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Why is eliminating 'the deficit' important? Watch

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    (Original post by scrotgrot)
    I know, my question is why did you say trade deficit when actually you spent the rest of your post talking about fiscal deficit.
    Because trade deficits are also related to national savings. Specifically, the trade surplus is always equal to net national savings. In other words, if we are running a large trade deficit, either public savings are negative (fiscal deficit) or private savings are negative. During the housing boom, the latter was the case. But since the housing bubble has dissipated, private savings are relatively high. This means that we must be running a fiscal deficit if we're running a trade deficit.
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    (Original post by Bornblue)
    Excellent post.
    The problem is that the Conservative Party and their buddies in the press have succesfully and seemingly irreversibly changed the narrative to:

    borrowing = awful thing done by awful socialists to wreck the economy


    As ever, any sense of nuance and reasoned debate is lacking. It's as simple as 'Labour want to borrow, borrowing wrecks the economy'.
    The tabloids constitute the only education on politics and economics the British public get. A priority in the long term if a left-wing government is ever in again must be to have mandatory classes in these subjects in schools. Of course, for the crime of offering a balanced, evidence-led curriculum on politics and economics, schools would be vilified in those same tabloids as communist re-education camps, but I'm sure it can be weathered.
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    (Original post by Bornblue)
    I think this is an incredibly selective post, ignoring the benefits and advantages of workers being protected by unions, while glossing over the huge inequalities caused by Thatcherism which exist today.

    I'll never understand why unions, representing the interests of ordinary workers so they cannot be exploited and undercut are seen in such a bad light by so many.

    Having an organization fighting for your pay and working rights and standards should be celebrated.
    I don't mean to suggest that unions are inherently bad. I was specifically referring to the power the unions wielded in the 60s and 70s, which was absurd. We were briefly reduced to a three day working week due to union militancy. Whether you agree with the rest of Thatcher's policies or not, stripping the unions of their power was undoubtedly a good thing. And like I said, it's rather telling that by the time that Labour regained power, they had dropped their opposition to virtually all of Thatcher's economic policy.
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    (Original post by Luke Kostanjsek)
    I don't mean to suggest that unions are inherently bad. I was specifically referring to the power the unions wielded in the 60s and 70s, which was absurd. We were briefly reduced to a three day working week due to union militancy. Whether you agree with the rest of Thatcher's policies or not, stripping the unions of their power was undoubtedly a good thing. And like I said, it's rather telling that by the time that Labour regained power, they had dropped their opposition to virtually all of Thatcher's economic policy.
    Was it a good thing?
    We now pretty much have 'agency Britain'. Due to the demise in unions, far more jobs are zero hour contracts. Far more jobs are lowly paid and insecure with bosses being able to sack workers at the drop of a hat.

    Just look at how Sports Direct treat their workers. And that's progress?
    Having strong unions which protect workers and ensure they cannot be treated like crap, exploited and undercut should be celebrated. I'd rather unions wield power than corporate fat cats.
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    (Original post by scrotgrot)
    The tabloids constitute the only education on politics and economics the British public get. A priority in the long term if a left-wing government is ever in again must be to have mandatory classes in these subjects in schools. Of course, for the crime of offering a balanced, evidence-led curriculum on politics and economics, schools would be vilified in those same tabloids as communist re-education camps, but I'm sure it can be weathered.
    But any remotely left of centre policy is vilified as anti-aspirational, unless of course the tories offer it, see the introduction of 'the living wage'.

    Our economic system creates huge levels of disparity and inequality. The tabloid press who benefit from this system direct anger at immigrants, public sector workers, the welfare state, the EU etc in order to prevent people being angry at the system which is the real cause of their problems.

    And to even say something like this will make most people think you're a communsit, socialist, rich-hating idealist etc.
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    (Original post by Fenice)
    It's seems such a basic question but very few people seem to have clear answers and those that seem to understand the issue are split on whether it is or is not.
    Essentially the British problem starting in the 1960s but getting much worse in the 1970s was inflation and inflation was, rightly, seen as a disease of too much money.

    The government sought to control money, with lesser or greater success, by "balancing the books", "eliminating the deficit" "not mortgaging the future" by attempting to keeping spending as near as possible in line with tax revenues. As interest rates were high, public borrowing to fund the deficit now, fed public spending later.

    This was derided by the left as household economics when practised by Margaret Thatcher and praised as prudence when practised by Gordon Brown. Left wing economists claimed that a country's economy was not like a household's. They had a lot of theoretical explanations for this but the problem with their theoretical explanations is that the British economy kept on mirroring a private household very well.

    The last hurrah for this approach was George Osborne's austerity. There was a good reason for this austerity; it gave confidence to a lot of bankers and investors who had grown up with the same ideas in the 2007-10 economic crisis.

    However something had changed. It started in Japan in the 1990s and has spread to the world. Interest has stopped being the key factor in valuing sovereign debt. What matters is national stability. On the back of that, interest rates in most western countries have fallen to historically silly levels. In the 17th and 18th centuries, you paid a goldsmith to store your wealth in their strongbox and that has returned.

    The other thing that has changed is the globalisation of manufacturing has pushed down inflation to levels last seen in he last industrial revolution. Stuff falls in price just because people can make the stuff ever cheaper.

    That has turned economic orthodoxy on its head. Governments can borrow for very long periods on fixed terms. They are not vulnerable to changing interest rates. If I can borrow at next to no cost or if someone will pay me to let them lend to me then the logic behind not spending the money you haven't got looks rather suspect. The government is now borrowing money until 2050 and beyond and paying very little for it.

    Austerity is starting to look more like a moral crusade than an economic strategy. Is getting into debt a sin and are governments there to eliminate sin?
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    (Original post by Bornblue)
    Was it a good thing?
    We now pretty much have 'agency Britain'. Due to the demise in unions, far more jobs are zero hour contracts. Far more jobs are lowly paid and insecure with bosses being able to sack workers at the drop of a hat.

    Just look at how Sports Direct treat their workers. And that's progress?
    Having strong unions which protect workers and ensure they cannot be treated like crap, exploited and undercut should be celebrated. I'd rather unions wield power than corporate fat cats.
    Bad job conditions are largely a result of free movement of workers being opened up to poor, eastern european countries like Romania. Employers can offer *****y contracts with awful working conditions, because the conditions and pay are even worse in their home countries, so the employers will still find someone to do the job. It's not a coincidence that the vast majority of those working for Sports Direct at warehouses are eastern european. If you remove free movement of people, you'll see working conditions improve.

    I agree that unions provide an important service in balancing workers' rights with employers' desires to make more money. But unions are almost always militant. In the 60s and 70s, Britain was brought to its knees by the unions. We had hopelessly inefficient industries, but the government couldn't lay anyone off because otherwise the unions would go on strike. We could only work three days a week, because otherwise we were going to run out of electricity! That's not a healthy union standing up for workers' rights, that's a militant union trying to bully the government.

    Even now, they aren't much better. Just look at the whole Southern Rail debacle. The RMT are taking action because Southern Rail wants to move guards to other areas of the trains and let the conductors monitor and shut the doors. They aren't talking about laying anyone off, simply letting the conductors watch the doors and moving the guards on to other responsibilities. And the RMT go off the rails (if you'll excuse the pun). And to top it off, 40% of Southern Rail employees are taking 'sick' leave and apparently, that isn't unofficial striking. It's a joke. The RMT aren't defending any rights here, they're causing a fuss over nothing as a show of strength.
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    (Original post by Luke Kostanjsek)
    Bad job conditions are largely a result of free movement of workers being opened up to poor, eastern european countries like Romania. Employers can offer *****y contracts with awful working conditions, because the conditions and pay are even worse in their home countries, so the employers will still find someone to do the job. It's not a coincidence that the vast majority of those working for Sports Direct at warehouses are eastern european. If you remove free movement of people, you'll see working conditions improve.
    This is very opportunistic. Bad job conditions are not because of immigration, they are because we are no longer protected by the law and by unions.
    As unions have less power, businesses can get away with treating them much worse. They can offer them low paid, zero hour contracts, knowing that there is no powerful union in their way. To suggest that if we get rid of free movement, that everyone would love unions, zhcs would be abolished and workers given far more rights and pay is simply wrong.



    I agree that unions provide an important service in balancing workers' rights with employers' desires to make more money. But unions are almost always militant. In the 60s and 70s, Britain was brought to its knees by the unions. We had hopelessly inefficient industries, but the government couldn't lay anyone off because otherwise the unions would go on strike. We could only work three days a week, because otherwise we were going to run out of electricity! That's not a healthy union standing up for workers' rights, that's a militant union trying to bully the government.
    It's not trying to bully the government to stand up for the rights and livelihoods of millions of workers.
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    It's been a while since I've done Economics & that was only at AS/A2 Level. One of the basic ideas behind Keynesian Economic Theory is that when the economy is running strong (& inflation is starting to increase) then the government can afford to cut back; whereas when growth is struggling & inflation is low the govt should spend more, especially on infrastructural projects, in order to get the economy growing again. Most Western nations follow/have followed this theory from the 1930s up until the 70s when the issue of stagflation (where both high inflation & low growth/recessions occur). The UK & USA both followed Milton Friedman's Monetarist theories throughout the 1980s which grew from a criticism of John Keynes'.
    Monetarist policies generally favour less government intervention but do believe that the control of money via interest rates is vital: if the economy is running "hot" with high inflation then interest rates are to be increased; this should encourage people to spend less (credit becomes more expensive) & save more (the amount of interest you accumulate on your savings in the bank will increase). When growth slows or a recession hits (which usually leads to lower inflation) then the government should cut interest rates to make credit cheaper & to discourage saving; this should encourage higher consumer spending which in turn creates more jobs etc.
    I'd argue that both Keynesian & Friedman's models are both used by the UK government with Labour generally leaning more towards the former with the Conservatives generally more in favour of the latter.

    Personally I can see the advantages of both systems & I don't think either should be ignored.

    How does this link into the deficit? Keynesian Theory dictates that, as I mentioned above, the Govt should increase spending in a recession to stimulate growth. One of the issues of the 2007/2008 Economic Crisis was that many nations - the USA, UK, Greece, Portugal, Spain etc had relatively high levels of debt even before the banks were baled out. The left & right in the UK tend to blame each other for this: the left blame Monetarist policies from the 1980s which were used by Reagan & Thatcher while the right blame Blair & Brown for recklessly spending from 1997-2007 instead of cutting back slightly in order reduce the deficit/public debt (which even the Keynesian model supports). Labour then attempted to follow Keynesian economics & attempted to spend their way out of the recession which even as a centre-right supporter with libertarian sympathies I can understand. However, this ensured that public debt skyrocketed & the UK hit recession anyway; partly due to Labour having not paid off the deficit when the economy was running strong (although I do remember Osborne committing to match Labour's spending plans until the crisis hit so a Tory deficit might not have been much different). When the Coalition came in following the 2010 General Election the focus did shift somewhat towards Friedman's model which involved getting inflation down & cutting back Govt spending to pay off the deficit while encouraging private sector growth - how successful this has been depends highly on your POV.

    Having a high deficit makes us very vulnerable should another economic shock hit as it makes it far harder to use Keynesian policies when you're already in so much debt - the UK does still have good credit ratings but this has fallen in recent years. The UK's economic deficit at the moment is around the £19 Billion mark so at the moment we're still getting further into debt without paying it off.

    TLDR - The UK budget deficit at the moment is so high that you'd have to completely scrap about half the UK Armed Forces totally just to get us to the point where we're breaking even.
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    (Original post by Bornblue)
    This is very opportunistic. Bad job conditions are not because of immigration, they are because we are no longer protected by the law and by unions.
    As unions have less power, businesses can get away with treating them much worse. They can offer them low paid, zero hour contracts, knowing that there is no powerful union in their way. To suggest that if we get rid of free movement, that everyone would love unions, zhcs would be abolished and workers given far more rights and pay is simply wrong.
    We are protected by the law. The problem is that some Romanian bloke isn't going to report the dodgy work conditions to the government, because if they do that then the company has to pay more money for their workers, so they'll hire less workers. And as the conditions are still better than those he'd have if he was working in Romania, he'll take it.

    If we get rid of free movement, I doubt we'll all love unions but pay will certainly go up. British people aren't willing to work for *****y pay because they expect and demand more. But if you've been working in Lithuania for the past decade, then conditions that would be considered **** by us seem great to them.

    (Original post by Bornblue)
    It's not trying to bully the government to stand up for the rights and livelihoods of millions of workers.
    But in the 60s and 70s they were employing too many people! They were employing 10 people to do the work of 5. Companies were losing money. They were not profitable. If that's the case, you can't expect the company to not make job cuts. That's ridiculous. If a company is losing money, it is entirely reasonable for it to make job cuts and scale down in order to become profitable. That's not exploitative, that's common sense. What else are they meant to do, keep employing the same number of people and keep losing money?

    But the unions were blocking this. They were militant, and they were holding the country to ransom. Look at the French unions today, they're operating in a similar way to ours used to. They're holding the French government to ransom because they're trying to introduce a policy allowing businesses to ask employees to work more hours and some other easing of working restrictions, which would bring them in line with every other EU country. The EU has asked France to make these changes. And yet the unions decide to go nuts.

    And they aren't even any better in Britain. Consider the Southern Rail dispute. Explain to me in what way the RMT are standing up for workers' rights. How exactly is it an infringement on workers' rights to ask the conductors to monitor the doors, and have the guards performing other tasks?
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    (Original post by scrotgrot)
    The tabloids constitute the only education on politics and economics the British public get. A priority in the long term if a left-wing government is ever in again must be to have mandatory classes in these subjects in schools. Of course, for the crime of offering a balanced, evidence-led curriculum on politics and economics, schools would be vilified in those same tabloids as communist re-education camps, but I'm sure it can be weathered.
    This desperately needs to happen.
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    (Original post by Tempest II)
    TLDR - The UK budget deficit at the moment is so high that you'd have to completely scrap about half the UK Armed Forces totally just to get us to the point where we're breaking even.
    Or the NHS I guess.

    I know which one will get the chop.
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    (Original post by political)
    Greece.
    Greece is what austerity looks like.
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    (Original post by Nurne)
    An increase in social spending would only lead to increased unemployment. There has to be an incentive to work which I believe Osborne has done by creating the National Living Wage which is substantially higher than the minimum wage under the Labour Party and reducing JSA or sanctioning those who fail to appear to job interviews.
    Social spending means things like school, hospitals etc as well as benefits (benefits is also paid to people who work and people who can not be expected to work as well as unemployed people).
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    (Original post by Luke Kostanjsek)
    We are protected by the law. The problem is that some Romanian bloke isn't going to report the dodgy work conditions to the government, because if they do that then the company has to pay more money for their workers, so they'll hire less workers. And as the conditions are still better than those he'd have if he was working in Romania, he'll take it.

    If we get rid of free movement, I doubt we'll all love unions but pay will certainly go up. British people aren't willing to work for *****y pay because they expect and demand more. But if you've been working in Lithuania for the past decade, then conditions that would be considered **** by us seem great to them.



    But in the 60s and 70s they were employing too many people! They were employing 10 people to do the work of 5. Companies were losing money. They were not profitable. If that's the case, you can't expect the company to not make job cuts. That's ridiculous. If a company is losing money, it is entirely reasonable for it to make job cuts and scale down in order to become profitable. That's not exploitative, that's common sense. What else are they meant to do, keep employing the same number of people and keep losing money?

    But the unions were blocking this. They were militant, and they were holding the country to ransom. Look at the French unions today, they're operating in a similar way to ours used to. They're holding the French government to ransom because they're trying to introduce a policy allowing businesses to ask employees to work more hours and some other easing of working restrictions, which would bring them in line with every other EU country. The EU has asked France to make these changes. And yet the unions decide to go nuts.

    And they aren't even any better in Britain. Consider the Southern Rail dispute. Explain to me in what way the RMT are standing up for workers' rights. How exactly is it an infringement on workers' rights to ask the conductors to monitor the doors, and have the guards performing other tasks?
    As a prole I'd rather work less hours :top:

    France functions.
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    For someone with no formal training in economics sbut who has studied the economic theory I can on,y offer the following.

    1: Economics is not a science. Whilst it can be predicted somewhat a lot of it rests on human agency.

    2: orthodox capitalist theories as well as modern neoliberal ones typically assume individuals to be rational utility maximisers: in short, that people know what they should spend their money on. This goes hand in hand with free will and is the starting point of libertarianism along with the idea that the market is ALWAYS more efficient than the state. Personally, I think it's nonsense, akin to religious belief.

    3: what matters to me then far more than whether or not the money is borrowed is what the money is being spent on and whether or not it's an investment. For instance, i she recently read a book called utopia for realists which described how tramps were given lump sums of money in which to spend anyway they wanted- this turned their lives around and whilst not all of them managed to become fully contributing members of society the money which was given to them was found to be less than fifty percent of what these people would have otherwise cost society in legal bills, health costs, policing, temporary accommodation etc. as Yanis Varoufakis has said- we need politicians to be brave enough to go:

    'You see that dirty unemployed bum over there taking drugs? We want you to pay for him to be clothed, housed and fed and given some money to lead a dignified life- otherwise it is going to have a far greater cost for you as a tax payer and as a citizen'
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    (Original post by Fenice)
    It's seems such a basic question but very few people seem to have clear answers and those that seem to understand the issue are split on whether it is or is not.
    (Original post by political)
    Because a deficit is unsustainable in the long term, a continued deficit adds to the cumulative national debt (I think it's currently around 1.2 trn GDP for the UK) which becomes a problem because a large debt means that a large proportion of government revenue will be spent on servicing (paying interest on) that debt therefore reducing the funds available for pensions and NHS etc. The other issue is that as the national debt grows as a percentage of GDP, investor's confidence in that country's ability to repay all its debt falls so it is harder for that country to borrow money in order to cover it's day-to-day deficit by selling government bonds, therefore the government must offer higher interest rates on its bonds to attract buyers for its bonds, the effect of that higher interest rate will be exactly as I've just explained in the previous point.

    Basically it's important because in the long term there will be less money at the treasury's disposal so the treasury may not be able to spend money on the things that it should i.e. pensions, policing, NHS, welfare.
    Reducing the deficit should not be a priority when: a) the economy is in a downturn and/or b) when interest rates are at a record low, making borrowing incredibly cheap.

    The deficit should be corrected when both of these conditions are not present.

    As Paul Krugman has stated:


    It is impossible for countries such as the US and the UK, which borrow in their own currencies, to experience Greek-style crises, because they cannot run out of money – they can always print more. Even within the eurozone, borrowing costs plunged once the European Central Bank began to do its job and protect its clients against self-fulfilling panics by standing ready to buy government bonds if necessary...

    By late 2008 it was already clear in every major economy that conventional monetary policy, which involves pushing down the interest rate on short-term government debt, was going to be insufficient to fight the financial downdraft. Now what? The textbook answer was and is fiscal expansion: increase government spending both to create jobs directly and to put money in consumers’ pockets; cut taxes to put more money in those pockets.

    But won’t this lead to budget deficits? Yes, and that’s actually a good thing. An economy that is depressed even with zero interest rates is, in effect, an economy in which the public is trying to save more than businesses are willing to invest. In such an economy the government does everyone a service by running deficits and giving frustrated savers a chance to put their money to work. Nor does this borrowing compete with private investment. An economy where interest rates cannot go any lower is an economy awash in desired saving with no place to go, and deficit spending that expands the economy is, if anything, likely to lead to higher private investment than would otherwise materialise.

    It’s true that you can’t run big budget deficits for ever (although you can do it for a long time), because at some point interest payments start to swallow too large a share of the budget. But it’s foolish and destructive to worry about deficits when borrowing is very cheap and the funds you borrow would otherwise go to waste.

    At some point you do want to reverse stimulus. But you don’t want to do it too soon – specifically, you don’t want to remove fiscal support as long as pedal-to-the-metal monetary policy is still insufficient. Instead, you want to wait until there can be a sort of handoff, in which the central bank offsets the effects of declining spending and rising taxes by keeping rates low. As John Maynard Keynes wrote in 1937: “The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity at the Treasury.”
    Simon Wren-Lewis also makes similar points in this article. Concerns, as raised above by Political, that interest rates on government debt would rise were false (there are many factors influencing interest rates on government debt, only one of which is the amount of government borrowing), but the Greek crisis made it seem as if conventional macroeconomics had ignored the possibility of default. Yet, as Wren-Lewis and Krugman above point out:


    In a country like the UK, this second form of risk doesn’t arise. The government would never run out of money, as the Bank of England could always create more by buying the debt itself. This is exactly what the QE programme was doing. However, in 2010 and 2011 the Eurozone’s central bank, the ECB, refused to act as a ‘lender of last resort’ for governments. This is the reason the debt crisis was affecting only Eurozone countries. The conventional macroeconomic view that higher deficits wouldn’t lead to rising interest rates was correct for countries with their own central bank, but incorrect, given ECB policy, for Eurozone economies. The implication was that countries outside the Eurozone had been wrong to panic in 2010, wrong to have replaced fiscal stimulus with austerity.

    ...in 2012, it was proved correct. As the Eurozone crisis continued, in September 2012 the ECB was forced to change its mind: it offered to become a lender of last resort through its Outright Monetary Transactions programme. This had an immediate impact, and interest rates on Eurozone government debt started falling substantially. Conventional macroeconomics was vindicated too by the experience of the previous two years in the UK, which had shown that austerity would indeed harm an economy caught in a liquidity trap.
    In other words, Labour's current economic policy is what this Conservative government should be adopting, yet people such as political continue to promulgate the myth that we'll undergo a Greek-style crisis. And, as ChaoticButterfly has pointed out, Greece is an example of "deficit reduction" taken to its logical conclusion during an economic downturn.

    (Original post by ChaoticButterfly)
    Dunno.
    Vince Cable has accused George Osborne of pursuing deficit reduction to shrink the state.
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    (Original post by Fenice)
    It's seems such a basic question but very few people seem to have clear answers and those that seem to understand the issue are split on whether it is or is not.
    In terms of budgets it is not sutainable to be in deficit year on year because it more than likely adds to the debt, It is not sustainable for a business to run at a deficit because they are spending more money then which was originally planned and if there is very little growth it is not worth it, then the government may want to put taxes up, I am not going into too much detail but the others have posted better answers im mentally fried this evening
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    (Original post by viddy9)
    Reducing the deficit should not be a priority when: a) the economy is in a downturn and/or b) when interest rates are at a record low, making borrowing incredibly cheap.

    The deficit should be corrected when both of these conditions are not present.

    As Paul Krugman has stated:

    Simon Wren-Lewis also makes similar points in this article. Concerns, as raised above by Political, that interest rates on government debt would rise were false

    Gosh, it sounds like you **** off to a picture of Keynes' every evening...With a Krugman article if you really want to shoot.

    Perhaps you're letting your opinions cloud what it is objective and what is subjective. Perhaps you have no right to declare others' ideas as false. Perhaps you're a complete arse with a superiority problem because the kids at your silly little state school bullied you for ******* off to John Maynard Keynes.
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    (Original post by political)
    Gosh, it sounds like you **** off to a picture of Keynes' every evening...With a Krugman article if you really want to shoot.

    Perhaps you're letting your opinions cloud what it is objective and what is subjective. Perhaps you have no right to declare others' ideas as false. Perhaps you're a complete arse with a superiority problem because the kids at your silly little state school bullied you for ******* off to John Maynard Keynes.
    Okay...

    I'm merely stating that the available evidence demonstrates what I've said above, and this has been documented. I have every right to declare others' ideas as false: are you a postmodernist or something? Also, how did you know I went to a state school? Also also, you've not actually made a rational argument. I take it you concede the points about interest rates on government debt and Greece?
 
 
 
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