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1 December 2011

In this week’s New Statesman: The death spiral

Is it too late to avert a British Depression? | Mehdi Hasan on Al Jazeera | Mark Mazower: Greeks vs

By Alice Gribbin


David Blanchflower: Is it too late to avert a British Depression?

In this week’s New Statesman, former Bank of England MPC member and the NS’s economics editor David Blanchflower considers whether it is possible for Chancellor George Osborne to change his course of austerity before it is too late for the British economy, or whether we are already in the “death spiral” of another recession:

The Office of Budget Responsibility members Robert Chote, Stephen Nickell and Graham Parker foolishly accepted Osborne’s claim that the economy would benefit from ‘expansionary fiscal contraction’ – in other words, that public spending cuts and austerity would lead to a resurgence in the private sector. It hasn’t happened.

He states there is “zero chance of a default“, yet, fearing whether the Chancellor has the courage or ability to change course, Blanchflower argues that the government policy “should move from deficit reduction to one of attempting to avoid the death spiral of decline – of falling growth, deflation, increased unemployment, falling living standards and ever-rising business failures.”

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Mark Mazower: Germany v Greece

In the NS Essay “Grappling with Ghosts”, leading historian Mark Mazower, professor at Columbia University and author of the award winning Inside Hitler’s Greece, describes the anti-German feelings running high in Greece, where “it is not only protesters who reach back to the era of the Nazi occupation for analogues with the present”.

The austerity measures decided on by Angela Merkel “may indeed be reducing Greece to penury,” writes Mazower, though the outrage felt by Germans at the invocations of the war is, in fact, “because they feel they are trying to act exactly as the Nazis did not”. Yet – Mazower recognises – these are different times:

The absence of armies in the entirely unfolding euro-saga is so obvious to us that we ignore its historical meaning . . . Our troubles [today] are caused by an addiction to cheap credit . . . enabled by the greed of bankers and the deliberate liberalisation of financial flows.

Mehdi Hasan vists Al Jazeera

In “Voice of the Arab spring”, Mehdi Hasan travels to Doha, Qatar, to visit the headquarters of Al Jazeera, the TV and internet news network owned by an absolute monarch yet hailed as an independent voice in the Middle East. Hasan asks the managing director of Al Jazeera English and former ITN journalist Al Anstey how often he is rung up by members of the ruling family: “Never.”

Anstey doesn’t budge:

We are not a mouthpiece [for Qatar]; we are not a tool of public diplomacy. We have come here as journalists to carry out the profession of journalism.

Elsewhere in the New Statesman

In the NS Interview, Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw, physicists and co-authors of the new book The Quantum Universe, tell Helen Lewis-Hasteley why Britain is the most efficient scientific nation in the world, how the scientific method is unarguable (“. . . because we’re not in fucking caves!”) and why the best way to teach quantum physics is to think like children.

All this plus Mark Serwotka, leader of the Public and Commercial Services Union, defends the largest strike in a generation; Helen Lewis-Hasteley is disturbed and astonished by the testimonies delivered to the Leveson inquiry; Rafael Behr argues that, following George Osborne’s gray-washed Black Tuesday, Ed Miliband must step up to prove the coalition wrong; nature writer Richard Mabey offers the first in an occasional series of “seasonal diaries”, and Owen Sheers shares a new poem, “The Carriage Horses: Manhattan”.

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