Monday 2 July 2012


If you're slightly geeky, like me, then the best time to follow me on twitter is from about 7pm when the kids go off to bed.

All day, people send me links, or I see links on my timeline, and I open them to read later. In the evening, I read them all and comment. Then I have a glass of wine or two and become expansive. I splurge my opinions about the place a bit, there is usually some mocking of government ministers or random debate about banks or supermarkets or workfare or business, depending on the links I've read. 

For some time I've watched the news and seen scenes of abject horror in Greece, that nice haven of ouzo and sunburn so beloved of Brits abroad. 

Just in case you somehow missed it I want to interject here and point out that the Greeks are starving. In case you missed it. In case you thought the riots were a bit of discontent from radical troublemakers. In case it hasn't really sunk in. They're starving, they're queueing for soup kitchens and scrabbling in bins for food. They are proud people who work hard, not the profligate siesta hounds, powerful men would have us believe. They are our neighbours, our brothers and sisters. 

I wondered why Osborne and Cameron couldn't encourage us all to holiday in Greece. I mean, it would be something wouldn't it? If we all showed a little solidarity and booked our holidays in the fishing villages and tourist hot-spots of Mykonos and Athens? If we helped those proud small businesses to sell a little more olive oil or fresh seafood or ice cream? 

After a while, I had a thought. All of the countries in trouble were holiday destinations - Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal even Ireland. The one's weathering the storm were the colder, northern countries. Would it not make sense to encourage and  incentivise holidays?

There was another pressing urgency to my question - was it not better to find a joyous, uplifting way to beat this depression - would it not pay dividends in itself, easing some of the discontent between the Eurozone countries and giving people hope that there were better ways than austerity to sort this mess out? Hell, was fun automatically not an option just because it was fun? 

A few weeks ago, there were rumours of another 700 billion bailout for Eurozone banks. I had just watched Spanish banks get a bailout of more billions and the markets ate the extra money mercilessly in about 48 hours. With the press of a few buttons, the banks or markets appeared to have eaten the very money they had just created!! Nice work if you can get it eh? 

I thought it must be better to give actual human people the money to spend and have a nice time if you're just going to flush it all away anyway? 

I asked more seriously on twitter if any economists could explain to me why my holiday idea wouldn't be a better stimulus to the Eurozone than another bank bailout. 

Warning : Be careful of tipsy tweeting on twitter. Especially if you in any way suggest you might have solutions to something quite big. 

I found myself in a conversation on twitter, with the curiously well connected Declan Gaffney and some other tweeps - as you do and put my idea - couldn't we somehow incentivise countries like Germany to go on holiday to places like Greece by directing any Eurozone bailout money instead, into a scheme where it was used as spending money for tourism going directly to the local economies - the fishermen and bakers and restaurateurs so desperate for business. 

Astonishingly - and rather scarily, none of them thought it was a bad idea. At the very least they agreed it was a rather better idea than only bailing out the banks again and could be done in combination with another bailout. 

After one nice tweet from Jonathan Portes I tweeted, "See Declan my idea haz *economic credibility* #proud face" which shows you the level of a) my tipsiness and b) my lack of grown-up-ness throughout the whole chat. 

After about an hour, I checked the profiles of the clever tweeps giving me advice and found that they were  Jonathan Portes director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), Duncan Weldon, Economist and TUC Senior Policy Officer and Ian Mulhheirn, Director of the Social Market Foundation. 


I tweeted "Whoops, just checked all of your profiles *rabbit in headlight face*

Which no doubt added even more to my economic credibility.  

I went to bed, embarrassed at the fact I appeared to have just tried to present an economic idea to some people who actually knew stuff about economics. Quite a lot actually. Unlike me. 

The next morning, Declan tweeted that I ought to "check my emails. Sitting down."

Jonathan Portes and Declan thought it was actually quite a good idea. One that might in fact solve quite a few problems causing the current stalemate in Eurozone economics. They wanted to pitch it to the FT!!! Who accepted it!!!!


They've written about it here as you can see so a huge thanks to Declan and especially to Jonathan for translating my tipsy tweeting into econospeak.

Quite incredibly, as is my luck, it turned out someone had had a spookily similar idea some time before!! The FT couldn't publish our article as they'd already published his! nonetheless, Jonathan wanted to post the article on his superb blog. But I nearly got an idea in the FT, which was awfully exciting. 

But here's a thought. I do like economics, I hate too much self effacing and dumbing down, especially from women, so I won't pretend I didn't know some very basic reasons why this could be an alternative. 

What's more, I do passionately believe that we can solve many of our current problems by swapping pain for innovation, by inspiring people rather than crushing them. and by fostering a sense of the achievable, not by state-sponsoring misery. 

Generally, new ideas can't be heard. But often, they come from nothing at all. If we just listen. 

If we listen to the patient saying how their care could be more effective and efficient, if we listen to the worker who sees the waste every day. The poor could tell us what keeps them poor and the sick and disabled could tell us how our care and support could be administered in a way that was better for us and almost certainly more cost effective. If we just listened. 

If we listened, our children could tell us what they need in school and we could act. If we listened, our staff could tell us where our businesses succeed and fail. 

And if we listened, the Greeks would tell us they want work again. They want trade and pride, and some hope. They want to feed their families.

So here's to listening, and may there be very, very much more of it. 


  1. On a similar note - wouldn't it have been better to pay off everybody's mortgages and let the banks go under?!

    1. There was a Nobel Prize winning economist on BBC's Hard Talk a little while ago (forget his name) who suggested this idea too. Give the cash to the people, let the banks go bust and start over. I suppose those who aren't in debt would scream at the unfairness, but it sounded like an excellent solution.

      Yay, let's give everyone in the UK a free Greek holiday! Best idea I've heard in a long time Sue, only it wouldn't be much use to a nutcase housebound-ish spoonie like me :(

    2. The economist was the Australian Professor Steve Keen. He says that we need a debt jubilee (or forgiveness). He suggests giving money to everybody which would be sufficient to reduce the debt/GDP to 15%. The only proviso would be that paying off your or company's debts would have to take priority. In one fail swoop, it would disempower the banks because they rely on debt to finance their casino side, and it would put demand back into the economy. I think its a brilliant solution .. but not at all likely in the world of Osborne and Cameron.

  2. Good Blog Post. I have now shared to Facebook and Twitter. :)

  3. So far as I'm aware, the European central banks can't pass along newly created money to the public in any way shape or form these days. Not since we signed up to Lisbon, Maastricht, all that stuff nobody ever explained to us and we never got to have a vote on. That's why they keep on forking over money directly to the same banks who caused the problems, that's the point of the treaty. Bit of a traiterous treaty if you ask me, (which (sniffs) doesn't happen an awful lot), bit wrong for any patriotic politician to sign as it handed control of the national purse strings over to the banks, who as any fule kno simply see the rest of us as existing purely to be milked. Eurozone money though, money newly-created by the ECB I assume... I would have thought the same sort of conditions applied. Maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps your new chums would know?

  4. Most likely, the holiday resorts are not the worst places affected by the economic crisis - the news reports have told people that the resorts are safe, there has been no trouble there and the only possible danger is a sudden exit from the Euro which might cause a sudden devaluation of any converted currency. The holiday resorts in Greece are nearly all on the islands, not the cities and towns on the mainland.

    Also bear in mind that if you stay in a big-name hotel, most of the profits from your holiday will go to the UK or USA.

  5. The Northern governments won't tell their people to do anything to help ordinary Greeks. The Greeks have been lent money that has found its way (as intended) into the hands of big corporations and rich individuals leaving the mass of ordinary Greeks indebted. Why? Because the people with real power inside and outside Greece have realised they have rich oil and mineral deposits. Once that became apparent, the predators moved in. Lend money, encourage debt, divert the money so the ordinary people don't benefit from it, and the next step will be to demand that they pay off their debts with oil while the man in the street works for any pittance he can get.

    If this country wants to survive, it needs to either abandon oil in the Falklands or give it to America for near-cost and put our energies into our arms trade to keep America happy.

    If disabled people want to survive, they need to make supporting them a nice soft and furry thing the government can do to make itself seem nice whilst selling off its own people.

    Sorry for the negative post. Recent governments of supposedly different sorts have done that to me.

    Our only hope, if any, as ordinary people, is to counter the rich, political and corporate propaganda, but how long before monitoring the internet becomes censoring the internet, I don't know, so we may have only a small window of opportunity.

  6. It's been an atrociously long time since I had any contact with economics, but wouldn't this boost the level of UK invisible imports and sap demand out of our economy?

  7. Personally I think I'm going to believe the economist folks - I think they have the right of it. Let's face it, we've created and pushed globalisation. Thinking we can all just hunker down on our little islands until things blow over is ridiculous - it won't happen. We need global solutions; and that probably means actually trying to reach these globally rather than just throwing money at problems.

    Iceland did just this - they told the banks to bugger themselves and put money into something other than just pouring it into the banking systems. According to the global banking of the world, the country has "economically failed". According to Iceland and the people living there...they're doing just fine. There's even plans to see is their geothermal energy (they have loads of it) and we could get out from under the thumbs of the electric companies here. We've turned down the offer...(gee wonder why?)

    So, don't gulp, Sue. Sometimes your over-English modesty doesn't become you. Take pride in coming up with what may actually be a solution and take the confidence you have to push the idea forward. It's not like the UK really has much to lose at this point - we just like telling ourselves we do.

  8. I've been going to Southern Spain for more than a decade for my health on GP's advice. In a similar vain, I do not understand why Govt./LA's do not send well-ish elderly/disabled to Spain to be cared for during the winter - cheaper than costs in UK, less need for fuel allowance, carers, meals-on-wheels, etc. Also benefit from better climate and social activities - thus less loneliness. I believe Germany & Denmark (???) send some folk there to recuperate.

  9. I have had the good fortune to go on a mini-break in the UK, which meant I didn't have to travel too far and I think this was a tiny contribution to keeping many lovely Polish people in work. Well, they may have been Polish. I couldn't swear to it.

  10. Shame on all the negative posters. Sue has come up with an idea under which northern Europeans have nice holidays, and southern europeans have jobs. What's the problem? (all approved by very serious economists - Nobel prize here we come). I'm serious.

    1. There are chronic-gloomy-guts who frequent the blog. Usually can tell who they are: they go totally silent when good news is announced but are the first to say DESPAIR, WOE, HORROR when something else crops up.

      Misery loves company, but I don't invite misery round to tea.

    2. keep on believing the propaganda - divide and rule works

  11. The whole banking system is a giant ponzi scheme which would fall aprt if our stupid govts didnt keep helping out the idiots that run these banks by giving them more of our money so they can keep it as capital and dish out these huge bonus payments.
    It aint capitalism anymore its fraudulent trading at its worst because nothing will ever be done to stop it.Capitalism is supposed to be easy we put money in ...they lend it out and charge interest...we make a bit they make a bit..we lend some more and around it goes and it works well until these idiots start casino banking with it and get it badly wrong.
    They should all be sacked and sent to gamblers anonymous .
    Of course the idea would work becuase it simply us putting money back in to the system if only the sodding banks were not involved.
    I have money i buy something from now have money so you buy something from him and he has money so he....well its not rocket science and we dont need bloody osborne or any other fool telling us any different.
    Sometimes you have to wonder if there really is an agenda to use the banking crisis to control us all or is it just an opportunity siezed to do it....

    1. no - they should all be in prison

  12. Yes,just really listening is such an underrated solution...
    and all real solutions are hallmarked by their simplicity and common sense.
    May all this current craziness coming directly from a lack of understanding and compassion prove to be a sort of giant human turning point...

  13. Well i wonder if all these economists ever stand up and say to cameron enough already..Listen to Max Kieser on RT he gives it straight and he should know he is a former trader and knows ALL the scams going and they hate him for it but do listen to him....usually on late at night but worth it.
    Greece is getting screwed ..we are getting screwed and the poorest pay the most and still there is no REAL backlash.When will we really throw these bastards out on thier arses....aint we poor enough yet...

  14. Read Aditya Charabarty in the G2 today. The govt. has given £20k for every preson in the UK to the banks. He could have done more than encourage us to go on holiday in Greece, he could have given us the money to do so. When the crash hit I said then the only way to get stabilise the banks and get the economy kick-started would be to put £10k in a bank account for everyone in the country, including for each child which would remain there until they were 18 and could use it for education/training. The rest of us could have used it to cover debts (stabilising the banks) pay off mortgages (stabilising the banks) spend on stuff we need(rebooting business and stabilising the banks) or even blown it on a holiday in Greece, a car or a holiday in the UK (encouraging business,stabilising banks AND moving the economy in Europe)or just leave in an interest bearing account (stabilising the banks). Anyway looks as though I'd underestimated and we could have had £20k each £46k for every household in the country. But sod it eh...we'll just give it straight to the idiots who lost it all in the first place.

  15. Ok folks like i said above as anon listen to Max Kieser.He has been saying it for years that the whole damn banking industry is criminal and corrupt.
    Not that the media calls it a SCANDAL and attempted rigging the rates.NO it isnt its a CRIME and it wasnt an ATTEMPT they fkin did it nd have been doing it for years.It is a an explosion just waiting to happen and it will.
    They have been rigging the market for years and we pay the price.
    Austerity was never needed what was needed was proper regulation of the banking industry and a level playing field.
    Diamond an co have played roulette with our money not thiers and done it badly.Even the worst gambler in the world can only fck it up for so long and you would never give them any money to carry on.WELL guess what the dickheads we put in power gave them our money again and again and when it keeps going wrong cos of these banking fckwits they keep giving them more and all the time they were arobbing and arigging..JAIL em all before we all end up at war with each other.Jail the fckin politicians of whatever party at whatever time past or present that let them do it and most probably profited from it.
    WHY the fck should we suffer for it.
    Max was right and they didnt listen but now the bbc and others are falling over themselves to have him on for an interview.When are people going to listen.OHHHH watch the bankers all start to squirm now as the light shines on them...This will not stop just here in the uk..look to the us and beyond .....the federal reserve bailed barclays out a few years ago so you have to ask why did they do that?They are all linked together and they will all work together to get away with it agin and i bet they do...meanwhile breton,workfare,cuts cuts and more cuts is all we will get..Of course you are right above when you state we could have got that money and used it to stimulate and stabilse the economy trouble is these robbers would have just stolen it again ...somehow they would have divised a way...

  16. Random Passerby8 July 2012 at 00:32

    Reading this made me wonder, with the current media climate that has pretty successfully demonised benefits claimants, do you think a forum or blog or something could be set up, by the government and for disabled/sick people, asking for what they COULD do? what do you think of this idea, as something to be sought out by disabled/sick activists in the first instance, taking the initiative?

    For example, the website could host a bundle of remits of work wanted, eg local councils wanting written copy for council publications (this will either save time, or money, for the council, or both), or, for people who are able to take the odd photo, a list of photos wanted by govt/council publications...

    Something run in the manner of the employment sites for freelancers, where people post a job and those who can fulfil it reply. There'd have to be a disclaimer that benefits wouldn't be affected nor any assumptions made (ie if someone with an ESA claim fulfils several consecutive requests for photography, that doesn't suddenly mean they can work)...

    But you could have a usernumber, so,for the person who does later go back to working, they can show this off on their CV, and have a kind of portfolio of work.

    Photography's my hobby btw so that's why I kept thinking of this one, I notice the stock photos used in every govt & council website and publication, and I know they cost money, and there's also graphic design... my local council paid thousands for a new logo a while ago, all sorts of fairly light tasks that many people have the skils and, sometimes at least, the ability to do.

    You idea made me think there could also be a sort of citizens think tank, where people post their ideas on solving major problems, connected to the above, or something.

    I think the media would lap this up, and it would create a more positive spin on stuff... instead of the govt telling everyone they can work, when they plainly can't, giving people the opportunity to contribute what they can, when they can, in a way that saves taxes.

    And now I need to make it really clear that I don't believe that "work" is the only desirable end outcome for any or all disabled or sick people, or that every thing related to disability or sickness should ultimately be a channel towards "work"...

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