Adam Curtis and the shapeshifting lizards


It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance ~ Murray Rothbard

Adam Curtis's segment in Charlie Brooker's look back on 2014 tells us that news is confusing, and hard to paint into black and white. We've withdrawn from Afghanistan, but did we win or lose? Bashar al-Assad is bad, but is ISIS even worse? But nothing, he says, is more confusing than the economy.

The economy is growing, but wages are falling; the deficit is falling, but the national debt is rising. This, he says, keeps the population (whether intentionally or not) in a state of confusion and apathy.

But at the 'dark heart of this shapeshifting world' he says, is quantitative easing (QE), which pumps hundreds of billions of pounds into the economy at the same time as the government is 'taking it out' via its austerity programme.

According to Curtis, the Bank of England has 'admitted' that his has accrued to the richest 5%, a failure of the programme. He calls it 'a ruthless elite, siphoning off billions of pounds of public money'. He even suggests it's roughly analogous to the situation in Russia, comparing British wealthy to oligarchs.

But I wonder if he's looked at any of the research into the programme, asked any economists, or even, perhaps, interviewed some people at the Bank of England?

The reason why some Bank of England research says that the wealth benefited disproportionately in wealth terms is that without the QE programme there would have been a depression, and asset prices would have collapsed. The rich hold assets, the poor don't. But does anyone think the poor would have done better had there been a depression and mass unemployment?

Curtis might find a comparison between what Ambrose Evans-Pritchard calls the 'QE bloc' of the US and UK (and now Japan) and the Eurozone germane. Where have we seen deflation? Where have we seen mass unemployment?

They might look at some of the peer reviewed and robust research telling us whether and how QE has worked.

Much of it is from the Bank of England and Federal Reserve, although I suspect that the credence Brooker & Curtis give to the Bank only extends to stuff that says things they want to hear. Anything else may be dismissed as being exactly what you'd expect the shapeshifting lizards to say.