In the last weekend of June, we attended the Rethinking Economics Conference organised at UCL by the grassroots student association of the same name. Rethinking Economics is a global network of students that, together with other student associations from around the world, crafted the open letter that formed the International Student Initiative for Pluralism in Economics in May 2014. The London conference brought together frustrated academics and students from numerous countries to debate the sorry state of the economics academic discipline. Adair Turner and Ha-Joon Chang made keynote addresses on either end of two days that sought on the one hand to rethink standard concepts and research methodologies, while on the other to introduce marginalised perspectives by largely heterodox-leaning economists. Curriculum reform, admitting pluralism, was the overarching objective of the conference, which clearly sought to displace neoclassical economics from the royal box of economic investigation.
On 12 June 2013, the Gava courthouse in Barcelona filed a case against Lionel Messi. The Argentinean player and his father are suspected of using companies based in Uruguay and Belize to defraud the state of more than 4 million euros. A few months earlier, Bayern Munich’s general manager Uli Hoeness and French Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac were both accused of evading taxes through undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland. Ironically, the latter was leading the fight against tax fraud in France. A number of European multinationals, such as UBS and Vodafone, have also been suspected of taking part in proven or alleged evasion schemes. These high-profile cases have raised public awareness of tax dodging in Europe and given credit to its detractors. For instance, the Tax Justice Network estimated that 20 to 30 trillion dollars are currently held in tax havens worldwide. The issue is especially sensitive for European countries in the current context: securing stable tax revenue has become an urgent priority in times of recession and high public debt. Furthermore, the existence of tax havens within Europe – including Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Channel Islands – remains a pressing challenge for the continent.
On the evening of 5 March 2013, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced the death of Hugo Chavez in Caracas. The President had been battling with cancer in Cuba and Venezuela for nearly two years. He came into office in 1999 as the first democratically elected leftwing leader in Latin America and remained President for over a decade. His funeral attracted more than 100,000 mourners, including many heads of state as well as American personalities such as Sean Penn and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson. Nicolas Maduro took over as interim President until an election is held on 14 April.
“An unexciting truth may be eclipsed by a thrilling falsehood”, Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
European economies have been facing severe difficulties since the outset of the global financial meltdown. The Eurozone crisis makes the headlines in financial publications and the mainstream media virtually every week. The accepted wisdom on economic recovery and debt reduction has rarely been questioned by journalists and policymakers. If a Martian were to land on earth – say in The Economist’s London press room – with no preconceived ideas or previous knowledge of our old continent, he would probably come to the following conclusions. In this world, Scandinavian countries like Sweden, with high taxes and bloated welfare states, cannot reverse their inevitable decline and will soon be faced with mountains of debt. Britain, he would think, is on the verge of becoming Europe’s new economic superpower thanks to a vibrant financial sector and courageous reforms undertaken by David Cameron’s coalition government since 2010. Southern European economies like Greece, Spain and Portugal are quickly recovering from recent debt crises and can expect a future of prosperity and competitiveness. And they lived happily ever after.
by Antoine Cerisier
Environmental issues have gained salience over the past decades due to greater awareness of ecological degradation and growing scientific research on climate change. The latter issue has been particularly present in the media in the last ten years. Numerous scientific reports on global warming and sea level rise have been made public; a recent World Bank publication observed a 4 degree rise in global temperatures by the end of the century “would push some countries or regions to the brink of collapse”. US politician and activist Al Gore even won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, along with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But environmentalism did not start with Al Gore and his emphatic coverage of climate change: environmental concerns lie far back in time.
It has been almost six months since French voters elected François Hollande as their new President, giving his party – Parti Socialiste – the absolute majority in Parliament several weeks later. His victory came as a great relief for those critical of the rightward shift operated by the French conservatives since Nicolas Sarkozy’s election in 2007 – which I addressed in a previous contribution to this blog. However, both Mr Hollande and his quiet Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault have been suffering from a sharp decrease in popularity in the last few weeks: more than half of French citizens seem to disagree with their policies. Part of the explanation lies in the current socio-economic context. Unemployment just hit the three million mark and is expected to rise in 2013; dire growth prospects may undermine the government’s efforts to reduce the deficit; and massive layoffs often make the news, including those incurred by the recent closure of Arcelor Mittal’s blast-furnace facilities in North-Eastern France.