Some say the baby boomers have bankrupted the youth of Britain. That ever-spiralling house prices put home ownership only in the hands of the well-off with access to the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’. And that young people, rising costs, high rents and repayment of student loans mean they are not able to save for pensions and may not be able to contribute to the welfare state. Do we really have a ‘jilted generation’ or have all generations faced their distinctive problems?
Over the past six months ‘recession’ has given way to ‘recovery’. With many economic figures showing signs of improvement, and house prices rising, there’s been an increase in confidence in business and among people generally about the prospects for the British economy. How well-founded is this? Is it built on a housing bubble? And if we are in recovery, is this something that is shared widely or confined to the well-off, and to London and the South East?
What is the state of the world economy five years after the crash? Daniel Franklin, editor
of the annual Economist publication The World in 2014 and Megachange: The World in 2050 discusses economic crisis and recovery with Faisal Islam, economics editor, Channel 4 News and author of The Default Line: The Inside Story of People, Banks and Entire Nations on the Edge.
Tim Harford is senior columnist for the Financial Times, author of many books, the latest being The Undercover Economist Strikes Back, and presenter of Radio 4 Pop Up Ideas and More or Less. Often regarded as the best popular economics writer in the world, he presents here short stories about people and ideas in economics explaining clearly, simply and humorously the way in which the economics profession as a whole usually looks at the workings of the world.
The idea that the world’s centre of economic gravity is moving to the BRIC nations – Brazil, China, India and Russia – and other economies formerly known as ‘developing’ has become familiar. But what are the implications for the West of this historic shift in economic power, towards the countries with the majority of the world’s population and resources? Equally, what are the challenges and opportunities ahead for the fast-growing economies of Asia and Africa?
There is greater pressure than ever for public services to become more efficient as budgets are cut, and more responsive to the increasing and changing demands people are making on them. However, the reform of public services is politically controversial territory. What is the evidence as to how to go about these reforms? Do other countries offer useful lessons? Will an ageing population inevitably lead to big changes in what the public sector can provide?
Recent decades have brought a big increase in inequality, not just in the UK but in other countries too. Many people instinctively dislike the degree of inequality prevailing now and see it as damaging the economy, but some others continue to see it as not only unavoidable but even essential for economic growth. In what ways does inequality feed through to the economic outlook, and what is the evidence?
Five years on from the Great Financial Crisis, the question of how to prevent another widespread banking meltdown has not been definitely answered. There are arguments about every aspect of regulation, from capital requirements and competition policy to bonus structures and bankers’ ethics. Have governments and regulators done enough to safeguard us from another crisis? If not, what more needs to be done?
There are two economies in the UK, London and the rest. Yet despite the fact that the division stands out in any objective assessment, the contrasting situation and prospects of the ‘south’ and ‘north’ rarely feature in macroeconomic policy debates – or for that matter in discussions of many other areas of policy from planning to taxation. Should the government change its centralist approach? What should people in cities and regions outside London be doing for themselves?