Brexit was supposed to be simple. All Britain had to do was tell the European Union they were leaving, sign a few forms and be done. It shouldn’t take more than a few weeks. Then Britain would be able to celebrate it new freedom and prosperity now that the shackles of foreign oppression have been removed. Of course, we all know that it hasn’t worked out like that. Three years after the vote and Britain is still in the EU but facing down unprecedented political instability and what economists warn could be an economic disaster. Negotiations proved to be far more complicated than anyone on the Leave side had imagined and the situation is bogged down in endless talks.
Many Irish people are delighted over the situation, seeing this as a modern example of the old nationalist slogan “Britain’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity”. Many hope the political instability and economic uncertainty will finally push Northern Ireland out of the UK and into the Republic. The prospect of a united Ireland is no longer being treated as a utopian dream but instead as a realistic possibility.
However, I fear a united Ireland would end up repeating the mistakes of Brexit and similarly end up as a disorganised mess. There has been no planning for a united Ireland and no one, not even Sinn Féin, knows what it would look like. There is an assumption that we will just tell the Brits to leave and then sit back and enjoy our new freedom and prosperity now that the shackles of foreign oppression have been removed. It shouldn’t take more than a few weeks, right? Continue reading “Brexit Is A Disorganised Mess – But A United Ireland Would Be Even Worse”
It is hard to think of another term that is as hyped right now as “blockchain”. It is a new fad that has taken the financial world by storm. Everyone is talking about blockchain, firms are rushing out press releases announcing their interest and countless new proposals appear every day claiming they will revolutionise pretty much every industry. Even people uninterested in Bitcoin are taking a look at blockchain, in fact because so few people actually use the cryptocurrency to buy anything, the shift has focused instead to the technology aspect of Bitcoin. The situation resembles the Emperor’s New Clothes, with no one wishing to admit they don’t see any use to blockchain for fear of seeming behind with the times or not tech savy. Continue reading “The Blockchain Is A Solution In Search Of A Problem”
In economics textbooks there is a simple story told about racism. It explains how the free market punishes prejudice of any kind and instead builds an environment where all people compete equally regardless of their background. The explanation is simple – any business that refused to serve certain customers would earn less profit than a more tolerant rival. If you refuse to hire the most competent job applicant due to their race, gender, sexuality etc then they will work for your competitors or set up their own business and undercut you. Continue reading “Why The Free Market Doesn’t Prevent Racism”
I’ve noticed that some of my old articles about Bitcoin have been getting a lot of attention lately. I first started writing about Bitcoin back in 2013, when I considered it to be a bubble that would soon burst. When it did burst, I wrote about its flaws and figured that would be the end of the story. I mean after seeing people dramatically lose a lot of money extremely quickly, who else would want to jump in? After seeing a bubble collapse why would anyone want to repeat the process?
Yet as the price of Bitcoin soared to almost $20,000, I got an increasing number of “I told you so” and “Look who’s laughing now” comments. I was just a dumb statist shill who failed to recognise the glory of Bitcoin and missed my chance to get rich as a result of it. In fairness, I was wrong to predict that Bitcoin would fade away, I made the mistake of presuming people would learn from their mistakes and not be swindled by another bubble. As you can imagine, these comments quickly disappeared after the price crashed by three-quarters to $6,000. Funnily enough, my blog still gets shared on Bitcoin forums, however this time it is used to show that dramatic crashes are normal events, if Bitcoin can survive 2013 & 2014, it can survive 2018. There seems to be little consideration of the idea that massive price crashes shouldn’t be a normal feature of a currency or asset and wild volatility should be treated as a bug not a feature.
Since the collapse, the price has risen considerably and currently sits at around $10,000. Most of the discussion now focuses on which direction the price will go, will it rise again or face another crash? Did we just experience a market correction or the beginning of the end? Continue reading “Regardless Of Its Price, Bitcoin Is A Flawed Currency”
In two weeks time, Britain will vote on whether or not it will leave the European Union, a major decision which could have wide reaching ramifications. Even though as an Irish citizen I cannot vote, the decision will have a large impact on both Ireland and myself. Leaving aside the specifics of Brexit (whether Britain could still have access to the common market and whether it would still be bound by EU regulations) and political ironies (the same people who opposed Scottish independence are making essentially the same agreement in support of leaving the EU) I think it’s worthwhile to discuss the EU as an institution in general and consider whether it is beneficial or not. Continue reading “Why We Need The European Union”
The free market often sounds quite simple and straight forward. Consumers simply decide whether product A or B benefits them more and then choose accordingly. If the same or similar product is sold by shop A or B consumers simply choose whichever is cheaper, better quality or otherwise benefits them. It is easy and doesn’t require any complicated plan or someone telling consumers what is best for them, people simply decide themselves. This is the market as described by economists, politicians and writers, especially when they are trying to make a political point. After all, if the market is so simple and straight forward, why do we need the government interfering? All these rules and regulations only get in the way, surely it is better for everyone if we just leave the consumers to decide for themselves. Continue reading “No One Has Time For A Completely Free Market”
Let’s play a game. I will name two forms of football and you tell me which you think offers better incentives to players. On the one hand is soccer, the world famous sport which receives huge funding from sponsorship, merchandise and ticket sales. This allows large investment in the sport and the ability to pay good (sometimes even exorbitant) wages. On the other hand is Gaelic Football, played only by Irish people mainly in Ireland. Unlike soccer, it is an amateur sport and none of its players get paid. All athletes must also have full time jobs, meaning they can only train in the evenings after work.
This should be obvious. Continue reading “Why Do People Work Hard When They Have No Economic Incentive To Do So?”
It’s funny that despite being such an important part of the economy and our lives, not much thought is given to why we work. It is generally taken as a given while economists focus on more important work. It is usually assumed that work is something that people don’t want to do and they must be compensated with money to make them do it. No one would work unless they had to, its only the need of money that gets people up in the money. It is an article of faith among economists that people respond to incentives and this usually refers to monetary incentives. After all, didn’t the Soviet Union fall because people weren’t paid enough and therefore motivated enough to work? Simply, if you want to motivate someone to work, you must pay them to do so. Continue reading “What Motivates People To Work?”
For the last two years, I have been following the rocky road of Bitcoin, as it soared on the promise of revolutionary change and collapsed in a fog of fraud and bad economics. After losing almost 85% of its value in the last twelve months, plunging from $1,200 to $200, has bitcoin finally reached the end of the road? Does it have any chance of recovering or is it destined to simply fade away? Continue reading “The End Of Bitcoin”
Many economists like to think of the markets as a place where equals negotiate and bargain to find mutually beneficial deals. Employers and workers need each other and so come to a deal that benefits them both. As these agreements are reached voluntarily, there can be no injustice in the system, as otherwise why would they have agreed to it? There is therefore no need for government intervention as people are well able to look after themselves. Unfortunately, in the real world, things are very different. In the real world, employers have market power over workers that prevent the market reaching a fair balance. It is for this reason that strong unions and government intervention is needed. Continue reading “The Power Of Employers”