposes a “Great Reset” of the capitalist system. The People’s Republic of China nominally adheres to the Communism of its founder, Chairman Mao Ze-dong. Yet in practice, the societies each advocates bear a remarkable similarity to each other and share two overriding characteristics: they are […]

The Bear’s Lair: They did plague recovery better in 1350

We are now slowly emerging from the scourge of Covid-19 and the main change in our economic management has been a massive surge in state spending, together with a call for a “Great Reset” to erode our freedoms further. It is therefore worth examining the emergence from two previous celebrated English outbreaks of plague, in […]

The Bear’s Lair: Land of a thousand banks

Around 1760, the English banking system, which had been concentrated in London, sprouted a plethora of country banks in provincial towns, over 800 by 1813, That produced a unique financial environment, in which both expertise and money were readily available locally for new projects throughout provincial England and Wales. This greatly facilitated the Industrial Revolution, […]

The Bear’s Lair: Gosplan economic approach doing real damage

A new McKinsey’s report, featured in the Financial Times, shows that over the past 25 years, the dominance of large companies has increased, as has the share of capital returns in the economy, while wage levels have risen far less than productivity. The FT’s solution to this is more state meddling, with redistributive policies to […]

The Bear’s Lair: Serfs do better after pandemics

The Black Death of 1348 was a gigantic human tragedy, but for most of those involved and their descendants, it had one enormous silver lining: serfs’ rights and living standards soared to previously undreamed-of levels in the following 150 years, as labor shortages took hold. As we emerge from a similar albeit thankfully less severe […]

The Bear’s Lair: One-party governance kills economic progress

The United States is currently in a situation where, after a short and beleaguered period of partial opposition control, one party controls the Presidency, both houses of Congress, much of the judiciary, the media and the tech sector. We have seen such dominance before in Britain: in the Whig Supremacy of 1714-62 where with Royal […]

The Bear’s Lair: We are re-running 1973-74

Although it represented my youth, I am by no means nostalgic for 1973-74. In Britain, it gave us a banking crash, the 3-day week, the lead-up to 25% inflation and the most left-wing Labour government Britain ever had. In the United States, it gave us the nullification of 1972’s landslide election victory, a resurgence in […]