The Obscurer

Silence Kid

Prior to Sunday’s derby match there were a number of people who were certain that the minute’s silence in memory of the Munich air disaster would pass off uninterrupted. Whether this belief was out of genuine optimism or just wishful thinking I cannot say, but what I can say is that they were right and I was wrong. I was always of the pessimistic “it takes one idiot” school of thought; or rather it takes one to shout “Munich”, a second to respond with “show some fucking respect”, and a third to continue the snowball from there. I didn’t fancy the look of the law of averages on this one, and so while I could appreciate why United believed so strongly that a minute’s silence was the most appropriate way to mark the tragedy I was just as certain they simply weren’t going to get it, and that some sort of compromise should have been worked out; but I was wonderfully mistaken, and the silence was indeed a suitable and fitting memorial.

In the event such was my concern that I even absented myself from the country during the match, but I still watched it unfold on the TV while sat in the Blue Bell Inn, Conwy, in the shadows of the castle (and literally in the shadows, thanks to the gloriously unseasonal blazing sunshine) as my wife and I shushed the children and I waited nervously for the first numbskull to pipe up and break the silence; but it never happened and after the minute was up I heaved a sigh of relief.

So to the match, and I followed it as best I could while eating my own lunch and trying to cajole two children into eating theirs. I was one of the few to cheer when Vassell and Benjani scored, but I have no idea how the pub reacted to Carrick’s consolation goal. I left at half-time to explore the castle, strangely confident that our defence would be able to withstand United for a further 45 minutes, and so it proved. As the minutes ticked by and my mobile failed to buzz with a goal flash I began bounding around the turrets and ramparts until word came of the final whistle. What a perfect day.

We shouldn’t get carried away though; there will have been some in the crowd at Old Trafford who will have sung Munich songs before, and no doubt will do again. I can take a certain pride in the behaviour of the City fans on the day, but if a few had let the majority down that wouldn’t have been a reason to tar all Blues with the same brush, and so let’s not go overboard with praise either. For whatever reason, be it because of the threats from the club, the desire to show themselves in a good light, or because they wanted to commemorate the passing of Frank Swift, the morons kept their heads down. None of these incentives should have been required, all that was needed under the circumstances was for people to act like decent human being; but not everybody is, and anything that helped contribute to the silence being so successfully observed I am very grateful for.

Of course it is never enough for some; my erstwhile colleague Danny Pugsley pointed me in the direction of the Red Issue forum, which along with this report and no doubt the 6-0-6 message-board shows some Reds remarking that while “they” may have managed to shut up for sixty seconds, “they” have otherwise been singing about Munich for fifty years. “They”, as far as many of the commentators on the forum are concerned, are all City fans, variously known as knobheads, scum, fuckers, vermin, cunts, twats and so on. A curious bunch those forum members are to be sure, to act so indignantly and to assume the moral high ground, to accuse others of being bitter; certainly they seem wholly unsuited for the role. But whatever they may say and whatever they may call themselves they have nothing in common with the many reasonable United fans I know; the forum lot are merely nincompoops, representative only of that cretinous minority of football supporters that all clubs attract to some degree, and just the sort of fans who would happily join in with the Munich chants were it not for the fact that they consider themselves to be Reds.

Pump It Up (When You Don't Really Need It?)

The BBC managed to get awfully excited by yesterday’s inflation figures; both Five Live and Newsnight led on the news that the Consumer Price Index had risen, from 2.1% to 2.2%, while the more widely trusted Retail Price Index had also gone up, from 4% to 4.1%. Cue doom and gloom all round.

But is that it? Inflation up by 0.1%, leaving the CPI at just 0.2% over the government’s target? If the inflation rate had risen by any less it wouldn’t have risen at all. Jackie Long on Newsnight preceded her report by stating, “in some ways, today’s official inflation figure could have been read as a bit of good news”. “But we decided to run with the story anyway”, I interjected, finishing her sentence for her. And fair enough; no doubt the guests were booked in the studio, the bulk of the report had been filmed, and we don’t want to be wasteful when there are some potentially straitened times ahead.

I don’t want to sound complacent, I appreciate that the economy is in a tricky position just now, and that while inflation, unemployment and interest rates are still historically very low there are storm clouds on the horizon, with concerns over commodity prices, the knock-on effect of the slowdown in the US, and the amount of personal debt in the UK economy; but still, talk about talking ourselves into a recession before it has even happened.

There are a couple of things I could do with being answered, though, by anyone out there with the requisite knowledge. Whilst I acknowledge that the state of the public finances is a concern in itself, what is all this talk bemoaning the way it is restricting our ability to use fiscal policy? For years monetarists have told us that we shouldn’t use fiscal policy at all, even if we are in a position to do so. That always seemed a bit daft to me; after all, changes in taxation have a fiscal effect even if you don’t want them to. Now, however, not only is fiscal policy seen as desirable but almost magical, as if any tax cuts or increases in public spending will only have the wished for effect in stimulating demand without adding to the inflationary pressures that are already a worry and inherent in the world economy. So what’s going on there?

Secondly, if part of the concern at the moment is the high level of personal debt and the bubble in the housing market, themselves a consequence of the low interest rates we have enjoyed for so long, is it really a good idea to cut interest rates still further in response? Isn’t that a bit like reacting to the sight of an over-inflated tyre that is leaking air and looks as if it is about to burst by pumping in even more air, when really we should be looking at releasing some of the pressure through the valve? In other words, rather than calling for a frantic cutting of interest rates and considering fiscal stimulus packages, shouldn’t we just accept that a slowdown will have to happen at some time, that it may well be happening now, and that rather than strive to prevent it or delay it just so it can wreak even more havoc another day we should prepare for a downturn, perhaps even for some sort of recession, and we should be putting our efforts into engineering as soft a landing as possible?

Or have I just demonstrated why my career in economics stalled abruptly on my graduation day?