Thursday, September 07, 2017

Welby's Wish List for fairness. A new mandate from the IPPR rooted in the common good.

The IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) has published its interim report 'Time for Change: A New Vision for the British Economy'. Archbishop Justin Welby is leading the publicity with an FT article 'What sort of British economy do we want for our children?' [Digital title: British society deserves an economy rooted in the common good']. He continues the May/Corbyn themes (our last blogpost):
Theresa May, PM: 'We will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us.'
Jeremy Corbyn, Opposition Leader: 'For the many, not the few'.

Welby calls for comprehensive economic justice - socially, regionally, generationally, environmentally - and from the IPPR report highlights his priorities: the need for reform of the education system; a fairer tax system; decarbonisation; improvements in public and private pay and the expansion of the housing stock. He believes most people want a system working in the service of human flourishing and the common good and asks why are we hearing 'Why are so many people so poor when others are so rich?' and 'Why are young people going to be poorer than their parents? 


An interesting aspect of the report is its criticism of recent economic policy.

We have experimented with bold monetary policy, but are constrained by pre-Keynesian fiscal orthodoxy. It points out the significant cuts in public spending due to government austerity programmes and says that austerity has not worked well. It suggests that monetary policy has been majored upon but helpful fiscal policy has been neglected. It wants government-initiated investment for growth and monetary policy to be coordinated to redress this, with the Bank of England advising on the integration of monetary and fiscal policy. Personal note: Ask a high official at the Bank (as I have done) if it would be possible to  invest in an industry by creating money in the QE manner - at no interest and no repayment - and they will affirm that it can be done. The IPPR obviously thinks so too and wants a change. It wants the hands of the Bank untied so that it can join in to help the economy in new ways. 

Most items on the Welby Wish List could benefit from ideas promoted on this blog over the years. Some of these are indeed mentioned in the report, which is a strong vindication of the views of book The Free Lunch- Fairness with Freedom. Such as: Education reform using monetary policy to fund education grants (Prof. Richard Werner); improving pay by  universal basic income ; a fairer taxation system which also helps the expansion of the housing stock through the incentive for development through a new land value tax .

Under the final heading (IPPR p81-83) 'Inequality and public purpose'  the report challenges the way we have measured success over the last 50 years and includes: 
'..inequality is largely a result of the ability of economically powerful groups in society to extract ‘rents’ or incomes beyond those earned by their economic contribution'. 
This gets to the heart of the matter in the way of the principles of The Free Lunch. In the vital matter of banking  (IPPR p80):
 'new insights into how the banking system creates money in modern economies, and therefore the role and limits of government or central bank monetary policy'.
The IPPR needs to look further into Richard Werner's New Paradigm in Macroeconomics who is arguably the first modern economist to have this insight. 

A banking problem from the report shows how only 5% of UK bank lending goes for businesses (15% in the Eurozone) with most going to land and property lending:
'The bulk of real estate loans and mortgages do not increase the productive capacity of the economy or contribute to growth; instead their primary effect is to drive up asset prices'.

To redress the bank lending imbalance the IPPR wants regional banks with 'geographically bounded  mandates to support the local economy' . 
It is happening already! The Hampshire Community Bank is likely to be the UK's first such regional bank and it is designed to that pattern. Additionally, being owned by a charitable foundation it will use its profits for the common good in its area and not for the high staff salaries and bonuses so roundly criticised in the IPPR report and by Archbishop Welby. Hampshire Community Bank in its whole ethos, aims to change banking for the better. Banking for the common good.  The bank, whilst not open for business yet, is currently in its licence application stage under the Bank of England's PRA. Such distinctive banks are needed across the UK. These new banks will play one part in a greater fairness for all.

With political parties broadly united over the fairness theme, and with the IPPR's excellent report spelling out some telling home truths over broad areas of economic life, the prospects that something serious for fairness will be done, are good.

Posted  by Charles Bazlinton. Author : The Free Lunch - Fairness with Freedom.  Director: Local First CIC which is promoting Hampshire Community Bank.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Magnificent words from both Corbyn and May

As half expected, (see the late May blog: 'Election Surprises?' ) we got an eye-opener of a result on June 8th. Teresa May had made an unexpected election decision on 18th April to grasp an apparently unassailable majority given the Tory's stonking poll lead of 17%. It melted away over the campaign to 4%. Her main campaign thrust was to belittle the Labour leader in comparison with the (look at me) - 'strong and stable leadership' mantra. This had the reverse effect and Labour steadily eroded the poll lead with Jeremy Corbyn, the unexpected election star, running a campaign theme: 'For the many, not the few'. Throughout he was refreshingly policy-oriented and non-personal. May actually won - in a very weakened state - and she could remain the leader for some time given the further damage that a self-indulgent Tory leadership challenge could bring to the party.

The 2010 election gave us the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition but an outcome of that alliance was the trashing of the Lib-Dems by the Tories in the 2015 election. A factor is likely to have been their breaking of a pledge not to increase student university fees. The Labour 2017 manifesto included the promise to abolish the fees and is believed to have been one factor in the Labour resurgence. 

It is strange that the Tories who deem themselves to be the UK's natural ruling party have been so deaf as to where political activity is now coming from. The extraordinary Labour party membership rise from 201,000 in 2015 to 517,000 in 2017 is a startling indicator and should have warned. The Lib-Dem's figures rose from 61,000 to 82,000. The last Tory numbers are for 2013 (150,000) and if they are getting better why aren't we told? For a insight of how the Tory's see themselves see Prospect magazine one month prior to the election . Written by Geoffrey Wheatcroft with the expectation that June 8th would bring the Tory party  'its greatest modern triumph', the result is a caution against such hubris. Best leave such comments until after the event.

Austerity is not the only policy
'Austerity' was strangely absent from the election hustings. Perhaps the electorate finally understood that, as this blog has been saying for some years, austerity as preached by George Osborne was mainly a stick to beat Labour with and counterprodutive for the country, as it inhibited investment in infrastructure investment and, anyway did not prevent government debt growing.   As Nicholas Macpherson (FT17 June 2017) has it: 'Osborne's great trick was to talk tough while implementing a pragmatic programme'. The lost time for productive investment means that the UK is lagging in economic performance. Paying for the expenditure could be by government borrowing; or, by creating the money without creating debt and without interest as explained in the Bank of England paper issued by George Osborne in 2013 - CM 8588  ,  see paras 3.34 & 3.35.  The Coalition Government knew that this beneficial monetary tool was available and didn't use it. What sort of blindness is that?

Student fees - one solution
Paul Johnson in The Times (10 July 2017) A birthday present that could solve the university tuition fees dilemma suggests that every young person reaching age 21 receives a gift of £10,000 which would help anyone, student or not. There is sharp divide in opportunities and wealth between young and old and this idea would address some of that unfairness. An idea aligned with Free Lunch principles. See this for a similar suggestion from Prof Richard Werner - a lifetime education grant funded by monetary finance.

When Mrs May became Prime Minister she uttered some 'Magnificent Words' (Blog 6 Aug 2016) :
 ...We will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us'

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Manifesto for 2017 is titled almost identically:
'For the many, not the few'  

With such an aim in common, we ought to expect plenty of agreement.... 

With electoral opinion finely balanced resulting in a precariously balanced parliament there is a great opportunity for MPs to work cooperatively at the problems of our day. It will improve their image if they look like ordinary, reasonable people. Will they? 

Posted by Charles Bazlinton. Author: The Free Lunch - Fairness with Freedom 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

8 June 2017 Election Surprises?

Party manifestos, according to Free Lunch principles, should tackle the monopolistic tendencies arising in society.  The moral basis for this is from common threads found in biblical, enlightenment and liberal values and concern human rights, equality and freedom. As the political parties ply for our votes in June how do they measure up to the implied 'fairness with freedom' ? 

The core aim of The Free Lunch - Fairness with Freedom is the common good. The book suggests ways to move towards a society where each citizen is a beneficiary of the resources of nature and those arising from community-inspired schemes. The book is anti-monopoly and what is termed rent-seeking: meaning the hunt for gain sought by monopolists. Extreme disparities of wealth and poverty are the outcome in a society where control of monopolies is lax. Enlightened politics will reduce rent-seeking outcomes. 
  • How are the current political parties matching up with the aims of reformers who desire the sharing of monopoly resources via a universal income for all?  
  • What do they prescribe to redress the unfairness of the land monopoly: For example what about the land value gains of home owners compared with none for renters?
  • What about the resource of further education now being charged for through student fees when it used to be provided free as a common provision from the public purse?
  • What about the huge credit-creating monopoly of banking which neglects small business loans as too small and unprofitable to bother with? 
  • What about the ability of government to create its own money to fund public expenses for public services, safely and without inflation?
  • What about extending the voting franchise to younger people?

It is natural to want monopoly rights. It makes for an easy life. Owners of homes share in the land monopoly through the valuable nest-egg that builds up over the decades associated with the underlying land value of their home.  Fred Harrison points out that:

'... owners of high-value homes are able to recoup what they pay in taxes through rising property prices. ...enjoy tax-free use of schools and hospitals... Low income earners and families that rent their homes...carry the cost of the infrastructure investments and public services that enhance the value of the homes of the rich.' 

How fair is that? What do our political gurus recommend about this particular inequality which creates a constant welfare burden?  

Universal Basic Income (Citizen's Income / Citizen's Royalty)
  • The only party wanting to introduce this is the Green Party.  They would create a pilot to test the idea. 
The land monopoly: home owning or renting
  • Labour and the Liberal Democrats both mention land value tax as a tax reform measure. This would retrieve the gains accruing to the land values in property prices for the public purse and allow lower taxes on income and goods or as a substitute for council tax.  
  • The Greens and Labour would introduce rent controls. This would be a protection for renters as a useful half-way measure until a full land value taxation scheme was implemented payable by landlords.
  • The Tory manifesto policy for care in later life was to be paid from a home sale without limit above a £100k house value. The enforced U-turn, in days, shows the political danger of taking land value gains. Whilst not having the universality of land value tax for all land, the idea that property gains should fund the care is a reasonable quid pro quo, but to have to individually account for each care package and each property is probably a bureaucratic path best not travelled, besides introducing a variable charge/cost (aka 'taxation') for every case.      
  • Bedroom tax aboliton (now a liablity of council house renters)  is proposed by the Greens, Labour, the Lib-Dems and UKIP.
Student tuition fees  
  • The Greens, Labour and UKIP plan to abolish student tuition fees and would introduce maintenance grants (UKIP for poor students). 
  • The Lib-Dems, the original champions of the abolition of tuition fees who reneged to their great downfall after being in coalition, propose bursaries for nurses and grants for poor students.
  • The Tory proposal is: forgive loan repayments for teachers; provide access to grants for technology students & 'financial support that offers value for money'. This one looks 'interesting' with the news that student debt interest rates will rise from 4.6% to 6.1% this year. Andrew Greenwood (FT letter 19 April) wonders why the Swedish model is not followed with the cost of student loans as per the cost of government borrowing at 0.34%?     
Voting age to 16 
  • The Green Party, Labour, the Lib-Dems and UKIP all want this. 
Local Banks 
  • Labour will get the Post Office to establish a Post Bank with full banking services in every community. They also propose regional development banks. 
  • The Lib-Dems will 'Require the major banks to fund the creation of a local banking sector dedicated to meeting the needs of local SMEs'. 
  • The Tories propose British Business Bank branches in several major cities for SME lending needs.
Monetary reform  No parties make any suggestion about using government money creation powers to fund some public expenses. Instead the arguments are about balancing the books for borrowing, taxing and spending. Labour suggests borrowing for extra infrastructure investment because interest rates are so low - it is bound to pay off. But no one makes the case for creating the money as an extension of the QE creation process to pay for such expense without debt or interest to repay to banks. 

Lord Turner is an exponent of this e.g. deficit financing (Book: Between Debt and The Devil) as is Prof Richard Werner e.g. broadband investment.  There is no reason why just as quantitative easing is used to create money to buy back government debt or to buy commercial bonds, that it could not be used to nationalise the water companies (a Labour Party idea but bought through bonds) or to fund general government spending. The Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England would need to take note of any money supply implications and outcomes and act as necessary to prevent adverse economic effects - as they do now with QE. Student education could be a modern case for debt free, interest free government money creation. No more student tuition fees.  This would be a monetary reform which only hurt the big banks.  Where are the far sighted politicians to start controlling this monopoly power? 

With the early solid Tory lead appearing to slip the contest may be more open than we ever thought. World wide electors surprise us. Will June 2017 UK be yet another one? 

Posted by Charles Bazlinton author The Free Lunch - Fairness with Freedom. Director of Local First CIC 'Promoting Local Banks' 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Conway & Giles: Election Boldness & Challenge...and so say all of us.

The 2015 election was dominated by the scare stories about the irresponsible plans of Labour against the wisdom of austerity-promotion by the Tories. Electioneering half truths, as usual.  This time the 'leader competence' issue (May vs Corben) is the main Tory theme so far.  Labour is proposing £60bn extra spending for the NHS, education and scrapping university tuition fees. The Tories are using 'nonsensical'  as a favourite word to describe Labour policies and so far Labour poll figures are inching up (but still low), but there are 3 weeks to go. The Lib-Dems are also planning to spend more on health and education. Fuller manifestos are yet to appear.

The ways of financing more spending may not give the Conservatives so much traction as earlier. We have Donald Trump promising mega-spending and US ideas may travel to the UK. The old austerity scare seems to have changed and may be ineffective with voters. Labour is promising to spend to invest.  They say they will establish a national investment bank to release extra funding - different to the British Business Bank?  But also,why not, for the benefit of local economic growth at minimal cost, encourage the establishment of  local community banks See this new venture. 

Ed Conway (Times May 12, 2017) 'Wanted: Some bold ideas to fix the economy' calls for radical action such as: replacing council tax with a proper land value tax; repeal of the Town and Country Planning Act - that 'simply gold plates nimbyism'; giving the Bank of England a mandate to 'target national economic output instead of inflation'. Conway thinks that the opposition should promote such radical ideas and - even if they lose the election as the polls suggest - at least they could introduce some fresh ideas into UK politics to our general relief. Let's have a proper debate over quite different issues. Please. Conway mentions that the monetary system has failed to kick-start the economy, but doesn't mention trying Government deficit financing (see Lord Adair Turner: Monetary Reform ) - maybe Labour's spending plans will incorporate something of this?  Then the Tories may surprise us with radical thinking as per the rumours of talks with Lord Glasman ('Blue Labour').    

Chris Giles (FT 12 May 2017) 'A challenge for May: reward effort over inheritance' taunts the May appeal for the 'ordinary working British families' . The Tories have borrowed from Labour the idea of capping energy bills - i.e. don't let free markets run on. Very UnTory. Giles highlights the roaring house prices of several years  (much boosted by Tory government help) and says that something must be done by a government aiming to benefit ordinary working families to make homes more affordable.  Will they do such an UnTory thing as to knock house prices?  He quotes Prof David Miles that there is no upper limit to house prices relative to incomes especially given the inheritance benefit of the current tax situation, and given that building is artificially constrained by lack of new land. Conway says that to counter the growing wealth disparity arising from favouring comfortably situated home owners for years, Mrs May needs to build on the green belt and raise more inheritance tax on property. This would really be UnTory if it happened. How reforming is Mrs May to be?

Or will Labour and the Lib-Dems demonstrate they care more about the growing minority of left-outs? There are a growing number of home renters who despair of home ownership and students who face large university debt to pay off before ever hoping to save for a house deposit. This is a radical change happening now in the UK and politicians need to tell us what is needed to bring us back to earlier fairness.  Prof Richard Werner in New Paradigm in Macroeconomics (p340-1) promotes the idea of government credit creation of $100,000 for each child born to spend on such productive things as education. Why are not for such ideas as his and Lord Turner's to be seriously proposed by opposition parties with 'nothing to lose'? They might actually gain traction. Three more weeks of dreary party bashing? Can't someone raise the intellectual game?

Posted by Charles Bazlinton. Author: The Free Lunch - Fairness with Freedom.
Director Local First CIC - Promoting Local Banks         
         

Friday, April 14, 2017

Mark Wadsworth exposes Margaret Thatcher's Great British Property Brake Off

The need for wider media coverage on a drastically fairer tax system grows. The start of this was Henry George's seminal work on how to fund the services needed by the community using the community's self-generated land values.  It would involve charging freeholders/landowners an annual levy (LVTax) on land value only, quite apart from the value of a building built on the land. (* 'Annual Ground Rent'). Modern developments of his ideas involve making counterbalancing reductions in income tax and other such counterproductive burdens on creative work. 

Mark Wadsworth has written a short and comprehensive article on UK property market history which shows how political moves over the last 30-40 years have warped the market in favour of those Baby-Boomers who were fortunate enough to have been buying their homes since about 1970. Before then several regulations kept the lid on wild property booms.

In an unfettered property market the location value of a building plot rises to what Wadsworth calls 'unregulated' high values. A monthly or yearly manifestation of land value is rent. Now rent controls imposed since 1918 meant that rents were kept lower than otherwise for decades. The knock-on effect was that freehold prices were also kept lower enabling potential home-owners to compete with private landlords, leading  to owner-occupation rising from 30% to 60%  (1945-1980s). Also governments, pre-1970s, by building were adding to the affordable rent social housing supply which meant less call on the taxpayer through little need of the rent subsidy known as housing benefit.   Mortgage restrictions on borrowers (loan/income ratios) were about half current levels so there was reduced ability for buyers to bid up prices. Higher value homes were taxed though Schedule A taxation (to 1964) and Domestic Rates (to 1989).  

But these benign conditions did not last. The regulatory brakes started being let off the property market when Mrs Thatcher and Messrs Blair and Brown dismantled the above restraining forces and property prices rose high and higher to their unregulated values. Low earners, even mid-earners, are excluded from buying for themselves and this has reversed the decline in private renting - down from 50% to 9% (1945-1990) up now to 18% (2014).  Wadsworth does not mention the additional London effect of more recent years whereby new foreign/company freeholders have increasingly been bidding up property to park their wealth in a safe haven - then to add insult to the priced-out ordinary Londoners leaving many such properties unoccupied for long periods.  

Wadsworth's article is a succinct summary of historical politico/real estate wisdom, and the recent meddling. The meddling has had an expensive effect on everyone's taxes as welfare support is needed by people who are being priced out of affordable housing by the 'Baby Boomers...[who] genuinely believe that they are somehow morally superior because they 'rolled up their sleeves and paid off their mortgage' '. This is a huge social issue. It is coming home to roost for the growing number of renters who may need tax funded housing benefit to survive - despite themselves having to roll up their sleeves but still unable to pay the rent. Maybe the tide is turning with prices of London properties declining - partly due to specific property tax charges by Chancellors desperately needing funds to counteract the hugely expensive welfare effects flowing from the flawed housing system. 

But the property market bandwagon will continue to career dangerously on unless we adopt Henry George's insight of taxing land values. The need for an affordable home for everyone is too important to be tied up with the inevitable involuntary land speculation that every home owner is party to when they start to purchase.  For the sake of a more equitable society, everyone needs to feel the effects of some or all of these: rent controls; land value tax with lower income tax; property lending restrictions and increased house building. Whether the effects will be seen as benign or not will depend on how favoured we already are.    

*Annual Ground Rent  
Fred Harrison and Mason Gaffney have written a book Beyond Brexit: The Blueprint  which uses the term Annual Ground Rent to describe land value tax. AGR neatly describes LVT as the regular charge morally due from all landowners/homeowners to contribute to public services.  The book has been enthusiastically reviewed by The Georgist Journal ( March 2017 print copy) which also contains Mark Wadsworth's article.  
POSTED BY Charles Bazlinton. Author THE FREE LUNCH - Fairness with Freedom

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Citizen's Income for all would fairly address immigration too

The Occupy movement of 2011: ''we are the 99%'', fingered the top 1% in terms of income and wealth (25%/40%). Economist Joseph Stiglitz had published a paper in May saying these 1% are typical of the wealthy though history who whilst taking to themselves the best of education, doctors, houses and lifestyles, do not realise until too late that their fate is tied up with how the other 99% live.

Slow forward to 2017. Are lessons being learnt? Not if the Prospect magazine February 2017 article 'Voting out' by Tom Clark is a guide. Clark reviews a couple of books Against Elections (David Van Reybrouck) and Against Democracy (Jason Brennan). Apparently in the future we may need to be either a liberal or a democrat: 'The educated bourgeoise will put its own liberty ahead of other people votes'. Already in the US it seems that these trends have form, witness the deliberate disenfranchisement of black voters taking place. In late 2016 a court struck down laws having  'discriminatory intent'. Onerous regulations around voting can prevent or dissuade electors to enter their vote. Beware. Clark quotes a Daily Telegraph article by Ian Cowie who in 2011 proposed limiting the vote to those who pay tax. The recent Brexit and Trump votes may bring more such ideas aimed at those who didn't get the vote 'right'. The time is ripe for the issue of 'citizenisation' to be taken seriously - a central issue of the book The Free Lunch - Fairness with Freedom.

If the powerful really are so concerned about loss of their economic status quo that they will resist popular moves to level the playing field a little, what should we do? Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury  in The Times (11 Feb) when launching his book Dethroning Mammon, says that the trickle down effect of letting the rich make wealth in the hope that some gets to poor, has been shown not to work and thus the rich should pay more tax. Fair enough as far as it goes but how do you get permanent poverty alleviation?

One part of the solution is a Basic Income for all   (also known as Citizen's Income or Citizen's Royalty). This involves a regular, non-means-tested payment for everyone. The New Statesman quotes a scheme for the UK having an age-graded payment from £56 to £142 per week to all, even children, (leaving in place housing benefit and disability allowance). This payment would be instead of child benefit, income support, jobseeker's allowance, national insurance and state pensions.  It would be nearly revenue and cost neutral and would massivley cut bureaucracy. Most importantly it would remove the current disincentive to work for those on benefits currently who face swingeing losses through tax should they get a job. An additional benefit from this, with immigration being a worldwide issue, the payment of a basic income to all citizens - having a valid national identity - should allay fears of  'welfare immigration' at least.

However, whilst this is the obvious and simple solution to poverty, an adverse effect would be that in giving cash to all, some of those who receive it as an addition to an already sufficient income may use it in the housing market. A basic income for many such will enable them to do a property upgrade and thus fuel house price rises. Law of unintended consequences: those people who now rent and are just below the property buying level will find their hope of having their own roof over their heads rather than a rented one, pulled away from them.  And the irony would be this was caused by a measure that set out to help the poorest who are overwhelmingly renters of their homes!  We are increasingly a divided nation of home owners and home renters.    

The answer to this to levy land value tax on all freeholds. This would cover the land value of the plot and not the building value - a tax on say 30% of the 'house price' seen on property websites. There could be a basic tax free 'homestead allowance' allowance before tax is due to cover houses below the average value. The next step is to set the land value tax liability against any income tax paid so that the net, after-tax, income of most individuals and households would be unaffected. For property rich / income poor people the payment could be deferred until eventual property sale. Inheritance tax might be reformed at the same time. It should be possible for the general mass of taxpayers to be relatively unaffected. Taxing land would also bring land forward for building homes which would solve another problem.

As the Archbishop says the richest should indeed cover the bulk of the cost. A problem in making a real difference to poverty and maintaining freedom for all is, of course, human selfishness. If I am to be stung with just a little extra tax because I am fortunate enough to own a freehold property, should I vote for that as one of the 99%? Archbishop - what would you advise?

For a discussion of basic income, land value tax, and general issues of citizenisation, see The Free Lunch - Fairness and  Freedom.  A basic income is currently being tested in Finland.







Friday, December 16, 2016

ECOBATE 2016 Plamen Ivanov & David Ricardo's banking wisdom for the 21st century

Plamen Ivanov's Ecobate 2016 paper (University of Southampton) David Ricardo and Modern Monetary Reform Propositions: A critical Analysis reveals what one of the founders of modern economics thought about banking and banking sytems. Ricardo writing in 1824 understood that banks create the money supply, but until very recently this has not been at all widely acknowledged in academia. Imagine that such a fact, fundamental to all things economic has been hidden in plain sight for nearly 200 years! In the UK it was only in 2015 that the Bank of England acknowledged this openly in its May 2015 Working Paper No. 529: Banks are not intermediaries of loanablefunds — and why this matters  Authors:  Zoltan Jakab and Michael Kumhof .

Up to that point the function of banks has been overwhelming assumed by the ordinary person (and by many who should have been financially more knowledgeable?) that bank lending was merely the passing on of previously deposited money. The function of the creation of money by ordinary banks has not been given its due recognition in economics textbooks. Ivanov cited Werner (Dec 2014): Can banks individually create money out of nothing? - The theories and the empirical evidence, who set out to show in real time how a bank branch created a loan of  200,000 for him in 2013 which, to prove it was real money, he deposited in another bank  He also proved that a fractional reserve amount representing  his loan at the central bank, was not involved (thus showing fractional reserve banking is obsolete, or at least only a half-truth) and that no already existing money at the bank was involved in making up the loan amount.  

Ricardo wanted a National Bank to be set up by the government to be run by 5 salaried Commissioners. The then existing Bank of England charter would expire and its premises might be purchased and staff transferred to the Commissioners. The Commissioners were to be independent of the government; they should create the money needed to redeem government debt to the Bank of England; they would create the money needed by the national financial system but should not create it for the government to borrow. Government needs were to be met by taxation or borrowing from privately owned banks. Ricardo wanted a full reserve system of banking, as championed by Positive Money . See also Martin Wolf.  

Ivanov thinks we have moved beyond the safeguards which Ricardo expected of full reserve banking. People would find ways to game the system and perform money creation outside the official constraints, and how do you handle new phenomenon such as digital currency e.g. bitcoins? Full reserve banking is likely to be costly and impractical, and it might cause the economy to contract. But we do need a safeguard to keep the economic system safe and Ivanov adopts Ricardo's idea of a nation's banking system divided into districts, where stability arises from many small independent parts rather than a few large players.  With many small banks the failure of one or two, through unwise money creation for their lending, will not wreck the whole system as was the danger in the 2007/8 crisis in the UK, when a very few large banks dominated. But our economic system is still in thrall to its top-heavy banks. However local independent banks of the German Sparkassen type with distinct areas of operation are a practical and realistic safeguard. Plamen Ivanov is involved in the establishment of a local community bank of that type. His paper was a ready made answer to Prof David Llewellyn's Ecobate keynote speech 'Are banks over-regulated today?' with its theme that more types of banking model are needed for safety. 

From the Ecobate 2016 Conference and with additional information.  Posted by Charles Bazlinton Director of Local First CIC which is promoting local banks.    

Saturday, November 12, 2016

ECOBATE 2016 Best Paper Awards

ECOBATE 2016 was held in two Winchester locations this year. The academic papers were presented at the University of Winchester Business School in Romsey Road and from mid-afternoon the public session was back in its usual place down at the Guildhall. In a new development for ECOBATE, the morning's academic input of nearly 70 papers was recognised through Best Paper Awards which Sir Vince Cable presented as follows:

1. Category - Banks vs Financial Institutions 
Robert Unger,  Deutsche Bundesbank. 
BEST BANKING PAPER
Traditional banks, shadow banks and the US credit boom - credit origination versus financing  
  
2. Category - Global vs local banking
Sefika Betul Esen, Prof Yener Altunbas, Prof John Thornton, Bangor.
BEST REGIONAL GROWTH PAPER
The effect of banks on regional economic development 

3. Category - Monetary policy 1 
Giorgio Caselli, Catarina, Figueira, Joseph G. Nellis, Cranfield. 
BEST MONETARY PAPER
Monetary policy, ownership structure and bank risk taking: Evidence from Europe 

4. Category - Financial Development
Martin Eihak, Davide S Mare, Martin Melecky. Edinburgh. 
BEST INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL INCLUSION PAPER
The nexus of financial inclusion and financial stability

5. Category - Financial history 
Konstantin Kiesel, Felix Noth. Halle
MOST INVENTIVE PAPER
When debt spells sin: Does religiosity guard against over-indebtedness?

6. Category - Commodities, Gold & FX
Shubasis Dey. IIMK/Kerala
BEST HISTORY PAPER
Historical events and the gold price 

7. Category - Banking and Risk
Ariel J Sun, Jorge A Chan-Lau. Cass Business School
BEST APPLIED NETWORKS PAPER
Financial networks and interconnectedness risk in an advanced emerging market economy 

8. Money Creation & Eurosystem 
Alexey PonomarenkoCentral Bank of Russia
BEST INTERNATIONAL CREDIT CREATION PAPER
The note on money creation in emerging market economies 

ECOBATE 2016 was organised by ARBE which was founded by Prof Richard Werner (Chair International Banking, University of Southampton). ARBE (Association for Research on Banking and the Economy) is also holding the Oxford Seminars at 15.30 hrs on the next four Fridays 18, 25 Nov; 2, 9 Dec. at Linacre College, St.Cross Rd, Oxford OX1 3JA

Sunday, October 16, 2016

ECOBATE 2016 Prof David Llewellyn. More banking models needed for safer UK banking.

Professor David Llewellyn recommends more competition in banking to reduce the social cost of banking crises such as that which affects us still since 2007. He sees the best way to do this is through different banking models. The model that is prevalent in the UK is that of shareholder value banks and a mix is needed so that stakeholder value banks are not only encouraged but increased in number. The historical de-mutualisation of building societies in the UK was at a great cost to the stability of the banking system when these stakeholder banks were privatised, morphing into shareholding banks. The benefits of competition through more models of banks will be far greater than just adding more banks of the same shareholding kind. Typical of this genre will be community banks, savings banks, mutuals and cooperatives. These do not seek to maximise the capital return as shareholder banks do and they are likely to be less hazardous and risky. Some being locally based will encourage accountability through better relationships with customers, which will bring trust and confidence.

'Culture determines behaviour'. The bad behaviour of an individual can be dealt with (say a rogue trader), but the bad behaviour coming from underlying bad culture is very difficult to address. He wants culture to be a regulatory issue. In acknowledging Prof Richard Werner's point that in the USA small banks have a different regulator to large banks, he said that 'economists like competition' and thus competition between different regulators is to be encouraged.  

His overview of where we are now used a pendulum image. Whilst pre-crisis there was great faith in markets now we have swung to great faith in regulations. His 'series of reflections' at ECOBATE 2016 in Winchester under the general heading ' Are Banks Over-Regulated Today?' gave us a fascinating view from this ex-Chair of the EU's European Banking Authority's consulting and advisory body: the Banking Stakeholder Group (BSG). He said he would not have been able to give his talk a few month's ago when he was Chair of BSG as he would have been gagged. Now his views, as he delivered them, were his own. He is Professor of Money and Banking at Loughborough
University. He was co-author of the Bankers Oath.

The challenges for a safe banking system are firstly reducing likely failure of individual banks and secondly reducing social costs of failure if that happens. A perfectly safe banking system could be arrived at through measures such as 60% capital ratios; 50% liquidity ratios; 40% of that liquidity in German Govt Bonds, but it would be useless banking system! The problem, given that the failure rate can be reduced somewhat, is: How can we reduce the social costs arising when banks do fail? He was not for pressing for every bank to be a stakeholder bank at the expense of losing all shareholder banks. He wants a far better mix of both.  

A problem with regulation is that there is a symbiotic relationship between the regulations and banking behaviour. Both respond to each other. Banks will arbitrage the regulations ('game' them) and regulators are tempted to respond with tighter rules. But there are limits to the resulting escalation. If regulation is seen as a free good then the public will always want more of it. In fact regulation has a cost and the price of this must be taken into account. There has to be a trade off between: complexity/safety and simplicity/risk. He said that whilst individual regulations might be reasonable under a cost/benefit analysis, the totality of the regulations might not be. Excessively complex regulation might encourage unthinking 'box ticking'. Current 'one size fits all' regulations don't differentiate between what is needed for a large international bank and a small bank.  He indicated by hand the height of the stack of paperwork of all EU bank regulations - it was at about one metre off the floor.      
  
Why is culture important? Banking culture deteriorated in the years before the crisis and now trust and confidence in the banking system is as low as it has ever been. Underlying culture sets standards and influences employee attitudes which determines behaviour. He is working on a paper to cover what he outlined at ECOBATE as above, on the 'post crisis banking regulatory regime' arising out of his work with BSG.

His lecture was the Keynote Plenary held at the academic part of ECOBATE 2016 which for the first time was held at Winchester University's Business School, West Downs Campus, Romsey Road on 12th October. ECOBATE 2016 was organised by ARBE.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Michael Hudson reviews James Galbraith's: 'Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice'

Michael Hudson in a review of James Galbraith’s new book: 'Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice’ says of current solutions to the post-financial crisis world that: 
financial interests override sovereign  self-determination  and national referendums on economic and social policy…[and] impose austerity and force privatisation selloffs that are basically foreclosures on indebted economies. Galbraith rightly calls this financial colonialism.’
Real-world economics review issue 76 carries the review.

It points out that resolutions to the current situation have been available since the 1920s. The book covers the economic traumas that the Greek nation is going through.  The prospect is that similar measures across the Eurozone will turn it into a dead zone along the lines of Latvia’s... 
‘disastrous ‘’success’’ story involving drastic emigration and declining after-tax wages’.

The solutions imposed through bond holders involve widening fiscal deficits, with countries being forced to sell off their land and mineral rights, public buildings, electric utilities, phone and communications systems, et al, at distress prices.


The problem is that the EU’S central bank (ECB) does not finance deficit spending to revive employment and economic growth. Additionally the German constitution imposes austerity by blocking funding of other countries budget deficits (except for quantitative easing to save bankers).  The 2010 bailout by banks is likened to the unpayably high German reparations imposed in the 1920s. The hope of the lenders is that deep austerity and privatisation will enable the repayments, when what is really needed is bad debt writeoffs and an expansionary fiscal policy.  

Lord Turner back at ECOBATE 2011 spoke on 'managing credit creation to deliver social optimality' See this Blog link.  
And (same blog) Chris Giles of the FT in 2013 has: 'Turner defends permanent printing of money'.

In the You-Tube film 'Debt-Free and Interest-Free money' Richard Werner exposes the false notion that debt alone is the only solution for government expenditure:  'The government can spend money into circulation, money it has issued'.

Galbraith's book highlights the rule in Europe by the dictats of finance and banking favouring right wing governments, along with opposition to any left wing alternatives to austerity. They won in Greece.

The UK has a different Conservative government from 3 months ago that looks to be setting policy ideals derived from left, right and centre. How radical will its economic changes prove to be? Chancellor Philip Hammond is soon to make an Autumn Statement on the economy. Does he realise the powers he has to invest for the common good without increasing debt? 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Prof David Llewellyn: 'Most serious banking crisis ever'. Are we safer now? Answers at ECOBATE 2016?

The 4th European Conference on Banking and the Economy (ECOBATE 2016) takes place on Wednesday 12th October in Winchester with its mix of academic seminars and free public meetings.  This year for the first time the University of Winchester's Business School (West Downs Campus, Romsey Road, Winchester) is hosting the academic side until mid-afternoon and then from 3.45pm the free public session is back across the city in its usual place - the Bapsy Hall at Winchester's Guildhall.

Up to 60 academic research papers are expected to be presented on banking and finance covering a wide range of topics from 8.30am at the University's Business School.

At the Guildhall (free to the public) Prof David T Llewellyn of the University of Loughborough is a keynote speaker. On a YouTube film (2015) speaking on the financial crisis of 2007/8 he considers that we have experienced:  'the most serious banking crisis ever on record' and his work is to help lower the chance of it happening again and to protect bank customers and save taxpayers future costs if it does. He has worked as an economist with Unilever, the UK Treasury, the IMF, Halifax Building Society and the Stakeholder Group of the European Banking Authority. He is highly respected for his banking research and regulatory advice.

Sir Vince Cable another keynote speaker was Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills in the UK's Coalition Government to 2015. He regularly features in the media as an independent commentator on finance and the economy and political issues.



Among current topics expected to to be addressed at ECOBATE 2016:

  • Negative interest rates
  • Cash - are they trying to ban it? 
  • Cybercurrencies 
  • Monetary reform and monetary policy
  • Ethics - who are the stakeholders in our financial systems & who is profiting?
  • BREXIT and its effects on the economy
  • Economic growth and the lack of it.  

See the Eventbrite registration website   for more detail.

The ECOBATE conferences have been running from 2011 and are the brainchild of Professor Richard Werner who has chaired them. He is leading banking academic (Chair International Banking, University of Southampton). One of his current projects is the formation of Hampshire Community Bank a pioneering venture to create a new culture of banking for the common good in the UK.

ECOBATE  travel: There is no onsite parking at either venue but there are efficient park-and-ride schemes on the edge of Winchester. The main line railway station (Winchester) is about a 20 minutes walk away from both venues. See the conference websites for late updates and for more details on speakers.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Theresa May's Magnificent Words

Our new Prime Minister Theresa May said some Magnificent Words as she entered No 10 Downing Street. 
...We will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us'
Words that could have been sourced from the book The Free Lunch - Fairness with Freedom which in a similar vein, deals with how to start to overturn the 'Lottery Principle' of life where 'The poor create the rich'.  The problem with Magnificent Words at Number 10 is they raise expectations and then scepticism, given the meagre achievements of governments. But let us leave Mrs May's Magnificent Words still bright, shining and untested and wish her the very best. We all look forward to her chancellor's first budget for signs that this time it will be different.         

As an illustration as to how the current arrangements of our society work for the few and not the many, at a recent public planning enquiry in Winchester, developers awaited expectantly whilst a planning Inspector assessed objections to that part of the local plan relating to the small town of Alresford.  Winchester City Council has taken some years to formulate this plan after much public consultation.  Whatever the outcome of Inspector Nigel Payne's deliberations, soon the green light will be given to a landowner/developer or two, to cash in on a huge uplift of land values. For example a green field of agricultural land with a value of merely around £700 per house-plot size, will zoom to a value of perhaps £200,000 per house-plot after the local authority grants planning permission for housing.  Our 'democratic' system massively favour landowners over those needing the land to have a home. The movement in wealth is from the many to the few: 'The poor create the rich'. What about that Mrs May?

An example of a more egalitarian outcome sought at the same hearing was about public car parking. A car park is needed alongside two adjacent sites owned by different landowners. Which one would release the land for this? Might both? Someone said land for car parking has little value, because car parking by local councils is not an economic service. Quite wrong. This article from The Times in 2015 shows  that for English local authorities over £0.6 BN of revenue was raised through car parking. So a local authority which has control over land planning use, can restrict city parking and can force drivers to pay to park creates a clear money-spinner for themselves and their tax payers. What is happening is that they use their democratically given monopoly power and, as rentiers being leaseholders or owners of land, are using it for the common good above the break-even cost of parking. This will help cap other taxes and can also reduce pollution if park and ride schemes are used.

Another issue mentioned at the hearing was the use of a part of development sites for 'affordable housing' - to be rented by, or part-sold to low income earners. Some of the uplifted land value of a whole development is clawed back through using a portion of the site's land (at a low cost to a not-for-profit housing association) solely for rented or part-owned homes. An enlightened device favouring some of the disadvantaged. 

On one scheme on a previously developed (brownfield) site in a particular Winchester city site the developer had declared he cannot afford to release land for such homes in his new development. 'The sums don't add up!' But a competent developer would have known of their liability to provide the public benefit through land at lower than market housing value to make affordable housing possible. Development obligations such as these have been around since at least 1990 with planning regulation for developer contributions such as 'section 106' and now the Community Infrastructure Levy. Perhaps a developer overpaid for land at some stage so the sums now don't work. But should the public benefit suffer because an unwise commercial decision may have been made by a developer at the top of a market price bubble? If such a case is accepted it opens the possibility of a high price false 'sale' to an associated firm to establish non-viability due to a high base cost. 

This scare story about non-viability of affordable homes was raised as a possibility for a large greenfield site in Alresford. But the planning officer reported that the landowner/developer  for that site is happy that the site development is viable with all costs covered for new trunk road works, affordable housing, et al. A large greenfield site with no development history is less likely to have had run of different owners who might have overpaid at some stage. Or perhaps the developer is being sensible about the huge gains still available and doesn't want the jinx the magic of the expected planning consent.   

So the Winchester inspection will eventually result in one or two very pleased (wealthier) landowner/developers, through the public gift of planning permission. Albeit with help for some housing-poor.  Not forgetting we too who have been buying our homes for decades, whilst not gaining quite that 200+ times wealth multiple from these brand new developments, also benefit a growing equity nest egg through this long standing public gift of planning consent - and for us, tax free. 

The unfairness of the institutional skewing as above, of so called 'market capitalism' to the benefit of the few is developed as a theme in Guy Standing's book:  The Corruption of Capitalism: Why rentiers thrive and work does not pay 'he reveals how global capitalism is rigged in favour of rentiers to the detriment of all of us, especially the precariat. A plutocracy and elite enriches itself, not through production of goods and services, but through ownership of assets, … '. Read the extract provided.

Another book, by Fred Harrison, As Evil Does gives evidence (p.64) that academic research is blocked by government to prevent solutions that would overcome such failings of our society. Such as land value taxation. He refers to an article by Nicholas Stern about his 'Report on the reform of the tax system', in the FT 6 Aug 2014 'Fairer Fixes for the public purse lost in a chancellor's drawer'.   

Have you seen Sir Nicholas's report yet Mrs May? Could be a good way to fulfil those Magnificent Words.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sir Vince Cable: Brexit - causes and outcomes

Sir Vince Cable came to Winchester last week for the Winchester Festival and said we may see him around a bit in that city as he is now involved with local people who are setting up Hampshire Community Bank, a non-profit bank as per the German Sparkassen model.  On Thursday he was in Winchester to promote his book: After the Storm, which is an insider account of his time as minister in the coalition government from 2010 to 2015.

On the recent Brexit vote to leave the EU he referred us back to a paper he wrote on the politics of identity - see this 'revisting' of that 1994 paper  published by Demos in 2005 - as: Multiple Identities - Living with the new Politics of Identity . His writings showed how we are in an era when the traditional 'left/right' political classification is less and less meaningful, with people acknowledging quite different identities for themselves as the old often class-based identities fade. We now have a kaleidoscopic array involving nationality or region of origin, religion (with many sub-divisions within), or based on multiple identities such as Scottish and British and European. He says the term 'multi-cultural community' is unhelpful in describing what is actually often a very complex situation. Such phrases may stereotype and mislead into regarding very varied groups as monolithic 'vote banks' for political purposes. What we need - he quotes Trevor Philips - is a need to create a sense of shared identity called 'Britishness'. 

With the measures that followed the 2007/8 financial crisis the financial system has been kept afloat (like a heart attack victim being kept alive) with artificial injections of  ultra-cheap money, with interest rates set near zero and going lower. They are 'lower than Babylonian times' - we are in an Alice in Wonderland situation. The ongoing result is that economic output has been lost and wages are stagnant. On the other hand another effect is to pump up asset prices (property and shares). If you are a homeowner and live in Winchester or London you are considerably wealthier through this cheap money policy, but if you live in Barrow, Blackpool, Middlesborough or Hull you don't see this. Sir Vince said that the resulting envy and resentment found an outlet in a vote to leave the EU.  He also said that globalisation means that such countries as China became competitive and that many people in western countries are suffering lower living standards thereby. Elsewhere, such as in the US, this resentment  of growing inequality has appealed across the political spectrum where even the old right (Republican) wing headed by Donald Trump is gaining support as well as, to be expected, the socialist Bernie Sanders. In the UK many Labour supporters moved in the UKIP direction in the 2015 election crossing old party lines.  

Post Brexit he sees Mark Carney at the Bank of England as competent and following a predicted policy for pumping cash into the system. The £ exchange rate has dropped - which is 'no bad thing'; property prices have fallen - which is 'no bad thing'. It is likely that net bank lending will fall, but he hopes the British Business Bank will help new lending to firms and head off disaster. The next phase may involve a recession or at least an economic slow down. He is encouraged that his successor in the Business Innovation & Skills Dept. Sanjit Javid is prepared to borrow to invest, in such as housing and the railways. He hopes that a re-orientation of the economy is being planned with a long-term industrial strategy involving such as pharmaceuticals, aerospace, car production and training. 

To general laughter he reminded the audience that the Tories campaigned in May 2015 on the slogan 'Cameron or Chaos'. He did not agree with a legal challenge to the Brexit result, we need to get on with the new situation, although some fellow Lib-Dems think differently. He sees the consequences of Brexit to be massive. He is appalled there was no planning for a possible Brexit vote. The bureaucratic changes needed will involve a huge amount of work and take a very long time.    
Audience Q&A's: 
  • He expected City of London employment to drop from 750,000 to 550,000. 
  • He said that the country needed to be told to expect problems, anything falsely optimistic would bring later resentment. 
  • Aligning with his identity analysis and from his experience in the Coalition for 5 years, would he support the suggestion that prospective MP's (should an early election be called) might stand branded Conservative/Coalition; Labour/Coalition; Lib-Dem Coalition so that voters could be encouraged to vote for national unity? He said that he thought the overall opinion was that the Coalition brought better governance. Someone had likened it to decision-making 'in concrete' rather than 'in jelly' otherwise. He said old loyalties are fading, parties are fragile, but how do you change the dynamic?  He thought there might be a  move to the centre with a resurgent Lib-Dem, a Labour breakaway and the Greens. Given such a scenario the suggestion was a possibility. 
  • On the continuation of UKIP as a party, he couldn't say. Maybe the UKIP voters will stop voting, continue to, or move (back?) to other parties? 
  •  What were his views on lobbying by big business? He thought that if it is done openly it is fine, as ministers must listen to concerned people. What is to be avoided is behind the scenes influence.  
  • How could young people be encouraged to vote? He said that David Willetts in his book 'The Pinch' examined the great change that has happened between the generations recently, with life chances severely curtailed, for example in abandoned hopes of house buying for young people in their 20s and 30s and on quite good salaries.  There has been a breakdown in the contract between the generations and young people are abandoning participation in the system due to cynicism.  Sir Vince gave no solution himself.
Sir Vince's 'multi-identity' analysis gives the ideas in the book The Free Lunch - Fairness with Freedom a fresh boost. The idea is that the citizen should be placed at the centre of political thinking to bring extra basic rights to empower them. Policies would cover the financial redirection of resources, the simplification of welfare and taxation, less intrusive bureaucracy, reduced housing costs and steadier economic growth.  Whatever identities each citizen identifies themselves with would make no difference to their new basic citizens' financial rights. Rather than people opting out through alienation it would encourage their participation through inclusion. We are approaching confused and uncharted waters in political life and peaceful yet radical changes are needed to foster unity and co-operation. 

Posted by Charles Bazlinton. Author, The Free Lunch - Fairness with Freedom       
Charles Bazlinton is a director of Local First CIC which is promoting Hampshire Community Bank