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 1984-7
Words fail me
Picture the scene in a university teaching room, in the middle of an economic crisis that effects most people in the room and their parents.
The college is about half its recent size and trying to halve overheads. There are redundancy bills. Some staff go on unpaid leave without replacement. This 64 year-old head of department is teaching flat-out to fill the gap.
Most students started A-level economics about 1979 when a new government came to power with radical new economic policies bought second-hand in the US. The students moved to a campus to do a 3 or 4 year adult education course, for a degree and life experience, with nearly half of three years spent on economics. In brighter times they might have expected to find a job after graduating; now, study just postpones unemployment and students are lucky. 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 our age and older are working or on strike in coal mines under the campus, thinking about the same issues.
Pundits like newspaper editors just lie, for the most part, and tell their readers that everyone is better-off with lower wages. They say that the financial bamboozlement industry is a salvation, with downmarket service jobs for the rest of us. It was the same then as now, and the redundant middle-aged end-up puzzled and glum, reading one thing in the papers and experiencing another thing in fact, as though redundancy was their own fault. A lot end-up on incapacity benefit.
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 have been cut, so few job prospects exist, and life is turning in to an Irvin Welsh novel, from a man with a completely different idea of who pays him and what he is there to do.
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 connection to somewhere like that, like redundant taxpayer parents who paid Fishman's double wage. One each. Just like the people who mined coal under the campus for Silverdale Colliery; they had been on strike over government economic policies and returned to work without result in 1985.
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 off the receiver 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. Another obituary quotes what happend if you asked someone from this generation of economists 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..."
Economics teaching & events didn't connect during the 2000s banking crisis. Nor the forgotten 1980s crisis. Someone had an anecdote to say they didn't connect in the 1930s crisis.
There is a special slot on the national TV news called "today's redundancies" to report each day's largest factory closure after Sir Geoffrey Howe's and Mrs Thatcher's new government economic policy fiddle the exchange rate upwards to close 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, now employed by students of Cardiff University.
In 1984, manufacturing redundancies have been about 20,000 a week since the new economic policy began. It is called the "Medium Term Financial Strategy", and amounts to high interest rates to big-up the value of the pound by increasing the proportion of overseas buyers for things like government loans. The official reason is something called Sterling M3. There is no monetary policy committee before 1997 - decisions in the early 80s are made by the chancellor Geoffrey Howe in public, and his boss's american academic economic advisers in private. The fact that Howe is close to resignation with a speech about currencies suggests that, in the early 80s, it's academic economists from the USA who make most of the decisions and that problems with the exchange rate trouble even the chancellor.
Unemployment has reached three and a half million including half a million on government schemes. On top of that number are 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. "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, found on google. My choice of software doesn't allow easy references to souces except links, and this source doesn't even allow a link. If anyone wants to know sources please email shop at veganline dot com and I'll probably reply]
If inactvity rates for males of working age are higher than usual, they are higher still in Longton which has 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 staff to walk to work. What could be one of the best places to live and work in manufacturing has become the worst places to find a job, because of the manufacturing link. I don't know the exact figures for Longton because series of data changed just a year or two later, which is one reason why the 80s recession isn't remembered.
There is a link to the 1930s recession, which was also caused by high exchange rates imposed on the people of the UK, alongside tariffs from other countries and tricky situations like deaths from a new form of flu effecting populations weakened by war, huge UK navel spending, and frustration in the colonies and protectorates and dominions, leading to tariffs on UK goods from Canada.
Provision for the unemployed in the 80s is a lot better than last time the numbers were so high. In the 1930s national insurance was new and a lot of people only had workhouses to fall-back on. Workhouses in turn only had local, devolved funding to fall back on I guess- or at least that was the situation in the Irish famine a lifetime earlier. 20-teens thinking is this is more efficient because local.
Unemployment, like low pay now, is invisible. Most effected in the 1980s are people of student age and our redundant or ceased-trading parents. In my case, my mother returns to work doing temping jobs she doesn't like and my dad has less success at doing the same while his business runs-down. That's probably typical; dads are glum. Industrial areas like the midlands near Keele are much more effected than London. Future jobs are so unlikely that they're not even talked about, except as a joke. Not the Nine O'Clock News repeated "today's redundancies", little altered, as a sketch. It ends something like "Mrs Buggin's cake shop created three new jobs in Hampshire". The Young Ones has a pretend interview with a college careers advisor who says "there is hope...", as there was, but is interrupted by crass students. "Tacky schemes to get them off the register", as the minister descibes schemes like the Community Program in his diary, employ another half million. The Community Programme becomes one of the biggest employers of graduates in the UK according to a rep for the scheme, dispute requring two years' unemployment for employees.
On a Keele economics course it is just possible for a student to talk to Professor Les Fishman, chief, who got his first permenant teaching job in America in 1955 when there were more professor jobs than applicants to fill them.
This blog post rambles - the main instruction for use is to scroll down and glance at the headings before trying to read all the paragraphs. The links at the top box of the page are to other pages that spin-off to related subjects. I suppose this box is an introduction, then there are two or three boxes on common explanations of bad economists and their effect on people in the UK economy, and then there are standard headings from things like the national student survey which give a pattern to description of a short economics course in the 1980s
A common view:
unemployment caused by global recession & closure of state industries
Nationalised and slightly nationalised industry in 1979 - reminiscence
The pruning theory - dead wood - green shoots of recovery
Should economics teachers know about at least one economy, measure it, and discuss it with students in tutorials?
No because the McArthy Committee might summon teachers and colleges unfairly dismiss them.
Yes because students signed-up for a social science course and might be interested
These paragraphs are less pretentious than the headings
The manufacturing crisis caused by bad economists, politicians who picked them and voters who picked the politicians. And Murdoch & Maxwell news.
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.
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 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
Someone called Tim Leunig who writes sensible-looking stuff the The Guardian says so. He quotes several economics degree courses preferring applicants with lots of maths A-levels and no economics A-level please. He just says it as though obvious, so I wonder why and have to guess some ideas. (1) Science teachers generally don't scoff at silly maths; Nuffield science teachers are the minority, and they don't scoff at it either but quietly demonstrate it to be un-necessary. So the thought that it is silly comes as a surprise to economics degree teachers. (2) Teaching is an unstable market because people from less employable subjects are most keen to get jobs as teachers in Latin, Ancient Greek, Maths, anything like that and so the subject is easy for college administrators to supply. All they need to do is con the student applicants that it is worth studying by calling it "Economics" instead of "Maths". (3) My hunch is that economics students want to learn how to interpret tables of data about topical subjects, using computer software and critically-understood rules of thumb like the X-shaped diagram. The more obscure mathmatics only has to be done once, by the person who writes the software; economists only have to know enough to remember what it's doing and its limitations. If this wasn't a digression and had a big place on the page, I would have a look at each of Tim Leug's Guardian articles and try to guess whether they took any more maths than his stats program and any less critical thought than other university subjects.
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
Unfortunately this blog post is too long for the software and attempts to read any comments time-out; they can't be read by anyone, including me.
I hope to move it to Wordpress of split it up at some point