How can the EMS crisis of 1992-93 crisis help the Eurozone today? Part 2

In my previous post I began by drawing some similarities between the EMS currency crisis of 1992-3 and the current Euro zone crisis today. This piece is a continuation of that discussion. I shall be elucidating further details on the EMS and shedding further insight on how the damage from the current crisis could have been reduced significantly.  

The Cypriot banking system not fared well throughout this episode.
The Cypriot banking system not fared well throughout this episode.

The Delors report draws similarities to the Werner Plan[1] of 1969. Both proposals advocated for the idea of a united European union that would allow the movement of capital and labour to move with considerable ease, which in turn would be facilitated by the adoption of a common currency. Both documents are therefore imperative to the realization of the EMU. The current crisis in the Euro zone highlights some of the shortcomings of the proposals. Some of the recommendations that were encouraged in the Delors report could be viewed as potential reasons as to why the Euro zone is in a precarious position today. Firstly, the Delors report suggested the establishment of a European System of Central Bank (ESCB). Although it was and remains an exogenous agent of the European economic system, the similarities of other central banks stops there. Arguably, one of the most critical features of most a central banks is the fact that most central banks are the lender of last resort. The current Euro zone crisis has highlighted what can now be viewed retrospectively as a limitation within the Delors proposal. French monetary authorities have argued that the current Euro zone crisis could be aided significantly if the ESCB could buy Euro zone debt.

“The best way to avoid contagion in countries like Spain and Italy is an intervention or an announcement that a lender of last resort could intervene.” (Baroin 2011)

German authorities are notoriously opposed to debt monetization because of the inflation and therefore potential hyperinflationary pressures it could bring to the common currency. Therefore, the current crisis is a reflection that the ESCB do not have enough monetary control the deal with a crisis of this magnitude.

Both monetary and fiscal harmonization was not only a goal; it was a necessity if European ministers were to achieve their aim of a closer economic zone. If one is to critically assess the Delors report, it could be argued that there may have been too much of an emphasis on monetary integration and evidently not enough focus on fiscal integration. The Maastricht Treaty[2] however identified the need for fiscal stability within Europe and the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) made several recommendations in order to promote both monetary and fiscal stability. Dimitri Syrrakos suggests that the SGP would prevent nations from needlessly resorting to certain monetary policies that could undermine the creditability of the common currency

“Once the countries were eligible to participate in the single currency they would not resort to policies based on monetary laxity, as this would damage the credibility of the new currency.”

The intentions of the SGP were understandable; any union that would amalgamate several contrasting economies needed a stringent fiscal framework in order for it to function appropriately. If we analyse the current EMU crisis, the authenticity of the SGP is in question because strict sanctions were to be imposed on any nation who did not adhere to the ‘strict’ conditions set by the EU. If this were the case then several nations including Germany, Italy and Greece in particular would have been punished appropriately for their fiscal mismanagement. Former UK Prime Minister John Major speaking to the Financial Times in November 2011 suggests that:

“Southern states over indulged on low interest-rates and racked up debts. When Germany and France over-stepped the criteria without any penalty by the commission, the criteria became toothless.”

It is fair to suggest with hindsight that sanctions on nations who had failed to abide by the framework set by the EMU would have almost minimalised the severe economic damage that has beset the Eurozone today. Had sanctions been imposed some ten years ago, or even five, then the severe problems that appear only to be appearing now could have been dealt with then.

 GDP to debt ratio (%) 2007-2010









































With regards to the realization of the EMU, the SGP was implemented in 1997, ten years before the data range in the table. Despite a prerequisite of national debt being less than 60% of GDP levels, the table highlights the inability of Euro zone members failing to deal with nations not following the fiscal framework. This tacit failure to impose sanctions on members allowed certain members continue to let national debt to grow until it became an apparent and uncontrollable problem, hence, the systemic failure of the system itself. Clive Cook is one of several commentators who have critical views on not only the SGP, but of EU governance in general,

Remember the EU’s vaunted Stability and Growth Pact of 1997, which supposedly put limits on public borrowing — and which Germany, by the way, violated? The same syndrome is evident today. Write a new rule now, worry about enforcing it later. This has been the hallmark of EU governance.”

Moreover, this has been a consistent theme that has underpinned EU and Euro zone governance. Despite apparent mechanisms being in place to prevent severe economic shocks, Euro zone nations appear to have repeated the same systemic errors, the only difference with the EMS crisis of 1992 and the current crisis is the severity, the current crisis however appears to be of a much greater magnitude.

The fundamental aim of the EMU was to integrate several economic zones, politically and more importantly economically in order to reduce exchange-rate uncertainty and provide a zone of cohesion as opposed to a network of conflicting monetary and fiscal interests. A solution to the current Euro zone crisis is not only the desire of policy makers, but it is a fundamental requirement because if the Euro zone were to collapse, the consequences would be catastrophic. Fiscal harmonization is required if the current Euro zone crisis is to be resolved, this was the case following the collapse of the EMS. The EMU may be politically viable because it has increased European integration, economically however it may appear no more than a ‘utopian’ idea. Dinan suggests the necessity of EMU was “debatable on economic grounds.” (Dinan 2005). Following the failure of the EMS, ministers appeared to recognize the errors that had damaged the economic system, and, policy appeared to identify the errors that had damaged the European economy. What is ironic about the current crisis is that there are a number of policy issues designed to prevent the problems that realistically could destroy the entire EMU or even the EU. Had the SGP rules been implemented, the problems that have only come to fruition in the last two years or so would have been tackled. The Euro zone crisis is an extraordinary economic crisis, whatever the outcome, European economics will never be the same again.

[1] The Werner Plan could be seen as the prerequisite of the Delors report of 1989. They share similar themes and raise a number of concurrent issues, however, the adoption of the Werner plan’s proposals and subsequent dismissal in 1973 does suggest that Europe was not ready to adopt such proposals.

[2] The Maastricht treaty was based on the Delors Report and the main objective was to complete the market integration with the creation of the common currency.

Are these the men who made us fat?

The 10 major food companies
The 10 major food companies

The Men Who Made Us Fat aired last year on BBC. It discusses obesity levels around the world, stating that two thirds of Britons are overweight and undernourished. The picture above shows a mushroom cloud of ten leading firms above their respective subsidiaries. Many of the firms pictured above are featured.


Is Justice Reinvestment a viable solution to the UK Prison Crisis? Part 1


The following is part one of a special look at the prison system in the UK. The prison population is near full capacity and incarcerating criminals is an arduous and expensive process. Justice Reinvestment seeks to allocate resources away from building and funding of prisons and looks to invest resources into greater societal schemes that could prevent crimes in the long term.

Justice Reinvestment (JR) is a simple concept, reallocating resources away from prisons and investing funds into societal schemes. The resources invested are aimed at eradicating the problems that lead onto criminal activity before they manifest. That should result in the long-term reduction of the number of incarcerations. The prison system in general is wasting resources and failing to tackle the long-term problem of reoffending.

There are currently 84,000 prisoners in the UK, full capacity, despite household and violent crime falling by 46% since 1995. Sentencing has not followed in the same direction. The inverse relationship between the drop in crime and rise in incarcerations highlight the odd relationship between high sentencing and fall in crime. Crime has fallen yet more people have been sent to jail.

Clearly the current prison situation is both inefficient and ineffective as greater emphasis should be devoted to criminal prevention rather than punishment, tackling the act once it has occurred may “solve” the crime, but the greater problem of why an individual or group have committed the crime itself highlights the need for a substantially greater understanding of crime prevention. The current prison system does not tackle crime prevention very well.

Philanthropist George Soros and his firm Open Society first expressed concerns with regard to similar problems within the US penal system, Allen and Stern suggest,

“George Soros has been questioning the cost of maintaining the current unprecedented level of imprisonment in the US and asking whether a redirection of resources away from criminal justice and into social, health and educational programmes might not make a more effective long term contribution towards creating safer and stronger communities.” (Justice Reinvestment – A New Approach to Crime and Justice 2007)

The concerns raised here share similarities to those being expressed in the UK, hence why JR could provide a realistic solution to the current penal crisis.

The prison crisis in the UK is the manifestation of both the latter stages of the John Major government (1990-1997) and more significantly Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. (1997-2010.) The manifesto promise of not only being tough on crime and more significantly the causes of crime, the current prison crisis has not benefitted from their efforts.

“On crime, we believe in personal responsibility and in punishing crime, but also tackling its underlying causes – so, tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime, different from the Labour approach of the past and the Tory policy of today.” (Labour 1995)

The idea of JR would appear to adhere to the Labour manifesto of 1995 that promised to act on the causes on criminal activity. The proactive approach is likely to provide remarkable knowledge on reoffending. The data could prove pivotal for identifying patterns and relationships between the criminal and their background. Identifying certain traits in societal behaviour would provide insightful knowledge on reoffending and resources would be in place to tackle it directly.

The crisis could be viewed as a simple problem of demand being greater than supply. Half of all prisoners reoffend. This has increased pressure on the prison system to reduce overcrowding so that prisons not only punish, but educate, rehabilitate and reform prisoners so that they can reintegrate themselves back in society reformed and not reoffend. Currently, resources are at full capacity and the prisons are struggling to provide those services due to the sheer numbers of incarcerated. The revolving door culture with criminals is putting further strain on the troubled economy. JR provides insight in reducing the long-term problem of high reoffending. This is by no means a short-term solution; it requires a more long-term approach and immediate reoffending rates are not likely to fall dramatically. However, what JR would provide is an in depth understanding of the why reoffending is so high.

No room left.
No room left.

For several years tough on crime or zero tolerance translated into imprisoning record numbers of criminals. Also, building more prisons appeared to offer the solution to the growing demand for prison space. All of this occurred whilst criminal activity was falling. In hindsight, it would appear that the government at the time appeased the general public’s call for the justice system to be tough on crime. JR would provide a viable alternative to the current problem, which would appear to be a problem with central legislation and the general short-sightedness of politics in the UK, local government require much greater micro control over released prisoners. With greater control, local authorities could look to improve certain areas that are disproportionally represented in prisons and look for those funds to help improve the affected regions. It may seem unlikely at this point, due to the scope of the project. Nonetheless, stiffer discussions in Parliament should take place. The most recent reshuffle saw David Cameron remove Kenneth Clarke and replace him with Chris Grayling. Many view this move a political move to the right. Clarke was rather too ‘liberal’ for many Tories who favour a hardline approach. Robert Winnet of The Telegraph suggests

“His [Ken Clarke] pro-European stance and relatively liberal views towards criminal justice have brought him into conflict with Mr. Cameron and other senior Tories” 

In addition, for true justice, emotion (which public opinion is mainly driven by) must be removed in order to maintain the authenticity and the impartiality of Justice. However, the nature of the political system in the UK requires politicians to be rather myopic with long-term decisions.  This emphasizes why JR could offer a viable solution for the capacity problems in the UK.

Albertson and Fox highlight the fact that public opinion appears to at least be shifting towards policies that would appear to support many of the ideas and suggestions that are presented in the Justice Reinvestment proposal.

“The public do not rank prison highly as a way of dealing with crime. Most think that offenders come out of prison worse than they go in.”

What this shows is that the public is aware of some of the immediate concerns regarding the penal system, reinforcing the need for desperate reform. By the same token however, there does appear to be a ‘stubbornness’ or lack of understanding from large sections of the public with regard to criminal justice and members still believe that sentences are too soft. The former Justice secretary Kenneth Clarke nonetheless was advocating for substantial change to the current penal system. In an interview with The Times in 2011 he not only expressed concerns over the cost of the current penal system, but also the conditions of prisons in general.

“Prisons are financially unsustainable. It is just very, very bad value for taxpayers’ money to keep banging them up and warehousing them in overcrowded prisons where most of them get toughened up.”

Whilst Clarke’s concerns regarding the aggregate cost of the prison system in the UK is justified due to the current state of the UK economy, implementation of Justice Reinvestment would require centralized power from national government being transferred to local government. This would involve “substantial transfer of funds.” (Allen and Stern 2007) The criminal system and local governments are not exempt from the public sector cuts. This outlines why JR moves funds around, rather than demand more. So it is a question of where those funds go.

Clarke’s main concerns appear to be surrounding the aggregate cost of the current penal system, it does display why the current system is simply not sustainable. JR explicitly states that local authorities will have greater micro control over how funds are utilised. In theory at least, this would present a viable alternative to the current, unsustainable system.

In part 2 I shall look into the prison population further, look at JR in more detail and arguments against JR. 

How can the EMS crisis of 1992-93 crisis help the Eurozone today?

Norman Lamont on Black Wednesday
Norman Lamont on Black Wednesday

Learning from the past is often the best way to prevent future tragedies but the similarities between the EMS crisis of the early 1990s and the current Euro zone crisis is uncanny. I think there are certainly lessons that should have been learnt from that episode that should have reduced some of the damage the Euro zone is facing today. This is part one of a two part special on the lessons the EU should have learnt from the EMS crisis. 

The fundamental aim of the European Monetary System (EMS) was to consolidate the process of monetary integration amongst member states through monetary stability. Increased economic stability would ensure relatively smooth movement of capital, goods and services that would lead to increased intra-national trade. Additionally, the EMS was devised in order to establish a coherent system in which exchange-rate fluctuations were centralized and reduced in order to promote and maintain stability within the European Union. EU members were advocating for a system of governance that would establish economic cohesion, minimalize exchange-rate uncertainty and safeguard themselves from external shocks. The EMS system could be seen because of the failure of the Bretton Woods system that left many European nations somewhat disillusioned with a scheme that placed international monetary fundamentals in the direct control of the United States.

The EMS comprised of two main mechanisms, firstly there was the creation of an artificial unit of account named the European Currency unit (ECU) and a fixed exchange-rate system named the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). The ECU was a unit of account rather than a medium of exchange, although, it shared the similarities of a common currency, no coins or notes were issued. In effect, it was an accounting unit, which all member currencies were expressed. Nations were allowed to fluctuate within the specific limits of ±2.25%. Additional features of the EMS included the Divergence Indicator and The System of available Credit Facilities. The Divergence indicator was measured in terms of ECU to enhance economic coordination. Hence, it measured the divergence of a nation’s given market rate with the central rate. Despite the system of available credit never coming to fruition, the ECU, ERM and the divergence indicator were mechanisms designed to enhance economic integration and more specifically exchange-rate stability amongst member states.

The importance of the ERM cannot be understated because the very nature of the EMS was to strengthen monetary integration by enhancing stability for member nations. Thus, the systemic failure of the mechanism is arguably the most significant factor contributing to the EMS crisis. The ERM adopted an asymmetrical system in which the Deutsche Mark became the reserve currency, in effect, the members of the ERM handed substantial monetary control to the German monetary authorities. Germany assumed a role similar to that of the United States in the Bretton Woods arrangement. Because monetary authority was effectively concentrated with Germany, when its own domestic interests conflicted with that of other ERM members, it caused severe economic shocks. Both Jones (2001) and Copeland (2005) concur to the suggestion that the domestic economic issues in Germany caused the greatest threat to ERM stability and thus the EMS came under severe threat.

“Because the DM was the linchpin of the system, the fate of the ERM was greatly influenced by developments in the German economy.” (Jones 2001, 56)

The reunification of both German states had severe economic consequences on the ERM members. Firstly, the amalgamation of a large and wealthy nation with a small and less economically developed one had an impact on West German current account. In order to make the transition function, the West German government transferred savings revenue to the East, and the government budget deficit rose from 5% to 13.2%. (Weerapana 2004, 4). This reduction in economic power as a result of the increased structural deficit forced the Bundesbank to increase interest rates in order to reduce inflationary pressure. Unemployment in the UK in 1990 (the year in which they joined the ERM) was 7.1% (Eurostat 1990). Because the UK had effectively handed monetary control to the German authorities in the sense that exchange-rates were determined by the ERM as oppose to the UK government, there was very little in terms of expansionary monetary policies that the UK could adopt.

Moreover, it is likely that the Conservative government at the time would have opted to devalue the Sterling in order to stimulate export demand, which would have increased economic growth through high levels of investment and thus job creation. However, this was not the case and it highlights one of the main problems with the ERM, conflicting monetary interests from nations with contrasting monetary agendas. The dominant German authorities had no incentive to reduce interest rates; the reunification process meant that saving revenue had to be released in order to bring the East German economy to a competitive level, hence high interest rates in order to reduce the internal government deficit. Furthermore, this is a clear example of one of the mechanism’s fundamental macroeconomic failures; it was created in order to establish economic cohesion through marginalizing exchange-rate fluctuations but it left the UK facing high levels of unemployment and high interest rates, due to the lack of economic stability because of a conflict in economic agendas.

On Wednesday 16 September 1992 the UK was forced to withdraw it’s currency from the ERM. Not only did this event drive market confidence extremely low, mainly because of the interest rate fluctuations, which in turn lead to speculative attacks[1] on the currency, it also had severe economic consequences for the domestic economy. McDonald and Dearden suggest the UK currency was increasingly vulnerable to speculative attacks:

”For the UK, international investors watched as growing political pressure to address the recession forced the Government into a series of interest-rate cuts between October 1990 and September 1992.” (McDonald and Dearden 2005, 90)

There are various similarities with the present crisis. If Greece were to leave the Eurozone and affectively the EU, the costs of such a decision may be politically detrimental, but economically beneficial. When the UK left the ERM the decision damaged their economy in the short-run, unemployment levels were high and investment confidence was low, the years following however, saw the economy recover rapidly. Figure1.1 displays the steady fall in unemployment after 1992.


Monetary integration had always been an objective for European nations. In order to establish and maintain economic stability within Europe and particularly the EMS zone, domestic nations had to merge monetary policies in order for their goals to be achieved. Hitiris suggests that four fundamental principles were adopted in order for this process to occur; free trade in goods and services and free mobility of capital and labour.” (Hitiris 2003, 128) Domestic currencies could therefore be viewed as a barrier to achieving these economic goals. The realization of an economic monetary union was perhaps best formulated in Jacques Delors[2] report of 1989. The report made several recommendations to improve the efficiency of European monetary affairs through the convergence of macroeconomic affairs. The general theme of the Delors report was clear, the extension of a united economic European union, with little or no barriers preventing the flow of capital between member states.

[1] The most famous example of an individual profiting on short-sell Sterling was George Soros who profited just over $1billion on ‘Black Wednesday.

[2] Jacques Delors was the President of the European Commission from 1985-1995. It was under his premiership that a proposal for a common European

currency and more importantly, a European monetary union was to established. He was the first President to serve three terms.


Do right wing parties become more popular during economic downturns?

Golden Dawn: Their sharp rise has occurred during the worst economic crisis since The Great Depression
Golden Dawn: Their sharp rise has occurred during the worst economic crisis since The Great Depression

Clearly the global economy is disarray. Several large economies around the world have still not resumed their pre crisis levels of output and that does not appear to be changing anytime soon. This has several consequences, unemployment across the world, especially in Europe is high, people have less disposable income so spending levels are lower and there seems to be rising support for right wing politics. This has led me to ask a question: do right wing political parties become more popular during periods of economic upheaval? My answer is yes.

Economic stagnation or downturns are periods in which more people lose their homes, credit is harder to obtain, several businesses close down, unemployment & underemployment rise and disposable income is reduced. They occur during an economic upturn, however, the positivity during an upturn far outweighs the negativity, so the effects are minimalized. So if we take the UK for example and we look back during Tony Blair’s premiership, the economy was booming during most of his time, with exception to the downturn of the early 2000s, (dot com bubble) post 2002 the economy is performing well. At the time Britain was pro E.U. and pro immigration and a lot people were contempt to allow migrant workers to come to Britain. Nobody can escape the UKIP hysteria; they were often ridiculed as just another political party whose views on immigration and E.U. membership were extreme. Now Nigel Farage has David Cameron looking over his shoulder. The progress UKIP have made since the credit crunch has been nothing short of remarkable. In this age where the main political parties have lost connection with several disillusioned members of the public, UKIP represent boldness and consistency. But their views are more acceptable during a time of economic disarray. They are saying nothing different from ten years ago, they were anti-E.U. then and they are now. They were anti-immigration then and they are now. And migrant workers coming into Britain is not a recent phenomenon, yet there surge in popularity has transformed them from just another political party comprising of disgruntled former Tories into a real pain to the three main political parties. Moreover, their MEP seat looks secure and a recent YouGov opinion poll shows that public opinion is on their side and politically, immigration is such a contentious issue, politicians know they must tread carefully around it, often lacking the boldness UKIP has, hence there surge in popularity.

UKIP leading the way according to poll
UKIP leading the way according to poll                                                     YouGov

 This surge has stemmed from the fact that the large public sector cuts have affected millions of people. This is on the back of the huge bank bailouts ordered under Gordon Brown for several failing banks and the fact that the large public sector deficit does not appear to be reducing. Economically the UK has a long way to go. It certainly has a huge effect on people’s lives, their mood, thoughts and actions. People think differently during recessions and downturns and this is reflected on the political landscape. Politics provides the avenue in which any citizen can protest against political actions and clearly people are speaking out against the way society is today. And this is because the economy is in such a dire situation.

 Last year in France, François Hollande won the general election. By defeating Nicolas Sarkozy he was elected President. One could suggest that many French voted out of protest in order to remove Sarkozy due to the problems in the economy. The French had similar concerns to the British, mainly regarding its economic woes and social problems based around immigration. Moreover the real story of this election was Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right group Front National (National Front.) Of the 35,883,209 who voted, the Front National received 6,421,426 of the votes. So 18% of the votes went to a far-right political party. Thus the Front National came third overall. Again, their clear policies struck a cord with over six million people and this was their best election result to date.

The Euro Zone has come close to collapse and nowhere has that been more apparent than in Greece. Greece has always had high levels of public expenditure and around 10% unemployed for the last ten years, so this has added to the high national debt. Who should be blamed is not the issue at hand? If anyone should take responsibility it is the Greek politicians, for overseeing the mess and allowing public finances to spiral out of control. in the midst of this the far-right party Golden Dawn has had a huge impact on Greek politics, their surge in popularity certainly provide and sometimes channels the energy the recession has created. Their anti-immigration policies, much like Front National and UKIP have resonated with people and have provided them with the platform in which they hope to gain considerable election success.

If we look at the UK again, much of what the BNP said about immigration is not that different from what UKIP opine. Where they are on the political spectrum is different fair enough, but in terms of both being anti-immigration they are virtually the same. Yet the BNP was close to bankruptcy and UKIP appear to be going from strength to strength. Times have certainly changed. In an economic downturn people may have less patience for issues such as immigration, social housing and the provision of social services such as education and health care. This is usually because tax receipts have shrunk as a result of higher levels of unemployment, public sector cuts and less activity in the economy as a whole. So people may feel that domestic policy ought to prioritise its national citizens before seeing to the needs of others. What does not garner the same emotion from public attention are the benefits immigrants usually bring to communities. Ethnic minorities make up 6.24% of the Greek population. This figure has been growing steadily, but up until 2005, Golden Dawn were not the force they are now. The Greek economy has rotted since and the popularity of not just Golden Dawn, but right wing politics, especially in smaller parties, has gathered loyal cult followings, what they hope is that it manifests into tangible political success. They are at the very least making their bigger counterparts take notice, especially at local elections.

Personally, I think UKIP and the surge in popularity in far-right political parties highlight the sad state of politics in the UK and the rest of Europe today. However, I genuinely believe in freedom of political expression. For me UKIP provide more problems than solutions because they are virtually a one-policy party and I am yet to be convinced what they would do if the UK were to leave the E.U. In the case of the Front National in France, Le Pen was recently voted the most popular French female politician so she does not look to be losing any momentum.

I am confident that if the global economy was in a better state, more people had jobs and more money in their pocket then I can’t see where the far-right could get their impetus. Blaming immigrants for instance is a weak and flawed argument for the UK at least. There is no doubt that immigrants reduce the cost of labour, but the problems in the UK are more complex than blaming one group. Maybe the UK has got too many immigrants, but what I am certain of is this issue is not a simple case of close the borders and the problems will disappear. I would personally like to see the same energy exerted towards tax avoidance from large multinationals because that could potentially recoup billions in tax revenue.

How UKIP and other right wing parties perform in the next series of elections should be interesting, if the economy is still as sluggish as it is now, I predict well, and if the recovery is looking strong then I don’t think they’ll do that well. My only hope is that the economy starts to show real signs of growth and it will be interesting to see how the right reacts to that.

Beer Tax



This is an interesting analogy from Dr. David Kamerschen. It relates to progressive taxation. It is certainly worth a read. Dr. Kamerschen certainly presents a strong argument. Although, it could be suggested that it is a little simplistic in places, nevertheless, a compelling read.

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to £100…
If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this…

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay £1.
The sixth would pay £3.
The seventh would pay £7..
The eighth would pay £12.
The ninth would pay £18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay £59.

So, that’s what they decided to do..

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve ball.

“Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by £20”. Drinks for the ten men would now cost just £80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes.

So the first four men were unaffected.

They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men?
The paying customers?

How could they divide the £20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share?

They realised that £20 divided by six is £3.33. But if they
subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.

So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by a higher percentage the poorer he was, to follow the principle of the tax system they had been using, and he proceeded to work out the amounts he suggested that each should now pay.

And so the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% saving).

The sixth now paid £2 instead of £3 (33% saving).

The seventh now paid £5 instead of £7 (28% saving).
The eighth now paid £9 instead of £12 (25% saving).

The ninth now paid £14 instead of £18 (22% saving).

The tenth now paid £49 instead of £59 (16% saving).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings.

“I only got a pound out of the £20 saving,” declared the sixth man.

He pointed to the tenth man,”but he got £10!”

“Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a pound too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me!”

“That’s true!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get £10 back, when I got only £2? The wealthy get all the breaks!”

“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison, “we didn’t get anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor!”

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and government ministers, is how our tax system works.

The people who already pay the highest taxes will naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction.

Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore.

In fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible

David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.

Professor of Economics.


Read of the week

This is an excellent piece from today’s Guardian. It relates to spending levels in football. On one hand you have Bourssia Dortmund, a club that epitomise Germany in terms of values, work ethic and productivity. (If I were a betting man I would place some money on them reaching this years final.) And on the other hand Spanish side Malaga, who, despite some excellent performances this season have been in hot water with UEFA for financial irregularities. Both go head in tonight’s Champions League. The article

Personally, whilst I love football, I cannot help but think that it is losing some quality. The influx of foreign owners on European football have inflated transfer fees which has not only increased pressure on football clubs to become profitable. Inflated prices thus have an affect on every club and it is near impossible to not participate. Clubs like Newcastle have invested in excellent scouting and are able to find quality players like Yohann Cabaye, Moussa Sissoko and the like and sell them on for large fees. Moreover, Dortmund are a breath of fresh air because the current German champions have spent, but not on the levels of Malaga, PSG, Manchester City, Liverpool and other clubs with foreign owners and are both profitable off the pitch and excellent on it. UEFA’s toothless Financial Fair Play regulations  have yet to have much of an impact on football. They need to enforce these regulations to ensure that football does not continue to spiral out of control and the inflated market reduces.