Why ‘Protectionism’ will not make America Great Again

“Buy American, Hire American”, the famous one-liner from Trump’s inaugural speech that has been played over and over on (fake) news outlets worldwide. Yet a tools factory in the swing state of Wisconsin was where The Donald carried out his pledge and signed an executive order aimed at cracking down on skilled worker visa abuse and forcing US government agencies to buy more domestically produced products. The move attempts to put a surplus in the Balance of Payments back onto the list of macroeconomic objectives. Instead it adds to “The list of reasons why Trump doesn’t understand economics”.

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Economic Forecasting: Issues and Challenges

Economists have come under repeated criticism in recent years. In an era of refined economic theories supported by advanced models and tools, economists continue to face challenges in forecasting changes in the economy and forewarning crises reliably. The 2008 financial crisis, post-recession recovery and the economic impacts on the UK of the Brexit vote are three recent, high profile examples of misjudged forecasting. These events have shaken the confidence in modern economic theories and models.

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Vampires & Capitalism.

Upon hearing the term, ‘The Gothic’, our minds turn to tales of the dark, the twisted and the macabre – from Poe’s stories of death, somnambulism and premature burial to Stoker’s Dracula and Shelley’s Frankenstein, the Gothic provides an exhilarating experience of suspense, horror and disgust. Students of architecture associate the term with grandiose castellated towers, extravagant flying buttresses and vast, imposing stone structures that dwarf the onlooker. So, what is it that makes something characteristically Gothic? Literary critic David Punter defines it as “an important representation of deep-rooted social and psychological fears”, prompting our investigation into the reasons for Gothic literature’s consistent terror-invoking success since the Victorian era.

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Wall-E in the Workplace

In recent years, there has been a reemergence of the debate surrounding the susceptibility of a range of tasks currently performed by humans to advances in robotics, software and other technologies. The proliferation of the conversation surrounding this topic is highlighted by a joint study between Oxford University and Deloitte and coverage of it by the BBC. The study found that around 35% of UK jobs are currently at high risk of computerisation over the next 20 years, based on key skills required to perform these roles. That would, based on the current UK workforce, render around 11.1 million Britons unemployed, and without an income, as new jobs become increasingly difficult to find due to technological advancements. But how realistic is such a situation? And if we do find ourselves living in this dystopian future, how can the government go about ensuring the ever-increasing proportion of the population that is unemployed has sufficient income to achieve an acceptable standard of living?

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Who Deserves a Surplus?

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has been fined £84.2 million after the Competition and Markets Authority declared that the price-hike of an anti-epilepsy drug in 2012 was “excessive and unfair”. When the drug lost its patent protection, Pfizer sold the drug to Flynn Pharma, who were fined £5.2 million, where it was debranded so it was no longer subject to price regulation. The CMA accused both companies of costing the NHS and therefore the taxpayer millions of pounds. The public will be glad to see this headline but it raises the question: What is fair when it comes to economic transactions?

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Quantitative Easing, Inequality and Brexit.

The Bank of England’s governor, Mark Carney, recently appeared in Liverpool to deliver a speech about the growing inequality in the United Kingdom – a problem brought into prominence by recent political events. In this speech, he blamed the Brexit vote in June on people’s isolation and frustration with international trade and global technological advance, saying that they felt “left behind” and alienated by economic progress and the recovery from the 2008 financial crisis.

“Despite such immense progress many citizens in advanced economies are facing heightened uncertainty, lamenting a loss of control and losing trust in the system. To them, measures of aggregate progress bear little relation to their own experience. Rather than a new golden era, globalisation is associated with low wages, insecure employment, stateless corporations and striking inequalities”

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Populism. “A Growing Sense of Hostility”.

The economist Joseph Schumpeter writes in his critique of capitalism that the profit motive prompts self-interest and egotistical behaviour. The economics student assumes this to be what constitutes rationality – the assumption upon which nearly the entire discipline is based. It therefore follows that each individual in the population strives towards the greatest monetary payoff they can find, and from this derives utility, or satisfaction. In this way, individuals, organisations and firms are all destined to act in their own interests – perhaps explaining the intrinsic capitalist desire for acquisition.

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Immigration. Immigration. Immigration.

Migration plays a very significant role in the UK’s population structure, with net migration of 336,000 in 2015, including the highest number of asylum seekers for 12 years. This became an issue of political significance, which was exploited by Nigel Farage and his party to play a role in the UK’s vote to leave the European Union in June. The 2004 expansion of the EU to incorporate several Eastern European states proved a catalyst for immigration, with 1.5million Eastern European immigrants coming into the UK between 2004 and 2009. There is no doubt that high levels of immigration can have negative impacts in the UK, but there are a number of positive impacts too. Balancing out these positives and negatives is often heavily down to the perception of the person assessing them.

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A (probably wrong) Critique on Marxism.

As the antithesis to free-market economic and political theorists, there has always existed the socialist. Sometimes depicted crudely as the ‘coffee shop conspirator’, the socialist often comes under fire for expressing views that contradict the prevailing capitalist market structure. Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, a well-known advocate of traditional left-wing politics, are lambasted for believing in what many perceive to be a dying cause. This article will ask the question: is socialism (a classless society in which means of production are state-owned) attainable in our current climate?

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REVOLUTION.

Art and literature, in the Marxist’s eye, are reflections of the social institutions from which they originate. They offer a mediated understanding of the world in which they were written, and using them we can learn about how social forces interact to construct artistic and literary movements. At the same time, these forces shape the structure of the market and state – that is, the economic and political world surrounding each piece of literature.

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Artificial Intelligence vs. Economics.

The so-called “machinery question” continues to dominate the headlines, founded on fears that artificial intelligence – a technological development which enables human tasks to be automated – is advancing too rapidly. Newspaper articles, online blogs and academic studies foretell a future where “droids are sitting at our desks” while human labour falls into obsolescence. In this article I seek to respond to these concerns, but also to some of the questions that are yet to be answered – if artificial intelligence advances to a level of near-human rationality, what are the implications for the global political economy? And if it does, what happens when we cannot reliably distinguish between man and machine?

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Einstein on Creative Immagination.

There can be no doubt that Einstein’s breakthrough Theory of Relativity, one of the most significant scientific advances of our time, was conceived through his own creative processes. Indeed, Einstein himself held creativity and imagination in the highest regard, seeing them as essential attributes in the advancement of ideas. As one of the world’s most eminent physicists, his views on the vital importance of creativity have been quoted liberally by scientists, philosophers and academics alike, stressing the “importance of seeing facts in a new light” and that “imagination is more important than knowledge”.

Other scientists across the centuries have been similarly inspired by creative imaginations of their own. Professor Stephen Hawking, famed for his work on gravity and black holes, is known for urging us to “remember to look up at the stars, and not down at our feet”. But these quotations, while they pertain to the natural sciences, can just as easily be applied to the social science of economics – which is the science that I have chosen to discuss in this article. Without constantly “raising new questions, new possibilities, and regarding old problems from a new angle”, the study of economics, and indeed the world’s economies, would not be where they are today.

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Junior Doctors. Brinkmanship. Virtual Strikes.

Here we go again. As August tipped into September, the British Medical Association announced the seventh walkout by junior doctors this year over new contracts. Taking place from the 12th to the 16th of this month, all departments will be closed from 08:00 to 17:00, including Accident and Emergency. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has already warned that up to 100,000 operations and 1 million appointments would be cancelled. It can also get a lot worse as the BMA has planned monthly week-long walkouts until the end of the year if no agreement is reached. With no end in sight, is there at least a way of making the process as painless as possible for patients?

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