Sky in ‘not falling’ shock

Here is a table showing projected growth in real GDP per capita [*] for 2007-08, according to IMF data released this month:

2007-08 2008-09 2009-10
Canada 0.0% 0.6% 2.0%
France 0.8% 0.7% 2.0%
Germany 1.5% 1.1% 1.9%
Italy -0.1% -0.1% 0.4%
Japan 1.4% 1.6% 1.8%
United Kingdom 1.3% 1.4% 2.1%
United States -0.5% -0.4% 1.9%

In other words, credible independent people who understand economic forecasting (note: not people who couldn’t tell GDP from a CDR but who think the PM is dour and boring and that therefore everything is going to the dogs) believe that the UK economy is unlikely to see recession, and is highly likely to outperform all of the G7 economies except for Japan over the next three years. Most other economic forecasters hold similar views, with a strong consensus that 2008 real UK economic growth will be 1-1.5%.

So why the hell is there such an insanely overhyped climate of doom going on, with people who shouldn’t really know better everywhere pontificating about how the government has ruined everything and left us all in a terrible position? Is it just that everyone who bothers going on about this kind of thing is a miserable get, whereas the people who think everything will probably be fine would sooner talk about Eurovision and football?

It’s partly due to misleading reporting, of course. Hands up who read this morning’s paper and came away with the take-out that UK retail sales fell when comparing March 2008 to March 2007? Wrong: they rose by 1.1%. The fall was in ‘like-for-like’ sales – i.e. new shops are opening faster than people are increasing their spending. That’s not great news if you’re a retailer, for sure – but it also for sure doesn’t mean that sales are falling…

[*] i.e. stripping out the effects of inflation, so you can’t whine about price rises, and done consistently on an international basis, so you can’t whine about CPI vs RPI. Oh, and please don’t slate the methodology the IMF uses to calculate GDP deflators, at least unless you have at least a master’s degree in a numerate discipline with some connection to economics.

I’d defend to the death your right to say anything… err, except for that

A question for the multiplicity of blogging non-bigots [*] who support the Ham & High’s decision to run an advert for the BNP ahead of the current London elections on Voltaire-ish ‘free speech for all, however disgraceful’ grounds: would you have supported the H&H on the same grounds had it run an advert advocating the legalisation of sex with children?

[the advert would be placed by a hypothetical paedo organisation that wanted to lower the age of consent to 10, but explicitly did not advocate breaking the current laws until any change was made - just to avoid any ‘but they’re inciting illegal activity so it's not the same’ get-outs].

If not, you’re already saying that some people should be denied a platform to advocate opinions that they hold perfectly legally, just because those opinions are vile and wrong – in which case, the only difference with the BNP is the degree to which the opinions advocated are vile and wrong. Which means that you’re saying “even though I sometimes believe in media self-censorship, the BNP should still be allowed a platform because they’re not all that bad”.

If you would have supported the editor’s decision to publish the paedo group’s advert, then you’re certainly consistent. I’m not sure that you’re in line with the general public’s moral compass, though…

[*] i.e. people who think that the BNP are scumbags. Those who think it’s possible simultaneously to be a non-bigot and not think that the BNP are scumbags are wrong, and should be ignored.

Life is, indeed, skittles and beer

Tom Lehrer is 80 today. Which is nice, since when I saw references to him on other blogs I assumed he’d died. Sheer genius.

I’m entertained by this comment from CT:

The world really needs more like him – brilliant math teachers who are brilliant parodists and public intellectuals on the side.

Yes, this is precisely what the world needs more of. Relatedly, Dinesh D’souza is an arse.

From the department of ‘couldn’t make it up’

It’s reasonably silly that you can get a qualification as a homeopath, given the complete lack of potential for an unlicensed homeopath to do any harm or for a licensed one to do any good (“you’ve been struck off the homeopath’s register for actually giving someone a traceable amount of medicine”, etc).

But it’s absolutely amazingly implausibly incredible that the course for said qualification includes a module on the benefits of astrology. I mean, are they trying to eradicate any spurious credibility they may previously have had…?