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John Harris and economics

He’s heard something and decides to reference it:

As far as basic economics is concerned, they endlessly deny the existence of gravity.

The gravity model of trade. Of course, as with anything vaguely heard of he doesn’t understand it. The gravity model works on economic distance, not geographic.

To explain this to him with reference to his home town, Frome. Somerset coal (largely from around Radstock and Faringdon Gurney) was cheaper in Bristol – heck, in London – than it was in Frome, a place geographically closer. Because there were canals – Somerset Coal Canal, Kennet and Avon (meeting just by Avoncliff) – connecting those places and the Dorset and Somerset, running through Frome, was never completed.

The Dorset and Somerset Canal was a proposed canal in southwestern England. The main line was intended to link Poole, Dorset with the Kennet and Avon Canal near Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire. A branch was to go from the main line at Frome to the southern reaches of the Somerset coalfield at Nettlebridge. Construction of the branch started in 1786, using boat lifts rather than locks to cope with changes of level, but the company ran out of money and the canal was abandoned in 1803, never to be completed.

That’s economic distance and that’s what the gravity model of trade depends upon, not geographic distance.

Shouldn’t be too, too, hard on Harris of course for most commentators don’t grasp this either. Sadly so.

11 thoughts on “John Harris and economics”

  1. Not just transport distance either. New Zealand lamb is “nearer” than Welsh ‘cos they speak the same language.

  2. British East India Company? Didn’t England/Britain get rich from trade with far-away places rather than with the Continent of Europe next door?

    That Britain being the factory of the Empire thingy too.

    It’s not only a lack of understanding of economics, it’s an absence of any history.

  3. Is he actually referencing the gravity model of trade, or just reaching for a vague figure of speech which is about people denying the obvious?

    Either way, he is a pop music journalist and a cunt for the discerning connoisseur.

  4. John B,

    “It’s not only a lack of understanding of economics, it’s an absence of any history.”

    The thing is, most of these people really don’t know much at all. Their job is to write stuff that is on a subject, that is reasonably entertaining, that fits a hole in a newspaper, on time. And as long as the readers don’t know it’s crap, job done.

    Like this is just some ignorant bullshit:-

    “Just before Christmas, for instance, it was reported that the Metropolitan police would now be buying armoured ministerial cars from the German manufacturer Audi because no UK firm was “able to meet the requirements of the tender”. Here was more proof of the supply-chain problems that are afflicting British producers, and a malaise that has caused annual UK car production to fall by more than half since 2016.”

    What “supply-chain problem”? Harris just doesn’t have any idea of what “supply chain” is. It was one of those things buzzing around with car makers, so he uses it. But even for those car makers it was about just-in-time and no-one cares about just-in-time for small or special orders. It’s not worth setting it up. Just keep more stock. Or buy parts when you need them.

    I suspect the truth is that over time a couple of companies have gained the reputation for being the ones to do an armoured cars. No-one really cares about being cheap about the car, no-one wants a small car, and the leaders of Bongo Bongo Land want to be driven around in something prestigious, not a Toyota.

  5. Armored cars are very heavy. You need one with really strong suspensions. And powerful engines to move the weight.

    Rolls Royces were popular. But hardly cheap.

  6. @John B – “Didn’t England/Britain get rich from trade with far-away places…”

    To some extent. But also by distorting trade. See, for example, the Calico Acts which enforced the import of raw cotton for manufacture into cloth rather than allowing import of the manufactured result.

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