My First Single Release on Music Streaming Services & For Sale

Newstead Abbey – March for Brass Band

A commission from the City of Nottingham Transport Band for their CD recording ‘Music from the City of Legends’. Now available on all online music streaming and purchasing services, including Amazon Digital Music, iTunes, Spotify, Google Music, and more.

Steel Crises & Tariffs: What is the economic argument?

The ‘conventional’ view of globalisation and low tariffs, is an  assumptive model based on a Ricardian* view of trade and globalisation.

However things are much less clear cut than conventional view admits. In the end, economic theory can prove nothing about whether free trade or some form of restricted trade is best from the point of view of the people living in a particular country. It can provide a framework to help to understand the consequences of alternative policies and to identify who is likely to experience gains and losses. Other ‘non-economic’ considerations may come into play as well, such as national autonomy.

Furthermore, the conventional view slides over a number of important issues concerning globalisation (and anti tariffs). Pervasive externality and informational problems are compounded by inequalities in power, particularly at the national level.

The analysis of tariff removal compares two equilibrium positions. The implicit assumption is that the economy moves instantly and costlessly from one equilibrium to the other. This is not just a simplification for theory purposes, it is common in empirical studies of changes in trade policy. These typically simulate what the economy would look like after a change in trade policy, but only consider the new equilibrium when all adjustments have taken  place. However, we all know that in reality, the economy does not hop from one state to another; and in the mean time there is considerable unemployment which should not be ignore in terms of economic costs.

The economist Driskill wrote that in their enthusiasm for free trade, exponents of its benefits sometimes neglect to note that when tariffs are removed, the relative price of exportable goods must rise. People buying those goods will see their consumer surplus shrink. Whether any particular consumer is better off or worse off depends on the balance between the importable and exportable goods they buy.

Lowering protection against imports makes some people in society worse off, while others become better off. It’s not a clear cut zero sum game. We’re in danger of ignoring the welfare of our workers, the economic impact of letting steel fail, the desperate need to get our balance of payments under control and the tacit implicit cooperation or approval of China’s actions subsidising their steel making by up to 75% and flooding the world market by accepting that the low price is a natural price and a raised price (meaning also the need for firms to look closer to home for steel instead of internationally) would be “harmful”.

*The modern version of the Ricardian model assumes that there are two countries producing two goods using one factor of production, usually labour. The model is a general equilibrium model in which all markets (i.e., goods and factors) are perfectly competitive.

More information on Ricardian Model Assumptions: http://catalog.flatworldknowledge.com/bookhub/reader/28?e=fwk-61960-ch02_s03

Did UK manufacturing exports halve under Labour?

Part of an ongoing “Economic Myths Debunked” series.

I am going to be as brief as possible and use mostly diagrams. All data is from the Office of National Statistics, an independent body operating at arm’s length from Government as a non-ministerial department, directly accountable to Parliament.

UK Balance of Payments under Labour

Balance-of-Trade-in-Goods- under labourThe graph above shows that the UK balance of payments as a proportion of GDP decreasing significantly over the Labour years (red bars), from just over minus three per cent to just under minus seven per cent.  It appears that imports exceeded exports by over twice as much by 2010.

Here is some of that data in monetary terms, and it seems to look even worse:

UK balance of payments in monetary terms

Below is the rest of the balances of payments dataset going back to 1950. The big spike down is 1973 (OPEC 1973 oil crisis) and the big spike up is 1980 (the 1970s North Sea oil discovery exports thanks to 1979 oil crisis) .

Balance-of-Trade-in-Goods-II

I will leave interpretation up to the reader of how the long view of UK exports looks according to the data.

US Balance of Payments

However, the UK was not alone in seeing balance of payments fall over a similar period. Here is the US balance of payments from 1960 as a percentage of their GDP.

US dollar balance of payments

 

The chart bears perhaps a striking resemblance to the UK balance of payments.

UK exports to the EU

UK exports to EU and non EU

The graph shows a stead increase in the value of exports to both EU and Non-EU counties over the Labour years. Not an astonishing amount, but an increase of between 60 and 80 per cent.

UK Manufacturing Output

manufacturing-growth-96-07-500x407

The chart shows that manufacturing output in the UK shrank in six out of the 13 of the Labour years. However, one must take in to account the world wide recession which started after the financial crash in the autumn of 2008.

One must also look at a longer range dataset which goes back from 2012 to 1990 and shows that over all during the 90s manufacturing output had risen to a peak in 200, and effectively stabilised over the 00s until the financial crash. It still hasn’t recovered much above 1990 levels.

industrial-production-index-1990-2012-500x369

UK Imports

pngbricmports_tcm77-326387

The 00s saw the rise of the so-called BRIC economies and the graph above shows, overall, the BRIC countries’ share of total UK imports has increased from 3.3% to 11.6% over the last 15 years (ONS).

However, at an aggregate level, UK exports to the BRIC countries as a percentage of total UK exports have increased from 2.6% to 9.1% over the last 15 years, 6.0 percentage points of this rise having occurred since 2006.

pngbricmports_tcm77-326387

UK balance of trade with China

It is worth looking a little closer at the balance of trade with China over the last 15 years to get a real perspective of how the rise of low cost goods from a rapidly growing economy has effected the UK’s manufacturing industries. From 1997 to 2010, the UK’s monthly trade deficit with China grew from around £100m to an astonishing £2,250m.

uk-bop-balance-of-trade-china-monthly-ons

Summary

The evidence seems to initially suggest that manufacturing exports declined rapidly during the Labour years 1997-2000. However, that is a misleading picture when one takes into account the value of exports in total.

Whilst it is true that manufacturing in the UK saw a small decline in the 00s, the biggest reason for decline was the global financial crash of 2008 which saw output collapse around most of the ‘developed’ world. This was balanced by the BRIC countries whom managed to weather this decline, but likewise our exports to those nations remained stable too from 2008 onwards.

Conclusion

Did UK manufacturing exports halve under Labour? 

On balance it would seem that this is unproven: our exports did rise a little, but our imports rose dramatically.

How to show hidden files on OS X Mavericks 10.9

OS X Disk RootIn my opinion, the Mac OS is astonishingly simple and easy to use and for most people the default file system setting is just fine, however there are files and folders that are hidden from view – and just as well for some users!

Personally, I like to see all the files and folders, including the hidden ones.  There are tools and apps that do this, but by far the simplest way is by typing in a command.

Here are the steps:

  1. Go to the ‘Terminal’ app. The quickest way is to click on the spotlight magnifying glass in the top right of the menu bar and type Terminal and then hit return/enter. Double click on the icon to open.
  2. Copy and past the following command as all one line:
    defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles 1 && killall Finder
    

    and hit return.

The Finder will restart immediately, and all the hidden files and folders will be visible.

To turn off hidden files, the command replaces 1 with 0:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles 0 && killall Finder

WARNING! Be careful, and don’t delete or alter anything that you don’t fully understand as you may cause issues with the way the operating system works. However, delving in, looking around, and so on will help you find out how the Mac OS works. If you are used to any flavour of Linux or Unix, you will immediately recognise the way the file system is laid out.

A different perspective on modern economics (revised)

Part of an ongoing “Economic Myths Debunked” series.

Economics is often portrayed as being independent, devoid of value judgements, and immune to ethical or ideological influence. Over the past thirty years our politicians and policymakers, many economists in the media, and most economics textbooks have encouraged us, in the words of Harvard professor Dani Rodrik (2009),  “to think of economics as a discipline that idolizes [sic.] markets and a narrow concept of (allocative) efficiency.”

The mainstream view

The general public, media and indeed economic students have all been subtly indoctrinated with an emphasis on demand and supply (also called the model of perfect competition) as the central theoretical structure of an immutable reality: “…a world of perfect markets in which given resources are allocated as if by an invisible hand in a way that maximizes[sic.] the value of total production. The belief that this model approximates how markets operate in the real world is often referred to as ‘market fundamentalism’.” (Hill and Myatt, 2010, p.4)

[It is essentially a laissez-faire view. The core belief is that markets are efficient and that governmental attempts to ‘interfere’ with markets necessarily create inefficiencies. (ibid, p.264) They give the impression that markets generally are sufficiently competitive that (for the most part) they lead to efficient outcomes; that minimum wages and unions are harmful to workers themselves; and that government regulation is either ineffective or harmful. (ibid, p.1)]

Further still, most are under the impression “that economics is a value-free science; that economists have an agreed-upon methodology; and they know which models are best to apply to any given problem.” (ibid, p.1)

Most of this is myth.

The reality

“Value judgements pervade economics and economic textbooks. These value judgements reflect a social and political philosophy and can be called an ideology or world-view. It is one that textbook writers are implicitly attempting to persuade the reader to accept.” (ibid, p.1)

The point is not so much to claim that this ideology is wrong, but simply to point out that it exists, and that there are always alternative views that one ought to consider. Hill and Myatt agree with Rodrik (as quote in the first paragraph) that the typical text offers a view that ‘idolizes markets’ – “usually not in a crude way, but in a subtle way through its choice of themes, and through its emphasis on demand and supply (also called the model of perfect competition) as the central theoretical structure.” (Hill, 2010, p.4)  Australian economists Prof. Steve Keen goes further, implying that because the values that pervade the textbooks are so subtly woven through they present themselves as  neutral, yet only by absence of alternative views. A whole generation now exists that thinks  “neoclassical economics [is] economics.” (Keen, 2011, p.9)

Neoclassical, mainstream, economics  presents hypotheses and policy prescriptions with surprisingly little or no supporting evidence, or (worse) it ignores inconvenient contrary evidence. Indeed, what neoclassical economists don’t admit is that even their fundamental “totem of supply and demand” (as Keen refers to it) is based on an initial assumption that would leave the most ardent supporter of “free-markets” with their jaw planted firmly on the ground.

“Scientists … check their theories and models against observations of the real world at every opportunity. The central theory of the currently dominant stream of economics has not been properly checked against real economies for over a century. If it had, it would long-since have been abandoned.” (Davies, 2012)

Particularly, many  supporters of market fundamentalism, the modern free-market theory (or academically, the neo­clas­si­cal theory), are actually ignorant (or misinformed) about the foundations this theory is built upon and the assumptions of its economic models. It comes as a shock for many when they find how little this widely revered theory has to do with science and reality in the real world. When people who seem to vehemently support ‘free-markets’ start stating how they think they work and the basis of their understanding, they don’t realise that they ironically showing how much they don’t support market fundamentalism!

In 2000, a group of economics students in France circulated an open letter to their professors declaring ‘We wish to escape from imaginary worlds!’ and deploring the ‘disregard for concrete realities’ in their teaching.  They asked for less dogmatism and more pluralism of approaches. Since then, petitions and open letters have appeared in the United Kingdom and in the United States. (For details, see www.paecon.net.)

Forthcoming blogs

My aim with the forthcoming blogs on economics topics is to open up your views on economics; to see things in broader terms; to understand the differences and similarities in the many schools of thought outside of the current neoclassical dominated world view and hopefully to think more critically when presented with economic ‘facts’ and ‘discussions’ by the media, economists,  and politicians.

Contradictory to what neoclassical economists insist, economics is not an immutable science or natural force with set physical laws; it is socially and philosophically driven, morally adaptable and is fundamentally controllable. The “free market” as is defined by the political ‘right’ and neoclassical economics is not natural or inevitable, and does not exist outside government. Markets aren’t “free” of rules; the rules define them.

I want you to imagine how you believe economics should look and behave; and then be an influence that can make that change. In the words of Akerlof and Shiller (2009, p.173):

‘There is then a fundamental reason why we differ from those who think that the economy should just be a free-for-all, that the least government is the best government, and that the government should play only the most minimal role in setting the rules. We differ because we have a different vision of the economy.’

Postlog: Myth of the ‘free-market’

ROBERT B. REICH, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-reich/free-market_b_3935173.html (extract)

Who should decide on the rules [of the ‘free-market’], and their major purpose? If our democracy was working as it should, presumably our elected representatives, agency heads, and courts would be making the rules roughly according to what most of us want the rules to be. The economy would be working for us; we wouldn’t be working for the economy.

Instead, the rules are being made mainly by those with the power and resources to buy the politicians, regulatory heads, and even the courts (and the lawyers who appear before them). As income and wealth have concentrated at the top, so has political clout. And the most important clout is determining the rules of the game.

Not incidentally, these are the same people who want you and most others to believe in the fiction of an immutable “free market.”

If we want to reduce the savage inequalities and insecurities that are now undermining our economy and democracy, we shouldn’t be deterred by the myth of the “free market.” We can make the economy work for us, rather than the other way around. But in order to change the rules, we must exert the power that is supposed to be ours.

Bibliography and Cited Works

  1. Akerlof, G. A. and R. J. Shiller (2009) Animal Spirits: How human psychology drives the economy and why it matters for global capitalism, Princeton, NJ, and Oxford: Princeton University Press.
  2. Davies, G. (2012) The nature of the Beast – How economists mistook wild horses for a rocking chair, Ebook, Online: Geoff Davies.
  3. Hill, R. and Myatt, T. (2010)  The Economics Anti-textbook: A critical thinker’s guide to microeconomics, Black Point, Nova Scotia: Fernwood Publishing.
  4. Keen, S. (2011) Debunking Economics: The naked emperor dethroned?, London and New York: Zedbooks.
  5. Rodrik, D. (2009) ‘Blame the economists, not economics’, Guatemala Times, 11 March, available at www.hks.harvard.edu/news-events/news/commentary/blame-the-economists

If you have an area of economics, or political philosophy that you would like to see discussed in these blogs, or questions that you feel need to be addressed, please let me know via the comments below.

UN investigator slams ‘aggressive’ behaviour of UK Government towards her

“It was the first time a government has been so aggressive. When I was in the USA, I had a constructive conversation with them accepting some things and arguing with others. They did not react like this.”

UN Housing investigator, Raquel Rolnik,  slams the ‘aggressive’ behaviour of  the UK Government towards her.

In memory of the humble audio cassette tape

TDK MA-X / Type IV / Metal audio cassette

Saturday 7th September was the first International Cassette Store Day. Its organisers described it as “a celebration of a physical product that is accessible, fun, cheap and still going strong in the turbulent current musical climate.” The day saw  a number of limited edition albums released on cassette, and modern classic albums re-released too.

My Tapes

I adored the TDK MA cassette tapes (pictured). I had  a fantastic SONY three head recorder with bias adjustment helper and Dolby-S bought circa 1994. (I still have it actually and it’s as good as new!)

With a fresh metal tape, bias adjusted, dolby S on and using the third head monitoring, you could push the signal really high achieving a wonderful audio signal saturation level that is hard to beat. They just played back with such life on any type of cassette player too, including car radio cassette players!

I used to record a lot of mates’ CDs on to tape for them because they loved the sound quality I could achieve. The tape saturation  brought a life and clarity to music that seems to be missing from a lot of digital music, and even pre-recorded analogue music as well.

Before the ease of hard-disk and digital recording, most of my compositions, MIDI sequences and keyboard improvisation moments were all recorded to the TDK type IV metal cassettes too. I’m slowly revisiting all these and archiving them digitally to share online (see the list under Music).

Sony three head cassette deck with Dobly S.

Tape Saturation in a Digital Age

Those familiar with digital recording of any kind will recognise the life-ending sound that is almost worse than fingers down a black-board: digital clipping. Once a digital signal has clipped, there is rarely anything known to man or gods that can be done to rectify that audio recording.

The analogue audio concept is based on physical electrical voltage current alternations which convey an electrical wave form analogous to the sound pressure wave form, hence being called analogue. In this domain, clipping becomes an electrically relative term that depends on the input and output capabilities of the components of the ‘chain’ or system. There comes a point of overloading, where the power of the electrical signal is too much to handle and the signal, and thus the quality of the audio it is analogous to alters.

The distortion associated with clipping is often unwanted, and is visible on an oscilloscope even if it is inaudible. However there are times when it is wanted for creative reasons, such as with the electric guitar or the distorted vocal effect etc. But there is also another reason, which I mentioned  earlier when talking about recording CDs to tapes.

As the signal level increases, tape approaches a saturation point where no further signal variations can be recorded. This is signal saturation, an inherent flaw in the accuracy of magnetic tape as a recording medium. However, unlike digital recording techniques, where analogue to digital converters in audio interfaces suddenly and aggressively ‘clip’ as the signal exceeds its maximum level, analogue tape breaks down in a less predictable manner. The result is distortion and compression which behaves in a unevenly with regard to signal level, frequency and dynamic range. (Or, in a non-linear way for the techno-bables.)

Ironically, the ‘break down’ and soft-clipping of tape saturation sounds pretty appealing to most people, and recording engineers realised that the pleasant distortion and compression characteristics of saturation could be used as a mix tool, making individual tracks sound more punchy, helping to ‘glue’ elements together and even making entire mixes sound bigger and richer.

Recreating the Warmth of Tape

Most people use Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software these days, such as Logic and Pro Tools. Many studios, and live engineers, are recording and mixing with digital audio consoles (a few studios have kept the analogue desks of old, but they generally are massive beasts and prone to breaking down with heavy usage.) Introducing”analogue warmth” to your digital sounding mix is the subject of hundreds of articles all over the net, but there are three basic solutions.

  1. Use a DAW plug-in. They range widely in price and quality. Essentially, digital algorithms try to model the effect of signal saturation.
  2. Use a three-head cassette recorder. Just chain an output bus to the input of the tape deck (like the SONY model I have) and route the ‘monitor’ output back in to your DAW. Use a fresh tape, fast forward to about 2 mins in, follow the bias adjust setup, then record your mix via the tape (recording, set to monitor, and volume adjusted as high as sounds pleasing – you may have to manually adjust too) and record the result either live back in to DAW or replay the tape.
  3. Use a Gyraf Audio Gyratec Infundibululm. It will only set you back £3360 and is tested and reviewed in this months Sound on Sound magazine. It is a completely mains-free passive device, so no electrical interference from mains, and is actually rather brilliant. Admittedly, it’s top level pro kit at that price, but there really is nothing like it out there.

What’s it sound like?

Sound on Sound have provided some audio examples of their test with the Gyraterwatsityfidliumthingy, on their website: http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/sep13/articles/gyrafg21-media.htm