How significant are geographical factors on economic growth?

Economic growth is affected by a number of factors given the wildly different levels of wealth between countries – the 80:20 principle states that 20% of the world’s population controls 80% of the world’s wealth is a powerful example of this. Whilst there is plenty that can be done to stimulate the development of a country, such as China’s booming manufacturing base, it is worth exploring the idea that some countries may have a cap put on their development by factors they cannot control. This may be the problem of being located on a major fault line, in an area prone to drought and desertification, or even being landlocked and therefore being limited on trade. Whilst there are a number of ways for measuring development, for the purposes of this piece of writing, it will be measured in GDP per capita.

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Junior Doctors: Brinkmanship and 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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Schumpeter’s economic problems

We learn about supply, demand and the price mechanism. We learn about the “invisible hand”, and how a market should work within the parameters of “perfect competition” – an unattainable ideal upon which most mainstream economic theories are based. But, unbeknownst to many in the classroom, there are other ways of thinking aside from the somewhat conventional “Neoclassical” school of thought. This article aims to be a very brief insight into the writings of Joseph Schumpeter, who approached economics from an entirely new perspective. Although his propositions have their flaws, it is his originality that makes him one of the greatest but most underappreciated economists of the 20th century.

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Parliamentary Sovereignty and Europe’s Limitation on It

Parliamentary supremacy is the idea that parliament is the supreme law making body in the UK. The authority for this power stems from Article IX of the 1689 Bill of Rights which states that the freedom of speech, debates and proceedings in parliament are not to be impeached or questioned in any court or outside of parliament. The principle of parliamentary sovereignty was further defined by Dicey in 1885 who explained that the law making powers of parliament are unlimited, the validity of parliament and its laws cannot be questioned and that it is impossible to entrench an Act of Parliament limiting the law making power of future parliaments.

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The Impossible Art of Taxation

Tax will always be a touchy subject for all politicians; it eventually comes down to trying to annoy the least amount of people when trying to fiddle with rates or tax credits. So it would surely come as a relief to have some economic theory backing you up when facing the pitchforks? Wouldn’t it?

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Oil, tax and theft: the dubious economics behind ISIS

Islamic State as an economy

Already labelled “the best funded terrorist organisation of all time”, ISIS has prospered so much financially that it can almost be thought of as an economy in its own right. Since its creation in 1999, the enrolment of 20,000 jihadists from Asia, Africa and Europe has been paramount in keeping the organisation alive, along with stockpiles of oil in Iraq, and various other dubious activities which have bolstered its financial success. Yet will ISIS be able to maintain this level of income in years to come?

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The Next Financial Crisis

In late 2007 the US housing bubble burst, reducing confidence in the financial system, and then in the real economy. Four key stages are identifiable; an asset price bubble, a shock strong enough to burst the bubble, pessimism among investors, and then a recession. Escaping one of these stages, requires brave and active policy making – or extraordinary circumstances.

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The Economic Possibilities of Our Grandchildren.

We find ourselves in similar times to those in which the Cambridge economist, John Maynard Keynes, (1883-1946) wrote his essay ‘Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren’ 1 (1930). It is an essay of predictions, unusually for ‘the master’, some of which are wrong. But it is only the inaccuracies that make the essay worth revisiting. Continue reading

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A History of Art

This account of the history of art, specifically visual art, will be patchy and Eurocentric, rather than comprehensive, and vague rather than precise. But I do hope for it to be somewhat insightful.

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2015/16 Floods: What does this mean for the future of the UK?

On the 12th November 2015 the UK was hit by the first of a series of storms. Storm Abigail hit with maximum wind gusts of 84mph and brought with it heavy rain. The immediate result was power cuts to nearly 20,000 homes in Scotland. In the following three months the UK was hit with a further eight storms. The costs of these consecutive storm events project an uncertain future for the UK.

Recently released data from the Met Office makes December 2015 the wettest calendar month on record (in a series from 1910). In December the storms that hit were Desmond, Eva and Frank. Record breaking rainfall of 341.4mm of rain in 24 hours (Honister Pass, Cumbria) was brought by Storm Desmond. The resulting floods flooded 5200 homes across Lancashire and Cumbria. 43,000 homes across north-east England were without power and on 5th December 61,000 homes in Lancaster lost power when an electrical substation was flooded. Since then there has been more homes flooded, with estimates reaching 16,000. The flooding of farmland and homes has cost the government, and thus the taxpayer, massive amounts of money.

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Happiness from First Principles

Putting any theological or heterodox philosophical opposition aside, I am confident in saying; the only process that ‘designed’ the most fundamental biology and physiology of humans, was evolution. That is, all of our hardwired features exist–as if they had been designed by a god–to ensure survival in the environment in which our species developed. However, excluding some run-down areas in the north of England, the environment we inhabit today hardly resembles the prehistoric one our species developed in. We are hardwired to enjoy sugar because our ancestors would have needed its energy, we enjoy sex (even with contraceptives!) because our ancestors needed several kids in the hope that any would survive, and males find large breasts attractive because they are a reliable indicator of fertility–not because they are shallow. Continue reading

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Hiroshima: Was It ‘Necessary’?

J. Samuel Walker wrote, on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945, that ‘The fundamental issue that has divided scholars . . . is whether the use of the bomb was necessary to achieve victory in the war in the Pacific on terms satisfactory to the United States.’1 This piece tries to solve the ‘fundamental issue’—was the bomb necessary from Washington’s perspective? Continue reading

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Future of Physics: Quantum and Space

Of the physical sciences, most people see physics as having the least potential. Physics has had many advancements in the past which has changed the world. Mechanical laws and formulas enable us to make better products and understand have to move objects and vehicles more effectively. Energy and transfers of energy make efficiency understandable and make sure we provide only enough power to products that need. Electricity has allowed for more environmentally friendly, more flexible and widespread industrial and consumer products that require energy, either for short amounts of time and extended periods. Great scientific discoveries do not seem to be coming from physicists in the quantities of other sciences, nor previous periods of physics.

When thinking about the future of physics (or conversing with other would-be scientists looking to go into chemical or biological fields) it is often hard to think of where the world/life changing discoveries, inventions and associated funding will come from. Upon pondering this topic for a while (and wishing to talk about both the two fields) I came to conclusion that physics has a lot of room to move, but quantum physics and astrophysics are areas with the greatest potential.

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The Paris Agreement, a landmark success or another lenient failure?

The 21st Conference of Parties (COP) was held at Le Bourget, Paris between the 30th November and 12th December 2015. It was convened with the aim of producing a new, legally-binding agreement that commits every country, from all stages of development, to reducing emissions in order to mitigate against the impending climatic catastrophe. At the 2009 COP 15 in Copenhagen, generally regarded as a failure, governments also convened with the aim to create a similarly legally-binding deal. However, it culminated with the USA and BASIC countries drafting a non-legally binding agreement, the Copenhagen Accord. This agreement incorporated countries responsible for 80% of the world’s pollution [1] and its failure to be legally-binding and applicable to all countries greatly increased the importance of the climate talks in Paris (COP 21). The four previous COPs and in particular the ‘Lima Call for climate action”, devised at COP 20 (Lima 2014) [2], laid the foundations for the Paris talks. There was a renewed sense of optimism that the talks would prove successful. At 18:26 on 12th December 2015 (the day after the Conference’s original finish date) this optimism was rewarded when Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister brought his gavel down on COP 21, announcing that the Paris Agreement, a new climate deal, had been adopted.

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Such are the vicissitudes in the pursuit of wisdom

“The majesty of inculcated virtue whenceforth,

shall never be sullied by the proud men of action!”

expound our forebears with liveliness and intent,

“For the dark crevice whence the evil propensities of volition arose,

has been everlastingly vanquished, never to regain tenacity!”

Such are the vicissitudes in the pursuit of wisdom.


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