Where does ‘helicopter money’ come from?

21 March 2020

9:00 AM

21 March 2020

9:00 AM

Taking off

Who came up with the concept of ‘helicopter money’?

— The term is derived from an essay in 1969 by the economist Milton Friedman, who suggested a theoretical experiment where a helicopter flew over a community suffering from low growth and dropped $1,000 of banknotes which were then eagerly collected by the residents and spent.

— The idea was revived in a speech by the then chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, in 2002.

— Come the banking crisis, however, central banks opted for an indirect way of pumping extra money into the financial system, via quantitative easing.

— If governments do drop money into the pockets of businesses and individuals, one sector for whom it will have come too late is, ironically, the helicopter industry. It has had a torrid time in recent years thanks to the decline of offshore oil operations, with Bristow and PHI among companies filing for bankruptcy protection last year.

Sick pay

How much could coronavirus restrictions take out of the UK economy? Total weekly household spending on various discretionary items:

Restaurants/hotels | £1.38bn

Package holidays | £747.8m

Air fares | £194.6m

Sports admissions | £183.5m

Rail fares (outside commuting) | £72.3m

Leisure classes | £69.5m

Live entertainment | £44.5m

Participation in sports | £30.6m

Cinemas | £25m

Museums | £16.7m

Overall, recreation and culture accounts for 13% of household expenditure and hotels/restaurants for 8.7%.

Critical mass

How many critical care beds does Britain have compared with other European countries?

Highest number per 100,000 population:

Germany | 29.2

Luxembourg | 24.8

Austria | 21.8

Romania | 21.4

Belgium | 15.9


Netherlands | 6.4

Finland | 6.1

Greece | 6

Sweden | 5.8

Portugal | 4.2

The UK is 24th out of 31 countries with 6.6 per 100,000.

Source: Intensive Care Medicine (2012)

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