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back to article The economy: A big Arab did it and ran away, claims PM

It's all OPEC's fault, according to Gordon Brown. Speaking at Google's recent Zeitgeist conference, the UK prime minister told the audience that the world's current economic woes can largely be blamed on the scandalous behaviour of the oil producer's cartel. They're just not pumping enough oil, he claims: Gordon Brown yesterday …

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Paris Hilton

Cheap and Decent Whores

There is definitely a shortage.

Erm... so I've been told. Not that I would know. I think I heard someone talking about it.

<-need I explain?

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Well...

Or maybe he could stop putting quite so much tax on it... He must be laughing all the way to the bank...

Has anyone else wondered how the price of UK fuel kept going up even when oil is priced in dollars, and the dollar is currently worth only slightly more than the paper it's printed on... Hmmm...

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Congratulations Mr. Brown

Our esteemed leader must be very pleased that after long years he is finally starting to price us off the roads. The only problem being, of course, that his government and his predecessors have offered no meaningful investment in any alternative transport infrastructure, so our choices currently- for the many people outside of a major city- are to suck it down and spend a huge amount of money on driving or not to go places. Thanks, elected representatives, thanks a sodding bundle.

Also, if he wanted oil prices to stay low, he might have suggested to his boss a few years back that he shouldn't embark on a ridiculous scheme to destabilise the middle east with the entirely predictable outcome of oil prices rising. Ultimately probably that means oil companies can charge more, which means more money for a certain Texas oil man and his golfing buddies - I'm sure that was a major factor in the decision to initiate that war - but the benefits to the rest of us are really somewhat slim.

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Erm...

Isn't it Gordan Brown who just agreed to a 4p tax increase on fuel, even though his advisors said he could afford to lower it by up to 7p...

That guy really doesn't know his arse from his elbow. How he manges to get dressed in the morning is beyond me let alone run the country.

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Is it not more likely...

... that Brown's tax increases on every single damn thing in existence are the main culprit?

Incidentally, I didn't spot it in the article (I admit I skimmed a little) but... Diesel is now more expensive than Unleaded. Diesel, which is still, even taking into account particulate pollution, more environmentally friendly than regular petrol, is now taxed at a far, far higher rate than unleaded. This is the stuff that ctually drives the economy. It's the stuff trucks and trains run on, those things that make our economy actually viable by transporting goods around, and it's taxed *more*. No bloody wonder prices are going up!

And don't even get me started on Broon's attitude to anyone attempting to actually put their money where their mouth is on the issue. Remember when he famously slapped a huge backdated tax demand on a few people for using chip fat to run their vehicles, claiming it was a "loophole" in the tax system. He liked closing those loopholes, squeezing a few extra pennies out of the economy to fund god know's what, maybe the whole PFI fiasco, but raising costs for everyone and putting a drag on the economy in the meantime. And then he has the temerity to blame the oil cartel for problems HE created. I'd tell him to look in the mirror before he starts blaming people but he'd probably just pull a Wellington, close his working eye and yell "I see no taxes!"

Or something.

I'm a Tory voter, so that's who I'll be voting next time around but, god help me, I'd rather see the lib dems in power than this useless lot.

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Unhappy

More to it than just hitting car drivers

Rising oil prices affect *everyone*, not just anyone who owns a car.

Bus and taxi fares, increased delivery costs on goods and food - it all gets filtered down to us in the end.

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Anonymous Coward

Demand and supply...

The supply of whores matches the demand except where people are not buying whores because the price is too high, then the restricted supply is failing to meet demand that is there but not at that price.

In that situation there is too small a supply of whores.

This has knock on effects, rapes may increase, the market for sex toys is weakened, and Nazi love dungeons lie empty.

Little Billy who's mum is a dominatrix (and who's dad is a spy) goes hungry and starves to death (despite a valiant effort at eating bird feed).

There is an outcry, politicians react and insist that the supply of whores be increased to stimulate the faltering economy.

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Cheap and Decent Whores

no shortage of them here

um I mean whhore what is a whore

<_< >_>

yes I think I got away with it

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Stop

petrol price high is good, it's the rest that's the problem

if you look at the whole situation, the high price of petrol is quite a good thing really (but £1.25 for diesel is a piss take - get them both around £1.10) BUT the problem, as usual for UK consumers, is EVERYTHING ELSE IS TOO FUCKING EXPENSIVE! electric, gas, water, council tax is too much.

my ideal situation - get petrol/diesel down 10%, other taxes/bils down 20%

sorted.

ish.

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Anonymous Coward

Brown: Machiavellian master or moron?

http://www.newscientist.com/channel/being-human/mg19826551.400-lifting-the-lid-on-the-science-of-persuasion.html

Point 7

"First, people have to be convinced that the issue is relevant to them, that it affects them or their children or their community. At that point, says Turner, you need to hammer home what's wrong with the world as it is. Once you have got people roiled up, you can offer them a way to remedy the situation."

Brown: Machiavellian master or moron? You decide.

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Peak Oil

that kinda makes sense, but market forces alone will never solve this problem.

Nothing will.

We should move away from fossil fuels , correct, not because of global warming, but because there isnt much left.

Any day now supply will outstrip demand, and you wont get oil no matter how much you want to pay.

we should develop green enrgy - correct . Not because of global warming but because our civilisation runs on energy and we will still need it when oil production goes into decline.

yada yada yada , i get tired of reiterating this. people just think i'm nuts.

just put "hubberts peak" into google.

its true, really - the end of the world is nigh!

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@Steve Evans

Is that true? Does Gordon get all the tax money himself? I didn't know that. Interesting point about exchange rates though. I wonder if we pay OPEC countries in dollars.

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UK is effectively self-sufficient in Oil

... in so far as we extract as much from the North Sea as we use. (Correction - certainly true a few years ago - the current figures have not yet been released so I cannot confirm).

Now is this the same Gordon Brown who claims to be the sole reason why Britain has not had a recession over the last ten years but refuses to acknowlege his part in the hyperinflaction of house prices and decimation of every single public service; or is this perhaps the same Gordon Brown who believes that some strains of cannabis can be lethal but conveniently ignores the financial and emotional suffering brought about by rampant alcoholism; or is this perhaps the same Gordon Brown who thinks a 36 second shakycam on ooToob is an effective way to improve his popularity after hiking up the taxation system yet again; or perhaps this is the same Gordon Brown who prefers to define his role as steward in preference to actually governing the country. I was a steward on an oil rig for a time - it means "laundry duties, kitchen portering, vacuuming the floors, polishing the surfaces, cleaning the toilets and making sure the was enough buns and bogroll for the roustabouts" (and I didn't get £100,000 pa plus backhanders - oops - sorry "tips" for doing so).

There simply isn't an icon brown or smelly enough to describe the turd that this man represents, scuffed or polished.

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Gormless Gordon strikes again!

Gormless appears to ignore the fact that £1.14 per litre cost consists the oil price plus tax and value added tax at 17.5%.

Manufacturing Cost £ 0.35

Retailer £ 0.09

Fuel Duty £ 0.52

VAT £ 0.18

Gormless is getting £0.70 for every litre of petrol (gasoline) and he has the cheek to blame OPEC!

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Cool

An interesting article, which I have to say I pretty much agree with.

I guess it's true that (however much it hurts) prices should remain high in order to reduce demand.

However, where I don't really agree is with respect to home heating costs.

You see, we have a choice with regard to how we get to work in the morning: Car, bus, train, cycle, walk etc. We don't *have* to live 100 miles away from where we work. We have a choice. Thus, I would agree that in terms of high pump prices, yes, keep 'em high - force the public to change.

HOWEVER, we don't have a choice when it comes to cooking dinner for our kids, and keeping them warm. It's gas, or electric. That's it.

Thus, I say, the gas and electric companies should have to pay NO TAX to the UK governement on their oil/gas purchases, and be prevented, via legal framework, from profiting on the difference in margin.

Also, with regard to VAT on gas/electricity bills: No. VAT was a tax orginally levvied on luxury items. Cooking dinner for your kids on a gas or electric cooker is not a luxury Mr. Brown. No tax on household fuel bills please.

Same for commercial transport. I read yesterday that a 4 pence increase in fuel costs for an articulated lorry raises it's annual fuel bill from £39,000 to £52,000. Who swallows that cost? WE DO. It's not rocket science. BROWN is responsible for this economic downturn. Not some arab in a dish-dash. Inflation is purely down to BROWN and his cronies.

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pockets

Just remember folks in the governments eyes, the public have very very deep pockets. After all, MPs have shed loads of wonga to splash around. They've been splashing it around for so long they've convinced themselves that everyone else must have the same size sheds and can therefore 'bear the burden'.

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Sometimes overlooked

While I agree that it's good to encourage people to use mass transit, ride a bike, etc., I'm pretty sure that if you tell a farmer these are his solution to rising fuel prices, you may meet with some dirty looks (if you're lucky). Can't till a lot of land with a bicycle... Simply raising prices across the board is not an optimal solution.

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Too simplistic

The problem is that if you hike up the cost of petrol, it doesn't just affect the motorist. As someone earlier pointed out, buses, cabs, lorries and trains all require this oil-type stuff to run.

If you start raising the prices, so will the bus companies (Stagecoach and First - I'm looking at you. £1.50 for a single 2 mile bus ride???). Cab drivers will factor that into their fares, which will cost the public and businesses more.

All those lorries delivering food to the supermarkets will have to factor in the cost and go bust. And what about everyone buying their CDs/DVDs/Washing machines online? They don't magically turn up to your front door.

I'm not entirely sure what the solution is. More efficient cars, definitely. Maybe the government subsiding public transport to an extent? Loss leading routes available so that people who don't live on top of a train station can actually get there?

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Giffen goods?!

My god. I remember those. In fact I remember my economics lecturer and the entire class struggling to come up with a single real-world example. I'm intrigued that somebody has finally actually proved their existence.

Oh, and Graham, sorry to be a pedant but you're thinking of Nelson, not Wellington.

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Flame

The Register also pretty short on great economists

" the audience was pretty short on great economists - which is why he could get away with such nonsense. "

But presumably you'll put him right, eh Tim?

"His first blooper is the claim that there is some imbalance between supply and demand: of course there isn't, how can anyone be quite so silly? Prices adjust exactly and precisely so that supply and demand equal each other. "

Er hello. Are prices really this flexible when they're fixed by a bunch of rich men in a 7 star hotel? The price isn't adjusting according to the demand. It's demand which is varying according to the price. And this is Mr Brown's exact point.

So Tim, your arguments about climate change etc... all good.

But the economics... hmmm... How can anyone be quite so silly?

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Unhappy

Shunting the blame

He can blame OPEC all he wants, oil might cost more $ per barrel but when we pay the highest petrol prices in the civilised world due to the tax on it his argument falls flat on it's face. I'm sure the Sheikh's in their golden palaces think it rather amusing that Mr Brown complains about their stranglehold on dwindling natural resources while the real price of petrol is around 40p a litre, the rest being the governments "cut".

I wish he'd take responsibility for the screw up that HE has made in terms of this country's economy. I remember when "new" Labour first came to power and every one was cheering, I told them then this was not going to end well for the country...........

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Anonymous Coward

Maybe Brown shouldn't use them as an excuse...

...but that doesn't make oil cartels an 'ok' thing.

The enormous rise in oil prices is not a good thing - claiming it to be a driver for some kind of green revolution is just ridiculous. Sure, we need to invest in alternatives and reduce our reliance on oil, but if the diminishing supply costs more and more then we will be spending the same amount (or more) on the remaining oil and then where is the money for investing in alternatives to come from? To suggest the simple rules of supply and demand should be allowed to hold sway over the oil market is ignorant.

That said, it's pretty clear that supply and demand is not the driving force of the oil market - the oil market is the cartels' play-thing.

It's incredible that something as important to the stability of the world is allowed to be toyed with for (enormous) profit.

One thing is certain with oil: it will run out. The only question is, how painful will we allow the remaining years be made by those that own it.

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Ash
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Excellent stuff!

So, UK takes on Oil Company.

Wonder who'll win that one.

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Unhappy

@ Mike Crawshaw

Depends where you live.......I hear in Eastern Europe they are pretty cheap and decent.

And did Broon mention anything about Cheap and Decent whores? No. See, always skirting round the real issues.

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No mismatch

It all depends on where you stand doesn't it.

The supply/demand curves intersect to determine the price.

If you happen to have complete control over the supply side of the equation, then you can artificially restrict it, and the market response is increased prices and 'lowered' demand.

But what lowered means is the question. People would like to buy more, but they aren't prepared to do so at the current price, so there is a latent unfilled demand which would materialise were supply to be no longer restricted as prices fell.

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Linux

Naiive

The truth here is that the two things Gordon cares most about are raising taxes and meeting inflation targets. He doesn't give a flying fuck about climate change - it's a long term issue outside domestic political timescales.

Gordon hates expensive oil because it drives up inflation and brings unrest amongst the proles, at no benefit to his budget. He would much rather have cheap oil, taxed heavily.

Put another way, expensive oil makes us poor, and that's Gordon's job. that's why he's sulking.

John

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Paris Hilton

Historical figure in missing eye mystery

Wellington the famous two eyed general would have been confounded by the mystery of which working eye to close whilst Nelson the famous one eyed Admiral would not have had such an issue.

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economics versus environMentalists

Ok, so Tim Worstall may know his beans when it comes to metals, but he is clearly clueless when it comes to economics and seems to be yet another greeny trying to get everyone wearing hemp clothing and sandals...

Yes, we desperately need to look at alternative fuels to replace our dependancy on fossil fuels, but taxing us to death is not the answwer and Lord knows our unelected 'representative' doesn't need any encouragement there!

We're never going to be able to properly investigate these alternative fuels as long as it is the oil companies doing the 'research' - we all know they will do the bear minimum for PR purposes and mothball the rest. As long as oil is trading at the unsustainably silly prices it currently is then it is these very same oil companies who are reaping the profit (cue Oil companies posting another year of record profits...) whilst Joe tax-paying Public is forced to pick up the never-ending tab.

As a previous poster has already pointed out, it's not just the car-drivers out there that are suffering from this - whole *industries* are folding because of the corporate greed that infests our 'government'. Ultimately, fuel price rises affect the price of EVERYTHING - at some point, no matter what the product is, it is going to be transported - be that by plane, train or truck and if it costs them more to shift it it'll cost us more to buy it. Simple economics.

By the same argument, you could say that lowering the cost of transportation should also lower the cost of the products or services reliant upon them - could we not investigate to see if abolishing the extra tax on fuels could be countered by raising VAT? Before you start yelling hear me out on this one - read the above sentence again - if the prices of products can fall (because they are cheaper to transport) then raising the % of VAT on them could counter that fall so the products remain at the same price but fuel is signicantly cheaper. This means lower bus/train fares - so we could finally look at making Public Transport a viable alternative... It also means that folk living in rural locations, or simply locations that don't have decent public transport (don't know abut your town but in mine the number of bus routes has diminished significantly over the last few years) can afford to travel to work!

Going back to the 'green' aspect of the argument - the only way we can truly go green is if we take a windfall tax from the next oil company to declare ridiculous record profits and channel it to the research organisations that have so far suffered from repeated cut backs under this pathetic 'government' of ours so they can look into viable alternatives to fossil fuels and protect them so they can do so without the risk of the big energy companies buying up the rights to anything they discover and hiding it away until the last drop of oil is burned...

Wow - quite a rant. Sorry! :)

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Get to the root of the problem.

Oh look, its the lesser spotted economist, talking out of the orifice more usually used for other purposes.

The reason why this price rise matters is because its so fast and so far. Nobody seriously doubts its going to push us into a deeper and longer recession than the economist mismanagement and fraud has already created. Sod the 'free market solves all', this isn't a game; its people's lives.

What we need is real leadership and strategy to get us towards the post-carbon economy - NOW. Stop wasting money bailing out bankers, lock them up instead and put the investment into real change and real development. I'm sure the economist wonks at the Treasury would be up in arms about that, so that's why we need to get them out of any position of power as fast as possible.

And that means Gordon and his cadre have to go, quickly. By training they don't understand what's happening, and don't have the capabilities to deal with it even when told.

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Flame

As I have been droning on about for five years...

...this is peak oil.

demand has exceeded supply, globally and permanently. From now on, supply goes down, and the price goes up until demand is choked off.

But... yell the economists, the economy is less dependent on oil now, because it we use it more efficiently and it is (was, until recently) a very small part of GDP.

Wrong. We are still fundamentally dependent on oil for our society. We need less per unit of GDP, but that means that each barrel of oil demand choked off destroys a larger chunk of GDP. About seven times larger than the 1970's oil shock.

What this means is that prices are going to keep going up, and accelerating, until demand is choked off. Already, the poorest third world has been priced out of the market. Now, the wealthy, developed, but heavily endebted first world is competing with the massive, low wage, massively growing and dollar rich developing countries. Who is going to get choked first ?

www.theoildrum.com

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Brown: Machiavellian master or moron?

It's also called positioning, you try persuade people that the action you're about to take is necessary without actually telling them what the action is in advance.

You'll have noticed all the "alcohol is bad" stories recently?

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Happy

Raise it High

Good article,

As a hamburger munching tree hugger myself, as apposed to a pimply IT spot fest geek I am overjoyed to welcome our new Tax Overlords.

You lot need to get out more and get some colour in your cheeks, your all so damn pastey, you will never get laid staying in doors, smoking weed and playing computer games.

Nomex Summer Coat please, thankyou

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Black Helicopters

Tim

you barstward!

My blood pressure is now into 4 figures and rising. What a load of lying tripe that pillock is spouting. HE is the one over taxing us. The US / UK **BANKERS** caused the financial crisis through their own greed. And this; this; idiot blames OPEC. BROWN look at the make-up of the fuel pricing and see who rips out the largest wedge of our cash! Look at the rate that pricing are rising and then try to convince me that the UK's inflation rate is less than Zimbabwe's.

BROWN do us all a favour, call an election then bugger off back to Scotland!

Why don't we have a health / politician warning on this type of article.

Jeez! fscking lying politicians.

<breaths deeply and slowly> I'm calm now.

NO I'M NOT - YOU LYING BAS<click><nocarrier>

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It's not my fault

It's the wail of government since time immemorial. If you can't blame a dirty foreign Johnny, it must have been the previous administration.

The problem is that we are shifting to a resource-limited economy and there's going to be no way back - even if OPEC magicked up the entire world reserve and dumped it on the market, there's still supply issues with food and most mined resources as China, India et al rapidly improve their living standards and infrastructure.

Seeing as our political elite like banging on about how things are so much better in Sweden and we should be copying them, it is perhaps worth noting that, during the last major oil price shock in the 1970s, the Swedish government made long term plans to eliminate their economy's dependency on oil and is on course to be oil free by 2020. What did we do? Struck oil in the North Sea and sold it in huge quantities while it was cheap (while the Norwegians didn't go hell for leather on upping production). GB is only bitter since we returned to being a net energy importer.

@ Graham Dawson: The "I see no..." trick was done by Nelson, not Wellington.

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Alert

High oil prices are in Gordon's interests

Evidence of this will become apparent in the great pre-election giveaway in 2010.

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I'm sure that people in developing countries...

Are also pleased with the increase, the knock on effect on prices of their transport and food must be making them positively glow with pride at the sacrifices they're making for the environment. </sarcasm>

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Scotland disowns Brown

I can understand why you want him to bugger off back to Scotland, but the trouble is we don't want him!

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Anonymous Coward

Not everyone is in the same boat

Farmers and train operators use "red" diesel

which is duty free (more or less)

while buses and lorries pay the full rate.

or go to jail if found with a hint of red in their tanks.

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Unhappy

Wasn't me guv...

Except he can't admit it, of course, since Uncle Gordon's been taking all the credit for the general Western prosperity of the last decade. Actually, if he hadn't spent quite so much of it on consultants and mad PFI schemes (and sold all our gold at the bottom of the market) we might have a bit in reserve for the seven lean years just starting. Every Pharoah needs a Joseph...

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Simon Ball

Giffen goods finally identified:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2007/07/as_price_goes_up_so_does_deman.cfm

Jensen and Miller look at poor Chinese consumers and demonstrate that they consume more rice or noodles, their staples, as prices go up. The idea is the same as with the proverbial poor Irish. People need a certain amount of calories to survive—let’s say 1600 per day. You can either get that by consuming rice and perhaps some vegetables alone, or by eating rice, vegetables and a few bites of meat.

But meat is expensive. As the price of rice goes up, these poor Chinese can no longer afford the luxury of cooking meat, yet they still need to get to their 1600 calories. So they eat rice instead, which is still relatively cheap compared to meat. Voila!: Giffen behaviour in action.

What does this mean for the real world? Prices of certain food crops have increased by as much as twofold over the last 18 months, which has lots of negative consequences for the world’s poor. One such consequence might be that demand for staples has gone up even further.

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Stop

Send him back to Scotland?

Don't send him back up here, things have been going well since SNP got in, please i'm begging you don't send him here, send him anywhere but here.

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More bullshit economics

"I think he's simply ignorant of the fact that markets alone, so far entirely unaided by the plans of mice or men, ganging agley or not, have provided us with exactly what a decade and more of international scheming has been straining to push forth. The impetus for us to reduce our fossil fuels usage."

I don't need any bloody impetus, I need a viable alternative.

Tell me Tim, by what mechanism does the increasing price of fuel manage to move my house closer to my workplace?

What's that you say? It doesn't? It simply pushes the low paid into poverty while the rich just think "Fuck it, what's an extra £5 a tank on my wages?" Or is the idea to make travel so prohibitively expensive that I have to get a different job - although, if I could find a job that paid enough to live on without having to drive 30 miles to work, I'd already be doing it!

The real problem is that economists generally understand fuck all about the real world. They come up with a theory, make a prediction that doesn't pan out and then blame reality for the discrepancy. They then keep the obviously broken theory unmodified and try to make some more predictions with it.

When predictions don't match observations, you adjust the theory - you don't complain that it's the fault of the experimental subjects who failed to follow your predictions.

We wouldn't trust economists to make tea in the physics department, nevermind come produce theories.

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Black Helicopters

oil

people seem to forget that crude oil isnt just used for fuel alot of others things come from it aswell like plastics, waxes, etc simple solution is to actually plow money into non poluting car projects but of cause that would be silly because i forgot the big oil and car companies control the world! *cough* who killed the eletric car *cough*

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Black Helicopters

Sod OPEC, we need something more .....

....sustainable(sp?) ..... like ...... HEMP ...... yep HEMP

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemp

Worth a read and a wonder why!!, we don't utilise this sustainable crop, as its uses are wide ;-)

Peace

CR.

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Boffin

Blind criticising the blind

Brown is indeed talking crap, but so is anyone who can seriously say that "demand equals supply". This simply is gibberish. I can measure supply; I can put units to it. Demand? Well, that's subjective.

Economics is an art and not a science or a branch of mathematics, no matter what it's fans claim, for precisely this reason. If you can't measure demand then all your calculations are based on faith. Which is why economics is so much like religion.

To go back to oil: demand for oil is like demand for health: infinate. How much oil would we like? All of it. We'd like to jump in our cars and drive anywhere for free. In what way is the current supply meeting that demand? In what way is it equal? It's a nonsense statement.

Demand for oil, whatever it is measured in, is balanced against our demand for other things (sometimes boosted by it, as in our desire to see Granny in America before she snuffs it and leaves everything to the local cat home because we never visited). We chose to pay what it is worth to US, thereby giving up other things we could have bought with that money. Again, this is a subjective thing and totally incapable of being scrutinised by mathematical formulae.

Brown was a major player in this mess, and we've STILL not seen all the damage. There's still tens, perhaps hundreds, of billions of off-sheet debt in the PFI system that's going to hit the economy like a runaway train sometime in the next 5-10 years.

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Anonymous Coward

>How does increasing price of fuel move my house closer to work?

Once you can't afford to commute in your car, you'll move house.

That mechanism. The same mechanism that people manage to change job to a workplace 10,000 miles from where they currently live.

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Paris Hilton

@Most of you...

Like most of the liberal self-proclaimed elite, Broon is a bad case of arrested adolescence, and is still living (intellectually and politically) in the late 60's/early 70's radical student politics world.

Paris, 'cos she's actually smarter than most of 'em.

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Pirate

Some real advice for Steve

Get a job closer to your house, buy a bike.

OR

You seem to be missing the obvious answers to your problems and blaming the market/politicians. If your not happy with the above can I suggest a crash course in civil disturbance and political activism.

Make it personal

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Anonymous Coward

@Steve Evans

"Has anyone else wondered how the price of UK fuel kept going up even when oil is priced in dollars, and the dollar is currently worth only slightly more than the paper it's printed on... Hmmm..."

The dollar has fallen 5% against the pound in the last 3 years. The price of oil has tripled in that time. I don't think we can expect much mercy from weakening exchange rate (after all, the pound's pretty messed up too).

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@Robert Long

Actually, it is perfectly logical if you define the statement properly. It's not "supply equals demand in general terms", which is obviously rubbish, it's "supply equals demand at any given non-zero price in a properly functioning market".

Supply and demand isn't meant to be hard science. Or even quantifiable. It's just a very simple model of how the interaction between buyers and sellers impacts on price and quantity sold. Demand in general may be infinite, but demand at any given non-zero price is finite. If demand at a given price is higher than the supply at a given price, then the price will rise until the two are equal again. In theory. In practise, it only really holds true in the long run, since there are all sorts of short term barriers that prevent it from working smoothly. But that doesn't mean the model is invalid, merely that it is imperfect.

But I agree that there are far too many economists who are under the delusion that economics ever can or will be a hard science. Economics, like Game Theory, merely provides a set of intellectual tools, some of which are quite complex, for considering possible solutions to certain problems, and possible implications to certain actions. As long as you don't fool yourself into thinking that it can provide hard, quantifiable answers, it is useful.

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