3 min read

The human hand grenade

Who is Britain's newest Prime Minister?; central banks don't fight inflation; Apple's new iPhone; and the chess world is embroiled in scandal.
Cartoon showing Liz Truss.
The UK's new PM, Liz Truss, has her work cut out for her. Source.

1—The human hand grenade

"Now that Britain's ruling Conservative Party is replacing Johnson with Liz Truss, a prime minister who models herself on Margaret Thatcher, it's anybody's guess how she’ll turn out. But if we are being charitable, she might combine a bit of Thatcher with some part of that steely German pragmatist, Angela Merkel."

That's from Sebastian Mallaby, who provided some background on Britain's third Prime Minister in three years following the ousting of Theresa May and Boris Johnson. On the Thatcher comparison, Mallaby writes:

"Like Thatcher, Truss assumes power when her country is in the dumps. In 1979, Britain was seen as 'the sick man of Europe.' That year, inflation topped 13 percent and the country lost 29 million workdays to strikes. Today, inflation approaches the same level and railway workers, nurses, garbage collectors, postal workers, teachers and civil servants are all either striking or planning to do so. Soaring natural gas prices have triggered a cost-of-living crisis. On Oct. 1, household energy bills are set to jump 80 percent unless Truss does something. That would come on top of a 54 percent rise that happened in April.

Truss also appears unbothered by what other people think. She shares her mentor's suspicion of the government’s reliance on career experts. She has been dubbed the 'human hand grenade' for her sometimes rough handling of sensitive issues, but as foreign secretary and trade secretary she had a reputation for getting stuff done. She has chosen a time of rising prices to promise tax cuts and extra government spending, combining that inflationary cocktail with an attack on the reputation of the Bank of England."

There's plenty more in the Mallaby's WaPo article here (~3 minute read), including that while Truss "is unlikely to win the hearts of Britain's voters, she will at least avoid alienating them with a careless habit of scandal".


2—Fighting inflation

Are central banks fighting inflation, or just trying to cause a bit less of it after getting carried away during the pandemic? Economist Bryan Caplan explains why it's the latter:

"It is therefore quite absurd to give the Fed or any other central bank credit for 'fighting inflation.' You might as well give your hard-partying neighbour credit for 'fighting loud noise' because he turned his stereo volume down from 10 to 7. Key point: If the neighbour wasn't home to 'fight loud noise,' the volume would be 0.

The most you can honestly say about any central bank is that they are trying to start causing a lot less inflation. Which sounds underwhelming. Which is why they twist the truth."

Central bankers twisting the truth? Never!

You can read Bryan's full post here (~2 minute read).


3—If it ain't broke, don't fix it

Tweet on Apple's new iPhone 14.
Apple announced its iPhone 14, which hasn't really changed all that much from previous iterations.

4—Chess drama

World Chess champion Magnus Carlsen pulled out of a major tournament for the first time ever on Monday. The withdrawal came shortly after he lost to Hans Niemann, a 19-year old American player with a history of cheating.

There's a whole reddit megathread dedicated to the unfurling drama, which is worth checking out given that it's probably the most exciting thing to happen in chess since... well, forever.

You can read the full reddit thread here (~7 minute read with plenty more in user comments).


5—Further reading...

👶 "South Korea plans to provide every family with a newborn child a monthly allowance of 1 million won ($A1,070), in its latest move to encourage more births and try to address the world's lowest fertility rate."

🤝 Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin will meet in person "on the sidelines of a summit in Uzbekistan next week".

👍 Donald Trump issued a statement endorsing "ERIC" in the Missouri GOP primary race for Senate. All good except that three of the candidates were called Eric, creating "distress and disarray".

🚢 China's exports grew just 7.1% in August from a year earlier, down from 18.0% in July, "as surging inflation crippled overseas demand and fresh Covid curbs and heatwaves disrupted production, reviving downside risks for the economy".