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Invoking neoliberal framing and language is a failing progressive strategy (British Labour)

Over the years it’s been clear to me that we live in a fictional world when it comes to economic matters. The mainstream has created this world that bears little relationship to reality and which serves the interests of a few at the expense of the majority. But the way in which this fiction is inculcated in the framing and language of our public debates leads the majority to think that the conduct of economic policy is somehow in their best interests, even if, at times, governments claim we have to swallow a bitter pill in order to get well again. The bitter pill always punishes the lower to middle-income groups, rarely the top-end-of-town. The fiction is so deeply ingrained that even progressive political campaigns are framed within it. I have railed against that all my career because I cannot align a belief that democratic choice requires accurate information with the reality that we make these choices in a fog of fiction. I have always considered the role of the progressive forces in politics, as a matter of priority, should be to be the agents of education, so that these democratic choices reflect our realities. I have never supported so-called ‘progressive’ parties that choose, for ‘political’ purposes, to lie to the electorates by adopting neoliberal framing and language as a way of minimising any difficulties that might arise, initially, from the dissonance that accompanies exposure to the truth, after years of believing in lies. It seems that the British Labour Party continues to promote a false narrative to support and otherwise stellar plan for national renewal. But, as history tells us, a plan built on false financial foundations, falters when circumstances change and the false foundations become the issue rather than the plan.

UK Guardian being misleading

An example of when a first-class national infrastructure plan becomes deeply flawed because it is attacked on spurious, neoliberal monetary grounds, the framing of which were nurtured and shared by both major political parties, is the Australian National Broadband Network fiasco.

I noted in this UK Guardian article (November 15, 2019) – How feasible is Labour’s free broadband plan and part-nationalisation of BT? – there was a reference to the Australian experience.

The readers were told as an answer to “Would nationalising broadband work?” that:

Australia has tried to do this with its National Broadband Network and it has been branded one of the biggest infrastructure failures in its history. Set up in 2006, the government’s plan was to roll out full fibre to 93% of all premises, although over the years this was watered down to a “multi-technology mix” using different technologies offering varying levels of speed and service to consumers. “Only one other country in the world has come close to going down this route, Australia,” says Matthew Howett, the principal analyst at telecoms research firm Assembly. “And for a good reason – it’s hard, expensive and fraught with difficulty. Australia’s NBN is years late, massively overbudget and offering speeds and technology a fraction of the original political intention.”

I have written about this in prior blog posts (among others):

1. Australia’s broadband disaster has lessons for a Green New Deal strategy (August 6, 2019).

2. The neo-liberal infestation – Australia’s broadband fiasco gets worse (August 2, 2017).

3. Australia’s crawling Internet speed signifies wider fiscal failure (September 9, 2015).

4. Public infrastructure does not have to earn commercial returns (December 20, 2010).

I won’t repeat the arguments here.

But the UK Guardian representation of the situation in Australia is false and its claim that it demonstrates why Labour’s broadband plan for Britain is fraught is deceptive.

By way of summary:

1. The Australian NBN was to be the latest technology (fibre to home).

2. The Labor government at the time created a narrative that the infrastructure investment would have to be paid for by the nationalised company, NBN Inc, earning commercial returns on its charges to the retailers. So they were operating with neoliberal framing about government spending and finances, which conditioned what happened next.

3. The conservative government gained office in 2017 on a platform of cutting deficits and debt (that had risen as a result of the successful Labor fiscal stimulus, which saved Australia from recording a recession during the GFC). The Labour Party had refused to educate the public about the reason the deficits went up during the GFC and instead went back into the ‘surplus obsession’ mode. By 2012, they were cutting spending and economic growth stalled and unemployment started rising again.

4. When the Conservatives took office, among other things, they targetted the NBN investment, which was underway, as an example of unsustainable government spending. To ‘save’ money, they scrapped the fibre to home plan and instead implemented a ‘multi-technology mix’, which kept the old and degenerate copper wire as the final conduit into the home for the NBN. The fibre was terminated at ‘nodes’ which were located on various street corners.

5. The mixed technology has proven to be highly inefficient and has required even higher government investments to marry the different technologies together, not to mention the long delays necessitated by eliminating asbestos from the old copper pits. So the austerity plan backfired in terms of outlays and what has been delivered is dysfunctional and likely to be a white elephant in the near future.

6. The increasing charges that NBN Inc. imposed upon the retailers to ensure a commercial return have reduced take-up and led to very high retail fees, as profit gouging has been common.

7. The mixed technology has also delivered terrible speeds to those houses that have taken up the NBN contracts, which in many cases took several months to make operational. At nights now, it is a lottery whether streaming video will actually work, such is the inefficiency.

8. It is now likely that the new 5G wireless technology will render our national broadband system technologically redundant because of the flawed strategy outlined in Point 4.

9. All of this was a creation based on flawed narratives about government fiscal capacities and the dangers of deficits, debt and national investment.

The UK Guardian article totally misses the point about the NBN fiasco in Australia.

But if the debate about the British Labor plan to nationalise broadband and roll it out freely to every home in Britain is conducted within the neoliberal framing about debt and deficits, then the plan will probably come unstuck for the similar reasons.

British Labour’s evolving Fiscal Credibility Rule

It seems that the Rule is being modified to eliminate the commitment that “at the end of every Parliament, Government debt as a proportion of trend GDP is lower than it was at the start.”

I haven’t yet seen the new Rule in detail so will reserve comment. We only have the statements in the media from a former adviser who promotes the Rule.

I have written several times about the flaws in the former Rule:

1. Forget the official Rule, apparently, there is a secret Fiscal Credibility Rule (June 19, 2019).

2. The British Labour Fiscal Credibility rule – some further final comments (October 23, 2018).

3. A summary of my meeting with John McDonnell in London (October 17, 2018).

4. A twitter storm of lies … (August 15, 2018).

5. MMT is just plain good economics – Part 2 (August 13, 2008).

6. MMT is just plain good economics – Part 1 (August 9, 2008).

7. The New Keynesian fiscal rules that mislead British Labour – Part 3 (March 1, 2018).

8. The New Keynesian fiscal rules that mislead British Labour – Part 2 (February 28, 2018).

9. The New Keynesian fiscal rules that mislead British Labour – Part 1 (February 27, 2018).

10. The lame progressive obsession with meaningless aggregates (November 23, 2017).

11. When neoliberals masquerade as progressives (November 9, 2017).

12. British labour lost in a neo-liberal haze (May 4, 2017).

13. British Labour has to break out of the neo-liberal ‘cost’ framing trap (April 12, 2017).

14. Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘New Politics’ must not include lying about fiscal deficits (September 15, 2015).

15. Seeking zero fiscal deficits is not a progressive endeavour (June 18, 2015).

16. The full employment fiscal deficit condition (April 13, 2011).

17. The non-austerity British Labour party and reality – Part 2 (September 29, 2015).

18. British Labour Party is mad to sign up to the ‘Charter of Budget Responsibility’ (September 28, 2015).

So quite a bit of analysis.

I consistently said that the Rule would not be sustainable during a recession and trying to achieve a cut in the debt ratio (however it is scaled) would be impossible.

I was vilified by the originators of the Rule and its proponents including the Shadow Chancellor’s then advisor.

I was told I didn’t understand the Rule and was therefore stupid. And more.

Well now the Rule is changing to make it a bit more achievable but it will remain a neoliberal artifact.

I tweeted this sequence last week (November 14, 2019).

I received more condemnation from one of the Rule’s proponents, who just cannot admit that if they changed the original Rule then it must have been flawed in the first place.

He claimed it was a “tweak” but shifting from a debt target to a net wealth target (however defined) is no small shift.

But his final Tweet on the matter (in relation to me personally) he waxed lyrical:

Which provides a useful segue into a promotional video from former BBC and Channel 4 journalist and self-styled Marxist, Paul Mason, who has also been a virulent critic in the UK scene of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).

It will help Dr Meadway in answering his deep question of meaning about neoliberalism.

What is the deficit and what is the debt?

This video is a classic example of progressives aiming the gun at themselves.

The former Labour advisor and proponent of the Fiscal Rule was enthusiastic about this video.

He tweeted several times about it:

Which tells you he supports this framing and language and thinks the economics concepts that are covered in the video are valid constructions of reality.

The last Tweet from him also clearly establishes he thinks this is a superior framing and narrative to MMT.

For his part, Paul Mason promoted his video with the usual ‘tax the rich to fund essential services’ myth.

Here is the transcript from Paul Mason’s short promotional video – What is the deficit? – recorded for – Novara Media, which is a (Source):

… self described radical left-wing alternative media organisation based in the United Kingdom.

The video is a promotional piece for the British Labour Party.

Transcript:

What is the deficit and what is the debt? And why does it matter?

You’re going to hear a lot in this election about the dead and the deficit. Even some politicians can’t get their head around the big numbers involved.

Right, the deficit is when the government spends more than it collects in taxes in a year. So, its a bit like an overdraft at the end of the year the government has to turn it into a long-term loan.

All parties agree you shouldn’t run day to day surpluses (sic) on an overdraft you need to pay for them with taxes.

Labour says tax the rich, property speculators, companies, to pay for hospital schools and local council services.

The Tories, well they represent the rich and the property speculators, so over the last decade they have cut public spending by £41 billion in real terms.

Everybody agrees now that we need to spend more on GPs, on hospitals, on counter services, but these cost money.

Labour wants to raise that money through tax.

The Tories, well they won’t say where any of the money they are promising comes from.

What about the debt?

Labour is promising to borrow £400 billion over the next ten years to build new homes, hospitals, rail and green energy systems.

That’s more like a mortgage than an overdraft and this is how it will work.

The government will spend an extra £25 billion a year on windfarms, home insulation, eco-friendly transport systems, and, on top of that, in the first five years, £30 billion a year, to invest in schools, hospitals and new council homes.

Now that is a massive amount, it’s double what the Tories plan to spend. But to most families, a mortgage is also a massive amount and at the end of it you have a house.

People ask, rightly, how are we going to pay it back?

The answer is, it’ll take a long time, like a mortgage.

The way you shrink the debt is to grow the economy over time but what matters in the short-term, is the interest rate, and it’s here that this country has a golden opportunity, it’s never been cheaper for governments to borrow.

In fact, interest rates on government debt are so low, that central banks, like the Bank of England, are urging governments to borrow and spend even more.

If we borrow money, now, on the cheap, we can create tens of thousands of decent jobs, renovate our country, and, in the process, stop climate change.

If you’re still confused …

Well, I am very confused.

This does not look like anything a progressive person would want to say.

This is the classic ‘soft’ mainstream macroeconomics that assumes the government is financially constrained and is thus not dissimilar to a household.

It is ‘soft’ because, unlike the hard mainstream positions, it allows for deficits (‘funded’ by debt) to occur in a non-government downturn but proposes them to be offset by surpluses in an upturn, irrespective of the overall saving position of the non-government sector.

The erroneous concept of a ‘government budget constraint’ that plays a central role in mainstream macroeconomics is retained with all its intent.

So, just like a household, in order to spend, the government has to raise taxes and/or borrow to cover spending that is matched by tax revenue.

Further, recurrent spending has to be matched by tax revenue, and then, under some circumstances, say low interest rates, it is okay to borrow.

In this macroeconomic context, these views are what I would say are characteristic of what we have come to know as being ‘neoliberal’.

If we were to run Paul Mason’s video through with a classroom of literate young adults they would logically conclude:

1. The British government is constrained in its spending by its ability to spend by the extent to which it can collect taxes and borrow from the non-government.

2. The government cannot deliver services, provide infrastructure or fight climate action unless it increases its taxes and indebtedness.

3. The government should cover its service delivery expenses (recurrent spending) by increasing taxes on the rich.

4. The incomes of the rich are therefore essential to provide the capacity for the government to fund the provision of services to health care and welfare.

5. But for infrastructure (capital) spending, the government must increase its indebtedness.

6. At present, this is a reasonable strategy because interest rates are so low. The implication is that if interest rates were not so low it would be a dangerous strategy.

7. Further, just like a household entering a home mortgage, it might take a long time to pay back the debt but when it does, the government will get a valuable asset.

8. The economy has to keep growing, despite climate change exigencies, in order to “shrink the debt”.

None of this framing or language is what I would call ‘progressive’.

It has the hallmarks of the way neoliberals construct the concepts and the narrative.

The inferences are also plainly false when applied to the British government.

1. It is not financially constrained in its spending.

The constraints relate to real resource availability.

In terms of restaffing the NHS, for example, are there qualified labour resources available? What training would be required? Would this mean that British Labour is also going to be advocating open borders to ensure the staffing is available? Will they admit that in the election campaign?

2. There is no meaningful knowledge that be gained by comparing a household with a home mortgage and a currency-issuing government spending its own currency.

The household is the currency user and the government is the currency issuer.

Totally different constraints apply.

3. It is false to claim that it is virtuous to ‘tax the rich’ in order to fund essential health and welfare services.

This is one of the worst frames that the progressives now deploy.

The British government might want to tax the rich to reduce their power and influence (exercised via their spending habits) but it never has to do that in order to fund essential services.

The only constraint that exercise involves is the availability of real resources.

4. The British government does not have to issue debt to ‘fund’ its deficits. The capacity of the non-government sector to purchase the debt derives from past deficits that have not been taxed away yet.

Even if the government issues debt to match its investment in essential infrastructure to deliver better housing, transport health care, and engage in climate action etc, this investment is not linked at all to the current interest rates in place.

There is no meaning to the term “cheap” finance, when the spending does not need to be financed (in the currency the government issues).

The issuing of risk-free debt from a currency-issuing government really amounts to the provision of corporate welfare and no progressive should advocate its continuance.

5. There is no meaning in saying the recurrent deficit is like an overdraft or the capital deficit is like a mortgage. Those terms gain meaning when applied to units that are financially constrained.

Paul Mason came under Twitter attack from those who are now familiar with MMT.

He responded with three Tweets (among others):

Which tells you that he either doesn’t understand what MMT is about (ignorance) or deliberately deceives his audience (fraud).

1. MMT does not “believe the state creates the economy” – where has that ever been written?

2. Trying to slur MMT by invoking the “printing money” is the sort of puerile strategy that the mainstream deploy. Where is it written that MMT economists say the government should just “print money” until it loses all value?

All government spending involves currency being put into existence mostly through variations in numbers in bank accounts both at the central bank and in the broader banking system.

If the spending growth outstrips the capacity of the productive sector to respond by producing real goods and services then there will be upward price pressures and inflation may result.

In that event, a unit of currency loses some real value.

That has nothing to do with “printing money”.

Paul Mason is either lying out of ignorance or lying out of malice. Either way is not pretty.

Conclusion

The problem with framing government spending and taxation in the neoliberal way is that it politically constrains a government and biases its fiscal position towards austerity.

Enough can go wrong with large scale public investment projects as it is. Problems of resource shortages, time delays etc are major issues which the government has to minimise to maintain credibility.

But to then introduce spurious financial constraints which are meant to define some notion of fiscal prudence or rectitude means that if, say for example, there are cost overruns, then the whole fiscal strategy is impugned.

The government then becomes hostage to claims of financial incompetence etc when in fact nothing of importance has happened.

Imposing unnecessary fiscal rules only binds the hands of government and makes it easier for the conservatives to claim failure.

That is why the neoliberals advocate them. They know that they make the conduct of fiscal policy more risky and creates an environment of caution – aka austerity.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2019 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    This Post Has 26 Comments
    1. one thing, the liberal party in australia said they would do mixed node by buying off telstra the infrastructure. then somehow after the sale realised that the stuff they bought was worthless(surprise that) and everything had to be done from scratch. The NBN roll out in australia was one of the most corrupt and poorly implemented plans ever implemented.
      Also I hate the comparison between households and government, its so stupid at least use a business, still not accurate but better. Hey we can run a deficit because as long as we build something that makes money we will eventually pay off the debt and luckily we aren’t constrained by creditors. Do people think businesses don’t deficit spend to improve cash flow and invest in themselves?

    2. Hi Bill

      I’m surprised that Paul Mason is so lacking in understanding of MMT. I don’t think he’s lying, his heart seems to be in the right place from the videos Ive seen.
      I heard a Guardian politics podcast the other day on Labour’s spending plans, and some guy from a think tank said words to the effect of, “OK, supposing we can scrape together the money to build the hospitals, how are we going to afford to pay for all the doctors and nurses?”

      and as for the Fiscal Credibility Rule! I thought Labour had some MMT people on the inside…

    3. Mason’s a careerist. There was a interesting article in the Morning Star in July titled : “Paul Mason, whose side are you on?”

      I suspect the evident truths provided by MMT do not fit his anti-Brexit and more clearly his pro-EU agenda.

      He will fade quietly in the shadows of history like the long list of self-styled Marxists who turned neo-liberal like Hitchens, Kristol, …

    4. There appears to be reason for deep concern about health and environmental issues arising from use of 5G wireless technology due to evidence of adverse effects of the higher frequencies on cellular biology. Fiber optics would have been the sensible choice given all of the options available.

    5. one of my own questions about the nbn is “why does it need to make a profit”?
      I’m pretty sure the federal highway road system would never have been built if the driver was making profit or return on investment.

      The other aspect that the current surplus/deficit focus takes away is the focus on delivering public value.

    6. I can’t help but agree with all you say but there are serious problems in the UK with the balance of the media. McDonnell and Corbyn would be torn to shreds if they went straight into MMT mode. McDonnell is ploughing the inequality thread for all he can. Pointing out non tax paying corporates, the obscenity of billionaires etc. These are issues that might take hold. We have the pathetic IFS that will go through the manifestos and see if the books balance. It may not be important but with our MSM it is IMPORTANT. First they have to get elected. I would like things to be different but the British all trot out the Thatcher dictum – governments have no money of their own, just your taxes. I know we can all demolish that but my Facebook feed tells me otherwise.

    7. What is there about MMT which arouses such seemingly visceral hostility in certain quarters? The invective which is aimed at it is reminiscent of theological disputes, in which what was at one time ultimately at stake (and still can be, in Pakistan for example, today) was the physically less-well-protected adversary’s survival. (Talk about “having skin in the game”!).

      It’s hard not to see that behaviour as being strongly correlated with being of a left-wing persuasion: left-wing movements have always been a by-word for factionalism and internecine strife, from the French Revolution to Bolsheviks versus Menshiviks, Stalinism versus Trotskyism (and both versus anarchism), etc, etc. By far the greater part of the inchoate criticism of MMT is emanating from the Left, which is objectively inexplicable considering the overtly progressive positioning in the political spectrum of several amongst MMT’s foremost academic exponents.

      The MMT schism hasn’t led to any of its exponents actually being condemned to death as heretics (at least, not so far) but the degree of passion and personal antagonism, the amount of sheer bile, on display seem sometimes not to be so very far short of Robespierre’s or St. Juste’s. The bitterest enemies of prominent figures on the Left have always been, not people on the Right but other people on the Left on a slightly different wave-length from themselves. (Monty Python was as usual bang on target).

      I don’t pretend to be able to explain it, not least because it seems so totally misplaced and pointless. But clearly these people aren’t going to desist of their own volition: why would they when they KNOW THEY ARE RIGHT?

    8. Bill, according to Harry Frankfurt’s distinction between lying and bullshitting, Mason is bullshitting when he doesn’t know what he is talking about and lying when he does. The question then becomes: does he know anything about economics at all? Given the sorts of comments he makes, he either doesn’t read or doesn’t understand what he reads. If he does either of these things, one could be forgiven for thinking that he is a moron. ‘Crank arguments’: what crap. And he makes this imputation after himself making an incredibly stupid statement, which he thinks follows from what he thinks is a brilliant insight.

      I realize that I haven’t answered the implicit question I posed a la Harry Frankfurt. Is Mason lying or bullshitting? Probably both. Does it matter? I’m not sure it does in this case. Though sometimes it does.

    9. @ J Christensen
      @ larry

      Might I suggest that you scrutinise very carefully the *relevant* scientific credentials of the self-described sources of information about 5G which you find yourselves being “pointed towards”? Some of those sources might not be entirely credible.

      There *may* be something afoot not altogether unlike the anti-vaccination campaign.

      Just saying.

    10. I think Paul is a blagger, or as Larry states, a bullshitter. He’s got a pet theory based on his own personal utopian view of the future (buy my book!), and if reality doesn’t match then reality must be wrong !

      He gives me hope though that if a blagger like him can be the economics correspondent for Newsnight and Channel 4 then anything is possible.

      The psychology is interesting, there seems to be a point where the argument becomes the person, and any attack on the idea is perceived as an attack against the person. I hope i never become as dismissive as some of these people, it seems a miserable way to live.

    11. I don’t waste any time, energy or frustration reading Mason any more. There was a time when he seemed interesting, but on both economics and the EU he’s been all over the place, and just became too irritating to be worth bothering with.

      Meanwhile, it seems the Lib Dems are doubling-down on monetary ignorance. I suppose that, since the Tories and the Labour Party have gone into a spending war, the Lib Dems want to differentiate themselves. At one level, I don’t care; they are just making themselves even more irrelevant than they are already. At another level, I care very much because unfortunately, a lot of people will believe this nonsense, because they are supposed to be “the sensible party”. Anyway, here it is, if you have a strong stomach:

      https://www.spiked-online.com/2019/11/19/the-lib-dems-the-new-nasty-party/

    12. “McDonnell and Corbyn would be torn to shreds if they went straight into MMT mode”

      Maybe then they should embrace being torn to shreds otherwise they will be just garden variety plain boring lukewarm losers. If they are torn to shreds people may remember that they stood up to the stupidity of the mainstream economists, the media and the vested interests behind them. One day after the next GFC they may be vindicated (McDonnell is not that old, he will certainly outlive the current version of the system).

      Because it is not time for a meaningful change I am afraid, now it is time for a meaningful Brexit, for muddying through and finding KGB agents within the politburo of the Conservative party (haven’t you noticed that Boris is a Russian name?) or going through meetoo bed stuff with his fiancee. The wheels of history haven’t made a full revolution yet.

      I don’t understand this “pragmatism” (or rather I do but strongly disagree). If you can’t do what you think is right, just resign instead of lying to yourself that you can make a difference. Just like Piłsudski in 1917. He was jailed in Magdeburg. In November 1918 he was the leader of the newly resurrected state. Or like Lenin who kept his powder dry until 1917. McDonnell and Corbyn are just another Gordon Brown and Tony Blair in the making but they won’t even get that far I am afraid.

      If you don’t resign because you want to make this little piece of progress to happen, you are a cog within the system’s machinery because you have positively validated the rules of the game – precisely the game you don’t want to play and the rules you don’t way to obey such as getting endorsed by Rupert Murdoch (yes he is still alive, almost like Lenin).

      The same about Twitter and Facebook. It sucks? So don’t complain, just don’t use it. It is not compulsory.

      I didn’t like the rules of the Polish society, specifically the fact that the majority actively follow the Catholic Church with all the medieval stuff. One day in 2002 I realised that I actually did not like the Polish people in general, that this was not my society, because they followed ayatollah Karol Wojtyła obsessed with fighting jihad against abortion. And I didn’t care about “pierogi”. So I left in 2003 and never have looked back since. But for example my old classmate who is 50% Jewish (and 50% German but his family was thoroughly Polonised) stayed and nowadays keeps complaining about the current nationalist Polish regime and the stupidity of the people who voted for PiS. I don’t understand this. I saw the same stupidity in 2002, it did not change. They all say that I exaggerate or that I am anarchist (what I don’t deny). I claim I am simply staying sane.

      If you don’t like the rules, don’t play the game. If you do play the game, don’t complain about the rules.

      Regarding the “risks” of 5G it is all bs because the power emitted is the same as in 4G just cells are smaller. (Yes I am an electronic engineer and I know what I am talking about). But the fact that people keep talking about this “risk” clearly demonstrates the social level of propensity to ingest intellectual garbage. Exactly the same process John Paul 2.0 was relying upon while brainwashing Poles between 1978 and 2005.

    13. Tom wrote, “Still haven’t learned the obvious lesson from 2008 I see.”

      Sorry Tom, but when you write a sentence with no subject, you just confuse people.
      Who has not learned the lesson of 2008? Bill? Another commenter here? Or, some economist attacking MMT?

    14. robertH

      “What is there about MMT which arouses such seemingly visceral hostility in certain quarters?”
      The fact that most of the very serious people they’ve always believed spend their time bullshiting for the sake of their own career, which in turn means that the world is a much worse place than they think it is and their mostly powerless about it. Even if they are progressive, it’s a hell of a shift in what you believe. Still, it must be done, because neoliberalism is already falling apart.

    15. larry,

      I live in a region within a couple of hours drive from no less than 8 universities, and have been fortunate enough to have listened to 5 speakers, all with Phd’s in relevant fields, speak on this subject at an educational event that took place a few months ago.
      One of the speakers within that group worked to advise the World Health Organization on this matter; he considers 5G to be worthy of classification as a class 1 carcinogen. That is not the only problem 5G presents, and to be honest there is solid evidence that points to serious problems with far older technologies that emit EM at lower frequencies as well.

      By now there are many papers relating to this subject matter and, I’m surprised, you couldn’t find anything credible for looking. The observations go back almost as far as we have been working with devices that can emit radio frequency waves and millimeter waves (the wavelengths associated with 5G) were first studied in India, by the polymath Jagadish Chandra Bose in the late 19th century. Not really new technology although the 5G application is. There has been plenty of time to study effects.

      Nowadays, millimeter waves have already been used to construct crowd control devices, that can (purportedly without causing real physical harm) make a targeted individual feel like someone poured gasoline on and threw a match. Does that not indicate some sort of action at a cellular level?

      The following link to many papers should be helpful to you: https://www.5gspaceappeal.org/the-appeal

    16. Dear J Christensen.

      People who didn’t bother studying physics (or were unable to) invent and amplify conspiracy theories about harmful microwaves emitted by phones and other devices. Some of these people have vested interests or just want to become celebrities, some may have personal issues. The site you have linked is full of this kind of stuff. The fact that someone has a degree doesn’t make him/her an instant expert in everything. We can see this clearly in economics.

      Crowd control device emits microwaves with intensity so high that they heat up skin in the same way hot water poured over the surface would do. Please read the article “Microwave burn” on Wikipedia. There is also another good resource “EMF Explained 2.0” which actually describes how modern communication systems work.

      Lower frequency microwaves such as 2.45GHz used in ovens penetrate deeper (penetration depth in is in single centimetres if it is a fatty tissue). Waves in the range above 30GHz will not penetrate the skin (decay exponentially so fast that their power can be ignored). Also – the power absorbed by a person using a mobile phone mostly comes from the phone, not the cell tower antenna. If someone wants to absorb less microwaves, not using a mobile phone / WiFi / Bluetooth device / microwave oven (may leak a little bit) or driving a car fitted with a radar seems to be a natural choice. It also reduces the chance that person spreads ignorant ideas over the internet.

      To actually understand where it all comes from I suggest reading a physics course. The solution to Maxwell’s equation is decaying if the material the wave is propagating in has a non-zero conductivity. Penetration depth is inversely proportional to the root square of the frequency. There are other effects but these are not relevant for these frequencies and materials. Lower frequencies in the megahertz range can penetrate the whole body (think about MRI) but we need to always ask what power is being absorbed and how it can interact with the body matter. I am not saying nothing is harmful or that an old “brick-like” analogue mobile phone or a 2G phone operating at full power held against someone’s head for an hour would not slightly increase the temperature of the brain but we cannot simply ignore the physics. We can debate all of this and I feel I am capable of debunking the myths but the link you have provided to “papers” is not a good starting point.

      I we want to argue against fake science in macroeconomics, we should have zero tolerance towards pseudoscience in other areas of human knowledge.

      Disclosure. I sometimes work with radars. But for entirely civilian applications.

    17. @ Paulo Marques

      I see exactly what you mean. I hadn’t thought of that explanation but now that I do it seems a very insightful one.

      Which makes them more to be pitied than abhored I suppose – if one is of a charitable nature.

      But what has charity ever had to do with either politics or economics? There has been a total dearth of it – or even of plain simple comradeship – in the Labour Party’s shameful treatment of Chris Williamson MP.

    18. Adam K and cheerleader,

      The “conspiracy theory” label is getting a little old and worn out at this point in history, and it doesn’t even apply to this discussion. No one is suggesting a conspiracy exists to harm people or other species with radio frequency radiation (rf) at this point.

      What is causing concern among many well credentialed scientists, who it can be said, do have the relevant backgrounds, is the growing weight of scientific evidence that thermal effects are not the only rf induced effects capable of damaging or disrupting cellular processes, and biological systems, many of which are quite complex , and depend on coordinated low energy bio electric activity for normal function and survival.

      What is in question is whether in a fit of “irrational exuberance” over a new technology and potential new “dot com” emerging, that we are not evaluating various risks with the rigor that is due.

      This sort of research is not an area were “Physics” reigns supreme at present. Physicists, generally speaking, do not possess the knowledge required to fully evaluate the material systems under the microscope here; simply put, the problems are not their field of expertise to diagnose or dispel, and most of them would freely admit that, being professionals.

      What has become quite apparent, is that many cellular processes are indeed susceptible to rf induced effects, at radiated power levels orders of magnitude smaller than previously assumed from the thermal models which standards are based on; however, thermal effects at these levels do play a role in some instances.

      You don’t have to cook protein to do damage. Very small levels of rf at shorter wavelengths can produce odd effects on the auditory system even, among many other things; but it’s something I have personally experienced. When you can turn an effect on and off by flipping a switch, and most people can experience it. I think causation is established.
      There is little doubt that hearing something ,unrelated to sound emanating from an identifiable source, which cannot be removed from ones environment, would constitute a problem with consequences likely to affect health.

      So this field of research demands a multidisciplinary input; very much as Bill suggests proper evaluation of economics ideas demands, nothing contradictory or inconsistant there.

      This would include input from physics, but not limited to input from physics. It must also include, at least: biology, neurobiology, microbiology, biochemistry, medicine, psychology, epidemiology, ecology.. There is good representation from each of these fields among those signatory to petitions advocating that further research precede any widespread growth in the application of this technology.

      The WHO already classifies wireless rf energy as a possible human carcinogen, while one of it’s advisors, Dr Anthony Miller, a world renowned epidemiologist, has put it out that there is sufficient evidence to support labeling rf radiation in general, a class 1 carcinogen. That should be sufficient cause for concern about any proposal to greatly increase the amount of this energy in our environment as is being proposed by industry.

      Do we fully support good research, which would take less time and waste fewer resources, or, adopt a wait and see what happens approach, as happened with the new keynesian school of economics, the tobacco industry, certain chemical, nuclear, and fossil fuel industries? The cost of those reasonably foreseeable outcomes has proven to be too great given any relevant measure.

      There are already regions which have banned 5G based on concerns raised by health providers in areas where clusters of health problems immediately followed activation of new wireless equipment.
      Even if these problems were limited to sensitive individuals (it appears they weren’t), the proposed satellite based transmitters are intended to cover most of the planet, leaving nothing but Faraday cages as sanctuary to those individuals seeking to isolate themselves from the reach of the cause of their misery.

      There is a lengthy history now of technologies used by those seeking to gain new markets, when clearly the planet and humanity would have been better off were they left on the shelf.
      Capitalists have demonstrated that they will spend enormous amounts of money finding ways to protect the future income harmful products or practices generate once the profit potential begins to be realized.

      5G is purported to be a necessary element for the so called “IOT” (internet of things), but is that actually true? Are there other ways to obtain the most important benefits to consumers from this concept without adding significantly to the rf energy we are already bathed in?
      I would argue that we could, network any household appliance we might want to with existing technology and available bandwidth.
      Are autonomous vehicles, and embedded devices in our orange juice containers to monitor the product, really the equivalent of indoor plumbing as a utility or a necessity to our future quality of life?
      Is it wise to add to our energy consumption by broadening the use of the least energy efficient means of transmitting signals?

    19. It just seems to me that there are those who think that taxes are real items which flow through our telephone networks and end up at the Government. These are then used by the Government and are sent out in the next years chunk of Government spending (added to by some proportion of new £s) (either borrowed from the rich or newly ‘minted’) which then become the taxes mentioned in the first sentence.
      Whether the re-used ‘taxes’ plus the remainder of the 100% agreed sum of capital; or 100% wholly freshly minted £s are sent to the economy via bank accounts are believed, neither are seen to be other than fiat items, ie they do not have any substance. What flows out of the telecoms network and into the banks is merely the expression of the size of the Government’s desire to promulgate its plan to invest in the future.
      I don’t think that the above statement expresses anything which could be denied as being dishonest.

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