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Cooking the Books

Cooking the Books: More Unequal Than Croesus

A study into social inequality throughout human history and prehistory published in the journal Nature concluded – or, rather, confirmed, since this is generally accepted – that it was the adoption of agriculture that permitted social inequality to come about and to take off. In previous, hunter-gatherer societies, as the researchers noted, there were 'not a lot of opportunities for people to have more than others' (Times, 16 November).

Cooking the Books: Free is Cheaper

 In 1964 a group of American liberal intellectuals calling themselves the Ad Hoc Committee on the Triple Revolution submitted to President Johnson, on their own initiative, a set of proposals to deal with the impact of what was then called 'cybernation'. They argued that the coming of machines that didn't require a large labour force to operate them would lead to increasing unemployment and so less paying demand for goods and services. To remedy this, they proposed to break the link between income and having a job by instituting a guaranteed income for everyone, employed or not.

Cooking the Books: More Hot Air About Banks

'Shock data shows that most MPs do not know how money is created' Guardian columnist Zoe Williams began her article (29 October). She was publicising the results of a survey of MPs by the banking reform group Positive Money which claimed that it showed that '85% were unaware that new money was created every time a commercial bank extended a loan, while 70% thought that only the government had the power to create new money.'

This reflects not the assumed ignorance of MPs, who actually got it right, but the confused use of the word money. This is now used to describe two different monetary phenomena. First, what in America is called 'fiat money', money issued by administrative decision by the state as notes and coins and electronically. Second, what used to be called 'bank credit', loans banks make to businesses and individuals. This is now called 'bank money', so banks are regarded as 'creating money' every time they make a loan.

Cooking the Books: The 'Engels pause'

'Engels pause' is the name given by an economic historian, Robert C. Allen, to the period in Britain when Engels wrote his Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. It was brought up by David Smith, the Economics Editor of the Sunday Times, in an article in the Times (4 October) discussing the flurry of defences of private enterprise capitalism provoked by Corbyn's speech at the Labour Party Conference.

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