The Bear’s Lair

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, […]

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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

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 […]