Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

Archive forJune, 2008 | back to home

19 June 2008

This article on “5 reasons to love $4 gas” (hey, try living with our $8.70ish petrol!) reminded me that I have for a while been meaning to post indignantly that the press needs to stop whining about things.

First and most obviously, the best way to combat global warming is for gas/petrol prices to stay high – high enough that the environmental impact of using the stuff is roughly proportional to its price.

Second, there is a lot of manufactured concern about house price falls here in the UK but the only people who benefit from super-inflated house prices are retirees who sell up or speculators, while the rest of the country has had to set aside a steadily increasing portion of their incomes to afford to get on or stay on the property ladder. If we weren’t spending so much on our homes we could afford more genuinely productive or stimulating spending.

Third, people are expressing concern that the credit crunch, petrol “crisis” and other factors might lead to (gasp) an economic slowdown – that is, that the economy will not grow as fast as it has for the last decade or so. Does nobody remember recessions? Those are what’s worth worrying about – when the economy actually shrinks (and by the by maybe a little shrinking in the economy would be good for the environment anyway). We’ve had more than a decade of steady growth and (for most) rising incomes. UK inflation between 3% and 4%?

On the left, there is concern that inequality and (relative) poverty have not budged much since Labour came to power, but that’s only a reflection of the speed with which the rich have gotten richer (a global trend). Labour could have done more, true, but according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies:

Taking the period 1996–97 to 2006–07 as a whole, incomes have grown fastest
at the very top of the income distribution, as they did in the period of Conservative
government that preceded it. However, income growth as a whole has been more
equal under Labour than under the Conservatives, with income growth around
the 15th percentile of the distribution stronger than growth in the bulk of the
distribution higher up (though still slower than income growth at the very top of
the distribution).

As for income redistribution, over the period of the Labour government:

the income distribution became more equal between around the 20th and 90th percentiles, but it has grown more unequal at the very top and the very bottom.

And might I just add to this Panglossian picture that there have not been any terrorist “spectaculars” in Europe or North America in the last three years (knock wood!), and that Western casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan and Iraqi civilian casualties have been steadily declining (though Afghan civilian casualties may be rising).

15 June 2008

The author – now in video! I’m not sure I’ll do this again though unless video editing tools become a lot more sophisticated and I become able to remove all the glitches…