Rethinking the throwaway economics of takeaway food

Food is never out of the news. At the moment Jamie Oliver is (rightly) indignant because Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, has been slagging off Jamie’s  successful campaign to revitalise school food (presumably to justify the coalition government’s plan to restrict access to free school lunches). More

The Green Investment Bank is born

Big Sticks, Big Solutions and the Unmentionable Funding Proposal

Now don’t get me wrong – I am a big fan of the proposals launched this week by the Green Investment Bank commission. Let’s celebrate a report that explicitly recognises market failures, and applies some big brains to how to encourage investment in useful low-carbon infrastructure. Let’s hope that George Osborne, having set up the commission, acts quickly to create the GIB.

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77 months and counting…

"If you want to build a ship, don't call together some men just to gather wood, prepare tools and distribute tasks," proclaimed the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "Instead, teach them the longing for the endless sea."

The evidence of the recent budget, in which the environment was like a salad leaf abandoned to wilt in the June sun, suggests that the wrong approach has been taken to building a green economy.

It's a shame, because there is no shortage of tasks and tools to distribute, and a long list of patient, rational reasons why we should do so.

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A surplus of technology

This week, I was lucky enough to see American social media evangelist Clay Shirky talking about his latest book, The Cognitive Surplus. Shirky argued that the new creative and collaborative possibilities unlocked by the internet will allow us to unleash this surplus – the vast reserves of time, skills and enthusiasm that we currently fritter away in front of the television – to solve some of society’s biggest problems. But, while I liked much of what he had to say, it struck me that Shirky is being both too too ambitious and too cautious. More

Legal aid and the market for lemons

In the wake of George Osborne’s first budget speech, many are wondering how the coalition government’s plans to cut the deficit will affect the public sector.

The case of the legal aid and human rights charity Refugee and Migrant Justice provides some rather grim warnings. The organisation is currently under administration because of changes in the funding of legal aid, which attempt to ‘marketise’ legal aid provision.

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Keynes and the Treasury

In the library of the Treasury, there is an ancient copy of one of Keynes’ pamphlets, and it has been scrawled over by Treasury officials with the words ‘bankruptcy’ and ‘insanity’.

Keynes was challenging the Treasury idea, which seems to have been in their DNA since time immemorial, that the way out of recession is to get people to save not spend.  The money has to be in the banks, ready to lend.

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The squeeze on society

The government wants to build a ‘Big Society’ at the same time as a imposing a very big squeeze on spending for public services.  This will not work unless spending is focused more sharply on preventing needs arising or intensifying ,and on supporting individuals and groups so that they can do more to help themselves and each other.

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George is right. The crisis did start with the banks. Now it must end with the banks too.

One good thing about the budget: the recognition by George Osborne that the financial crisis began with the banks.  This was the justification for the £2 billion bank levy – though, as nef’s Tony Greenham points out, this is only a third of what they paid out in bonuses.

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Delivering a people’s bank

This horrible something will include rising unemployment, bankruptcies, home re-possessions and businesses shutting down on the High Street and elsewhere. So much we know.

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Why the hedge funds are on the way out

The hedge funds 'shorted' the banks, helping drive them into disaster, just as they have made a massive amount over the past week by shorting the stock market. Imagine in ten years time Chinese hedge funds shorting the US dollar, as the hedge funds did to the Far Eastern currencies in 1997. The mere possibility reveals the truth: we can't go back to business as usual. American national security rules out the old dispensation.

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