The law of demand is one of the most widely understood laws of economics: if you raise the price of something, fewer people will buy it; if conversely, if you reduce its price, more people will buy it.
The law generally holds true as long as the goods in question don’t have any special properties or constraints. However, there are a number of known exceptions, for example:
Veblen goods – expensive goods which are desirable for the status they confer on anyone rich enough to buy them. Contrary to the law of demand, demand for a Veblen good will rise as its price increases.
Giffen goods – a cheap but essential good which counter-intuitively increases in demand as its price rises. This is because, if a staple food (e.g. bread) rises in price, the poorest consumers have to stop buying more expensive foods (e.g. meat), and spend the savings on more of the cheapest good.
I hypothesise the existence of another type of good which behaves as an exception to the law of demand: a meal deal good.
I love the BBC. It’s a vital institution: not just a beloved entertainer, but one of our stalwart defences against the hegemony of the media barons. Being publicly funded, it holds a unique moral high ground, from where it should be able to resist the corrupting influence of money and hold to account those who haven’t – such as the once august Telegraph, which is apparently rotten to the core. So it was heart-breaking to read Nick Cohen’s report on how the organisation has forced out the whistleblowers who broke the Jimmy Saville story, and promoted the managers who tried to cover it up.
The BBC’s enemies – that is, every private media company – will no doubt use this as ammunition in their ongoing campaign to destroy the world’s greatest public broadcaster. Yet the problem here is not one of public funding or structure, but of private sector ethos. The BBC has become infected with the same malaise as the rest of the economy: a parasitic class of executives with soaring, apparently uncapped remuneration, but no evidence of any real leadership worth paying for.
The BBC needs less private sector thinking, not more. The actions of its whitewashing managers give the lie to the idea that you have to pay the “market rate” of hundreds of thousands of pounds to get “great leadership”. All you get is a clique of overpaid climbers whose main effort is to protect their own positions and obscene salaries.
You could pull any random Army officers out of Staff College and put them in charge of the BBC – or the Telegraph, HSBC, or any other organisation – and you’d get better, more principled leadership than from any of these self-serving shits, for little more than £50,000 per annum.
Labour is currently undergoing an ideological crisis, similar to the one the Conservative party went through between its overwhelming defeat in 1997, and the election of David Cameron as leader at the end of 2005. It has no idea what it stands for or how to persuade people to vote for it. It is haemorrhaging its core working class voters to apathy, UKIP or worse. Its leader, Ed Miliband, is a catastrophe: vilified as a union puppet by right-wing commentators, but simultaneously, completely incapable of speaking for working people or earning their trust and confidence. The fact that Labour sympathisers now wistfully imagine how much better things would have been if David Miliband had won the leadership – even though the criticisms of Ed (out-of-touch, middle-class, London, Oxbridge, career politician / policy wonk with unfortunate ties to the Blair/Brown years) apply equally well to David – shows how poor and uninspiring the potential Labour leadership pool is.
The existential plight Labour now finds itself in is a direct result of its long period of electoral failure in the ’80s, followed by its resurgence under Tony Blair in the ’90s. Continue reading →
At the time, I found the rants well-written, well-expressed, interesting and entertaining. I was glad that someone was making these arguments in mainstream media: there is such an ideological vacuum in current politics that having a genuinely passionate, radical speaker, in a primetime slot, was quite refreshing, even if it was Russell Brand.
It’s difficult to disagree with his criticism of the current, broken system, of the apathetic failure of politicians to make real changes, of their protection of corporate interests over the rights and welfare of most people. But I was more sceptical about his closing statements:
“There’s going to be a revolution. It’s totally going to happen. I ain’t got a flicker of doubt.”
The Campaign for Real Education is a pressure group which aims to raise standards in state education in the UK. It is not politically affiliated, although its proposed changes to education policy – grammar schools, a return to a ‘traditional’ teaching philosophy and increased parental choice – are more typical of right wing or conservative agendas.
The chair of the CRE is Chris McGovern. The organisation’s bio notes list his experience as including 35 years as a state school history teacher, independent school headmaster and Ofsted inspector.
McGovern appeared on BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme this morning, to discuss an academic paper published in the Economic Journal. The study analysed primary school performance data to show that, contrary to what some might expect, having a high proportion of pupils from non-English-speaking backgrounds in a school class does not reduce its performance.
I’m not going to discuss the paper, nor the CRE’s policies. I would just like to quote some of McGovern’s responses to the paper, and leave open the question of his credibility as an educational advocate.
A friend of mine was complaining today about how healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food, and implied that we wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic if things were the other way around. The suggestion is that people choose to eat unhealthy food because it’s the cheaper option; they would eat more healthily if that were cheaper instead.
That may be true to an extent, but it’s a chicken-and-egg scenario: a major reason that unhealthy food is cheap, is that it’s so popular. It’s a huge market, so producers, suppliers and retailers compete fiercely on price to get a portion of it. Also, because the market is so large, they can achieve economies of scale in the production of bad food.