Including: why Maggie Thatcher was right to get rid of the trade unions, and maybe less right about the banking sector deregulation; and nature’s solution to overpopulation.

Good morning

The headlines:

  1. Margaret Thatcher.

    Link: how to deal with trade unions.

    I think it’s often quite difficult to attribute economic success to a specific economic policy or set of policies. Sometimes, the outcome is simply fortuitous. And usually, the strength of the causal link is determined by the relative fame of the person making it.

    Nevertheless, where Maggie was concerned, you can make some factual assertions about her approach to trade unions (she took away their power). You can also make factual assertions about unemployment during her time as prime minister (the highest levels of record) and the number of people employed today (higher than ever). Her fans attribute this turnaround to her liberalisation of the labour market. Her critics accuse her of causing the current crisis by liberalising the banking sector.

    I’m guessing that John Major and Tony Blair would like to take the credit for the labour turnaround in their obituaries – only they never really reversed what Mrs Thatcher had put in place.

    And because I get to make the causal link here today, rightly or wrongly, I think she was bang on the money where the unions were concerned. While I agree that there is a need to protect workers’ rights against the Capitalist Man, there is also a need to limit workers’ rights from making the company unsustainable*.

    An protectionist trade union driven solely by greed for power and higher wages and power is just as dangerous and radical an economic force as a capitalist sector driven solely by greed for competitive power and profit. They are flipsides of the same economic stakeholder coin.

    Which, I guess, also makes me a critic of liberalisation taken too far…

    Either way – may she rest in peace.

    (For a fuller obituary, read here).

    *An example: the mining strikes in South Africa eventually led to union workers getting their wage demands; but then subsequently, the mines began the process of arranging mass firings in order to maintain their profitability.¬†This is not the best outcome…

  2. Bird Flu.

    Link: the trouble with nature.

    China is well-panicked by the outbreak of a new strain of bird flu (H7N9). And there is a somewhat wide-spread slaughter of poultry just in case.

    I guess it’s not really surprising that these potential epidemics regularly seem to have a Chinese origin. 19% of the world’s population living in 6% of the land space – that’s some close proximity.

    But it does suggest that nature has its own way of dealing with troublesome humans.

That’s all for now.

Have a good day.