Best books 2010

by Henry on December 13, 2010

Below the fold, a short list of the books I really liked in 2010. Readers are invited to submit their own favorites in comments.
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Ireland’s Budget: living under Draco?

by niamh on December 13, 2010

Budget 2011 which is before the Irish parliament now is widely described as draconian. This is the first instalment in the four-year plan to bring the budget deficit to below 3% by 2014. The adjustment is front-loaded to take out €6bn in spending cuts and tax increases in 2011. The total retrenchment will come to €15bn, under the terms of the recent IMF-ECB rescue plan.

The scale of the effort required is massive. The reason is not because the government deficit is so high – by itself, this would be painful but manageable – but because, as part of the loan agreement, no renegotiation of bank debts is possible. The large private deficits in the financial sector have been, in effect, socialized. There is no real distinction any more between the sovereign debt and bank debt. As a result, the government deficit this year stands at 32% of GDP.

Ireland thus becomes an international showcase for a new kind of politics. What happens to a country swallowing the political poison of internal deflation, and trying to grow its way out of trouble when it can neither gain competitive advantage by devaluing, nor inflate away the distributive conflicts that must ensue? Suppose the interest rate payable on its large loan is 5.7%, growth estimates of 2% are deemed too ambitious, and the immediate consequence of the stabilization plan is to be awarded a downgrade by the international bond ratings agencies? Note that national per capita income is already 20% lower in 2010 than it was in 2007. Add in the facts that the ruling coalition is deeply unpopular, the smaller party has declared its plan to withdraw soon, and the slim government majority relies on the votes of two often fractious independent deputies. How might this grim scenario unfold?

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Another threat to the humanities and social sciences?

by Ingrid Robeyns on December 13, 2010

A group of scholars at the Freie Universität in Berlin is distributing via E-mail and their website alarming information about downsizing of the EU research funding in the Humanities and Social Sciences. The EU is currently drawing up its 8th framework program, in which it decides how to allocate its money – to which fields, for what type of research, what the conditions are, etc. Apparently it is not only a matter of less money going to the humanities and social sciences (which, to the best of my knowledge, is already a small percentage of what the other sciences get; sadly I forgot the exact figure, but — from the top of my head — less than 20%). In addition, the ‘impact’ or ‘valorisation’ discourse/ideology seems to take hold here too, since according to the information which is spread by the scholars from Berlin, EU funding for the humanities and social sciences would be earmarked for more applied research, and to research that contributes to the competitiveness of the EU on global markets.

It’s the last week of term at my University, and I happen to have a heavy teaching load this term, which means I have no time to properly check this out. So consider this as the mere spreading of information and the opening up of space to discuss these issues in greater depth by those of you who know more about this, and/or have currently more time at their disposal to investigate this. I’ll invite some EU research directors to join the debate.