Boring economics teaching is interesting
Looking at the textbook page 440, figure 19.2, do you think the 1979 monetarist policy worked for the UK?
Neither agree nor disagree
"We used to believe on Keynsian solutions; now we believe on monetarist solutions" - Professor Leslie Fishman, standing at one end of an economics teaching room at Keele University 1985-7
Words fail me
It's the mid-eighties at a midlands university called Keele.
A quarter of the workforce is unemployed, sick, or on government schemes.
The scene is an economics degree course
How government economics advisors can cause a recession
The exchange-rate hike in 1979 closed the best factories quicker because they exported more.
My dad had to stop taking on new business about the time that the closure of the MG car factory was on the news. My did did consumer credit, and they did exports, but in this recession both closed at the same time. A new UK textbook spells-out the start of the factory-closing process in detail.
The worst factories that only made things for the home market were able to stagger-on a bit longer, proving, firstly, that a concerned home market helps manufacturing, and secondly that the standard account of the 1980s is wrong. According to Wikipedia, it was the inefficient factories that were shocked out of a habit of inflation by an exchange-rate hike in 1979, and that's the kind of discrepancy economics students ought to study. The faults in official truth.
The Wikipedia account comes from some different source to reality: an idea of how to shock the habit of inflation out of the US labour market called something like Rational Expectations, re-written into a kind of Geoffrey Archer plot regardless of facts.The US economy was very very big, and having fewer imports and exports; a shock to interest rates worked more through reduced investment and increased spending as peoples' mortgage costs went-up. That's the country that monetarist economists inhabited. Their proposed shock would have another effect as the exchange-rate rose and imports flooded-in, but it could be ignored in the short term or patched-up with some shrugs to the worst-effected, or maybe some tariffs and subsidies. I doubt the system worked - there is a rust belt in the USA and voters switched to Trump in order to prevent another free trade deal called TTIP - but economics is not the same in every country, and the country I inhabited was the UK.
- The Servis washing machine factory, that made reliable washing machines, closed while the Hotpoint factory carried-on.
- The MG car factory at Abingdon closed in about 1979, but the one making the Morris Ital survived to make the next model, as part of the same group of companies
- Reliant Scimiters - both models - and Bond Buggies ceased production, but the Reliant Robin carried-on production at the same Tamworth factory.
- Steelite stackable crockery for caterers was still made, but a UK factory closed. Things like Staffordshire Figurines and Spode continued in production I think.
- Personal computer manufactuers Acorn, Dragon, and Osborn all closed, while main-frame manufacturers GEC and ICL continued. (A censored anecdote in the official history of Reading University is that staff would have liked to take their million pound ICL computer to the end of a peer and push it over. They didn't. They donated it to Wellington College. But you get the idea that mainframe computers with their leasing and maintenance contracts were thousands or times worse value than desktop ones bought from a new breed of companies)
The new UK government in 1979 got their radical economic policies second hand from north america, and the graph above was the result.
It's all new territory for bad economics courses. They usually embellish the X-shaped diagrams with roof-like triangles and satalite-dish shapes for micro-economics. They usually move-on to demand management for macro-economics, finishing with a kind of charting exercise in which some of the rules-of-thumb are combined as a chart with lots of dotted lines and that's called "modelling".
Not that Keele ran a bad economics course in the early 80s: small groups of students tried to solve problems with a tutor, and learn theory along-side, but times have changed. I think the areas of study were innovation and encouragement for UK industry - a bespoke course that re-appeared for a year in 1987, overseas development and world trade, and a bespoke macro course about funding the welfare state over decades including pensions. This was replaced by whatever was available on the shelf in my year. An over-riding principal is that there has to be a better private sector to provide jobs and pay taxes, and there has to be more clarity about the deal on things like pensions. There's not a huge amount in the way of business tips, which is wise because educationalists aren't in business. All good stuff, slipped-in to a course far earlier than at the more mathmatical full-time courses in other colleges. I just wish they had built-in some kind of access to self-employed work as part of the course, because I fell-out of the end without a job
a third less money
In hindsight, it was obvious that a college that taught four-year degree courses would be cut more than colleges that taught three-year degree courses by the central government quango that doled-out most of the money. This is from Keele - the first fifty years by John Kilbert. It is a little bit like the Begg textbook, spellling-out the process of how factories had to close for lack of exports after 1979, and for colleges the stress is more of anticipation and detail and then facts becoming clear too late to plan.
The college shrank a lot fast since I applied. It had to shrink overheads to pay redundancy money while spending less per student, without much notice to plan things like how many students to take or how many staff to hire.
Cyclical spending, I remember from A-level, is anything that can be cut in an emergency like some of the back-office staff, building maintenance, new computers, or books.My opening quote "if you turn to your textbooks..." could not have happened because academic staff didn't have recent textbooks. I noticed that academic staff were rare, but they were only cut 10%., but spending on books or computers was cut far more. The registrar was made redundant. The Vice Chancellor's job was confirmed when the college chose not to merge with a technical college down-town, simply because it would save no money, but there was some co-operation on redundancies so a lecturer could be made redundant from one job and emerge, surprised, teaching at the other college instead of getting a pay-out. Other staff chose unpaid leave without replacement [Tribe, 2014, p3, footnote 8].
Meanwhile the Vice Chancellor got another job anyway, and a new one was hired. It would be good to know if part of the brief was to keep economics teaching boring, and the same thing was happening in other colleges, but this kind of stuff tends not to be written-down. The same mistakes have to happen over and over again
A rule of thumb: economists do not predict recessions
There is an rule of thumb: economists do not predict recession. This could be because economists studied in a boom. Their textbooks put all the messy stuff about recession and economic mess-ups in the background. At the end of the course, there are jobs around and these students are happy to go-on and teach this stuff.
Other people studied economics in a recession while their college was short of cash and just taught whatever was cheapest to teach, to the largest possible number of students, who sat and scowled-back, never to think about economics again after graduating. They loose all patience with the subject and forget about it - there are no jobs to be had teaching it anyway.
That is my economic theory, ready for publication in any journal on the Keele List.
Economic theories have a bumpy ride in the USA where a lot of the textbooks and journals are written. The idea that a government can build motorways or the Hoover Dam or somehow try to influence the economy in a recession is a big deal there. Doing it is fine but getting it into textbooks is a big deal. A textbook was boycotted for saying any such thing, then Samuelson's textbook said it in such pretend-scientific language that his textbook sold. There would be another bumpy ride for any economist who wrote a textbook about social insurance systems and the UK NHS so - no surprise - they don't. Or write a careful criticism of what the public sector had done well or badly when trying to plan vital parts of production during the war. A lot of them in the US were of a generation that knew about that, first hand, from emergency war-time planning of the US arms industry, but they didn't want to write about it. The standard textbook has a big section on micro-economics, then a shorter section on the macro-economics of demand, and nothing about what the UK Department for Business or development agencies do well or badly; there is nothing in the textbook about macro-economic supply. Or just four pages in Begg.
There was an article on the net about a retired man who once taught politics at the vast University of Boulder, Colorado. He discovered from released CIA archives that his has sacking had been orchestrated by the chief there, and noted in regular exchanges with CIA officials. There is evidence of made-up allegations of being bad at the job - the sort of theng that makes anyone in any job play-safe and stick to the textbook in case they're next on the list. The article ended that the man "never taught again" and that the chief was no dead, and had family who "declined to comment". I can't find the link and if anyone else knows please tell me on shop at veganline dot com. That's the previous employer of Professor Les Fishman, my teacher on a lot of courses at Keele.
Samuelson the textbook-writer is one of the saner US economists compared to the rival school of thought, who are Thatcherite economic advisers. My professor is one of the saner ones too - a civil rights activist with an interest in Pete Seeger and ending the Vietnam War, who had joined an odd political party in his youth that sounded communist to the average american. Well it would do. It was called the The Commnunist Party USA, but he was a civil rights activist, not a plotter paving the way for tanks. The McArthy and Todd Committees must have thought so too because they got round to him quite late, after he'd got a job at Keele and showed interest in the Pedestrians Association, the Fabian Society and one of the mainstream political parties.
The picture is Professor Paul Samuelson and I had Professor Les Fishman, but they all have the same high-brow haircut and serious specs. In the states they wear suits, and when they move to the UK they buy tweed. The theory stays the same and the economy has to adapt to suit it; it is a pseudo-scientific disceplin designed to resist political interference more than a technique to measure and comment. Post-war economics professors might fail degrees on the current consensus view that "awareness / appreciation of contexts / knowledge" is vital to scrape-through a course and get a degree. If you could label the traffic-lights that allow a student to get a degree, the consensus document would look like this.
● Awareness / appreciation of contexts in which techniques are relevant / knowledge
● Familiarity / proficiency / competent use
Students are the lucky ones, even if the course makes no sense at all.. Other people the same age are really bored and do anything but train-spotting to pass the time, sometimes acting-out the plots of Irvin Welsh novels, or The Full Monty or Billy Elliot. Other people the same age and older are working or on strike in coal mines under the campus, thinking about the same issues. In year two I lived next to the Silverdale Colliery branch line and counted about 50 wagons of coal at about 10 miles an hour going to some power station, as miners returned to work; I am in the right place to learn about economics.
People occasionally ask me questions when they discover that I'm on an economics course, like - "what's the answer?". That seems a reasonable expectation of a 90-week adult education course, for people who have just done A-level. If the course does not have that purpose, it should have some other clearly-stated purpose, so that students know not to take it.
Begg, 1984, page xix
Ninety weeks, half-time, minus time spent on exams and short courses, to find out why so many parents are redundant or bust, so many student places are cut, so few job prospects exist, and life is turning in to an Irvin Welsh novel.
Please excuse this prose; it makes no great sense. It is a series of notes cobbled-together and just leads where it goes. Sometimes a long-bit spins-off into another more coherent blog post. Further down there is a more structured bit with headings about the reasonable teaching of economics courses next to what happened.
The graph above is from the first edition of "Economics, British Edition", Begg, 1984, the main book recommended to students for background reading. Do you think anyone should say anything if the professor pretends he hasn't noticed? Definitely agree | Mostly agree | Neither agree nor disagree | Mostly disagree | Definitely disagree | What do people do in Greece when this happens?
Someone in a class asks about "Today's redundancies" and why the day's factory has closed. It has just stopped making so many Servis washing machines, just an hour down the motorway in Darleston, so the student quite likely has some reason for asking, like redundant taxpayer parents who paid Fishman's double wage. One each.
Today's Redundancies is the subject that I guess people have commited years of their lives to study and want the man to teach. Washing machine factories that sustain a welfare state and employ UK taxpayers are an endangered speces and this one grew over generations of productivity & thrift .
"I don't know ... maybe it was the design or lack of investment or something like that", says Professor Fishman out of his double-paid arse.
Servis machines are the first ones to use microchip control panels. I know this from a Design Centre exhibit of how many components they had saved. The people who bought the brand when the factory closed still write that these are "the first washing machines in the world to harness quartz technology for increased precision. This made the Servis Quartz one of the most advanced and reliable washing machines of its time. In fact some Quartz machines are still going strong today, over 30 years later."
"They won an award from the Design Centre", I say, in solidarity with my fellow student protester, because this is obviously about macro-economics and I'd seen the Servis exibit at the Design Centre in London. Fishman knows about the Design Centre. He's written an article for the people who run it.
"Oh. - I don't know", says Fishman out of his arse. This is the first thing he ever says to me. To quote an obituary, Fishman loses "any chances he had of reaching academic stardom" in my eyes. Apparently his generation of US economists could all be stars if they had a reasonable amount of talent. They pretended to have been the first to have discovered loads of rather obvious facts to write in Econometrica and called it a subject, in which professors found it bad for their careers to refer to anything outside economic journals. They would use the phrase "in economics", as in "autism has a different meaning in economics". I suppose if an economist had written to Econometrica that he wore a hat, then, "in economics", he would count as the person who discovered hats and be a great man.
Another obituary quotes what happened if you asked someone from this background a question that wasn't answered in the text book: "I don't believe you have the right to ask me that question. I have the right to freedom of association..."
Recessions follow wars.
Recessions follow banking and financial crisis.
Recessions follow cowboy economists and their advice to governments
Thatcher's advisors had a new policy, which was to fiddle the exchange-rate upwards by whatever method, even if it cost taxpayers money. This would make exports, priced in pounds, more expensive than the market price and imports cheaper. For some reason, UK governments do this kind of thing.
The method for fiddling the exchange rate was called "monetary policy" - the bottom set of lines on the diagram. It was known that if interest rates went up, the exchange rate goes-up as more overseas investment managers sloshed their holdings around the world to take advantage of a fraction of an extra percent. It seems odd for the treasury to pay more than necessary for r borrowing, but that's what it did, and economics teaching is so bad that nobody thinks this odd.
The treasury could also try to raise interest rates among banks, because it controlled the central banks' emergency lending service to them from the central bank. So other banks would not want to lend much money at less than this emergency rate, for fear of getting caught-out and lending money at less than the rate they could borrow it. The same policy effected all the big types of loan - business loans, mortgages, and consumer credit. It seems odd for the treasury to discourage loans for business investment, but that's what it did.
These two policy decisions could effect the flow of international investments very quickly. Edward Heath said so. He came to give a lecture.
As the exchange rate changed, exports became less possible and cheaper imports flooded-in along the bottom row of arrows on the diagram. Factories that did any exporting had to shrink a lot very quickly or close. And meanwile there was a squeeze on anything that people borrow money for, like business loans, mortgages, and consumer credit. There had been a squeeze anyway on business loans - the banks had a near monopoly on taking deposits under the 1979 banking act and were no longer interested in customers like my father who wanted business loans. Now there was a bigger squeeze.
The policy closed exporting factories in such a crass way that you could call it deliberate. I do. Thatcherites would mostly eliminate manufacturing if it helped the cause of the moment, I think, because one of them says so. "We would mostly eliminate manufacturing", writes Professor Patrick Minford, an economics professor now employed by students of Cardiff University after advising the governments of the UK and Malawi. He is an example of someone not to ask for economic advice.
"Inactivity rates increased following the recession, reaching a peak of 23.2 per cent (7.82 million) in the summer of 1983, with most of the increase accounted by males" - J Jenkins of the Office for National Statistics in Economic and Labour Market Review, August 2010
There were subtleties too, but they didn't make things any better. North sea oil exports had already rigged the exchange rate against UK manufacturing in a way the Norwegan exports didn't because of a different system. Containerised shipping made world trade far cheaper in container-sized lumps than it had been. So the policy made a bad situation worse. Things were not so bad in the home counties and London, where my parents had a house. Looking at a national newspaper in Northern Ireland I was surprised that the job ads were the same. I assumed from London that the ads were different in different parts of the UK, but everyone read those same job ads together, like the telesales ads pretending to be something to do with journalism, or the Richmond Fellowship Holly Lodge that kept The Guardian in business with its ads for live-in volunteer work and jobs that would now pay below the minimum wage. Newham Community Renewal Programme had a bit turnover too.
Officially the economic policy was called the "Medium Term Financial Strategy", and was measured by something called Sterling M3 - a briefly fashionable measure of something that can be measured and so pleases a school of economic thought, but doesn't relate very clearly to anything else, like the shape of clouds or the pitch of bird-song. There was no monetary policy committee before 1997 - decisions in the early 80s were made by the chancellor Geoffrey Howe in public, and his boss's american academic economic advisers in private. The fact that Howe resigned with a speech about currencies suggests that, in the early 80s, Thatchers' economic advisors from the USA made most of the decisions and that problems with the exchange rate even troubled the chancellor.
Unemployment reached three and a half million including half a million on government schemes, if you take a few minster's quotes from Hansard for the target numbers that the biggest ones were meant to employ and round-up to account for the little ones. On top of that number were a growing number of sick people, and people excluded from statistics for thirteen different reasons like "excluding school leavers" quoted above the graph. There was another exclusion of everyone over 60. Or maybe it was 55 - all called economically inactive instead of unemployed. We had a few essays to write about early 1980s unemployment stats, which I forget and so have googled information just recently.
If inactvity rates for males of working age are higher than usual, they were higher still in Longton which had about the second worst unemployment rates in the UK as well as some of the best integration of factories and housing to allow easy delivery between factories and allowing people to walk to work. What could be one of the best places to live and work in manufacturing became one of the worst places to find a job, because of the manufacturing link.
<DIGRESSION ON FORGOTTEN RECESSION>
</DIGRESSION ON FORGOTTEN RECESSION>
1980s recession explanations I wrote are now on their own page. People often write that the 80s recession, loss of industry, the defecit, and effect on a generation, were probably something to do with liberal reforms. Google the same point made alongside an opposite one on other sites like "economics help", which that the government fiddled the exchange rate. The 1984 Begg textbook agrees. My 1980s recession explanations agree too. My 1980s economics course seemed designed to stop students from finding-out.
The next box here is a lost introduction that needs to go somewhere,
Next come structured points about a long-forgotten economics course that must have been typical. It's relevant now to me, to anyone who wonders why economics teachers missed the 2008 recession coming-along, and to Keele Uni which is usually about number one for student satisfaction and has had some really good economics teaching - mainly in the time just before I was there.
Should economics teachers know about at least one economy, measure it, and discuss it with students in tutorials?
No because teachers might be summoned to the McArthy or Todd Committee, followed by unfair dismissal from Colorado University. Or a hostile government might concentrate funding cuts on one university like Keele.
Yes because decision-makers make bigger mistakes if nobody knows how the economy works, and anyway this group of students has signed-up, the course is more-or-less funded, and it's unfair to offer a maths course or sessions with a weatherman instead.
<DIGRESSION ON THE LSE AND THE LATIN TEACHER EFFECT>
The London School of Economics (LSE) course, is one of the most selective, but near the bottom of the charts for satisfaction. College ability to select students is on the left of the diagram; student satisfaction with the course on the right. The bars chart relative scores to other economics degrees; the number is an absolute number mixed-up from some Unistats scores, and published in the Complete University Guide charts. The blue background is an accident, and there's another accident that might explain low satisfaction scores. Mick Jagger was an LSE student, something that I guess a lot of current students know, and the "can't get no satisfaction" lyric might go through their heads as they fill in the feedback forms. That is theory number one, but not very good because I guess the students are good at things like stats and try to keep first impulses in check.
Here is a second theory. The LSE is a highly international college. It says so on the prospectus. It shares low scores with another one called SOAS. Students and staff at both colleges are under-qualified to think about one particular economy like the one in the UK. For example they can read a reference to the Morris Marina as an example of failed state intervention before closure of in-efficient industries, and they can believe it; they lack background knowledge to correct the conventional truth. Until the conventional truth describes some part of the world that they know about, and then it seems wrong. I don't know what do do with this theory.
Here's a third theory, worth a closer look. It's a good theory based on no rather indirect evidence, but it could be backed-up with a few surveys.
Theory part one: results are even worse than they look
The more selected students at the LSE ought to be easier to satisfy, because they can be selected for similar interests. A less selected group of students could want opposite things to each other, or have vaguely different and less clear ideas of what the course is for, if anything, and so be harder to please all at the same time. A lot could end-up on the course with no clear interest, and so not work much on it. Or not be cut-out for studying, and need a very structured clear simple course that's easy to grasp.Some could want business tips from someone not in business. Some could want to sort the economy out while not yet Chancellor of the Exchequor. Possible dissapointment all-round. All a good excuse for dis-satisfaction at somewhere like Open University, but not at the the big LSE couse with different streams of study and students selected to want them..
Theory part two: the answer is in the prospectusThe LSE prospectus gives a view about who should apply. It begins by tempting-in students with references to real problems. It ends by admitting that this is con. The course is the opposite of a course on real problems: it demands an interest in maths. There's only a chance to do anything else in the third year. Students have to suffer years one and two in hope that they lead somewhere. It is a bad deal; a bad offer. If the deal was on a supermarket shelf it would say "Buy Three, Get One!". People like me who go for this deal are not good with money. Then when the third year comes, the other students on the course will have more experience of international travel and maths than of the UK economy, UK state services, or critical thought.
modern economics requires an aptitude for and enjoyment of mathematics ... first-year core courses for undergraduate programmes in the Department of Economics include both mathematics and statistics. ... All of the programmes ... take a mathematically rigorous approach to the subject, and are therefore very demanding of quantitative and analytical ability and interest. This should be taken into consideration when deciding whether this is the most suitable degree programme for you - 2017 LSE course description (aimed at applicants with A-level maths at the top grade)An LSE teacher wrote in The Guardian in 2008, partly defending his course.
Professional economics .. is very, very mathematical. This is true both for theoretical economics, which involves a lot of theoretical maths, and for applied economics, which involves a lot of number crunching of one sort and another.I don't know what "theoretical economics" could be. It sounds an embelishment of rules-of-thumb to a daft extent and out of context. Like a theoretical dog or theoretical food.
- Tim Leunig of the LSE writing in The Gardian, 2008
As for number-cruncing, I don't know why LSE economists don't use a computer to help with this kind of thing -
This is only partly mathmatical and it is only intersting to students, I guess, altogether, as a set.
- dig data and know if other data says the opposite
- crunch numbers with a rather frightening bit of software that takes a bit of learning
- know the limits of rules of thumb - the ones that say one thing like price effects another like demand, or the rule of thumb that says whether points of data fit a line.
The same article suggests that economists aren't well educated.
Today many people call for restrictions on trade, even though every economist worth that title knows that free trade is good for both sides in almost all circumstances.Those statement are not useful on their own. Free trade between a welfare state, with high social insurance costs, and another country with lower costs, can't work very well. The problem is made worse because very poor people tend to cope by having a lot of children, partly in hope of care in old-age, and fear of too many children dying along the way. Partly it just happens, when boys and girls are working and not at secondary school. So workers in one country have to pay social insurance costs, while workers in the other country suffer over-population and are desparate.
Similarly many aid groups call for policies that will immiserate the very people they claim to want to help. Many people support those calls because they know so little about how the economy works, and people in the developing world are poorer as a result.
Add to that the complications of manipulated currencies - often manipulated on economic advice - and export subsidies that exist in countries like Bangladesh - and you get an economic disaster which this economist doesn't mention. Free trade led to falling wages in Bangladesh and jobs like the ones at Rana Plaza, while wiping-out a lot of the textile trade in the UK. The economist states a good rule of thumb with no mention of its limits. He says "almost all circumstances", so I suppose he thinks free trade benefited Bangladeshis and people in the UK.
Here is another good rule-of-thumb taken out of context, without its limitations. This time it is rejected.
Until the 1970s people really did think that governments could spend their way out of recessions,The policy generally worked, I thought, but spare capacity has to be available and likely to be used by the extra spending. So the idea suits rapidly-investing economies or economies in recesion. The idea of public building works on things like The Hoover Dam or motorways or Ireland's Famine Roads or Mussolini's motorways is still, obiously, a good idea I think. The problem is when more general government spending expends, that carries-on after the recesion, and could be spent on goods from the back of the planet because they're not available locally, or crowd-out the private sector which can't borrow so cheaply, or encourage inflation.
So both rules of thumb are good, within limits. This economist accepts one rule of thumb and rejects the other without any ifs and buts. He doesn't seem to know his own ignorance, and his education gives a clue to the reason.
LSE insists on an A grade at maths A-level, and even Oxford, which has the least mathematical economics course of any top [sic] UK university, notes that "94% of recent successful applicants have A-Level mathematics". And having got to a top university to read economics, students then find that they have let themselves in for a lot of maths: half of the LSE first year consists of formal maths courses, and another quarter is mathematical economics. If you want to be a professional economist, you need to do the maths.
The last bit of indirect evidence is obvious to anyone educated a few decades ago. Colleges churned-out Latin graduates, who ended-up applying for teaching jobs. Schools found the quality of job applicants very good for the money among Latin graduates, so they tried to slip Latin into any course possible and to run a lot of compulsory Latin courses. Unis do the same. In the 1930s my mum was told she couldn't go to university because she hadn't studied Latin. Universities taught even-more Latin related stuff, churned-out more Latin graduates, and the cycle repeated itself. The cycle - the Latin teacher effect - was obvious for Latin, and I think it's obvious for Maths at the LSE.
</DIGRESSION ON THE LSE AND THE LATIN TEACHER EFFECT>
It's good for people to know what the 1980s recession was
The manufacturing crisis caused by bad economists, politicians who picked them and voters who picked the politicians. And Murdoch & Maxwell news.
Bit about finance in the 70s
The life of an economics student
Benchmark standards for discussing UK economics degrees: the default settings
Economics introductory courses are nobbled
Why UK economics courses forget the 1980s mess-up
Why British manufacturers under-invested, except Morris who under-invested
Mr Morris of Morris Motors was different.
If an economics professor won't profess about recession, should they retire?
Neither agree nor disagree
Obituaries in national newspapers should be published
A digression about the chief, Les Fishman
Economics teaching before student feedback - extra question for Keele:
A recession caused by bad economists has wrecked a chunk of the economy, along with students' job prospects and those of their parents.
£32,720 of tax money was paid to this economics department to research what happened next; how people got jobs if it all.
The teacher doesn't mention a word about this. He doesn't run a course based on his research; he doesn't ask students to swap ideas about jobs. He doesn't give a lecture about whatever the £32,720 of tax money paid-for. Is this OK?
Neither agree nor disagree
Words fail me
Ommitting Verse Three: the bit in the textbook that isn't taught
A digression about economics textbooks:
I have forgotten what I was going to say. Anyway, I am reading Begg's 1984 edition and find it a well-written, well-produced book for someone who knows what to make of it. The chapter on "risk" that ends with the stock market is worth passing-around to anyone interested. The next chapter, "welfare economics", says more about the things it is not allowed to say than anything interesting in the bits left-over. It looks as though the first college divided all the interesting ideas up between the departments, and the economics rep got to the meeting late and had to make-do with what was left-over. I am reading a lot of this for the first time and have not got to the end so shall move-on to another box.
A digression about economics textbooks: this is the neat, pretend-technocratic, pretend-neutral book that came out in 1948 in the US
Teaching before student feedback - external reviews of 1980s Keele
Unemployment in the text books - there is more here
Cow theory: sweatshop countries are called the "global south" and should milk the "global north" of welfare state countries for subsidy or their elites and help exploiting their poor in sweatshops that put people out of work in better-run countries.
The Leslie and Eleanor Fishman Bursary at Keele University
Current National Student Survey questions, including optional follow-up questions and extra questions for NHS students
Quality Assurance Agency Benchmarks for Economics Degree Courses
introductions too long to put at the start
The way UK government treats manufacturing is still important to anyone selling UK-made products, because it's hard to explain that UK manufacturers were effected by fiddled-exchange rates.
students ... aware of how economics can be applied to design, guide and interpret commercial, economic, social and environmental policy. As part of this, they have the ability to discuss and analyse government policy and to assess the performance of the UK and other economies, past and present - Quality Assurance Agency benchmark .Customers might know that Churchill joined the gold standard in the 1930s, closing a lot of UK manufacturing to achieve a near 25% non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, that the Luftwaffe closed a lot of it in the 1940s, and that Churchill ordered the Bletchley Park computer to be broken up after 1945, stunting a new industry before it started, and that councils tend to demolish a lot of workshop space on any pretext - even the Olympics. Customers don't know about the 1979-2009 blitz caused by a monetary policy of exchange-rate fiddling to promote cheaper imports, that journalists and politicians are still quite keen on the idea, and that alternatives like helping industry work well are not asked-for. Customers know that big orders from China are cheaper, but they don't know that there is a whole range of areas where UK manufacturers could make smaller quicker orders or specialised ones or sell direct to sympathetic customers to cut the costs of a shop. It just takes a patience for lead times and ability to buy what the factory is used to making. Nor are customers schooled to promote good government by buying goods from well-governed countries, rather than buying from countries where there is poverty that causes a population explosion and so goods made for next to nothing. I have a blog post about this after visiting a consensus-building exercise at Labour Behind the Label. Development economics is taught separately from the need for a welfare state in developing countries. Lastly, the word "welfare" is American; government ministers still have trouble understanding the main insurance-like role of the UK state. That is something that better economics courses could help them with.
Textbooks quote stuff which is simply wrongWhile writing this blog post I bought a second-hand copy of the brick-thick 779-page textbook called Begg that we used on my 1980s degree. It's well-written for a narrow purpose. It would be a good backup to example-based lectures on the same subject taught at the same time. The micro-economics of one or two industries taught, chapter-by-chapter, alongside the introductory micro-economics in the textbook. Further up this page I give quotes where it seems to say one thing in order to fit-in with conventional teaching about unemployment or monetary policy, and then puts a completely different view that's much more important in a little-reach chapter later-on. The Times newspaper was written like that in the 1980s, after a new proprietor took-over and told the staff to agree with Thatcher. It would say "Unemployment getting better, says minister for employment", and then right at the end of the article it would say "blob: fact fact fact fact fact fact fact fact which all show that the article just above is rubbish".Enabling student development and achievement: providers ... have in place, monitor and evaluate arrangements and resources which enable students to develop their academic, personal and professional potential. - Quality Assurance Agency expectation
Fed-up with Begg at college, I searched the book-shop and found two McMillan books for revision which looked more concise and grown-up. I was wrong on the second point; the more technical economics books are worse. They turned-up on my shelf, decades later, well-hacked with corners cut-off alternate chapter pages, post-it notes, highlighting in two colours and notes in the margins. Macro-Economics, an introduction to Keynesian-Neoclassical Controversies, by Rosalind Lecic and Alexander Rebman, second edition, with The McMillan Dictionary of Modern Economics to match. On p 346 my chosen textbook says "The analysis also implies that if the government attempts to bring down the rate of inflation, unemployment will temporarily rise above the natural rate if expected inflation adjusts with a lag". I wrote "cold shower metaphor" in the margin. Then it's got a bit of the usual prejudice blaming everything on workers and unions causing unemployment by asking for wages, rather than governments fiddling the exchange rate and workers having no control over badly-run companies nor a chance to set-up better ones. It's not very relevant to the UK economy where 1970s inflation had been caused by Arab oil price rises, as we now know in 2015 because falling oil prices keep it down. The textbook finds this monetary policy respectable: "real wages rise and employment falls". This was strikingly obvious in the early 80s, except for the real wage rises, "but as expected inflation falls the short run Phillips curve shifts downwards and the natural rate of unemployment is restored once actual and expected rates of inflation are equal". In the margin I wrote "unless your employer goes bust". The Begg textbook had un-mentioned chapters admitting that real life was different, but in this textbook the next paragraph is just called "The Keynesian counter argument", but it can't be very good because it's hidden behind algebraic shorthand or semaphore or such and I wrote "Duff" at the top. To read this is a bit like sitting in a civil war with two historians talking in your ears about how more nuanced arguments reveal different facets of whether either side are good or bad leaders; it's controversy to please the external course examiners, but not controversy to tell the students what to expect after college.degree-awarding bodies use external and independent expertise at key stages of setting and maintaining academic standards to advise on whether UK threshold academic standards are set, delivered and achieved - Quality Assurance Agency expectation a graduate should ... demonstrate knowledge and awareness of the historical and policy contexts in which specific economic analysis is applied - Quality Assurance Agency threshold
Digression on one of the reasons to start writingAt one point in the 2000s I had a tactical reason to get career beneft that led to this blog post a decade later, trying to un-pick the rivals to my business spawned by London Fashion Week and other taxpayer budgets.
http://veganline.com/ethical-fashion-forum.htm is a guide
An un-accountable inter-departmental dictat without minister's name or budget co-incided with the interests of a PR agency called Futerra that did a huge amount of governement work and the cross-ministry headings of work by the Crafts Council, the British Council, DEFRA, Department for International Development, Development Studies courses sponsored by UK taxpayers in countries like Bangladesh, The V&A Museum's exhibition of items including dresses from "Juste", a fictional dress company. A slush fund called London Development Agency, and another called the Higher Education Funding Council could find whatever fashion courses they wanted to fund and funded various ISSUU online publications as course materials for fashion students who were to be taught the new truth. A long sentence conveys my sense of information available or not available to taxpayers.
Juste, Junky Styling, Pants to Poverty, Worn Again, Terra Plana, Ciel, Sari Dress Project and their trade association subsidised by a Bangladeshi trade association that in turn was subsidised by DfID was Ethical Fashion Forum. Which has a page urging people not to buy UK-made products on ethical grounds, for reasons including a pretended ignorance of the welfare state which has costs built-in to the price of every product made in the UK. These brands tried to work with another tax-paid-for slush fund called London Fashion Week, and a room called "estethica" was established which sounds a bit like "ethical" which means nothing because it is a word about types of other words rather than anything more specific.
This excess of the 2000s decade is on the wane but there is a chance that I might meet some of its proponents, who used my tax cash to try to put me out of business, and a sense of where we are coming from might be useful. I worked-out that the fictional Juste brand was set-up to justify a second masters degree at Brooks Uni by someone who didn't have a first degree but brushed that under the carpet, along with the fictional nature of Juste. It was meant to be a dress company that was not certified as fair trade nor production in a welfare state like the UK, but some new meaningless category called just "ethical" - a word coined by someone working in central africa for a UN agency to do rather specialised things for which he could thnk of no precise word, and for which he did not need to think of a precise word because he got the subsidy anyway. I have sat in a room with a rep from London College of Fashion who said something like "I don't know how we got money for the fashion project in africa but it was very generous".
Given this wave of public-funded kamikazee economics, I was reminded of my own experience studying the subject at Keele, and became interested in the motives and backgrounds of these other people. Some of them seemed quite genuine in their beliefs after studying courses like Economics at UK universities. Now that their cause is out of fashion nobody can divert taxpayer money towards them in a legal way, there is probably no need for me to meet them, but this idea of trying to remember what I learned on a course decades ago came partly of that need - to find what I had in common with other ignorant people who had been on bad courses.
Digression on an imaginary conversation with Levacic and RebmanI would like to meet Rosalind Levacic, ex Open University, and Alexander Rebman, ex Middlesex Uni, to ask whether their courses were eventually closed-down for failing to demonstrate knowledge of the historical and policy context, and sticking to the fictional closed economy with a single workforce bidding for work which existed in the head of someone called Hicks in 1937 and it still talked-about seriously in their book. There are much more and important and obvious questions facing students in the lecture theatre - like jobs you can't get by bidding lower, or can't make a living it - and much more obvious causes of recession like a fiddled exchange rate, recessions in overseas markets, and the separate effects of north sea oil on the exchange rate. I suppose Levacic or Rebman would ask me why I paid for the book if I didn't want it, and it's hard to anticipate the conversation beyond that point but experience from my 1980s course is that they'd change the subject to Chi-squared and theta decimated to avoid the obvious. I didn't get a chance to meet Levacic and Rebman but I did find some obscure journal in the library which said something about the elasticity of unemployment for every-day jobs. Industrial Relations Bulletin of 1986 guesses that doubled unemployment had brought wages down 7-10% ; raised minimum wages, decades later, reduced employment by a rather small amount. There are lots of notes like this in the margin of my Levacic text book, some of them just saying "crap".
Digression on adding machinesMaybe the reason for squaring before averaging to get a standard deviation was to show that stats experts were a rank above book keepers who could use machines. Through the 1950s and 60s there were sheet-metal computers using the same technology as old-fashioned shop tills but without the pop-up numbers and the cash drawer. They were called adding machines. The grander ones were called accounting machines and could add, subtract, print on an account sheet, print the same numbers onto a rent book or a payment card, and the same again onto an account card. The cards had a notched bottom edge so you could lay them out in a special notched card trolly, showing the right hand column of each card. It was wonderful to watch. My dad had an accounting machine. They were made by Jubilee Engineering in Scandinavia I think, or Art Metal in the UK. The largest organisations like the US immigration department had a punched card system from firms like IBM that could be read by machine as well as printed. Leslie Fishman was an early user of SPSS software that used this kind of technology to read a database of punched cards at University of Colorado. The software ran on ICL or IBM unix machines like the mainframe at Keele. At the modest end of the market, people used adding machines to fill-in carbon-paper duplicate spreadsheets by hand in deadbeat jobs like working for a housing association. Stonham Housing Association still used them in the 80s. There were special printed sheets and called Gilbert Sheets with special chrome and leather clip boards, or English Churches Housing used Kalamazoo. I suppose that maths teachers wanted to show-off the squaring scales on slide rules with the fancy calculations like squares and square roots for standard deviation.
Digression about Newton and PythagorasThe grand tradition of economics is also bad; of no interest to people who have done an A-level and want to learn more. I don't know what the tradition is precisely - nobody does - but I know that it is bad and think that students are misled when they sign-up and that's why they give bad scores for "staff made the subject interesting" - even more than students of pharmacy or accountancy, because economics students expected something else. They get a tradition of hard mathematical science; a tradition of teaching that Newton invented gravity because he was a genius, and Pythagoras invented the number three-and-a-bit because he was a genius, and you student had better darn learn this daft story as you learn religion from the preacher-man and his big book with the crosses on it. If you have your own idea in this scheme, it isn't true until peer-reviewed in a journal; students are asked to copy the textbooks if they want a qualification. Textbooks copy the journals and journals are written by academics who want a job or to increase Keele Economics Journal Ranking for some pointless reason. It's a self-referential system.
Digression about science teachingI did a science subject at school, called Nuffield Physics, and it was good. On the Nuffieldfoundation.org web site see Teachers > Secondary > Physics and click on a subject like "waves" to see what I mean. We learnt wave patterns (electrical magnetic and physical - they're the same) from our own weights and springs. The course should have thrown-in some music theory as well. We needed special help from the teacher for nuclear physics. The Nuffield Foundation had commissioned polystyrene ping-pong balls the right size so that when glued into an atom shape and revolved on a turntable, they reflected microwaves in the same way as early experiments into nuclear physics. We also learned that when someone resorts to shorthand algebra to explain something, they're bluffing. They're making a simple thing complicated. There's no need. I think this could be why music technology gets bad reviews in colleges nowadays: students know wave patterns from electronics courses, see the same again in music theory courses, and see somone messing around with jargon and shorthand instead of combining the two. The grand tradition has its own history in each subject - often a great one. The scientific method is great. But Mr Doherty, the Eng. Lit. teacher in leather trousers taught us that there were Augustans and Romantics, and that the Augustan idea of knowledge and teaching was a bit like a letterbox: knowledge is posted-in at the start of the course to make sure it has a chance to get there; at the end of the course it is examined whether this knowledge remains in the letterbox. Somehow this differed from the Romantic idea of knowledge in the Eng. Lit. Augustans and Romantics course that's more about people discovering what is in themselves already. I wish Mr Doherty, the Eng. Lit teacher, had explained this to Mr Fishman, the Economics teacher, but now they are both dead; it's up to us who read this. (Side-track: they probably had odd job titles. End of side-track). Oh, I read that the Department of Education has interered in their three exam board's science syllabuses. After seeing what they did for grammer, I suppose they interfere for the worse.
Digression on journal articlesTake the question of what people do after college. https://www.hesa.ac.uk/free-statistics has some of the stuff you'd expect; you'd expect really good economists to have some special way of writing about the data or obtaining it or generally be good at something. http://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/9312204.pdf is a the first example that came-up of an economics journal article. It's a bamboozelement exercise written, I guess, to increase one college's statistics for staff writing in academic journals. I don't know what the algebra means. I think that students, like Nuffield Physics students, should be able to opt-out of this game and do something more sensible under a slightly different name, like "sensible economics"; there should be no need to understand what the algebra means, before deciding that it's not useful. Just as there should be no need to understand what's in a homoeopathy degree before deciding not to study homoeopathy, theology, or anything stupid.
Digression on post-crash economicsPost-crash economics is a new phrase for an old frustration, and this post looks twice as long as it really is because it peters-out and then shows pinched-and-pasted stuff from the post crash economics society at the end. Thirty years after I was at college, Internet learning has got way better but face-to-face teaching has fewer hours in the timetable. Some teachers still use the those hours as an excuse for teaching textbooks rather than facts and shorthand algebra rather than reasons, and some college managers ignore bad reviews because their budgets make so much money from this cheap-to-run bad economics degree course. Students are using the internet to discover what course is worth the trouble but discover that the newspaper economics league tables are simply wrong - terrible courses and good ones co-exist among different subjects at the same colleges, while the league tables tend to average-out the scores and put the same colleges at the top and bottom of each table. I hope that students kill the algebra-fetish courses that do so much damage by giving bad reviews or asking questions before choosing the course, so that something better can take their place. I hope that future teachers help students discover economics, rather than learn it from a work-book, if it's quicker to teach that way. Break The Guardian reports polite protest by students at a syllabus that is divorced from the real world, as does BBC Radio 4. If the material taught isn't bad enough, the way it's taught is "£9,000 lobotomy" at courses like the one at Glasgow University. What they don't say is that it is a scam. It charges £9,000 to first year students from England and Wales to play with a computer and hand-in an essay that gets 100% for being handed-in on time. For some reason, journalists choose plumbers as examples of scam-merchants rather than universities or trades unions. It is much easier to prove bad service from a plumber and much harder to prove bad service from an economics department charging £9,000, so they are not quoted on Rogue Traders where they belong.
Digression on overly mathmatical economists
Professional economics .. is very, very mathematical. This is true both for theoretical economics, which involves a lot of theoretical maths, and for applied economics, which involves a lot of number crunching of one sort and another.
- Tim Leunig of the LSE writing in The Guadian, 2008
This begs a question: why don't economists use a computer? I suppose they do, so the computer programmer does the detailed maths and the economist just has to learn to use the program and make sense of it. The same article suggests that economists aren't well educated.
Today many people call for restrictions on trade, even though every economist worth that title knows that free trade is good for both sides in almost all circumstances. Similarly many aid groups call for policies that will immiserate the very people they claim to want to help. Many people support those calls because they know so little about how the economy works, and people in the developing world are poorer as a result.
That statement strikes me as ignorant. Free trade between a welfare state, with high social insurance costs, and another country with lower costs, can't work very well. The problem is made worse because very poor people tend to cope by having a lot of children, partly to look after them in old-age, and partly because the girls aren't at secondary school. Add to that the complications of manipulated currencies - often manipulated on economic advice - and export subsidies that exist in countries like Bangladesh - and you get an economic disaster which this economist has no idea about. He doesn't even know that he has no idea.
Digression on how this blog post comes about
I sometimes blog about bad economics. That reminded me that once, years ago, I did an economics and english degree with short courses, so I wondered: "what did I learn?" for two or three reasons.
One: I discover that others have the same frustration, hoping to study the economic crisis outlined in Robert Peston books and how politicians respond, but finding a course of computer multiple choice tests about X-shaped diagrams. I had a very similar frustration during the 1980s pillage of UK manufacturing that continued till 2009 in application of exchange-rate fiddles meant to reduce inflation, and continues to the time of writing in application of free-trade theory to countries with lower costs for the lack of a welfare state and because this leads to a population explosion.
This is relevant to my job of trying to sell UK-made footwear.
Two: Oxford Economics publishes reports commissioned by the Greater London Authority to justify crap like the Olympics or "The Value of Fashion", a long pdf document about why the Greater London Authority should spend money on PR for frocks rather than regional development of job prospects as suggested in the name of the EU grant they spend, which is called "regional development grant" not "taxpayer-funding for Chinese frocks grant", which has the opposite effect I think. Oxford Economics give away an Excel macro for double-checking their figures, and I hope one day to download it and learn how to use it for just that purpose.
Three: I wonder how to present myself to lobby groups promoting opposite opinions, namely supporters of free trade with Bangladesh, subsidies to better Bangladeshi employers, diversion of EU regional development grants to the London region towards boosting the same, and a similar but more generic and less micro-managed economic policy for China or Vietnam or any other country in the world that's cheap because of over-population caused by the lack of a welfare state. One solution is to expose these groups as lobby groups, but another is to try to suggest a better solution, and for that purpose I need to look like a real person with real reasons for coming to a point of view. Those who write web sites to promote concepts like "ethical fashion" come to this form a different angle to me, but share a vague aquainance with economic theory; they quote phrases like "comparative advantage". If I can put by economic training online, without pretension, that can only be good.
Free bonus afterthought: what did a Belstaff motorbike jacket look like?
IBond Buggies were made in Tamworth until production ceased before the 1979 change in economic policy, so maybe economic policies are not to blame for every failure of manufacturing. I think Belstaff did close during the 1980s recession so they'd be a better example to quote. There were also some posh pot makers who kept going with their chintz and figurines, and a factory making cast steel parts for bicycles.Macro economics ought to cover why politicians have so much difficulty spending money on insurance-like services, such as social care, rather than paying for things best done in the private sector like paying for interesting pointy things and bond buggys.
Free bonus afterthought: how long should you hold a grudge?
I had forgotten most of Keele University's economics teaching except the good bits, which is what human beings to do. The filter that helps you survive day-to-day is different to the filter that helps you survive when looking-back, and I'm only looking back because unable to do a bit of software now at age 50 and do this as a distraction. But now I re-discover memories, the question comes-up: is it good to dredge-up a name after 30 years? A witty man who had done a boring job for decades? Easy compared to criticising people who are still alive and even employed at Keele, for their sake and mine because they might have better memories, better records, answer-back and prove me wrong about something which would be hard work on both sides. Fair because my dad did a degree, I did a degree, people I know have done degrees, and I think I have some background idea of expectations when I check them against the bureaucratic benchmarks. 1980s Keele economics was different to my background idea and different to the benchmark. Some lectured or taught well, but the course was as described above. If the boss with his MI5-recorded background has left lots of records to say why, that would be a really good thing for somebody to research when these records reach the National Archive in a few decades. Reason says: this is necessary because education is a bit like restoring old cars - great when it is done well and awful when done badly because it is hard to sue for something so vague as bad education or a bad second hand car. Therefore the world needs reviews of people who restore second hand cars just as it needs reviews of educators. There is a review system between colleges. I'd like to see a few reviewers from different types of course, just to stop on discipline like Economics falling so far behind the standards of others. Gut feeling says: more please. I am angrier now, with perspective, than I was in 1983 when my "attitude has been noted by all members of the department", starting with Dr Johns while the syllabus and teaching style was set by a bluffer called Professor Les Fishman who probably fiddled his CV and did as much as possible by teaching Samuelson by wrote. My gut feeling is angry with the peer review teachers from other colleges who saw the scam and wrote "don't close this course just yet - they have a problem with lack of timetable space and choose to spend two hours a week teaching manual computation of stats years after computers have become domestic appliances, so it's difficult for them". It is not difficult. There is no excuse for teaching manual computation in 1985. I want to know the names of the people were who signed-off this course as OK and how bad their courses were if they thought this was pretty typical. My gut feeling is angry with college management with their funny job titles and nasty treatment of students, for thinking it was OK to allow this man to continue in post. They were also the people who took over the student union building the year I left, apparently, and had it decorated like McDonalds, so they are clearly unpleasant people in the judgements they make, but even so they should have had some system for finding out if this course was a rip-off to students.
Social awkwardness says: one teacher at Keele is still working from the time I was there and one or two are retired. Lots of people do little bits of work at colleges like teaching one bit of a course or one lecture or supervising MA students and I know nothing about any of those people. It's awkward, but constructive feedback is welcome. Politics says: this post ought to be about Alan Walters, the economist who closed so much UK manufacturing. Somehow, that disaster of a man gained credibility as a government advisor more powerful than the chancellor, on the back of a stupid job like teaching economics in the USA. Somehow, he is still remembered with a filter of denial, just as Fishman is still remembered with a filter of denial at Keele. If anyone ever tried to be one of Alan Walters students and can write something like this, they'd do the world a favour.
*M1 M2 M3 and M4 are the short money supply titles. Banchees Leprechauns Pookahs and Dullahans are the longer titles. There is no doubt that these things exist, but some doubt as to how much they influence events.
http://veg-buildlog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/leslie-fishman-writings.html has as many references and quotes as I can find for Leslie Fishman, including a 5,800 word article and being part of a team to make a 1960s punch-card database on unemployment statistics for reading by computer.
Odd cut-and-paste quotes from Thorsten Veblen on learning. Paragraph breaks are stripped-out by mistake. Even to-day there are such things in the usage of the learned community as the cap and gown, matriculation, initiation, and graduation ceremonies, and the conferring of scholastic degrees, dignities, and prerogatives in a way which suggests some sort of a scholarly apostolic succession. And as commonly happens with mediators between the vulgar and their masters, whether the masters be natural or preternatural, he found it expedient to have the means at hand tangibly to impress upon the vulgar the fact that these inscrutable powers would do what he might ask of them. Hence, presently, a knowledge of certain natural processes which could be turned to account for spectacular effect, together with some sleight of hand, came to be an integral part of priestly lore. So far as they possess them, the lower and less reputable branches of the educational scheme have evidently borrowed these things from the higher grades; and their continued persistence among the practical schools, without the sanction of the continued example of the higher and classic grades, would be highly improbable, to say the least. nice quote about thrift and industriousness here there is some tendency latterly to substitute the captain of industry in place of the priest, as the head of seminaries of the higher learning. The substitution is by no means complete or unequivocal. Those heads of institutions are best accepted who combine the sacerdotal office with a high degree of pecuniary efficiency. There is a similar but less pronounced tendency to in trust the work of instruction in the higher learning to men of some pecuniary qualification. Administrative ability and skill in advertising the enterprise count for rather more than they once did, as qualifications for the work of teaching. This applies especially in those sciences that have most to do with the everyday facts of life, and it is particularly true of schools in the economically single-minded communities. This partial substitution of pecuniary for sacerdotal efficiency is a concomitant of the modern transition from conspicuous leisure to conspicuous consumption, as the chief means of reputability. The correlation of the two facts is probably clear without further elaboration. There are plenty more paragraphs in the same style about how economics is complicated out of a sort of status-hungry snobbery