Emotion Trumps (sometimes)

RP Eddy pointed me at this article about emotional intelligence not always being a good thing. It made me think about Donald Trump. The interesting thing about America’s forty-fifth president is that he has proven to have an awareness of and insight into the emotional life of American voters that others (certainly not the Clinton campaign) simply do not possess.

But his big weakness is also that he is so emotionally sensitive. Look at his demeanour at the press event with Angela Merkel. Did the usually sober Frau Dr Merkel hide in a cupboard and shout ‘boo’ at him, or make ‘comrade’ jokes? Something had deeply upset him. The same week, Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister called out Trump’s immigration policies to his face (though in a nice friendly way) and he wasn’t fazed at all.

This week, the Telegraph reports that “According to US officials Mr Trump acted from his gut after seeing horrific pictures of child victims in Idlib.” And further: “The signal was unmistakable – if he finds something unacceptable, anywhere in the world, he will not hesitate to use force.”

No one doubts the horrors in Syria. But if you are putting America First, and American interests are not directly at stake, then why get involved? It is an emotional decision, not a rational one. The signs are that the consequences have not really been thought through.

Housing 160,000 more people in Dublin

There is a somewhat lily-livered leader in the Irish Times today about housing. I say that because it is big on telling us what we must avoid, but it doesn’t face up to what we do in order to avoid it. There are some ‘right-on’ ideas about the government having to play more of a role, but that’s about it.

There is a shortage of houses. Dublin’s population is growing at a pretty fast clip, and has been for decades, through good times and bad. There are 160,000 more people in the county than there were 10 years ago, and yet we have build hardly anything. We could easily absorb 100,000 extra housing units in Dublin.

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2016: the year the dream came through.

Osama bin Laden’s dream came through in 2016. This was the year that 9/11 and 7/7 turned out to have been a complete and resounding success for Al Quaeda. America is now in the hands of an unsteady reactionary. Britain is abandoning the union which sealed peace in Europe. The whole middle east is rife with miitary, economic and political turmoil and is the site of a confrontation between the old superpowers.

What’s an algorithm, what’s the problem?

I was at re:publica the other day and someone confidentially asked me: what exactly is an algorithm. Why is Frau Merkel herself upset and concerned? So here’s the understandable explanation.

In the old days, decisions of all sorts were made wholly by humans. If you applied for a loan, for instance, the bank would look at your proposal, but also look at who you were. Had they heard of you or your family? What is your background? And so on.

But then something new happened.

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Why the government is right to subsidise first-time buyers

The government is not giving a grant to first-time homeowners in order to make them more affordable. Every economic and political correspondent should print this out on an A2 sheet and stick it above their bed.

The purpose of the grant (or any subsidy) is to increase the supply. In the economic jargon, this is ‘moving the supply curve to the right’. And subsidising new housing by five percent should have that effect, and reasonably fast. Continue reading

Budget gobbledygook

Another year, another budget. However, budget figures are largely impenetrable.

Tax is a great thing. We are all lucky to live in a society where we trust each other enough to contribute to a centralised pool of services that are beneficial to everyone and where taxes are collected and spent by a democratic government. Continue reading

7 impossible things before brexit

To go ahead with ‘hard Brexit’ in good conscience, the British government needs to believe all of the following:

  1. That introducing trade tariffs on trade with neighbours can make Britain into a great trading nation
  2. That the EU will let the UK sell goods and services into Europe without agreeing to follow European rules
  3. That international trading partners will slight the EU in order to hold preemptive trade negotiations with Britain
  4. That London’s banking centre can thrive without full access to the European Union
  5. That foreign manufacturers like Toyota and Nissan are too firmly entrenched to move out of Britain.
  6. That the UK isn’t dependent on EU labour to any great degree
  7. That Scotland will stay in the Union no matter what

Leader writers at the Telegraph might pretend to believe some of these things two or three days a week, but even the most hardened eurosceptic knows that at least some of these things are definitely not true. If even one of these things turns out not to be the case, it will mean a major recession at best, and the collapse of the United Kingdom at worst.