Ethics

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Censorship?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/06/2024 - 5:38pm in

Tags 

Ethics

Yesterday, this post of mine was removed from TikTok for a while:

Apparently, it violated rules by encouraging hate speech. I appealed, explaining that it was calling for ethical politics based on compassion-based convictions, and it was restored.

This morning, I had a warning from Facebook that this post in which I discuss the Tory manifesto costings might also encourage hate speech:

Far-right thought and deep misogyny thrive on these sites. But I am getting warnings for providing reasoned political comment.

What is going on?

When asked who to favour, banks or children in poverty, Rachel Reeves chose banks

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/06/2024 - 5:30pm in

As the FT has reported this morning:

So, given a choice, Rachel Reeves has chosen to favour banks when there is near universal agreement now that some saving could be made in the payment of interest on central bank reserve accounts with the effectiveness of monetary policy (if that is necessary) being maintained.

Her choice favours banks, while she claims there are no funds available to end child poverty. She could do this for maybe a million children hit by the two-child benefit cap at a cost of less than £2 billion a year, which could be provided many times over by just limiting these interest payments.

Reeves would rather favour banks than. children in poverty. That's what we need to know about the forthcoming Labour government.

But that is also why it will fail.

The neoliberal show is out of road

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/06/2024 - 5:11pm in

The Office for National Statistics has posted this tweet this morning, which says all that needs to be known about the new GDP data, out this morning:

GDP is stagnant, again.

No wonder we have opinion polls like this, published yesterday:

Nor is it a surprise that we get a prediction for seats won like this:

If you are a neoliberal party - and the Tories are - then growth is your goal. That, and upward redistribution of wealth,  is all there is to their politics at the end of the day. And they have failed to deliver.

And that is not just now. As the FT notes this morning:

Brexit has destroyed growth in the UK. If that is the aim, it has proved impossible to deliver post 2016.

The consequences are socially clear. As the same FT article notes, associated penal policies are having a big, negative, impact:

So, we face a crisis.

And we have a Labour Party that says that not changing anything is good (because what else does 'stability is change' mean?). And they have said all progress in public services is dependent on growth in which it is very obvious they will be refusing to invest.

The possibility that neoliberalism has run its course is not being discussed, but I think this election might be its last laugh. Next time, the alternative of another party offering yet more failure is not going to be viable or tenable. And there is no way that Labour can succeed based on its plans. The neoliberal show is out of road.

The Tories, ‘fully-costed’ plans and the back of fag packets

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/06/2024 - 4:51pm in

The Tories have delivered their 'fully costed' manifesto. It is, like the Liberal Democrats' plan before it, far from an adequate explanation of what they intend to do in government. In fact, it's worse. This one was written on the back of a fag packet.

The funding is supposedly:

Those are random numbers picked to make their exercise balance. There is no way on earth anyone might believe them, even if I know I could deliver those tax savings - but only if more was spent on HMRC, which figure is not included in the plan. The social security savings are simply a measure of cruel heartlessness. I did check to make sure I could find no reference to workhouses in the manifesto, and could not, but the mentality is present throughout it.

Meanwhile, the savings are specified in absurd detail:

Does anyone really think that the Tories have worked out quango savings in. that detail?

Or that they know the precise cost of the exact 5,000 managers they are going to be rid of in the NHS, which is already under-managed, albeit that too many managers are working on the internal market and not in supporting healthcare?

Come to that, do they really know how to index the farming budget in that detail? I like their claim of clairvoyance, but I really do not believe it, so all of this is nonsense as well. The same can be said for most of it.

And then there is tax:

NI cuts give the most significant benefit to the well-off - so that number might be reasonably stated.

The plan for the self-employed is simply about encouraging lax labour standards and tax abuse - whilst the claim that the self-employed will get a credit for an old age pension based on not contributing makes a mockery of the whole system that is surely designed to pave the way for the abolition of the pension itself, as was discussed on Channel 4 News last night by an incredulous Krishan Guru-Murthy.

The rest is again very largely biased to the well-off. Of all the major flaws in the tax system, it seems that none will be tackled.

The Tories should have saved themselves some time, effort and embarrassment. This is not a plan. It does not add up. And most especially, the savings it suggests might happen are ridiculous and undeliverable.

If they are going to present documents like this they have to show their detailed workings. As it is, they are just opening themselves to ridicule for presenting documents that are so obviously meaningless and as far from a 'fully-costed' plan as it is possible to get.

In England’s green and pleasant – or is it grubby and dying? – land

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/06/2024 - 4:27pm in

My short video this morning laments the lack of green policy from our major political parties at this election. In it, I argue that William Blake might have written about England’s green and pleasant land, but it seems that most English politicians are intent on ignoring green issues during this election. That’s going to leave us with a whole pile of problems - and a grubby, unpleasant, and even uninhabitable land in time to come.

You can see the video here.

This is the transcript:

Most people watching this video will be familiar with the hymn, ‘Jerusalem’ and Blake's poem all about England's green and pleasant land.

So why haven't the Liberal Democrats put anything in their manifesto costings about green policy?

Why has Labour dropped green policy from its agenda?

Why are the Reform Party so opposed to Green policy that they attack it?

And where are the Tories? Well, nowhere as usual. 

What is it about this ‘green and pleasant land’ that we hate so much that we won't actually try to preserve it?

When we make it our second national anthem, in England at least, what is it that then inspires us to loathe the very thing we aspire to?

I wish I knew, because I can't answer that question, but what I do know is that we definitely need green policy, or we are all in very deep trouble.

There is no black hole in government funding

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/06/2024 - 4:23pm in

I published this video this morning. In it, I argue that while politicians might talk endlessly about black holes in government funding, in reality, there can never be any such thing. All that actually exists are choices about how the government might fund its spending—some of which options those same politicians are refusing to consider, at a cost to us all.

The audio version is:

This is the transcript:

There is no black hole in government funding.

I know that our politicians like to claim that there is.

I know that they are obsessed with trying to avoid it.

I know that they claim they are presenting 'fully-costed’ manifestos at the forthcoming general election.

And all of that is utterly unnecessary.

Why? Because there can never be a black hole in our government's finances.

Let's be clear how our government is funded. There are only three options available.

One is taxation, and we know about that.

The second one is borrowing, and they are obsessed about eliminating that, but for no good reason, because there are hordes of people queuing up who would like to save their money with the government, if only they had the opportunity to do so, but the government doesn't want to welcome their cash.

And thirdly, there is government money creation.

What is government money creation? Well, we used to call it turning on the printing presses, but that's an absurd analogy now because turning on the printing presses is almost irrelevant when the usage of cash is falling in the economy. So, what this really means is that the government creates more electronic money, as it did in 2008 to bail us out after the global financial crisis, and as it did in 2020 to bail us out during the course of the COVID crisis when they created, between those two events, something like £900 billion pounds of new government created money.

So, all of those three options are available, but for reasons of their very own, and utterly unnecessarily, the government has decided that government expenditure must be balanced by taxation and they are as a result, ignoring the opportunities that borrowing and money creation provide.

Now I'm not an advocate of money creation for its own sake. It is a reserve tool, but we should never forget that it's available to us, whenever we need it.

But borrowing? No, borrowing is really powerful. Borrowing is what we all do if we ever want to buy, well, very often a car or a house or other major items.

Why wouldn't the government want to do that?

But more than that, why wouldn't it sometimes want to borrow to stimulate the whole of the economy by taking less tax back than it injects into the economy by way of cash? Because that's what delivers growth. So why wouldn't it do that?

I don't know. It's acting against your economic well-being by having this obsession with balancing the books and claiming that otherwise there's a black hole in government funding.

That's nonsense. It's untrue. What other words can I use to express how badly I disagree with those politicians who claim this?

There is no black hole.

There are just choices to be made about the right thing to do at the right time.

And when we have, as we do in the UK at present, serious under-employment of people in our economy, people who could therefore be put to - it's a rather crude way of putting it, but - better use at better pay to produce better outcomes for us all, then of course there is the opportunity for the government to spend to create an increase in well-being, not just for those people, but all of us, by running a deficit.

And that could be funded by borrowing, or if necessary, by money creation, and we'd all be better off. And there would be no inflation as a result because we would be using unused resources that are available in our economy at present and putting them to use for mutual well-being.

That's why there's no black hole.

There's only opportunity, and our politicians aren't reaching out to grab it.

20 miles per hour is what government should be all about

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/06/2024 - 4:15pm in

I noticed a report in the Guardian this week that suggested that insurance companies providing policies for drivers in Wales have noted that the cost of car repairs in that country have fallen by 20 per cent since the introduction of a mandatory 20 mph speed limit in urban areas.

I am aware that there are petrol-heads who are deeply opposed to this speed limit. I know this from my own, local experience, where  such a limit has been introduced after a local consultation which almost everybody in the local community ignored, except for those who seemed to wish for such a limit, me included.

What I hope is that three further pieces of data might now be provided.

The first would relate to the quality of urban air in Wales. We know that this has risen in London, which may be because many of its roads have 20 mph limits.

I would also be keen to see figures  for the  number of accident and emergency admissions as a result of road accidents. I very strongly suspect that these will have fallen. If cars are suffering reduced damage as a result of urban road accidents, I have little doubt that people are as well.

Finally, I would be interested in the road fatality data. If this policy can be shown to have saved lives, and I strongly suspect that it will have done, then I defy those who decry it to keep up their opposition.

One of the jobs of government is to counter the failure of markets. The externalities that are created by motoring are amongst the market failures that cars create. If a saving in car repair costs can be passed on to drivers by way of reduced insurance premiums in Wales this would be a very tangible indication that these failures can be addressed. However, that is the least important of the gains. The others I note would be even more significant.

The signs are good. Governments can do good things by changing speed limits, and I hope that this policy becomes universal throughout the UK.

Ethical Evidence, Ethical Experience, and Shamelessness (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/06/2024 - 6:00pm in

Tags 

Ethics, Science

“A kind of science-envy is often visible in much of what analytic philosophers have had to say about the question of evidence in ethics… In some cases, however, what deprives us of the truth is not scientism, but other forms of prejudice.”

In the following guest post, Sophie Grace Chappell, Professor of Philosophy at The Open University, discusses what counts as evidence in moral philosophy, how methodological norms have excluded certain forms of evidence, and why this is a problem.

This is the first in a series of weekly guest posts by different authors at Daily Nous this summer.

(Posts in this series will remain pinned to the top of the homepage for several days following initial publication.)


[photo of cases painted by Robyn Rich]

Ethical Evidence, Ethical Experience, and Shamelessness
by Sophie Grace Chappell 

Scientists, we’re told, start by compiling data, e.g. observations of the positions of the stars and planets over time, and then construct a theory that makes sense of those observations. Some philosophers say explicitly that they see the moral philosopher’s job as analogous. The scientist’s task, they tell us, is to build a scientific theory, a structure of laws or lawlike generalizations that neatly fits and explains the scientific data; likewise the moral theorist’s task is to build a moral theory, also consisting of laws or generalizations, that neatly fits and explains the moral data.

This story is bad philosophy of science. There are some examples in science where what is going on is, at least in part, something like this points-to-pattern model of science (if you want a ruder name, call it the Rorschach-ink-blot model): we do a survey and find a correlation, and then confabulate a generalizable reason for that correlation. But there are plenty of other examples in science where what is going on is nothing like this. Much science is not about developing a theory at all, but about monitoring and measurement, e.g. of atmospheric CO2 or mean global temperature; or it is about invention, e.g. making a COVID vaccine or a rechargeable battery or a solar-energy panel. And even where the scientist’s primary aim is explanatory theory-building rather than measurement or new technology, her explanations need not be general in form: the explanations provided by Newton’s laws, and the explanation why transition metals are conductive, are general in ways that the explanations of the Wall Street Crash and the San Andreas Fault simply aren’t.

The points-to-pattern model of science fails because it fails—ironically enough—to account adequately for everything that actually goes on under the aegis of science. A points-to-pattern model of moral theory seems even less likely to succeed. For a start: what, if anything, could it possibly mean to talk of the moral data?

“If anything”: I have myself sometimes said that “Nothing in ethics stands to general normative truths as data stands to theory in science.” I now think that is true, but understated: not that many things stand in that relation in science either, not at least if the relation is construed as the points-to-pattern model.

There is still a good question in the offing: “What is evidence in ethics?” This is a question that ethicists should ask themselves more. A bit of methodological consciousness-raising can get us away from the points-to-pattern model that, despite everything, seems all too often to be our implicit, and so uncriticized, method in ethics. Reflecting on the question may also dispel a kind of misplaced methodological guilt that ca haunt ethicists. The move from evidence to theory is supposed to be a move that begins from the facts, and ethicists have been inoculated against the very idea of “moral facts”. Facts, they think, are one thing, and values quite another.

For sure, though, philosophers have found all sorts of different (and not necessarily competing) accounts of evidence in ethics: thought-experiments and isolation tests and the method of cases, “toy” models and intuition-pumps, heuristics, and the various methods that call themselves experimental philosophy.

Two particularly important answers have been “intuitions” and “harm and benefit”; both deserve comment. My comment on the first is that philosophers’ conceptions of “ethical intuitions” have ranged from the grossly implausible to the completely trivial, with surprisingly little in the middle of the range. No one should agree that there is a special and mysteriously automatic source of directly-cognized non-inferential moral knowledge called “intuitions”. Everyone should agree that, if people just want to call our unsystematic but reflective moral beliefs “intuitions”, then they may.

My comment on the second is that too many ethicists have shied away from taking evidence of harm and benefit as evidence for ethics because, apparently, they are afraid of appearing to be consequentialists. For one thing, this seems an oddly naïve affirmation of the consequent: I can trot without being a horse, and I can use consequentialist methods without being a consequentialist. For another, taking harm and benefit as ethical evidence, evidence for moral verdicts, is not a consequentialist method anyway. Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, Anscombe, Foot, and Williams all use this method, and no one is more clearly non-consequentialist than them.

With or without the points-to-pattern model of moral theory, a kind of science-envy is often visible in much of what analytic philosophers have had to say about the question of evidence in ethics. This bias is noticeable in my list above; two items that the list should certainly contain, but doesn’t, are wow-moments, epiphanies, and stories, narratives (especially first-person ones).

I have written a book about the first of these categories (Epiphanies: an Ethics of Experience, OUP 2022). One thing that I hope is plain from that book is how much of our ethical reflection and justification in real life does not take a scientific form so much as a poetic or aesthetic one. Whatever the metaphysics of value may be, its epistemology, for us, is very often an epistemology of being presented with values, being struck by values, perhaps even being overwhelmed by them, in the way that we are struck or overwhelmed by beauty, or the otherwise dramatic, in art or nature.

The second category, that of narrative, overlaps and is continuous with the category of epiphany: most epiphanies have their full meaning only within some narrative structure, and many, perhaps most, ethically significant narratives are about—or are—epiphanies. Though some scientific explanations are clearly narrative in form, as with the San Andreas Fault, still narrative too is more naturally seen as an aesthetic or artistic category than a scientific one.

We have then a wide variety of types of evidence in ethics, and simple-minded science-envying prejudice should not be allowed to blind us to that variety, or to rob us of the epistemic opportunities that this variety creates for us.

In some cases, however, what deprives us of the truth is not scientism, but other forms of prejudice.

A particular priority is rightly given to some forms of first-person narrative as ethical evidence. It is so, for instance, with racial oppression. On the subject of slavery in the ante-bellum Confederacy, no one has more right to speak than the slaves themselves. What they say is—ceteris paribus—overriding as ethical evidence. If their owners and drivers say that being slaves didn’t really hurt them, or that being bought and sold or branded or beaten or robbed of their children didn’t really do them any harm, and so wasn’t wrong or bad, then the slaves or ex-slaves are uniquely placed to contradict this. (If they can speak at all; of course they might be too broken in spirit to have anything to say about their own predicament, or they might have gone Stockholm-syndrome about the terrible injustices that have been done to them.)

There was then—and there is now—a kind of obscene impertinence, a kind of epistemic and political shamelessness,[1] in the spectacle of comfortable affluent whites holding forth to each other about racial oppression, e.g. to deny that it existed (and exists), without giving any kind of hearing or platform to those who were and are actually oppressed; often, indeed, while actively excluding them. Shamelessness is the hallmark of this kind of exclusionary discourse; and sometimes that shamelessness can itself be a serious obstacle to those who are working to redress these kinds of epistemic injustice. As I have written elsewhere:[2]

There is a scene in the fine 2016 film Denial where Deborah Lipstadt and her lawyers are constructing their defense to a libel action brought against her by the Holocaust denier David Irving. To show, against Irving, that there was nothing fake about the Nazis’ mass murders in 1941–5, Lipstadt wants to go into the witness box herself, and she wants Holocaust survivors to testify too. Her lawyers dissuade her. It is not that she and the survivors do not have a convincing story, and one that any decent interlocutor would be ashamed and embarrassed to deny, dispute or question. The point is that Irving will not be convinced—nor ashamed, nor embarrassed—to carry on with an aggressive and skeptical cross-examination of frail and vulnerable old people who, both psychologically and physically, have lived out the rest of their lives in the shadow of the hellish nightmare of Auschwitz.

In Wittgenstein’s famous phrase [Philosophical Investigations I, 257], “see how much stage-setting must already be in place” before a “rational debate” can even begin. See, too, how some of the key stage-setting is ethical. We presuppose certain minimal standards of truth, rationality, and openness to evidence in our interlocutors… it is very difficult to discuss proofs of the reality of anything with people who will not accept the same standards of proof as any reasonable person accepts in any other debate… it is also very difficult to debate with people who do not accept the same standards of shame.  

To my mind, the trouble with a lot of the contemporary “transgender debate” is that it too is shameless. A lot of it consists of cisgender people who are intensely ideologically hostile to the very existence of transgender people, talking to each other about trans people. This happens on social media—of course—and on YouTube; it happens in arts and literary and philosophical festivals; it happens (ad nauseam) in press and parliament; it happens in philosophical journals; it happens in churches and revival meetings; it happens in government-commissioned reviews of health policy. Those who actually are transgender have no effective voice whatever in these discussions, which monotonously and consistently and systematically treat them as objects, obstacles, a problem to be eliminated as soon as possible—or indeed as a threat of some kind, a shadowy “woke mob” full of violent and perverted extremists. And if trans people try to resist this fusillade of demonizing lies, or to gain a voice in such forums, they are cold-shouldered, excluded, denounced for being “biased”, ignored, ridiculed, abused, and quite often actually threatened. All of this, it seems to me, is an abuse of the norms of ethical evidence which is both shameless, and also a terrible shame.

That is why I have written a book—Trans Figured—that aims, among other things, to present its readers with just the sort of firstperson narrative that, I argued above, should have evidential priority in such debates. To what extent will it get a hearing from those who are so intent on silencing the voices of transgender people? Well, epiphanies do happen. I live in hope.

[1] See also my ““Epistemic and political shame”, in Paul Katsafanas, ed., Fanaticism and the history of Philosophy, Routledge 2023. Online draft at (99+) Epistemic and political shame | Sophie grace – Academia.edu.

[2] Sophie Grace Chappell, Trans Figured: on being a transgender person in a cisgender world (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2024), p.35.

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The post Ethical Evidence, Ethical Experience, and Shamelessness (guest post) first appeared on Daily Nous.

Politicians need convictions

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/06/2024 - 4:45pm in

In my main YouTube video for this morning, I argue that neoliberalism has killed conviction-based politics.

The audio version is here:

This is the transcript:

Politicians need to be people with convictions.

Well, in my opinion, that's the case anyway. But we don't have people like that anymore. What we have are people who believe that politics should be kept out of society. Because their belief is that markets determine how we should allocate resources.

In other words, we should all be going into the marketplace, spending our money, and that, they say, produces an optimal outcome for us all. We should determine everything on the basis of our consumption choices. And this is the theory of neoliberalism. That's what it says we are. It says we're only consumers.

We have no other role in life.

But that's nonsense. Because what we know is that so many of the services on which we rely cannot be consumed through the marketplace. This has been known for centuries.

Try to buy fire insurance - in other words, the insurance that guarantees that a fire brigade will turn up at your house if you happen to have a fire - and you'll find it's virtually impossible to deliver on that basis because it was tried centuries ago because nobody could be sure who they needed to buy from and where the nearest suitable fire station was and on and on, it had to be provided collectively, and this was one of the first discoveries that was made about the need for government to intervene.

Defence is another obvious case in point. You can't consume defence. You have to have it collectively.

And again, this was true of the police. And once upon a time, we thought this was true of things like, well, the Post Office, and that was why the state supplied it from 1840. But apparently not anymore. We haven't even got that far with broadband these days either, which is the modern equivalent.

So, these politicians don't have a conviction as to what they should be doing in government. Their conviction is that government shouldn't be doing something.

And that's wrong. When I say wrong, I mean wrong. Because government has to be involved in making decisions about how resources are allocated to maximise the well-being, in particular, of those who can't participate in the market. Although economists assume everyone has an equal right to participate and those who don't have enough money are, well, actually by default in the political sense of neoliberalism failures - although they don't like to put it that way - the reality is that of course we know people do not have an equal right to participate in the market because they have different levels of wealth, either inherited or generated, they have different levels of ability to take part in the market, and I'm not just talking about intellectual here of course, I'm talking about the physical constraints that they might face as well, whether because of geography or some problem that they might personally have to address, which constrains their ability to earn, or they simply are unable for some other reason - like there are no jobs in their area - to partake in market-based activity.

So, therefore, they are discriminated against if politicians think that only consumption-based activity is permitted to determine their well-being. Well, that's obviously not true. It should be down to politicians to decide how these deficiencies in the market are made good. When we have politicians who think that their only job is to facilitate markets rather than to correct for market failure, we end up with conviction-free politicians.

And the big problem that we face in this country is that's exactly what Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak and their respective party leaderships now all are. They're conviction-free politicians who don't think it's their job to make decisions but who want to hand over all decision-making to markets. And that's a disaster for us all, and most especially those who are dependent upon government to make sure that their well-being is made good and who are being denied that, as is so obvious in so many ways because of the failure of the UK government to support those who are vulnerable.

It is time to end the massive government subsidy that’s being paid to the UK’s commercial banks

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/06/2024 - 4:28pm in

It is a strange moment when an idea that you have promoted suddenly moves towards the political centre stage, even if Nigel Farage is the person who is doing the pushing.

This happened yesterday when the Reform Party presented its idea to eliminate payments of interest to the UK’s commercial banks and other financial services organisations that enjoy the privilege of having a central bank reserve account balance with the Bank of England. As I have noted here many times, the payment of bank base rate on these accounts at one time cost in excess of £40 billion a year, and still costs in excess of £35 billion per annum now.

From 2009 until 2021 the payment of interest at bank base rate on these reserves was a matter of inconsequence because the base rate in question was 0.1%, and the cost was, as a result, immaterial.

Prior to 2009, the cost was immaterial because the balances on central bank reserve accounts were tiny, totalling only about £20 billion in all.

Before 2006, interest was not paid on these balances.

Andy it is important to note that these balances are not, in any significant sense, sums deposited by the banks in question with the Bank of England on a voluntary basis . The balances in question were instead created as a result of deliberate deficit funding of the economy by the government using newly created money that was spent to manage the consequences of the fallout from the global financial crisis between 2009 and 2016, and to cover the cost of the Covid crisis from 2020 to the end of 2021.

Ignore anything to do with quantitive easing, which was simply a disguise for the fact that the government had created money via the Bank to inject the economy during these periods: these central bank reserve account balances represent the total amount of money that the government did inject during these period to cover the cost of fulfilling its policies.

In total more than £900 billion was injected into the economy in this way, and these balances were recorded by the creation of what were, supposedly, deposits by the commercial bank with the Bank of England.

However, since the banks that benefited did not actually deposit any funds, but instead had these deposit balances created on their behalf by the Bank of England acting on behalf of the government, they represented a windfall to the banks in question.

That windfall turned out to be equivalent of the proverbial golden egg when the Bank of England then began to, quote unnecessarily, increased interest rates to supposedly tackle inflation from late 2021 onwards. From that time onwards, the good times began to roll for all of the banks as a result of these interest payments, enormously increasing their profits with no action on their part. I noted some of this impact here.

Let me also stress that these balances cannot be used by the banks, except to facilitate payments to each other or to the government. That is their sole purpose. This is what is called base money, and it does not circulate in the rest of the economy. It is, instead, the liquidity that has been provided by the government to ensure that the banking system can function properly by guaranteeing every bank should have sufficient funds to pay each other, come what may. This is, in effect, a practical reaction to the Northern Rock affair. This increase in bank liquidity might have been a side-effect of a necessary government policy to keep the economy going, but it has undoubtedly been beneficial in bailing out under-capitalised banks.

The downside has been it has been enormously costly to the government, and has promoted austerity economics because it has been necessary, over the last three years, to make payment of interest at inflated rates on these balances.

The Bank of England and others now argue that such payments are absolutely essential as a mechanism for the delivery of Bank of England monetary policy because, they claim, the Bank could not influence the rate of interest in the economy unless it had to pay bank base rate interest on these balances. There are numerous reasons for rejecting this argument.

The first of these is that since significant payment on these balances has only been happening for less than three years this claim is completely unsubstantiated. We do not know that this is true in the context of the British economy.

The second is that other central banks, including the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan, do not make payment on all such balances. They pay interest on a tiered basis, making full payment on part of the balances, but by no means on all of them.

Third , there is the argument that this is a windfall profit if this interest rate needs to be paid, and that in practice it should be subject to a substantial excess profits tax to recover most of that sum paid so that the banks are not unduly enriched.

Fourth, the stench of avarice underpinning the arguments that the banks should be paid cannot be avoided.

As a consequence I have made it clear that I think that the current policy is inappropriate and should be reformed, and nothing has yet changed my mind about this.

That said, I recognise that there may be (and I stress the may) some merit to the argument that interest should be paid on a part of these balances to communicate Bank of England interest rate policy and have therefore accepted some cost might still be involved.

Alternatively, I would be quite happy with a windfall tax to cancel most or all of this gain.

Best of all, I would like a substantial cut in bank base rate, certainly to nothing more than 2% now, which would also significantly ease this problem .

But what I am not convinced by is Nigel Farage’s claim that the entire sum of £35 billion being paid at present can be recovered to fund other spending. That is largely because if this is pure profit to the banks, as it would seem to be, then they do already pay tax on it and so at least £9 billion is already returned to the government, undermining his logic.

Is it, however, true that his logic is fundamentally correct and that these payments are not necessary in total? On this, I have to agree with him. It is unfortunate that he is the person to raise this issue because of his other politics, but the reality is that commercial banks have been enriched in a way that is unjustified, and is unjustifiable, and the time for reform of this policy to radically reduce this cost has arrived. A policy of tiered rates and, most likely, an excess profits tax to recover much of the remaining sum paid would make a lot of sense. Commercial banks should not be enriched by central government money creation, which statement is the beginning and end of this argument.

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