Friday 23 October 2015

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?

Definitely agree Mostly agree Neither agree nor disagree Mostly disagree Definitely disagree "We used to believe on Keynsian solutions; now we believe on monetarist solutions" - an economics professor, standing at one end of an economics teaching room at Keele University 1985-7 Words fail me

Postwar UK unemployment (excluding school leavers). Graph going off the top of the usual scale from textbook page 440

It's the mid-eighties. A quarter of the UK workforce is unemployed, sick, or on a scheme like The Community Programme or Youth Opportunities.  This is an Economics degree course at a midlands university called Keele, which has lost a third of its budget on ministerial whim. Radical economic policies have closed a fifth of UK manufacturing in five years - the main part which is private sector, and the part of that that's good at exporting. The radical economic policy was to fiddle the exchange rate upwards by paying too much for government debt. Investors converted their currencies to buy the pay-too-much government debt so the pound rose and exporting became unfairly harder.

The governing party takes PR advice from Bell Pottinger's founder & thrives on provocation against scapegoats , as read-out at a party conference by Peter Lilly MP.

As the treasury closes the private sector by fiddling exchange rates, the government is scared to close the remaining public sector jobs, paid from borrowed money as this shrinking private economy pays less tax; the government runs-up a huge debt.  It doesn't dare cause even more employment by closing-down services like Keele completely. So there are still 3,000 students and a few tutors: some students get a chance to ask a question of the great man, the Professor of Economics.

  • Some people would think this controversial. Including the ones who have persuaded search engines  (I think I can prove) that this is a page designed to defame one person, and so not suitable for listing even though it gets a lot of views anyway. I may be wrong but the person they have in mind is not a Thatcher economist or successor from the Bank of England, but a 60-odd in 1980-something in a V-neck pullover and tweed with non-standard private opinions and an impressive past - more impressive than his economics teaching. Although his course had 40 weeks and glum-looking students where other courses had maybe 100 weeks and keen students, and a higher staff ratio, so this was a mundane situation.

    He pulls these anecdotes about bad economics teaching together.

    He shows the problem in the end because he had worked n places where critical thinking and evidence and discussion get a tutor the sack, as he discovered after a teach-in protest at the University of Califorinia in the McArthy era, He tried working as s docker, then at the least applied-for university in the USA, and finally got a chance to play-safe at a larger Uni before going to the UK on a sabbatical from which he could not return.

    This pattern continues. People have to work in Hong Kong or Turkey or all kinds of places where free thought gets tutors the sack, and these people deserve respect and sympathy but not a right to control the syllabus.

    So, if you are a lawyer funded by Keele Uni or a relative of this man or whoever you are, please get in tough with me directlyrather than trying to keep this site secret.

  • Some students would want to know how to argue back against conventional ideas, getting clarity, exposing failures, suggesting alternatives. Rather than just campaign against the cuts in a partisan kind of way which doesn't suggest alternatives. There was no need for maths, and anyway there were cheap PCs around that could to the maths. The need was for critical thinking, ideas, ability to look-up facts, and maybe rules of thumb about what works.
  • Some students looked resigned to a boring course. I suppose their careers advice was a bit like mine - worse than useless - and some were mis-led to believe economics degrees a trade qualification, to suffer & pass with patience and economy. Like a Corgi gas-fitters qualification or a B-ed. or accountancy or social work or shorthand or law society membership.  The mistake was easier to make at the time, because more peoples' parents were used to careers of stable jobs for employers, obtained with CVs and interviews and maybe - just possibly - the one line on the CV that said something like "degree in Economics and English at Keele, 1984-1987, and  Foundation Year  1983". 
  • "They said that you were easily-led, and they were half-right"
    [The Smiths - Reel Around the Fountain, lyric, 1983]

    The local MP quoted an estimate in parliament that year. It was an estimate that 20,000 of 50,000 workers in the pottery industry had lost their jobs. This stuff was reported in the small print of big papgers, but  it was possible, if you read the newspapers, to believe that a much smaller proportion of the workforce was made redundant, and the cause was not fiddled exchange-rates but some sort of efficiency-drive that involved shrinking the public sector.

    Wikipedia still puts that view, quoting unemployment as I think 17% because it leaves-out the government employment schemes and the thirteen tweaks to the statistics, such as not counting anyone over 60. Nowadays you can google numbers on The Community Programme and Youth Opportunities from statements to parliament in Hansard, but at the time they were harder to find, just as official statistics for the time are still hard to find as they pre-date the current series. Some students might have believed the newspapers but there was still a figure of three million officially unemployed. Even these students must have but wondered: isn't it rather a lot?
So various overlapping groups of students were sat at desks, ready to start talking to each other and learning to solve economic problems with expert help and all the tools and data that a university can provide and then maybe, with skills learned that way, some would be better at arguing-back against economic arguments. Maybe if they worked with money after study, this would be good practice. It might even help them get a job. The local MP had quoted something about employment in the "Stoke on Trent Travel to Work Area", which is how I found the quote. It's in the title of a bit of research that Keele's Department of Economics and Management Science was funded to do, so we had some of the figures sitting in the college office next door I suppose.

Oh, here is the full link for Bell Pottinger:,_and_resulting_disgrace

Digression on Peter Lilley
In later life I sometimes dealt with tenants as rep for a bureaucracy. Tenants have more paternal law than freeholders; their boilers have to be checked in ways that freeholders would find odd..
There are laws to stop a law-abiding landlord going into a tenant's flat to check gas safety, even with reasonable steps taken.
On another web page, the Gas Safety Regulations, signed by Peter Lilley, require landlords to go-in with a rare qualified plumber and check the draw on the boiler, which is done by lighting a fag in front of it and seeing which way the smoke goes. The draft I read was signed by Peter Lilley, although a quick search finds a minister called Allan Meale signing-off.
There is no reasonableness clause about tenants who do not want you to send the worlds' cheapest plumber in, just to light a fag in front of their boiler. Maybe the tenant doesn't like that sort of thing, just as most freeholders wouldn't like it. Maybe the tenant is hard to deal with, or out long-hours working as a plumber because of the shortage.
If you asked enough MPs why they do the job, a lot would put the hope of being a minister on their list, but when they finally get the chance they don't seem good at the job or able to do it at all in this case. 

Chapter One:

Some headings often applied to the UK in the 1980s

I am not quite sure where these headings come from; I absorbed them from somewhere. Probably TV, newspapers, and the first half of Evan Davis' Made in Britain book. I read it up to the point where he said it was "irrational" to make M&S clothing in a democracy with a good human rights record and a social insurance system - a country called the UK where he and his readers live. I got too cross with him to enjoy reading any more. Expert economists are like that; they can be ignorant and irritating however nice and approachable they are face-to-face. On TV,  I watched a program called "The 80s" by Dominic Sandford and I think I managed to watch it to the end before talking back to the telly rather embarassingly, or anything of that kind.

Finance and North Sea Oil

Technically, turnover in the economy stopped shrinking after the first quarter of 1980 as North Sea Oil and financial services added some numbers. That is the official economic history, easy to find. But if you are a human you can't earn a living as a piece of oil, and you wouldn't want to work selling payment protection insurance or private pensions now that people are allowed to contract-out of the state earnings related pension scheme. My dad tried it. You really wouldn't. It was meant to be more efficient than the ministry system because half the first one or two year's subscription went to a sales rep, calling on prospect after prospect in hope of one or two sales a year. Private insurance is like that - there's a lot of margin for sales and admin. "Because" was sarcastic. It was the same for car insurance and if anyone knows how to look-up the figures for the current online system, it's still probably expensive.

Officially there was also something called a big bang by which buyers and sellers were allowed to be the same person while acting fairly for outsiders - I never really understood it, but the system that failed on Lloyds insurance was something like that, a system by which insiders made commission at the expense of outsiders like Lloyds names by buying and selling things to each other round the office. Then they stopped taking-on new names as insurance underwriters; they are too ashamed and the system was too broken. So, if you are dead posh and your relatives own a stately home, they can no longer pledge its value as Lloyds names to get money. There isn't a scheme for other people to join-in either. It is a dead scheme, but the Big Bang was a good thing officially, despite what happened next.

The growth of services in the economy

Sales reps and servants

You wouldn't want to work providing services for the those who work in finance either, selling them cars & coffees, consumer goods & powders. The conventional idea is that there was something called a Big Bang in which buyers and sellers in some city institutions could be the same person, more or less, in the name of efficiency while handling your pension. This was meant to lead to a huge growth in financial services. A Keele graduate mentions what happened in his book, The Price of Fish. People expected a surge in commuting on London Transport, like a big wave at peak times. It turned out to be a rising tide, spread over 24 hours. Some of the new jobs provided highly-paid financial services to the world round the clock. Some of the new jobs were shift-work to provide coffee or hotels or homeless hostels and even alcohol services. I did some of them. In Liverpool, there was no longer a rush-hour at all.

Pointless prices

Maybe economists can come-up with some measure of how pointless an economy seems to those who work in it, and compare with some other measures of efficiency.

I thought at the time there should be a survey of how much more people pay for a new fridge, compared to the price of a reconditioned fridge that does the same thing. The premium is paid for brand and newness over a price paid for a well-specified good that's not quite new and not quite branded.

Shopkeepers have a similar idea called the advertised brand, such as Dulux paint, which is presumably also good for opacity and paintability, and sells for more than own-brand or un-advertised brand such as Johnson's paint which might be just as good. In the world of paint, we also suffer from a lack of decent technical information about opacity and paintability at the point of sale, so I suppose we consumers can't be completely blamed for paying too much for advertised brands, even though it is pretty silly and some of us consumers have got more money than sense - proving that markets don't work very well. I expect it us university vice chancellors on their vast salaries and stolen pensions that buy Dulux paint, alongside people with very little money who get into debt because they lack education and believe that it must be better because it sells more in a fair market.

At the time there was an emergency payment available for people on benefits who had nothing but an empty room and a small giro cheque. The payment was for a certain list of things - cooker, bed, fridge, sleeping-bag. The same kind of idea as a food bank. I forget how it worked - maybe it was something to do with vouchers claimable at shops that were part of the scheme of somethiing like that.

There was case law in benefits tribunals about over-charging or under-delivering, to say whether a Arga at Harrods or a scrap cooker at the dump set the price. The case law said that payment shoul pay for "reconditoned" appliances, with increasing detail I guess about what a "recondioned" cooker or fridge meant, carefully read by shopkeepers who recycled white goods.

The difference in price between a reconditioned fridge or cooker, and a new, branded fridge or cooker to the same standard could be called a credulity index or stupidity index. As the economy goes well, more and more people buy the advertised brands at full price. Then, in a recession, people have to buy whatever is available. Somewhere in between lies a good judgement about how much to pay for white goods, and it is probably the amount specified by tribunal case law about what "reconditioned" means. From the seller's point of view, there is the concept to the advertised brand as well. I remember being told that Tredair boots were worth trying to sell for double cost price +VAT, while advertised brands like Doc Martens sold for a bit more.

Pointless jobs

This was the time when people invented pointless jobs like the bar job of asking "what table are you sitting at?" to someone not yet sitting at a table, and then bringing-over some warm soup, crockery and cutlery, fifteen minutes later

Funny how times don't change. A generation or two earlier, there were green baize doors between paid and family areas of a large household in a big house, there were larger proportions of the population in one sort of institution or another from firms to nunneries to council institutions called workhouses to army regiments to a strange world of church army institutions for unmarried mothers - loads of people depended on institutions. Boarding schools were common. Each of these would have their internal rules, a bit like the rule that says that someone from the bar has to come-over and ask "how is your soup?"

The traditional pub system was to serve anything serve-able in a pint glass that took under a minute to pour -slurp - and that system could have been extended beyond beer and peanuts to soup or microwavable products. Ideally there would be a microwave and pressure-cooker combined for larger pub snacks and a range of nozzles for heating pub soup. That didn't happen, but I remember some pointless service jobs disappearing in the 80s. People prioritise better in recessions

More people went to gigs, paying at the door to get a rubber stamp on their hand. This saved the pointless job of one person selling a ticket and another taking it, tearing it in half, and giving it back again.

Some of the pointless work of shelf-stacking was saved at Kwik-Save supermarkets that used to put whole cartons of packets on the shelf and cut-off the side, a technique which only works if you have less choice of each essential product and just stack-up the one or two choices available. Another of their ideas was to let-out space for specialist work like selling fresh veg to fresh veg specialists, as in any other market, leaving the box-shifting and till-queues to be managed by Kwik-Save, who were good at box shifting and till-queues. At Fine Fare, customers served themselves with food out of a sack and weighed it at the checkout. Smaller cornflakes could also be bought in bags, to save the cost of a box. I think they started as over-sized cornflakes but they had broken into small ones by the time you got them home. There were a few shops that tried selling food by the scoop at the time - maybe some of them are still going - a bit like Primark for food. In areas of very high unemployment like Longton, near Keele, these were about the only shops available.

So some pointless jobs disappeared in the recession-hit areas, I think, but popped-up in greater numbers of pointless jobs where recession hadn't hit, leaving a collection of fairly pointless jobs that barely pay for a bedsit in wealthy areas. A few ranks up the hierarchy are pointless jobs telling the slaves how to behave in news-speak, I think, and this research finds it a common experience:  quoting and this YouGov survey. The gist of it is in the title - you can read it in the url.

I vaguely remember the 1980s as the time when pointless jobs were invented, but I could be wrong - a lot of jobs like this were not available yet. I was young and didn't know first-hand how stupid a lot of jobs really are. Technically, the recession was over till the early 90s. Even if the jobs were in the south where they didn't pay housing costs. My brother had a job posting estate agent leaflets through letterboxes. "I don't want them", people would say. He thought of a good answer after a while. "I don't want them either and I've got a thousand of them".  This kind of job was possible because there was money about, in London property, and there was cheap labour about, as a wave of immigration came from the north of england, scotland and wales to places like London. This wave of immigration was followed later-on by waves from the EU and does something to explain low UK productivity per person: the worse you run an economy, the more cheap labour is around to do pointless jobs.

About the same time, something was happening in Westminster which I know nothing about, nor about the blog & blogger. I found it while googling something else it. But it says that the Labour Party ceased to be interested in manufacturing and good manufacturing jobs, according to this link:

Closing the Economy to make it more efficient

There's an online video of a coach party of unemployed South Italians getting off a coach in North Italy to chase, some of them, a single nursing job because unemployment is about 30% among people of their age and gender down south. Why so? The answer is in the crap shitbag goodfornothing string-em-up excuses for economists who the UK government favoured in the 1980s and who continue to influence the Monetary Policy Committee. The assumption, approved by all parties, is that if the economy goes too fast you have to put a spanner in the works to slow it down by raising interest rates. Never mind the problem alongside of consumer debt. Never mind that the economy does not simply sprout-up again next spring. There must be ways of reducing inflation that are better - like making production easier or more co-operative or reducing advertising for bad consumer debt and so reducing demand. There must be ways of reducing the pointless jobs in a boom so that more people get employed in productive jobs and there is less need for inward migration and overcrowding. But economics courses do not even recognise the problem. According the the Bundesbank or the textbook, interest rates so exchange rates must rise if there is a risk of inflation, and those jobseeker buses from South Italy to North Italy continue to run.
I should say for even-handedness that there are other similar policies. The policy of knocking down housing in order to reduce homelessness comes-round again and again, particularly in the UK in the 1969s and 70s, along with knocking down workshops and factories for car-parking space and zoning-out new ones under the planning act. The policy of trying to buy goods from badly-run countries in order to make those countries better-run is similar. It is called Development Studies. 


Criticism was taught in English but not Economics

I don't know if colleges that allow two-subject degrees are keen on English and Economics, but I think that with skill and help from the the top of the organisation, it could be a good combination.

Students of English have to find something to say about a book, beyond "wow", or "seemed nice". A 1970s version of Keele Foundation Year brought people together on very loose terms for a tutorial, which is a great idea if it gets them acquainted and talking as hoped, but I doubt it did. They'd talk about something like a film or a book, and think of things to say. A tutor who worked at Keele at the time quoted those as an example. "There's not much you can do with 'wow' , or 'I liked Emma' ". 

If I wrote an English essay that said something like "The Professor ... seemed nice", as I have done here, I would have trouble filling the space and showing clarity. I remember the feedback on an essay. "Try to enlarge your critical vocabulary".

We English students were on two-subject degrees. We had to think of something to say without time spent on theories of literary criticism, which is time well-saved; we made-up our own checklists of things to say about a book, particularly  the beginning and the end which we had read, the points made in lectures or the preface to the Pengion edition, and in my case I found the role of the narrator a good bet, along with the way a group of readers' lacks or hopes at a time in history were fed by book; a book's popularity tells you about its readers.

To save more time, it became clear that there was one essay to do in a period of time during which we would study three or four authors, and we could get through exams by revising just the authors we had written-about - maybe even reading them all the way through and some of their other books and thinking of one or two different ways of talking about the books that this author wrote. So I would read several books by an author that I was interested in - usually one I liked - and stick to the beginning end and preface of authors I wanted to skip. Unfotunately I ended up writing an essay about Thomas Hardy who is a miserable waste of space and so had to read a few books of his and rehearse ideas and thoughts about why I disliked him, but tutors seemed OK with that; we didn't have to agree that every author was a great author. The journlaist Giles Cohren made a TV program about how much he disliked having to study Jane Austin (twice - at A level and Uni).

Then, to look posh, we got a nice set of vocabulary from reading Roland Barthes, who wrote about odd things like wrestling matches and came-up with his own jargon to describe them, so he's an easy read and can be slotted into a course like one more author to study. The tutor compared him to a 1950s writer called Richard Hoggart, very similar to the people who get Keele going in the 50s, just to put things in context, and he chose texts to suit the people in his tutorial group when allowed, so we mentioned Jean Ganet I think, and the issue of Eastenders shown that week, as well as the standard courses called "Augustans and Romantics" and "The Victorians" that had run for decades. One of them worked well with an anthology called "Augustans and Romantics", edited by Bloom and Trilling: "
The purpose of the Oxford Anthology is to provide students with a selective canon of the entire range of English Literature from the beginnings to recent times, with introductory matter and authoritative annotation." I think those courses ended in 1987.

There were a few other books that would do as critical theory, or as books to read for their own interest - something from Freud; something from Virginia Wolfe and Simone do Beuvoir. I see on my shelf a book called "Introduction to Communication Studies" by Robert Fisk, which I might have read, It has long words that look like "Sausages" but I think are "Semiotics" and I might have read it at the time if I bought a copy, but, generally, theory came after a students' thoughts about original sources like an old book. Theory was a way to help a student develop ideas.

Looking online for Augustans and Romantics, I learn something new. Harold Bloom was the textbook writing supremo of his time. His name was on anthologies like Romantic Poetry and Prose that are published in New York by Oxford University Press, alongside anthologies of literary criticism for students in the USA who aren't allowed to have their own ideas; they can apply each official literary technique to each author in the official cannon of english literature, which is silly so students in the UK don't do it; that's not a proper university course, but economics departments were usually more constrained.

I guess there are two economic rules that goes like this: 
Rule One. 
The more controversial a subject; the safer the style of teaching. In any decade, there are plenty of countries where economics is taught, but only in the safest way to avoid being sacked to worse - maybe disappearing one night and never being seen again,  These teachers are busy writing articles and buying textbooks just like other academics and they effect the way that the subject is taught everywhere.
Rule Two
The  more useful a subject for earning a living; the more useless the students at criticizing. They do not live in the present; they want to get-on with a qualification.. 

Official schools of thought & critics
The official
canon of english literature

professor A  professor B professor C
 text A loads of stuff learned by heart for essay deadlines & exams, then forgotten a year later because it has nothing to do with any graduate's life
 text B
 text C

I suppose there was a hope that if the official list of english history subjects or english literature is taught from the beginning, then students get to know more about the culture they've grown-up in. Slightly smug about it, but well-informed.

About the time I was at Keele (maybe earlier in other time zones), the emphasis came to include anything people wanted to study, using available tools, and led to the widely-mocked "Media Studies" courses. I have to explain that the title looked cool on a paperback in 1985, because it implied that we could un-pick and get the hang of whatever media we were interested-in, or whatever most people watched and read, or Milton. Take your pick. And that this is some vaccination against what Murdoch or Maxwell or the Radio 1 playlist committee do. We didn't imagine that a media studies paperback and a polytechnic course would lead to a job in the media. Nor prevent it either. It might even help a jobbing journalist or producer enjoy job a bit more and not turn into Alan Partridge (fictional) or the team from Nationwide (real) it, but there is a standard comment made about media studies courses that they are not a trade qualification.

I don't often see people criticize economics for not leading to a job, which is odd because there is no common job called economist and related jobs have "data" or "accountant" in the job title. An economics degree might help you think about the economy and maybe enjoy some financial jobs more if you do them anyway, but an economics degree is not a trade qualication. There is a connection shown on Unistats between being an economics graduate and having a job that pays very well up to about the age of 40, like finance director. There is an explanation which was very obvious in 1987 which was that a degree was a road to nowhere - to doing whatever you would have done anyway but a few years older and more educated. I guess that people who do economics degrees often know how to study for accountancy exams and get finance director jobs or set-up in business. That didn't mean that the rest of us had any idea - we just studied microecomics diagrams and excercises and the ISLM diagram and a revision class.

I doubt that many books about the media or criticism suggest that the course will help you get a job, but both my economics textbooks did that - even the loony microeconomics one that didn't mention data and tried to derive one economic rule of thumb from another as though they were laws of physics.
I have seen a comment made about economics a few times, which is that economics students are not allowed to read a proper book with individual ideas in it. Only textbooks. The specific comment is that the course does not cover Keynes as a book, with all its individuality. Students just get a shorthand diagram called the IS-LM curves by John Hicks, or something similar. I remember a tutor making that comment in 1987 at Keele, and the point is made 30 years later in , page 19. So why are some economists aware of the problem but not able to change the course?

I hoped Economics would be a more interesting subject, even if it did attract more management trainees rather than cool people.

Economics students want to find something to say about an interest, like industrial collapse caused by government, un-affordable housing, apparently pointless jobs, or the strange statements that paid economists make like "Fashion contributes 26 billion pounds to the UK economy". Or "Heathrow's monopoly on new landing space contributes 26 billion pounds to the UK economy". Or "Amazon brings 26 billion good jobs to retail", or "26 billion jobs are at risk if we leave Europe". Or the statements that monetarist macro-economists made about how to manage the UK economy, which I will not dignify with a quote.

The pattern of debunkable economic claims was as true in the 1980s as later-on. For example the idea the a retailer brings jobs, when, in the retail market, one sale made in one place is likely to balance one sale not made in another place. You can elaborate. Some retailers are based in China and sell on ebay, possibly with a mail treaty that requires Royal Mail customers to pay for the import under some weird postal treaty mentioned in a Times  article about Pritti Petel,  Keele graduate, but otherwise hard to pin-down.. (Other retailers pay rent, VAT, and share government work by doing a huge amount of book-keeping and scheme-maintaining for the payroll, following employment law, paying liability insurance, and generally dedicating their lives to being a retailer undercut from China. Don't do it is my advice.)

To say something is pointless is a bit like saying you are against government cuts; it is a bit like saying "wow" or "I liked Emma". It begs questions that people should be able to unravel a bit further if interested. In the case of pointless jobs, most people who do them have some other option, if not an option that's quite as attractive or that's easy to jump to. And most of the jobs have some kind of private sector demand - the people who buy things that I personally don't, or the people who buy things because the market tends to provide gastro-pubs in a gentrified area with high rents. (Cuts beg questions about why the government doesn't have enough tax money coming-in, what, broadly, government should fund, and whether this particular bit of funding could be organised in other ways). So people who are interested in this kind of stuff ought to be good at un-ravelling the problems and suggesting solutions, but unfortunately, I don't think that economics courses help them do it.

I had hopes of the models we were taught. I thought that, some time in the course, we would use them as a way-in to discussing a problem like soup or cuts, but I don't remember any way of rehearsing this; we just had lectures, and could choose essays sometimes, and that was it. We also had exercises in how curves should move, and there are a lot of them in the back of the Laidler microeconomics textbook. Laidler writes that economics can be "a way of thinking", learned from practicing exercises

The one I studied was more like a statement quoted in the preface to a Carl Rodgers counseling book, which I haven't read, in which he talks about his sudden promotion to professor from being a practitioner. It can work like that in craft subjects, but seldom in psychology. He quotes someone putting a point to a US professor who replies "when you are a professor, you can make points like that".

Lump Two:

I keep writing stuff about the 80s recession for some reason

This veers-off into reminiscence and needs a bit of editing - in fact the whole thing is just a ramble from here-on which is good because it covers unexpected things. I had not much idea what it was about when I started writing. The trouble is that I find it rather hard to read and sometimes make a point twice because I lost track.

Where were we?

In the newspapers, graph 19.2 was just a puzzling thing that happend to other people, but there was still a special slot on the TV news called "Today's Redundancies" - thousands every day at some forgotten household name gone defunct, with no chance that anything similar could open-up in its place. Usually someone would buy the brand to help flog imports in competition with things still made in the UK. Evan Davis' Made in Britain book mentions this as a great example of how people in the UK have intellectual property worth so much more than their or our ability to make things. For example, new Wedgewood plates have "made in China" written on them. Older ones have "made in England". I expect there are Chintz fabric designs that have gone back to China too.

In 1985 the biggest producer of boots with Doc Marten soles - Griggs with the Airwear brand - managed to take-over the Woollaston Vulcanisagtion Co-Operative, who held the Doc Martens brand. Next they stopped their competitors like Goerge Cox or G Brittan or that firm who's factory is still empty in the middle or Northampton, GB Hawkins, who used to make DMs with Astraunaut written on the pull tag. White's of Earl's Barton wrote Tredair on theirs, WJ Brooks probably wrote Provider, and there were probably others, working with the Airwair brand and a firm called Airwear Marketing until suddenly crowded-out. GB Brittan the Bristol army boot manufacturers were a big one. There was a growth in advertising as brands with cheap overseas suppliers spend their margins on the new idea of big brands, but all that stuff happenned down in London more, and a bit later-on.

I met someone who grew-up in a Hammersmith council estate during the late eighties. She could name the year in which branded goods became a must-have for children on the estate. This was a effect of the broken economy. As imports were so-much cheaper, it became easier to make a huge mark-up on an Chinese shoe if backed by a huge expenditure on advertising. If you watch the documentary The Kinky Boot Factory, you see Mr Pateman of WJ Brooks Devine making the same point at his small Department for Business funded stall at a Dusseldorf trade show while the one a few stalls along has a caberet. "They get the shoes into the UK for about £15 and all the rest of the price is advertising". This has a couple of nasty sides. One is that Mr Pateman had to close his factory, which had a wholesale price at least double, so his made-to-order shoes with delivery time of a few weeks were more expensive than the completion's off-the-shelf shoes. He had to pay for a welfare state and employment law after all. The other nasty side is that people who couldn't afford Nike and Addas at home of Microsoft and Adobe at work felt excluded. In some kind of social job in the 2000s I met an ex-childrens-home girl who said she got angry with one of her children. It had looked at something second-hand on a stall. She wasn't sure why she got so angry when she tried to explain to the child why not to buy second-hand things. One thing you see in any film of riots or crime is a lot of Addas-branded hoodies, which retail for over £50 each. In riots and chaos, some people go shoplifting the very items that put them out of work. A final point about "today's redundancies"

In the 1980s, the closures on the daily news are large companies every single day. Seldom retail companies. If a retail company looses market share, and people in the UK want to keep buying, then the money goes through a different channel. The idea of retail job losses or gains is different. These redundancies are part of a vast ingenious manufacturing industry that allows so many people to crowd a small island, and concerns them as it collapses. The point is seldom made, so worth stating another way. If a job moves to China, Keele graduates and their redundant parents cannot follow. Language, visas, air fairs, accommodation, and adjustment to living with strangers under a dictatorship are all barriers to a the free movement that economists sometimes talk about. It might be illegal in China for a UK unemployed person to go looking for work for all I know. And each country is different - Bangladeshis have a bit more freedom, but no welfare state and so people leave school early and have loads of children.

<DIGRESSION ON BANGLADESH> Bangladesh gets a special exemption from EU tariffs to undercut UK textile production prices, all negotiated with the EU by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, at UK taxpayers' expense, because those officials and ministers take a decision the economics students should know about, which is that a welfare state is a bonus for rich countries something to ignore when negotiating free trade deals with other countries, even if , in the case of Bangladesh, it turns out that Bangladeshi wages in textile factories fall rather than rise and UK textile factories near extinction. This is a general rant about a few decade's worth of policies but the problem in the early 1980s is a high exchange rate closing factories very very fast. </DIGRESSION ON BANGLADESH>

Most people in the college and their parents were effected. Middle-aged people who were forced to leave the labour market, and the teenagers and twenty-odds who were less able to join it, noticed the crisis most, particularly in industrial areas.

Newspaper editors and cowboy economists had strong opinions anyway, without having to notice things in the same way. But on the news and in the governing political party, Today's Redundancies were just part of the peripheral vision and not a reason for better monetary policy. The prime minister only wanted to understand opinions from certain kinds of economists anyway. If they needed an economics advisor, they went to the USA and there are exampels on the net somwehere of who they found.

The governing party had a favourite PR agency, Bell Pottinger, who's scapegoating technique is now well-known and on Wikipedia. In South Africa the scapegoat was "White Monopoly Capital"; in the UK Bell Pottinger tried hard to find anything anyone cared about, and I suppose they probably thought it was miners mentioned in speeches about the "enemy within".

Mrs Thatcher attempted a comedy sketch with the cast of Yes Minister in which she asked Sir Humphrey to abolish economists, but she wasn't the type to say that the whole darn thing had gone wrong; she didn't get enough sleep and she had started-off believing anything a right wing American economist told her. And when she pressed "delete" for so much of UK manufacturing, it wiped-out a lot of communities with a habit of voting labour, so there was a nasty un-stated reason not to complain. Just as the Labour party had ignored the problems of bulldozing inner cities in order to concentrate their supporters into council housing built by Pollson and partners a decade or two earlier. Then, events like the Falklands War and the extra-ordinary support of newspaper proprietors helped her government win elections until the other parties became clones.

How government economics advisers caused a recession

The exchange-rate hike in 1979 closed the best factories that exported most.

The policy of hiking-up interest rates to reduce inflation had existed before and it still taken seriously now. It was called "monetary policy" in economics textbooks and among pundits, writing in the financial pages of newspapers, just before sport and TV.. But this was extreme enough to make the front page. I think that real interest rates after inflation went from 7½% to 15%, or there was some dramatic change: I remember newspaper pictures of the chancellor with his red dispatch box and some giant huge interest rate printed over it, saying "I am a mug: I choose to pay too much for government debt and to wreck this economy"  and that is how he held down a job for his boss..

Money from around the world surged-in as people bought any safe investment, like bank accounts, but more likely government stock from this government so stupid that it voluntarily paid too much interest for its government bonds in order to put labour voters out of business. The tide of money hiked-up the exchange rate so that nobody in the UK could sell anything any more, unless it was within the UK, and without competition from imports. Politicians pundits and newspaper owners weren't effected, but the rest of us were.
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 MG 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, first, that a concerned home market helps manufacturing, and second that the standard account of the 1980s is wrong. The "battle against inflation resulted in the closure of many inefficient factories, shipyards and coal pits", according to Wikipedia, which doesn't mention the exchange-rate hike directly. That's the kind of discrepancy economics students ought to study. Faults in official truth. If you google the problem you find two different views, one on Wikipedia and one on Economics Help that says the fiddled exchange rate closed factories. The Economics Help view is the true one.
  • 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 Scimitars - both models - and Bond Buggies ceased production, but the Reliant Robin carried-on production at the same Tamworth factory.

  • Steelite stacking crockery for caterers was still made, but a UK factory closed. Things like Staffordshire Figurines and Spode continued in production I think. I remember seeing it in shop windows and taking bus journeys past the Spode factory,

  • Personal computer manufactures 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 worse value than desktop ones bought from a new breed of companies, tens or hundreds or times cheaper).

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. An odd idea, rather like the recent Quantitative Easing, which I don't quite understand - the sort of thing you go on an economics course to find out more about, or, if you are the minister or civil servant pushed to do it by a prime minister, the sort of thing you hope won't go massively wrong and close down a big chunk of the economy and the prospects of regions and generations.

Two policies that seem intuitively wrong

Quantitative Easing in 2006+ seemed to do OK. I don't quite understand it. I don't understand why printing money works now in the UK but didn't work in Weimar Germany or Zimbabwe. If the policy works I don't know why it isn't done more, to pay off the national debt. Maybe the economy would have de-flated otherwise. I know that public works mop-up surplus capacity in the economy, and there are unemployment statistics that give a clue when to try the idea or when to run it down. I don't know how anyone knows whether Quantitive Easing will help prevent deflation and cut the national debt, which are good things, or cause massive inflation and make it hard for the remains of the economy to remain, which are bad things. As in Weimar Germany of Zimbabwe. Maybe there is an expert who knows. Someone who has done an economics degree.

Monetary Policy from 1979-2009 was as weird as Quantitative Easing. Intuitively daft. It was also a crisis from day one, in 1979, but the governing class of tabloid proprietors and government grandees seemed to support it anyway. I don't even know the official name for this idea of hiking-up the exchange rate and closing factories. Maybe it was the Medium Term Financial Strategy, which sounds like a cover-up name. Maybe some supporters hoped it would close-down loads of factories in Labour-voting areas and free labour to work in services in Conservative-voting areas. If many people hoped this, I guess it would have leaked, and show in the facial expressions and tone of voice of ministers interviewed years later. I do not know of any such leaks. There is a series of video interviews, shown  on TV at the time of Mrs Thatcher's death, of the ministers who had to endure her as an awful boss before she sacked them. I don't know how to view it, but people who have watched a lot of TV over time might confirm to you that this is plausible, even if you can't get hold of the video interviews. The ex-ministers' tones of voice and facial expressions suggest that they want to be given  a chance to apologise, and explain why they were so bad at getting-rid of disaster prime ministers before loosing their chance because she got rid of them. James Prior, does apologise. He says that once you have closed so much of industry, it is very hard to get it back. Francis Pym, says that the government should have given-up the manifesto pledge of a radical economic policy on day one, because it wouldn't work in a recession. Ian Gilmour, describes Mrs Thatcher's performance at a Dublin EU summit at which the other leaders ignored her and she only got some token concession. Ruefully, he admits that he persuaded her not to resign. His idea was to tell the public that the meeting had been a victory, so that a loyal press could agree. None of them were sure how much the tabloid press supported them and voters took note of the tabloid press, but the idea worked. Unlike the monetarist economic experiment, but the ghosts of those newspaper points of view remain. Everyone now agrees that the disaster of 1980s economics was a success, because the newspapers said so. <note to self>gap in the text here between one bit and another</note to self> The US economy, where this idea was made up, was very very big, with fewer imports and exports in proportion; 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 and a bit of favouritism in government purchasing. 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.

Lump Three:

Recessions effect the colleges that teach about recessions

The new UK government in 1979  got their radical economic policies second hand from the USA, and the graph above was the result. The choice of advisers wasn't as stupid as it looks in hindsight, but it was almost as stupid. The idea of managing demand to grow an economy was obviously not working, and there were not many ideas in economics textbooks about increasing supply. There had been a decade of inflation. And American economists sounded so convincing when they talked about money supply and  radical solutions that an opposition party looking for idea would pick-up those ideas, even if they were nothing to do with the supply of goods. Nothing to do with making factory work more interesting and the products more easy to buy.

There is something odd about a lot of UK politicians and civil servants and BBC editors, as in The Times and other publications like James Bond films. They apply it to defence procurement as well. They like things to come from the USA. Not Canada; not anywhere else but the USA.

A lot of economic ideas did seem to come from the USA. That's where the ideas in the main textbooks came from. There was a huge single market to sell textbooks for courses that helped teenagers avoid consciption. They would study anything. I remember there was even a scheme for awarding points towards a degree to a teenager who travelled to Europe, so a year-off could be a reason to avoid conscription.

The same textbooks helped lecturers avoid the McArthy / Todd committees and unfair dismissals, because teaching from the textbook was safe, and hard for anyone to complain about. I think I repeat this point somewhere further down the page. These same lecturers had to research and write and have big ideas if they wanted to advance their careers, but they also had to have such safe and boring, technical, pointless ideas that nobody would read about them to consruct a dismissal. The most exciting idea I remember from lectures was to tax polluters. Not very exciting, but among the ideas of the Kirmit-men it was the most exciting thing going. National Insurance was completely off the scale - way too exciting for the Kirmit men.

In order to make things look open and academic, they had competing schools of thought between certain famous US professors, so that US lecturers could explain why the two schools disagreed and look as though they reported on an open democratic process. A bit like this way of teaching English

Official schools of thought & critics

Official canon of english literature
professor A professor B professor C
 text A

loads of stuff learned by heart for essay deadlines & exams, then forgotten a year later because it has nothing to do with anything in any graduate's life.

 text B
 text C

I don't think US economics went as far as three professors and three schools of thought; I think it was just two.

Professor A.

There were mid-atlantic professors.

They avoided saying anything controversial in the US, and anything controversial in the UK, rather like the music that was played on Radio 1.

Smug and well-paid for coporate consultancy and keen to pretend they hadn't head of the welfare state. I don't know how they held-down jobs  as economics teachers while pretending not to have heard of the welfare state, but I guess their US students faced the draft and fighting in Vietnam if they walked-out of a course while their UK stduents had less of the textbook market and nodded-along.

Mid-Atlantic professors acknowledged that demand management could help the economy, in a recession, and if it was the USA in 1936 with very few imports or exports to trouble the diagram. They thought of public spending like the sprinkler systems their gardners used on their lawns in a drought, ready to turn off when the weather got back to normal. There was a thing called the Phillips Curve which used to show a trade-off between inflation caused by too much sprinkling and unemployment caused by too little, but this relationship had ceased during the oil crisis. By this time the smug people were so well-paid and irrelevant that I don't remember them being quoted much or anyone knowing their names.

Professor B.

And there were US monetarists who thought the Keynsians were reds under the beds, and that industry needed to be closed for no apparent reason, under the pretext of preventing inflation. On that pretext they would find a way to over-value the currency and close manufacturing. They are still respected among the Monetary Policy Committee at the Bank of England, among MPs and in the press. There are hints from the Bank of England that it expects to nudge-up interest rates soon as a way of reducing inflationary pressures caused by high employment.

Neither group of US economists ran tutorials. You can tell by searching for videos of them. For example David Laidler wrote my obviously awful micro-economics textbook, so he must have been a bit retarded or very carefully selected for his ignorance.
He was selected by the Institute of Economic Affairs (more about them is on ) to give a lecture about the Chicago School. There's another one on Youtube. I've watched about a minute of one in which he says that there were concerns about whether capitalism could survive,  in some unspoken way that he understood it like capitalism without an NHS, but there's no chance to find-out because he talks in a particular way.
He talks v-e-r-y   s-l-o-w-l-y   a-s  t-h-o-u-g-h  h-e  h-a-s  l-e-a-r-n-i-n-g  d-i-f-f-i-c-u-l-t-i-e-s.  So if you were on his awful year two course in micro-economics at Western Ontario University in the 1970s, and even if there were some opportunity to talk to him like a tutorial, h-e   w-o-u-l-d   t-a-l-k   t-o-o   s-l-o-w-l-y   f-o-r   a   c-o-n-v-e-r-s-a-t-i-o-n  t-o  w-o-r-k  . Students wouldn't get a chance to talk back. He would not learn anything from students. This is a real learning difficulty compared to other academics who run tutorials. And he seems not to mind; he is p-a-i-d  b-y  t-h-e  h-o-u-r,  n-o-t   t-h-e  i-d-e-a.  
I didn't spot any good ideas in Econometrica. I don't know if anyone has ever read it, cover to cover. I guess the most exciting story is "gentleman discovers curve".
I haven't checked videos of modern LSE professors, but they might be the same.
They beat Edinburgh , University College London and Manchester professors to get the extreme worst end of economics students' feedback on Unistats. (LSE course are the least popular of any college except another government favourite: University of the Arts). Usually, if a course completes, students don't use the bottom half of the scale but one heading they score 37%. I don't think economic problems usually need a lot of maths to address them. For example, these bright, precocious, selected students ought pretty-much to have taught themselves just after sitting in a room together, but that's not a mathmatical response. Anyway there is some maths in economics, and these are the figures you need to know about the UK's leading economists.

LSE Economics degree student feedback, checked January 2018
63%  Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of the course
77%  Staff are good at explaining things
60%  Staff have made the subject interesting
74%  The course is intellectually stimulating
61%  My course challenged me to achieve my best work
66%  My course provided me with opportunities to explore ideas or concepts in depth
65% My course has provided me with opportunities to bring information & ideas together from different topics
53%  My course has provided me with opportunities to apply what I have learnt
50%  I have received helpful comments on my work
37%  The criteria used in marking have been clear in advance
59%  Marking and assessment has been fair
61% Feedback on my work has been timely

When I wrote that English Literature could be taught as a grid of what professors think about texts I exaggerated by writing "professor" instead of  "critic", but in economics departments, both the people allowed to have opinions in the textbooks were professors who looked like Kirmit the frog, who had climbed up a controlled career path and were well-paid for consultancy work and academic jobs just s long as they didn't say it was all silly. They pretended that they had an impartial, politics-proof science with journals as respectable as The Lancet for medics, but medical science is often based on fact and stats alongside status; it aims to be based on fact. Economic science was more based on status and ability to avoid criticism by being so boring and distant and controlled that, in 1980s Keele, students had no way to argue-back and the same was true of journalists and anyone else such as voters. The much-used book Microeconomics by David Laidler is proof to outsiders. It proves that economic laws agree with each other and neither knows nor cares whether they agree with how human beings run markets or public services - in fact the Samualson article defining a Public Good is simply an insult to any such idea. As a student I was more immersed in the subject; I hoped it lead somewhere.I tried buying a more advanced textbook, because the the macroeconomics tutor did not seem to have read the current standard one. I bought "Macroeconomics - an introduction to Keynsian Neo-Classical Controversies" - to find that it doesn't get any better, even in the middle of an economic crisis with a quarter of the workforce not working.

One economist who started in  Leicester, UK, and moved to teach in the USA was welcomed as a UK government advisor, because he'd taught in the USA. 365 UK economists who taught in the UK wrote a letter to The Times condemning government economic policy were not welcome as government advisers. The person who wrote my awful micro economic textbook was bad enough to advise a bad government, but he was Canadian, so he wouldn't do; he remained a textbook-writer and "one of the foremost scholars of monetarism", it says on Wikipedia. 
 This bit is in twice
This is a video search on google for "David Laidler, economics".

I watched a minute of his interview on banking, and a minute of his lecture describing the history of the Chicago School of Economics. Judged on style alone, he could appear reasonable and well-informed, as though there was some great slow machine running in his head. If you've read any of his textbook, it's harder to believe that there is anything inside his head at all - you worry if he has special needs - but the textbook is so opaque that I doubt many people have ever managed to read it..

The story gets worse.

Monetarist economists were a bit like
  • Fred Goodwin of RBS,
  • Adam Applegarth of Northern Rock, or
  • Richard S. Fuld, Jr. of Lehman Brothers.
They were not just supposed experts, but they were the people who caused a whole list of things that nearly closed Keele University and did close my father's business and effected everyone in the UK one way or another, so there was some discussion to be had about why the culprits were paid and treated as experts. It's all new territory for bad economics courses. They usually embellish the X-shaped diagrams with roof-like triangles and satellite-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. There were student reps on the staff Senate, and one or two non-economists had been hired to teach economics, which can only be a good thing and lead to better teaching. The senate was one of the two groups that was meant to control the organisation, alongside a "Council" of bigwigs and of course mainly the government funding organisation and people who had got jobs managing the place. Good courses were replaced by whatever was cheap and available on the shelf in my year. <note to self> I loose the thread a bit here </note to self> 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 mathematical 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 & no explanation

University Grants Committee letters of 1st July 1981 ... grants ... ignoring the decimal places ... for 1981-2 , 1982-3 (tentative)  1983-4 (tentative) in millions

81+ 82+ 83+

31  30  29 Oxford
30  29  28 Cambridge
30  29  28 Leeds
28  27  26 Liverpool

27  26  25 Birmingham

23  22  21 Sheffield
10  09  08 Surrey

other universities ... slightly better ... worst results
11  10  09 Bradford

12  10  09 Aston
11  09  08 Salford
07  06  05 Keele

Combined with the falling grant was an enforced overall reduction of student numbers of just under 5% ... despite peak demand for university places from 18 year-olds. Most universities ...  reduced  ... worst were Surrey ... 14%, Aston 20%, Salford 30%, and Keele 17%. Source: Keele, the First 50 Years, JM Kolbert, p194

"at the time, Keele had a popul
ation of 2,700 students" - Wikipedia, probably from Kolbert

"students in residence ...
1981+ 12,313" ... "undergraduates ... 9,436" - Gazette, Student Numbers Supplement, table headed "Student Numbers 1991"

Central government funding per student was just over £2,500 at Oxford and Keele in 1981. The courses at plate-glass universities like Keele were better. Keele had "problem solving workshops". But it was smaller universities, where the best ideas were, that got cut. The red-brick universities with their terrible student feedback for bad economics teaching did OK, as did Oxford and Cambridge.

This could explain why some recent front bench politicians - Cameron, Balls, Johnson - don't seem to know about the 80s recession and how the fiddled exchange rate of monetary policy decisions caused it.

Oxford students got the funding for college education but some of them were photographed and recorded looking more interested in debating societies, pagentry and careers. They were students in a bubble of a university, which ran short economics courses as part of the PPE degree, and their university grant was cut by a thirtieth while Keele's was cut by a third. Oxford can ask the colleges for help, with their generations-old investments and compounded interest. Keele didn't have many past generations. It had a grant of over £100,000 a year from Staffordshire Council, but that ended in the mid eighties as well. It had a conference centre, just in case anyone mid-recession had a lot of money to confer. I know because most of the jobs at Keele that were not to do with teaching were to do with a conference centre. Students were chucked-out very strictly at the end of term because "conference attenders and students are notoriously bad mixers" - "this applies if you have nowhere else to go"
. Overheard in a queue at the halls of residence office "The new girl asks: does she have to polish the lavatory seats?" "Tell her Yes: with Mansion Wax".

here were we?

Budget cuts after the 1980s government lost a lot of its tax revenue by closing a lot of the economy. They had to make-up a story.

Similar points are made in free-to-read parts of Higher Education in Post War Britain , W Stewart, p226, with the added idea of protecting something called "science", typically taught as badly as economics to students in courses that were hard to fill. You can see this still true in Unistats reports by students.
The rest of the chapter in JM Kolbert's history of Keele explains that nobody knew what these figures referred to. A competent government might publish amounts per head paid to colleges to teach each type of subject, and make the amounts the same for all students of institutions that reach some minimum standard. No table was attached to the letter; there was no competent government. Taxes were raised on a scale to justify vast insurance-like services,  but budgets were managed as Father Christmas manages his sack: all the tax money goes to the treasury, and the Chancellor decides which children get presents, agreeing with lobbyists from Royal Opera House, English National Opera, Oxford University and Cambridge University, but not Aston University or Keele.

Kolberts job at the time was assistant registrar at Keele and a previous job was at GCHQ so if he didn't know, nobody did, except perhaps the University Grants Committee. When pressed for an answer, they got a bit pompous and wouldn't say according to his book. One of them mentioned political pressure in a speech much later, after changing jobs. If you have some software that crunches stats, you might want to check whether posh, big, and southern correlate, or high A-level grades for students accepted, or some combination.
There's a memorable pattern to the figures, as though someone in the chaos had to come-up with something, but it isn't related to spending per head per year, or the fact that colleges had long-term bills they were contracted to pay. Universities had been warned to make no financial commitments the year before. They'd been pressed to stretch budgets for a few years, with things like larger teaching groups, and warned of a likely 3½% cut from 1981-2. Meanwhile, government tax revenue must have fallen to zilch just as dole costs soared; this was the government that built-up a vast deficit.

Some people who might know why Keele's budget was cut so much are the late Mark Carlisle and Kieth Joseph, education ministers, and their civil servants who had to come-up with something in the chaos. The personal private secretary was Claire Short, who did a Keele Foundation year in the early 60s. She decided at that point that she could do a better job herself and to stand for parliament.

Every 18 year-old with a chance of a college place applied, just to stay off the dole.  One of them shared a hitchiking lift from Keele - he must have asked the driver to stop at Keele Service Station - and asked for ideas after failing some exams. "I want to do Geography", he said. "Geography is crap, but it gets you into university". I remember the obscure foundation year course - the one that people didn't usually apply for - was packed on day one, with students like me who the college was no longer paid to teach, with those staff who remained on the payroll, and very little else if it could cut in any way. I presume the college ran-up debts just like central government; it sold something called The Turner Collection in the 1990s. I'm very glad they kept going rather than put-up a sign saying "we regret that due to unforeseen circumstances, all staff are redundant and all courses are cancelled". That's the kind of thing people hoped to get away from.
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%.. Spending on new books or computers was near zero. 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, probably 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, who managed to save money by doing his job as badly as possible. I saw him bellowing at students, telling them they wouldn't get degrees unless they picked-up litter, and I overheard bits of similar phone calls to staff.  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

Cheap teaching: make-do & mend

While posts are left unfilled, a 64 year-old head of department who I will call The Professor teaches flat-out to fill the gaps. In English, the generation of professors who taught slot-together A-level textbook courses (plus a bit to look like Uni)  has ended and a new generation allow students to do something more. English is the cheapest subject and so is allowed to expand on the advice of funders. Economics is a middling-priced subject and still has the older generation in charge.
Problem-solving workshops in the economics department are abandoned for ever, leaving cheap lectures and cheap things that are almost the same,  called a "class" in whatever subject an available lecturer is prepared to teach from one end of a classroom to dozens of bored-looking students. 
There was nothing to make stupid lectures cheaper than interesting lectures, but something about university economics departments - and the professor's own own past - suggested that the most obviously stupid stuff that students should walk-out of or get a refund for enduring... that stuff was considered the core of the subject and money was found to teach it, even if money for teaching more-or-less ran-out by the end of the course.

In summery:
Good course: problem solving workshop with a very high ratio of staff to students.
Problems determine what theories are called-on, so irrelevant or wrong theory is not called-on.
Bad course: weatherman addresses a room full of unknown bored faces, delivering some bit of obviously wrong theory that none of them will remember a year after graduating because it has nothing to do with them or things that they or the weatherman are interested in.

By 1986, the plan was to share teaching with the technical college down-town, but that plan fell-through. So we students saw a lot of the few teaching staff left at Keele, staring at them from one end of a room and trying to work-out what was going-on.

The Professor, professor of Economics at Keele & possibly the only nice US economist
He was unusually nice for a 1980s economist, a survivor who taught whatever was in the classic textbook along with anecdotes about changing jumper designs and warm beer and revision classes with a broiler chicken example from decades-old notes. A man who used to do anecodes about "this technological age" in the consultancy work on job-seeking that he published for the State of Colorado. By the 1980s he dropped that style except for anecdotes about Ford of Detroit, who paid for his Ford Foundation scholarship to the UK, so he still launched into anecdotes about the wonders of Ford of Detroit even though students were more interested in Ford of Dagenham.

The man who said "we have to teach this stuff in order to call this an economics degree" in a revision lecture on ISLM diagrams. The tutor who didn't learn how to do a tutorial, but approved of tutorials in theory, just as long as he didn't have to do them.

The same man who hired new staff with a non-economist background, for sanity. Young teachers to teach about innovation, third world development, and more while offering study leave for those who weren't yet published authors to become so, and tried to get lecturers to hop-about between different jobs to pick-up ideas.

The same father-figure of a man who used my taxes (or my mum and dad's taxes if he believed in the "transfer payments" idea of what the state does rather than the more obviously true one of being a national insurance company) to lie to me about the scumbags who had destroyed my dad's business and the jobs of the parents of so-many other people in the room. So I would rather write a warm obituary about my own dad than this dad.

The professor is also past caring what anyone thinks about him - he is long dead - so I used to quote his name, but that might make this post read as though it's about him, and not about all economics courses and the 1980s destruction of parts of the UK economy. If you've been on another economics course and read about this one, it will look pretty thin because this was a 40 week course taught by a staff team of about 4 with two thirds the going-rate per student for a budget, and it was taught before the internet made more possible. 

Somewherwe right near the end I might put a link to the man's obituaries, because they explain how he spent years toeaching under threat of the sack if he did anything unauthodox, like giving an opinion about the economy. Loads of economics professors all round the world have to teach like this. There's no way that anyone can blame them for it. The fault is with people in more free countries who copy the habit without realising where it comes from.

Kirmit the Frog

Professor Paul A SamualsonColdwar economists were the sort of people who do well after original thinkers get the sack. I expect there are a lot like that are teaching in Turkey now, and a Turkish student can update this list about tactical, careerist people who work well with their funders. Government social work contractors are a bit like this - full of people who have never done anything wrong because they have never done anything.

In 1950s America they had swept-back hair which was meant to make them look highbrow but also made them look like Kirmit the Frog. They had heavy serious spectacles. They pretended not to know about social insurance, or demand management, or anything that might upset their funders and these professors didn't mind lying to their students and writing things that were fairly obviously false like Samualson's theory of the public good.

Academic journals often not very good. I found a good article in something called Industrial Relations Bulletin, or some such, but don't remember a single good article being quoted from Econometrica. Maybe the editorial team are not every good at economics. They published an article about themselves in 2004, long after free blogs had eliminated most of the cost of printing a journal. $32 was their marginal cost to print and post each of six issues a year, apart from writing, editing, and other fixed costs, and funded by typical fees to libraries of $500 for an institutional log-on and printed copies.


Back in 1950s, an anecdote about University of Colorado noticed no books in the bookshop, except textbooks and one exception called "Life of Gandhi". So there weren't many general-interest books to inform tutors, or not if they shopped at the college book shop.

There were no tutorials to inform tutors. The same anecdote quotes the professor saying that students "to some extent had to be spoon-fed". Another explanation is that tutors did not want to meet students in tutorials for fear of
allegations being made against them of being a communist, so tutors did not learn anything from students. They wrote the most pretentious algebra possible, to make themselves look scientific in their boring articles in Econometrica. while using the biggest possible variations of their names to get noticed, like people who get credits at the end of a film "Catering: Hireme P Fatburger"; "Pointless algebra article in Econometrica: Professor Hireme P Fatburger".

Paul Samualson was quoted for the more gentle bit ignorant school of thought, and another lot for the theories of money which were a cover for closing industry. Theories of money are a convenient subject, in decades when economists are sacked for origninal thought, because there is a lot of meaningless data about the money supply. Pointless data - a bit like trying to measure the weight of clouds or the distances between stars - but good for a well paid career just as long as no government is daft enought to take your economic advice, because these economic ideas were meant for economists' careers, not for governments and voters. You can tell by the economists' names. Names as big as footballers' haircuts. Not Paul Samualson, but Professor Paul A. Samualson.

The Professor was happy writing "Les" on his office door, even if he didn't hold tutorials, work from original sources, or suggest conflicting points of view beyond the odd mimed shrug. Maybe his ghost gets the last laugh.

Teaching economics is not a lot of fun. In a subject where theory is taught before use, students yawn and "face time", is used to drill the theory into student heads, useful or not, welcome or not, so they pass the exams. Some of it is so excruciatingly pointless and boring that it has to be drilled-in several times, or at least that is the tradition described in the preface to the awful micro-economics text book. Thirty years later, I still haven't quite brought myself to read David Laidler's Introduction to Economics, second edition, cover to cover and I bought it second-hand, unread. You could harvest some web data about second hand books sold on the internet to see what kinds of books are most-often sold un-read. I guess that micro-economics textbooks for university students are high on the list.

Something about Laidler's Introduction to Economics just seems wrong, and any readers' mind naturally wonders to ask why? What's going-on? Who writes this stuff? It is like trying to remember the lyrics to Ra-Ra Rasputin; the wierdness distracts from attempts to remember, while the naffnes discourages, and then some other wierdness crops-up like "isoquants" or a curve we are meant to remember from the previous chaptor, and the whole farce lurches from the simplistic to the difficult-because-irritatiing. So we have several variables to add to the equation: puzzlment (P), entitlement to lecture and choose syllabus (E), and the justice of wasting students' time in this way (J). Entitlement and Justice are overlapping versions of the same thing, and both negative quantities. On the other side of the equation are ways that the industry keeps going. It is full of people who agree with each other, and so think they must be right. That is the gist of Laidler's equations: there are people and rules of thumb that agree with each other so they don't care if they agree with the facts. Like faith groups and political parties. The X-shapes on the diagrams are symbols rather than graphs of real numbers. The truth could be a + shape or a cloudier-shape made up of much thicker broader lines, but in Laidler's book we have an X.

In English, the poet Milton is just as bad, but easier to skip. A bit like the lyrics of Freddie Mercury, or the words in Ra Ra Rasputin but we got him over-with pretty fast and the tutor did ask something like "why do we study Milton? - there are no characters in it, no ideas in it, and there's no humour in it (except unintentional humour like ' is this a cloud? - no it is not a cloud.')." And then we moved-on, wasting only a week instead of half the course for a year spent on untested microeconomic theory.


preparing to teach a tutorial / class

Lecturers learn to teach their courses in different ways.
  • From a critical interest that guides some original research as well as past experience of refining this into lectures and learning from students in tutorials. Learning from original sources like statistics or some unusual research, as well as a general view of how the world works, keeping-up with some of the usual secondary sources like the Treasury Select Committee, the most promising books, news, maybe the odd journal, noting students' own thoughts and current events, then boiling it down to what's important each year. This is hard work for the money in year one but should get easier. Some people work so hard at it that they end-up writing a book themselves. Some get to work on research projects that the department is comissioned to do. Others learn a bit from students: the Begg economics textbook has a great chaptor on the stock exchange, but very little about the dole. Professor Begg did economics tutorials at Oxford Uni.

  • From a textbook.

    Every teacher knows what it's like to start teaching a course and just hope that there is a textbook and it's possible to stay one chapter ahead of the class. If the class and the teacher have similar textbooks or the same one, order will be maintained. If similar, the teacher can throw-in little expertise from the other book.

    If the teacher has the same book as the students, it saves the students from taking notes in the same way; the teacher can try to explain the textbook and say which parts are relevant. "Looking at the textbook page 440, figure 19.2, do you think the 1979 monetarist policy worked for the UK?"

    There might be a set of teachers' notes as well, somewhere like Before the Internet, there might still have been teachers' editions of Lipsey's economics textbook for the most taught and technical part of the subject. Lipsey was the main textbook in the 70s, used a Keele before a funding crisis made it impossible for the Department of Economis and Management Science to buy anything new that might mention the recession. Students had to pay something like £20 for Begg's first edition textbook that has a few snippets and updates about the crisis, but the Department of Economics and Management Science still has some edition of Lipsey, pre-recession.

    Pre-rescession textbooks had a lot about demand-management, and there was a very good memory aid and bit of exam technique for how some bits of the economy boost demand and some not. In 1962 it had been suggested as a real model of how the world worked in a couple of journal articles, but by the 1980s it was presented as a memory-aid, written on printed graphs without any numbers down the sides.

    Wikipedia quotes a deceptively neat, rather smug set of four graphs interacting with each other called ISLM that were most likely in book like Samuelson and Lipsey through the 70s. They can "easily be expanded" to cover international trade with a further couple of graphs. People remember them for the exam and then forget them; they are not much to do with real life.

    The book on students' desks is a mystery to the person teaching the course. I don't know why he didn't borrow one off a student. It shows the same four graphs without much pretense at them all interacting with each other or being true, and then ends with the vital 1980s one about imports and exports if the government fiddles the exchange rate and kills-off so much of industry. The black line, which goes up, is the chance of importing cheap goods and the reduced chance of getting a job after graduating. People who argue for a high pound and free trade - people like some brexiteers - are keen to say that cheap imports benefit the poor who are more able to buy socks or whatever. But the poor are also less able to work in a sock factory, and anyway there are other ways of getting cheap socks like finding a sock shop with a lower margin such as Primark or a market stall, and spending less on credit and advertised brands, so there are things government can do to help the poor buy socks

  • By panicking and then finding a way to survive the embarassment

    The lecturer who usually did international trade could use some vintage teachers' edition textbook in some library back-catalogue.
    There were some Lipsey textbooks in the main library. Or any old notes found at home and from asking-around, and memories of some course decades-back. Teachers look a bit odd if they sit-in in other teachers' lectures and tutorials, and this is more of a handicap before YouTube; teachers have to start from scratch, but maybe there was a Lipsey Teachers' Edition for the teaching of demand management macro-economics that could be found somewhere. A classic macro economic course says next to nothing about the supply of more competitive goods, or why they might start coming from another country while employment drops. The Begg textbook (the one students were asked to buy) has four pages to the supply side of the economy in the macro-economic section. Most of it is about demand management and "the limits of keynsian monetarist economics".  The bit about demand management has a different emphasiss to textbook the teacher used. It has four graphs for interest rates, liquidity, money supply, and savings, but no numbers down the sides so it's unlikely that anyone thought they were true. There is no attempt to put them into a memory-aid, like the points of a compass, with lines between them and call them a macro-economic model. All the emphasis is on a newly important part of the system - an extra graph to try to show the effects of imports and exports in an open economy, and there is thre graph at the top of this blog post ("...if you turn to your textbooks on page 440, figure 19.2...") about UK unemployment, caused by this high pound. The style of the book is deadpan, but the meaning is rather different. It might as well read...

    . "The plane is now on fire so we are going to land at sea. Please follow the guidelines to the nearest exit after landing and inflate your jackets only after leaving the plane. Once safely in the Atlantic we can blow morse code messages on our whistles to attract help. The messages are moulded-in to the whistles as dots and dashes."

    The full quote from Begg is under "The Pound in the 70s" quoted in full further down the page. There's another long section in the micro-economics section that describes exactly how so many factories were forced to go bust by a high interest rate and high exchange rate. People studying other subjects might not know this. It depends what newspapers they read. They might think there is a slight blip in unemployment caused by closure of inefficient nationalized industries and a few inefficient private ones somehow caught-up. People studying economics don't seem quite sure either. My international trade lecturer, trying to cobble-up a macro-economics class outside his main subject, uses an older textbook and a different set of diagrams. The highlight of the course is to combine them together into a bit chart called  four-quadrant IS-LM. Click on the link to an image search to see what sort of thing it is or scroll-down to "the teaching of my course". I think I mention it twice for some reason.
The parts of the course fit together like the standard parts used to make a the Morris Marina and Morris Ital, and somehow te thing drives, even if the gear box would have been better in a front wheel drive car or the shock absorbers were meant for a mini. Oddly the ISLM standard part is very very close to the subject that everyone in the UK is worried about - whether government economic policies are making things worse, but it is not that. It is about memorising what to write in an exam if a curve moves up or down on a certain chart with letters written next to it. The chart is complicated because the letters don't have words next to them to say what they stand for. It's complicated because the mechanism of cause and effect depends on the angles of some lines, but there are no numbers to say whether the line should be at one angle or another - that's up to a different rank of economist to work-out, so if you are interested or doubt their judgement, it's a big distraction. Lastly, the cause and effect is shown by moving lines around with dotted lines to show how they intersect, which looks rather overwhelming.

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, using a pre-recession textbook in my case, and students 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. You'll meet them serving you coffee or working in social services or teaching english as a foreign language in Mongolia  or doing something self-employed. Maybe they get a public-funded job, like a lot of Keele graduates, and may rise to become director of traffic for a region or something like that. 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.

Where were we?

Oh we were talking about a new theory and whether to get it published: the theory that economists don't predict recession. If I was an american economics professor and put that into algebra, maybe with a curve, that might get into Econometrica, but that's another problem with Econometrica. I bet they prefer articles from a proper professor with serious specs, and to be a US professor when people respected Econometrica you had to pretend you hadn't heard of the welfare state or anything like that and not profess anything that anyone would want to know, or you'd get a summons from the McArthy / Todd Committees and then your boss would get help from a special department at the CIA to organise unfair dismissal without a reference. A long sentence but true. Apart from the boycott of an economics textbook that mentioned macro-economics and demand management, there were a number of schemes to dismiss mis-fits from teaching in the postwar USA.

BOULDER, Colo. --

During the height of the 1950s Red Scare, University of Colorado philosophy professor Morris Judd was fired amid rumours he was a communist. He never worked in education again. Half a century later, Judd has learnt that the man responsible was Robert Stearns, the university’s president at the time, who spied on his faculty for the FBI, according to newly declassified documents.

In a telephone interview from his home in Sun City, Ariz., Judd said he’ll never forgive Stearns. “He was responsible for my leaving teaching,” Judd said. “He attacked me personally, saying I was a dull teacher, then that I was incompetent, all the while because there were rumours that I was a radical and a communist.” To this day, Judd, 86, refuses to say whether he belonged to the party. Stearns died in 1977, and his relatives have declined comment. During the height of McCarthyism in the early 1950s, it was not unusual to see allegations of political disloyalty made without evidence to accompany them, said Ellen Schrecker, who studies the era of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s hunt for communist sympathisers. “We seem to be discovering that this kind of thing was going on at several campuses,” said Schrecker, a history teacher at Yeshiva University in New York. She said many campuses during the Cold War had an FBI contact person, such as the secretary of a dean. The revelations about Stearns are contained in reports that were kept in a bank vault until late last year, when the university’s Board of Regents released them under the threat of a lawsuit by the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder. The newspaper also filed open-records requests seeking FBI documents. The papers show that Stearns ordered a probe by two former FBI agents to investigate the faculty for subversives at the urging of the Colorado Legislature after it was revealed that CU professor David Hawkins belonged to the Communist Party. In a 1954 interview, Stearns assured the FBI that most professors with “pinkish influences” had left the campus by 1951, according to the declassified transcripts. “I have kept them (the FBI) informed on each of these men so they know well what they are doing and where they have gone,” Stearns told FBI interviewers. Within six months of the report’s completion, the university terminated Judd and Irving Goodman, a non-tenured chemistry professor and two-time Guggenheim fellow. The CU regents agreed to retain Hawkins. The report accused Goodman of lying about having left the Communist Party. It said Judd belonged to a Marxist literary society. When Stearns dismissed Judd, he accused him of “pedestrian-ism,” meaning he was a boring teacher. Judd took a job as office manager at his father-in-law’s salvage yard in Greeley. The documents’ release has prompted CU English professor Paul Levitt to call for the renaming of the Stearns award, which honours outstanding faculty. “It seems to me you don’t protect the institution by engaging in a violation of civil liberties and human rights,” Levitt said. “Stearns could very well have resigned. He could have said no.” Stearns supporters called his actions understandable, given Cold War fears that communist sympathisers were leaking U.S. security secrets to the Soviet Union. “I’m not trying to justify what he did or those times,” university archivist David Hays said. “But in those times he was tap dancing, he was looking for room to manoeuvre.” In a letter to the CU faculty newspaper last month, alumnus Dorothy Smith of Seattle said Stearns made CU one of the first schools to accept Japanese-Americans released from World War II internment camps. He also opened his home to African-American guest lecturers when no one in town would offer them a room. “He supported a variety of liberal student organisations as long as he could,” alumnus and Boulder resident John Jacus said. “And only when one of them was exposed as a front for the former Young Communists League was he no longer able to allow that particular organisation on campus.”

An obituary in the Denver Post added some similar detail after interviewing Paul Levitt who researched what a 126 page freedom-of-information request revealed.

"About 50 people on campus either left “out of disgust” or because they
worried that they, too, were under suspicion", said Levitt.

The 126-page file on the CU investigations was hidden in aBoulder bank vault, so few people knew the details of whom university officials suspected or how the investigations were carried out by two FBI agents brought in by Stearns.

The report showed that people’s personnel, medical,financial and academic records were searched by the agents, Levitt said. Those under suspicion were followed, former CU regent Jim Martin said.

It was in 2002 that Levitt and Martin pushed to have thereport released. The Boulder Daily Camera also sued to have it released, Levitt said.

Levitt described the charges against CU faculty, staff and students as full of “libel, innuendo, gossip, rumor and guilt by association.”
That's the professor's previous employer. He was also summoned to the Todd / McCarthy committee hearings but managed to hold down his job long enough to continue calmly to the UK, rather than have "constructive dismissal over alleged bad teaching followed by work at family salvage yard" on his CV. Although the professor had been through that once before, working "briefly as a docker, before ... two years as an accountant at his father's furniture manufacturing firm in Los Angeles", according to an obituary by his daughter. Current students will have teachers from simlar backgrounds, particularly at school but in higher education as well. At school, it's reported on TV that the Harris acadamy chain sacks staff and pupils who don't boost Ofstead results, and there are widespread similar reports that I haven't googled. At universities, the power lies with people who get power and pay: pay rates of vice chancellors are widely reported as a scandle. There are people from other countries where political control of universities is tighter, like Turkey, who get jobs in the UK but have the same sense of how to hold-down a job as they did in Turkey. There are people who worked for nutter con-men like the Professor Nigel Piercey at Warwick and Swansea who are looking for ways of holding-down a job. So any economics student has to interpret their lecturers' opinions as an act of diplomacy, of stating things that are hard to complain-about, of calm. Even if untrue. That's what the professor did did.

The professor's ridiculously diplomatic answer to a question was this: "We used to believe on Keynsian solutions; now we believe on monetarist solutions", and it was addressed to people like the Todd and McArthy committee members, and to their local Machiavelli boss, Mr Stearns, who was the professor's boss when he worked in Colorado. In theory it was given to the student who asked the question, but, as they say in police stations, anything you say may be taken as evidence against you. The experience might have been in the US in the 1950s and 1960s, but it still effected his style of teaching in the UK in the 1980s, such as sticking to textbooks and not running tutorials. Someone asked another question about why monetarist economists were doing so much damage, and got a reply in mime: "It'll be like a cold shower. [shrug] That's what they say - the people who believe in it". That was as close as the professor got to saying how we could argue-back against a disaster of an economic policy that effected most people in the room. Maybe, decades later, when Lehman Brothers collapsed, he would have mimed a shrug and said "well: Gordon Brown opened their HQ in 2004 and talked about light-touch banking law". Which is not a good thing to hear when you have committed years of your life to spend working for no dosh in order to study something like this, and big lumps of taxpayer money as well. Even if you would have been on the dole otherwise and you do get a £3,000 maintenance grant with free tuition. I mean: would you work for £3,000 a year to listen to that?

Oh I am no expert but this is what google tells me about the event

The Rt Hon Gordon Brown, MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said: “I would like to pay tribute to the contribution you and your company make to the prosperity of Britain. During its one hundred and fifty year history, Lehman Brothers has always been an innovator, financing new ideas and inventions before many others even began to realise their potential. And it is part of the greatness not just of Lehman Brothers but of the City of London, that as the world economy has opened up, you have succeeded not by sheltering your share of a small protected national market but always by striving for a greater and greater share of the growing global market.”

Getting back to the 1980s, there was a pompous group of economists, and there was a pompous and rabid group of economists in the USA who's ideas had more to do with holding-down a job as an economics teacher than anything more useful.

Samuelson the textbook-writer is one of the saner US economists compared to the rival school of thought, who Thatcher chooses as 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 Communist 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 these people 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 discipline 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.

● Ignorance 
● Awareness
/ appreciation of contexts in which techniques are relevant
/ knowledge
● Familiarity
/ proficiency
/ competent use
For 1980s economists, the lights are reversed when it comes to any understanding of things like national insurance or the NHS. To make things worse, the ignorance is concealed. School economics describes how a lot of society works; students expect higher education to do the same, but it doesn't. The half of the economy that's public funded disappears from advanced parts of the textbooks. Economists and politicians who study them get puzzled about why something ends-up as public-funded or private-funded; about the costs of markets and the costs of public provision. They tend towards sweeping statements about the public sector, rather than parts of it. 
There ought to be a title or heading here because the thread changes

If these notes seem a bit flippant for someone spending three years on a bogus economics degree during an economic crisis, it is because students are the lucky ones among their age group, 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 or Pride. Other people the same age and older are working or on strike from 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 waggons 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, except for the bit about being on an economics course. Economics, as a taught subject, seems to be a bogus one.

Begg, 1984, page xix
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, mainly for young people who have just passed economics A-level. If the course does not have that purpose, it should have some other clearly-stated name and purpose, like "economic issue avoidance studies", or "initiation ritual to weed-out non-believers", so that students know not to take it.

Ninety weeks on a campus, 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. This paragraph really belongs at the top somewhere.

Digresion on Digressons

Please excuse this prose; it makes no great sense. It is a series of notes cobbled-together and just leads where it goes. I had no idea what I was going to write about when I started, but just felt an urge to write about the wierdness of this economics course and about the 80s recession, which I kept trying to summerise in an introduction, over and over again, and sometimes remembering to merge them or delete them.

Sometimes a long-bit spins-off into another more coherent blog post.

Further down there is a more structured bit with recent student feedback questionarre questions next to what happened in the 80s, so it does get a bit more structured later-on.

By chance, Fishman himself had a similar habit. He would teach textbook till near the end of the class, and then spin-off into an anecdote. In his US days I expect they were about the wonders of the modern US economy, but, given more freedom in the UK, he preferred anecdotes about whatever came into his head of an economic kind - jumpers - warm beer - the need for welfare and the military in a third world country - things not working so well as you get older - all sorts of things. And the habit of musing about digressions is useful for keeping us all sane because it brings-in the obvious points that are not officially recognised as relevant.

Postwar UK unemployment (excluding school leavers). Graph going off the top of the usual scale from textbook page 440

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 committed 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 species 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 exhibit 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 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 Fishman 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 if governments take their advice

Thatcher's advisers had a new policy, which was to fiddle the exchange-rate upwards by whatever method, like paying over the odds to borrow government debt. All over the world, the big-scale full-time investors like fund managers would buy government stock from this mug of a government burning its taxpayers' money.

Money sloshed about very quickly in the 1980s. Edward Heath said so. He came and gave a speech at Keele and quoted some big international investor like Goerge Sophos or whatever name who had told him that it just took a few clicks on a computer keyboard to move extraordinary amounts of money from one investment in one currency to another in another currency. I don't know why he said that, but I know that Edward Heath lived on cunsultancy money from the Chinese government after being an MP.

Where were we?
Overseas investors buying UK government stock (or anything else with related interest rates but they are interested in easy sloshes of money so it's mainly government stock)

So the pound rises against the European currencies or Asian curreincies, even if they are not being manipulated the other way by more savvy governments.

Exports, priced in pounds, are harder to sell; imports, priced  in other currencies, are a good substitute for anything a UK factory can make.
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. 

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 fast or close. And meanwhile 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, as many of these students suggest in their Unistats feedback.

Inactivity rates increased following the recession, reaching a peak of 23.2% (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 is no link because stats series have changed and the government web site people have been asked not to provide a direct link I suppose - you have to search.

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 Norwegian exports didn't because of a different system - the tax money went into a fund. The UK system was that the government was short of cash and needed it at all costs.  So there was already a market that would reduce inflation but make exports harder and put people out of work, but that wasn't noticed in UK politics or economists.

There was a tradition in UK politics of cabinet ministers wanting a strong pound. Churchill was keen in the 1930s. So there were very poor job prospects for anyone a job competing with people from the rest of the world, like manufacturing jobs competing with migrant labour, or goods from the Dominion of India with its sweatshops in places like Rana Plaza, Bangladesh. The person who's job can be done by a migrant.

There is a tradition in UK politics of thinking that people in Bangladesh do not need to have compulsory insurance schemes or a welfare state in order to sell to the UK. It was introduced to the EU tariff system for Bangladesh after special pleading from the UK government, p-l-e-e-d-i-n-g  t-o  m-a-k-e  p-e-o-p-l-e  i-n  B-a-n-g-l-a-d-e-s-h  &  t-h-e  U-K  b-o-t-h  p-o-o-r-e-r and has made Bangladeshis and people in the UK poorer ever since. Other EU politicians have introduced special schemes for leather from Ethiopia or all goods from Mexico, dispite the unfair competition involved, so I expect there are other people peeding to make Ethiopians and Europeans poorer, with the same success. And the cows.

Containerized 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 advisers 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 inactivity 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.


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: people at the time faced series of printed data called things like Economic Trends which were obscure and hard to find in libraries because nobody knew what to do with them. By the time computers became cheap for number-crunching, there was a slightly different series of data on unemployment that starts in the late 80s according to international standards, forgetting the figures which were altered in so-many different ways in the early 80s to try to reduce the unemployment count. In the 21st Century it's easier to google figures from speeches in parliament which give the numbers on the Comunity Programme,  Youth Opportinities, and another one. The people making the speeches had some trouble getting facts as well - John Forester MP admitted as much in a good speech about the official figures . The office of national statistics appeared to work for ministers and manderins like Sir Clous Moser, it's former chief, rather than taxpayers or MPs.

We had lectures and suggested essay titles about the number of ways that unemployment figures were fiddled in the early 80s by the likes of Sir Clous Moser, who has a building named after him on the Keele campus. 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. Like Geoge Orwell in Down and Out in Paris and London. 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 adviser 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 describes 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 requiring two years' unemployment for employees. It's lucky that universities kept people off the dole. That was one logical reason to keep them open. But Keele's budget was cut by 34%. The historian John Kolbert who wrote a factual history of Keele for the university found it rejected by a new Vice Chancellor 
"The way in which you write about this period (1979 onwards) takes on an overtly political tone ... a book with these political overtones would be a sad and inaccurate statement of Keele's image of itself."
So hierarchy trumps fact in what the boss chief writes, just as it did in the world of 1960s economics where my old professor made his career. There is no need for hierarchy to argue-back, so it doesn't; it uses vague emotive phrases. I mean, if you wrote those three lines in an essay you'd be asked for something clearer, wouldn't you? They're like something out of Absolutely Fabulous. No wonder the book - even the version privately published by John Kolbert - doesn't give any background to the pressures on economics teachers to teach rubbish in a recession. It's a hidden subject. The book mentions qualms from the central government funding body about Russian Studies, but nothing about Economics or why the interesting parts of the course were dropped, except the 34% funding cut, and even that was too much for the university. As the author told a journalist
"for example when Keele's budget was cut by 34% in 1981 .... What am I meant to do, pretend it didn't happen?"

</DIGRESSION ON FORGOTTEN RECESSION> 1980s recession explanations

I wrote some on another page. People often write that the 80s recession, loss of industry, the deficit, 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.
If this page was structured, the punch line would be that this awful course could have been one of the best compared to the others like the PPE one that Cameron and Balls went-on about the same time, probably with the same text book but not the Keith Smith one or the emphasis on facts and prose and diagrams over algebra.  There was no great motive for writing to start with except the weirdness of studying economics at the height of one of the biggest baddest UK economic events of the 20th century: a flood of imports caused by high interest rates, high exchange rate, and high tolerance of sweatshops among those who set the tariffs. All of it more-or-less unknown to the macro-economics syllabus or the debates on the meaning of "average" and "indifference" among victorian mathmaticians - suitable for second year study after a previous indroductory course, according to the Laidler textbook. Some of the people most effected by an economic car-crash were students listening to economists say blatantly stupid things and ignore the important things that caused hurt. Dads were worst effected. Mums were effected badly too; my mum had to become the breadwinner doing jobs she didn't enjoy, but at the time it was dads who were more used to a single long-term job in a career that expected the same. According to research by Fishman and others, people tend to find out about their fitness for a job, and how to apply, from people they know. So my dad's loss of self employment left me without much idea of a trade, even though I knew a lot about HP finance companies because he worked from home. (Eventually I discovered hostel-work jobs via the only person who kept in touch from Keele, who took a job as a live-in volunteer at a homeless hostel.) Dads are a theme of the Fishman Bursary and obituaries as well. A lot of students at Keele had redundant or ceased-trading dads, but Fishman had a loving daughter who's dad was still employed, and she thought he was such a good economist that she wrote obituaries to say so, and to tell the family story including grandad Isaac Fishman's migration from Siberia, and left money to fund the Leslie and Eleanor Fishman Bursary. The people in-and-out of cabinet jobs, like a recent prime minister and a recent shadow chancellor, studied another short economics course as part of PPE at Oxford about the same time I studied a joint-honours Economics course at Keele. They probably studied from the same textbooks and used a very similar syllabus. Their failure to have sensible debates about economics says something about the way short economics courses worked at the time. They work amongst newspaper proprietors, MPs, lobbyists and constituents who could all do with a better education in economics that every teacher wants to give and every student wants to get, but something in the boundaries of the subject, the wide range of different expectations and the way it is traditionally taught, all make a lot to write about. I understand that things have got worse since the 1980s, with more mathematical content in economics degrees and less staff / student contact time in universities. Time-out for sandwich years or a year abroad, and short pick-mix modules have made the sense of being on a course weak. Access to the Internet and touch-typing on keyboards makes study a lot easier in other ways.

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 has just enough funding to carry-on, and it's unfair to offer a maths course taught by weathermen instead.

I wind-up to a point, politely-put with evidence I hope, but should have put it at the start.
First year economics is "a £9,000 lobotomy" according to some people who studied it at Manchester University in 2013, and it wasn't much better at Keele in 1985.

This is the 2013 version from Manchester

First year: 
Principles of Micro and ECON10042
Principles of Macro (For those without A level economics), ECON10081
UK Micro and ECON100082 UK Macro (For those with A level economics).

  • 100% of marks awarded by multiple choice exam for both Principles modules in first year.
  • UK Micro and Macro have 90% awarded by multiple choice exams and the other 10% is an essay. However, this essay is only 1,000 words long and students get 100% for handing it in on time. This means that many students don’t widely research the topic or fully engage with the material.
Micro and Macro Principles are a delivery of neoclassical theory and students are expected to learn the theory by rote.  

There is no mention of what school of thought is being taught or that there are any other schools of thought. It is presented as facts about the world which leads to the possibility of students believing that these ideas represent indisputable truths (Section 1 (1)).

Keynes is mentioned briefly in Macro Principles but the ideas presented are actually those of John Hicks and his version of Keynesian thought, rather than of Keynes himself. There is no time given to looking at the underlying assumptions in either of these two modules, very little real world application and no historical context as to where these ideas came from (Section 1 (2), (3) and (4)).  Apart from the odd mention of economic growth in China and hyperinflation there is no proper analysis of how the theory taught is applied to these examples. The most concerning thing is the complete lack of critical engagement and opportunity for the students to discuss what they are learning. Tutorials comprise of working through problem sets and there is no opportunity to discuss the material in any real depth with the teaching assistants and lecturers (Section 1(6) and (7)).
In UK Micro and Macro the multiple-choice structure of both exams rewards the ability to regurgitate textbook information, and fails to encourage students to think analytically about economic problems. Students become disillusioned with the wider challenges of economics and are immersed in learning a set of diagrams and equations. Furthermore, according to the mark scheme in UK Micro, marks are awarded for mentioning all the pricing theories which are taught but if a student provides an in-depth discussion of the economic implications of one or two pricing theories this goes unrewarded. In-depth analysis of theories shows a much greater economic understanding but is disregarded in place of the ability to repeat given information. This is a missed opportunity for students to learn skills of critical reflection (Section 1(6) and (7)). This system of memorising information to pass an exam leaves students with fragmented ‘bits’ of theory rather than a solid base to build economic knowledge on.
The 1985 version at Keele was for a split course in less than half students' time. We did three subjects in year one. 
Part of the economics time was spent on statistics. 
The other part was a series of rules of thumb about markets, and here my description splits between a description of teaching, which I remember slightly fondly - and the syllabus, which was a bit like the lecturer standing up on a tall ladder and pissing on the students. Nobody said anything.
 Imagine studying any technical subject at A-level, going-on to study more, and finding that a different stupid subject is taught using the same name. Imagine that the stupid subject reles its theories with each other, rather than the facts. You don't have to imagine it if you do A-level Economics and then a degree; it is blatant.
The other students were a bit different to me. Most had chosen a popular college for two-year two-subject degrees; they would have read a few prospectuses, and I guess they knew that other university economics courses were even worse. At London School of Economics we would have seen gentlemen pleasuring themselves with mathematics. And the writer of our back-up reference book, David Laidler, did the same for second and third year students at Western Uni in Canada..
<Digression: rude to lecturers vaguely remembered>
If I met these people face to face, which I didn't do at the time, it would be a bit awkward to say that the lectures were like someone standing up on a ladder and pissing on the students. The person who gave cow theory (development studeies) lectures got up on a ladder and pissed on the students too. What if I met both at once? I mean to be rude about the syllabus and not the lecturer, but, face to face, I'd have to admit some overlap. The lecturers did not walk-out. They applied for the jobs. One of them tried to bring examples about the housing market into his lectures and wrote to the textbook writer with suggestions, acknowledged in the second edition. The other moved-on to teaching international trade and tax when his boss changed, according to and google books. I remember that keele lecturers lectured well.. But they were part of a system and the truth is that I am quite rude to everyone in the system. 

Update 2020
The international trade lecturer wrote similar points about teh subject of economics in his 1984 book, which is available for reading an hour at a time or more on web archive. I have got up to page 19 He prints some quotes about how split the area of study is, with scientific pretensions interpreted by people like students as fact, or fiction, or a jumbled "faction", often presented by people who manipulate greek symbols and lack critical nous or historical perpective. He also mentions learning from the reactions of students of International Relations, and of Economics, at Keele.


There are loads of people in the higher education industry who allow stupid economics courses to carry-on because they are taken-in by the idea of micro-economic theories trying to agree with each other, rather than agree with the facts of the economy. Somebody even even offered a job to Patrick Minford, the man who wrote "we would mostly eliminate manufacturing, but that should not be seen as a bad thing" - that was at Cardiff, rather than Keele, and Cardiff now has about the least popular economics degree on unistats, so he has mostly eliminated employment teaching economics at Cardiff Uni, but someone did not see that as a bad thing.
Many of the people to insult are students who apply for the courses, including myself at the time, and all the advisers around them. I have insulted a very large number of people who are unlikely to meet me all at once face-to-face. Anyway, I am happy to talk about this rudeness face-to-face rather than take it off an obscure blog. Otherwise I would be even more rude to millions of people, including my own parents and other Keele students, who suffered crazed economic policies and unfair government budgeting without any way of arguing-back or judging how much was their fault for not running a business or getting a job, and how much was the fault of stupid grim-faced economics students who apply to keep bad courses going, stupid higher education people who tick the boxes and think the courses are alright, and economics lecturers who get-up on a tall ladder and piss on the students.
</Digression: rude to lecturers vaguely remembered>
 <Digression on awkwardness>
There is video of David Cameron MP's experesson when asked about government loans to help the last deep coal mine run as a staff co-op for a while in order to pay-back the loans and pay redundancy money. David Cameron was an Oxford student in the early 80s and his expression suggests that he had no idea what was going-on.

I recall that stats part of my course using computers - without much success but against all the odds - to do some kind of fact-based excercise. I recall studying interesting statistics - or at least the headings - for different kinds of unemployment and different changes in the way it was counted. So the impression is of a course sometimes better than whatever Mr Cameron's  network knew
We'd studied rules of thumb about markets before, at A-level, and they're listed in the Begg textbok that students had to buy. They're put in an anecdotal, prosaic way as examples that make sense in context and can be illustrated with a diagram. At A-level, it seemed a rather silly part of the course that seemed to be for people who were a bit thick, and was contracted to a different teacher on a lower pay scale, but I suppose it's easier to talk about markets if everyone has had the basic training and that I learned something along the way. I assumed that was the end of rules of thumb.

The degree version was different.
 You have to see a bit of Laidler's Microeconomics text book to believe it; it is not what any sane student would signed-up to study.
Presented as pure theory, even on BA courses (I suppose the BSc courses have algebra as well as graphs) and the theory attempts internal consistency. If this is true, then that is true, then the third things is true. The theory is not to be used in models, as a starting point to compare with reality. The theory is taught for its own sake as a kind of hobby, and stripped of all reference to reality. Price becomes P, quantity  becomes Q, and so-on, just to make it look more technical and harder to track. The behaviour or P&Q are derived from the previous lecture, and on to the next one, for ever.

Any student hopes that this awful start will lead to something better. Maybe the theory will lead to a model that says "theory predicts x and reality is a little off, so think of your own ways to expand on that". But my Laidler textbook had none of that - it was entirely about the internal consistency of various graphs and jargon words which were almost impossible to read because so irrelevant; there is nothing at the end of the book about testing against reality as a model. Instead, the book suggests that reality should follow the theory be told-off; it is "a way of thinking", according to the Laidler textbook.

Why don't people walk out? I suppose that students hope this will lead somewhere. But, as a graduate, I can tell you that it didn't. We may as well have memorised random numbers or painted coal white.

Edinburgh University has ceased teaching undergraduate economics degrees after protests, so maybe the rest who teach this stuff will do the same soon and avoid ripping-off students.

The teaching on my course(this comes round twice)

Staff... 1. are good at explaining things. 2. made the subject interesting. 3. are enthusiastic about what they are teaching The Course... 4. is intellectually stimulating        - National Student Survey
...  increasing critical facility and independence as the [core] course progresses.... foster active learning. A variety of approaches to managing the learning process may be adopted to achieve this, including lectures, seminars, tutorials, workshops, peer teaching and learning, project-based learning, experiments, games and technology-enabled learning - Quality Assurance Agency consensus statement
On a Keele economics course it is just possible for a student to talk to Professor Les Fishman, chief, who got his first permanent teaching job in America in 1955 when there were more professor jobs than applicants to fill them. The academic stars of the time were so bad that it seemed anybody could have a go. BF Skinner, the psychologist, discovered that if he hurt his pet it made a noise, and did it for the rest of his career despite mass walk-outs from his lectures, which he livened-up with sexist jokes. Fishman is much saner and more sensible than that. He has two or three decades of experience in the role and two or three times the average wage , mainly paid out of taxes.
"In post-war America his political commitment wrecked any chances he had of reaching academic stardom in the United States once McCarthyism took root so he quit America to bring his family to Britain after winning a Ford Foundation fellowship to work in the economics department of Cambridge, where his mentor colleague was Professor Nicholas Kaldor. Later Fishman moved on to Keele University where he was appointed the first Chair in Economics. It was under his umbrella of inspiration..." - obituary of Nina Fishman who sounds nice in small doses. Well they both do. I only met the older Fishman, and only in the sense of staring at him across a room for three years and trying not to scowl too obviously while he delivered a scam of a course that should have been on Rogue Traders. Worse still, other technical teaching at colleges, other economics courses and economists were worse, without the excuse of 34% budget cuts. This awful one was sometimes a lot better than the others and had been quite good a year or two earlier. "he remained a passionate believer in socialism, but looked at new developments in capitalism with lively interest"  - obituary of Leslie Fishman by Nina Fishman
Fishman shows no sign of knowing what national insurance is, as the role of the state - he just uses the american term "welfare". Economists are often ignorant this way; colleges prefer it when recruiting students. They go for the maths and science people. Fishman didn't have much encouragement from students, either, in a previous job in the 1960s, which sounds like force-feeding of suffragettes.
"Fishman's first observation was the lack of ability on the part of the students to grasp ideas from a textbook. In a way, he has to spoon feed the text, but on the other hand, they won't do any permanent good if they can't develop a little independent thinking among the students." - Collected letters of a civil rights activist who stayed the night with Fishman at Colorado Uni in the 1950s or 60s
Economists are often like this as well. It doesn't strike them - or not in public - that the textbook might be stupid, or the course badly-described to applicants, useless, or misleading. If the textbooks worked from real examples of problems to theory, rather than the other way around then they'd cover relevant theory one time, with examples, rather than irrelevant theory spoon-fed. The students had something to do with this as well. In the US in the 50s and 60s, a high priority was to avoid conscription. If that meant learning the same thing over and over again, why worry?

Fishman allowed some better teaching in his UK job. He has allowed problem-solving workshops in year two and three; he has allowed teaching of macro-economics about the welfare state and pension costs instead of the usual 1930s stuff, despite continuing to use the word "welfare" himself. Then in the early 80s, shortage of cash forced him back into old habits of teaching a class from one end of a room about quasi-mathematical equations and saying "we" for economists - both of them ways of holding down a job and looking technical rather than teaching.

Normal service will not be resumed

If I read a clear prospectus in the year I applied - 1982 - it could have boasted a course with problem-solving "workshops" of six students. This is something that the post crash economics society ask for, if I remember right. I don't know how well it worked. I know that a lot was still in-place when I studied at Keele - there was still a broad lecture course and someone trying to make micro-economics slightly funny, so I suppose there was a lot of introductory theory taught in the early 80s - the "bracing routine" as one lecturer puts it, alongside "workshops" in subjects like the funding of the welfare state in the long-term or the best ways of promoting innovation in industry to pay for it. So I have no example of a course that starts with an economic subject, as an English Studies tutor starts with a book, and asks students to go away and come back with something to say about it. I just have evidence that there was a lot more of that a year or two before I studied. I think that college prospectuses should explain why they teach theory first or fact first, because, in other subjects, it is usual to start with facts. If a department has no explanation for starting with theory, then maybe they should think of an explanation or start with facts. If the theory is so complicated that only a Genius Great Man in the history of your nation state can think of it (like apples falling off apple trees), then there could be a good reason to teach theory first, but I think there is a bit of give-and-take needed on both sides of the argument. Here are some advantages to starting with fact. I write from experience of doing a Nuffield Physics A-level, which was based on fact.


Real problems would have made the theory a lot easier to remember, and saved time in revision later-on. I think this is a consensus, but not acted-on. Part of the teaching could quote examples; other parts like revision notes or a textbook could just quote the theory


Rules of thumb get written-up in one context and then prove wrong in another. Here are two contexts.
  • Highly organised skilled workers work at a highly profitable steel furnace. They have the power to set some kind of pay deal, and might build-in an expectation of inflation to each years' deal, which helps cause a habit of inflation by raising steel prices. A shock to the economy might end the practise and end this cause of inflation. So the worst economic policy in the world - anything that causes a shock - becomes a good thing.

  • Similar steel workers work at a marginally-profitable steel furnace, but don't own it or control it. A shock to the economy makes losses un-sustainable anyway. The heat is turned-off and the hearth cracks-up, as steel works do when they are turned-of. The tools can't be used again, as often happens when a factory site closes. The site is cleared and equipment scrapped. Someone has to pay redundancy payments, unemployment benefits or sickness benefits. Central government also funds a scheme called a garden festival to cover-up the site, paying people an enhanced rate of dole to stand around and pretend to be on job training for a new career like gardening. In Sheffiled, a steel factory was turned into a shopping centre in another attempt at regeneration.
The rule of thumb that could help reduce a habitual inflation at the first furnace is a very bad theory at the second furnace, where it leads to less steel, less jobs, and less competition to make steel. By the way, economists have never quite got the hang of the welfare state with services like the NHS that have to be paid-for in the UK, so they're not good at saying why imports from China or India might be unfair or a UK steel works marginal because of unfair competition. They're badly educated.
This is from the Post Crash Economics Society, linked to an overly mathematical course at Glasgow University in the 20-teens: "economists teach “theories now known to be untrue” (Joffe, 2011). These include: the U-shaped cost curve (and marginalist pricing in general), expected utility theory, Real Business Cycle explanations of recessions. In our experience, lecturers often note in passing - or if questioned - that these theories are not particularly illuminating, yet they remain on the curriculum. This is completely unacceptable". This is unfair on the tutors as well as the students, but I would frame the problem another way. I think that most economic rules of thumb made sense to somebody somewhere once. Removing them from that context that is the problem. Obviously a U-shaped cost curve is a good rule of thumb in a kitchen of a workshop in any particular month. Attempts to make it a more universal and pure mathematical theory might be a less good rule of thumb to students on a mathematical economics course in Glasgow in the 20-teens, or the person who wrote a journal article claiming that only 5% of firms have a U-shaped cost curve.


I think this is a consensus point. The standard checklist now mentions an ability to explain an economic point of view to others. There is video of Sir Keith Joseph, the scary economist who was minister of education in the mid 80s. He is trying to talk to a group of students, but basically being mobbed by them and shouting back. More recently, Professor Patrick Minford of Economists for Free Trade told the Treasury Select Committee that the Chancellor was "economically illiterate". Ya-boo.

This is the Keele Uni web site about an Oxford person who campaigned to set-it up:

"He identified one consequence of these changes in the universities: their original purpose (to train people in the learned professions and as leaders of a traditional society - in Law, Divinity and so on), had been supplemented by a new requirement to train technologists, scientists and specialists for a new kind of society and economy. As the trend developed, graduates lost the common background, terminology, and values which had previously been almost universal in university education. Mutual understanding declined as specialisation increased and the great institutions of the country appeared to be at risk of fragmentation."The history of Keele (I forget the title and reference) says that there was a Keele Idea from this same Lindsey character, but that he didn't write it down and that it was easier to identify from a distance, like a smoke ring, than close-up in a long Senate meeting about the detail of the Foundation Year or whether people should be allowed to take similar joint-honours subjects.

It's a bit weird, but economics has a history of people baffled by each others' points of view rather than able to prove or explain and discuss. I think that most people who are interested in economics know what I mean. I know that the way other people use money is always a surprise - consumer TV programs show that every week - but the way experts advise is a surprise as well. Examples crop-up. I am baffled by the idea that bad countries run by baddies should be denied exports from the UK, rather than exports to the UK, but that's a commonly-held view. Saudi Arabian government orders bad things in Yemen. People crop-up on telly saying "we should deny them exports". The Saudi Foreign Minister, in an interview about BAE jets, said "the british government does not give them to us; we buy them, and if we cannot buy them in future we will buy jets from another supplier". That's a made up quote but that's the gist of it from memory. I am baffled by the difficulty that some politicians have with the idea of social insurance - I genuinely don't know why the disagreement between me and them; the conversation does not happen. They think of spending as a kind of Father Christmas for grown-ups. There are lots of battlements like that, and discussion of some kind among students could be part of their education in understanding each other. Maybe there should be a course called "when a common view made economic sense", trying to trace-back common ideas to some point in history when they did, and maybe still-do in a forgotten way.


My recollection is that I studied some rather bland micro-economic theories more than once - probably three times. I studied at A-level, with examples and graphics. Then on a Uni course, with letters and dotted lines and movement of lines to other letters with superscripts. Then again on a revision course for anyone who wanted more. I read on the Post Crash Economics Society site that the same happens on full-time 21st century courses; the same stuff comes round and round again. It says so in my Laidler micro-economics book as well. The preface says it suits the second year of a course, for people who have aleady done an introductory course. In his college - University of Western Ontario in the 70s - it might have been taught four times or more.
By the time I did years two and three in 1986-7, there was just one option in year three to talk about a subject, this time in a class of twelve. Everything else was the kind of cheap economics teaching that students complain about - a person standing at the end of the room like a weatherman, telling you a theory that their boss thought they ought to teach,which might be true, or might not, and is not what you signed-up to learn. So there was a reason why course descriptions were so vague - it was to allow for chaos. "I came into the system at its peak thinking, like any student, that things had always been this way" - Tribe, 2004, The Modern Economics Curriculum, p3

Begg, 1984, page xix
If I had gone on a course the year I applied, in 1982, then students might very well have wanted to talk about unemployment and the way government made it worse by manipulating the exchange rate so that the better export-led factories all closed very quickly. By the time I did years two and three in 1985-7, there was a course of classes in which someone stood at the end of a room to explain conventional wisdom of a rather old-fashioned kind that ignored imports and exports. This was a nobbled course, run to be cheap and safe.

The man who delivered a lot of old cheap and safe material

Fishman left high school at the age of 16 and studied for a degree in Business Administration in California. His 1980s course for 20 year-olds is aimed at US 16 year-olds, as are most economics courses in the UK in the 1970s and early 80s and even more so now I guess - that's the strange thing. There are interesting lectures, and there are exercises in statistics, but the concepts and links to real facts are rare.

The most famous academic of Fishman's generation is Kirmit, the economics teaching puppit spawned in the University of Maryland where puppetry courses were part of the Department of Home Economics.
A puppetry class offered in the applied arts department introduced him to the craft and textiles courses in the College of Home Economics, [University of Maryland] and he graduated in 1960 with a BS in Home Economics. - Jim Henson, early life, in Wikipedia -'s_Lectures
American academics looked like Kirmit the Frog, with high-brow swept back hair except that they tended to have very serious heavy specs, so my theory is not quite true. Fishman sounds like Kermit. Fishman's speech is un-affected by the person he is speaking to. He always says "math" instead of "maths"; his anecdotes about Ford Motor Company are about Ford of Detroit, when they had a big office before the 70s oil crisis, not Ford of Dagenham in the 1980s [Smith - p143].  His accent is more of a memorable cartoon accent than other teachers and students who come from all-over the world, and his opinions about teaching are cartoon opinions too. Fishman says, without a source, "we have to teach this stuff in order to call this an Economics Course", part-way through a revision lecture. Somebody must have suggested to him that it was wrong or badly taught. We revised the four-quadrant diagram of ISLM. That's the diagram that is officially about an open economy with imports and exports, but you wouldn't know it at a glance and I think that imports and exports are a different graph which I don't remember. The idea that |"we have to teach this stuff" could have come from US economics courses, taught alongside textbooks that were in turn written to please course-writers and state universities in places like Alabama, West Virginia or maybe Bangladesh where there are universities but no welfare state, and nothing like Keele social science teaching in the mid 1980s. To say "we have to teach this stuff" is refreshingly honest, but untrue. Maybe there was some kind of pressure to teach boring macro-economic modelling, rather than stuff about funding the welfare state, in order to look un-controversial. If the course had been called "de-industrialisation, the dutch disease and monetary policy", then it would have been controversial, but it was taught in such an obtuse way that it was un-controversial. The same subject that other students would ask about when they said "What's the problem?", or "Why is there so much unemployment?", was reduced to something so boring that there was a revision lecturer with an apology for its pointlessness. Maybe there was some kind of pressure to teach what was available, just British Leyland used a front-wheel drive gear box and mini suspension on the Morris Marina. It was what they had on the shelf. I still don't know whether Fishman's distanced approach to economic theory made this a better course, because teaching about institutions was allowed, or whether it would have happened anyway.

  • Did I mention that I had to watch this across a room for three years in order to stay off the dole and get £3,000 a year while he got about £60,000 and the chain of command got even more? Yes I did.I suppose some people even paid for all this.

  • Did I mention that any students' patience for bundles of introductory courses is going to wear-out by age 21, and that the chance to discuss economics in a tutorial with strangers and a well-informed teacher will probably never happen again? No: that's a new one. It needs another paragraph somewhere. That happens in arts subject but for some reason it's not allowed in economics. I should also be angry with other economics college courses of the time: a recent Prime Minister and Shadow Chancellor both went on the same PPE course at Oxford, but found themselves unable to have a sensible conversation about the economy. It doesn't look as though they did a course in how to fund the welfare state in thirty years' time either. Now that it is thirty years' time, they have blank faces.

  • Did I mention that I am still angry with Fishman for burning my chance to do a sane economics degree when it was an emotive subject and there were no jobs around? Yes: this has become clear. Later I discovered that other economnics courses are even worse, and that the best bits of this one were unusual, but that's no excuse for such an awful waste of time and money on ISLM diagrams and un-used stats skills and textbook ISLM diagrams.

  • Did I mention that the Cow Theory on Fishman's course - the theory that there isn't enough UK unemployment and that other countries aren't encouraged enough to run sweatshops - is still a problem today? No. But do a control+F for cow theory. UK taxpayers have paid via the Department for International Development and the British Council for a program called Delphe, funding development education in universities that are close to a lot of poverty like universities in Bangladesh or Sudan. The content of these courses is probably a load of cow-pat, ignoring the obvious cures for poverty like girls' secondary schools, pensions, and health care in favour of systems that encourage people to have vast families in the hope that at least one will survive and look after the parents in old age. This is the system that wiped out the UK textile industry with a free trade deal written for Bangladesh, and fuelled the trade around Rana Plaza.
Anyway, authors are like scientists: they try to show; not tell. At the same time they are human beings selecting evidence from what's memorable and to-hand, so it's good to know where they are coming-from, even if you're not very cynical about their motives. For example when I studied, inflation was the big daddy of economics problems but in hindsight it only happened for a decade or two after the oil crisis and before cheap imports from sweatshops. The theories written about inflation were rushed-together very quickly from the ideas around at the time. Then someone probably justified them with a bit of algebra beyond the reach of undergraduates and hitched a job as a grand professor of rational expectations theory or such, whether the theory is true or not and whether or they can teach or not.

Proving the Existance of Fish: a cartoon stuck on someone's door in the politics department down the corridor
Most College teachers are paid as "lecturer" or "professor", but described to students as "tutor" on the notice boards that say who is going to exist in what room at what time. Fishman was one of my two third year economics tutors. What happened in other social science tutorials was that students would sit around Formica wood-grain tables for inspiration, to discuss a documentary, or some facts like a table of statistics, a book, the weeks' lectures, or a combination of these. The discussions would be ordinary and rather stilted, but with luck there would be a cool person in the same tutorial group who would say something interesting, or at least enough students who had read most of the book and been to the lectures and could say something. Apparently that's what happens in the 20-teens on courses at the London School of Economics: a tutor talks to twelve students at a time and some talk back. At 1980s Keele there is always a thrill of danger that maybe nobody has read a word of the book or been to a single lecture, and the tutor has to do all the talking for 60 minutes, but I only remember that happening once - in a foundation short course - and the tutor filled the hour very well. Down the corridor in some subject like Politics, someone had "Proving the existence of Fish" stuck-up on their office door; the idea was to encourage learning if possible and only talk for the 60 minutes if all else failed. In other social science departments, there were periodic essay requirements and a line of feedback on completed essays. Staff learnt from students, as well as their own reading and research, to prepare the next years' teaching or whatever else they did. I studied straight-laced courses like politics, but the politics staff were prepared to teach subjects that brought a risk of argument or puzzlement; we discussed African democracy even in a short course. In hindsight, if someone asked me to sit with 12 students and talk about African Democracy I'd be pretty scared, but Keele students were a placid lot and it went OK. There was even someone who knew a lot of this first-hand and a foundation lecture I missed called "status and problems of developing countries" by Les Fishman.  That's what happened in the rest of the social science building. We did not have to recite opinions from academic journals unless we wanted to; we were there to develop our own ideas against facts, and probably more than at some other universities because teachers had to concentrate on the core of their subjects rather than the talk-about-talk. If I'd gone to Keele a year or two earlier, this would have happened in Economics too, but I was unlucky except for a little part of year three. Economics teaching broke the rules and still does, at most or all colleges. Attempts to write-down what a reasonable expectation should be include things like critical thinking and reference to facts. If anyone knows how to research this and checks-through all hundred-odd university economics departments in the UK, that researcher will find plenty that don't much refer to facts or specifically state that they don't require critical thinking in students who graduate. Oh I've jumped ahead. We are in the mid 80s at Keele. Professor Fishman stood at one end of a room like a genial weatherman. He was good at lecturing - a kind of showman. I don't remember what Fishman taught, but it was probably the usual plot: Gentleman Discovers Curve, followed by Gentleman Obfuscates Algebraically and This rubbish isn't worth teaching in detail but Gentleman got top academic job for fame, fortune, and consultancy offers. That in the snakepit of political allegations and stressed pompous colleagues crowded too close together in US postwar universities. Fishman nearly pulled-off the stunt shared so many people with short highbrow haircuts like Kirmit the Frog, serious spectacles and long names, mentioned in the footnotes of our textbooks. Kenneth J Arrow, Joseph Scumpeter, Paul A Samuelson, in Econometrica, their house magazine, which was a bit like Tatler for Kirmits. Most of them less pleasant people, with less life experience, and none of them wrote Fishman's rather good article about car sharing schemes, but they got the jobs and he was lucky to keep a career by moving to Keele. Fishman was just as distant, for the technical reasons that he did not do tutorials and the subject was usually taught by drilling classes of conscripts. But if anyone had a good reason to contact him he liked to be called Les, so he was a rebel on one way, but not in another. He saw his job as explaining conventional wisdom to the little people - the undergraduates - in a rather nice way that didn't refer to the textbook but to journals and his own genial knack of explaining things. So we got a sense of being in the company of a professor - a taster course - but not any way of talking back. We had to understand the curves, which had not changed much since A-level, but this time we didn't move swiftly on to write an essay; we studied more of them and played with calculators to try to do some kind of book-keeping for imagined movements of the curve. I wasn't very good at this and it wasn't what I thought I had signed-up for. My sums did not add up to the same result each time I tried them, nor the result on the back of the handout that's meant to be the correct answer.
Students should be aware that it is now accepted wisdom that those with A level Economics do less well in Economics degree results than those without A level Economics - 1996 Keele course description
I had expected some interaction of facts and social problems to solve. I thought we would feed the curves somehow into a computer and find out if they were true, a bit like sending a fax or feeding a goat. I had seen Economics taught with rules of thumb and essays, and expected a little more checking of facts than at A-level. I had seen Nuffield Physics, and expected the same grown-up approach to maths, maybe to understand what a computer is doing. Undergraduate students like me had seen adult teaching and were puzzled by the sight of algebra taught on its own, in case useful in some later life. We would have been even more puzzled if we'd known that this was one of the least mathematical courses in the UK and that it had been better a year or two before. Fishman was another less-mathematical economist, but he learnt his trade at UCLA and University of Colorado, teaching people who hadn't done A-level. These studends had a choice between conscription, and a course that would impress people and help them find work. The teachers had a choice of teaching endless textbook introductory courses, or being noticed for indpendent thought and maybe getting a long drawn-out unfair dismissal with FBI help and advice given to the dismissers.. So the students were happy to learn the same textbook over and over again if it kept them off the draft, and teachers were happy to teach it over and over again if helped hold-down the job. Keele was not an alternative to conscription. Students vaguely guessed that the degree certificate would not get them a job: "Road to Nowhere" and "Passenger" seemed to be default tracks played in the students union, played by wannabe DJs to an empty disco room in order that they should have something to put on the CV.

Talking of music, there was a music department but I guess it mainly taught high culture to the little people and that could be a good thing because loads of self-taught people made music, only to be kept of the air by Radio 1.Radio 1 had a playlist, copied by other stations scared of being closed like Radio Caroline or having their licences revoked. If you like Clash albums you'll know their song "Capital Radio" about how awful London's Capital Radio was. Then and now the radio would play some awful saccharine piece of music, talk through it, and fail to say what it was at the end so if you did like it you didn't know what it was.

In hindsight, you might think that there was another kind of playlist that said these tracks had to be played by child molesters but I doubt that's true. They were played by showmen. One of them admitted that he didn't have a record player at home - I forget his name but officially he was the most famous one and I don't think he was ever accused of being a child molester. Showmen are people who are interested in attention, and those who got attention in odd ways when they were very young are an overlapping group. I think that showmanship and a history of recieving attention in odd ways are likely to overlap a lot. That's a theory I got from a colleague when I used to do social work jobs. So: Radio 1 and the like were disliked organisations used to promote corrupt peoples' music through the mouths of showmen. A brief fashion for Ska was followed by a number one hit by Buck's Fizz, a drink used in teh mess of the Buckinghamshire Regiment I think, and a band chosen by the Ministry of Defence to play in the Falklands as thought to represent popular taste.

There was better music - more varied and raw - on the John Peel Show, played by part-time bands who had got-going on the new four-track tape recorders they could afford from Japan and cut-out the cost of a posh recording studio and record plugging. It was great to test my own patience, trying to get the hand of different music styles. My brother even got interested in Bulgarian Folk at one point, but I think I was more into anger lust and jangle. Some of the bands played at Keele. I never quite got the hang of The Fall, a John Peel Favourite, but I did think it was funny when Garry Glitter did a middle-aged version of his teenage self.

There was a reason that Keele was good for music. Early 80s students ganged-up to vote for a bridge from the car park to the empty disco room, allowing bands to move their gear quickly and drive the M6 at the service station This bridge made Keele an easy place to perform. Bands came.

Where were we?

We would leave to find that a load of other people had already been working for a while, which was bad for them but paid, and some had got "management experience" like ordering stationary and were to be our bosses like the boss in The Office. The Begg 80s economics textbook is keen on equal opportunities policies. When I left Keele, the only jobs were for hopeless quangos trying to solve social problems in London and the first jobs I got required candidates to state no un-necessary qualifications. A stated degree might have reduced by job prospects. I suppose that students were interested a bit in the subject. I suppose that students were interested a bit in the decade and that part of the globe. Why there were no jobs, and what could be done, but there was no normal social science teaching so I don't know what other students thought.We didn't talk to each other. The room was small enough for students to ask the odd question & get a reply, almost like the proper university departments next door. Opinion is divided about whether Fishman had anything to much to teach if he'd wanted to and known how. One opinion is that he had good ideas but didn't teach them.

Economics introductory course

Fishman just taught the untrue micro-economic orthodoxy, from books that say steel workers get together and bid-up their wages too high, causing inflation and redundancies, but can re-kindle the steel works after a brief monetary shock to the economy and work cheaper if they come to their senses. I can't find a reference to that in the Begg textbook, but it was a commonly-held view. I guess US steel-workers are quoted as an example in a theory called Rational Expectations. A bit like The Full Monty, but with more of a steelworks rekindling theme. Steelworks are an odd example because the furnace cracks when cool, but they're still sometimes quoted as an example in economics textbooks. I quote more or less from the textbook's account of the predominant monetarist school of thought about how government should manage an economy. And just as a steelworks cracks very quickly when it's turned-off, a factory full of scrap metal and housing development acreage gets cleared too. A facebook group for pictures of derelict factories is called The Begg textbook might not mention "rational expectations" but it does state a "life cycle hypothesis", that (pretending ignorance of a welfare state) people can save and dis-save over a life-cycle. "students run-up overdrafts knowing that, as rich economists, they can pay ... back later". (Begg, 1984, p541). The only welfare state this book has heard of is the bit that employs economics teachers, so a third-world country is not poor for lack of pensions or health care or dole, but "low income families may be unable to spare the time for education and training or the money for machinery". (Begg, p5). Omission is not for lack of space. The book is 781 pages long and finds plenty of space to mention a false dichotomy between "command" and "free market" economies, without mentioning whether the state bit is a state pension, in the UK, or a state industry, as in 1980s India (p 12), and it even mentions dole in the form of supplementary benefit - the means tested bit at the time - but not unemployment pay which was the bit based on contributions. (p 604, 566, 594).
Oddly enough, one of the students had a dad redundant from Shelton Steel Works which closed in 1978 and didn't re-kindle. Blast furnaces crumble if you turn them off, so they can't be re-kindled even if the owners and government agencies want to make it possible, which they don't. Oddly enough, nothing was said about that either. It was a bit weird. Like the Stafford Hospital crisis nearby in 2005-8, when everyone was too polite to say anything or report anything and a local paper stated that it just wanted "good news stories" from hospitals. I expect some of the Stafford Hospital trainee medics were studying at Keele and wrote essays to say that nothing was wrong. If you do a control+F for p663 you will see the textbook answer copied from the same 1980s textbook this man had chosen, but not read. It says that the monetarist consensus was massively wrong and why. That's a confusing thing about economics textbooks: they are slotted together like encyclopedias from different writers on different pages and then glossed-over to look neutral and technocratic.

The department where I studied could not afford a copy of the textbook,  I suppose. But Fishman had read another textbook by a colleague - The British Economic Crisis - "For comments and help I would like to thank ... colleagues ... Leslie Fishman", it says in the acknowledgements, and on page 22:
Between the beginning of 1979 and the end of 1980, the so-called 'effective exchange rate' rose 21.6 per cent and wage and salary costs per unit of output in manufacture rose 36.6 per cent. This added up to a decline in the competitiveness of British goods, according to the International Monetary Fund measure, of about 50 per cent: a change almost un-precedented over such a short period. In the face of these developments, exports held up fairly well, mainly due to exporters making great efforts to keep their prices down - export prices rose by well under half the rise in costs of production. But imports soared, since the stronger pound made them relatively cheaper; the recession intensified as British producers began to lose out in their own home market.
Nowadays, if someone asks a Keele economics tutor about Northern Rock or Lehman Brothers, does the tutor say:
"I don't know .... maybe they didn't give away free pens to attract new depositors?" "Oh: did they give away free pens?. Oh. I don't know. Back to ISLM in a closed economy and broiler chicken workbook examples". I expect they do.
If someone asks about "Port Talbot steel works? does the teacher say "Maybe the staff all asked for positive pay rather than negative pay, as suggested by the textbook" If someone asks "What about dumping asset stripping over-valued home currencies and an unfair advantage to producers in countries no welfare state to pay-for, sometimes over-population, and government elite who stache money in swiss bank accounts thus lowering the value of the home currency even further, and maybe spending tax money in export subsidies as in Bangladesh or getting grants towards steels works from the Department for International Development as in China?"...Does the teacher say: "I don't know: there is a lot there that I don't know about, and we need students from China, so lets get back to the workbook examples" ?
How about if someone asks about overcrowding. Does the teacher say "It's not overcrowding. It's agglomoration of new skills into the worksforce".
The difference is that Fishman could remember the times in the US when academics would have fake allegations made-up about them to end their careers if anyone thought they were a communist. Those that kept their jobs were safe people in the view of the employers, and they kept themselves defended behind a fortress of un-necessary algebra and formality and separation from students. Fishman did not get summoned to the McArthy committee of the US Congress. He got the Senate version, the Todd Committee, with two colleagues from Colorado University. I don't know where to find the minutes, but quite likely he said that economics was a boring technical, and used that as a defence. By the time he faced the committee he had already found work in the UK, but there are accounts of other people at Colorado loosing their careers and discovering, years later, that the chief of the college exchanged names with the CIA and that the CIA had an office advising on how to do an unfair dismissal for any staff who seemed radical. I found that reference on Google - it was about a politics lecturer who never taught again and a principal of the college, now dead, who's relatives declined to comment. I have lost the reference but this is all true. Economics as a textbook subject expanded quickly in cold-war america. That's when the textbooks were written. One came-out in 1947- Laurie Tarshis' Elements of Economics - but was boycotted and rejected for being partisan, then Samuelson's long textbook came-out in 1948 with its cold-war opinions about command economies, its pretended ignorance of social insurance, and its sense that great men knew a lot of technical algebra to justify the graphics. It covered a lot - general knowledge for 16 year-olds and grand conventional wisdom for college students. It sold all over the world and I guess it  defined the subject, so this is a good theory although partly untrue. There is an anecdote from an economics student on the day after the Wall Street Crash. The only pictures I can find of Fishman are of him speaking to say he wouldn't sign a "loyalty oath" at a university in California and a picture of him summoned-back to Colorado, near his old employer, to face some politician's McArthy-style committee. That was at a time when the FBI had a special unit to assist unfair dismissals of suspected communists, and there are records of Colorado University co-operating with them to supply lists of suspects and of people who's teaching careers ended in stress and unemployment. Something like that happened to Fishman's father who got exiled to Siberia. Something like that has just happened in Turkey, with large numbers of universities and schools closed and their ex-staff rounded-up and imprisoned alongside staff of the government colleges still open. I think there is a link in Fishman's case between being a boring, bureaucrat of an economics boss and his background in jobs where you had to watch your back and not take any risks. I think there could be a link between that standard way of teaching economics - theory first for example - and its popularity in autocratic states.

A rule of thumb:

The latin teacher effect

Complete University Guide summery of Unistats data for LSE economics students' satisfactionThe London School of Economics (LSE) runs one of the most selective courses; it has most control over which students suit the course best and are allowed to sign-up. These same students rank it bottom of the charts for satisfaction. LSE ability to select students for the course is on left of the diagram; LSE student satisfaction with their chosen course is 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 online in I think 2015 or 2016. A more detailed search in 2017, taking the single-subject degree, shows about the worst reference that students give anywhere. Obviously, they can't see past feedback acted-on. If they could see that, the course would have closed, although 30% are naturally loyal and lie on the form and say that it's clear how past feedback has been acted on. 46% believe that staff want to act on student feedback - so that's the liars plus another 16%. The feedback isn't just asking for easier work either - only 67%  believe they are prompted to do their best work. Nor is it a question of the subject being naturally hard. Students are only 74% stimulated by the choice of material on the syllabus, even though they chose to study something called economics, and they are only 60% interested by its presentation. A third think the system of marking is agreed in advance, or that they can see past feedback acted-on, 40% think they are part of a community of staff and students. About half think they know what's coming next and how to choose the next module. Two thirds think they can apply a breadth of knowledge from different areas or study one subject in depth, but less than that - 53% - think they can even apply what they have learned, so presumable "depth" means more and more un-applied theory. It is clearly a course that should close.
An observation. The people who write the course at London School of Economics are unusually blyth about wasting students' time and money. They'll probably carry-on until someone finds a way to sue them for it. Just as social workers are unusually blythe about inviting clients in for an assessment when there's no point, or police used to be unusually blythe about stop-and-search patrols.
An odd thing about being picked-up for cruising in the 80s was that I wasn't beaten-up or anything like that. It was all very dignified and most of the two or three times I was just picked-up and released. In the 50s and 60s I think it would have been different. Magistrates would believe the confession of a boy with a black eye, written in police jagon and presented by private sector solicitors who's job depended on backing-up police cliams. Thatcher's ability to invent a whole new public sector bureaucracy made policing better. The same system ought to be applied to employment law, under which people are sacked as rivals or whistleblowers or troublemakers rather than being bad at the job or doing the alleged gross misconduct and the large organisation that used to employ them spends as much as it wants on loyal lawyers. Organisations like big charities, aid agencies, government contractors, councils, schools, and health trusts. So some system by which only approved lawyers could do the work could allow a lot more rivals and whisleblowers to work for our taxes and donations. 

There was one arrest by the Tactical Reserve Unit, a 1980s group of squaddie-like people who sometimes got billeted at the diplomatic protection police station that existed in Barnes. They drove vans rather than cars, and in the van one of them told me this as a squaddie says things like "we're called the purple helmets". He told me that they were a special unit for tackling riots, but there weren't any riots just then so they had to find something to do. Handing me over at Putney Police Station, he said he thought I was cruising in a public place (gross indecency under the strange edwardian criminal law amendment act at the time) . "With respect, it's not public". "Yes it is: people walk their dogs". "Not in the dark at night". As soon as the tactical reserve unit were gone, I was released.

I don't know what can sort-out LSE professors except student boycott - a boycott by a nieve group of customers who have often come a long way on parental funding.
The more selected students at the LSE ought to be easier to satisfy, because they can be selected for similar interests and abilities. 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. They'd also lack the precocious few who went to LSE instead. 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 Exchequer. Possible disappointment all-round. All a good excuse for dis-satisfaction at somewhere like Open University, but not at the the big LSE course with different streams of study and students selected to want them.. Here are some theories.

Theory Number One is not very good

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.

Theory Number Two is not much better 

Expensive inner-cities could leave all students jaundiced, and their feedback could be lower for all departments. Except that other subjects are scored better by students doing joint-honours; mathematical economics options do worse.

Theory Number Three isn't much based on experience

The LSE is a highly international college. It says so on the prospectus. It shares low scores with the School of Oriental and African Studies. For this reason, it's likely that students and staff at both colleges are under-qualified to think about one particular economy like the one in the UK, or two to compare; they each know scraps about everywhere. 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. It's based outside my experience. For example I don't know how much people can choose to study the economic history of one country even while living in another, but there is a clue. Nearly 500 economic history students at the LSE were surveyed for this 2017 group of Unistats, and under 70% thought "staff made the subject interesting". That's near the bottom of the charts - just above courses with known problems like the Cardiff department which sacked its head for going a bit mad, or whatever happens each year on the Aberdeen MA course. There are regular protests at Manchester, and some kind of disaster at Sheffield. Other than that, London School of Economics is near the bottom of the list I want to cross out this theory because some of the facts point directly against. The teachers of economic history at Keele had lived of worked round the world in Australia, Germany, Norway, London and the Midlands and seemed well informed in spite of it all. So I guess that it's the studying of economic history, rather than the teaching of it, which is unlikely to work while migrating.

Theory Number Four: the answer is written in the prospectus and articles by staff

The 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 lecturer wrote in The Guardian in 2008, partly defending his course with a circular "because I say so" argument.
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 Guardian, 2008
I don't know what "theoretical economics" could be. It sounds an embellishment of rules-of-thumb to a daft extent and out of context. Like a theoretical dog or theoretical food. As for "applied economics", there has to be an application or it isn't applied. The application ought to the "very, very" part of the course, and come first, or there is a risk of redundant theory or theory that's boring because out of context. The context could be a criticism of an economic claim, like the claims by Oxford Economics for the British Fashion Council or the reports of economic benefits from Heathrow. Or anything that students and teachers are interested in. Anyway I don't know why LSE economists don't use a computer to help with this kind of thing
  • 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 whether one thing like price effects another thing like demand, or the rule of thumb that says whether points of data fit a distribution.
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.
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, aid costs, and worse in emergencies while workers in the other country suffer over-population and are desperate. Both groups suffer the consequences of economic migration, and an economist could state more about this where sympathy goes to the migrant but the effects effect both groups. Add to that the complications of manipulated currencies - often manipulated on economic advice - and export subsidies that exist in countries like Bangladesh paid for by Bangladeshi tax payers - 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 recession. 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, obviously, a good idea I think. The problem is when more general government spending expends, that carries-on after the recession, 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.

Reason for self-destruction at the LSE : the Latin teacher effect

The last bit of indirect evidence is obvious to anyone educated a few decades ago. Colleges churned-out Latin graduates, who applied for teaching jobs as they had fewer alternatives than other graduates. 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 teach a lot of compulsory Latin. I remember it was a main subject at prep school and the start of secondary school. The latin teacher effect was so-obvious that nobody thought to mention it, and now it is forgotten. Unis did 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. Their prospectus says they want people with maths A-level straight out of school. Maths junkies. Even a year out of education can sap students patience for "mathmatical argument", meaning that people grow out of it and realise that it's a waste of time. This system is unfair on the maths teacher as well as the student. If the purpose of theory were taught at the same time as the theory, then the maths teacher would be the Cool Person with a nifty insight into how a problem might be solved. If the theory is taught first, then someone has the job of teaching algebra to bored young faces.

There's evidence of how the Maths Teacher Effect or the Latin Teacher Effect spread from places like the LSE to Keele. Firstly, people change jobs, and the general expectation tends to converge towards the average from whatever the college was first set-up to do. Second, there is a web of external reports by new vice chancellors, re-organisations, external examinors, who ask why a course can't be made as bad as others in the same subject. They wouldn't use that word. They'd use the word "good", but they are people from other Economics departments. There is a long careful summery of how to avoid the trap here - - and I doubt many colleges have people who are willing to come-up with alternative plans like this; I expect most just converge towards the bad.

Chapter Two:

comes round again a bit here

It's good for people to know what the 1980s recession was

The common explanation of the early 1980s is that a few people were made unemployed because privatised industries employed less people than nationalised industries. I saw this view put in a history program on TV - The 80s with Dominic Sandford; it has become a common view among analysts in the south and among graduates and the political class even though it was a made-up story put to newspapers in the 1980s to boost one of the political parties. Is this but in twice? The idea that three million jobs could be lost because of a change in management priorities at British Steel, British Rail and British Gas, and loss of market share to fair competition from abroad just doesn't make sense. And that excludes the half million on government schemes and the people who ended-up on incapacity benefit, or not counted because they were too old or whatever other statistical decision made by a government-funded statistical office.You can google charts of employment in the coal mines, for example, which were a big lump of public employment, and see that the cuts came much earlier - they were more like the Beeching cuts in railways. What survived in the 1980s was a group of very large, easy-to-run mines, with a lot of equipment funded by cheap public loans. So a quick google disproves the theory. Someone arguing this point of view - that the unemployed fell out of privatised industries - has to agree that a lot of long-term private sector companies closed at the same time; the jobs were lost from industry, public or private. The map of unemployment then, and the map of house prices now, suggests that it was jobs at risk from international trade that were lost. The idea that 3 million jobs could be shed from the UK public sector comes from books like Samuelson that suggest that there are privately-run and public-run economies, with the US near one end of the spectrum and the UK in the middle. That view of the world misses the point that most of what the UK public sector does is public services; insurance-like services with their own history and reason for existence. Most of them are still here. So are the stupid economists who read the books, and who's ignorance dressed-up as expertise makes it harder for people to talk about the subject, teach it, write books, or make economic policies.

What happens after an economic mess-up.

A generation of people who looked for careers or any kind of job or even housing and stability after the 80s found it much harder, with casualties all-round. The economic growth through the 80s was, I expect, partly a growth of North Sea Oil exports that hiked-up the exchange rate just as the Bank of England liked to hike up the exchange rate; it was growth of a kind but not growth in career prospects, and for people who had a few things go wrong at the same time, it was easy to fall-out of ordinary life. I made my living for a decade or two just working for agencies that were meant to help these people. In Scotland and Wales, a generation of people decided never to vote Conservative again and to try to withdraw from the Westminster system that had allowed the damage which Dominic Sandford's history problem doesn't even acknowledge.

The manufacturing crisis caused by bad economists, politicians who picked them and voters who picked the politicians. And Murdoch & Maxwell news.

UK unemployment peaked at 12% in the mid 1980s on this graph, or just under 20% including the million people on government schemes. Professor Fishman taught at the time of the peak.My choice of course was a cut-down textbook version of an economics degree, a bit longer than the E in PPE or the Minor that goes with a US Major. I didn't know that you shouldn't do a short university course after an A-level in the same subject because of the big overlap. I imagined that we qualified A-level students would feed data into a computer and discuss whether any economic policies really worked. My guess wasn't a lot different from the course that ran in "the early eighties" in one account, with "workshops" of a tutor and six students trying to solve problems with economic methods in years two and three. It was the 1985-2008 intake who got a bad deal, and possibly later-still. The course was bundled with a lot of stuff like a campus and a degree qualification and a foundation year so it was harder to give-up than other economics adult education classes, which are rare. It was like an Open University or Birkbeck course I suppose, with built-in disappointment for people who hang around a campus for three or four years and anyone who has to teach them. Maybe people only take economics degree courses because they are bundled with a package and so, as at Keele, it is a pity to drop-out. I took Economics and English at Keele, with other shorter courses, hoping to work in journalism. The course happened in an industrial area of the UK in the 1980s, a time when the UK was not as afflicted by economics as Greece today, but heading that way as much as Portugal or Spain. I would like to know how it compares with Greek economics teaching now.

Pass-notes : 1980s UK unemployment

Add a sixth to the height of the peaks of the graph (starting at zero) to include the half million people on government schemes and as much again for changes to the way employment was counted. (My figures come from and hansard reports of statements in the commons about numbers of people on employment schemes.) That gets you to about a sixth of the workforce - the same as the 1930s. Youth unemployment was probably 60% some areas around the Keele like Longton after a new government fiddled with the exchange rate, and there was a special slot on the national TV news for the day's redundancies and largest factory closures day by day, from MG Abingdon in January 1980 to Acorn Computers (who made the department desktops) in 1985. Early casualties were the well-known factories that did a lot of exporting, like MG and Acorn Computers, but UK factories generally did a lot of exporting. I forget how much. I think that about a fifth of GDP was international and it is probably similar now. Journalists model of UK manufacturing was a model of car - the Morris Marina - because it was parked all-over the place and mixed-up in peoples' lives, while a lot of manufacturing like Silverdale Colliery or the local steel mill were huge but known mainly to people on business, such as the staff. To everyone else they were just a big set of gates - often a big set of gates up north, seen only on telly during the strike news, or out of a train window. If you happened to see something like the train with a weeks' coal from Silverdale Colliery, running at 10 miles an hour with 50 waggons, it was a better model for the coal board than the Morris Marina which came from a rescued private-sector firm; this type of economic model suggests a lot but has limits. The Morris Marina became so much of an economic model that managers complained that their every decision was over-blown in the media. The Chrysler Avenger was just as bad, while the Ford Cortina and Vauxhall Cavalier were not much better. My mum and dad's Cortina rusted just as much as a Marina, and the gear-lever once came-off in my dad's hand, revealing tarmac underneath. My brother's Fiat 600 once decided to burst into flames, while his girlfriend's Avenger made funny noises over 60mph and seeped strange fumes. The Austin and Morris production lines were a good choice for a model of the UK economy, but with built-in assumptions, like all economic models. The Austin Allegro was built in Belgium until the mid 80s when that factory was closed, so it wasn't an emblem of how things were done only in the UK. The Morris Marina and then Austin Ital were built with an under-developed engine and gearbox, ugly dashboards, false economies of undercoat, and quality control problems but so were Chrysler Avengers and the cars that had better research and development built-in, allowing them to sell to sales reps: the Ford Cortina and Vauxhall Cavalier. And it means something that production of MGs - desirable cars that sold all over the world - ceased first in about 1980. That suggests that the good products like MG or maybe Steelite that were sold all over the world had bigger problems than the bad products like ceramic figurines or Morris Marinas that were only meant for the UK and could carry-on a little longer in production.

MG cars produced mainly for export - outside the factory

A google of "Unemployment statistics from 1881 to the present day" discovers tables and graphs of how quickly manufacturing closed, as measured by people stranded on the dole. The factors of production - the machines and the networks and buildings - dispersed via auctions for scrap or export or later for new housing developments to house bankers.

I guess that export-based factories, that made good things well, closed quicker because of the exchange-rate-hike done by raising interest rates. I don't know because it wasn't part of my course to find out, and there was no chance to ask tutors if they happened to know. My third year tutor - Kieth Smith - made a few requests to the Central Statistical Office to check UK exports in more detail. He found that those things still exported were things that competed on low wage rates - the opposite of what anyone would expect. These requests are rare; not many economists ask for detail, so I doubt there's much information to be googled about this. Near Keele was a foundry that made cast iron parts for bicycles. Within walking distance. Tube Investments and Raleigh had been part of the same group for a while; the factory was well-linked with the rest of the trade, but I can't imagine anyone wanting to export or import a bicycle with cast iron parts. Meanwhile Surrey Steel Components in London, which I thought made aluminium bicycle parts, closed in 1984. I read about it in the local paper, and assumed it was the same as GB Sport in West London. You notice these things if you patch-up an old bike. But not if you do a textbook economics course, so I never discovered whether bad factories making cast iron bike parts survived better than good factories selling for export.

As good factories close, drivers with money can get a car some other way. As can buyers of Russel Hobbs toasters from the potteries, Doc Marten boots, once made by every UK-based welted boot factory, or Acorn Computers. Usually, buyers simply go to the shop buy a similar product off the shelf, possibly with the same brand on it. Often, the under-cut brand separates its IT - mainly the brand - from manufacturing and either sells the brand, or becomes a kind of amorphous international brand-holding agency with outsourced production in the way that Evan Davis celebrates as a wonderful thing in his "Made in Britain" book. Most toasters are commissioned for the UK market by a UK company in Kingston that has its own range of designs and suppliers in China, ready to make kitchen appliances with whatever label anyone asks to apply.

Scimitar sports cars - similar to MG - made near Keele

The more expensive brands spend more on advertising, promoting consumer debt like HP finance, consumer culture, and overpriced branded consumer goods, often advertised to people who can't afford them to promote un-met wants. The stress of debt or advertisements that suggest poverty in failure to afford could make work for Keele graduates of International Relations or Social Work. Urban rioters in 2011were very keen to loot Addidas branded goods from the likes of Sports Direct. The same system of over-advertised branded imports from China prevents genuine UK brands from starting-up. MG sports cars ceased production about 1980, and a Tamworth company near Keele made a replacement sports car for a few years, but, somehow, people were becoming more and more used to buying a familiar brand rather than buying a specification or buying what's made locally. Scimitar sports cars ceased production. I doubt that any of the kinds of people who might have got jobs at Scimitar or Belstaff took part in a potteries riot to steal sports cars or Belstaff clothing, but it would have been neat if they had done. Life is slightly different in a country without factories. It's harder to run editions of Top Gear if production is corporate and distant. I don't know if there is a Top Gear for toasters, but the principal probably applies somehow, for better or worse. I read somewhere that the UK in the 80s was the only market where users were used to seeing something like a wheatsheaf on their toaster, so maybe the imported ones were better looking but Russell Hobbs made the best of a bad market with its designs. It's very unlikely that research and development will happen in the UK if a corporate head office is in some distant country. Academics have made that point with tables of data to demonstrate. It's also expensive and difficult to set-up the next factory once the previous one is been auctioned-off, staff dispersed, suppliers run-down or further away, and the land classified as residential because the council doesn't like factories and the planning act came-in after the factory was built. Extreme cases are the steel furnace which crumbles if let cool, or the deep coal mine which is capped with cement on closure. Mundane cases are the workshops bulldozed for bovis flats because a council committee things factories are ugly and won't use their powers to force the empty space to be let cheaply. If the factory is owner-managed, the boss leaves depressed. It's hard to start a manufacturing business if you can't buy as much as possible from other manufacturers in small quantities to start with. From a consumer's point of view, it's hard to feel good about something made on the other side of the world, unless that feeling is based on advertising. Selling the brand to a rival importer is not the same thing as making the good; it doesn't produce as many good UK jobs. It may be lucrative because it makes the imports familiar and sell better. Economists like Evan Davis in Made in Britain can suggest that this is a sign of the wonderful knowledge economy so valuable to modern Britain, but trademarks don't employ the next generation of people to do something new, and, when the next generation grow-up in China or India with more confidence in their own tastes and styles, are they really going to pay a premium for writing "MG" on something anglophile? Cheaper to write it with a marker pen. Even if they do pay extra, the trademark is not owned by people in the UK. Even if the MG trademark is bought by people in the UK, it won't be employer here; the activities of a UK-owned trademark do not help money circulate around the UK as much as a car factory. Thinking back to those laid-off from MG or Servis or the Acorn factory that made BBC computers, they are the immediate short term problem and their generation suffers for a lifetime. Not that getting out of bed on Monday morning is good - I'd rather have a minimum basic wage and stay in bed - but it's good to do something useful, and even something sociable, and something paid that puts tax into the system. At college we did write an essay about the dozens of changes made by government to the way it counted unemployment in order to reduce the headline total, such as declaring that anyone over 60 was unlikely ever to get another job, so they weren't really unemployed, were they?

The register of unemployed people should be read alongside "Tacky schemes to get them off the register" as Alan Clark, the minister responsible, wrote in his diary. This link has an example at 4'05". The USA had the Hoover Dam in a recession. Italy had motorways. Schemes which encouraged circulation of money locally (rather than on imports), which employed people, and could be wound-down in a boom. The UK had The Community Programme, which did things like running something called a "garden festival" on the site of the local Shelton steel works. Some economist had advised the government against any activity that could crowd-out with the private sector, which would have been a fair point in a boom but this was 1984. A target of 230,000 Community Programme employees was stated in the 1984 budget. The figure for Youth Training Schemes looks like 250,000. The Richard Garrett washing machine factory became one of their training centres and then a museum that states how the YTS was run commissioned from an office called the Manpower Services Commission. "Don't go on the dole - go on the sick", said one miner in a doomed mine that was reported in The Times or The Observer about that time. A lot of those who were made redundant had narrow ranges of job skills, just as places like the coal mining village of Ebbow Vale had a narrow range of jobs. Whether or not a redundant person decides, tactically, to pretend to be sick, it was likely to happen anyway. If you give up a manual job you need to change your diet a lot. UK cookery is not that subtle (lax labelling regulations keep it that way). You need to find other interests. UK suburbs are not interesting (there is a planning act to keep them that way). tries to put some numbers on the process and suggests that doctors who signed sick notes or civil servants who read them or even ministers went-along with the process, which seems plausible. I made my own living in the 1990s and early 2000s from people who were not fit for hard work, could justify a sick note, and for that reason were allowed special deals from housing benefit departments in dry-houses or ex-offender hostels or homeless hostels or whatever the industry provided from one decade to another. There was massive unemployment of people at student age, or made redundant; massive loss of prospects for them, and massive loss of opportunities for everyone as so many good factories closed without good reason. I don't know the local youth unemployment figures because we didn't do numbers in the Keele economics course so I have guessed the 60% figure given above - Longton, near Keele was in the news for being about the second worst unemployment black spot, and I've read that Spain has had 50% youth unemployment during their Euro crisis. The series of figures for youth unemployment starts just after this time, when more international standards of counting were introduced; I don't know if any breakdown by age and region exists in 1970s and early 1980s figures because, as I said, we didn't do numbers at Keele and the current series of numbers for youth unemployment starts just after that time. I think people watched television by the 1980s even if I used an inherited valve-powered telly some of the time. We saw government adverts put-out in the evening, to re-assure those still in work that things would get better. They didn't mention the Community Programme and it's garden festival on the steel works site. I remember adverts were written as though to promote employment in clear sensible organised ways from taxpayer money:

  • Inward investment. You can get an idea from the Not The Nine O'clock News "Made In Wales" video below. The advert's catchphrase was "Made in Wales".

  • Self-employment (catch phrase "We're going it alone")

  • Re-employment ("Getting a job is a job in itself").

  • Emigration (a lot of people went with no advert - suggest your own slogan)

Bit about finance in the 70s

My own parent's HP finance company stopped taking new business just after 1979, about the time of the MG Abingdon factory closure on TV, but my dad tried to collect & pay debts for years. My parents were early victims of the 1979 policy of raising interest rates to reduce inflation - the idea that the chancellor of should play a trick to close factories, intending to make things cheaper in the shops, which doesn't make sense. My parents were brave about it as parents are, even when the school housemaster rang-up at intervals to be rude for some reason. Maybe he rang-up other parents to talk about "attitude", but one motive was obvious: my school fees were paid by a fund for old Wellingtonian parents who ran out of cash near the end of their childrens' time at the school. The worse the housemaster did his job and the ruder he was to my dad over the phone, the more likely I would change schools and save cash, which was short a the time. My father hung-up the phone on him. People who read books like Robert Peston will know more about the lending trade than manufacturing, and why lenders are among the first to loose in a recession. Specially lenders who borrow some of their money to re-lend.

  • First, existing customers loose work. Payments dry-up. Eventually, back comes a clapped-out car worth less than the debt. The cars were so badly made that a limited collection of keys would get a lot of Fords open and started, but driving them home was exciting as bits fell-off or went wrong.

  • Second, referral agents dress-up bad business as good business, just to get the commission. Imagine yourself as a second hand motor dealer with cars you can't afford to repair and customers who can't get secure work to afford to buy them. Put like that, you have trouble paying the rent for your site on Graham Road Hackney. An idea comes to mind. Put "valuable repaired car" "employed customer in secure work" on the proposal form, and you get a commission. This magnifies the problem for lenders, particularly if some lenders' money is borrowed for re-lending. My dad's business closed about the same time as the export manufacturers who were other early victims of the recession. People who read about 21st century economics in the UK - say in 2009 - will know more about the banking crisis than the manufacturing crisis. One edition of (I think) Panorama showed that Britannia Building Society, then based in Leek, set-up a subsidiary at arm's length with a commercial-looking name. The purpose of this subsidiary was to refer bad business to Britannia and earn commission. For example a career psychiatric nurse thought he might get some buy-to let mortgages. He wasn't great at business. He was told by the company's rep that it made sense to buy new-build flats on the Thames in east London as a buy-to-let landlord, at a high projected value. What could possibly go wrong? That wasn't the business of the commission agents, although some managers did contact Britannia and ask why their employment system of targets and commissions seemed to be rigged to force them to refer bad business. There is still a web page for Platform Home Loans:
    "With over 10 years experience in the intermediary mortgage market, our customers can depend on our knowledge, expertise and product excellence. To date, we have originated over 165,000 mortgages worth over £16.36 bn of mortgage business. We have also won numerous industry awards including the coveted Your Mortgage Award for Best Intermediary Mortgage Lender for 5 years running."
    Britannia's bad debts were so large that the firm had to close or merge, and pulled-down it's merging partner, the Co-Op bank, with it as a majority mutual organisation.
1979 was also the year of the Banking Act, which licenced deposit-takers and users of the word "bank". The 70's secondary banking crisis involved lots of not-quite-banks taking deposits for things that only made sense in a boom, like second mortgages, and then going bust in the next recession. The 1979 Banking Act made it hard to take deposits off the public, almost impossible to start a new firm called "bank". My dad only had one depositor - Mrs Crow - so it wasn't a bit deal for him, but in the new regime it was harder to raise money if you wanted to compete with banks as a lender until the P2P work-around of the 20-teens. It's always hard to know why projects that seem good, that get on Tomorrows World, or that offer good jobs don't get loans and the answer is probably different in each case. But a google would probably find something about long-term failure of UK lenders and investors to do business with good borrowers and risk-splitters; the system wasn't made for that purpose. The system was for people in good jobs to invest so-much-a-month into a fund till age 65 with encouragement from tax breaks, and for approved funds to employ very highly-paid people to invest in Sports Direct, and for a pension then to be paid to those very highly-paid people. I read in Robert Peston that banks withdrew a lot from UK lending in those days, so that lack of bank lending from NatWest was part of what stopped my dad re-opening for new business. NatWest Chiswick got through several managers. Each time my dad explained what he did to one manager, that manager would be disappeared by head office and another would be plonked behind the same desk. My dad explained that he lent to niche markets ignored by the main lenders, like people who
  • lived in inner city postcodes and
  • bought older cars on HP ....
  • through a dealer in Graham Road Hackney who decided how honest the referral forms would be.
That's three above-average risks: NatWest were probably right not to lend. Old motor caravans were another niche market that paid quite well even in a recession. Bigger finance companies wouldn't finance old motor caravans because the computer said "no", but people only drove them once or twice a year so the things kept their value. The buyers were often in steady jobs or retired, and less effected by recession than people in Hackney factories. The dealer was in Chiswick, near the NatWest branch. NatWest were probably wrong not to lend. Anyway, they didn't lend. I was able to go to college because, if my parents submitted their dismal tax returns to Hounslow Council, I got tuition fees of something like £465 a term plus a full maintenance grant paid a term or two late. That's about the same amount as you get on the dole, paid in one go for a third of the year. I think my parents had hopes of re-starting the business because they bought a computer and software. It was more help to me in getting jobs than the courses at the college where I did a degree. I wanted to study industrial design, but didn't really know how to do after the first refusal and didn't realise that I didn't need good A-level results to study it. So I followed the herd and used the robot clearing system that somehow found places on the University system that everyone else seemed to want to use. The system where people go to talk about talk, rather than learning how to make things. I was mainly at college to study general or political things and get life experience, but a job skill would have been good and I was on the lookout for a way to get cheap finance for my dad's HP company. I didn't discover ways of bundling-up debts into bamboozlement bonds with silly credit ratings as Robert Peston says that other borrowers did, but my dad did try being a credit broker and had hopes of selling-on his debts to a mug of a bank - Bank of America was mentioned - in a buck-passing exercise. The garage in Hackney would supply dodgy finance deals; my dad would pass them on to Bank of America. I don't think he would have done it if it ripped-off Bank of America. I think he would only have done it for good loans. Anyway it didn't happen; that kind of crassness happens more when groups of people have careers to maintain by maintaining conventional wisdom. It seems pretty silly when one self-employed person thinks "shall I rob Bank of America?". By good luck, I was at a college where the canteen food was forcibly pre-paid and hitchhiking there from London was almost free from a service station near Edgeware tube. For those 19 year-olds who think it's stylish to eat scraps of food, it's possible to cut costs by eating food off abandoned trays in service stations, but there was no need and anyway buses were getting cheaper; Thatcher reforms weren't all bad. I also gained life experience that an ex-boarder with an anxiety habit might not have got in other ways. "I should know, because I've been there, but not very often" as the Smiths lyric says.

Chapter X:

the bracing routine of studying micro-economic theory

When the maintenance grant finally arrived, I became rich in student terms and the Lloyds Bank computer gave me a Mastercard with a high credit limit at preposterous interest rates, so careful theories about how the money supply could be controlled by government weren't plausible. Those theories belonged to an era in the UK in the 1930s when investors put their savings in government bonds, just as current investors put their savings into housing, with the same careful attention to the money pages of broadsheet newspapers. These things still happen, but consumer credit customers just splurge; my dad's HP finance customers were only dimly aware that their loan was about half paid-off, on average, over the course of the loan, so the interest rate was about double what it first seemed. They knew the interest rate; it was written as an APR figure in big print on the contract, but they didn't do careful calculations or have a lot of choices. Meanwhile, a new kind of product emerged outside of Keele student life. A TV programme called "The Kinky Boot Factory" shows Mr Pateman of WJ Brooks bootmakers at a Dusselfdorf trade fair, after spending the night in a sleeping bag on someone's floor. He used to make a lot of DMs, but the largest manufacturer bought exclusive use of the trade mark in order to sell more imported boots. At the Dusseldorf trade fair, a few feet away from the WJ Brooks Devine stall is something like a fair ground, run by another rival who sells imported boots from outside any welfare state, from a country with a lowered exchange-rate. Someone in the style of Nike and Addidas. "This is the problem", says Mr Pateman; "They bring boots into the country for $16, and all the rest [of the price] is advertising". Outside of student life, that's what people buy with their new visa and mastercard credit limits. I met someone who can remember the exact year that imported brands like Nike and Addidas took-over the life of teenagers on a london housing estate.------- Economics of the sort seen on TV screens and experienced by everyone in the lecture hall formed no great part of the course, even though a lot of students were in similar situations. A lot of students must have wondered about this government policy of closing factories to reduce prices, which seemed mad. It would have been good to see how an informed adult discussed the madness. The reality of an economics course was study of obsolete stats skills nearly half the time: whether a blob of data is really a blob, if you don't have a computer to check. Most of the rest was spent doing A-level again, this time taught in a more theoretical way with references to academic journals, rather than textbooks, and that was about it. I suppose I was on one of the least autistic maths-junky courses in the UK, but it seemed as though attending the course was to act as a kind of carer for whoever wrote the syllabus or the textbook, going-through the motions in order not to keep up their morale. The more I find-out about this, the more respect I get for the lecturers who somehow made it learn-able; they didn't get much help from the textbook. At the same time, there isn't a nice way to tell people that you are going to waste their time for a year or two and ask them to sit tests on a load of obvious rubbish. The Quality Assurance Agency suggests using standard words to describe courses, and there is no way that this can can be called by any name that you'd write on a prospectus.

I remember the cover of a book called Laidler on micro-economics, and have bought one of the many mint-condition un-read copies on the market, to chack whether it is as bad as I remember. Reviews say that it is concise and I suppose it was prescribed for background and revision. Take the picture on the cover, the one in the style of Helix Oxford Mathematics sets with the illusion of precision.

The picture is from the much-ignored "welfare" chapter, so I quite likely didn't study it at Keele and can't blame a lecturer for my ignorance. I think he tried to make the best of it with a Dave Gorman kind of humour, and I guess that the 80+ economics degree courses in the UK all have someone trying to teach this stuff. They shouldn't. Students should get their money back. If you don't believe me, just look at it, and ask yourself what problem it solves. It is an excercise in making theories internally consistent, in their private world, like the world of a computer game but less exciting. A construction of bendy scaffolding that never turns into a model to compare with the rest of the world, even at the end of the book. The book ends with test questions to help you rehearse a "way of thinking", as the preface calls it, about how the world ought to behave. This is the bit I challenge you to read.

The diagram on the cover shows a production function. A producer can make this or that. It's quite likely easier to make a bit of this and a bit of that, if there is a tendency to economies of scale, with two producers specialising, one in this and one in that. Or not. The author admits that it all depends on the technology. This is about  as advanced as discovering that apples fall off trees in a particular direction, but the author tries to sell these books to second year students on selective full-time courses I think - he certainly says "second year", and suggests that people should have learnt this stuff once already in some kind of introductory class to this introductory class.  Then he says that he has cut down on the theory of the firm, because people choose to study it as a specialized option. You have to wonder what lectures were like at the University of Ontario in the 70s, where this Kirmit man taught. "Mrs Coral Parrett and Miss Vicky Whelan coped ... with the tedious process of typing and re-typing the manuscript", he admits, and someone else did the diagrammes. He doesn't say if Mrs Coral Parrett said it was worse than typing invoices for a living and walked-out, to be replaced by Miss Vicky Whelan. You would expect the book to start with an X-shaped diagram of supply and demand, and state whether this is realistic or whether anyone can ever measure elasticity of supply and demand. If so, do they slope up and down like an "X". The book doesn't get to that point. It takes months to get to the X-shaped diagram, and the elasticity of supply and demand doesn't get a mention, so something like the availablity or more jobs at lower wages and less jobs at higher wages isn't even discussed, at a time or rising unemployment in the UK as the book was written. Chapter one combines two theories in quasi-mathematical form. They are often familiar from A-level, but never taught in such a stupid way. A very theoretical piece of theory, not used for comparison with real examples, but derived one piece from another like a set of scaffolding, and derived somewhere in history; we readers are simply introduced to it in summery.
  • This-and-that theory suggests that your budget stretches to a bit of this and a bit of that.
  • Too-much-of-a-good-thing theory suggests that you might want some of both, rather than too much of this or too much of that. Maybe drawn as a satellite dish with a compass on the diagram. - "as the reader will discover, such tangency solutions continuously occur in geometric representations of economic theory". (p17)
☒ Is this acknowledged as daft? ☒ Is the theory plausible? ☑ Is this book on the reading list? There's another theme in the book, which is to suggest future benefit. It implies that the course is some qualification to a job called Economist, which was an easier hoax to play before the Internet. It is called an "Introduction". It says so on the cover, which is about as convincing as Jimmy Saville saying "I'll introduce you to my showbiz friends", or a photographer saying "you have the potential to be a model". Nowadays you just have to click Unistats for 1142 degree combinations with "Economics" in the title, click "accreditation", and see that there are only 196 of them among the 1142 courses. Glancing at the first few dozen, you see that most of the 196 are  accredited to quality assurance schemes; a glance at a few others show courses which double-up as economics courses and part qualification to be a chartered accountant, which is a profession with exclusive rights to sign some company accounts. It is a profession. It's not quite an economics profession, but it is something. Then if you look for an economics profession, the nearest you find on the government careers service site is the civil service job of being an economist, or maybe working for a development agency. Teaching is the most common job. So there is no profession with any special rights to practise, and there are not many jobs called "economist" for a subject with 83 degree awarders and 1,142 degree combinations. Ignoring false claims, there's more general and plausible claim that this book is educational. Unistats shows economics graduates reporting decent salaries (self-reporting, unfortunately; the revenue and customs act forbids anyone to use tax data so it has to be re-discovered from surveys). The educational claim is also untrue. The book states that students will already have studied micro-economics on another introductory course. So this is an introduction after the introduction, designed for year two of a degree, it says. But this book is more dry and narrow than the A-level textbooks that describe exactly the same graphs as rules of thumb with examples, so it is a conclusion, a limitation; a killing-off, a narrowing-down to absurdity. The same book that's called an "introduction" begs the question of whether it is no introduction at all, but a repetitive end in itself: "these concepts will turn-up ... and the reader will see that mastering them has not been an end in itself but simply a necessary precondition for  [sic]apply micro-economic analysis to what it is hoped he [sic] will find interesting and relevant problems", it says on page 27. Laidler provides some examples at the back of the book, but they are either algebra or beyond the scope of the book. "microeconomics is at last as much a way of thinking about problems as it is a coherent body of substantive hypothesis, and one does not learn to think along certain lines without actually doing so", the man writes about this very limited way of analysing a problem. After the set of discussion points and exercises is a further reading list, that refers to those same cold-war theorists that usually cropped-up in economics footnotes. The ones who took obvious ideas and claimed to be the first one to discover them in economics, and added a bit of algebra to prove it, like the idea of a tax on something you don't like becoming a "Tobin tax". Laidler's book made it difficult for the next generation to study proper economics, so I suppose it did a lot of good his career, going-out and looking for things to count that are too boring and inconsequential for anybody else to bother with, like the sizes of clouds or estimates of the money supply. Economists like him, from the University of Chicago in particular, did a lot to wreck the UK economy in the 1980s but there is not account of them apologising, or loosing their jobs, or even of anyone blaming them. My course didn't cover the opinions of Laidler about the economy - that was considered too grand for us to consider, despite the large amounts of money paid by taxpayers for the course. We just studied a few classic journal articles, so we could form an impression of academic theorists. Economic theorists seemed badly-educated and I'm sure a research project would back-up this hunch. Or that they were well-educated in maths, but not much else - maybe in getting 1950s american teaching jobs. They lived in a world of self-censorship during and after the McArthy era, teaching people who had learnt things by heart at high school and were often at college for the sport or to avoid the draft or get better career prospects rather than study a subject. My professor was of that background and era. "We have to teach this stuff in order to call this an economics degree" was one of his memorable quotes. Another had to teach theories of fiscal and monetary policy in a confusingly complex diagram that left-out the reality of the world it tried to describe. I think it might even have left-out imports and exports for most of the course. Then there were more untrue theories taught as lectures and prose, about how world trade without tariffs would help third world countries. I don't know which economics teachers and which ones self-censored on subjects like a "public good", but I know the theory of a "public good" we were asked to study was worse than useless in discussing what the public sector should do, just as macro-economics of ignorant professors said nothing about how to re-build factories after government had wrecked them. I doubted their motives. Odd notes from my 20-odd self survive in the margin of a textbook and photocopied journal article about innovation. They are vitriolic. My main course notes do not survive; I probably burned them. For balance I should say that one student learned a lot from the course; it was possible to learn a lot from it, but the nature of introductory economics courses and trouble avoiding two of them in a row made me feel more ignorant about economics at the end of the core course than the beginning; it was as though economics teachers were there to prevent people learning economics. Talking of ignorance, someone asked Paul Samuelson for a theory that's true and not trivial. "Comparative advantage" was the reply, wrongly; it compares two countries without a welfare state, so that workers have the same minimum costs. Nineteenth-century Britain and Portugal. Looking at the Wikipedia link, you can see it used as an excuse to twiddle-about with maths and show deliberate ignorance of the different minimum costs of people making textiles in, say, Bolton and Bangladesh. There has never been a tariff on Bangladeshi textiles sold in Bolton, despite currency fluctuations, export subsidies by the Bangladeshi government, and a disastrous set of policies there that lead to crowds of poor people scavenging after the few jobs in an export zone. A sane theory would build-in the needs of people on both sides, but no; it doesn't happen on the Wikipedia article. Taking another example, one Keele economics teacher told us the exact page on which Samuelson's textbook said there was no such thing as long-term involuntary unemployment. I think it was p.437 of the 1980s edition. A third example of ignorance: Samuelson's textbook is well known for contrasting command economies with free-market economies. I haven't read the textbook, but assume he says nothing about the mixed economies of Europe. A fourth example. Students nowadays expect to know about "open economy" macro-economics. The reason for that word is that they used to be taught "closed economy" macroeconomics, which has nothing to do with anything unless you are Woodrow Wilson in 1935, imports and exports are a small part of your economy's trade, and neighbouring countries are all following a similar policy. I was taught some set of graphs plotted on a cruciform, like the points of a compass, but labelled something like ISLM. It's very hard to remember when you know it to be un-true; like rehearsing an alibi. To make it worse, each untrue textbook has a slightly different version of the alibi. As a student of a short economics degree course, I know that textbook writers spread ignorance. If students were lucky, as I was, the other half-portion of degree in another subject and the side dishes like politics made-up for this study of ignorant grandees called economics. I don't remember bad lectures; nobody stood with their back to the lecture theatre and read-out slides. I remember good lectures on industrial history and the optional course on industrial innovation being good. The generation of teachers who taught at Keele had got the jobs against huge competition. Most of them are published authors with sold-out sections on Amazon and opinions on things like housing waiting lists or african poverty or -ologies and motorcycles that I would much rather have been taught. One book on economic decline and innovation was so good that pirated it . A 1980s student co-wrote something on the Guernsey banking system with one of them, apparently, and another student went-on to write The Price of Fish. Googling Keele Economics, I found a blog from an ex-teacher who gave-up the whole thing to become a rowing coach before writing a book - The Economy of the Word - and a blog with bits about economics teaching. I haven't read either book yet. There were also lectures on why there was not enough unemployment and enough industrial decline in the UK. Use a control+F and search for "cow theory" for more. I suppose the situation in 1984-7 was like the one that 20-odds find today, when they read Robert Peston about why their parents are out of business or redundant or worse.

Digression on what's worse than being redundant

If a few things go wrong in life at the same time, the effect multiplies rather than adds. That's not the multiplier of circulating money; that's the multiplier of stress and bad luck. Bad things include running-down a business or loosing a job - ideally one with a contract and redundancy. Worse things in business include going bust or bankrupt. Or, as an employee, a bullying dismissal dressed-up by crooks as sacking for misconduct, with no reference and a broken system of employment law and tribunals. Crooks are often public-funded, like Professor Piercy of Swansea University who found ways to pretend his colleagues had committed gross misconduct in order to remove them without a reference. Offspring of the redundant and the ceased-trading; the unfairly-dismissed and the gone-bust, go to economics courses with  some kind of expectation. I sound a bit glum here. A lot of people leave  jobs and become more themselves. They don't know how they stood it so long. Specially the un-paid bits of putting-up with the public or a hierarchy or colleagues. But the sad thing is that a lot of people who want job security, or who want to do a good job for the customers, have  to leave.
When I went to college there were just a few pages of course information printed in a prospectus about each course, available to read free from reference libraries or to order by post. Most students would have been directed to them at school during A-level. I don't remember anyone trying to make sense of what the pages said. They said meaningless things like "quantitive methods", "micro" or "macro", so the course was taken on trust. Nobody mentioned that degree courses start again from the beginning, and that lots of people do courses not taught at school; I assumed that you study one subject at A-level and in more detail at degree level, which is how people in boarding school tend to think. It seems a reasonable assumption that there should be degrees for people who have done A-level; someone should provide one. 

Chapter X:

Consensus on economics degrees / Quality Assurance Agency

More recently, a quango has had some funding to draft discussion points for the subject that it sometimes called "expectations" without any legal force beyond the sale of goods and services act if the course isn't described properly and offers something else, but they are default discussion settings for "those involved in the design, delivery, or review of programmes of study of economics", or "a prospective student or current student". I guess they're mainly used by external examiners. The points describe loose "threshold" and "typical" levels, which I imagine like the amber & green of a traffic light that you need to pass to get a degree. The implied sentences mean something like this

● Ignorance

● Awareness / appreciation of contexts in which techniques are relevant / knowledge

● Familiarity / proficiency / competent use
1 ignorance / knowledge & understanding of
economic concepts, principals & tools.

2 ignorance / knowledge & understanding of
distinctive economic theories, interpretations, modelling approaches &
their competent use.

ignorance / awareness & proficiency in
quantitative methods & computing techniques appropriate to the programme of study, show an appreciation of the contexts in which these techniques and methods are relevant & how to use them effectively across a range of problems.

4 ignorance / knowledge & understanding of
sources and content of economic data & evidence, and
appreciate what
/ and of those methods that might be appropriately applied to its analysis.

5 ignorance / knowledge & understanding of
how to apply economic reasoning to policy issues
in a critical manner.

ignorance / knowledge awareness & understanding of
historical, political, institutional international, social, and environmental contexts in which specific economic analysis is applied.

7 ignorance / knowledge in an
appropriate number of specialised areas
in economics as well as
or an appreciation of the research literature in these areas.

  ignorance / awareness of & familiarity with the
possibility that many economic problems may admit of more than one. approach. The document doesn't mention social insurance. What if it did? I think it should

9 Compulsory insurance-like services make-up about half the economy. State pensions, the NHS, Unemployment Pay and Job Seekers' Allowance, education, all free at the point of use.

Economics, Development Studies History, Social Policy
● Familiarity
● Awareness
● Ignorance
● Ignorance
● Awareness

● Familiarity
For working-age benefits, familiarity would include the need to forgo insurance in order to compete for low-paid work in a non-compulsory system. Familiarity with the problem of imported products made by such people in countries without social insurance is important too, and the rapid population growth among the poor of those countries. Other topics could include the administrative cheapness of a universal benefit compared to the costs of a means-tested benefit or a privately-run benefit.

On Unistats, Social Policy is an obscure tick-box; Economics is quite a separate thing:

Points 1-8 are accurate notes of QAA levels9 is added here. The system makes it possible to sell economics textbooks from Alabama to Bangladesh and West Virginia. Completely misleading concepts like "transfer payments" from rich to poor in a single year, or a slippery word "welfare" must be used in economics instead, followed by the idea of bad "protectionist tariffs" rather than good tariffs around a welfare state. Development of a country like Bangladesh has to be discussed in terms of not getting enough aid from the EU, rather than the need to introduce a welfare state in Bangladesh. If you study history or social policy, the opposite is true, and I believe the second group; I think economics teachers are trained to lie from the starts of their university careers. Positive and Normative economics are separate concepts, according to the textbook. Economists argue about whichever one means social policy, and agree on whichever one is research data. That's what the textbook says at the start but by the end when it's tight for space in the last chapter about globalisation, it just lists what the authors think are good or bad arguments; acceptable or unacceptable, posh or not posh. As economics students we didn't get a chance to find out what other economics students thought, why we disagreed, and whether there was any evidence; we just faced the front and took notes about jargon phrases like "transfer payments". I studied History O and A level. The traffic lights are red for talk of "transfer payments" and green for Bismark's and then Lloyd George's national insurance scheme, successful enough that a jump to a national health service free at the point of delivery and more universal benefits were possible from 1948. A lot of history courses would mention the workhouse system, the tendency of "outdoor relief" or the "Speenhamland system" to need a lot of means-testing. There might be a reference to returning people to the parish of their birth by the cheapest transport and the idea that local workhouses needed to be basic in order not to attract people from the neighbouring union of poor law parishes, never-mind the working poor. A history course probably wouldn't mention that any residential service is expensive, and therefore provided in a basic way, but these had to be very very basic, like a 1970s boarding school. Systems of temporary casual wards, and arbitrary decisions about who was voluntarily homeless, unemployed, or whatever, were built-in to the system and left to workhouse staff to administer. All of this was devised and debated by economists of the nineteenth century. Owen Chadwick was quoted as an example. A later generation noted vast over-population in inner cities, and wasn't quite sure what to do about out. Charitable donations were huge but poverty persisted, classified with words like "borderline semi-criminal" on Booth's map of London. Compulsory National Insurance began with private but compulsory schemes in 1911, as I think did the state pension. The word National is important, and was repeated in the title of the National Health Service in 1948. None of this appears to be known to economists; I repeat the point somewhere in this blog post while writing about Samualson's lie used to introduce the Public Good. 

Economics introductory courses are nobbled

There's a checkpoint at the wire fence between departments. You have to show your passport and your attitude is noted. The guard is probably an ex-student, treading snow to keep warm inside a greatcoat.

"You are not from Maths? [ pause ] Purpose of visit?" "I am a student on a joint-honours degree". "Definitely not staff?". "Student". "You may pass. Your attitude will be noted if you mention history politics or social policy. Do not talk to the teachers. Do not use original sources. Original ideas will be marked wrong."
That didn't happen. The building was built for subject mixers. Social science departments shared a long curved corridor, so the economics boss must have walked past other departments' notice boards and over-heard their students conversations, seen how they were taught through glass panels in the doors and seen what books they carried. Even the "proving the existence of fish" cartoon that was stuck to someone's door. So something in the tradition of teaching economics had such a hold over my professors' head that he ignored all evidence and taught misleading facts in a daft way. Oh and the formatting isn't working well today so this sentence has to go here: If you want a structured list of Kermit's lectures for revision:'s_Lectures

Talking of different departments, there is no guide to the UK constitution that's signed by the head of state, but UK politics departments try to be clear about UK social norms that are probably enforced by government and relate to ideas like democracy and human rights and may be spelt-out in hard-to-find documents from the Magna Carta to the Ministerial Code. Politics teachers are clear that the UK is a democracy, and that human rights are important, even if the Libyan regime has donated to their employer at LSE, their employer at Keele has an "internationalisation agenda", or there are a bunch of people from China or such sitting on the seats in the teaching room. Politics teachers are expected to know about the politics of at least one country, probably the one in which they teach, and describe where it differs from other countries. Economics teachers are not offered this clarity by their traditions of how to teach, nor asked for it in the job-ads I've seen, nor did they offer it to me as a students. The tradition of how to teach economics is recognisably the same in the least democratic states as in the most democratic states. The least democratic has little information online about the economics syllabus of its largest university, but the second least democratic state has a recognisable economics course. The good side of this is that there are jobs to be had in Damascus, where they pretend that it's a safe science that benefits the regime. The bad side is that it becomes a boring subject worldwide and worse than useless at describing the good and bad bits of different economies. If Swansea economics teachers have some students - maybe from Port Talbot - asking about dumped steel from China, and students from China on a special deal promoted by central government and Professor Piercy, do they talk about different costs of welfare states compared to sweatshop states with no right to complain or vote? No. Correct me if I am wrong. I would like to say that the Damascus University Web Site illustrates my point by showing that more safe subjects like science are taught than dangerous subjects like politics; that both timetables try to look technocratic and scientific, and that the system favours economics. I would like to say that the courses are described in an opaque way, so that a greater proportion of students go on the wrong course, but there is less trouble from the authorities. I would be bluffing; I don't understand what I'm looking at at the University of Damascus web site, but there is postgraduate teaching of economics described in English and the headings do look quite technical. There are undergraduate department pages for Economics and Politics in Arabic. Cut and paste the urls into Google and click "translate this page" to try to see what's up but it looks as though teaching has been suspended. University of Damascus postgraduate course titles are as opaque as Fishman's timetable. "Quantitative Methods" don't make sense. Like a course in "Muscular Movements" or "Academic Studies". They could be designed to divert attention from police, the people they've arrested and forced to give names, attention from ministers, and party activists who might look for something to complain about or cause trouble. I think these failures of human rights are the biggest dis-incentive to good teaching, but there is no list of the worst countries for human rights online. There are lists of the least democratic countries, so I will take that as the same kind of nasty thing. On a scale of nastiness, Damascus is near the nasty end but the University of Boulder, Colorado was known for constructed dismissals and fake allegations aimed at anyone politically active, followed by the odd summons to a McArthy-like Senate Committee. Colorado was where Fishman learnt his trade as an economics professor.


Master degree







Business Administration

Business Administration

Business Administration




Fiscal and Monetary Economy

Fiscal and Monetary Economy



Applied Statistics

Quantitative Methods

Quantitative Methods

Banks and insurance

Financial Markets

Financial Markets

Banking and Finance

Banking and Finance
Undergraduate courses are less clear and probably suspended - quite likely because they don't get you out of conscription any more if you live near Domascus, and there would be no other point in going on them.

Why UK economics courses forget the 1980s mess-up

The first graph says it - page 440, figure 19.2, from the Begg textbook. This was a policy borne of new radical economic advice to a new pugnacious government. Economists aren't going to admit how spectacularly they messed-up, are they? They tend to say something like "the financial services sector is more important than manufacturing in the UK economy", rather than "stupid economists and politicians killed-off most of manufacturing in the UK". When John Murray Kolbert wrote a history of Keele for the firm, it was rejected as "overtly political" for saying how much the 1980s recession effected Keele - a 32% funding cut - as though this is something that the Vice Chancellor at the time didn't quite believe. "What am I meant to do? - pretend it didn't happen?", the author told a journalist listing similar stories from other colleges. This bit is in twice

data & evidence

Benchmark standards for economics degrees suggest " knowledge & understanding of sources and content of economic data & evidence, and appreciate what / and of those methods that might be appropriately applied to its analysis. " The Central Office of Information does not release a lot of the data you'd want - just aggregated data for demand management. Some data about government intentions was published in "The Red Book" according to one lecture, but I asked in Chiswick Reference Library and was told that it isn't on the library index as "The Red Book". It was harder to find data before the internet and easier to cover-up facts from people who don't want to know them. There were other references in handouts to "UNISTATS", but I never discovered how to find a unistat. And the Central Office of Information statistics were kept well hidden. An odd thing about the Chicago School of economics is that those economists did not look out of the window at the rust belt. They don't use the window for data and evidence. I expect there were parked cars or turf and footpaths outside the windows where economists taught, but they'd see more on their commutes. They would not be much aware of whether Chicago's state of Illinois had better social insurance systems than where rival imports came-from in Japan or Korea or China, raising costs and requiring some kind of subtle conditional tariff protection, but that again is the fault of Chicago economists for not putting that point on the course. An odd thing about UK economists is that they do not look at the back of their gran's kitchen cupboard. There they will find a perfectly good casserole dish and kitchen implements made in the UK up to a certain date. If they are interested in cars or computers, there is similar evidence of how good an MG car is, or the Acorn computer. The sudden lack of data after the 1980s is a bit like the lack of data about dinosaurs after a certain date; the absence suggests a disaster. Economists do not generally look out of the window, or in the back of their gran's kitchen cupboard, or in old computer magazines, so I don't think they are up to the benchmark standard for marking economics degree papers.

historical context: UK PPE courses

If anyone has ever researched the education of UK shadow chancellors - the ones who have to reach around for an alternative policy - I expect they'd find a lot of oxbridge graduates who know people who have done PPE even if they have not done PPE themselves. They have done a cut-down course rather like the one at Keele. Whatever they studied, it hasn't helped the UK economy do good things as much as other economies.

historical context: UK colleges

The more mundane the college, the more fantastical the job adds, specially for the head of department. I haven't tested this theory, but if you take Barnsley College as the worst reviewed college on Unistats, and if you find one of their job ads, it will probably ask for miracles in a few sentences and then write about the college itself for pages. The less likely the graduates to get senior jobs, the more "management" is written into departmental titles - just to embarrass graduates and make them feel like failures, while discouraging any applicants who prefer "industrial relations" or "work relations" as a title. League tables of best and worst degrees for getting a job list "management science" nearer the bottom of the list than the top. A sensible job ad would ask for someone to find out what teachers want to teach and what students want to learn, then cobble-together the best available compromise and describe it as honestly as possibly on the prospectus, with a warning that it isn't a career-enhancing course if that's otherwise implied. A problem is that applicants are nearly all former teachers with a second degree and some published work in economics journals, who have been given various career-breaks in similar jobs like being allowed to teach an interesting course. They are goodie-goodies. I don't know how to get-around this problem, but it is not by writing a fantastical job ad. The fantastical approach is to ask for world-class ways of filling vacant places by bringing-in students from all over the world to learn the same thing that's in textbooks all over the world. No wonder the con-man Professor Piercy managed to land a job at Swansea Uni.

Keele Management School is seeking [sic] to appoint an outstanding academic at Senior Lecturer level specialising in the area of Economics. The successful applicant will already have a national or international research profile, have contributed to curriculum development and teaching in the subject area and will demonstrate a proven ability to attract external research funding and of providing academic leadership and management. The Management School has been identified as a strategically important area of development within the University and the successful candidate will have a significant opportunity to help shape this development. The individual appointed will play an active role in the School's research, teaching and enterprise activities and will contribute to the continuing development of the School profile at home and overseas. They will contribute leadership by undertaking research of national and international quality, contributing to the development and delivery of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and will engage with the School's globalisation and anti welfare state internationalisation and enterprise engagement agendas. We encourage applications in all areas of economics but are particularly interested to hear from candidates with strengths in the areas of Macroeconomics and/or International Money and Finance.
The add should be compared with the experience of Keele University in hiring Les Fishman, or Cardiff University in hiring Patrick Minford, or even Swansea University in falling for a con man called Professor Piercy. I remember Fishman as decent person except in those parts of his life that related to me, like doing his job. Slightly funny, capable of the odd off-the-wall thought, decent enough if in business I guess. Good enough at everything but his job and, in fairness, good at parts of that, like interrupting himself mid-lecture for effect, or talking slowly, or not expelling some student like myself who a tutor thought had "attitude". Much better than Piercy who would end-up in court if he was self-employed but does well in a large organisation: nasty and nepotistic with dishonest ways of expelling colleagues. Such a person would never risk an original thought passing their lips unless tactical, and would have trouble getting an honest job. Comments on Piercy reached the Welsh assembly and welsh newspapers, happening at the same time that Swansea University had trouble filling its student places. The Keele advert did not attract Piercy. How to make sure the next one doesn't?
  1. This add does not mention an ability to run tutorials. A tutor with bad ideas ...can simply stand at one end of the room and talk rubbish. (Historians will know the pattern from other jobs Bourbon God King.) If someone asks why the Servis washing machine factory has closed, they can simply lie, as Fishman did (and I expect a Bourbon God King would do). A teacher who has no idea what students have already studied at A-level can get a job too, even if unwilling to learn and fit teaching to the needs of UK students. That's an example of what you don't learn-about if you don't sit close to the students while teaching (or what a bourbon doesn't learn by not working with parliaments). If events force this teacher back into teaching, then you know from the rest of this page what happens. In happier times, the person is more likely to create a job that doesn't involve teaching - in itinery of corporate plans and overseas recruitment visits, of meetings about meetings and attempts to make the taxpayer pay more and more grants. All of this distracts the other teachers from their jobs; from my own experience in social work quangos, staff are forced into rooms to have meetings and listen to all this. The result is a department that runs more smoothly when the boss is away, a taxpayer with a huge bill and a student who sees a lecturer from a distance. A tutor with good ideas ,,,who wants to work with groups of students and help them solve problems is not lured-in. Here is one who left, for the same reason. (I took the same quote further up the page but this blog post rambles and I doubt many people read the whole thing - anyway I haven't read to the end of the bit it's quoted from; this is all I know) "When I started teaching in the Keele Economics Department in the early 1980s almost half my teaching load was given over to a group of 8 students over the whole year, who attended a two hour problem-solving workshop and one of three tutorial groups of 6 students, besides attending three weekly lectures (at the time all degrees were joint, which had been a Keele innovation). The last time I taught the first year class in 2000, I was allocated the entire year over one semester, divided up into classes of 25 students for one hour a week. The class size had tripled, and the contact time cut to a third" - Tribe A teacher who wants to teach like this would not be attracted, I guess, by most of the ads for economics professors. They would do better finding some other way to teach, far better, at far less cost to taxpayers and students. Maybe students should keep tabs on the worst job-ads for professors.

  2. The add does not mention social insurance. Talking of UK students, or EU students, one of the main things that European governments do is social insurance, but US economics text books censor it and UK ones follow. Anyone going on an american-style course to find out how much cheaper universal benefits are than means-tested benefits, which countries use a fund to finance benefits compared to countries that use the current account - would be disappointed. It's an economic issue on the news but not in the textbooks.
    There are a couple of decoys just to annoy. One is a specialisation called "welfare economics", but that's about something else of little interest till right at the end of the course; it starts with the usual stuff about walruses and doesn't mention social insurance systems as far as I can tell. The other decoy is the loaded phrase "transfer payments" which assumes all public spending to be out of a current account; it is ignorant of the idea of insurance or investment for the future by one generation in order to pay its own costs efficiently later-on. I guess that colleges do not want to upset their funders, if they are a state-funded college in the USA or India where state benefits are rare. Nor incoming students from other countries if the college is in the UK. So awkward problems like the trade between a country without welfare rights or even human rights are glossed-over to suit college management and deny students a good course.
  3. The add does not mention globalisation, except to approve Robert Peston's book mentions the strange nature of low-pay countries exporting their savings to fund the debt of high-pay countries, which have massive personal debts and government deficits. There are also massive flows of manufactured goods like textiles, from low-pay countries to high-pay countries. I think some of the reasons for this are that there is a benefits system in a lot of the high-pay countries, making their goods more expensive even if made in a more mechanised ingenious way. That gives an unfair advantage to people in low-pay countries which their governments are scared to give-up, even if a change would be massively better for the people of Rana Plaza or Quatar or China. At the same time, government people in these countries are in a good position to invest money in Swiss bank accounts or international markets generally, lowering the value of currencies like the Chinese one against the value of Sterling or the Euro. There is a decoy just to annoy. The job ad wants this new lecturer to help suck-in students from all over the world to study, which seems a bad idea because they miss a chance to study their home economies. As a result, there are some dangers.
    • Firstly, of teaching about a kind of standardised mid-atlantic economy which doesn't exist, rather than the UK economy if the course is in the UK. Economies that don't exist don't attract local 18-year-olds to come and study. They attract people who wonder-in by default, as 18 year-olds tend to do.
    • Secondly, self-censorship about the worlds' problems because students from whatever part of the world are embarrassed by differences in social insurance, human rights, dumping, democracy, or anything that might be slightly embarrassing to say if there is an awkward mixed group of students from all over the world meeting awkwardly to face a tutor, who tries not to feel awkward. The tutor in turn could be on an insecure contract and want good student feedback, or pick-up teaching habits from that part of their career to use later.
    If an economics lecturer can't lecture about subjects on the news or in Robert Peston, they're unlikely to provide the education their students wish to receive. That could be why there are vacant spaces to fill and the college management has an "internationalisation agenda" to fill the spaces, but managers don't see it that way.

historical context: US colleges

Much of the economic analysis from the USA - the hiring of economists, the editing of journals in the journal ranking lists, the writing of syllabuses, and the ordering of textbooks to suit the courses, is done at colleges like this one: One thing clearly known about these courses is that they don't mention social insurance systems from the National Insurance Act to the Beveridge Report, more National Insurance Acts, the NHS and similar histories in some other countries. It's considered controversial in the US, so textbooks used in other countries keep quiet too, with consequent opinions about poverty in sweatshop countries, over-population there, and floods of under-priced imports competing with products in the UK. All these opinions are made in ignorance and given as though scientific. The main reason someone would sign-up for such an awful patronising conformist course, I think, is do avoid the draft. When the alternative is to become a squaddie and face the Viet Con, courses like Business Administration suddenly become interesting. The second reason is to pretend it is a good course and bluff employers into offering jobs. In a boom, this might work; there is an email list that lists short term job opportunities at management consultancies to UCLA graduates to me every day or two until I learn how to unsubscribe. The third reason is that state governments lured school leavers into adult education with sports facilities and fraternities that I guess are not available unless you are a student. One reason someone would teach such an awful patronising conformist course, I think, is to avoid the McArthy Committee, and the stiffing sense of conformity that it would bring to US colleges that survives generations later. I read somewhere that High-school and university students compete with each other to show that they conform to the teachers' opinion, and only a proportion can get the good grades that allow them a chance of further study - if they pay for it - while working as teaching assistants and talking to undergraduate students in revision classes. )I asked someone from the states if high school was still like this in the 20-teens and she said that sometimes it is - it depends on the school. Now back to 1955...) Other students don't mind repetitive teaching of the X-shaped diagram under different labels over-and-over again, because they want an easy course. Below this box and before the next heading you will see a video of a glove puppet explaining the letter "X". This link explains the number "9". The grand professor doesn't have to talk to students; there is nothing that he can be blamed for. One article dispairs of postwar undergraduate teaching in the USA. , blaming pressure to attract students. Another - a powerpoint promotion by Colorado University Economics Department about itself - states something similar while praising something called Zubrow, which is a brand of professor: "I choose economics because the building was closest to my fraternity...I stayed in economics because I had Zubrow. - James Farquhar BA 1986". I expect the powerpoint is shown to background music while it goes-on to say when they changed each light bulb in the department and how great the star professors are. Textbook publishers have to sell to Zubrow. The first textbooks promoting Keynsian textbooks led to boycotts by college funders. The next - Samuelson - took a more dispassionate and neutral tone and managed to get on the book lists by pretending to be scientific. A textbook that mentioned national insurance or the NHS would have less chance, I suppose, and so its UK edition would therefore probably not mention them either. Economics journals prove my point. I can say this without reading them. The jargon phrase used by protesters was "military industrial complex". If you search the top economics journal on the Keele list using Google Scholar, you'll see that it only crops-up 15 times; they didn't like to publish that sort of thing. If you search Wikipedia for peace of Vietnam songs, you will find a page title. If you type "military industrial complex" into a song lyric search engine, you'll even find it there. I don't know what it rhymes with, but it's there. Anywhere but on the economics course. Another test and another anecdote. In my first year at Keele - I met someone who politely asked me about my economic views. He was an older boy who had turned-up a week late at Gaysoc, the student union group that met in the first week of each year so that gay people could recognise each other. In ignorance, I only turned-up to the second or third meeting. Just me, this social work student, and the odd cartoon character. "You must admit", my new acquaintance said, "monopoly capitalism is pretty inefficient way to run anything, isn't it?". "Yes", I said, thinking I sort of knew what the words meant but that my education at boarding schools and from reading The Times had not prepared me for this. By the end of the economics course I was no wiser. That's odd because I guess the idea has something to do with Marx (Durkheim was more interesting according to a teacher on the Foundation Year lectures, but I read neither), and Marx came-up on the fringe of my other subject, English. Some people use Marx to provide a cheat-sheet checklist of things to say about a novel if they can't think of their own ideas, which is what you have to do to earn your student grant or be an academic; you have to think of something to say; Marx provides a checklist, like an economic model. At Keele people have to be quite good at thinking of their own things to say because there is no time to study what one book says about another book. Keele students are like Captain Mainwaring ; "no time for all that red tape: we have to use our initiative", with Sargeant Wilson as tutor "are you sure that's altogether wise?" There's a free promp on the campus that suggests ideas. The old building is an economic model. It was built for a coal-mine owning family, with a floor plan the size of a hotel, while the miners' housing has fewer square meters per house. You could fit a street of the mining villiage into the the coal mine owner's grand building. On an economics course, this should suggest to students that market forces didn't work very well; there was a glut of coal-miners or a shortage of coal-investers, and barriers to miners who wanted to become investers.


My other joint honours course was English Literature, which I hadn't done before. It started like a book-club, in the hope that students would find something to say about the week's novel. Similar foundation year courses sometimes failed: it would turn-out that not a single student had read the novel, and the tutor had to talk about it for the whole hour. I think that only happened twice in my foundation year, and never too obviously in the main degree course which was more in demand. Among that proper joint-honours students there were usually a few who had read at least half of the book and we found enough to say without an extra course called "finding something to say: official critical apparatus for eng. lit. students". I heard one student from an early tutorial tell the tutor that she had more attention from staff at sixth-form college than at uni. He said it was maybe to do with the cuts. I had some messy pointless reason to talk to a tutor in English once, and he said "I'll have a think and you have a think" while walking down stairs and into a private room. I met some odd person who had heard of the Keele English course and said that it repeated A-level a lot and was old-fashioned. I was just amazed to be allowed-in. The amazement lasted at least a year and I was still interested in year three. I was paid £3,000 a year to sit once a week among people with big hair and long names discussing Jane Austin and then find myself tricked into learning some theory without knowing it and writing about any darn thing I wanted. I think the English staff had had the same problems as the Economics staff in avoiding the repetition of A-level and finding new things to teach in a sausage machine, but somehow solved the problem because it was a more sought-after subject and had no un-squash-able core, and expectations were very soft. If anyone was the person who had to be taught because of the foundation year and clearing and commitment to subject-switching, it was me. I think I detected that when asking to study English. The tutor even asked me about things like spelling, and I said it didn't matter, and he checked with his boss, and no: it didn't. I wrote about the role of the narrator, the book's strange relationship to the reality of readers' lives, and something else came to mind each time, so that was three themes per essay. I read the beginnings and the ends of each book, the preface, and the middles of the ones I did for essays: one a month, also revised for exams. The first year courses were "Augustans and Romantics", leaning on excerpts from an anthology "Augustans", I guess, and another called "Romantic Poetry and Prose". The next course was "Victorian Literature", which is OK if your teachers allow you to say what you dislike about it as well as what you like. One of my essay-and-exam-revision subjects was Thomas Hardy, who confuses women and fruit. I am no good at heterosexual flirting, but I think Thomas Hardy would have been worse. He gave up the whole writing-thing after world war one when somehow life seemed diferent, for reasons I could probably once list in essays. In the final year the department offered a lit-crit-kit from Roland Barthes, and compared with a very British writer on similar subjects - Dick Hebdidge - for perspective, and wrote a long essay which I had to stop half way through but would have been very clever and wry if complete. Somehow I passed the exams and still look back on it as fun at the time and worth doing. I tend to remember third year tutors more than others, for some reason. Maybe I had the same tutor two years in a row. Mine now works at York Uni.


A more through piece of research about economics tracks the amount of ticky-tacky in journal articles, specially algrebra, and finds a great increase in the 50s - 80s alongside emigration of US economics lecturers around the world. (Brackhouse Middleton and Tribe, 1997) . A third article states that theoretical articles peaked around the mid 80s when researchers got their computers, but I can't find the reference. (Somebody, 2000s-ish)

historical context: UK newspapers

Their positions are well known; I remember that The Times changed a lot under Murdoch in the 1980s, and the government PR machine was ruthless in talking about the world as seen by newspapers rather than the world in the tables of stats or outside the window, so the collapse of UK manufacturing somehow got reported by changing the subject to some metaphor or other like "taking-on the unions" or muddled facts like "world recession". I remember an article which I thought was typical. It said "Happy Good Quote Minister" bla bla minister of employment Norman Fowler soundbite bla bla.

  • Blob. Fact contradicts minister fact fact fact fact - this is a technical small bit with less of an editorial line".
Later-on, The Times never quite admitted that a UK generation and their dads had lost-out, or not in the bigger articles, but did show a picture of graduates at Trinity College Dublin, writing that nearly every single one had emigrated during the 1980s. When Geoffrey Howe, 1980s chancellor, got an obituary he was quoted as writing wonderful successful budgets until an entirely unrelated tiff about the price of sterling caused him to resign from the cabinet. You could see that there was something wrong with The Times under Murdoch.

historical context: failure in one area puts up house prices in another

Add to that the patchwork of how people live on a map of the UK. Manufacturing was mainly north and midlands, with bits around London and inner cities. A policy that killed manufacturing made Londoners a lot better-off because property values shot-up when everyone in the rest of the UK tried to get service jobs. A map makes the point Every newspaper editor, MP or even some journalists who owned property near London did very very well, because a lot of service jobs were based in the South East. So they thought the economy was doing well under Thatcher and Blair too. I guess that members of the new Monetary Policy Committee that discussed the thing under Blair and Brown and Cameron had a lot of property in the South East too, so something in their gut feelings said: "things are going well" Someone asked Vince Cable of the other English party whether he believed in controlling inflation via interest rates set by the monetary policy committee and he said "yes of course", even in the 2010s. Everybody who was anybody seemed to believe in wrecking the economy, and I think doubts only began when Mark Carney was appointed to the Bank of England from Canada and tried to explain that exports and industry are important.

historical context: things got worse since my 1980s degree

The degree which I started by saying was bad - in a question on Quora I think - turns out to be better than most; Professor Fishman, his colleagues, and the demands of a short course for a lot of people all made it less mathematical than most. He even allowed colleagues to teach about economic institutions failing - just like Robert Peston and authors like that. Apparently it is called "Institutional Economics" and is rare. I might have witnessed a golden age of economics teaching at its peak. The British Economic Crisis book was written by someone on the staff, The Price of Fish was written by an ex-student, and a staff member worked with an ex-student to write about the Guernsey financial system and then tax havens. Another wrote early input-output tables for Staffordshire and work on water poverty. Google tells me that Keele economics graduates have gone-on to be lay members of some kind of governing council, and done some impressive other jobs as well. The number of economics students who think their teachers haven't got the right idea has risen, I guess from sites like Post Crash Economics and points of view from teachers, who say "What problem?", or use the "Because I say so" argument to state that economics is a very mathematical subject. Courses like the one at London School of Economics require no A-level in economics, but a couple of A-levels in maths, just in case any student will (a) program stats software for another generation with their maths knowledge, and (b) have the right nous and facts available to put into the software, after studying maths and one other A level which is likely to be related because the applicant got good A-level grades: maybe "maths called something else (MCSE) A level". Not history for example. If they'd wanted to do mixed subjects, the current pressure on schools to show good results would have prevented them. A member of school staff would have refused any application to study history and economics at the school in case it lowered their grades on the league table.

Digression on whether mathematical economists are right: use control:F for mathematical economists

Digression on wanting to do economics

I also want to do this because my own run-down business is threatened by economists and interest groups. The aid trade and free-traders agree that dumping from Bangladesh is a good thing for those in Rochdale and those in Rana Plaza. I don't agree. The fashion PR industry agrees that London Fashion Week and their idea of the Fashion Industry earns 35bn for the UK economy, and paid Oxford Economics to produce a document to say so. I want to prove a different view.

Why British manufacturers under-invested, except Morris who under-invested

Mr Morris, Lord Nuffield, was a bicycle repair boy, businessman, and car manufacturer who ran a thifty factory. He benefited from a long career as he rode a bike for health and left school at the legal minimum age. His brands were MG, for Morris Garage, and Morris. He's quoted as saying "keep the walls bulging", meaning "keep doing things in thrifty ways".He was also fairly consitent with his suppliers, helping firms like Lucas and the forgettably named Borg Warner who made steering stuff, Skip-down to the heading "Mr Morris of Morris Motors was different." a page or two down, if you want to see why this story about car factories overlaps with education. During the 70s, a large proportion of people worked in manufacturing but it was hard to report in newspapers. Journalists decided to take car manufacturing as a kind of model for other industries, because all of us can glance at a car on the road and see if the bottoms of the doors are rusty or the design looks bad. Economics overlapped more with manufacturing in those days, and economic journalism overlapped a lot more with motoring journalism. I don't know when Mr Morris left the company before his death in 1964, but when Minis sold well in I think the early 70s, the people at British Leyland ordered another mini production line exactly like the first in order to boost production alongside. That's from a book called "Why are the British bad at Manufacturing?" which was a common worry at the time. When the market moved towards sales reps buying company cars for motorways and commuting, some Leyland models had a 2 foot gear lever to give drivers enough leverage to move the Austin Gypsy gear box; the company was good at ordering sheet metal boxes with no need for a girder chassis and putting existing components into them, but bad at developing new engines and gearboxes and the rest to put in them.  They obtained those designs and tools by merger with companies that already had them, like Triumph that had some kind of decent gear box but no sheet metal chassis. They hadn't the nous to develop machines cheaply, as Formula 1 teams do, nor the money to do hundreds of expensive experiments and get better machines by sheer trial and error. Lastly, none of the firms was good at making the jobs do-able. There is a documentary about Ford of Dagenham which was one of the more profitable ones, in which even the Chief says that he first visited the place and found it oppressive. People from the assembly line are interviewed and say that the knack was keeping sane; some of their colleagues were less good at it and vented frustration through industrial action. Recent news about car factories fiddling the EU emissions standards show that car development costs are still a problem; they weren't just a problem for Leyland. The British public were another problem - whether working for car companies and choosing the designs, or buying cars and choosing the designs, the result from all UK car factories was moulded sewing on the door trims and printed wood-grain on the dashboard with silver paint round the edge. It was an odd combination of good design and bad design. I'm not sure of the faults model-by-model, but the false economies of factory design were similar to false economies in product product design and quality. The thing like a bike chain that linked the top of the engine to the bottom would rattle when it became loose: you can hear whether a car is a British Leyland model before you see it. When customers asked for cars in different colours and styles, the Oxford factory didn't devise a way of making them to order as James May; I suppose they made them in batches and just hoped that their dealers could keep enough variations in stock. I don't know any facts to support this hunch, but re-reading the "British Industrial Crisis" book I see that there were vast stocks kept at UK factories for reasons like this; their machines were hard to set-up for small batches and making things-up as they went along was out of the question. There's also a quote about pounds per worker shown as capital in UK manufacturing firms, which is under a fifth of what showed in Japanese firms at the time. Some of the investment might not have shown because of accounting conventions, but at a time of new motorway-using customers, new sheet metal chassis designs, and new demands for fuel efficiency, this written-off capital probably wasn't so important as the new stuff that was on the books and easy to measure.

Table 22. International comparison of assets per employee, 1976

Assets (k)/employee Motor industry
British Leyland                 8,505
11 Japanese firms [average]    42,020

Assets (k)/employee Electrical engineering
GEC     (UK)                    9,725
Siemens (Germany)              16,479
Hitachi (Japan)                34,680
Source: F. E. Jones, 'Our Manufacturing Industry — the Missing £100,000 Million' Nat. West. Bank Quarterly Review, May 1978, pp. 8-17.

My hunch is that factories under-invested because there was less and less land available for factories, because the government allowed free trade from dumping exporters in Bangladesh, because banks were less and less keen to lend, and because families tended to send their offspring to expensive and counter-productive education systems, particularly the 10-year boarding-school system which is both. There's also the effect of war - something shown in Fishman's own autobiography. Risk-takers are likely to survive less than the risk-averse; promoted people less than the back-office. Fishman survived his role as US sargeant in the second world war by negotiation, and just got through. War also effects the amount of money that's about - whether to invest or consume - but an odd thing about the inter-war years is that so many anecdotes suggest consumption. People laughed at Berty Wooster. They dressed-up rather than dressing-down. I asked my mum, while looking at old photos, why perfectly sensible ship managers should want to play Birty Wooster and be photographed in front of rhodedendrum bushes or cars, or holding guns for sport. Why not in front of a tractor or a trawler? She said that between the wars nobody wanted to think about anything serious, or at least not war. It had been round once, it would quite likely happen again, and people just wanted to think about something else. Another theory is easier to state. With high unemployment, it's useful to use more labour compared to capital. With a bad social insurance system, as existed between the wars, there are more large families providing the next generation of unemployed. Then when a boom finally comes, nobody is sure how to do things more efficiently - factories are a bit like those public sector jobs where everyone has to sign for the lavatory paper and there are people paid thousands a year to save buying a machine costing hundreds. During the war, my grandmother had to learn how to cook from the pages of cookery books and wasn'r really sure how to make a snack. After the war, there was a labour shortage in factories for similar reasons I guess. There are also huge un-measured differences between people that, if averaged-out among the people who make decisions, are important. The psychologist Oliver James takes the Royal Family as an example of people who showed signs of obsessive compulsive disorder over a few generations, in ways that were probaby (if not provably) common among the people around them. A preference for ritual. Unusual emotional attachment to protocols and dress codes. A teacher at my school said that when he worked in Australia, the Obsessive Compulsive Headmaster thought every boy should wear long trousers have turnups, but if I remember the anecdote, there was some Edwardian Royal who should that everyone shouldn't have turnups. From what I remember of school teachers, they could get angry if the mysterious codes were broken. Think Duke of Edinburgh. Think Ripping Yarns. Getting back to the trouser turnup people, neither would be good at running a textile company: they disliked innovation. But these people were common and now increasingly common among head teachers - parents seem to choose schools where such people work. Maybe a way of encouraging innovation in an economy is to help pupils avoid this kind of school. I know something about the result of under-investing in factories from my own business. The result is a room full of basic machines that are designed not to wear-out quickly; the most important thing they do is not wear-out half-way through a job. In some jobs, this means a diesel engine. In footwear manufacturing, it means hydraulic presses and stretching machines. I try to find suppliers who have this stuff and invest even less. The second most important thing the machines do is make stuff, in so far as a press or a knife or a mould can, but the output possible from a highly skilled worker is nothing special.

Digressions stuck together For context, I should say that my own shoe business runs with piles of inventory to support minimum batch sizes for free setup and delivery, and that my mum and dad's old Ford Cortina had a gear lever that came-off by mistake at one point, revealing a hole through to the tarmac down below. The Cortina shared a lack of undercoat or rustless panels with the equivalent Morris Marina from British Leyland. Come the recession, we had to go to adult education classes at Chiswick Comprehensive to try to coax a few years' more life out of the thing, learning how to use elastic plastic padding, Venetian Red spray, and T-cut to try and restore rust holes - even on the bonnet. Fake sewing was standard too, as well as poo or vomit coloured browns and a little printed woodgrain on the plastic, with silver-paint highlights. Ford and Vauxhall were not much better than British Leyland, which was used by newspapers as an emblem for what was happening at a lot of other UK factories. I read somewhere that the idea of staff working as unionised teams who would bid for wages by striking was more of a ship-building problem than a car-building problem, but newspapers reported strikes in car factories because newspaper readers could see the factory products driving-around so car factories were a better emblem. While googling this blog post, I discover that ICI and Servis Washing Machines used early computer systems or similar to keep the job tickets flowing round their factories, so not all UK factories were under-invested just as not all UK products were bad.
Usually, owner-managed firms under-invested in order to pay 10 years' boarding school fees to make their offspring useful to the business, without success. I have no figures to back this up but ask your granny if you are posh. Usually, larger firms under-invested to please the stock market's need for short term results at the expense of long-term investments. Paternalistic pension law for private pensions had channelled a lot of peoples' savings, but not their voting rights, into managed stock market funds run by pension companies. Someone who worked for a big firm might well pay for shares in the same firm, but the voting rights would be used against that person's interests by calling for short term profit and nothing else. Worse still, someone in a medium-sized firm that ran its own pension company might be forced to invest pension contributions in this same company but have no control over the business when it went bust owing money to the pension fund. Unions made no effort to find a solution to this problem; it still isn't solved.

Mr Morris of Morris Motors was different.

Mr Morris, Lord Nuffield, under-invested in car factories in order to better educate the entire UK population through the Nuffield Foundation. If economics and science teachers had paid more attention to the Nuffield Foundation and ways of teaching technical subjects from students' own observations, then there would have been a workforce ready to work at MG or British Leyland as easily as they could move to jobs like finance and engineering and factory management. The gist of my Nuffield Physics A level had been to learn from experiment as some of us learn from looking at a bicycle. Mathmatical statements were as carefully edited for clarity as sentences in the textbook, and most were obvious from experiment anyway. The syllabus used wave-motion as a theme to teach capacitors, springs, and water waves, so that it was easy to do three at once. The course used microwaves and special-size ping pong balls to help us discover nuclear physics. I think there were Nuffield Foundation books as well, with a similar graphic style to the one above but no pictures. I was lucky and got a good teacher so we didn't have to use text books much. If the system had been taken-up more widely, there would be no need to invest huge amounts in research and development; car factory staff at Moris would simply sort out the problems from nous. Unfortunately the Nuffield Foundation passed control of its syllabuses to Edexel a few years ago, but the ideas might remain and they might be persuaded to work with other universities or the more obscure A level exam boards, which I guess are based in Wales and Northern Ireland. The Nuffield Foundation paid £20,000 to help set-up the short loans section of Keele library for groups of people who all wanted short-term access to books at the same time. If the Keele Economics department had asked dozens of students all to read a chaptor of Keynes in the same week, dozens of copies could have been bought and lent-out. The library was a few hundred meters from Keele economics department. Unfortunately, teachers didn't keep-up with Mr Morris and his Nuffield Foundation; they were still teaching science from theory and overly-repeated algebra when I studied economics in 1984, the year British Leyland dropped the Morris brand. We still learned Keynes from a textbook instead of every student borrowing a copy of Keynes for a week from the library. The Nuffield Foundation outlives Morris and British Leyland, and funded an A-level syllabus called "Economics and Business" which ran for a few years from the 1990s, with some help from teachers at Staffordshire University. Control was taken by Edexcel a few years ago. I imagine that the two smaller exam boards would run a similar A-level with help from the Nuffield Foundation, or a group of university staff and activists, if the three main boards no longer run anything good. Two smaller Welsh and Northern Irish boards are protected form London political interference by fear in London of Belfast and Cardiff political interference. Their main worries are their percieved fixed minimum costs of running an exam, and other's fixed minimum costs of writing a textbook or such. For example the Northern Ireland board's music exam doesn't have a textbook published to go with it. So there is still scope for writing a good economics degree syllabus that follows a good economics a-level syllabus; the difficulties are doing the work of writing a good A-level syllabus, and persuading those who pass the A-level to follow it with a degree. I expect the university that ran the degree would have to run coaching sessions or some special course to take the a-level for those who otherwise lacked the right knowledge. "Nuffield Economics & Business courses sought to introduce both subjects by examining familiar situations, allowing students to develop an understanding of the ideas that can be used to make sense of what is happening around them. Concepts were always introduced in context."

If an economics professor won't profess about recession, should they retire? Definitely agree Mostly agree Neither agree nor disagree Mostly disagree Definitely disagree Obituaries in national newspapers should be published

The teaching on my course II

Staff... 1. are good at explaining things 2. have made the subject interesting 3. are enthusiastic about what they are teaching The course is... 4. intellectually stimulating - National Student Survey

... increasing critical facility and independence as the [core] course progresses.... foster active learning. A variety of approaches to managing the learning process may be adopted to achieve this, including lectures, seminars, tutorials, workshops, peer teaching and learning, project-based learning, experiments, games and technology-enabled learning - Quality Assurance Agency
good at explaining things

<THE KEELE BIT> There's a pattern on unistats. Staff at most colleges are usually good at explaining things; they do their job pretty well and Keele staff sometimes score 100%. Keele short courses are a career-trap for lecturers. It's hard to move-on from teaching them and teachers stay with the patience of elephants, getting slightly better each time. The prospectus says "we've been teaching it for fifty years". I remember some lecturers were quite funny, even about the micro-economics of indifference curves. I don't remember any lectures where lecturers read stuff off slides or classes where staff weren't engaged. A lot of them were published authors. I remember snatches of stuff about input-output and something-iev cycles that were interesting because applied to a purpose, and not applied as a maths excercise. Staff were good when allowed to run tutorials and teach relevant subjects as well. One that I got in year three wrote such a good book that I've pirated it; nothing like it would have been available at other colleges. </THE KEELE BIT> <THE SCIENCE BIT> Theory without application, Algebraic shorthand obscuring the theory, Derivation of one theory from another, rather than from evidence Critical after-thought if there is time, but not a critical look at evidence an different theories that might explain it. These are criticisms of science teaching and of economics where it tries to look scientific. </THE SCIENCE BIT>
made the subject interesting ... enthusiastic about what?

When a subject is beyond hope, the best thing to do is to say so. At the University of Maryland in the 1950s, people on craft courses from jewellery to puppetry had to sign-up for the Department of Home Economics. Apparently the Jewellery tutor had to give the core lectures one particular year. Early film of Kermit the Frog, the economics-teaching puppet who was spawned on the course, show him listening to bald home economics lecturer who gave him some ideas. "Yup: that's the whole salad bowl" is a Kermit phrase. At 1980s Keele I remember a teacher saying "Under-whelming, isn't it?", which was funny, and "it's nothing earth-shattering", while the chief came-up with "We have to teach this stuff, in order to call this an economics course!". That was during a revision lecture about charts called IS-LM. He caught somebody's eye in the lecture audience. Referring to some conversation or complaint or threats of mayhem. At Glasgow in the 20-teens teachers are reported as saying, if asked, that a theory is "not particularly illuminating". There was a problem with the classes and lectures, which is that they were not related to a textbook that I remember, and the reason for remembering is that the class and the textbook said different things in year two macro-economics. Diagrams like figure 20.6 below were from journal articles and 1970s textbooks like Samuelson and Lipsey I suppose. It would have been good to know which one, because the course textbook - Begg, 1984 - glosses over the subject very quickly and then explains why the ISLM theory isn't really true. I doubt the person teaching the course knew what textbook we'd bought or that the person who prescribed the textbook knew that it said something different to the course. When the subject got "intellectually stimulating", meaning one problem-solving course, it was great. Feedback from one teacher who tried modelling an aging population and pension costs was that his course "was the last thing students wanted to learn", but the method and idea of teaching that way was fine.
The course is intellectually stimulating

  • manual computation of statistics and a range of

  • micro-economic rules of thumb, taught in a quasi-mathmatical way without purpose. Instead of saying the price goes up at A level, or saying "the price goes up in theory, and computer stats are usually the same so we can talk about the differences", you say P ' moves to P''.

  • macro-economics rules of thumb taught without reference to the economy.

  • Any course will teach to people who are un-taught, and looking for life experience because they are young. Some of them don't even want to study economics but applied because they thought it was such an unpopular subject that it would get them a student place. These people, like me, could have done with a bit of help in knowing each others' opinions about economics and maybe even more, but it was not to be. We faced forwards, like heterosexual boys at a urinal, and didn't look at each other.


I have another paragraph somewhere about stats. Dinosoar Theory without omputers.

Micro-economic rules of thumb

Take these two rules of thumb combined. They're from chapter 1 of the micro-economics book. I've put them in prose. "If your budget allows some of this and some of that, you can draw quite a clear line to say how much of each you can afford. If you prefer some of each, that's quite a likely outcome. To digress, if you take the rule of thumb about diminishing returns and apply to both this and that, you get a thing called an indifference curve, if it is curved. Or not. It depends on the example." That is pretty-much how the rules of thumb are taught at A-level, but at degree level there is some need to derive them like universal laws and express them as curves named by letters, with a superscript for a moved curve. That's the simple bit. More mathmatical courses put it into algebra. Why? I don't know. Even the curves are strangely forgettable without an example. To study them is like trying to remember the lyrics to Ra-ra-Rasputin. No wonder students often have to learn them twice.

Macro-economic rules of thumb

Macro-economics teaching started with the same concepts of demand-management as A-level and extended them into a kind of charting or modelling exercise called IS-LM, done without comparison against facts, so that left the chart, which looks like a bus map. Unfortunately the department couldn't afford teachers' editions of the textbook, or even the currentl textbook, for staff to tead. If forced to mug-up a course at short notice, they had old editions of Lipsey or Samuelson textbooks I suppose, while students had a new one called Begg which disagreed with earlier textbooks about the importance of IS-LM. It skips ISLM as something no longer relevant. This is a difficult start for a lecturer who usually teaches international trade and has to mug-up a course on macro-economics at short notice. Previous generations of students got a course on funding the welfare state with an aging population, but we fell-back on the standard textbook IS-LM course. IS-LM four quadrant charts predict Investment, Savings, Liquidity and the Money supply, all interacting according to schools of thought in some impressive-looking way that means nothing. Maybe the I is for interest, savings, liquidity, and the money supply. Certainly not I for imports - those are some kind of extension to the diagram, little-mentioned. It is a point of pride that the axis are labelled with letters, rather than proper words, in order to look more technical. There are no number to give a clue either. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. I found a version on the net that has letters for "North West" and "North East", added in case useful. The Keele version probably came from a Lipsey textbook and was otherwise much the same. Students find this as hard to study as lecturers find it hard to teach. It's hard to know what's being taught and examined - whether the truth, the lecture, or the textbook, that each contradict each other even before the student starts trying to use this education and find the answer. It would help to have a purpose for the model, but no purpose is given; it is just "the model". It's all very confusing and likely to put students off economics for life unless they're from another country and think that all these graphs are quite easy and that they should go-on to a second degree and maybe a teaching job at another university. This is how one generation of economists spawns the next. For UK students, this is emotionally stimulating but in a bad way: the subject of IS-LM is very very close to what has wrecked bit of the economy, but the presentation doesn't quite bother to touch on that much or bother to refer to evidence. Searching for "Mundell Fleming open economy" I found an important point mentioned in passing right at the bottom of a page. "As an appendix to the Mundell-Fleming model, we would like to discuss the Dutch disease.". Applied to the UK, just after Holland, the page quotes a graph headed "UK Experiences De-industrialization as Oil Production Begins"

Source: F.L & L.A. Rivera-Batiz, International Finance and Open Economy Macroeconomics (Optional Textbook), 2nd ed., 1994, p.357. The left scale for manufacturing share and the right scale for oil & gas share in GDP.
I can't quite read what the axis on the left says, but at least it is a real measurement of something with numbers, and the graph suggests a process by which a high exchange rate caused by one industry, such as North Sea oil, could put other industries like manufacuring out of business. The graph is from a 1990s textbook citing a 1984 journal artical - Corden, Max, "Booming Sector and Dutch Disease Economics,"Oxford Economic Papers 36, 1984, pp. 359-380 ( The UK suffered something similar but made deliberately worse by a government economic policy. That's why there were 20,000 job-losses a week alongside a monetary policy that ran up until 2009. If the course had started with the cases of Holland and the UK, and worked backwards towards specific cases of macro-economic theory, then it would have been an interesting course. Any statistics skills required would obviously have been worth learning, and the maths teacher would have become the cool person - able to explain things to an interested set of students. I may be exaggerating because life isn't often like that when teaching a technical subject, but things could have been better. Except the economy which gets no better for talking about it, but even to understand the economy makes it easier to make sense of life lived in it.
I see one of the Keele economics courses is described on one of the course-choosing web sites with a note: "not required - critical thinking", and a suggestion that it should be studied with something similar, just to reduce the chance of critical thinking even further. This is a bit like running a medical course with "not required - desire to improve health" on the prospectus. In the 1980s, students could see out of the coach window that factories were closing very quickly and that study of chi-squared in year two was not the answer, nor even the subject they believed they had signed-up to study. This problem of mis-sold economics courses remains at other institutions. Even if a student - maybe an overseas student - seldom left the campus or watched TV and didn't question the course, that same student would have noticed computers. In my final year, the teacher said "this is the first time someone's handed-in an essay done on a word processor". He said it to a student who looked like someone from a country with less of a recession. That student would have noticed the average and variance functions on the free spreadsheet that came on the disc. I suppose a few people find maths relaxing or illuminating. For everyone else, it is something like learning to drive that is only stimulating if you want to drive somewhere. When driving smewhere, it can also be relaxing or illumnating for some people and not for others, but it isn't something to do just for fun with no other excuse. Lots of people think that algebra on the blackboard is necessary in order to understand common shapes that data forms itself into, and to try and learn something from the measured tables of data at the office of national statistics. Statistics has its own teaching conventions like Victorian science teaching. Victorian science seems to have been invented to halt the industrial revolution of self-taught scientists and put them in their place. It is also cheap to teach. Teaching is like an episode of Tom & Gerry: some fictional object called "Tom" or "Gerry" or some other Greek letter gets decimated or squared or gutted and chased around the white-board with an impressive array of shorthand, in order to prove a tautology: top-left of the board equals bottom-right, and this is called "deriving". Rather like the statement in the London School of Economics Prospectus - "All of the programmes ... take a mathematically rigorous approach to the subject, and are therefore very demanding of quantitative and analytical ability and interest" - something is put in one way, therefore it can be put in another way with a grand "therefore" in the middle. Bla therefore bla. This kind of training encourages pointless statements from professors like "Economics is..." when everybody knows that economics is just a course title of no more use than Geography or any other course unless it solves some problem. What simple thing the algebraic shorthand describes is not clear, and it if a complex thing, then it would be better taught with an example. The teacher is usually someone who has done a lot of this as a maths student, but attempts to remove the most complicated algebra when teaching to non-mathematicians. However much shorthand algebra can be taken-away, alternatives are not added-in. The reason for a shape is not added-in. In contrast, when I learned Nuffield Physics A-level, I learned from observation. We dangled weights on springs, observed some things about wave motion, learned from a teacher that it's the same with capacitors and microwaves and probably other things and tested the theory, then we did nuclear physics. For schools not equipped for direct nuclear experiments, the Nuffield Foundation can supply specially-made polestyrene ping-pong balls that are the right size to behave like an atom if glued together and used to bounce microwaves. By the end of the course we were able to answer questions about atoms, waves, electricity cables designed for tensile strength and conductivity - I am sure there were a lot of things we could do. If we had learned physics by deriving one formula from another, we would just about have discovered which way apples fall-off trees by the end of the course, and so it is with economics when taught by deriving formulas. We didn't have to do it directly at Keele, but had to get the gist and there was a special concise textbook, based on derived formulas, prescribed for background reading. If the subject is rather political and attracts good points of view on both sides, like the subject of cheap public loans crowding-out the private sector, then the teaching does not give contexts. Something might make perfect sense in one place and have obvious faults in another. If the subject is entirely technical - like the squaring or data before averaging and taking a square root, or the reason that wave energy reduces from the point of splash, then there are still problems.
  • The teaching convention does not emphasise why one classic curve or distribution is different to another, which is the most easy and important thing to grasp and remember.

  • The teaching not say why one ratio happens and not another. It just says: "this is the algebra".
If the subject is some messy mixture of technical shapes and wild guesses as to their reasons, then we get no further. Pareto distribions, I read on an open courseware web page from MIT, are rather like the back end of a tall dinosoar while it is standing-up: quite a steep slide-down from horizontal, down the tail to near-vertical. People who have done Nuffield science subjects or arts subjects are just bemused and apalled. When this harmless hobby is repeated a lot, they get to distrust it as much as traditional science subjects. The thrill is meant to be in the chase I suppose, which is called formal proof. Apparently you can even prove "equilibrium", but that's for the maths junkies. Simon Jenkins in The Guardian makes a similar point. Looking at Statistics for Economists on economics network, I see that other people draw some distinction between applied stats and theoretical stats. I suppose, if I understood stats better and was teaching this, I would twiddle these categories, trying to help students discover or realise the reasons for doing something a certain way in order that they remember it. Explanations that help a student remember are as useful as "applied" stats; explanations that show-off algebra but distract from the principal of the thing are worse than useless. It's hard to distinguish between pure and applied stats but some perfect teacher somwhere can do it. (I suspect that some ticky-tacky stats techniques developed to suit previous generations of calculator, or are there to show-off, or as an excuse practice mundane book-keeping jobs that no longer exist so much.) About the same time that students learn a technique or soon after, I would get students to use it on cheap software or slide rules and real figures to discover something real. It's slightly tricky to comment in ignorance. I know from studying Nuffield Physics A level that a lot of the work of traditional science teaching is just bad teaching in the wrong order with too many irrelevant bits. (Traditional physics A-levels of the 1980s gave points for knowing that the x & y axis are called the abscissa & ordinate, which they are not; it taught that things happened because of laws discovered by geniuses, which they don't). I know that I'm ignorant about why data forms into different splodge-shapes and have no idea what the diagrams on this page represent, so this paragraph is a bit of special knowledge and a bit of ignorance next to each other. When I studied, stats exercises did not use real and interesting figures. Those were reserved for experts who published journal articles which might be quoted in the textbook if they were sufficiently untrue. In the same book, X-shaped graphs are printed as models for something like the labour market that isn't X-shaped at all. The textbook looks so obviously wrong that it's hard to know whether anything about the course is right. It's taught in a deliberately unreal way, to emphasise that the subject is a "model", and not another model nor what really happens. Aggregate supply and demand in an area like the UK is called "The AD AS model", but that makes the concepts slower to learn and leaves less time to admit their limits. Take marginal costs for micro-economics courses. The subject is obvious in basic form and simply wrong when developed to complex forms without an example. Here is an example. You want to buy groceries. If you want to buy a lot of groceries, a difference in price can support the fixed cost of a longer trip, or maybe a supermarket can offer free delivery. You know this already, don't you? Most people have known this stuff forever, but economists like only discovered in the late nineteenth century and called it "the marginal revolution". Maybe a nineteenth century economist asked his wife. Here is a course specification - I forget which one:

At its core the discipline embraces a rich theoretical framework but also makes extensive use of empirical techniques and analysis that find application in a wide-range of practical real world problems and policy-related issues
This is different ot Nuffield Physics, or to English, or to Politics, or any subject in which you work more of the obvious stuff out yourself. As I read about university economics teaching, I see the different idea that theory is derived rather than measured, and that macro-economic theory derives from micro-economic theory. You can see a bit of this-and-that theory on the cover. It may be easier to make a bit of this and that than entirely this or entirely that. Or not. The geometry has no further meaning.

stimulate students intellectually through the study of economics and to lead them to appreciate its application to a range of problems and its relevance in a variety of contexts - Quality Assurance Agency benchmark

I remember the chief using work-book examples with multiple-choice solutions for teaching basic micro economic theory from Laidler's book. It would have been neater and easier to relate the teaching to a recommended book, but the course didn't work like that. The examples were a personal collection of exercises and answers, collected over a career - specially at the start of the career when he taught 17 year-olds who did not want to leave Idaho. An example was from the Food and Drug Administration about how much feed to give to chickens. If you try to think how you can most offend and patronise people who signed-up for a degree course during an economic crisis, you might guess what a these events were like. Then Fishman had a joke which I quite like: he'd stop talking mid-sentence and say "it's five a clock so we'll pick this up again next week". That's why I remember the chicken example. He was half way through that one when he did his five-o-clock joke. The workbook examples were not like The Catch, which I guess is used by open university and interesting in themselves. The accounts of real companies could be a more interesting knowledge-check for a slightly longer face-to-face course. Maybe speakers from local firms would come-in for £200 expenses and explain how the theory applied to their particular case, if at all, or invite business studies students to paw-over the numbers and ask questions before giving a lecture in how fact and theory seem to fit. Since writing that I see that someone has tried something similar, using the few people in the world who's job title is "economist" but who are not teachers. That is a bit like trying to find a geographer out of captivity, but she had a go. Microeconomics is also taught at A-level, so I don't know why we had to do the basics again or whether there is any useful micro-economics. By year three I had studied economics for five years, but was still confronted with a man ignorant of the economy outside and too goofy to run a tutorial, rehearsing multiple-choice questions about the X-shaped diagram. It gets harder to learn and easier to forget each time the basics are taught, because they become more and more boring. I remember the work-book examples were so boring that it was hard to get them right and concentrate on them, rather than be distracted by the situation. It's like trying to concentrate while someone is throwing custard at you. Another intellectual stimulation was the layout of the class rooms. As in a school class room, the teachers desk would often be different to the others. One had a phone extension on it. What for? I wondered if it was for the evacuation call: "American economic policies have failed. The last helicopter leaves the embassy in 48 hours".

Fishman took a phone call from his boss during a class 

He didn't finish the phone call quickly or explain to students why he had took it. He began modestly with a nervous smile: "Now I have to take this call". I only remember it happening once, but there was nothing urgent; no emergency. The internal call would have come to a landline extension that flashed on the desk, put-through by the department secretary. It would have been from someone further-up the chain of funding or management. There was a new vice chancellor in 1985, apparently, the worst ever, who liked doing things like phoning peole while they were teaching.

Why would someone leave instructions that they can take a call while teaching? It says something about large organisations that the manager or the funder is more important than the student or the prospective student or the non-student who is still paying for the thing through taxes, and that was the system at Keele. Similar to the system of Housing Associations and the former Housing Corporation, or employment schemes at the time and a thing called the Manpower Services Commission, or councils and the Department for Communities and Local Government, or universities and the Universities Funding Council. It's a big part of the economy that economic texbooks say nothing about, and gradually comes to light from experience of over-heard phone calls. Each public-funded organisation has a group of Machiavellis who deal with the funding body, and each funding body has another group who fund them. Leftovers go to the public in the form of unwanted services. If I were to write an economics text book, it would say that people tolerate high taxes in hope of insurance-like services, simply delivered at the right place and time. Then, people on very high salaries divert the money in a form of theft, in order to pay for complicated services that are not needed like a course in Games Theory or a Faith School or an anglo-chinese business office. The Begg textbook does hint at the system. It says that there is a thing called a "merit good", meaning any whim of a machiavelli on a high salary, and we all have to pay for it. Fishman's phone call to his new boss was a "merit good". There is a history of Keele University that maps-out the too-and-fro between a funding body and universities, taking-up hundreds of thousands of pounds-worth of time and patience, all intended to direct hundreds of thousands of pounds to the right place. It makes the textbook diagram of a "command economy" versus a "free market economy" look half-sane, even it is propaganda against social insurance systems.

<DIGRESSION ABOUT SUBJECT MIXING> The phone call included nothing about subject-mixing, nor the rest of experience of how Keele worked. The English lecture course included a bit about a philosopher, which I forget but it was something like John Stewart Mill, or what sort of people like him were writing books at the time, and what sort of books he wrote. Whatever an Eng. Lit teacher could find to say about a book. They are good at finding things to say about a book; it's what they do in years one and two. I don't remember many other shared lectures like that. I don't remember an English lecture about Paul Samuelson's book, what kind of rules seem to apply to what he could put in it, why a rival book had just been boycotted when his came-out, or any of the others like Keynes. One of the wierd things about it is the history and habits of teaching alongside, in which a teacher can say "we used to believe..." of invisible colleagues, and these invisible colleagues are the ones that take common ideas and write them up in Econometrica or some journal like that, and so me them true "In economics". For example I read somewhere that "Autism has a different meaning in Economics". Daft, but the idea that a teacher can say "we" or "in economics" was probably common and Fishman did the first. So the college claimed to be good at subject-mixing, but it could have been a lot better. </DIGRESSION ABOUT SUBJECT MIXING>
In 1986 the college opted to remain independent, rather than merge with the nearest college for the same age-group and hope to reduce mangement costs. The decision-makers would have justified this to themselves and anyone who asked by saying that the campus experience and subject-mixing system were unique. They would talk like the blurb from a book about Keele that somebody wrote, which lists some rather nice and wonderful ideas.

...struggle to establish the Keele Experiment, based on his "Keele idea". He traces the succession of principals, the establishment of Keele as a university in 1962, the unrest of the late-1960s and the very difficult years of the government cuts in the 1980s. Keele suffered worst than most... - blurb from Keele, Portrate of a University

What did Fishman's syllabus teach?

My training in the best role for the public sector is the essay on the "public good", like a road or a lighthouse. Students were referred to Samuelson's article - probably "The Pure Theory of Public Expenditure", published in 1955 and now available free on Jstor. The article begins with a lie:

"(1) Assumptions. Except for Sax, Wixell, Lindall, Musgrove and Bowen, economists have rather neglected the theory of optimal public expenditure, spending most of their energy on the theory of taxation...."

What "The Pure Theory of Government Expenditure" doesn't tell you much about is government expenditure. It tells you that this kind of thing is highly technical and that a system exists for experts to discuss obtuse detail that the general reader will not understand.

A kind of closed-shop in which only the published views of some right-wing americans in certain journals count as economics. The system to excludes better-known ideas. The article ignores the authors of the Poor Law Amendment Act, for example, who favoured workhouses, or whoever worked-out the theory for Bismark's 1860s national insurance system or Lloyd George's one that started in 1911, followed by William Beveridge with his "Social Insurance and Allied Services" report in the 1940s. These are compulsory systems over a wide area - national systems - and often run by the public sector. The site notes a few facts about each of them like start date or pension age. The UK entry is a bit misleading because so much is funded from general taxation, but there is a note for each country. In the USA they had a social security tax introduced in the 1940s - it even gets a mention in the 1947 version of Samuelson's textbook but it's ruled-out of what "economists" officially know.

"Therefore, I explicitly assume two categories of goods: ordinary private consumption goods ....which can be parcelled-out among different individuals, and collective consumption goods which all [individuals] enjoy in common in the sense that each individual's consumption of such a good leads to no subtraction of any other individual's consumption" [chintzy algebra over a few pages omitted][ends].
Googling the phrase "Sax, Wixell, Lindall, Musgrove and Bowen", I see that people still take this seriously and write learned articles as though they hadn't heard of social insurance. What else do they pretend not to have heard about? Maybe one day someone will write an article about shoes in Econometrica, and then be quoted as the person who "in economics" invented shoes.

algebra as a defence

Samuelson's "Public Good" article soon dives into  are two or three pages of chintzy algebraic shorthand, which I doubt many people have ever read but serve to fend-off criticism from outside the inner circle of algebra experts and journal editors. I had a skim-read and saw some kind of academic's attempt at a joke about "Swedish bureaucrats" towards the end, so Samuelson must have assumed that only his colleagues would read that far and that he could put-in a barbed comment about the Swedish government introducing a welfare state. When a squid defends itself, it squirts ink. When a historian defends itself, it squirts footnotes to sources. When an economist is scared, it squirts algebra. That's all it the algebra means. Some of the nicer ones, like Fishman, did not squirt enough algebra to avoid cold war pressures towards unfair dismissal or summonses to senate hearings. He emigrated to the UK. Others economists like Samuelson survived the various red scares and CIA work to unseat any possible communist sympathiser in federal employment or universities up till 1971.

herds as a defence

Another odd thing about cold-war economists, other than the fake algebra, is the pretence at a scientific community who have a consensus view. Samuelson states his idea in one paragraph and uses the same paragraph to imply that he or the readers know who is a licenced official cold-war economist, usually including his friend Mr Arrow from the algebra club, but not including Mr Beveredge, Mr Lloyd George, Mr Bismark, or the Poor Law Amendment Act people like Mr Chadwick who were well-read in the ideas of Mr Adam Smith, Mr Malthus and Mr Ricardo. When grazing animals defend themselves, they form into a herd and run. Economists do this too. Right at the top of this blog post is a quote from my professor Les Fishman saying "we used to believe in keynsian solutions; now we believe in monetarist solutions". As someone who theorised about trades unions, he'd know the system. The more convincingly you say "we" the harder you are to single-out. The herd-like defence requires a pretense that the most quoted economists are worth quoting, which they're not, but it's part of the pretense that the subject is a hard science. The pretense also allows teachers to distance themselves from students, at one end of the room. Maybe face-to-face contact is between a graduate student helping undergraduates understand lectures and to revise them as a temping job to help fund the course. Maybe the professor doesn't have to do a single thing that could possibly cause trouble with the authorities. In Fishman's case, he said "we have to teach this stuff in order to call this an economics degree". In Samuelson's case, it was a bit easier. He simply wrote a textbook that funders and critics would accept, after they had boycotted a previous one by another author, who's book went out of print and who decided to teach in Canada rather than the cold-war USA.

Merit goods as a compromise with what economists in the US say

The Begg textbook is an odd thing promises to add a range of new theories to teaching, and it picks-up an oddball bunch along with the classic bad ideas. It embelishes the hard idea of a "Public Good" with a thing called a "Merit Good", like the Barnett Formula, Concord, Embassies, EU subscriptions, Iraq War, Latin, London Fashion Week, Nuclear Power, Opera, Olympics, Pagentry, RAF Fly-Pasts, State Visits, or Trident. Merit goods can exist separately or in combination. There is a touch of James Bond about a lot of them. The list emerges by tacit consent of the political establishment decade-by-decade, and are funded by blurring the distinction between an insurance-like role of government, in which there ought to be something like a National Insurance Fund to pay for it, and a Father Christmas role in which the budgets are given-out to the children at the end of the year by a chancellor Father Christmas. In this system, there is always money for Merit Goods; Father Christmas simply gives a bit less to the other children. It is hard to imagine that someone so stupid as to think opera a fit purpose for taxpayers' money could exist or be thought fit for any other. Royal Opera House themselves have found this problem with their trustees; they had trouble after this one was on the board. Nevertheless, he was seen as a safe person to be Chancellor of Keele University and allowed to ring members of staff while they were teaching. If I had written "Public Goods in Paul Samuelson's article are a way of avoiding the issues that college funders in the US do not want to talk about like Roosevelt's Social Security tax. Opera is also a Public Good because opera grandees are safe pairs of hands for other public employment", then my essay would be marked wrong. The call finished-off with a chat about money. The boss asked an opinion. Fishman thought that generations of staff had provided "a little bit extra" service year-after-year, starting at an un-defined date, then he repeated the point, "and a little bit extra", and that all these small services had added-up in cost. He proposed removing all those "little bits extra". He did not propose cutting central services; conversations between bosses and teachers do not go like that; the funding cheque went to the boss and money filtered assessment & feedback; of academic support such as a tutorial system (I don't really know what "support" means but it's in the standard jargon), reasonable expectations of organisation & management like the two optional courses both happening, or equipment like access to computers in the library. If the course is partly taken for career reasons and there is mass unemployment, then some career advantage to graduates would be good. If a course content is based on true facts and plausible theories, I think that's reasonable to expect as well. This is another "little bit extra" - a problem-solving course that did not run in 1986.
a second year course on what I called “Social Economics”, using a demographic foundation to develop arguments about the economics of healthcare, education, welfare, housing, poverty and social insurance.  The last thing second year students wanted to hear about then was the problem of pension provision with an unpredictably ageing population; here for the first time, in the actual uncertainties of demographic projections, I found something actually worth trying to model. - Tribe
Once our speeded-up version of A-level economics was over, we tried a new part specially for undergraduates called an ISLM model, which is how to rigg a model sailing ship by moving-around various ropes in diagrams that have nothing to do with un-competitive factories, the exchange rate, how to change either. Nor dumping. I expect the "S" stands for sailing ship. Dr Johns taught this stuff and noted my attitude. If he had taught an open economy version of the model, which noticed exchange rates, I would have remembered, but I remember only frustration. I learned this stuff to remember for a few months during exam season before forgetting it again, and even that task was hard because the main course textbook, by 1984, had noticed faults in the model and said that the monetary policy side of it could no longer be taught in a textbook way. Talking of facts, some real data used for stats examples would be good. Some way that students can learn from each other or be a learning community in the jargon would be good, and a system of feedback from students so that college managers know the course is OK instead of ringing-up half way through a class to ask teachers' views. In those days the phrase was "merchantable quality"; nowadays it's "customers reasonable expectations". Generally, the list of reasonable expectations did not happen. Fishman argued for providing a substandard service for a standard price to make a bigger margin. A bit like an NHS dentist taking a phone call about how to do extra bad fillings to make more money off the standard payment. Students were not included in the conversation. We were like patients sitting in the dentist's chair. It would have happened in 1985, 1986, or 1987 and if anyone else remembers it I hope they leave a comment below. My dad once sold ad-space for The Times & The Observer, and kept-up a subscription for ever, even when Murdoch made The Times more Thatcherite in the 80s. I remember reading Times obituaries about people like the grandee who might have phoned - or Fishman - and reading about a different world. Some were awarded medals for the bravery of their troops carrying-out their stupid decisions. The obituary would go like this.
"Captain 'Jock' as he was known, returned to civilian life at a time of high unemployment, Sir Jock was miraculously offered a job at X where he quickly rose to be Chief, a position he was to hold for 22 years during the decline failure and collapse of X in 1984 leaving fewer job prospects for the next generation. His hobbies were syphoning money out of X for his childrens' 10 year boarding school fees, and cricket. He is survived by a surprisingly patient wife."
I suppose it was the same after the first world war as well. The UK has had a lot of Captain Jocks, many of them colonial governors, cabinet ministers like the ministers of education who cut Keele's grant by a third and various and grandees, but people of all kinds were locked into narrow claustrophic lives and became cartoon conformists as a way of overcoming anxiety. The comedian Peter Cook told someone that he had become "a series of funny voices", and, listening to the news, it was easy to assume that of people on podiums or interviewed by surprise in the street. That's how Peter Cook could get attention and make a living by doing it for a laugh. The funny voice started, and the standard ideas came to mind in support to say the sort of things that funny voice usually said.

I wondered about Fishman's sense of hierarchy and tried to guess where it came from. He looked like what he was - a glove puppet for conventional wisdom. So where did conventional wisdom about how to teach economics come from?

Starting when the subject starts

"Les", as the obituary calls him, started teaching economics when I guess it was a trendy technical subject to incorporate the quaint little old subject of "business administration" that he qualified in, or "home economics" for the girls who chose not to learn shorthand and touch typing, or nursing, or go to finishing school. At the time Fishman studied economics, members of the trade were known. Their names were as clear as names of qualified doctors; some of their job movements and qualifications or deaths were stated in the peer-reviewed journals. In the same journals, algebra's explanations of equilibrium are accepted as like medical explanations of the human body.

American academics are always right

I think that US teachers grade students in competition with other students, and so a hierarchy builds-up with the teacher at the top and student capacity to spout conventional wisdom used as a way of ordering the ranks further-down. It's a very bad system. It suggests that someone in their late teens or early twenties, studying voluntarily, is not capable of having ideas or discussing things and should work as an academic and on an MA course before being allowed free thought. (For example Keele Economics Department in the twenty-teens decided to give-out some book tokens to the best-graded students for a photo-opportunity. A couple of students had other urgent engagements. I think you would, if someone offered you a book token for doing something intellectual in a way to score the most points. It's like taking a bribe.) Add to that a failure of US universities to provide many discussions with tutors, and you grand lecturers who are like hospital consultants without patients or politicians without constituents; there is nobody to bring them down to earth. The likes of Alan Walters and Milton Friedman give opinions to the world that wouldn't even convince their own students.

The writer of a book such as this, treading along unfamiliar paths, is extremely dependent on criticism and conversation if he is to avoid an undue proportion of mistakes. It is astonishing what foolish things one can temporarily believe if one thinks too long alone, particularly in economics (along with the other moral sciences), where it is often impossible to bring one's ideas to a conclusive test either formal or experimental - J M Keynes, preface to the General Theory
The same institutions with grand professors and no common sense can look confusing to outsiders, looking for a new idea like the Soharto dictatorship in Indonesia, the Pinochet regime in Chile and the Thatcher regime in London. They see speeches from US professors in vivid, memorable language. That's because the professor doesn't meet students face to face and gets no chance reason with other people in reasonable language; their job is to give a memorable lecture and guides are written for them to give contrasts and simple points and images. Milton Friedman had some point about tobacco farming was once being subsidised and how the streets came to be covered in unwanted tobacco plants - a great image but I forget completely what point he was making.

Picture of a walrus to illustrate walrasian equilibriumWalrasian equilibrium

There is another source of authority. The one called "conclusive test ... formal ", which just means that something agrees with itself; it is self referential. Smug. Students already know, because the teacher's tone of voice and expressions on other students faces shows that it's self-referential, but the thing is sometimes proved demonstrated with demonstrations of shorthand algebra. Economics students on the longer courses go through a sort of basic training in which they pretend to get a glimpse of "equilibrium" from mathematics. It concludes the course in economic rules-of-thumb by asking whether all the rules of thumb in the textbook explain enough of any economic problem to be worth using, and if so, whether anyone knows how much. American textbooks talk about Widgets as an example of products, but the British Edition prefers Snooks. Maybe other things to do with the economy in an area - like rent control and its effect on available shops or out of town shopping centres and their effect - are more important. The Begg textbook mentions rent control as something to do with bits of the UK property market in the 1980s, illustrating how different and specific econimic problems are. It also says that the economy is like a water bed, with changes in one bit effecting other bits. I am not cool enough to have ever been on a water bed, so for the rest of us there is the only book ever written and seldom-read about the subject in 1874 by Leon Walrus. Economic equilibrium is something to do with the curves of fond walruses, or the detail of a an-read book from the 1890s by Leon Walras who liked equilibrium. I prefer the first theory. I imagine the nineteenth century Mr Walras and Mrs Walras as two fondly coupled walruses. After nobody bought the book, Mr Walras began to think about practicalities. "Wifey", said Mr Walras, "What is it that puts food on our table?". "I will think about it and explain in a day or two", said Mrs Walras, before asking the other economist's wives in the walrus pack whether she should let-on. I expect some said "be careful: if you tell him how shopping works, he'll only make more algebra.", but Mrs and Mr Walrus were a fond couple and the next day she just told him. She explained that the housekeeping was spent at a shop, and the shopkeeper allowed any goods to be removed over the counter, within the budget contstraint of housekeeping money. Taking a good that is bought most weeks, like an onion, and a kind of average basket of other goods that are bought most week, you avoid complications of quirky preferences and different needs over time. So: do you spend all of your housekeeping on onions? No. As a rule of thumb, you can have too much of a good thing. You spend some of the housekeeping on onions and the rest on the average basket. That's it. It didn't take long to explain, but the sheer frustration of listening to it explained in the style of algebra junkies is enough to make it very difficult to learn, and so the micro-economics lectures take about a year. This is a quote about Samuelson, who wrote the classic textbook "a treatise in mathematical economic theory, patterned after classical thermodynamics, which set the tone for much of what the cleverest mainstream economists would do for decades to come. The protocol became: build a mathematical model of abstract actors engaged in constrained maximisation or minimisation of an objective function; prove that the model has a stable equilibrium; show how the model’s equilibrium conditions change when its parameters are changed". That's even more of a waste of time than I guessed as an economics student. One real effect of chasing equilibrium is that economists feel the need to build-up to it from micro-economics as a compulsory long foundation to the course like army basic training. It isn't an optional part of the course, nor a practical course with a context; it is a course in fairly simple graphs and rules of thumb, but rather too many of them for many people to want to study in go.

Ignorance of the UK economy

Maybe Fishman's sense of hierarchy came ignorance of how macro-economics describes, in part, an insurance-like service provided by European states. It must have matched an ignorance at Keele in 1970 about how ignorant US economists are. "The idea of the "welfare state" means different things in different countries. [...]Some commentators use [state welfare] to mean nothing more than "welfare provided by the state". This is the main use in the USA. Fishman once professed that "welfare" was less important than "defence" in a monologue out of nowhere, using the term in that american sense that would make him an administrator of a generous government scheme paid-for out of the current account. His ignorance of UK economics was backed-up by his compulsory essay to be headed "what is a public good?", which quotes Paul Samuelson's way of avoiding talking about a welfare state because the man knew that his textbooks would not be published if he mentioned national insurance or any insurance-like services provided by the state over a time. Paul Samuelson knew that textbook buyers had rejected his rival's book because it scared them. He knew that texbook buyers and their bosses considered state spending to take place within a financial year, with no concept like a national insurance fund. These textbook buyers consider "welfare" to be a transfer payment by all taxpayers and specially the very rich, towards other taxpayers and specially the very poor who pay next to no income tax. These textbook buyers do not like the idea of middling-income people using the state as a cheap insurance company; these texbook buyers are a bit wierd that way.

Input Funding

The system of university funding at the time was rather like a donation of aid from ministries back to taxpayers. Instead of they had a funding body called The Higher Education Funding Council. Most of the money was paid by grants to institutions to keep them going, on condition that they looked busy doing the right thing (a "merit good" according to the textbook). I used to picture it as an amount of money poured-in through the chimneys at the top of the old college building, in hope that enough of it would filter down to the students and staff at the bottom. The textbook describes overseas aid in much the same way, talking about leaky buckets rather than chimneys, but I expect they work the same way. The layout of buildings at Keele, between a motorway and a bus stop, does suggest that they were dropped from a Chinook on a cancelled export order, but that's not true. It is Coleraine University buildings that were designed for a cancelled export order, and they were built on-site, not dropped from a plane. Maybe the money came as a giro cheque after filling-in a claim form for "Vice Chancellors' Benefit" at a jobcentre. The vice chancellor has to fill-in a long form, like a tax or benefit form, with awkward questions about how many students and what spend and difficult stuff like that, which justifies high pay in officials but doesn't justify high pay in housing benefit claimants or taxpayers. I don't know the reason for that but apparantly the filling-in of a long form is high-paid work if you are a vice chancellor and not if you are a tax payer or benefits claimant. The person who cashes the benefit cheque (vice chancellor - not housing benefit of job seekers' allowance) awards themselves nearly ten average wages, then passes-on the rest to the director of final salaries who claims about five average wages, and so the money trickles-down. There's meant to be a trickle-down effect in the private sector too, which doesn't work either. (The more modern version is output funding, in which the biggest liar rises to the top of the organisation for making the most exaggerated claims of success to funders. They also use the most crooked techniques to unseat rivals, people who are at the top of the pay scale, people doing jobs that could be filled by friends and family, or just anyone, for the fun of it. Examples are Roper at London Metropolitan University who claimed grants for more students than could be found in practice, and Piercy at Swansea University who was caught fiddling the exam results to make-up for the effects of unfairly dismissing colleagues part-way through students' courses). My father saw an advert for pension sales staff at Allied Dunbar ex Hambro Life. There was a new pension trade in the 80s made possible by the new right to sign-out of the state earnings-related pension scheme. For sales staff, the deal was to pay for brief training in hard-sell techniques. There was a fee for the training which was usually loaned and sales people were usually the redundant middle-aged of the time. Sales staff were asked to work-through their own address books for sales leads, and given minimum sales targets alongside bills for the training. They were told to present themselves as independent financial advisors, but only to sell this one type of pension. I expect the training warned against mis-selling of pensions. My father paid for the training in cash and I think he made the odd sale by sending out loads of letters to mailing lists under the name "Donald Robertson Pension Services", but he gave the thing up. The rest of the story of 1980s new employers is in Robert Peston economics books; if my dad had stayed in the business, he would now be selling legal help in getting compensation for mis-sold pensions. Input funding can be a good system for delivering something that doesn't change much, because it saves huge cost of running a market and making individual payments (I think insurance brokers earn up to half the first years' premium), so this still could have been a good system with a few checks and balances. The system works best when there is a consensus all-round that a reasonable wage for running the thing and putting-up with all the hassle is about double the average wage, and a reasonable discount for doing a job that loads of good people apply-for is about half the average wage, and the John Lewis Partnership keep extremes between different layers in the hierachy to seven times lowest wage paid for the highest wage. That seems a fair system and a beurocracy run efficiently by such a system can out-do a private sector market. Even if the top jobs attract loads of cliche-driven dragons from The Apprentice or internally-minded people from internal promotion, and the only way to get a half-decent cliche-driven-dragon is to pay more. I think that describing the job well on the advert and making it sane are other ways to attract talant, so it should be possible to run a university with sane bosses and remain in credit at the bank. If the vice chancellor job advert said "sane person to cope with hassle and do nothing where nothing needs to be done", it might get more applicants than an ad saying "Insane person wanted for world domination, starting with Keele University and its Internationalisation Agenda". That is an example of a bad job ad. I know from my Begg "Economics, British Edition" textbook that supply of economics courses had been close to demand in the 70s; the book quotes a very low minimum A-level grade to get a place in its digression about degree courses. A-levels were a lot harder to pass before Google, but the minimum is for two A-levels, not three, which still seems low. In 1983-4, it was harder to get a place. The same texbook mentions that people do degrees in recessions while they wait for the economy to recover and provide a job. Meanwhile, governent cuts funding. Keele's government funding barely filled the buildings in the 1980s: management insisted that students spend a first year on campus. I heard somewhere that numbers had been halved to the low thousands - maybe 2 or 3,000 students at Keele, so there was no danger of empty spaces. London Metropolitan University has been known to fiddle the figures and write on the grant form that there are more students at their university than really exist. I have no reason to think that this happened at Keele except the strangely distant teaching style in the economics department, which I think has other causes, so I doubt this fiddle happened at Keele as it did at London Metropolitan.


Talking of checks and balances, there was no problem flagged-up by bad student feedback, because there was no system of student feedback in the economics department. No vice chancellor insisted that there was a system of student feedback, nor external examinor, nor whatever system allowed Keele to call itself a University and get grants. If a problem was known to the funders and grandees, it wasn't thought a problem by Keele's grandee figurehead who visited in between visits to the opera and gave Fishman a ring. Nor the people from other economics departments who signed reports that Keele economics was OK, even though the department's main course had no tutorials and no stats software. I suppose their courses in other universities were just as bad.

Fake schools of thought; the double-act

This fiddles the issue of whether a course includes critical thinking. It presents two points of few and tells you to compare and contrast. It does not allow a student to put a third point of view; it's just a technique. The technique becomes more oppressive when students are steered-away from original sources like Keynes or Marshal. The equivalent in English would be to say that there are Levisite Freudian and Feminist ways to criticise a novel, and no student may criticise any other way. Keele English Department had no such nonsense, and of course worked from original sources, but did mention something in Gulliver's travels that's like economics:

Wikipedia on Gulliver's Travels The novel further describes an intra-Lilliputian quarrel over the practice of breaking eggs. Traditionally, Lilliputians broke boiled eggs on the larger end; a few generations ago, an Emperor of Lilliput, the Present Emperor's great-grandfather, had decreed that all eggs be broken on the smaller end after his son cut himself breaking the egg on the larger end. The differences between Big-Endians (those who broke their eggs at the larger end) and Little-Endians had given rise to "six rebellions... wherein one Emperor lost his life, and another his crown". The Lilliputian religion says an egg should be broken on the convenient end, which is now interpreted by the Lilliputians as the smaller end. The Big-Endians gained favour in Blefuscu.
Apparently the two economists Samuelson and Friedman used both to have columns in the same journal, putting a Keynsian and a Monetarist emphasis on whatever needed to be done that month and I suppose they suggested contrasting jobs for the weekend like planting opposite vegetables or such, but in a punch and judy kind of way with monetarists as the villain. I expect they did lecture tours together. I don't know if they shared motel rooms on those tours. If they did, I expect they had twin beds rather than double beds, because motels in 1950s america could have been strict about that kind of thing. The problem is when these people are expected to step-out of their Punch-and-Judie role and take a balanced decision - specially Mr Punch. This could explain how the Thatcher government got it so wrong by consulting american academics, and thinking that if the Keynsians had been tried they might as well ask some monetarists what to do. In defence of those who consulted Mr Punch about economics, there weren't many rival theories about in the USA; only Big-Endians and Little-Endians were allowed. Keele English department had something a bit like that as well. Jonothan Swift wrote "A modest proposal", which is very much like the thoughts of an economist used to play the baddie in fake academic controversies, suddenly asked to address a real problem. Economic solutions are more to do with raising of tax, running of social insurance schemes, and access to workshop space, training, and equipment, I think. If the teaching of economics starts with a problem to solve, there is less chance of getting a comedian in comic role to try to solve it.

Where were we?

Assessment and feedback

5. The criteria used in marking have been clear in advance. 6. Assessment arrangements & marking have been fair 7. Feedback on my work has been prompt 8.  I have received detailed comments on my work 9. Feedback on my work has helped me clarify things I did not understand

Students should be assisted and supported in their endeavours to analyse and explore information and to draw appropriate policy conclusions. - Quality Assurance Agency.
A staff team forced to spend maximum time in front of students and zero time in tutorials would not have a chance to give feedback; their diaries were full. I remember none.  Forced to teach a stats comparison on a computer, using "specially written" stats software on a BBC Acorn micro computer, there was nothing to say anyway.
Opportunities for one-to-one interaction with members of staff, during which students can receive individual help or personalised feedback on their progress, may not always present themselves as ... formal, scheduled sessions. 'Office hours' for example, are a frequent feature, where members of staff are available for one-to-one sessions during set times. Interaction via email is another example of one-to-one contact time. It is important that students are able to recognise these as opportunities for interaction with institutional staff. When students receive feedback on assessed work, whether one-to-one or in a group setting, this can also be considered to be an important element of contact time which contributes to students' learning but which, again, may not be formally scheduled.  - Quality Assurance Agency: Contact Hours
I know that I made points about how stupid the worst economic theory was, in the margin of the textbook. I would remember any chance to put these points to teachers, and their replies. I don't remember; there was no chance. The middling economic theory was OK but narrow and dry out of context. I think I got-off lightly compared to students at other colleges, who have to do more algebra, in a trend that has got worse rather than better.

to develop in students an ability to interpret real world economic events and critically assess a range of types of evidence. - Quality Assurance Agency
Professor Fishman did not base his lectures on numbers, so there was no way of challenging his statements with figures, just as we were not allowed to talk. He professed a consensus of colleagues, and constructed a comprehension course of textbook concepts with emphasis on McArthy-era journal articles to show we were a serious adult class. The tradition is referred to at the start of the Begg textbook, first edition, where Begg says he will try to put real numbers down the sides of graphs rather than using them as diagrams, and he will quote recent theory where relevant - as he does with fiscal and monetary policy - rather than stick to what's usually taught. Fishman stuck to what was usually taught, from 1950s american journal articles. Concepts such as "a public good" - a theory I remember reading live from some journal article like this one - or two theories about how to calculate "net present value" versus "internal rate of return" from one or two economist's sums, setting essay questions to show understanding of these journal articles, rather than the broader issues of the size of the public sector or long-term investment. As I write in section ten, below, any original ideas in essays were simply marked wrong.

... every student is enabled to develop as an independent learner, study their chosen subject(s) in depth and enhance their capacity for analytical, critical and creative thinking. - Quality Assurance Agency Expectation .... awareness / familiarity with the possibility that many economic problems may admit of more than one approach - Quality Assurance Agency benchmark for economic degrees
Cramming students for an exam has a problem. You can only cram for the lower pass marks; you can't cram for the independent thought that self employed people or employees like the Civil Service graduate appplicants system need.

Higher education providers operate equitable, valid and reliable processes of assessment, including for the recognition of prior learning, which enable every student to demonstrate the extent to which they have achieved the intended learning outcomes for the credit or qualification being sought. - Quality Assurance Agency Expectation
The largest single employer of economics graduates is the Central Statistical Office, through the civil service graduate entry scheme and exam. The point of a graduate entry scheme is to attract people who are different to the internally-promoted, or at least have a good degree. A job like Fishman's first temporary job, at the Aluminium and Magnesium section of a war planning department in Washington, would not have been available to most graduates from Fishman's own course. Fishman's second job was a trade union researcher. By 1988, before open source software was common, social science research jobs required very expensive software experience. The one I wanted to apply for requried "knowledge SPSS softare or similar". I tried to get a pirate copy off an ex-colleague I hardly knew, but didn't have any luck. Once Fishman professed out of nowhere: "we used to believe on Keynesian solutions but now we believe on Monetarist solutions". There were no other economics teachers in the room: his invisible friends made up a Royal "we", and shouted an extra meaning which was "don't answer back"; "only ideas from economics journals are allowed - nothing about personal thought and ideas; nothing that helps you get a job either", which is silly. I only discovered later that Fishman's invisible colleagues were probably at McGraw Hill's sales team who sold teaching aids to teachers, like workbooks of multiple choice tests and lecture notes to teach from. I only discovered later that Fishman had thought all-about bluff and rank, which was a subject of one of his favourite authors:

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. - Thorsten Veblen
I knew at the time that Fishman was lying about "now we believe": three hundred and sixty five real economists had written to The Times condemning government economic policy.

Academic support

I have... 10. received sufficient advice & support with my studies. 11. been able to contact staff when I needed to. 12.  Good advice was available when I needed to make study choices The first problem was trust. I did not know what to do with an 800-page book that had crosses on it; I didn't know what sort of thing it was or who it was for and am only just-now reading its 34 chaptors, which are surprisingly good in places. University students are usually given original sources to discuss in tutorials, I suppose, except in Economics where we studied what the teachers said, with journal articals with a textbook as backup. The book was treated like Samuelson's 1948 textbook, which is a kind of general introduction to everything economic, but Begg's 1984 textbook is different. It's written by three people - one in the UK and two in the US. It's written for different age groups - some in the UK aged 16 and, some doing degrees from age 18 or more. It was written for at least two different countries with adapted material, so there are more groups than the UK A-level and UK degree readers. The largest US market has no national social insurance system, so things like unemployment pay are not much mentioned in the text book, just in case buyers in the USA think it's a book for commies and don't order it, as has happened to other textbooks. Social insurance is the most important thing that UK government does, and reduces a governments' freedom to cut spending because unemployment just puts-up the bill for benefits. It has various advantages over private insurance for simple services that everybody wants and are not means-tested. Even the more complex NHS manages to be a lot cheaper than the US system. I don't remember studying any of this. Lastly, the book was sometimes about an economy with a lot of imports and exports like the UK, but other chapters are about a closed economy, more like the USA where there are a smaller proportion of imports and exports. This is against a background of news reports known to be untrue about how well or badly the economy was working and how the economic policies were meant to work. So students started the course with a distrust of economic opinions, and learned to trust them less along the way I suppose. With hindsight, I should just have read a chaptor a day of the thing until I knew it backwards.
The normal bit The more money the college made from you, the smarter the place to meet. I don't know if staff ratios were the same in each department but have an impression that Eng. Lit is cheap, with one estimate of depatmental costs at Bristol Uni putting it at £3,000 a year per student when the fee was £8,000. About economics. "student staff ratios - from the 1960s to the 1990s the standard ratio in university economics departments was 15:1 the range of courses has been cut, and "small classes" commonly contain 25 or more or more students, rather than 7 or 8" "When I started teaching in the Keele Economics Department in the early 1980s almost half my teaching load was given over to a group of 8 students over the whole year, who attended a two hour problem-solving workshop and one of three tutorial groups of 6 students, besides attending three weekly lectures (at the time all degrees were joint, which had been a Keele innovation). The last time I taught the first year class in 2000, I was allocated the entire year over one semester, divided up into classes of 25 students for one hour a week. The class size had tripled, and the contact time cut to a third" "The transition in schools to "teaching to the test" carried through to universities, students becoming mainly concerned with their grades, and increasingly disengaged from their subject of study." - Tribe 2014 People like me on my English course who hadn't done the subject before were chuffed to get a taste of it: it was like a holiday that we could not believe was happening. Someone else in the tutorial group grumbled that she got no personal contact at all - less than at sixth form college - and that the course was the same as A-level, but I did't care. (The tutor said it was because of funding cuts, but colleges weren't very good at giving clear information pre-internet - I discovered the 30% cut later). Somehow, this cut-down subject led to a bit at the end that felt as though we'd done a proper degree and were specialising, even though we'd done all sorts of subjects rather than just English. That's how the system worked when it worked well, for people who hadn't done the same subject at school and had no particular thing that they wanted to get study for. The internal bits of a major course would last about a year with one teacher and one tutorial group, so we'd get to know each other a little by the end. We would talk in tutorials of say six, once a week, in a kind of book club. There would be a reading list, notices on a notice board, and good lectures in a hall somewhere. That was it. Tutorials and a noticeboard, with some lectures and reading lists. We took a subject that other colleges elaborated, and we made it simple. We didn't bother with other peoples' critical theories, which are a load of rubbish a lot of the time, and concentrated on original texts and our own ideas. Where were we? I have... 10. received sufficient advice & support with my studies. 11. been able to contact staff when I needed to. In English, you could talk in a tutorial. I tried talking to a tutor about something I was stuck-on once, and we carried-on down the stairs as we talke, he said "you have a think and I'll have a think", and then he dived into a staff-only room and that was it 12. Good advice was available when I needed to make study choices To complete the list under this "support" heading, students could also walk-in and knock on the secretary's door to hand-in an essay, we could phone for some reason like having to miss an appointment. There were central services like the big library and the Speed Queen launderette, and the swimming pool. There was no swimming pool after fundraising to pay for an olympic pool and maybe get on TV did not reach the olympic target. At that point a group were able pack committees and divert the money to a faith group building - the purple thing that looms and that even the ivy boycots - but the good side is that there were no great management costs; decisions were made by cheap committees rather like Porterhouse Blue. The private sector provided a shop and a chip van, and a student union provided strange services like an Off-Campus Flat and and Education and Welfare Officer, unpaid I guess, which I didn't understand or use. There was a small Appointments and Counselling office which, to guess from the name, didn't advise on study choices. Digression comparing Economics to other departments The cheaper the course to the college, the grander the place to meet. English was taught in the old building, with glimpses of a formal garden designed to stop you thinking about the coal mine underneath. Geology, Biology, Electronics and sciences were taught in a kennel by the dustbins. Social sciences were in the middle: a crescent of rooms with plate glass windows and fitted flooring.

There were a lot of social science departments at Keele. I visited a few on short courses but staff were more penned-in. I doubt that the professor of Economics shared a loo with International Relations or Politics. To do so would reveal to the economist that these departments ran maximum-size tutorials of about 12 people while discussing original texts or videos or lectures. Economics teachers pretend ignorance of such things. Some of them state that they don't want students of Economics A-level, who are aware of how social science is usually taught. To glimpse it in practice through glass panels in doors, or to hear about it in snatches of conversation, would have caused unease. The notice boards in other departments might even have said "tutorial". I suppose that when an economics professor goes to another department, students have to hush their conversations and black curtains have to be draped over any evidence of how social sciences are usually taught. Dropping-in to use the loo would be out of the question. It would be like a visit from Queen Victoria in mourning. The most trodden flooring in the department corridors led to the notice boards. The Department of Economics and Management Science at Keele University had a puzzling notice board, giving few clues about what we had to do next, what "quantitive methods" were, whether the expectations would get clearer, whether this course was going anywhere, and what would happen in year three where there were just question marks or something like that. It wasn't much different in other departments. English had "Augustans and Romantics", followed by "The Victorians", and some choice in the third year. Economics had courses just as vaguely-described, but a huge workload for staff and students that wasn't required for English. Something about economics suggests that it is an introduction to future secrets in a way that other subjects do not. Schools of thought are based on data that an undergraduate is unable to crunch. Texbooks use words like "economist" as though such a job is common. Professors can use phrase like "... in economics", as though truth were different in different subjects. Autism has a different meaning in economics for example.

There were no tutorials: that was the difference; the Economics department had classrooms. In other departments, the tutorial was the important compulsory thing.

The department that looked like other social science departments next-door was run. In the early 80s there had been problem-solving "workshops" of students in groups of 6. By the time I arrived, most of the course was run more like the University of Boulder, Colorado in the 1960s where the chief had done a previous job before starting Keele Economics Department. The rooms had desk-size tables in them, set-out in rows with bigger table at one end next to an overhead projector or a white board. It wasn't like boarding school. We did not have to arrive with a trunk containing a tweed jacket three ties and 12 sets of white underwear; that might have been a rule for the staff. We didn't have to pack a bible and prayer book, but we did have to buy an 800 page book with crosses on it. There was no brass lecturn in the shape of an eagle - that would be odd - but the meeting was called a "class" which was quite odd for a UK university, and there was a telephone on the teachers' desk which was odd as well. "Classes" would be small lectures or drills in subjects like statistics for two hours a week, which were alien to the departments like politics or american studies or english literature. I guess they were unique to Economics. Maybe Computer Science had them. I read that US colleges don't have tutorials, so the man who managed this economics department got a management and professorial job with barely any relevant experience. His CV says he was a teaching assistant for a couple of years at Berkley, which I gather can mean filling-in for lack of a proper tutorial by running small groups for "recitation" - a drilling excercise. Teaching assitants can help with revision, or possibly discussion. On a scale of badness, one to ten, with ten as the baddest teaching I could have expected at a UK university, a recitation is about ten. There were no teaching assistants at Keele, so economics students joined a different kind of club to 1960s american ones. When you get older than school leaving age - specially at student age - you should be able to study pretty-much on your own and extract knowledge from an expert who isn't a great teacher, but this man didn't give students a chance. He didn't talk about subjects he was interested in, like unemployment or trades unions. He stood at one end of a room and tried to cram us full of Paul Samuelson's view of the world; a textbook view of curves and introductory algebra.

Lecture: A presentation or talk on a particular topic; Seminar: A discussion or classroom session focusing on a particular topic or project; Tutorial: A meeting involving one-to-one or small group supervision, feedback or detailed discussion on a particular topic or project; Project supervision: A meeting with a supervisor to discuss a particular piece of work; Demonstration: A session involving the demonstration of a practical technique or skill; Practical classes and workshops: A session involving the development and practical application of a particular skill or technique; Supervised time in studio/workshop: Time in which students work independently but under supervision, in a specialist facility such as a studio or workshop; Fieldwork: Practical work conducted at an external site; External visit: A visit to a location outside of the usual learning spaces, to experience a particular environment, event, or exhibition relevant to the course of study; Work-based learning: Learning that takes place in the workplace. Affair: undefined. QAA: Contact Hours
We didn't use first names, or any names, even towards the end of a course: not "Les", nor "Leslie" or "Fishface" or anything else. We didn't use any names except to read from bits of paper like timetables and office doors. There was no interaction that would require the use of a name. There was no interaction that would help professor Fishman know the expectations and abilities of students except different variations of scowl on young un-creased faces. We were good essay-writers for example - postwar education in the UK had a lot of essays at O & A-level. All of us had noticed the recession as well, and wanted to test the ideas we had written and read-about. We were used to independent thought, conflicting opinions, and original sources. A lot of us were interested in manufacturing; that was big in the 80s too. In Colorado or UCLA, where Fishman learned his trade, the separation of students and staff is still normal; very short courses called modules are taught from a distance to a bus-load of people:

This is a large class. I probably will not learn all of your names. In addition to the course lectures on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you have been assigned to a once-a-week small review session with one or two teaching assistants. The teaching assistants for the course are there to help you both in the review sessions and in office hours. - Professor Edward Moray who has 500 students at Colorado
On discovering that UK universities emphasise tutorials, Fishman must have decided and said: "no: not for me", and the people around him must have gone-along with it for two years at Warwick University and then forever when he got a boss job at Keele. I expect he got caught-out as clueless at Warwick Uni and didn't want to be caught-out again. He was in favour of tutorials, in theory, just so long as they never happened. A colleague mentioned the first part of the sentence while checking whether we students were OK with the concept on our final year. We were. He even dared go with us to a pub at the end of the course (although not at the beginning) and we didn't throw things at him. According to his book he'd done the same in 1984: "I am greatful also to my students at Keele for heated discussions on some of the ideas presented here.". But Fishman was not going to change his position because of facts. As he said to a visitor in Colorado in 1965, there was always some reason that the students needed to be "spoon fed" for failure to "absorb a text book", which sounds a bit like feeding a Sufferagette on hunger strike. He said the same at the end of his career as he did at the beginning. We students and teachers didn't learn from each other. I have no idea what the other students thought about anything, which is a pity because life after college doesn't provide such good opportunities for people who disagree to find-out about each other. Other social science departments had large tutorials of about 12 students, so I doubt people learned a huge amount from each other, but there was no chance in the Economics department. I think that's the hardest thing to re-create after college; there is no similar chance to meet people while they are learning about the economy. For example the textbook quotes steelworkers as an example of unemployed people who have bid their wages up to an un-competative level. Someone on the course had a dad who was a steelworker before the local steelworks closed. I would like to have a memory of a teacher asking "does anyone have parents who have been through something like this?". No. That wasn't considered a suitable source of information, whether true or false. I wondered where all this economic certainty came-from, if not from real life.

These approaches to the learning process are supported by appropriate resources including access to economic data bases, such as the Office of National Statistics data base, information technology based resources, and written materials. The use of such resources encourages active learning and the ability to select and make appropriate use of supporting evidence - Quality Assurance Agency default
The department had a lot of doors which probably led to vacant offices, since taxpayer funding had fallen by a third. Jobs called "professional support staff" didn't exist. One of the doors was the lavatory, because even American economics professors poo. If you opened the wrong door, you might find a sort of waiting room that doubled as a departmental library. Journals from the Office of National Statistics was stored in the departmental library, immaculate, with spines un-creased, in a safe place where nobody would ever find them because we didn't use primary sources for data. A lecturer mentioned them when we had to do a computer stats excercise. Maybe Eurostat data was there too - I saw it mentioned in handouts but never discovered how to look it up. As for the "red book" mentioned in a lecture about the budget statement, I tried asking in Chiswick Reference Library but the librarian said that it wasn't published under that title. We didn't use primary sources for ideas either. Not a page of Keynes or Friedman or the chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe's speeches was  turned. The Prime Minister decided to say she had an official economic advisor from an academic background. His comments were not un-picked. Shelves on the classroom walls had long empty spaces. Students were encouraged to subscribe to the free journals sent-out by Lloyds Bank in those days before the internet, but we never had much use of their content. The Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin was sometimes quoted. I said that the big difference was that there were no tutorials on the main course. None. Nor any invite to anything like. No tutor, no drop-in times, no discussions, no computer time. In the things called "class" someone would stand at one end of the room like a weatherman, talking about something forgettable like chi-squared and test exercises to stop us forgetting it until the exam, and then revision classes. Some of them were about economic theories that were obviously untrue or inapplicable. I don't remember how often people asked questions in class; it wasn't encouraged, but that was the only interaction between staff and students. There was no option to opt-out of the obviously stupid parts of the course that taught wrong facts or un-usable skills. There was no need for advice about study choices because there was ony study choice in each main joint-honours part of the degree - a choice of between two short specialised courses in the third year which were taught like courses at other departments, with tutorials, and that was it, for three or four years of life commitment. The third year wasn't as long as years one and two because of exams and the need to hide in a room and revise every waking hour in the months beforehand, so the specialised course was short. After a month or so hiding with revision notes, and some exams, people drifted home. 12. Good advice was available when I needed to make study choices

Keele ran a Foundation Year. A lot of next year's students were walking-around the same corridors. They could be contacted with no need for a stamp and asked a question like "do you know that this course repeats A-level?"; "do you know that it's better to change-away from your school subjects?". That didn't happen. Maybe the person who's job it was to send information to students had been made redundant, and anyway paper costs half a penny per sheet. As at other universities, economics students are attracted by a sort of con, which is to use the same subject name as a popular essay-based A-level and then disappoint. As at other universities, students' ability to choose a course does not run as far as reading and understanding the prospectus. I didn't even know what the non A-level subjects were. I just assumed that you do A-level, and then you find out a good place to "do" the same subject at uni or if you are very naughty at Keele then maybe change in a foundation year. I didn't realise that there is a great un-solved problem of whether Uni courses repeat A-level, or whether Uni courses with similar names teach unexpected things. So I was at fault for not knowing what to study, and good advice as not available to people applying to Uni in order to find out what they wanted to study and compare it with what staff wanted to teach. Teachers and students had to put-up with some kind of handed-down tradition of what a Uni economics course is meant to be.

Organisation & management

13. The timetable works efficiently as far as my activities are concerned. There was a problem with year three. Half of it didn't happen and we had a thing called a revision course instead.  14. Any changes in the course or teaching have been communicated effectively. There was a problem with year two: no tutorials. This was a change but students didn't know it. The early 80s course sounds good, with "problem-solving workshops" of students in groups of six, but by the time I was there in 86, there was a man at one end of a room teaching about 25 people about ISLM curves in a closed economy - one where imports and exports aren't important like maybe the USA in 1930. He probably mentioned a bit on the side of the graph to show imports and exports, but the link between that bit on the side and 25% of the workforce not working wasn't mentioned much; I don't remember it.. I just remember hims saying that "your attitude has been noted by all members of the department". . 15. The course is well organised & is running smoothly. It was calm 16. The syllabus is roughly described on the prospectus and brings together people with a common interest. There is no student survey question for how well a course is described to prospective students. Describe too much, and you prevent yourself as a teacher from adapting to the the people who turn-up. Some want a clear hard-to-fail course for no very good reason. Maybe they think it will help them in business which seems implausible. Some want a broad discussion in which it is easier to loose track of what's expected to pass the exam. Some expect a course to follow A-level, which seems reasonable. Some don't. Describe too little in the prospectus, and you can attract oddballs to an otherwise under-subscribed course who do not share any idea of why they sat-down in the same room together on day one. The system was to write about an A5 or A6 - size page of Times Roman in a printed prospectus, sent to reference libraries and school careers advisers. I'd like to see a scan of the one for 1987 entry Keele Economics. If any student wants to ask for a copy in the library, scan it and email to shop at veganline com that would be appreciated. It probably said that there was a broad lecture course and a narrow series of classes that dived-in to the essential detail needed to understand economics for general interest or financial careers. The students, like me, probably came for all sorts of reasons and that's a fault; students should be marked by teachers for the national student survey if it's fair. An online comment from an economics teacher from some college is that the variance between students in what they want is so great that you can't please many of them. An online comment from an economics student from some college is that nothing on the course can be used for anything - begging the question of why they applied for the course. (Personally, I would rather have studied industrial design but had no idea how to do it - my careers teacher thought it was something to do with art colleges. I read online that there was a system called ADAR and there was a new central system just starting-up for polytechnic courses, stuff which I read for the first time on Wikipedia, rather too late.)

Given flunked A-level grades, I discovered Keele Foundation Year and went from there. 15. The course is well organised & is running smoothly. Fishman summoned students for no reason during the course, forgot what he had summoned them for, but did not apologise. I was one of them. I expect he had got the name wrong. I wondered again about his sense of hierarchy - it looked as though he thought he power of arrest as an adult education teacher, maybe picked-up when people who left US colleges faced the draft. The memo read...

"please see me immediately"
...without explanation. It was typed on a plain landscape ticket of paper about the width of A4 - something you might print with a tractor-feed and a daisy wheel printer. You can see a sample here from the author of "The Price of Fish". A4 paper went a bit crooked in the american letter-width machine. So the department secretary most likely had a word-processor. This is relevant to the learning resources paragraph. As for the message, that's all I know. I don't remember if it followed my too-and-fro under the other heading: feedback from students. Fishman must have known the faces of students, if not names because he only had a coach load of us in each year. I was on the register as David Robertson. I said my name was John. Maybe he remembered by question about Servis washing machines at the Design Centre. He paused.
"Let me see. How are you getting on?".
This was the second time he spoke to me in my time at Keele. I don't know if I had a lucky escape. I liked to escape mad bureaucrats by using a different first name in real life to the name on the student register - about the only social skill I learnt at boarding school. If the plan of "all members of the department" had been to throw me off the course for answering-back or "attitude", then this trick saved my place on the course, combined with a thrifty approach by the chief. If I didn't say anything terrible, he didn't need to know any more. Maybe the note was meant for someone else. I suppose I was getting-on OK; I had understood where to go at what time, I later did lots of revision and got my degree, but remember being puzzled by a lack of pattern in the course. This is a current quote about "module options in economics" that assumes a single-subject degree course:

"Universities offer a wide range of modules presenting us with a difficult task. We have chosen 20 modules that we feel are representative of all Universities nation-wide. Names and content of modules will differ depending upon the institution. Not all institutions offer all 20 modules listed but many offer others that we haven't covered." - economics network guide for prospective students
Keele University offered loads of course options at random but only two courses for choice to economics students, reduced to one plus revision at whim in my 1984-7 group. I could study the UK economy or Cow Theory, which is untrue, so I studied the UK economy for about a quarter of the time over about 20 weeks in year three. The only other choice was whether we understood the notice board or not, and I had trouble. It began with vague headings for years one and two like "quantitative methods". Methods of what? Or time devoted to "micro economics" and "macro economics", as a kind of introduction to something that never happened. Economics is like that. There was a good textbook, nearly 800 pages long, with about 30 chaptors highlighting vital points in red and listing revision summeries at the end of each chapter. I'm only just reading it now: it's goodish. But, when a teacher taught textbook economics, it was not related closely to the textbook; we didn't have a list of what chaptors covered the same topics as whatever lectures. They were in a more academic style in which the X-shaped diagram of supply and demand is called the "SD model" in which S and D do something-or-other for those able to pay attention. The third year timetable was mysterious because the chief himself didn't know if there would be one or two optional modules, or else revision. I expect it had picture of question marks and dragons and sea monsters on it. What were we meant to do with our statistical knowledge or "quantitative methods" before we forgot it again? How many subjects were we meant to study in enough depth to answer an exam question? I suppose that if there had been tutorials, someone else would have asked these questions, the tutor would have said something, everyone else in the group would have discovered, and the tutor would have known better what should be typed and put on the notice board.

"the joint honours degree meant that each department was constrained to deliver just the core of the subject, since they only had about 6 hours per week of the students total time. The purpose of the design was to enable students to put together unusual combinations of subjects through their own choices, which was a good idea, but with a teaching downside. And then in the 1990s students increasingly opted for related subjects, making the original design redundant. The second year economics in the 1980s was
  • three hours lectures, two hours on stats, and
  • one class.
The third year was similar, with
  • one or
  • two
options in the final half of the year." - email reply to a question from an ex-Keele economics professor " knowledge in an appropriate number of specialised areas in economics as well as an appreciation of the research literature in these areas." - QAA benchmark
If there was a coach-load of students per year for economics, half-time in the second two years (less in the first) , then a class was probably for 15 people and a lecture for 30, costing five hours on the payroll per week. Add to that the cost of preparation, marking, and administration, and you get more, and I could be wrong; maybe there were two coach loads of people on the course but it was certainly a cheap course from college administrators' point of view and not great value from my point of view, with teachers stuck between the two points of view. When Keele economics staff were threatened with redundancy in 2008, it is a fault in the system that they could not have just gone and taught in a room above a reference library somewhere in the pottery towns and got just as many applicants without the price of a hierachy to pay-for. Oh we were talking about study choices There weren't any in economics except between the British Economic Crisis course and one on Cow Theory. Some years there was a course on how to fund the welfare state in thirty years' time, but it didn't run my year as they couldn't afford the staff, so students had to study the inplausible ISLM diagram and learn it by heart instead. There wasn't any choice about that. In brighter times there would be a second specialist course. For no stated reason, Fishman decided not; he would tutor a "revision class" in the time remaining, to teach the more technical bits of Economics A-level for the third time. "Tutor" was just a word on a notice board. He handed out photocopied sheets of excercises and we rehearsed answers or watched him run-through an explanation. Excercises about things like diminishing marginal utility, finding the tummy button on the dinosoar, implausible ISLM charts with the vital bit hidden on one side, and something to do with broiler chickens.

Learning resources

16. The library resources and services are good enough for my needs. 17. I have been able to access general IT resources when I needed 18. I have been able to access specialised equipment, facilities, or rooms when I needed to.

There was another management problem in a slot-together course. Who is best placed to teach computerised stats or allow "access to specialised equipment" to social scientists? The Computer Science Department run by temps? The Library? If they both refuse, who's next best? The same problem applies to any course that uses technical equipment, and the answer should probably be the careers office, that might try to arrange access that non-students can use as well as students; access wouldn't end on graduation day. For example if Staffordshire Uni could teach parts of its pot course in commercial factories at weekends, and the same factories let time by the hour to anyone safe, that would be good for small pot businesses in Staffordshire and good for under-employed pot graduates. The problem ran from the early 20th century, when tabulating machines were useful but expensive, through to 1987 when people at Keele still used the mainframe, until a few years ago when job adverts still specified epensive software like SPSS that no job applicant would want to buy in order to train for the job.

1940s and 1950s computing

Practical Farmers of Idaho continue a tradition of statistics used for practical farming, particularly at the Idaho State College where the two types of mechanical calculator - an adding machine and a tabulator - were teamed together with the help of people who's job title was "computer" and plenty of help from business administration or economics students looking for work. US machines were unusual in using punched cards; the ones in my dad's business had adding machine printouts and card displays on racks, with ingenious puching-through of numbers through carbon paper to different account sheets and cards, but no database. People who's names are quoted in statistics books travelled long distances to see the set-up at Idaho, and other colleges like Colorado copied the set-up later. By 1958, Colorado's statistical laboratory had an IBM 1620 computer. There are pictures of it on page 15 of the link. Fishman used it, or a successor, to print tables of correlations for his team's work on unemployment experiences of ex defense workers. There were similar computing systems developed in the UK, twice held back by one person. Churchill chose the gold standard in the 1930s, making exports difficult, and the same Churchill ordered the break-up of the Bletchley Park computer after the second world war. Dispite Churchill's efforts, there were computers in UK colleges in the 1960s.

1960s and 1970s computing

Fishman lectured for a year or two at Warwick University. Their library catalogue has a folder of old press releases which they have labelled "Folders", like this one: "Folders: Oct 1966 - Sep 1967 - New buildings ... Statistics Lab". They would have used a GEC or ICL mainframe. Later the college made a video to explain their stats program called SPSS. That was a free program developed in 1969 at Chicago University and described in a McGraw Hill manual that appeared college book shops and most college libraries from about 1970. SPSS ran on the kind of mainframe computers that ran Fortran and were owned by universities and large companies. If Keele had a computer it was quite likely the one in this 1973 sales brochure , which was daunting but had a keyboard and a screen and a text-based disc operating system as well as free training from the manufacturer, if your boss paid a vast fee for the computer. Keele has a few books in the library about programming with Algol in the 60s and 70s - a system that was also used at Stamford Uni and had something to do with cards. Fishman was well placed to start teaching SPSS; he could watch the videos at Warwick University. He could read the manual in a library. He could get the program for free in the late 60s. He could even afford a car. His daughter was on an economics course at Sussex University and could tell him what they did there. Fishman had experience of using some kind of punched card system for his surveys of labour trends on Denver in the mid 60s. None of these advantages persuaded Fishman to take the initiative, risk doing something he was bad at, and learn how to use the thing. This time he didn't go-in to the job as the boss of the project nor could he delegate to specialists. Not all social science departments at universities used statistics software for undergraduate courses. A reference from St Andrews University says that some social science departments only had a handful of people registered to use their computer in 1971 (see "ten years ago", bottom left of the linked leaflet). SPSS was free for a while, then very expensive, so rivals including open source or cheap stats programs took most of the market. By the end of the 1970s, office and university computers were more common. Free and cheap stats programs were available if obscure and hard to use. Keele had an OS4000 operating system on a GEC mainframe for a main central computer service by 1980 which could, presumably, run programs like SPSS although there aren't many references to Keele and computing from the 1970s, nor named software that could run on the OS4000. There are references to Fortran, which was also used by punched card systems in the 60s for surveys of employment trends in Denver 

1980s computing

Expectation C
Higher education providers produce information for their intended audiences about the learning opportunities they offer that is fit for purpose, accessible and trustworthy. - Quality Assurance Agency

It's impossible to believe that anyone in the 80s would have signed-up to an economics degree that had two hours' a week of manual stats computing, if they access to information that was fit for purpose. But with a huge hole in the budget and not much idea who would be available to teach what, it's easy to see why information and the offer were a bit vague. There were plans to merge departments with another college for example, dropped at the last minute, so the department chief would not have known if he was going to work to retirement age or get redundancy before.

Long Bit about 1980s computering 
Note to self: combine green bits At the turn of the decade, a lot of schools took a government grant towards their first micro-computer - a BBC Acorn machine that matched video programs of how to write a program in the Pascal programming language. All this passed me by until the Keele foundation year, when a short course followed exactly the same format, but without the micro-computers or videos. A temporary teacher stood at one end of a room, apologised for not usually using Pascal, and tried to explain some point about programming while writing a programming on the white board, that we could copy-down and complete on the GEC mainfraime that evening. If it worked, then we bridged the gap between arts and science teaching and formed a new better-educated group of graduates. If it didn't work, we just wondered where all those micro-computers and videos had gone.

St Andrews University had SPSS on their mainframe but expected to give it up as users moved to the MSDos version as released in 1984, with an asking prices from $795 to $1,400 for all three parts. Their document mentions consultation - something alien to Keele economics students. I remember a GEC mainframe computer available to computer science students in the mid 80s and used for attempts to teach Pascal without much success. There weren't enough decent books on how to use Pascal because, as the teacher said "It's hard for me because people don't usually use Pascal; I don't use Pascal", but it was the programming language that the GEC computer could handle by default. This was one of the loads of short courses that everyone had to do. There were terminals in a room in Keele's computer science department, available all day and all evening for anyone to register to use. The terminals were a bit like MsDOS with no teaching help available and probably fewer functions. Keele Economics Department would have a word processor from some point in the mid eighties - most likely an early Amstrad that had a CP/M operating system or a PC with Wordstar. Both came bundled with a program called Supercalc. Supercalc Version 1 had no statistical functions beyond a lesson in the manual for calculating "break-even" on fixed and variable costs, but the 1987 versions of Supercalc and its cheap rival As Easy As (version 3, 1987) had buttons for

  • average (mean),

  • variance

  • standard deviation.

Meanwhile the job agencies of London high streets had postcards in the window for people who could touch-type to 60 or 120 words a minute, and people who could use Lotus 123, Wordstar or Wordperfect. Some time in the 80s, department secretaries in colleges like Keele could have been the best qualified teacher available, because they had the latest  manual for the office computer. The 1987 degree exam was obsolete even as we took it in terms of preparing students with craft skills for getting jobs in job agencies. Going off the point, I don't remember any non-teaching support staff at the department beyond someone who answered a phone call once. Now there are this many, which I count as twelve. The economics department in 1984-7 had fewer students than the combined department in 2016, but not twelve times fewer, and I somehow had the impression that there was only one person to answer the phone and do the admin when I was a student, plus a registry in one of the old huts.

1980s half-sane or sane computing

Somewhere, the economics department had obtained a collection of BBC Acorn micro computers. If you were running an economics course in the 1980s, and your college had just suffered massive funding cuts, you had a problem. Academic staff and staff or all kinds were the two hardest things to cut, making everything else a cyclical good, like a van, which is not replaced in a recession, or paper and library books, which are not bought. At the same time the whole number-crunching business changes each year in the 1980s. In the 70s, college principals fell for sales talks from ICL and GEC selling mainframe computers. In the 80s, there was a brief flourish of UK-made personal computers that were far cheaper and were used in education, followed by a mass take-up of imported computers that were IBM compatible for offices or apple compatible for graphics. <NOTE TO SELF>This bit has come round before </NOTE TO SELF> The choice was more confusing because of a short-lived public education program. Grants were available for schools to buy Acorn's BBC Micro computers, and even colleges got a grant in May 85. The British Council funded some in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Software for them was aimed cringing-ly at the school market, but that might have included something good for stats, while college departments would have brochures from Instat through their letter box, available from November 1985 at under £100 from Reading University, who's current price is £500 for a department and free for non-commercial use. They wrote it for that British Council job in Sri Lanka. I suppose £100 counted as one of those "little bits extra" that Fishman mentioned to his boss on the phone mid-class. Five Ways Software produced a stats program for the BBC called "Status" in 1987, the same year in which Trius Softwrae included functions for Variance, Mean, and Standard Deviation in As Easy As Version 3, an early cheap spreadsheet for IBM compatible machines. ( dot zip) Academic journals reviewed other similar options for other operating systems, and you can check the names of the programs on google scholar and jstor. The choice of system was confusing, but information was easy to get in academic journals. Money and clarity were the problem. Economic policies, that we were not taught about, lead to the closure of the Acorn Computers and BBC Micro production soon after. So, running a small Economics department in the 1980s you would have had a few choices, with the added complication of an operating system that had come-in and gone-out of fashion very quickly. Otherwise the choices were familiar enough.

  • How to share computers stats teaching work with other departments?

  • How to get usable software & computers in a place with evening access and security?

  • Can existing hardware - BBC Micros, the computer in the office and the Computer Science mainframe - run good enough software?

The half-sane option would be to read the brochures that came in the mail and the journal articles, buy something like Instat, put it on at least one BBC Micro, and bolt that down to a desk in the department library, increasing numbers as demand required. The sane option would be to work something out with the main library or computer science department, who had buildings open in the evenings with security. It would rely on other departments being sane, but other universities managed it and Fishman was a negotiator. He could have had a word with the college Grandee, Sir Clous Moser, who was a statistician. Except that he did; I probably heard it in class. It was the call about "that little bit extra" that needed to be cut-back in order to pay for Moser's opera. [Technical note: politicians seldom compre one budget like education against another like arts, and economists don't pick them up on this point often enough. Maybe this is because grandees from the Royal Opera House are then appointed to run every other instituion in the UK].

1980s computing after neglect and then 30% budget cuts

The photo is from a school, but very much like the set-up at Keele. The scarce BBC micro computers were not used every day for a load of different departments. They weren't bolted to desks for students to use somewhere public. They were put to one side of a locked classroom on one department , and I expect that one or two other departments got some others, and the Computer Science department was left with none. We students used them for one exercise only. We chose two columns of figures - advised to go back 25 years I think - and checked correlation, using a simple command-line program that was hard to use or apply to anything real. There was no feedback or discussion of any student results - even our own - we were simply scored on our ability to do a stats exercises with numbers we had chosen. develop in students, through the study of economics, a range of generic skills that will be of value in employment and self-employment - Quality Assurance Agency attempt at a consensu statement on Economics
Keele graduates had a skill too completely useless to put on our CVs. Fishman's CV starts "1942 (Fall) Assistant statistician, Aluminium and Magnesium Branch, Production Board, Washington DC". If a similar job cropped-up in 1988, Keele Economics graduates would not qualify to apply. Fishman applied during a shortage of qualified people. If a similar job cropped-up in 1988, an employer would have trouble fending-off all the applications. By the mid 1980s, a $60 MSDOS spreadsheet had stats processing functions, affordable for self-employment. Job agency windows in West London still had some office jobs and named the software needed, which was never related to BBC Micros. Wordstar, Wordperfect, Lotus 123 were the programs for getting jobs. Instat might have helped get a job - it was at least a named piece of software that could be quoted on a CV. SPSS would become a favourite for social science research job adverts because it was so over-priced that it was nearly impossible to learn at home. I know this because I tried to get a social science research job ten years after graduating, and failed to find a pirate copy to learn from. Fishman's department got £23,900 and then £9,810 of taxpayer funding from the Economic and Social Research Council starting in 1985 for researching redundant Michelin Tyre workers in the Potteries, so there should have been a chance to pay for some software out of that money as well as funding out of teaching money. The oldest SPSS software book in the college library is 1988; if Fishman had done his job four years earlier, four years'-worth of students would have had massively better job prospects.

20-teens computing

awareness & proficiency in quantitative methods & computing techniques appropriate to their programme of study, show an appreciation of the contexts in which these techniques and methods are relevant & how to use them effectively across a range of problems. - Quality Assurance Agency benchmark for economics degrees
There were fewer things like Quality Assurance Agency Benchmark Standards in the 80s, but the principal still applies; I expected to use current computer technology for some kind of model and any reasonable applicant to the course would expect the same.

Chapter X:

A digression about the chief, Les Fishman has more, and most of this should go there and you might want to skip to the next bit

The man's name was "Leslie Fishman". It said so on his office door, as do descriptions of the Fishman Bursary, in memory of all those who suffered his awful course. His bottom, pictured above, was known as "Professor Leslie Fishman". Professor Fishman left a lot of records and I wonder if they show why a teaching economist could so clearly talk out of his bottom about the UK 1980s economic crisis at the height of its effects, to some of the people most effected.

He was an interesting, decent man in other ways, which makes him easier to write about. He also taught a course that was meant to be "introductory", or a taster course I suppose. Textbooks have "introduction" written on them. So I have always wondered what this was an introduction to; what secret events go-on behind the scenes, and obituaries of Leslie Fishman suggested that there might be something to find, which there wasn't but it's a biography worth a look. All I discovered was that I am still angry about the 1980s recession and economists in general. And I found some Pete Seger music online which is a kind of curiosity. Tha man's name was "Leslie Fishman". It says so under this picture of him before judges in a public competition to make noises out of his bottom. Or maybe it is as the report says: he trying to drum-up student support for a staff boycott of a system called a "loyalty oath" at UCLA, University College Los Angeles, where he had become part of the furniture since the age of 16. The front of him made a speech, reported as dramatic. The subject attracted however many students you can count in the photo, But it was his bottom that became my professor in the early 80s. Fishman in the 70s and early 80s survived a peer-review system that suggests he was not much worse than economics professors running other short courses like the Oxford PPE course, that schooled several MPs and people who MPs meet. University College London and probably Open University ran short economics degree courses too. (A couple of teachers from Open University and Middlesex University - Leviacic and Redman - wrote a textbook about monetary policy so stupid that I wrote angry notes in the margin dispite the chance of selling it for a fiver if I had left it clean.) Fishman Junior - Nina Fishman - donated just about every bit of paper from her life to libraries. Les Fishman had an interest in US civil rights that left him remembered in fond notes scattered across the internet. There is so much that I should transfer most of this to another page and cut what's written here. Lastly he belonged to a party that might have got him on the list of people to stalk and bug at MI5 and got him in the picture above and if so the file might one day be released to the National Archive just as one of his ex colleagues in the USA has seen notes of reports to him to the FBI by a college president. The scale of injustice against political people was large. I am not sure quite how to look-up records. I think there were overt efforts from about 1946-56 and covert till 71. That late date says something. It is late enough to wear-out a man who was once a debating champion and student activist, and force him to move to the UK where teaching standards are higher and it rains more. It is late enough to suggest other US efforts to promote any available gangster (or better) to run any available country in order to stop the spread of something they didn't like and called communism. Most of this section has moved to the post headed Leslie Fishman

University of Berkley Arts Bachelor, war service, and teaching

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Sergeant Leslie Fishman, United States Army, for gallantry in action as a member of Company G, 303d Infantry Regiment, 97th Infantry Division, in action at Troisdorf, Germany, on 11 April 1945. ...
General Orders: Headquarters, 97th Infantry Division, General Orders No. 12 (May 2, 1945) -- In the assault on the Glockner Works at Troisdorf , one platoon was immediately cut off as it entered a building in the factory complex. A firefight developed in which several soldiers of the platoon were killed or wounded. The platoon's position was untenable. For Sergeant Leslie Fishman, the solution to the problem was obvious: the Germans should surrender. Sergeant Fishman and Second Lieutenant W. Christianson, a company officer who was cut off with the platoon, persuaded Nazi soldiers to lead them to the officer in charge. While admitting that they were hopelessly surrounded, Fishman and Christianson warned the enemy officer that an American battalion would soon be in position to attack the Glockner Works and that the wisest course of action would be for the Germans to surrender immediately. Within a short period of time, six German officers and 170 enlisted men were prisoners of Lieutenant Christianson and Sergeant Fishman. The courage, initiative, and determination illustrated by this example were attributes of many of the men in the Division. -

The CV is from Fishman's thesis, eventually submitted in 1957. He didn't mention the medal. A document from April 1950 has "Leslie Fishman, lecturer in business administration and spokesman for the Non-Senate Academic Employees", the same one who addressed students in the top picture and is sacked in September 1950, so he only got one year of lecturing experience, and no money to look after a child. It looks as though most of the benefit of the job as accomodation and a chance to get a second degree, needed for a teaching career, and he hadn't finished the one he was doing. Fishman would also have been an obvious target and obvious speaker because a web reference cites him as a "former CIO researcher" - the CIO being a union group hounding-out communists at the same time, so he lost both jobs. The CV doesn't say anything about the jobs. There is a record of a Senate enquiry into the textile trade, where the CIO boss answers questions and Fishman sits next to him without speaking. There are clues about the teaching assistant and lecturer jobs from Fishman's teaching style later-on. He was keen in "revision classes" and cancelled other study options in order to teach them himself. He would also come-up with folksy references to every-day finance. These are the clues about the subject and teaching skills he would have picked-up.

  • US colleges don't do tutorial discussions as a rule. They may have revision classes run by teaching assistants, or the odd discussion, or "recitation" which is drilling of workbook excercises. Searching online for microeconomics workbook exercises, you see references to UCLA and courses like this one in 2013. It's hard to see why someone would sign-up to such a course, even if paid-for indirectly via taxes to the state of California. 45% of the marks for this wrote-learning course are awarded for agreeing with the teacher in homework and "class participation", and there is a maxium proportion of graduates who can get top grades which would allow them entry to graduate-entry schemese or a chance to pay for further study, perhaps funded by being a teaching assistant. Anyone who graduates well from this course is a good actor or easily-led. It is the opposite of a good english degree.

  • Business Administration Degrees at Berkley are now only available to people who drop-out of a major subject after year one and study for two thirds of the rest of their time, starting from scratch; the same system might have applied in the 1940s, and it if did, applicants would be people who wanted to avoid the draft but didn't dare mention anything so controversial in an essay or a tutorialm because the likes of the McArthey committee would summon them and question them and generally upset their career prospects and funding for the college if nothing else. Business administration degrees do not cover macro-economics and more like those modern degrees with titles like "hospitality and tourism" that produce the most unemployed graduates.

  • Hass Business School Extension Program is another brand name of the same department. It runs an adult education evening class; it is not part of a degree course. They scour the globe for people willing to pay them money for courses like I haven't worked-out how much it overlaps with university teaching at Keele 1985-7.

The poster girl for Hass Extensions is someone sent by her employer - someone internally promoted, not proven in business or business-minded, who wants to test her common sense knowledge and play a part in company meetings. The markets for that kind of teaching at the time could have been training for returning soldiers, guest events at schools, general knowledge courses for young apprentices; anything that any institution wanted to pay for, with cheap staff and an immaculate proposal. I guess these adult education business administration students are different from college students in a recession who have already done A-level economics A level . One group is interested in micro-economics; one macro-economics. One group generally wants to know how well things are working, the other group wants to know why they don't work. One group is there because they want to prove that they know how a whelk stall works; the other group are there because they think they already know how a whelk stall works and want to know about the Treasury. The modest group has a job; the grander group has no job. "Do people keep money in their checking account now? I remember, when I was younger, you would always try to keep a little bit of a reserve in your bank account". Fishman had a slow, goofy way of talking, and I remember some of the lines that seemed a bit odd later-on when he taught university degree students. He had an odd style of self-interruption would suit technical subjects. He'd say things like "it costs 99p. Do you want the 1p change? No? Well maybe you do! A piece of research says that people do prefer to pay 99p".
My father was also a student in the first years of the war. It was easy to get a place in a grand-sounding university in the late 30s and early 40s because people at universities are usually of military age; if you were fit for one university, I guess you were pretty-much fit for all of them. The teachers were like the cast of Dad's Army, and it was normal to start a course before military service, as my and Fishman did, in hope of securing a place on return. My fathers' brother didn't return from fighting in Holland that involved the stalking of an enemy sniper post from behind a haystack, with a very long radio arial. Officers on both sides had ordered continued fighting, even though anyone who listened to the radio rightly guessed it was a few days from the end of the war in Europe. Some of those who came back didn't take to being treated like people in a monastery or a boarding school. The boss of one college ordered barbed wire to be put on the walls, in some wierd attempt to stop people leaving the building at night. One morning he found the ex-commandos had coiled it up and returned to block the stairs outside his staff flat, I think the walls went without barbed wire after that.

Fishman had tried a few experiments at Berkley on return from war, trying to help students who got badly treated while working as restaurant staff by taking collective action. He didn't get far but it was a good idea. He had another idea to delay or stop this planned loyalty oath system, which was to get enough people to refuse on principal that it could not be used as a way of smmandoscocking staff. Another good try. My father also served in the lowest rank and survived doing Russian supply convoys in wobbly Liberty Boats by fluke - because they were cancelled. He was offered a chance to be a weather man and took it. The meterological staff used to use seaweed to look technically competant to visiting officers. Like algebra, nobody knew what it meant except that the met office staff were busy. When allowed to leave the forces he returned to his university, changed his subject and met his partner a few years later. He said that returning soldiers are good at exposing silly managers. Someone at his live-in college tried to stop students returning after-hours by putting barbed wire on the walls. Ex-commandos took it off and very honestly left it blocking the manager's staircase, just in case he had some other use for it. The page below is the kind of teaching material available for Business Administration lectures. It's from the contents pages of Samuelson's 1948 textbook. You can see it on the "search inside" page on Amazon for a new reprint and there's a transcript on a blog page called Leslie Fishman Writings. There are other chapters but these are the most relevant for reasons I guess below the quote. A first impression is that there wasn't an A-level economics course in those days; this textbook starts from scratch, which gives it a sense of being a coherent whole. It's based on one decade, one author, one country. Those who read every word might have more detailed comments. The person who wrote it had an easy job because a reason for being a student in 1948 - specially if you ended up on the business administration course - was to avoid the draft to be killed in Vietnam, a subject absent from the textbook. Paul Samuelson's courses were full to the brim. Likewise, when I studied at Keele in 1984, the main reason was to avoid unemployment of the kind surely to apply to us students of useless teaching by over-paid people who listened to Pete Seeger and reheased multiple-choice excercises about broiler chickens and X-shaped diagrams. Whatever teaching assistants did at Berkley, it might have included revision classes and answering questions from puzzled students, so Fishman would have been a walking index to the new Samuelson text book. For his dissertation, he would have known chaptor nine almost by heart. A student newspaper suggests he might have lectured in insurance, so he would have known chapter 10 almost by heart, as well as any other chapters that he worked-on as a teaching assistant. The year Fishman got an unfair dismissal, a 35 year-old from Idaho did the rounds of California academic conferences touting the most un-apealing jobs in academia. The job was in a small college surrounded by cows in the middle of nowhere that was not yet called a university, although it planned to award degrees in three years' time. It was a college for older teenagers. Other courses were the things teenagers studied in Idaho - often very precise craft subjects like "fender repair". The job started in a few years' time with the title "instructor". Student reviews call this one of the "best cheap colleges"; wages probably weren't good. And so many teenagers were studying any possible degree course to avoid the Vietnam draft that it was hard to get academic staff at any institution, let alone Idaho.

Idaho state college Pocatello 1955-8

People in Idaho have an unusual characteristic. They are very serious about farming statistics, and like to share good ideas for free rather than keep them secret. At least, that was the opinion of the young editor of a farming magazine called Practical Farmer who managed to borrow the latest calculating machines and teach himself statistics in the 1920s and 1930s, helping to build-up the statistics laboratory at Idaho State College. He went on to become vice president of the USA so he might not have been typical, but Idaho was the place to be to study statistics and farming. A similar enthusiasm survives at which I now realise is in Iowa rather than Idaho. A reference survives in Fishman's free-to-read work on unemployment in the Denver area a decade or two later. He footnotes a guide book to statistical methods, written by someone at Idaho. There's no record of anything Fishman wrote in the Idaho college library, but a google book search reveals him as "Instructor in Business" on a couple of inspectors' reports. Type "Pocatello" into the search box for either report and you see very specific course titles like "Fender repair", so "instructor" was a good job title. Idaho is somewhere were people are used to awkward beliefs, at least in their own traditions; it is a religious area with a the main tradition set by the prophet Joe Smith, who explained his trips to kneel in the woods by saying that he was praying and sometimes visited by an angel (that's in case anyone asked why someone was seen leaving through the bushes). It is hard to know if Joe Smith was a moron or a mascot. He was prone to visual hullucinations and somehow became a preacher (something that mentally troubled people still do in the USA according to an episode of Lois Theroux). Joe Smith was taken as a mascot by people around him when he preached. After a while the person in the bushes gave a name - "The Angel Moroni". Most likely the angel was a printer who ate biscuits, because a present appeared in a buscuit tin burried under a tree, for Joe Smith to find. The box contained a book written on "plates", which I suppose were printing plates but described as "golden plates" by Joe. I expect that some are lost because there is no mention of cruising in the woods in the book of mormon, but there is some stuff about polygamy. The faith group does practical things as well as credulous ones. It's rural. Current student reviews mention things like bowling clubs and long walks rather than politics. They don't note many alumni on wikipedia - just one beat poet and members of sports teams used to fill the gap. Fishman got two years' work at Idaho before completing his second degree, still awarded by Berkley and listed on their library catalogue in January 1957. It's called "Theories of the American Labor Movement": 500 pages exactly, plus 11 pages of bibliography, with other subject categories of John Rogers Commons (1862-1945), Robert F Hoxie (1868-1916), and someone has scanned the microfilm to put online but been restricted from doing so beyond a keyword count from a search box; the Berkley catalogue calls it "restricted content". If any Fishman relatives want to contact Hathi Trust, who keep the scanned archive, and make a case that they are the copywrite holder and give permission to publish, that would be good. Fishman's 12 year-old daughter asked him if he was a member of the communist party: "I don't believe you have the right to ask me that question. I have a constitutional right to freedom of association", he replied. Nowadays the position would be called "Don't ask; don't tell". He had relatives in the Soviet Union and wouldn't want to draw soviet police attention to them, nor US authorities to himself. He had fellow-travellors like Pete Seeger, the singer he's quoted as liking, who were called to Senate committees and used the same stock phrase; he would not have wanted to let them down either, even if he had lost all interest in political groups and preferred the saner technocratic world of economics.

The same year that Fishman got his doctorate, the local paper stated that he was leaving for Colorado and he was invited to speak on a similar subject at Cornell University, as part of a series of lectures commemorating Thorsten Veblen's free pdf and other works. There are 11 books on Veblen in the Idaho college libary, mostly from the 40s and 50s, but not the one that gave space to Fishman and edited by Douglas Dowd of Berkley and Cornell Universities, now at

Douglas Fitzgerald Dowd (born December 7, 1919) is an American political economist, economic historian and political activist. From the late 1940s to the late 1990s, he taught at Cornell University, UC Berkeley and other universities. He has authored books that criticise capitalism in general, and US capitalism in particular. Now in his eighties and semi retired, he continues to publish and has, for many years, offered a free class in San Francisco, where he used to live for half of the year. Now he lives full-time in Bologna. His last professorial engagement was several years at the University of Modena. Finally, the commute from Bologna became oppressive; he terminated his teaching career in 2012. - web site
Douglas Dowd gave free economics classes in San Francisco and still keeps-up the website including a $10.95 download offer on the book with Fishman's chapter. D. F. Dowd (ed.), Thorstein Veblen: A Critical Reappraisal (Ithaca NY, 1958), subtitled lectures and essays commemorating the hundredth anniversary of Veblen's birth. Fishman's chapter was called Veblen, Hoxie, and American labor. That association seems to be what gave Fishman the sparkle-dust to look employable again. Someone sent an invite to Cornell lectures to the Cornell Daily Sun who didn't send a reporter but published the invite next to their adverts for smart underwear and horror films. Somehow, the invite records Fishman as already a professor at Colorado University who printed the publication in a proud book of staff writings soon after. The lucky break remained a family memory. A colleague of Fishman's daughter mentioned Veblen to her.
"Oh, my dad [the late Professor Les Fishman, Marxist economist] was very interested in Veblen, he contributed to a volume of essays on Veblen back in the 1950s". "With the help of the indispensable Abebooks I located a lone copy of "Thorstein Veblen: A Critical Reappraisal" (Cornell University 1958) and was astonished by the profundity of his ideas, briefly revisited by a few American Leftists in the 1950s and then dropped almost without trace." - link to Fishman's chapter
That essay seems to be the only thing that Fishman wrote before a gilded career as a highly-paid teacher who avoided tutorials; it was a done deal. Keele teachers know how hard it is to look employable when you can't publish anything, and you can't publish anything because your job is to teach the basics, so a published work made a difference. He wrote a little more over time, when he was new in a job or when someone asked him to co-write. There's a collection of Fishman writings on another page.

University of Boulder, Colorado 1958-62

Fishman got an economics job teaching at his home state college of Boulder, Colorado. I think I saw a Google snippet of him recorded as an assistant professor in 1957 but am not sure. A powerpoint promotion of the department puts him down as "faculty" for 1956-7. He was recorded as chairing a meeting there and working for the economics department in 1959 as part of a grand set of debates on all subjects. He signed himself  "Leslie Fishman, University of Colorado" when writing for technical journals. So I guess he was there in the background, giving lectures, assigned to research projects, maybe supervising graduate students, allowed to take a temping job on Ford Scholarship money, but not obvious and up-close to undergraduate students, leaving the dates a little hazey.

Samuelson's new textbook from 1948 was so confident in its own superiority that (I think - I might be wrong) it suggested a course plan in an appendix for lesser professors to follow in this expanding subject, as though there was a shortage of professors and the people who got the job were all glad of a text-book to bluff from. I knew that there was a Great War an Great Depression but I didn't know there was a Great Professor Shortage at just the time Fishman qualified:
the demand for professors was so high in the 1950s that the American Council of Learned Societies held a conference in Cuba noting the too-few doctoral candidates to fill positions in English departments.
The shortage would have been most acute in new subjects. Pocetello began teaching for degrees and for Economics about the year Fishman joined; Boulder gave its economics teachers a separate department and larger building for more student numbers about the time Fishman joined. Even so, it's good to get called "Professor" after teaching the jobs available to graduate students. Professors get a double cell and someone to use as their bitch in the gulag under the campus (someone told me that and then gave me a funny look). It is not easy to compare to academic job prospects now. Usually you have to do something like teaching well, writing well, having another relevant career so you can say how things are done, being part of the Freemasons or the casting couch. In Fishman's case it wasn't the casting couch so the next thing to check his writing on Google Scholar's links to Jstor journal library. He taught about economic history leading up to current US growth rates, or at least he had the notes to hand because he worked them up into nearly 5,900 words 1960. It was quite a polished set of lecture notes, published in a journal for long articles. The paper would not have scored good marks on Fishman's own course, later-on at Keele, because it mentions original ideas in the final section which would have been marked wrong, but this is a tolerant journal. Another paper is titled "Is Higher Education a Hoax?". Then Econometrica reported him at the American Economic Society conference held in Stillwater, Oklahoma, in 1961. Fishman's name just has an asterisk next to it. He was given the last slot on a Tuesday afternoon to present his paper, after some grander macro-economics and a someone who loved algebra. Someone else who write about elasticity of demand for synthetic rubber got an asterisk too. Maybe their paper was too practical and immediate. Most people might have liked them; Idaho students might have liked them. They might have got published an Ebay Seller Guide or a piece in Plastics and Rubber Weekly, but they didn't get journal ranking peer-reviewed journals. The rule is: either you discover sacred texts buried under a tree in a biscuit tin, or you get published in a peer-reviewed journal if you want a college teaching job. I hope that he and the synthetic rubber person consoled each other. It was no problem because Fishman could do grand prose about economic history, he could keep an audience's attention in a lecture hall, and he could work on technical government jobs. The problem that would come-up was tutorials. He could tell his daughter that "I have the right to freedom of association", but it could break the flow of discussion if students asked him the same thing every week. If it was possible to be a professor and not do tutorials, Fishman had a good reason to avoid them. The Ford Foundation temp. job at Cambridge came very soon after getting work at Boulder. This suggests that economics college teachers were in demand, that Fishman had a certain knack, and that tutorials were not a big deal at Boulder; you wouldn't plan to jet-set around the world and leave a UK tutorial group with a new teacher. Keele students know that most UK colleges have three terms a year and most US ones have two, so the dates wouldn't have fitted. That's a pity for Fishman and his students because he missed the satisfaction by knowing what happened to them during a year and he missed their common sense and mess-ups and obvious questions. I guess that tutorial students can bring an economics tutor down to earth. I guess that this post-war anglo-american subject of economics lacks common sense because so many people have taught it without running tutorials. Fishman's daughter says he was "headhunted" to Boulder and "won" a Ford Foundation grant to do something at Cambridge. Was it the Freemasons? In a way, yes. This is someone else's account of being offered a chance to teach at Boulder. He discovers the american emphasis on lectures.
Les Fishman, visiting from the University of Colorado, received an SOS from back home: An economic historian was urgently needed for 1963–64, as the incumbent had gone off unexpectedly to Penn State. Now economist economic historians weren’t all that many in Cambridge, so the barrel was scraped and I was offered a visiting professorship at Boulder, where I had a very enjoyable two semesters, and learnt how to lecture. I must have been pretty awful to begin with. One of my auditors, whom I later met a few times on the ski slopes, asked after a few beers in the Nederland Tavern: ‘Are all English lecturers so boring?’ I’m sure he had a point; but I was learning, and when I went to teach summer school at Purdue my audience ratings were quite respectable.
I expected to read another paragraph saying that this man was keen on US Civil Rights or Communism or against the Vietnam war, but the freemasonry seems to be more among a narrow group of teachers who gave each other jobs - the same man says he was put on some committee as a "counterweight to the ... marxist faction", which would mean people who used a one or two ideas from Marx to find something easy to say about their subject, rather than someone who supported Stalin. So, there was a freemasonary among people who could vaguely look as though they could do the job during The Great Professor Shortage of the 1960s and somehow Fishman had joined it. It would be nice to think that Fishman promoted the new job by offering free taster classes on free-thinking subjects, like Douglas Dowd. Or open-ended discussions, like the teach-ins at Berkley. There was a series of odd multi-subject lectures from visitors during United Nations Week each year, followed by questions from the audience or debate with other guest speakers. Records don't say anything about student discussions, nor tutorials. If there were any on the timetable, it would have been hard to fit them round Fishman's schedule as he jumped from Boulder to Cambridge, back to Boulder, then on to Warwick University for a year's teaching in 1967. That might have been the first place that anyone noticed whether he could hold a tutorial or not. Fishman headed the list of authors for research on government contract: "Methodology for projection of occupational trends in the Denver standard metropolitan statistical area". There is a free pdf of the 1965 edition and the 1966 revision. Fishman was remembered by some civil rights acquaintances who used his free hospitality on their way to a campaign. They quote his slow goofy diction.
"we looked up Les Fishman (economics professor at the University of Colorado) .... They put us up for the night and then we toured the campus the next day."

"Fishman's first observation was the lack of ability on the part of the students to grasp ideas from a textbook. In a way, he has to spoon feed the text, but on the other hand, they won't do any permanent good if they can't develop a little independent thinking among the students". [...] "The bookstore carried practically nothing but textbooks; only Gandhi's autobiography and five or six other paperbacks were available." ... "library ... inadequate ... donated stock".
In 1962, Fishman wrote "An economic plan for disarmament" for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Mar 01, 1962; Vol. 18, No. 3, p. 37-38, listed on one of Keele library's two on-line catalogues, although it only made it onto one of them. The title is a bit of a joke; it's a political journal and might have prompted the idea of a "keele list" of a hierachy of academic journals used to sort the next job applicants to be economics professor.
In 1962, he won a Ford Foundation fellowship to work with Nicholas Kaldor in the applied economics department at Cambridge. He returned to England as senior economics lecturer at Warwick University (1967-69) before becoming professor at Keele. - obituary by Nina Fishman
Minority staff are often expected to be better at their jobs than people who get a job by fluke and serve their time; this quote about a philosophy teacher at Colorado backs-up Fishman's daughter's story that he got an unfair dismissal because of his politics, rather than spoon-feeding the text of Samuelson's text book, which he should have been sacked for. There was also the summons to a Senate Committee reported as before Senator Todd, headlined "professers answer red tinge" in the local paper, which sent a photographer. The photo might show here or from the link, and it's worth clicking on the link if Getty Images don't want it to show, because it illustrates how a large group of teaching economists were subject to control from their bosses and from Congress Committees, and how the same kind of thing probably happens in lots of other colleges and schools and countries, off and on, so that the textbook view of an economics course, for sale all over, becomes different from the student expectation of an economics course in a particular country and  decade.

They told him that Fishman is the bald one at the front who looks like Phillip Larkin, but from my studies I know that Fishman is the one in tweed and serious specs at the back. The one trying to look like he's just come over from the UK to read the weather forecast. Howard Higman is the one in the middle. I don't know how to look-up the report to the US Senate Subcommittee that these professors were summoned to rebut. If anyone knows the link I hope they can add it as a comment to this blog post.

Fishman might have been summoned by mistake. Al Fishman, who shared some political interests, was an activist who criticised Senator Todd, but not a college teacher; Les Fishman was the Economics professor who the Colorado state university kept in the background on research projects and organising committees and encouraged to go to the UK. There were no further summonses and Senator Todd dropped-out of politics a few years later. The next piece of work was a report for the defence department on the re-employment of defence workers, published in 1968. It combined research from three different tyre companies and their redundant staff, and was written by a team headed by Fishman when he was not in the UK. There's a copy in an archive at Warwick Uni library. The archive at Warwick there records plans of a statistics laboratory from 1965 and a folder of press releases about 1968 states that it opened. This would have been a new generation of computers with reel-to-reel tape recorders and punched paper instead of punched cards in racks. They would have had teletype keyboards and the odd cathode ray screen. Fishman never mentions a computer again. Maybe he spilt coffee on it and was barred for life. Academics were asked to write something in honour of Les Fishman for the launch of the Fishman Bursary. There isn't much to go-on. I've put together what I can find on another page. One claimed to have found a good Fishman article from 1967 but doesn't give a reference. Maybe it was his inaugural lecture at Keele Uni, bound together with something similar and called "The Interconnected Economy" at £14.95 on Amazon. The paper referred-to is on the effects on the US economy of ending the Vietnam War, which I guess was something that genuinely interested Fishman after serving in the forces himself in the 1940s and then coming-out against war in the 1960s. I guess the same interest drew him to survey redundant tyre workers, to demonstrate how much the US economy could adjust to loss of military work. In 1969 someone from Warwick Uni in the UK tried co-writing something about council car clubs with him . I expect he added the algebra and co-operated on thoughts about how average costs of a car are lost to those who buy one and use it anyway. I can't remember him using phrases like "community centre" that come-up in the text. You need a special depressed tone of voice to say "community centre"; Fishman's style was more a style of pretended previous thought.

1969-88: Leslie Fishman's bottom gets a job at Keele University

Somehow, Fishman bluffed his way into a short period at Warwick Uni. where he lasted two years and then looked employable when applying to set-up a department at Keele under the constraint of having less than half a students' time and taking subject-switchers after their foundation year. Someone has written a history of Keele which says that a lot of applicants turned-down jobs like this when they realised what they'd applied-for. It was a job that would only attract someone who  needed a job, someone who had always wanted to be a professor, and someone with a miraculous ability to look like an academic star rather than any ordinary job applicant who might have taught A-level at the college over the road and done the job a lot better. Fishman was all three, or all four - he had taught at a college for teenages in Idaho but it was supposed to be a degree course. He had also met the big names of American nerdy cold-war untrue economics and read their journals, he loved being a professor and he badly needed a job. He was also named as someone who did some work for Colorado State getting employment statistics while at Colorado State University and considered not safe to leave near students, and he should have had experience with computer stats. A memorial lecture states that he wrote a good article about the economic costs of Vietnam, which was not published on any of the sites listed by Jstor - maybe it wasn't published at all. Fishman's experience was a McJob at UCLA Berkley cramming students for a business administration course, two years at a college for older teenagers that started running the odd degree course (A-level in UK terms), a period based at Colorado of which two years are now remembered of him teaching, and two years at Warwick University. So he had a knack of holding down teaching jobs for two years, but not for applying for jobs; they had often been offered to him alongside government research contracts and a fellowship to do something-or-other at Oxford. His first permenant job had been one that not many other people would apply for, and Keele was similar because of the constraints of teaching such a compact course. A good applicant would offer a solution, nowadays under The Consumer Rights Act #49: "with reasonable care and skill  The solution would be to recognise previous student work at A-level and somehow build it into the degree course; to take advantage of the students' bredth of study by offerning inter-departmental courses and tutorials to extract students' broad ideas, and to teach computing in order to condense the statistics part of a standard course. Fishman had the experience to share courses with the American Studies department and Industrial Relations department. He had computer stats experience. Warwick Uni had just set-up a statistics lab in the new digital computer style, with videos to train anybody who was interested in how to use the software. Fishman in his streak of good luck had studied punched-cards and tables of correlated data based on obscure Fortran program's interpretations of them at University of Boulder, Colorado. If he had wanted to do his job and learn the next generation of technology, he could have done so. He had the access pass. He could just walk-in. On the other hand there was nobody in a stats lab to do the work for him; he would have to take unpaid time and initiative and learn a new skill if he wanted to use computers. He chose not to. Fishman had less experience running tutorials, which was a pity in the UK system where they are normal, and when teaching students on broad courses who have ideas from other departments. He could have learned the knack, but he chose not to, and nobody noticed. Fishman even got away without doing tutorials or learning to type on the office computer by the time I was there nineteen years later. This was the time of Educating Rita. Academics were in short supply. Failings could be blamed on the stupidity of un-schooled local students who, in turn, did not know what to expect because their parents hadn't done similar courses. It was possible to get through meetings with peer-review people from other colleges, because their courses were and are probably awful too. In 1975 someone co-wrote a journal article: Defendant Sentences as a Function of Attractiveness and Justification for Actions

In a test of the hypotheses that ... (a) defendants who have high external justification for their behaviour would be sentenced less severely than defendants with low external justification and (b) an attractive defendant with low external justification would be sentenced more severely than an unattractive defendant, ... 60 American college students were randomly assigned without regard to sex to one of four treatments generated by two types of defendant descriptions (attractive vs. unattractive) and by two levels of defendant external justification (high vs. low: i.e., unspecified). Results confirmed both the predicted main effect for external justification (p < .05) and the defendant characteristics by external justification interaction (p < .05). Attractive defendants, therefore, were not inevitably treated more leniently than unattractive defendants.
The next twenty years were spent on an economic experiment. How long can economics teachers avoid the sullen stares of subject-mixing students who know how badly economics is taught compared to other subjects? Subject mixing was new to the UK. The better reasons for sullen stares are still not clear to economists, so they were probably less clear then. In 1984 a member of staff wrote a sane textbook, covering the subjects that economics students might want to study, and Les Fishman is thanked in the acknowledgements for reading a draft, as are students from the author's tutorial group at the time, but Fishman continued to teach what he thought he had to teach - "we have to teach this stuff in order to call this an economics degree", was his phrase, as though he knew. "This stuff" was macro-economics from his memories of the Samualson textbook using excerpts from something more modern like Begg, micro-economics from Laidler, and two hours a week of manual statistics. The bits in Begg that said that the traditional bits were untrue were left-out. There was another textbook Fishman knew about and probably had on his office shelf, next to the un-read sales brochures for Instat software. The book is still mentioned as a classic and covers the subjects I thought I had signed-up to study when I began an economics course, but was not allowed to study. The link is to a transcript free to read online. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ix INTRODUCTION II





10. WHAT WENT WRONG? 187 11. INDUSTRIAL RECOVERY: THE POLICY PROBLEMS 201 12. BEHIND THE JAPANESE MIRACLE 213 13. RECOVERY 234 REFERENCES 241 INDEX 245 Nobody - not even external examiners - asked questions of the main course like
  • Your prospectus has a lot about "Quantitative Methods". Methods of what?
  • For 19 years you have pretended that computers don't exist in your stats teaching. That's a deliberate scam isn't it? There's no other word for it is there? Your secretary has Supercalc stats functions on this computer. Did you know that? Do you know how to turn it on? Do you have a computer in the department library? No? What do you have? Those ones for one exercise - really? So why do you still teach manual computing for two hours a week and keep Supercalc in the office?
  • What was that workbook with examples about broiler chickens? You mean they have "recitations" in US college courses? What's this thing you call a "class"? Really?
  • There are about 4 million people unemployed. Unemployment is the subject of your published books. Why do you think there are 4 million people unemployed? Why do you think so many factories have closed?
  • What do your students think of the course? Apart from showing they like it by passing the exam? Is that all you know about them? Can we see the exam scripts. Take this one: do you know the person's name? Anyone? So you don't remember them from tutorials? You mean you don't do tutorials? In that case, can you line them up outside your office door so we can see them? You mean they went home early? Do you know what any of them are doing next? None? Get some back for a Viva.
  • Who is the prime minister? What floor are we on? Can you count back in 7s ?
I doubt they asked that last question because in 1987 an economics degree course that taught theories in case anyone thinks of a use for them was quite normal, as it is now. The people who wrote the Levacic and Rebmann textbooks had held-down jobs at Open University and Middlesex Uni. Teachers don't start from relevant problems and find skills to solve those problems; it worked the other way around. Like teaching Latin and Greel in Victorean schools. There was a surplus of people with useless skills, so they were easy to hire as teachers, so a subject was taught even more to the next generation. The next person to get the Keele job was an expert in a new thing called "game theory" with a CV about studying maths. Fishman may have been a real person in the 1950s for real reasons but I don't remember him teaching in any useful way. I remember he had a good style and looked like a father figure to some people. He talked with glee. He liked to interrupt his own slow drawl with an anecdote. He professed how V-neck jumpers came-out in better colours every year. He professed that market researchers sliced data in different ways to get over-precise results, for example at Ford. He mentioned the Ford Motor Company of Detroit a few times, so I think he'd read a book about it or something. He stopped talking half-way through a micro-economics workbook example sentence - about Broiler chickens and marginal cost - because, as he explained, it was five o'clock. He professed that as you get older you find that nothing works quite so well. He professed that as a governor you need to maintain defence and after that comes welfare. He showed a bit of glee at discovering a Nigerian economics text book. He professed that Wedgwood had left the potters trade association, leading to rising sales costs for the other big potter companies. That's about all I remember because he did not hold the tutorials or provide the feedback to students as reasonably expected to do for high payment payment of salary from my taxes, I believe. Fishman interrupted a macro-economics revision lecture to say "we have to teach this stuff to call this an economics degree course in less than half your time". A lecture about the ISLM model of demand management in a closed economy. Fishman did not seem a real person in the way he taught economics in the 1980s. His 1950s Samuelson textbooks had not mentioned anything interesting about unemployment, so he didn't in 1984. By the last year in his career he used an A-level textbook called Begg which tried to add notes about current affairs and up to date research. He didn't tell us about them; they weren't in the exam. His colleagues pushed a bit into the course about differing ways to measure unemployment, which was controversial at the time, but I don't remember a single word from Fishman. He was on his last year of work. He could take phone calls in his seminars. He could have taught us that snails ran the universe to see if us exam-flunkers showed any interest in our sullen stares but no. He did not say a word about catastrophic economic policies that effected all the rest of us in the room. I hope some keen historian dredges-up the archives about this man to find-out how to stop the mistake happening again, because the problem is so much like the problem of people going to Oxford or Cambridge and studying PPE and then going-on to cause unhappiness from bad economics. It's a problem of people, on compacted economics courses that nobody much remembers, learning bad habits.

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? Definitely agree Mostly agree Neither agree nor disagree Mostly disagree Definitely disagree Words fail me

1. Careers

Implausible but pretty diagram showing how much more graduates earn compared to how much they loose while studying
"You haven't provided an economics course" was a sentence that through my head as I realised the situation, looking at this man who had ripped me off for years. I had finished a degree course, gone home to my parents with no job prospects, trying to make sense of job adverts in The Times and The Observer. I gave-up on those papers when I saw an add for "experienced sales manager to re-launch Shipham's Paste".

There was a system for introducing nervous graduates,  with no work experience, to employers who needed graduates at least for a low-pay-short-tern trial like paid internships. It was a system to suit a time of high employment and low education, just like the rest of the university system, and it was done by employers. They would ask to set-up a stall at each university just after graduation and make themselves known. A speech by Emma Thornbury MP, who must be the same age as me, said that it didn't happen at her plate glass university in the early 80s, and about the same was true at Keele. A few very specialised employers turned-up to make themselves known. I knew nothing abour career-paths, but I spotted ICL, looking to flog an overpriced computer more than to hire. I remembered that I once wanted to be an industrial designer and asked if they ever hired designers. The reps paused. "no", they agreed. And in London there was a Gradute Carees Show at the Business Design Centre. Very similar except much bigger, and they confirmed what Keele's Appointments and Counselling office had told me. The only non-specialised job on offer was for Burger King, looking for management-type recruits. Then  economics students were called back for something called "Vivas". I made the 160 mile trip back to Keele Campus and stood again among all the students I'd never got to know in the economics bit of corridor. A door opened about a foot, and someone inside said "No Vivas". The door closed. Elvis had left the building. That's where an economics degree ends. Wondering around the empty campus, I was surprised to see the man himself, and he looked surprised to see me. I may have been one of the last students he spoke to before retirement, straight out of his third year teaching group. That was a nice thing about 1980s teaching compared to what happened later: "a teacher ... previously had a clear idea of how any one particular course fitted within a departmental degree programme, why students were taking it and what their background was, a module now assembled a random collection of students for the duration of that module, who then continued along separate paths after it had ended" - Tribe 2014 .Third year tutors were the ones who students remember, I guess. Courses were longer, and done in sequence, which seems sensible. This was the third time Fishman ever tried to speak to me. It was something like  "Let me see: how are you getting on?". I was a surprised 22 year-old. I was surprised at his lack of shame. I wanted to say "you haven't provided an economics course", but the habit of caution stopped me. He was a surprised 64 year-old, unsure what my name was, so he asked "have you got any plans?", as he might ask on the Titanic, as the deck titlted. I just said "OK, thanks", and walked-on to voluntary work, self-taught job searching skills and two years on benefits. Someone else from Keele has done a blog post about what happened next. I didn't have a chance to put the higher edication economics-trade in the stocks and throw rotten fruit at them, nor the nutter vice-chancellor who phoned-up half way through a class. Officially, this hopless new Vice Chancellor qualified for the job after teaching physics. It was a hard CV to check because he taught in Switzerland, but I expect it was true. If he were good at his job, he could have asked whether economics teaching at Keele was anything like Nuffield Physics A-level, a course based on observation. Unfortunately, he did not. I think I heard the phone call. Officially, there was a visiting Chancellor who was meant to give an outsider's view. His background was in the government statistics office. If he were competant, he would have given a lecture to economics students about the government statistics in the civil service. He did not. Maybe he was ashaimed. Or donate a personal computer. Or, if you want to go to the other extreme and get a bit far-fetched, make a major contribution to academic life.

Claus Moser is a statistician who has made major contributions in academic life and in the Civil Service ... He has a wide variety of other honours to his name - Keele web site explaining the Clous Moser Research Centre
Unfortunately, Clouse Moser did make any contribution to academic life that I remember from Keele - whether giving a lecture or donating a PC. His only contribution was to be chancellor at a time when a dud vice-chancellor was appointed. Vice Chancelor is the fullt-ime linchipin chiefey kind of job I think.Officially, there was a senate of staff who might know each other enough to want to turn-up to senate meetings, getting to know each other over free shared meals and use of a club-like room in the old building. A senate prone to the faults of people in meetings, but well-informed and good if matched against something like a market for student places in which students choose the best courses based on available information. That didn't happen. And there was something called a council like the House of Lords to overide it anyway. To give the senate credit, the Keele history book says that the senate invited student reps to speak about courses and syllabuses, which was a great idea but in need of a lot of surveys and market pressure. There was someone called an Education and Welfare Officer (an unpaid student) who went-on to write The Price of Fish, writes an obscure blog to promote his job, and published some letter from Fishman that mentioned a speech about the economics course. Unfortunately, the new Vice Chancellor reduced Senate meetings to very few and turned the club-like meal room into a wedding venue. Officially, Keele was set-up to reduce the problem of technocrats like monetarist economists who lack self-criticism and broad education. It's all set-out in the first few chapters of Keele - the first 50 years. So there should have been a lot of general education among other students on the course, who might have added a bit of common sense, and kept it related to the real economy. Unfortunately, the new Vice Chancellor discouraged subject-mixing, if early archived web pages from 1997 are anything to go by. They show students encouraged to study similar subjects, like Economics and Finance, managed  by a maths professor who liked game theory. Really - I'm not making this up, it's on "By the later 1990s teaching loads were increasing, and when added to the routinisation of teaching associated with modularisation, the departmental response was to cut back and consolidate teaching on a textbook-based format.  The possibility of designing and developing interesting courses no longer existed at Keele, and so I left university teaching. ... I found a second, and far more satisfying, career as a rowing coach" - The other tutor who taught interesting courses in the 80s no longer mentions Keele on his CV. Officially, I guess there would have been some system of external examiners from other colleges who got their moment of power by checking Keele. Maybe that was the reason for students being called back for non-existent Vivas: external examinors wanted to check that these students really did exist and were not just names made-up for the grant money. A fault with this system is that the bad ideas of one economics department can be imposed on another. Economists are trained in tautologies like "economics is ..." which could have prompted Fishman's quote "we have to teach this stuff in order to call this an economics course". Maybe the bad ideas came from external examiners. I didn't realise that this department with extremes of good and bad was not the worst; all the later discoveries about Fishman's dad being a Menchavik from Russia with furniture manufacturing interests, and Fishman being an exile from bad teaching in the USA, were not the main point even if I had known them. Other people on other economics courses found their teachers just as bad as the ones who advised government on how to put our dads out of work; most economists were as bad as Fishman. This is a slightly complicated sentence but you get the drift. When my father's business failed because of negligent pompous economists and evil newspaper proprietors spouting lies, he tried working as a tradesman mending sash cord windows, and going for hard-to-fill jobs at job agencies in West London. Like Les Fishman, he wore old tweed jackets and V-necks over shirts and ties, and had become become a pleasant cartoon character in the way he spoke to people. He couldn't learn new tricks like how to use the new Oyster Bay MsDos software for HP Finance when he was used to the sheet-metal accounting machine and the cards, but he could get the work done for him. My father's memory couldn't bring things to mind in a sharp way either; he tried working as a researcher with a debt collecting and detective agency in Brentford, and as credit controller for Bristol cars in Chiswick, then a taxi garage called Mann and Overton, but he didn't last long at any of them. He did find a job that suited him, teaching an adult education class how to research family history. There was a short free induction course for adult education teachers from the council, and as long as enough people turned-up he got paid. Familiy history courses are better than most economics courses because they teach students how to look things up for themselves. When he died, I should have sent obituaries to the big papers to say he'd been a towering academic just to see if any got published. My father also benefited from failure, as did all the MPs and newspaper proprietors and opinion-formers who lived in London. The industrial areas of the UK could provide fewer jobs. Property values therefore went-up in London as people migrated to find work and my dad had held-on to his house. Opinion-formers in London tended to think that Thatcher had done a good job; Tony Blair set-up a system for the Bank of England to carry-on a similar monetary policy, and the system still counts as sane among journalists MPs and economists. Looking at accounts of Fishman's work, he stopped working a year earlier than my CV says, meaning that I was 21 and fiddled my CV later-on to conceal two years' unemployment. If he retired at age 64, and accounts differ about him retiring in 87 or 88, it may be that he got a salary for a year from Keele University. Fishman went-on to a funded survey of the experiences of redundant Michelin tyre workers, kept in touch with a few academic contacts, and would have had a final salary pension based on earnings over double the average wage. Like other economists, he got an obituary as a towering figure of reason and inspiration. Economics was an odd subject in presenting itself as an introduction to some technical career-enhancing skill, and in presenting opinions about unemployment to students as part of the syllabus. I never learned what that career-enhancing skill was meant to be, nor how the graphs untangle cause and effect. Take two shool leavers aged twenty-odd. One has an idea of a craft career like plastering or cab driving; how to get qualifications, who to meet to get jobs or how to apply, whether the work suits them. Later-on they might do other things that are better-paid again, and can be done while a bit less fit. The other twenty-odd school-leaver has an idea of another craft career like accountancy or law. Exactly the same applies. The only difference is that there are elements of craft qualifications built-in to some university degrees. You can do parts of your accountancy qualification at uni, or parts of a law society entrance qualification. Or not; I don't know which is better. Both these two twenty-odds are likely to have high pay at age 40. You could make-up stories about other 20-odds with less idea what could work for them or what they want to do. They're likely to be paid less at age 40, whether or not they go to college. In a recession, there are more of these stories than usual; there are areas with very few work or career options; there are parents who's experience is no longer any help, there are patterns of moving around the globe or living in institutions that separate students from ideas of what works for them. I think the idea that economics degrees are a good investment comes from US text books, speaking in effect to the parent who pays for a private higher education system at a time of conscription and a shortage of graduaets. One tutor quoted, as an example of how bizarre the Samuelson textbook was, the page on which it says there is no such thing as long-term involuntary unemployment; that's the kind of society the Samuelson textbook was written-for. Postwar UK unemployment (excluding school leavers). Graph going off the top of the usual scale from textbook page 440The Begg textbook tries to be a bit more subtle but on the same theme. On page 254, figure 11.3, it suggests a bright future for graduates on a graph of average gross weekly earnings in 1980 prices for people with degrees, A-levels or no formal qualifications. If you read further to page 440 part 4, you'll see another hint about 1980s students' job prospects. The textbook does not relate one to the other. It is like an encylopedia, with unrelated things on different pages. And there was never any job called "Economist" for which a degree qualifies a student as a phamacy degree qualifies a student to be a pharmacist. There is no application of an orphan stats course and a load of undtrue theories. All if this is obvious on other courses like English or Politics. They don't qualify you do talk or vote. Economcis was unusual in presenting itself a bit like a phamacy course but in a more vague way, as though this repeated introductory information lead somewhere. Nothing suggests that an economics degree allows entry to a professional organisaton like the ones for pharmacy or accounting or the law society, with legal privilages to do certain jobs. But something along those lines is suggested by the boring technical nature of the course and the language used like "introductory". It takes many years to become a complete economist with a professional's grasp of the subject. Most of you probably have no wish to become professional economists  ... the basic issues ... framework of analysis ... many of the conclusions, can be understood very quickly in an introductory course. Our emphasis on applications is designed to convicnce you that the economics you are learning is about the real world. It is not just a set of textbook excercises  \- Begg Fischer and Dornbush, page xix "to the student" including A-level studentsThe biggest section of the Begg textbook is about something called microeconomics, usually without a context. The chapter headings suggest factor markets of land labour capital and something or-other; I think there are four. The next biggest section is something called "Macroeconomics" but really about demand management; it only has four pages about the supply side of the economy which clearly needed attention. Then you go to university to study the same thing with more algebra, and then it ends. Another difference between Economics degrees and English or other subjects is that the bigwigs of Economics careers help mess-up your career prospects with their obviously stupid ideas. You don't go through an English degree knowing that there is some professor of English somewhere who has advises the government on how to make 20,000 people a month redundant. The textbook doesn't apologise for this or say how many economists lie, or are taken too seriously for their own good because of a job title; it just  says that there is normative and positive economics. One of them can include lying or being stupid; the other is more technical. The course doesn't get to the stage where you can argue back against bad economists on technical grounds, and, even if it did, a lot of the statistical data that would help you argue a case isn't released to the public. The revenue and customs act keeps it secret. There are no input-output tables for England. Unemployment data was counted in a different way from the mid 80s. At that time, even the treasury model of the UK economy was secret.
As a result of my course, I believe that I have improved my career prospects. Good advice is available for making career choices. [ ] every part of my life was effected by government economic policies that closed a lot of the economy, except the macro economics section of the course that remained oblivious. So there were no prospects and no chances of talking about the reason why.
This is the kind of thing Professor Fishman wrote about job-seekers.

On the supply side, rationalizing the labor market requires considerable knowledge of actual labor supply coming on to the market, and that which will be coming-on during any transition period. The informational channels linking the supply and demand sides of the labor market are quite undeveloped, considering the sophistication of our industrial society. Employers and employees tend to be brought together largely through informal channels and one at a time. That is, one person is matched at a time with one job, The process today does not consider trying to make an optimum match of 1000 new job applicants with 1000 job openings. Instead, the applicants are sent, on at a time, to the highest job on their aspiration list, or on the job counselors list for which he matches them. The employer then ranks the applicants by some standards (educational, experience, or a aptitude tests), and will tend to take the highest from among the applicants. This permits premium employers to skim the cream off the labor market, or what they think is the cream, This certainly does not result in a maximum or optimum match from society's point of view. For such an optimum match, considerably more information is required, as well as sophisticated computer application. The final dimension of the labor market is the actual decision making by workers and employers to accept the terms of employment. The influences here reflect alternatives available to both parties, as well as such considerations as hardship, career aspirations, and geographic preferences.
<Note to self> in twice - fits here quite well </note to self> There was no subject-specific career advice available, so far as I knew, but there was an anecdote. This is what Professor Fishman's economics department did. It summoned students all at once, back to the campus after exams in case there were extra interviews called "vivas" to hold. In the last week or two of term, the only reason to stay at Keele was to collect a fancy printed degree certificate. There was a poster by the mail bins in the Students Union, implying that you needed to pay £25 to get a degree certificate. I guessed, rightly, that this was a bluff. The registry will confirm that I have a degree without payment. Some people stayed-on to collect their certificates at a PR ceremony in a local town - the sort of thing that's good to invite a granny to, but otherwise a bit daft and expensive. Most students had now left to become unemployed 20-somethings based all-over the UK, realising how little a Keele Economics degree prepared for anything else, and thinking of volunteer work in the two years' likely unemployment before Community Programme places were available. Life was not as the textbook said.

"students run-up overdrafts knowing that, as rich economists, they can pay ... back later". (Begg, p541 - not quite serious - the serious bit is on page 253 below).
The problem was that Fishman's generation of teachers had opposite career needs to my generation of students. They had to avoid being summoned to the McArthy and Todd Committees, as Fishmen eventually was, or having some excuse made-up to end their teaching career, as happened to other teachers at University of Colorado. It would be the same teaching in Turkey now. So they taught theory first, leading vaguely towards practical application that never happened. They taught at a distance from students, as though teaching a hard science rather than a social science. Some of them kept their careers and ordered lots of textbooks, maintaining the tradition of how the subject is taught. The colleges were funded by parents, so it helped to big-up the career advantages of going to college at a time when there were fewer of them. Students' career needs, I think, are for practice to come before theory and detirmine which theories are used. This is as true of someone who wants general knowledge and life experience, or someone who wants specific tips and tricks for a financial job. After being a student, any job seems bizarre and any capacity to do the job seems improbable. What did other people do? I don't know. There was a small appointments and counselling office at the college, but nothing specific to economics. At its peak the office once employed four people. That's embarassingly too many in a way, because people from the mining village, working under the campus, had no access nor equivalent service nor tax rebate. Then as now it was common to leave school at sixteen, so some people paid tax from the age of sixteen to twenty, knowing that other people were getting secondary schools and college places from the money. It was one of those un-stated issues that ecnomists had moved onto a separate subject of social policy rather than talk about. Thinking of the Appointments and Counselling office, it seemed rude to go-in and tease them by saying "I do not know the rate of unemployment: can you break the news to me"? I remember juke box regulars and empty disco favourites as Talking Heads "Road to Nowhere", and Iggy Pop's "Passenger". It was impossible to miss the pointlessness of going to the Appointments office. A last resort. So I went-in, to ask what other people did. The reply was that graduates who didn't know what to do often emigrated to work as TEFL teachers, and some tried to be managers at McDonalds.

Nowadays there's a checklist for economics career choices online. Some colleges like UCLA now have email lists of invites to work for management consultants. I have signed-up to the UCLA one for a while out of curiosity and get offers of internships and short-term jobs at management consultancies. Boris Johnson did something similar. In the 20-teens I even over-heard the process from the next-door restaurant table, during a recession, in Lisbon, which is something that's hard to reference in a footnote, but true. The economics MA crowd from some university discussed which modelling software was easiest to use, and how one of them had even got an interview for some job. The questions were "how are interest rates, exchange rates, and inflation rates related?" and "how do you value a bond?". If a Keele graduate had applied in 1987, the employer would have thought "we had a Keele applicant before: they don't use computers and their teacher doesn't know there's a recession. No". That's a pity because, if I had known about that kind of job, I could have had a stab at the other two questions. My dad had been valued promises to pay HP finance payments for years, so this was one of the few areas of life I knew about. Keele Economics Department did not mention careers to students. I don't like to think that the problem was employers who suck-up to some colleges and ignore others, but if employers did dislike Keele graduates then the college could have taught self-employment skills. They did not. At the time, we knew it was going to be hard to get a job, but we didn't know how to apply for a job. Few of us had known each other; we didn't talk to each other on the course; this might have been a safe time for us to share job ideas now that we knew we would never have to meet whichever fellow student again. Keele economics staff had some idea about the job market from their research into redundant tyre workers.

The results suggest that displacement took place in the manufacturing sector of the local economy, but that self-employment was important in easing the “dynamic” adjustment of the post-redundancy labour market. Policy makers should recognise that a part of the adjustment process is the use of self-employment as a temporary employment state.

Some people had craft skills

That was about the end of my time as a Keele student and a time when I began to realise that other people had picked-up craft skills that were entirely absent from the Keele campus; it was designed to lift people out of practicality into the stratosphere from which we could shine-back like stars at the lucky practical people below. The expectation of people who founded grammer schools and universities was that there would always be lots of UK craft industries and exports and home consumption and that what was needed was a few more graduates. Rather like the assumptions of people who slash-and-burn the jungle in South America or Malaysia. They just assume that there will always be more.

2 Course Content & Structure

All of the compulsory modules are relevant to my course. There is an appropriate range of options to choose from on my course. The modules of my course form a coherent integrated whole
...Relevant quantitative methods and computing techniques. These include appropriate mathematical and statistical methods, including econometrics. Students have exposure to the use of such techniques on actual economic, financial or social data, using suitable statistical or econometric software. - Quality Assurance Agency

Dead languages

We did a course like this for two hours a week of lectures and classes plus homework, all without computers. automates the kind of thing we did in excercises.

Just as the rest of the world first got their first home computers with 2D shareware stats software available, and after other small universities like Aberdeen had used stats software for fifteen years. Nor did we have tabulating machines, nor fortran codes for the old mainframe. As a result, the basics took a long time to learn and there was no time for exposure to actual economic financial or social data, and as a result of that, the course had nothing to do with my life and I forgot it all until, years later, I rather enjoy trying to work out what I once knew.
"Econometrics is the branch of economics devoted to measuring relationships using economic data. The details need not concern us here, but the idea is simple enough. Having plotted the points describing the data, a computer works out where to draw the line to minimise the dispersion of points around the line. [...] After some practice most people get used to working with two dimensional diagrams [...] a few gifted souls can even draw diagrams in three dimensions. Fortunately, computers can work in 10 or 20 dimensions  at once, even though we cannot imagine what this looks like [...] the tube fare on one axis, traffic congestion on a fourth, tube revenue on a fifth, plot all these variables at the same time, and fit or work-out the average relation between tube revenue and each of these influences" - Economics British Edition, Begg, 1984, p35
Despite reading that in a textbook in 1984, I have never seen a computer do stats calculations in more than 2D. Functions like that look easier to learn, nowadays, partly from the instructions of Libre Office Calc and I might do it some time.

cartoon picture of a dinosoar with spots to illustrate statistical needs to measure whatever correlation, devation or variation mean

You might want to skip this bit, but I enjoy writing it - it is a list of what I remember.

If you want to a number for how fat Sigma the dinosoar is - a standard number that also applies to cows - you can work out the average spot distance from the tummy, or you can square each distance, average them, then square root, just to show-off, and call it the standard deviation. For some reason I forget there is a minus 1 or something like that in the formula. This works for cows as well but they are all more of a brick shape. If you can't find a dinosoar, try it on a cow.

At the same time, it wasn't great at teaching the underlying principals. This is roughly what I remember. You can find the tummy button on a spotted dinosaur is by averaging measured spot distance from the tummy. Average usually means the same as it did at O level and in the Foundation Year, and is just as hard to calculate as an excercise with a calculator. If you want to look a bit more upmarket and mathsey, you can put a Lamda symbol over the top of the tummy button. You can tell whether you have a dinosoar, or a snake distribution, or giraffe distribution by a measure called variance. The same technique can show how a list of points on a graph vary from any line, like a row of spotted dinosaurs side by side and seen from above, but you need a computer do do that for a lot of numbers and Keele is short of computers because students aren't important. We did work out how to do some things called "r" and "chi squared" - I forget what they are - and some way of calculating a line of best-fit through spots on a graph, and something called degrees of confidence. We could do all this with a sheet of paper and a calculator. I remember being quite impressed at the time, and still am.

But it was hard to do quickly without a computer and hard to remember if not applied to some real problem. Dinosoars have a normal distribution, but the spots on animals near Keele are more likely a cow distribution, or a load of spots, or a row close to another line. There's something called a Poisson Distribution too, and proper social scientists can probably spot some different distributions. We did carry-on doing statistics, but without a chance to cruch our own numbers. There were lectures on government unemployment statistics, on frictional and structural unemployment, and the thirteen different ways government had altered the stats to make themsleves look slighlty less disasterous. It was common knowledge with a bit more detail. All good career-building stuff because some of the few remaining jobs were at the Manpower Services Commission and Department for Social Security, which both counted unemployed people for their employment schemes and benefits. As a social science researcher with a job, I suppose you have to crunch your own numbers. Spots on animals may be useful as a teaching aid, but it turns-out that some of the stats text books were written by people who really did measure cows, using machines at Idaho state college where Fishman got his first full-time teaching job.

The lab in the Department of Agriculture inspired two Iowans, George Snedecor and Henry A. Wallace, to experiment with punched-card statistical computations. Henry Wallace eventually rose to prominence as the Vice President of the United States, but during the 1920s, he was the publisher of his family’s farm journal, Wallaces’ Practical Farmer. He was also a self-taught statistician and was interested in the interplay of biology and economics in farm management. During the 1910s, he learned the methods of correlation studies and least squares regression by reading Yule’s book, An Introduction to the Theory of Statistics (London: Griffin, 1911). Finding in that book no easy method for solving the normal equations for regression, Wallace devised his own, using an idea that Gauss had applied to an astronomical problem. -
You can also show-off by squaring the tummy distances before averaging them, then taking a square root. Maybe the point of this is to drill students in use of their slide rules before calculators came-in from Sinclair in the 70s, or something to do with those mechanical tabulating machines used at Idaho State College. You show-off the formula by putting it in shorthand which I find distracting and I think distracts teachers too. The faults of this teaching method are that you realise that you don't know why anything should be squared before averaging and square-rooting, and why there is a minus-one among other things in the formula. People who have done Nuffield science courses are relatively normal and want to know. Without knowing the reason for something, it's much harder to remember it apart from anything else. In Nuffield Physics we experimented with weights on springs, noted wave motion, and were guided in how to apply the same idea to electronic waves or microwaves. There was no need for a lecture phrased in algebra.

Photo: Colorado State University beige powerpoint economics department, slide 21 of 30 to illustrate teaching from 1976-86 as part of their 50th anniversary powerpoint. The bloke's cave painting looks nice & interesting in context, but the algebra suggests lack of context; that this stuff was taught before the problem it could solve Why care if SC beta = sum (y-x beta) squared?
If someone had asked if "compulsory modules are relevant to my course", I would have said that the two hours a week of manual stats classes were nothing to do with analysis of data; I could not apply them to any problem that needed to be solved; they were probably dull for the teacher and the students. Tradition dictates that the person with the beard has to teach this stuff and the one at Colorado State University in the 70s has done quite well with a 3 dimensional diagram for the photo, but however good the teacher it's still algebra taught before solving economic problems rather than algebra taught in order to solve economic problems. That's how a good subject gets to be ticky-tacky-fied into funny shorthand and repeated too many times. Not that I have any idea what M= I-X (X' X) - 'X' MX=0, M2=M(XB+E) = (MXB + M.... SC B) = SUM (Y-XB) squared SCR = SYN (YCB - XB) means. It could be rubbish written for the photographer or it could make sense. After doing other subjects like a Nuffield science A level and an art and a social science, I tended to think it was rubbish but was prepared to give it a try: I must have understood something like this once, but it is hard to remember without the reasoning behind it. The problem continues through the decades, possibly because so many maths graduates are looking for work that maths techniques get taught before any application they are meant to solve. Even if there is a problem that they solve. The London School of Economics can specify whatever kind of student it wants to teach, because so many apply. They have a page on - or whatever the equivalent page is this year. under study > undergraduate > degree programs > economics. It mentions that they don't really want people with economics A-level, which raises the question of whether they should use the word "economics" in their course title, because this is obviously something else masquerading.

"a mathematically rigorous approach ... 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. If you have taken a gap year, it will be important for you to review the mathematics that you have learnt previously, in preparation for beginning studies at LSE. " "A level Mathematics (or equivalent) is a compulsory requirement for all programmes within the Economics Department at LSE."
"An additional qualification in further mathematics, at any level, is generally preferable. " They pepper the page with balancing items - clauses that say they shouldn't loose sight of the real world and that the maths is eventually applied - just take it on trust they imply. They also state that a lot of their students are post-graduate, so maybe you need to take a second degree course to recover from the first degree course Students give a bad review on unistats.. The way to avoid bad reviews, I guess, would be to write "This is not an eonomics course" on the prospectus. Something prompts students to rate LSE as among the bad economics courses on the list, and clues on a lot of the badly-reviewed economics courses suggest that they are a load of maths presented for its own sake which may or may not solve a real problem, and if it does that might be on a post-graduate course. The page refers to real data and real facts but the college still gets a terrible review.

Non facts

For some reason, the stats teaching was not done with real stats or none that I can remember; there were plenty of memorable stats around in the mid 1980s about youth unemployment in the midlands or factory closures, but I only remember a few basic national figures being quoted. Tables of data from the central statistical office existed in the department library. They were not used for teaching; I remember only workbook exercises. The person standing at the end of the room was evidence of how badly the US college system works under political pressure, but we students didn't know. He had also worked in a furniture factory, but he didn't use furniture for his micro-economic excercises, nor data from the Price's National Teapots in the nearest town, or Silverdale Colliery down the hill. No. We did whatever workbook examples were in some textbook from the states.

Untrue theories

"The trouble with the textbooks in economics is that they contain things we economists know to be wrong." - Diane Coyle, professor of economics, University of Manchester "6 knowledge awareness & understanding of historical, political, institutional international, social, and environmental contexts in which specific economic analysis is applied." - Quality Assurance Agency benchmark
Economics textbooks ignore a large parts of the economy. The compulsory insurance part of the economy is redacted. Begg does not have a chapter called "Welfare State", followed by a few pages of blacked-out type. That would be silly. Economics journals are also open to articles in their category I of Health, Education and Welfare, with the "Welfare" heading covering less than 1% of articles in the late 20th century.

I. Health, Education, and Welfare








Analysis of Health Care Markets


Health Behavior


Health Insurance, Public and Private


Health and Inequality


Health and Economic Development


Government Policy • Regulation • Public Health




Education and Research Institutions




Analysis of Education


Educational Finance • Financial Aid


Higher Education • Research Institutions


Education and Inequality


Education and Economic Development


Returns to Education


Government Policy




Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty




General Welfare, Well-Being


Measurement and Analysis of Poverty


Government Policy • Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs



Omitting Verse Three: the bit in the textbook that isn't taught

At some schools, songs are sung of a faith groupey kind, with un-true lyrics that nobody pays attention to. One jingle is a bit ignorant about Darwin for example, and only mentions "bright and beutiful" things with faith advertising aimed at children. Then at verse three, even the faith groupeys think:"steady-on", and it is sung omitting verse three:

"The rich man in his castle; the poor man at his gate: god made them high and lowly, and ordered their estate."
The "Welfare" chapter of  economic textbooks is treated the same way in UK I suppose; printed, not taught, but taken seriously in America. There are journal articles by one of Samualson's friends from the Algebra Club - I forget which one. Maybe Mr Arrow, who calculated internal rate or return or net present value or something like that which had probably been done before, but which he presented to an economic journal, wrapped in algebra. From a UK perspective, what's strange is that this un-read chapter doesn't mention the welfare state; it is based on work by people who lived in countries without any kind of social insurance system and make a great effort to pretend not to have heard of it. Take Fred "this and that" Pareto, an early twentieth century engineer and teacher in Italy and Switzerland who wrote several books about income distribution. He was well placed to write about the Prussian social insurance system which had been running for decades as he wrote, but, if he wrote about that, it's not what's quoted. He was such a fervant anti-communist that he came close to supporting Moussolini and was free to travel in Fascist Italy where - according to Wikipedia - the regime took to his ideas. An embarassing man to quote, but if he wrote things that were true that shouldn't be important. This and that theory : one students' guess A production-possibility frontier is an example of a Pareto Efficient Frontier. The connected line of red points represents Pareto optimal choices of production before the addition of point N.At a canteen, people have space on their plates for vegetables when walking past the self-service. Maximum helpings of vegetable one or vegetable two, measured by area, would form a straight line on a diagram like the one on the right. But most people have a middling combination, suggesting some preference for variety over clear decision. At a tile shop, when people want to re-pave their front paths, they have a similar choice of red tiles or dark tiles for example. A lot choose red and dark to form a pattern. But recent research done while walking down a street suggests that a lot of people have all-red or all-dark tiles, casting doubt on this theory's usefulness without specific context. A similar theory exists for production possiblity frontiers. It comes from another chapter. A kitchen that has frozen carrots and frozen peas may find it easier if people to have a bit of this and that, or be just as happy to serve all carrots or all peas if people want them. A tile factory might have some technical reason to make some of this and some of that, on some product lines, or they might be just as happy to make all red tiles or all dark tiles. It depends on the product line. I think this is about the limit of this-and-that theory. The subject comes round-again somewhere, and there is a much better informed, reasonable account of Fred "this and that" Pareto in The British Economic Crisis, p 124 Pareto Theory Number Two "all things bright and beautiful". His other qualification - other than algebra - was that he has no theory about national insurance system that sprung-up in Prussia in the 1860s and slowly in the UK after 1911, so his ideas were un-tainted by anything that might offend republican voters in the USA. He also disliked communists and was free to travel in Fascist Italy. Another writer who was imprisoned by the Fascist regime had time to write a book about how authority influences society, and had to make-up new jargon to try and avoid annoying anybody. His name was Gramsci and he came-up in the English course at Keele. I even bought the book but it's as thick as an Economics textbook and I sold it again unread (you make more money that way). But Gramsci probably has something to say about economics teachers and the like, where Pareto is just silent. The text book avoids mentioning social insurance systems. It uses a euphemism: "transfer payments", which happen in a single year, while social insurance payments happen over a life-cycle. The euphemism is good if you want to draw a diagram of how money flows-about in a year. Tax and Transfer both begin with "T"; "Transfer" is like negative tax. But nothing like a national insurance fund is allowed in this economy, or any sense that people have paid-in to the system at one age and are due money out as a right at another age. A mention of a long-term contract between a welfare state and taxpayers over time removes the idea that the very rich pay for the very poor, it raises the question of whether a monopoly insurance service can be cheaper, which it can, and it opens-up the question of what governments are for, as illustrated in other subjects that students study like history and politics.The textbook also avoids the problem of how you cut spending in such an economy if you're chancellor. You can't. A policy designed in text-book-land can recommend large cuts in spending to reduce the money supply, but what happens is that claims for benefits go-up, keeping public spending pretty-much the same. My 1984 Begg textbook has none of that, despite using the word "national insurance" on the same page as "transfer payments".

  • I would like to say that this is a muddle, or a mistake, but the muddle is neat and consistent when it also forgets to mention the role of tariffs in allowing workers to work with the extra minimum costs of a welfare state in competition with workers from Bangladesh.

  • It forgets to mention the idea of social clauses which are not inserted into tariffs for purposes like this but could be. It forgets to mention the strangeness of Samuelson's "Public Good" journal article, which implies from its name that there are few other reasons for public sector spending.

  • The Begg textbook does suggest a few other rather weird ones - the "Merit Good" and the annual decision of electors to promote equality by redistribution - but these are fairly obviously naff.

After all this very neat forgetfulness, I suspect that the problem is not a muddle but a real disagreement between a textbook author and a lot of the electorate over a hundred years or more, with the text book author and similar economists on one side and the electorate on the other. These two compromises are very neat for maintaining textbook sales in West Virginia or Alabama or Bangladesh, or even for adding to the US edition for a UK readership as Begg did, but I don't think historians would agree that that's what national insurance does. As someone who did history O and A level, I think economists are a badly educated bunch. Times had moved-on since Economics could be summed-up in one textbook by one person in 1948. By 1984, the replacement textbook was 799 pages long because it described the usual news-speak theories, and then had little-read chapters later-on to say that the previous chapters were untrue. For example the diagram of graduate income, above, has a few notes added in the next page or so to say that in times of high unemployment, people study just to avoid unemployment, and that not all graduates find jobs. I found it hard to guess as a student whether the syllabus and exam were about the untrue theories or the true ones, but my choice of a more concise textbook and comments like "crap" in the margin suggest something uneasy. The essay about a "public good" was an odd choice. The theory attempts to explain why most governments provide a few public services beyond their natural activity of funding wars, pointy things, opera and circuses. Lighthouses are pointy. Ships, missiles, and aircraft are pointy. All this fits the pattern, but roads are not quite pointy in the same sense. Samuelson's theory was one of two things - I forget which: (1) it is daft to try to charge ship owners for lighthouses; charging is either impossible or disproportionate. Giant sea-curtains come to mind, or international taxes that are ignored in Panama. (2) there is no marginal cost to extra ships using the light. You will have to read the article to find out which of the two points he made, in order to get your essay marked correct. Skip the twiddly bits in italics: they're just for show. Taking historical examples in the UK, apart from lighthouses, it's too complicated, if not impossible, to make all roads toll-roads, so they're best provided from taxes. It's such a limited definition of what can be done best by the public sector that, taught alone, it can only be a deliberate attempt to confuse students. Students already have clearer ideas from history courses, so they know it's stupid. The teacher has a narrower education but thinks it's stupid, but it is still taught. My hunch is that it is part of the consensus built-up around US Federal spending on arms as an alternative to funding a welfare state - specially strong during conscription and the Vietnam war. The rest of the course was spent on largely un-true textbook theories about the labour market or monetary policy. Economics is distinct in this way. I doubt engineers study upward gravity in the first year and go-on, if the course is long enough, to study downward gravity right at the end. The effect of tax, spending, and interest rates in a closed economy, called the ISLM curve in the jargon, is an untrue theory when applied to an open economy. Higher interest rates effect the exchange rate, causing imports to flood-in and closing chunks of UK manufacturing. On the other hand, if you find a way to boost demand, imports flood-in as well.

"The model was developed by John Hicks in 1937, and later extended by Alvin Hansen, as a mathematical representation of Keynesian macroeconomic theory. Between the 1940s and mid-1970s, it was the leading framework of macroeconomic analysis. While it has been largely absent from macroeconomic research ever since, it is still the backbone of many introductory macroeconomics textbooks." - Wikipedia
Or the presumption that inflation is caused by unions bidding-up labour costs, without reference to inflation caused by the Arab oil crisis in the 1970s. Looking at my annotated textbook, I'm surprised at my own patience to learn things so obviously untrue, next to annotations like "imports?", "the main determination of output is still labour market efficiency?" or "you can't buy-back a closed steel works with low wages", "real interest rates were negative in the 70s but investment low - rationed by the banks", "pseudo first principals", "getting silly", "silly", "pedantic", "bla bla", "probably not true", "doesn't follow", "impossible", "tax law: high investment but pension fund objectives allow takeover unless short-term profit cf. Ever Ready", "30 years out of date", "is this likely?". Fishman didn't choose this textbook - I did - but there was no space on his course to criticise theories either. Oddly enough liked Pete Seeger concerts according to a friend of his on the net who's pages is good to read. Eleanor Fishman - spouse - had something to do with the Almanac Singers who sang folk songs like this Pete Seeger one.

What did you learn at school today, Dear little girl of mine? What did you learn in school today, Dear little boy of mine? I learned that Washington never told a lie. I learned that soldiers seldom die. I learned that everybody's free, And that's what the teacher said to me. That's what I learned in school today, That's what I learned in school. ... I learned that policemen are my friends. I learned that justice never ends. I learned that murderers die for their crimes Even if we make a mistake sometimes. ...I learned our Government must be strong; It's always right and never wrong; Our leaders are the finest men And we elect them again and again. ... I learned that war is not so bad; I learned about the great ones we have had; We fought in Germany and in France And someday I might get my chance.  ... That's what I learned in school today, That's what I learned in school. Some of this music was for sale as cover versions on Music for Pleasure in Woolworths, or  shown as interludes on programs like Blue Peter. The stuff with more vague lyrics like "this land is our land", whatever that means. They notably lacked criticism of corrupt feckless undemocratic unions that don't provide a lawyer when you get the sack, but that's where the world of song lyrics departs from the world of tables of data turned into economic reports; economists should be sharp, like forensic accountants, and if I had known about that career path I might have taken it & done good. My mum quite liked Nina and Fredrick records, usually covers of the tamer Pete Seger songs. I didn't really have social skills but had been befriended by someone who did American Studies and let me follow him around [date of parents' business closure at Subdbury Carpets possibly 1985] and asked me about economics - or at least about Thorsten Veblen. He gave me a tape of another Vietnam song, about what happens if you don't fit-in at a US school and tick the right little boxes on the economics workbook. It is by Country Joe and the Fish. Like Pete Seeger, they liked to get the audience to sing along. Well, come on all of you, big strong men, Uncle Sam needs your help again. Yeah, he's got himself in a terrible jam Way down yonder in Vietnam So put down your books and pick up a gun, Gonna have a whole lotta fun. And it's one, two, three, What are we fighting for? Don't ask me, I don't give a damn, Next stop is Vietnam; And it's five, six, seven, Open up the pearly gates, Well there ain't no time to wonder why, Whoopee! we're all gonna die. Yeah, come on Wall Street, don't be slow, Why man, this is war a-go-go There's plenty good money to be made By supplying the Army with the tools of its trade, Just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb, They drop it on the Viet Cong. And it's one, two, three, What are we fighting for? Don't ask me, I don't give a damn, Next stop is Vietnam. And it's five, six, seven, Open up the pearly gates, Well there ain't no time to wonder why Whoopee! we're all gonna die. Well, come on generals, let's move fast; Your big chance has come at last. Now you can go out and get those reds 'Cause the only good commie is the one that's dead And you know that peace can only be won When we've blown 'em all to kingdom come. And it's one, two, three, What are we fighting for? Don't ask me, I don't give a damn, Next stop is Vietnam; And it's five, six, seven, Open up the pearly gates, Well there ain't no time to wonder why Whoopee! we're all gonna die. Come on mothers throughout the land, Pack your boys off to Vietnam. Come on fathers, and don't hesitate To send your sons off before it's too late. You can be the first ones in your block To have your boy come home in a box.

< Digression on record players >

This exchange of cassette tapes about American Studies and Economics could have shown how well the Foundation Year could work, but in fact the other student didn't do the foundation year. I think it was my record turntable that interested him and provoked a gift of a free tape. There were a couple of record turntable manufacturers - Garrard and BSR - that made identical rumbly contraptions. If you bought a complete record player in a charity shop, took out the turntable, and mounted it on three bean tins with a better stylus, you got quite a good product.

<  / Digression on record players >

<  Digression on Foundation Year subject mixing >

Reading a history of Keele, I see that my foundation year was meant to be quite a big thing. Not just a way of bumping-up the numbers from people who had flunked their exams, but an attempt to stretch funding that was designed for three year courses, all to promote this kind of exchange between economics students and american studies students over a Country Joe and the Fish cassette. A degree in two subjects was unusual at the time as well, and that's an idea that has stuck but the 1990s prospectuses that have survived online, on, don't promote un-related subjects. They don't say that there is extra coaching and admission for people with worse A-levels if they do un-related subjects. One tutor could remember when there used to be discussion groups, chaired by a tutor to encourage thoughts about how subjects contrast or get taught differently or overlap. This is mixing a half-remembered anecdote with a few lines in a Keele history and experience of surviving hopeless social work jobs. Or maybe someone quoted him saying this and it's a terrible mis-quote. The groups would do something like discuss a film. Someone might say something like "Wow!". "There's not very much you can do with "wow", he said. I have found the same thing in chaotic attempts at groupwork by social services agencies. There needs to be some kind of structure for some proportion of the groups  - otherwise people feel they have to voice some standard smalltalk that emerges that isn't very useful or even likely to tempt people back next time if they have a choice. Maybe a few open groups out of the selection are good, but not loads. So for that reason, mid 1980s foundation year courses were taster sessions, discussing a particular book with lectures and a tutorial, or doing a bit of science or art if you were used to art or science. I was let-off most of the science because I did A-level, but I did a mini course in assembling electronics on a circuit board from a plan in any electronics magazine I chose. My anecdote about learning how Economics and American Studies overalap is about a boy who didn't do the foundation year and thoughts that popped into my head decades later. At the time we didn't talk a massive amount about the subjects we studied, any more than people talk about their jobs at home. I suppose that was part of the idea of living on a campus for most of four years, but I don't remember long conversations about the overalap between different subjects. Somewhere in that digression might be a clue to how to get students to discuss the overlaps between their subjects and lecturers to help the process, but I don't know straight-away what it is.

<  / Digression on Foundation Year subject mixing >

< Digression on the real life that I wanted to study >

There is a list of the kinds of things I wanted to study on the better economics teaching page, near the top. I would have liked to study a short course on why it is difficult to re-open a washing machine factory or a steel works. Ebac in Darlington have just started making washing machines. In the past they bought machine tools from the closed factory at Norfrost that made chest freezers. It was probably the same this time; some came-up for sale on an auction site but scale is a problem for most of us. They've solved it by building-up the business over generations, picking up a lot of skills, and buying-in some of the parts. They're also owned by some kind of trust that doesn't have to please shareholders. Slow growth of what works, buying used tools, buying-in parts, and working within cheap delivery cost of suppliers are all good ideas. One of the cutlery brands in Sheffield seems to have been based in block of workshops that all shared the biggest machines I think, although I can't remember the source - it was an archaeological dig before redevelopment. Small but expensive production methods for trials and top-ups are good, allowing larger orders to be sent. Even so, if it's 1984, it's hard to imagine any way to make a higher bid for the Servis washing machine business than a company that just wants the brand. This is what the housing developers wrote about Service washing machines:

"The site totals 4.55 ha (11.24 acres) and is formed from two parcels of land; the first being the former Servis Site which is rectangular in shape; the second being the former Alucast Site which is an additional triangle of land, to the northern end of the site. The Servis Factory has now been cleared and levelled (2011) to slab"
Supposing you still want to buy the tools, that leaves you without the brand because it has been sold to a rival, and probably most of the site because it has been sold to property developers. You need some way of interesting the washing machine buying public in your factory, by saying it employs people in their own economy, it pays taxes to their government, it finances the welfare state. You could to try exports, which are sold on reliability, price, and an exchange rate that gives overseas buyers a good deal.

I would have liked to study the dire ignorance with which the national insurance system of the UK is managed, mainly because I want everyone else to study it as well; I don't want to live in a country where politicians come-in to office and think "why do we pay pensions?", because the subject is censored from the economics textbooks studied by anyone they talk to. Social insurance or Social security are good search terms. The subject also leads to the Social Clause - a brief 1970s idea in tariff policy - which say that an exporting country can have terms dictated by the importing country; get a welfare state or we charge you. This seems to be the only way of making the world a better place all-round, whether by reducing famine in africa or re-opening washing machine factories in the UK, but it is a taboo subject.
Anyway that was about fact and this is a post about the fiction in the economics text book. As I catch sentences of the Levacic textbook I see endless references to some kind of fixed aggregate labour market that bids on price for work for itself in a closed economy, but only in the text book; obviously nothing remotely similar exists in practise. I did not realise at the time that the textbook theories are not much based on evidence. Professor Les Fishman at Keele taught text-book theory as childrens' TV explains the world of grown-ups. He had the same specs and haircut as Samuelson. Is that weird?

3. Work Placements

Did your course involve any work placements? No (skip this section) I did do a tour of an old ceramics factory, but I think the Quality Assurance Agency would call it a site visit rather than a work placement. So many factories closed so quickly in the 80s that they weren't well secured; it was possible just to walk-in and wonder round. I wondered round an old corner building with a 1950s front and a very old back where the last batch produced had been Steelite crockery - that's the nifty sort with cups that stack-up. One of the letters on the doormat was from a supplier complaining that a delivery had been refused; the factory closure had come as a surprise. I went through the post, just in case an order had come-in, but there was none. If an order had come-in after a keynsian re-flation, I didn't know how to make it up. I needed one of those invisible hands that's meant to guide workers around a capital stock of factors of production like training and work space and machinery for hire, but I couldn't find an invisible hand. Nor anything large and metal, because those things had had been removed from the factory for scrap, so I would have needed a lot of skill even if I knew more about ceramics, and there was no ceramics course at Keele. I just knew about the daft system of using a pottery wheel.

<Digression on the price of steelite crockery>

I don't know a walk-in shop where you can buy cheap Steelite, new or secondhand, but I haven't much looked. I just found a place where you have to buy packs of say 36 per style and size and a minimum for free delivery (and ebay what you don't want) unless you buy other things from a catering supplier at the same time. Prices per mug before VAT are about what you'd pay in a shop after VAT, but anyone in catering might work-out how to get an initial batch second hand or just inherit them. The quality and continuity of supply would make more difference than price per piece to someone with a catering business. With fair economic management of the economy by government, and a consensus that it's good to buy things from democratic welfare states among buyers, the factory might have got another order, but it didn't. The sales web page doesn't say that it's made in the UK, so I guess it isn't, but the Price's National Teapot factory is still in business making Prices & Kensington teapots to sell at the same caterer's supplier on another page, so the extra cost of UK production (minus benefits like smaller batches and shorter lead times) wasn't the overwhelming single issue.

</Digression on the price of steelite crockery>
If you google business support services in the UK, you just see free seminars in retaining intellectual property over china. Nothing about borrowing a ceramics press and kiln if you can't afford your own factory, or craft education for volunteers who want to be self-employed, and not much about shared marketing for UK makers. Three or four million people were unemployed, so work placements in firms that were still open would have made no sense while Professor Alan Walters, late of the LSE, and Sir Geoffrey Howe advised the Thatcher government how to close the rest down as quickly as possible. The only work under the control of Keele Economics Department was a survey of what happened to 120 redundant tyre workers, which would be about one per student. I suppose the assumption was that 20 of them would loose contact for reasons like dying or emigrating or writing colourful language one the question-form instead of ticking the boxes. I guess that if your mum or dad are one of the redundant Michelin tyre workers, it would be awkward to allocate you as a student to monitor their progress. Somehow Keele Economics Department got £30,000 of funding for this. Unfortunately the teachers counted these 120 people it themselves rather than making a work placement of it; none of the £30,000 reached students, or unemployed people, and the Economics and Social Research Council is too grand to keep a note of why they spent the money. If the course had made sense, and taught the weaknesses of models, we would have had a class about how hard it is to squat a ceramics factory and get production going on lower wages after the shock to the system that monetarists warn about, and there would have been some kind of survey done by students about why it's hard. I don't remember anything like that.

5. Course Delivery

There are various ways of [teaching to] to explore and analyse information and consider policy implications. [including] lectures, seminars, tutorials, workshops, peer teaching and learning, projects, experiments and distance-learning approaches. - Quality Assurance Agency benchmark
Learning materials made available on my course have enhanced my learning. The range and balance of approaches to teaching has helped me to learn. The delivery of my course has been stimulating. My learning has benefited from [one] modules that are informed by current research.Practical activities on my course have helped me to learn.
If you can't study numbers for economics, it makes sense to study pages of words written by the likes of Keynes before he wrote his general theory - "The relevance of the fact that Keynes’ General Theory was published in the midst of the Great Depression is hard to dispute. Understanding where theories came from, and why, will help students to make better judgements about interpreting and applying theory" - says the Post Crash Economics Society report. We did not study a word of Keynes, Marshall economist, nor any critical text, even though a member of staff had written one of them, called The British Economic Crisis, by Keith Smith. We might have read it in our civilian time or on his optional specialist thing in year 3 but it was not part of the main course. Our written learning materials were journal articles - like Samualson on the Public Good - or a textbook to use as background reading that wasn't related to the course; nobody said "this is the same as chapter 35 but I disagree with bits of it", or "revise from chapter 35". Another couple of staff were interested in input-output tables or African development, but had the typical Keele lecturers' career prospects and no chance to teach what they were interested in because Chi-squared and ISLM took-up all the space on the syllabus. There were very few MA students to supervise or help. It was like teaching A-level in a more mundane but robotic way.

My learning has benefited from modules that are informed by current research
An ability to discuss, analyse and evaluate government policy and to assess the performance of the UK and other economies and of the global economy. - Quality Assurance Agency Benchmark
Professor Les was not just rude and bad at his job when he used the royal "we" to wee on the students by saying "now we believe in monetary solutions"; he lied. Economics teachers from nearly every university in the UK wrote to The Times about that time to state that new government economics policies were failing. Only one person from Keele signed the letter. I don't remember him teaching; he must have been one of the people on unpaid leave, working at another college and leaving gaps in Keele teaching. As for Fishman, someone asked him why such a damaging monetary policy was taken seriously. His answer was teflon-smooth and diplomatic: "it'll be a shock to the system - like a cold shower. That's what they say - the people who believe in it", and he shrugged. He resorted to mime. Both answers struck me as bad at the job of professing at Keele in the 1980s, but good at the previous job of coping with machiavellian bosses and the false accusations of being a lefty, based on any shred of a fact taken out of context. Fishman was a diplomat; a teflon man. There was nothing in that statement that could allow attempts at unfair dismissal; nothing that could be picked-on by a political activist. It was a statement that referred only to the views of the economics teaching trade in the US, leaving his own views private. It was not informed by current research. There is an explanation for why Fishman didn't sign that letter to The Times; why he came to work as a diplomat representing the economics trade and not as a teacher of fact. He once published an article in an obscure journal called the Centenial Review. Another in another issue, someone writes a long comparison of the Spanish Inquisition and the removal of communists and radicals like Fishman from US state employment in the 1950s (bottom of this page, gif image p.236) . It concludes that "their children will not join any organisations or sign any petitions". Outside college, people who did not deal in goods and imports and exports tended not to realise how important the exchange rate was to unemployment, and looked to economists to explain the problem. Economists just talked about the money supply - a 1980s fashion for naming guesstimates of money supply after motorways like M1 M2 M3 and M4 that soon lapsed - rather than admit that the government was lowering prices by closing factories and paying more than it needed to for public debt in order to encourage cheap imports from badly-run countries*. That's why I signed-up for an economics course. I guess that money supply figures are a bit like fairies: you can believe that tehy exist but it's hard to know if they really control anything. The Bank of England now explains the problem of how ceramics factories close when you put-up the interest rate with the bottom line of arrows on this diagram: a raised base rate, as in Geoffrey Howe's budgets, will raise the exchange rate by sucking-in large amounts of overseas investors to buy UK government stock or similar. This raises the price of sterling and goods produced by factories that use sterling to pay staff and suppliers, putting them out of business and loosing all their inherited tools and workshop space to the scrapyard and Bovis Homes; staff are dispersed and the chance of talented people getting together again in the kitchen of a Bovis home to make the next generation of ceramics are low. A fifth of UK manufacturing closed in the first five years of this policy, which continued in place and was later delegated to the Monetary Policy Committee, who used it until 2009 and keep it in reserve should inflation ever rise. It may well return. Decades later, that is the regret that shows in the faces of ex cabinet ministers interviewed about their awful boss. As James Prior put it "Once you've lost that much industry, it's very hard to get it back".**

Bank of England report to MPs - taken from the pdf document on the bank of england web site

the bottom line of arrows is what closes-down manufacturing
[the diagram of how the official rate of interest effects the exchange rate and import prices shows better at a larger size. It is from The Transmission Mechanism of Monetary Policy, by The Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee, 27/4/1999 ,a report prepared by Bank of England staff under the guidance of the Monetary Policy Committee in response to suggestions by the Treasury Committee of the House of Commons and the House of Lords The text of the report states how the system works to smash the manufacturing economy]

Students have exposure to the use of such techniques on actual economic, financial or social data - Quality Assurance Agency Benchmark
We studied from a book called Begg, which had up-to-date footnotes to journal articles, and when keen we could look-up these articles in the library. These ought to be titled "please hire me" and are written by economics teachers who think "autism" has a different meaning in economics. Really. An article published on the Royal Economics Society web site says something similar in more polite language. A US survey finds them increasingly theoretical from 1962 until 1984, when professors of quantitative methods finally learnt to use their office computers. As a student I did find one article - in the Journal of Industrial Relations - that says that the elasticity of employment is quite flat; there aren't many more basic jobs at £5 an hour than £10 an hour as was discovered after raising the minimum wage. That's useful. It probably involved a bit of algebra which suddenly becomes interesting when shorthand for something you understand already but want to jot down or see on concentrated form, as a set of simple ratios. I expect there is some pleasure to be had in journal articles and algebra for their own sake, just as I quite like a bit of economic history or an episode of Top Gear and some people like cricket, but those are marmite tastes not to be inflicted on others without context and good reason. The Begg chapter on unemployment just discusses the technical problem of measuring unemployment. If the full text appears online it will be linked here. As for the main text - "The trouble with the textbooks in economics is that they contain things we economists know to be wrong." - Diane Coyle, professor of economics, University of Manchester. The book and the course showed no great interest in three or four million people unemployed and the death of so many manufacturing firms. The chapter on unemployment skips-over the problem; I suppose it's like a classic 1950s US textbook. This "British Edition" does try to be all things to all people; it has a bit on current affairs later-on. Begg Fischer and Dornbusch "Economics" seldom puts numbers next to graphs; it publishes graphs as diagrams to illustrate the grown-up's ideas to the children; a blue peter guide. Secondhand copies are good because they open at the interesting page. This opened at page 663-4 where it says that real exchange rates had made a massive change to competitiveness in the early 1980s, forcing a lot of factories to trade at a loss in hope of better times ahead. So it gets to the point eventually but doesn't put the main news on the cover where it belongs. I expect that if there's a Greek edition it mentions national debt on page 663, or a new British edition it mentions the banking crisis on the page 663. This mis-leading by textbooks is peculiar to economics. Alongside Begg, we had a book that described marginal cost theory without real examples, and the teachers had "workbooks" of multiple-choice exercises. The course is well organised and is running smoothly In year three, the course might have started, taking available data into account:

In fact there was one vestige of previous teaching - a course on industrial innovation based on the tutor's own British Economic Crisis book which was so good that I have pirated in full on another page. There was space for two of these on the timetable. The tutor who's blog says he became a rowing-coach had a course about funding pensions and care for us lot in thirty years' time.  Talking of thirty years time, this is a survey result of what University College London students wanted to study in the twenty-teens Fishman took relevant factors into account before deciding what to teach in year three. surveys of what courses students wanted to study: none phone calls from his boss: at least one while teaching courses he was prepared to teach: none; the only course notes on his shelf were old revision notes. Economics tutors did a huge amount of work, compared to English tutors, talking from one end of a room to bored faces about something like an "indifference curve". There was a lot of economics teaching, so budgets were tight. Fishman cancelled any pretence at a 1980s UK university-style course for his part of year three teaching, holding his own 1950s-style "revision class" instead.

Fishman writings show that he was slightly interested in transport, in the Vietnam war, and he'd tried to run a course in things like negotiation skills and different types of trades unions in the 1950s, but there is not much evidence of him ever running a course, even in the subject of unemployment and redundant tyre workers where he'd got large government grants to compile reports. He was slightly interested in market structure and how one number of firms in a market produced differently to another, but I don't think he ever got an ideas together enough to get something published or prepare a course. I think he was too slow and goofy to talk to a group of 12 or 24 students round a table, but his own excuse was different, and he was the boss. In the 1960s he'd told a visitor to Colorado University that the students could not "absorb a text book" and had "to some extent to be spoon-fed". It's odd to think that he used the same excuse at Keele in 1987 during an economic crisis, but he did. I remember the teacher in the one non-cancelled course, Kieth Smith, asking something like: "do you mind being taught like this? Because the person who runs this department - Fishman - is in favour of tutorials as long as people are OK with them and want them?"  The conversation had happened years before; it was over. Students are thanked for tutorial contributions in the preface to Keith Smith's book, so any hope that Fishman would finally do his job in the last years before retirement were low.

Teaching based on available data

Based on available data, Fishman cancelled one of two third-year specialised courses and taught something he called a "revision class" instead, standing at one end of a room and reading out to photocopied sets of economic exercises that he had found on his shelf from way-back. I didn't see anyone making a fuss; I got the impression that this was quite normal and that he did it every year. A good revision class would have been based closely on the book, chapter-by-chapter, topic by topic, to add a sense of structure. It did not. I remember people trying to get Fishman to say what was on the syllabus, and he not quite understanding the questions, as though we all had the same late 20th century mid-atlantic textbook in our heads. We did not. We had Laidler and Begg. Fishman knew this in a way - "take it home for revision", he said; "it is a christmasy book", but he didn't realise that the Keynes-influenced ISLM diagrams were explained one way in lectures, briefly another way in Begg, and a then compared to the current monetarist fashions that were rather opposite in the next bit of Begg. The teaching and testing style did not allow for points of view. We were expected to learn from the textbook as precisely as if we were rehearsing a crime alibi, but the textbook didn't agree with the teaching, so we were stuffed. Meanwhile the lectures were interesting, the classes were theoretical and often based on some kind of 1970s textbook like Samuelson, while students were asked to buy a 1980s textbook called Begg which said why the 1970s one was untrue. We learned an un-true model of how government can manage demand in an economy called an ISLM model. Our textbook gave it a few pages (549-557) explained in a slightly different way and then said why it was silly. I think we were meant to learn the first textbook, which we didn't have, rather than the second one and that our essays would have been marked wrong if we'd used the second. The range and balance of approaches to teaching has helped me to learn To get an idea of how revision classes were taught, search for "microeconomics recitation", and multiple choice tests. You'll find sheets of little questions and multiple choice answers. The subjects were the same X-shaped diagrams that students had studied in the first year of A-level, and the first year of the university course.

One of the lines on the graph moves. Is the new price186? ? Whatever it says on the damn graph? An incompetent economics professor reaches the second last year of their career. Do theyDo their job as normal? ? Do their job as badly as possible in hope of early retirement? A new economic policy leads to 20,000 redundancies a week in manufacturing during 1979-80. Does the economics professor ? Say "now we believe in monetarist solutions"? apply economic reasoning to policy issues in a critical way? A university department repeats A-level teaching, then adds a little-bit more on the end. Does the student: apply economic reasoning to policy issues in a critical way, waking-up at exactly the right moment to hear a new detail ? "it is now accepted wisdom that those with A level Economics do less well in Economics degree results than those without A level " Economists sometimes talk about market failures. Have they heard of ? few sellers, lots of buyers? (Oligopoly, Monopoly)few buyers, lots of sellers? (Tesco & Sainsburys, farmers)sellers with only one job, scared if changing too often, and buyers with enough staff to allow staff turnover daily? (most employees and most employers)sellers of common work skills, competing with many others for jobs, including garment workers in Bangladesh or ceramics workers in China?pundits with a government grant to say that this is a good thing? Oddly enough, the textbook we didn't read does mention something called "Monopsony" in passing, just to say that it isn't going to mention it. I forget the definition.
I didn't realise that it was possible to run a college course without discussion tutorials. That's what other arts and social science departments did. Somehow, it happened and something similar probably happened on the courses that our current politicians went on.

The delivery of my course has been stimulating
There was nothing very stimulating about the multiple choice examples. I remember waking-up during one about broiler chickens because Fishman did an unusual thing. At he would interrupt himself half-way through a sentence as a joke about how boring this was. It was funny: I'd like to do the same. But the memory seems odd, as though I must have got something wrong. Why would anyone teach micro-economics without a real-life example? There were plenty of economic statistics to interest students in 1987. My memory is clear and backed-up by other sources: a series of books called "economics workbook" by Peter Smith and David Begg exist in a tradition that writes boring multiple-choice questions about broiler chickens. Fishman could probably have found revision tests written specially for our recommended book - Laidler's Microeconomics - but to save copyright he used some old notes with examples from the Food and Drug Administration of 1950s america. There is also sets of lecture notes for teachers to lecture from if they want. They can be bought alongside textbooks like Saumuelson or Begg. I don't know if Fishman used them, but I remember him saying "we have to teach this stuff in order to call this an economics course" part-way through a lecture. Nowadays you can log-on to the McGraw Hill Publications web site and pay an extra £10 on top of the price of a book but maybe save the £9000 cost of hiring a teacher download the notes and read them out to you. Or you could sit in an empty lecture hall an get a machine to read them out for you, maybe charging other people to sit round you if willing to pay. I'm sure there Kirmit frog puppets with text-to-speech software in them. You could re-create the real experience of a 1950s Colorado University Economics lecture. 

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

Keynes edited the Cambridge Economic Handbook series of textbooks, which petered-out in the early 1970s and a clue to the reason is that they are hard to track down; they didn't sell in America. In Canada and the US, "The elements of economics - an introduction to the theory of price and employment" by Lorie Tarshis didn't sell much either: it was deliberately boycotted in a campaign by college donors. The first textbook to sell in large numbers had to look neutral and technocratic. This is when a generation economists known for their bow ties and acerbic wit, rather than their ability to talk to students, began writing journal articles like the their narrow notion of a "public good", and the same writer wrote this neat technical-looking textbook. PART ONE: BASIC ECONOMIC CONCEPT AND NATIONAL INCOME Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION 3 For Whom the Bell Tolls; Poverty Midst Plenty; Economic Description and Analysis; Economic Policy; Common Sense and Nonsense; Theory versus Practice; The Whole and the Part; Through the Looking Glass. Chapter 2. CENTRAL PROBLEMS OF EVERY ECONOMIC SOCIETY. 12 A. Problems of Economic Organization 12 Boundaries and Limits to Economics; The Law of Scarcity. B. The Technological Chokes Open to Any Society 17 The Production-possibility or Transformation Curve: Increasing Costs; Economies of Mass Production: Decreasing Costs; The Famous Law of Diminishing Returns. C. The Underlying Population Basis of Any Economy: Past and Future Population Trends 24 The Malthus Theory of Population; America and Europe Face Depopulation; The Net Reproduction Rate. Summery 31 Chapter 3. FUNCTIONING OF A "MIXED" CAPITALISTIC ENTERPRISE SYSTEM 34 A. How A Free-enterprise System Solves the Basic Economic Problems . . 35 Not Chaos but Economic Order; The Price System; Imperfections of competition; Economic Role of Government. ix B. The Capitalistic Character of Modem Society Capital and Time; Fixed and Circulating Capital; Capital and Income; Interest and the Real Net Productivity of Capital; Capital and Private Property. C. Exchange, Division of Labor, and Money Barter versus the Use of Money; Commodity Money, Paper Money, and Bank Money; Price Ratios and Money Prices; Money as a Medium of Exchange or as a Unit of Account; Money and Time * Chapter 4. INDIVIDUAL AND FAMILY INCOME 61 Distribution of Income in the United States; The Inequality of Income; The Decline of Poverty; War Prosperity and Incomes; The So-called "Class Struggle"; Income from Work and from Property; The Render Class in a Decade of Falling Interest Rates; Incomes of Farmers; Wage Incomes from Work; The Position of Minorities. Summary 84 Chapter 5. INDIVIDUAL AND FAMILY INCOME: EARNINGS IN DIFFERENT OCCUPATIONS 86 The Labor Market's Basement; The Unskilled and Semiskilled Workers; The Skilled Craftsmen; The White-collar Class; Professional Incomes; Is College Worth While?; Economic Stratification and Opportunity. Summary 107 Chapter 6. BUSINESS ORGANIZATION AND INCOME 108 A. The Forms of Business Organization 108 The Population of Business Enterprises; Big, Small, and Infinitesimal Business; The Single Proprietorship; Business Growth and the Need for Short-term Capital; The Partnership; Causes of Business Growth; New Needs and Sources of Capital; Disadvantages of the Partnership Form. B. The Modern Corporation 118 Advantages and Disadvantages of the Corporate Form; How a Corporation Can Raise Capital; Bonds; Common Stocks; Preferred Stocks; Advantages of Different Securities; The Giant Corporation; The Evil of Monopoly; Divorce of Ownership and Control in the Large Corporation; Amplification of Control by the Pyramiding of Holding Companies; Leadership and Control of the Large Corporation; The Curse of Bigness? Summary 132 Appendix to Chapter 6: Elements of Accounting 134 The Balance Sheet; The Statement of Profit and Loss; Depreciation; The Relation between the Income Statement and the Balance Sheet; Earnings, Dividends, and Purchasing Power; Summary of Elementary Accounting Relations; Reserves, Funds, and Intangible Assets; Intangible Assets; Good Will and Monopoly Power. Summary to Appendix 149 Chapter 7. THE ECONOMIC ROLF. OF GOVERNMENT: EXPENDITURE, REGULATION, AND FINANCE I50 The Growth of Government Expenditure; The Growth of Government Controls and Regulation; Federal, Local, and State Functions; Federal Expenditure; Efficiency and Waste in Government; Socialism and the New Deal; Government Transfer Expenditures; Three 'Ways to Finance Expenditure; Financing Government Expenditure by New Money; Financing Deficits by Loan Finance or Borrowing; War Finance; Fiscal Policy during Boom and Depression. Summary 166 Chapter 8. THE ECONOMIC ROLE OF GOVERNMENT: FEDERAL TAXATION AND LOCAL FINANCE 168 Federal Taxation; Sales and Excise Taxes; Social Security, Payroll, and Employment Taxes; Corporation Income Taxes; The Progressive Income Tax; State and Federal Expenditures; State and Local Taxes; Property Tax; Highway User Taxes; Sales Taxes; Payroll and Business Taxes; Personal Income and Inheritance Taxes; Borrowing and Debt Repayment; Coordinating Different Levels of Government. Summary 184 Chapter 9. LABOR ORGANIZATION AND PROBLEMS 185 History of the American Labor Movement; Craft versus Industrial Unions; Structure of the Labor Movement; Case Study of an AFL Carpenter; Case Study of 2 CIO Industrial Unionist; Case Study of a Labor Lawyer; The Case of the Philanthropic Capitalist; A Congressman's View of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947; An Expert Looks at the Labor Problem. Summary 199 Chapter 10. PERSONAL FINANCE AND SOCIAL SECURITY . . . 201 Budgetary Expenditure Patterns; Regional Differences in Cost of Living; Family Differences in the Cost of Living; The Backward Art of Spending Money; Income Patterns of Saving and Consumption; Graphical Depiction of the Propensity to Consume and to Save; The Wartime Accumulation of Saving; How People Borrow Money; Government Bonds as a Form of Saving; Investing in Securities; Economics of Home Ownership; Buying Life Insurance; Term Insurance; Straight Life Insurance; Limited Payment Insurance; Endowment Plan; Social Security and Health; Growth of Social Security. Summary 223 Chapter 11. NATIONAL INCOME 225 Two Views: Money Income or Money Output; First View of National Income: Cost and Earnings of Factors of Production; Transfer Payments; Real versus Money Income; Second View of National Income as Net National Product: Final Goods versus Double Counting of Intermediate Goods; Two Problems Introduced by Government; Capital Formation; Gross versus Net Investment; International Aspects of Income; Quantitative Recapitulation of National Income and Product Summary 243 PART TWO: DETERMINATION OF NATIONAL INCOME AND ITS FLUCTUATIONS Chapter 12. SAVING AND INVESTMENT 253 A. The Theory of Income Determination 253 The Cleavage between Saving and Investment; The Variability of Investment; The Community's Propensity to Consume and to Save Schedules; How In-come is Determined at Level Where Saving and Investment Schedules Inter-sect; Income Determination by Consumption and Investment; Arithmetical Demonstration of Income Determination. A Third Restatement; The Theory of Income Determination Restated. 8. Applications and Limitations of Income Analysis 265 The "Multiplier"; A Digression on the Identity between Measurable Saving and Measurable Investment; Induced Investment and the Paradox of Thrift; Deflationary and Inflatory Gaps; Taxation and Government Expenditure in Income Analysis; Qualifications to Saving and Investment Analysis. Summary 277 Chapter 13. PRICES, MONEY, AND INTEREST RATES 280 A. Prices Inflation, Deflation, and Redistribution of Income between Economic Classes; Effects of Changing Prices on Output and Employment; Galloping Inflation; Goals of Long-term Price Behavior. B. Money and Prices The Three Kinds of Money: Small Coins, Paper Currency, and Bank De-posits; Why Checking Deposits Are Considered to Be Money; The Meaning of the Value of Money as the Reciprocal of the Price Level; How the limita-tion of the Quantity of Money Preserves Its Value and Affects the Price 1evel; The Quantity Theory of Money; Inadequacies of the Quantity Theory : Prices Not Proportional to Total Spending; Inadequacies of the Quantity Theory: Total Spending Not Proportional to the Stock of Money; Relation of Money and Spending to Saving, Investment, and Prices; Conclusion to Money and Prices. C. Money and Interest Rates Three Demands for Money; Transaction Demand for Money; Precautionary Motive; Investment Demand for Money; Money as a Temporary Form of Holding Wealth; Short-term Investments as Near Substitutes for Cash; Money as a Long-term Asset; Money and the Determination of Interest Rates; His-tory of the Capital Markets since 1932; Money and Interest Rate during and after World War II. Summary 306 Chapter 14. FUNDAMENTALS OF THE BANKING SYSTEM AND DEPOSIT CREATION 310 A. Nature and Functioning of the Modern Banking System The Present Status of Banking; Creation of the Federal Reserve System; Banking as a Business; How Banks Developed Out of Goldsmith Establish-ments; Modem Fractional Reserve B. The Creation of Bank Deposits Can Banks Really Create Money?; How Deposits Arc Crated; A "Monopoly Bank"; Simultaneous Expansion or Contraction by All Banks; Three Qualifications; Leakage into Hand-to-hand Circulation; Leakage into Bank Vault Cash; Possible Excess Reserves. Summary 333 Chapter 15. FEDERAL RESERVE AND CENTRAL BANK MONETARY POLICY 337 Controlling the Business Cycle by Controlling the Quantity of Money; Brief Preview of How the Reserve Banks Can Affect the Supply of Money; The Federal Reserve Banks' Balance Sheet; Gold Certificates; "Reserve Bank Credit"; Federal Reserve "Open-market" Operations; Loan and Rediscount Policy; Changing Reserve Requirements as a Weapon of Monetary Control; The Problem of "Excess Reserves"; Summary of Reserve Banks' Control over Money; The Pyramid of Credit; War Finance and the Banks; The Inadequacies of Monetary Control of the Business Cycle; Public Debt Management and Monetary Control. Summary 355 B. The Public Debt and Postwar Fiscal Policy 424 Retiring Nonbank Debt; Retiring Bank Debt; The Debt and the Propensity to Consume; Debt Retirement and Interest; The Public Debt and Its Limita-tions; External versus Internal Debt; Borrowing and Shining Economic Bur-dens through Tune; "We All Owe It to Ourselves"; Debt Management and Monetary Policy; The True Indirect Burden of Interest Charges; The Quantitative Problem of the Debt; Useful versus Wasteful Fiscal Policy; A Fundamental Difficulty with full Employment; The Employment Act of 1946 Summary 437 Appendix to Chapter IS: Four Quantitative Paths to Full Employment . 440 Model I: Private Enterprise, Full Employment; Model II: Deficit-spending Path to Full Employment; Model III: Tax-reduction Path to Full Employ-ment; Model IV: Balanced-budget Path to Full Employment. PART THREE: THE COMPOSITION AND PRICING OF NATIONAL OUTPUT Chapter 19. DETERMINATION OF PRICE BY SUPPLY AND DEMAND 447 A. Determination of Market Price 447 The Demand Schedule and the Demand Curve; Elastic and Inelastic Demands; The Supply Schedule; Equilibrium of Supply and Demand. B. Applications of Supply and Demand 457 Effects of Changes in Supply or Demand; A common Fallacy; Is the Law of Supply and Demand Immutable? Prices Fixed by Law. Summary 466 Appendix to Chapter 19: Questions and Problems on Supply and Demand 469 Case I : Constant Cost; Case 2: Increasing Costs and Diminishing Returns; Case 3: Completely Inelastic Supply and Economic Rent; Case 4: A Backward Rising Supply Curve; Case 5: A Possible Exception: Decreasing Cost; Case 6. Shifts in Supply. Chapter 20. THE THEORY OF CONSUMPTION AND DEMAND . . 477 Theory of Consumer's Choice; Price and Income Changes in Demand; Cross Relations of Demand; Response of Quantity to Own Price; A Fundamental Law of Diminishing Substitution; The Paradox of Value; Consumer's Surplus. Summary 485 Appendix to Chapter 20: Geometrical Analysis of Consumer Equilibrium 487 Chapter 21. COST AND THE EQUILIBRIUM OF THE FIRM UNDER PERFECT AND IMPERFECT COMPETITION 491 A. The Maximum Profit Equilibrium Position within the Firm 491 Monopolistic Competition; The Finn's Demand under Perfect and Monopolist Competition; Price, Quantity, and Total Revenue; Total and Marginal Costs; Fixed Costs; Variable Costs; Total Cost; Average Cost: Marginal Cost; Marginal Revenue and Price; Maximizing Profits; Graphical Depiction of Firm's Optimum Position. B. Applications of the Profit Maximizing Principles to Perfect Competition and Patterns of Monopolistic Competition Price and Supply under Perfect Competition; Decreasing Costs and the Break-down of Perfect Competition; Minimizing Losses and Deciding When to Shur Down; Firm and Industry; Price and Cost under Monopolistic Competi-tion; Illustrative Patterns of Price; Chronically Overcrowded Sick Industries; The Case of Few Sellers of Identical Products; Monopolies Maintained by Constant Research and Advertising; Publicly Regulated Monopolies. 503 Sumnury 516 Chapter 22. PRODUCTION EQUILIBRIUM OF THE FIRM AND THE PROBLEM OF DISTRIBUTION 518 A. Production Equilibrium of the Firm 519 Final Production Equilibrium: Direct Approach; The Indirect Approach to the Production Equilibrium; The "Production Function"; The Law of Di-minishing Returns Once Again; Combining Inputs Optimally in Order to Produce a Given Output; Final Production Equilibrium: indirect Approach. B. The Marginal Productivity Theory and the "Problem of Distribution" . . 526 Checkal Theories of Rent; The So-called "Marginal Productivity Theory of Distribution"; Can Trade-unions Raise Wages? Keeping Down the Total Number of Laborers; Pushing Up Money Wages in Particular Occupations. Summary 532 Appendix to Chapter 22: Graphical Depiction of Production Equilibrium 534 Chapter 23. INTERNATIONAL TRADE AND THE THEORY OF COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE 558 Diversity of Conditions between Regions or Countries: A Simple Case: Europe and America; America without Trade; Europe without Trade; The Opening Up of Trade; Exact Determination of the Final Price Ratio. Summary Appendix to Chapter 23. Some Qualifications to the Discussion of Comparative Advantage Many Commodities and Countries; Increasing Costs; International Commodity Movements as a Partial Substitute for Labor and Factor Movements; Decreasing Costs and International Trade; Differences in Tastes or Demand as a Reason for Trade; Transportation Costs. Chapter 24. THE ECONOMICS OF TARIFF PROTECTION AND FREE TRADE 559 Noneconomic Goals; Grossly Fallacious Arguments for Tariff; Keeping Money in the Country; A Tariff for Higher Money Wages; Tariffs for Special-interest Groups; Some Less Obvious Fallacies; A Tariff for Revenue; Tariffs and the Home Market; Competition from Chap Foreign Labor; A Tariff for Retaliation; The "Scientific" Tariff; Arguments for Protection under Dynamic Conditions; Tariffs and Unemployment; Tariffs for "Infant Industries"; The "Young Economy" Argument. Summary 569 Chapter 25. THE DYNAMICS OF SPECULATION AND RISK 570 Speculation and Price Behavior over Time; The Great Stock-market Crash; Gambling and Diminishing Utility; Economics of Insurance; What Can be in-sured?; Joint Public and Private Responsibilities. Summary 582 Chapter 26. SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND ECONOMIC WELFARE. 584 A. Fascism, Communism, and Socialism 584 The Crisis-of Capitalism; A Bouquet of Isms; Fascism; Marxian Communism and Soviet Russia; Socialism; Political Freedom and Economic Control. B. The Use of An Over-all Pricing System under Socialism and Capitalism . 590 Review of Free Competitive Pricing; The Concept of General Equilibrium; Pricing in a Socialist State: Consumption Goods Prices; The Distribution of In-come; Pricing of Nonhuman Productive Resources; The Example of Land Rent; The Role of the Interest Rate in a Socialist State; Wage Rates and Incentive Pricing; Su ry of Socialist Pricing; Welfare Economics in a Free-enterprise Economy. Summary 603 Chapter 27. EPILOGUE 606 Index 609 SUGGESTED OUTLINE FOR A ONE-SEMESTER COURSE Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION Chapter 2. THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS OF EVERY ECONOMIC SOCIETY A. Problems of Economic Organization B. The Technological Choices Open to Any Society C. The Underlying Population Basis of Any Economy: Past and Future Population Trends Chapter 3. FUNCTIONING OF A "MIXED" CAPITALISTIC ENTERPRISE SYSTEM A. How a Free Enterprise System Solves the Basic Economic Problems B. The Capitalistic Character of Modern Society C. Exchange, Division of Labor, and Money Chapter 4. INDIVIDUAL AND FAMILY INCOME Chapter 5. INDIVIDUAL AND FAMILY INCOME, CONTINUED: EARNINGS IN DIFFERENT OCCUPATIONS Chapter 6. BUSINESS ORGANIZATION AND INCOME A. The Forms of Business Organization B. The Modern Corporation Appendix: Elements of Accounting: Chapter 19. DETERMINATION OF PRICE BY SUPPLY AND DEMAND A. Determination of Market Price B. Applications of Supply and Demand Chapter 21. COST AND EQUILIBRIUM OF THE FIRM UNDER PERFECT AND IMPERFECT COMPETITION A. The Maximum Profit Equilibrium Position within the Firm B. Applications of the Profit Maximizing Principles to Perfect Competition and Patterns of Monopolistic Competition. Chapter 7. THE ECONOMIC ROLE OF GOVERNMENT: EXPENDITURE, REGULATION, AND FINANCE Chapter 8. THE ECONOMIC ROLE OF GOVERNMENT, CONTINUED: FEDERAL TAXATION AND LOCAL FINANCE Chapter 9. LABOR ORGANIZATION AND PROBLEMS Chapter 10. PERSONAL FINANCE AND SOCIAL SECURITY Chapter 11. NATIONAL INCOME Chapter 12. SAVING AND INVESTMENT A. The Theory of Income Determination B. Applications and Limitations of Income Analysis Chapter 13. PRICES, MONEY, AND INTEREST RATES A. Prices B. Money and Prices C. Money and Interest Rates Chapter 14. FUNDAMENTALS OF THE BANKING SYSTEM AND DEPOSIT CREATION A. Nature and Functioning of the Modern Banking System B. The Creation of Bank Deposits Chapter 15. FEDERAL RESERVE AND CENTRAL BANK MONETARY POLICY (OPTIONAL) Chapter 16. INTERNATIONAL FINANCE AND DOMESTIC EMPLOYMENT A. International Trade and Capital Movements B. Postwar International Trade and Full Employment Chapter 18. FISCAL POLICY AND FULL EMPLOYMENT WITHOUT IN FLATION A. Short-run and Long-run Fiscal Policy B. The Public Debt and Postwar Fiscal Policy.

6. Feedback from Students

I have had adequate opportunities to provide feedback on all elements of my course.   My feedback on the course is listened to and valued. It is clear to me how students comments on the course have been acted upon.

Higher education providers take deliberate steps to engage all students, individually and collectively, as partners in the assurance and enhancement of their educational experience. - Quality Assurance Agency Expectation
This is frustrating because "listened to and valued" are such patronising phrases; "attempts to understand and agree or disagree" make more sense. The course is also a process from being a non student, to being a not-able-or-want-to-be-student, or joining a college with staff, to being an ex-student. Current students are only one constituency. There was some kind of feedback meeting and a survey on my English course, but Economics was more stretched, trying to teach theory first with "face time", hour after hour. So there was not much point in the Economics department asking for feedback - they had plenty of ideas what to do, and no time to do them, so feedback would just have raised expectations and reduced time even more for the good bits towards the end of the course. I suppose it's always a bit like this in Economics, even if there haven't just been 34%  funding cuts as at Keele, and so maybe Economics lecturers get stuck in their circular trains of thought like "economics is ... therefore economics is". There was no way to feed-back on something the boss said in a revision lecture - "we have to teach this stuff - in less than half your time - in order to call this an economics course". I never discovered whether this was true and if so how so, which was a pity because "this stuff" was a load of crap and if I'd known so in advance, I would have opted for some other course called "economic studies" or "economics just the good bits". There was a feedback book in the main library, which said the same on every page. The library was a bit run down for lack of maintenance money, like every other part of the campus, but it didn't matter. Comment: The clocks tell the wrong time. Response: The clocks are not the responsibility of library staff. Altering the time on the clocks is the responsibility of the maintenance department. Next page: same thing again.  How someone can be so thick as to write that as a response is a lesson of some kind, but I am no sure what. There was an idea of involving student reps on the Senate, to do something about the courses. I know that from the history book Keele - the First 50 Years, and a chance scan that turned up on the net, but didn't know it at the time. Just by chance, a student called Education and Welfare Officer went-on to write The Price of Fish - a new approach to wicked economics, and writes a blog to promote his business including a scanned letter mentioning just that. It mentioned that he'd made a speech to the Senate of staff about short economics courses, and that was a good thing. I don't know that at the time and didn't take part in any survey or discussion. Then about the time I left, the staff Senate was sidelined by being asked to meet less often. The new boss was more interested in the government funding body than staff or students - I saw him bellowing to a group of students once on the concourse, on no particular authority, telling them to clean up their mess or not get a degree. I overheard one or two strained phone calls to staff as well. So that was the new system that began in the 80s: courtiers ran quangos for funding bodies. There was no formal feedback system of any kind that I remember - only informal. And informal contact between staff and students was not encouraged on the core course. I conclude that I was not on some weird psychology experiment: "the control group of students were taught random nonsense, and their feedback was compared to students from the real economics course before different feedback scores were obtained". That didn't happen. If that had been true, there would have been a system of feedback from students. The only formal feedback request came some time in the 2000s as some kind of fund-raising phone call to graduates. I'm not sure how Keele got my number - I must be on linkedin or something. The voice asked if I wanted to subscribe to Keele graduates magazine. No, it's OK if I don't want the magazine or to make a donation, said the voice; that was fine. Had done anything to put in the magazine? What subjects did I do? What did I think of them? There were plenty of other attempts to get feedback from students that started in the 20-tens. I have not read a Quality Assurance Commission report giving Keele a thumbs-up in 2004, subject to reforms of the time continuing, but I suppose it says that systems for checking course quality were set-up and auditable by the 20-tens. I don't know what other people said, or the sequence of events, but Keele's vice chancellor decided to close the German department in 2004, and that she wasn't fit to manage an Economics or a Philosphy department in about 2008, that no more students should be recruited, and staff made redundant. The system was that if Keele's hierachy are unfit to manage an economics department, they should keep their jobs and the teaching staff should mostly be redundant; that's how the world works. Also about that time, Fishman Senior died in 2008 and Fishman junior must have been diagnosed with cancer because she died in December 2009. She wasn't easily discouraged from going to meetings or proposing things - in fact that's probably how she got cancer after too many fags behind the bike sheds after annoying meetings. She had even persuaded one of the British Communist Parties that wokers' control and Clause 4 meant a John Lewis style ownership of more individual firms by staff, which is a good idea. Some time about 2008, she did some rather sweet and brave things. She wrote obituaries of her father, who she seems to have believed was a great man, and sent them to the big newspapers. That's not usually how it happens. Surprised at his memorable story, some of them published, and the assumption that a great man had done his job as an economics professor was implied. And she endowed a thousand-a-year scholarship to Keele economics students in his memory, which must have cost £10-£20,000 out of her will. The terms of the scholarship show what a terrible sense of hierarchy the Fishmans had: it gives a thousand pounds to the local student with the best marks; the one who conforms best to what the teachers mark correct. It's enough to stop any local 18 year-old wanting to study economics at Keele.

Congratulations go to Nathan Farrell, one of our Economics students, for being awarded the ‘Leslie and Eleanor Fishman bursary’ in memory of Professor Les Fishman who was Professor of Economics at Keele from 1969 to1987.The bursary is given to a first year student from the local area with the highest overall grade in Economics. Nathan is pictured here, happy to receive his cheque for £1,000 – Well Done Nathan!
He looks more embarrassed than happy in the picture. If an employer wrote something like that , anyone would guess it to be the McDonalds University in North London, which is a catering college; the statement isn't proper university stuff and "grades" is an american word. There's another similar web page with another year's beneficiary, sitting in a posed group with banners each side to promote positive messages like "onward and upward", "forward to the future", "everything is better than average" - the sort of thing that a university PR department ought to discourage, but when times are hard people try anything. I suppose Fishman's reputation had already gone-around local schools, decades before the bursary, and that's why there was trouble recruiting local students. I expect local parents had said to students "why are we redundant and most of the factories closed?", and local Keele Economics students had said to their parents: "There's a man like Kermit the Frog who reads out exercise questions so we learn how to get marks - but he avoids talking about factory closures or says stupid things". If the college wants to recruit local 18-year-olds to study, then it ought to use his biography as a good historical exibit, which it is, and excuse for saying how much more university-like the teaching now is, and less McDonalds-like. An excuse to say what rather good things have been taught to Keele Economics students and what rather embarassing things have been taught because the system of short courses brings-out the worst in a teaching tradition if things go wrong. You will have gathered that the department still exists and it seems a pity that the group who did some of the best economics teaching had to take the blame for some of the worst, done during the 70s and 80s. It would have been better if there had been some kind of feedback system at the time. I remember giving one piece of feedback. It was in 1985, the year when Fort Dunlop's new owners ceased mass production because "imported cars come with the tyres already on". The second year drew to a close and something extra was taught on the end of the A-level syllabus. A-level in 1979 ended with the Phillips Curve along which post war governments had chosen how much growth to inject into the economy by creating extra demand. As this borrowed money circulated, it raised employment and as employment of people reached some comfortable low rate, there was more inflation. Employment was assumed to be employment of people; the capacity of an economy to produce wasn't much measured and at A-level we had to take it for granted. The course ended by saying that the curve was no longer true; the 70s oil crisis had led to stagnation and inflation at the same time. Demand management was no longer an option and economists had to start thinking about supply management instead. I suppose that 1970s textbooks ended by explaining demand management. The theories of extra income in a closed economy and a bit of money going for saving can be written as a curve called IS. A more nebulous, theoretical curve for "LM" or the money supply cuts accross it. The 1984 course textbook explained why this nebulous money theory could no longer be taught from a textbook and simply listed some different opinions, including a short quote given to a treasury select committee, so that readers could "follow the debate". It is an area where you'd expect some interaction with students and feeback about whether Thatcherite monetary policy was taught in a critical way. One teacher - Dr Johns - was allocated a class room with tables arranged like the cabinet room in Downing Street, as a big long double row. Just like other departments. I suppose he wasn't used to this because, unlike prime ministers, he sat down at one end of the cabinet table instead of the middle. That put him close enough for students to talk and I was the closest. He was teaching something like course 306 on this much-expanded syllabus that would be used a few years later. Outsiders would have called it a course in knowledge more than understanding, with an emphasis on knowing what the usual abbreviations were on textbook graphs rather than whether they related to the world outside the window. There was a graph called an AS AD model (in a closed economy), which is just the usual X-shaped diagram with "aggregate" written before demand and supply, and then a graph called an ISLM model (in a closed economy), Kieth Smith's, The British Economic Crisis, page 170 gives an explanation, with the second appearing to prove the first one a waste of very scarce time in order to make room for whatever was easy to teach as part of the routine, like stats or revision classes. Kieth Smith's book says "It is relatively simple, for example, to open up the model to include foreign trade and the balance of payments", but I'm still waiting to be taught that part. The other textbook we'd been asked to buy for revision - Begg - mentions the model between page 548 and 557 before going-on to say how different and nebulous the views of monetary policy are. Now this is odd, because the teacher was a graduate with an MA and teaching experience, who had given lectures about another debunkable theory on foreign trade. He taught at a time when every newspaper and news program covered the flood of imports that was closing UK manufacturing because of a high pound.

Further, in the words of academic economist Michael Joffe, economists teach “theories now known to be untrue” (Joffe, 2011). These include:

  • the U-shaped cost curve

  • (and marginal pricing in general),

  • expected utility theory,

  • Real Business Cycle explanations of recessions.

In our experience, lecturers often note in passing - or if questioned - that these theories are not particularly illuminating, yet they remain on the curriculum.
I asked him whether he needed to teach un-true models or whether we could get-on to the true models. The Keele versions of the "not particularly illuminating" quote were "underwhelming" and "nothing earth-shattering". He gave a reply that I didn't like about his choice of teaching method, which I suppose was the only choice he had, and needing to study the IS model and the ISLM model to get a full understanding. I still don't understand, though; a model of demand management needs supply to meet it. It needs a way of coping with imports from economies that follow different rules. I'm sure he didn't mean that his teaching method promoted understanding. A brief by the Bank of England for MPs is for enthusiasts only, written in dense two column text, but it helps MPs understand the transmission mechanism. Our textbook at the time was also written in dense two column text and had a bit of everything in it - there might have been a bit that tried to explain transmission mechanisms. This course was purely what inspectors would call knowledge or teachers call cramming or students call boring - it was a course about what shorthand to use on a standard graph and how to write the right answer in an exam. "attitude has been noted" Another teacher later informed me that my "attitude has been noted by all members of the department". The first one checked later that I had been told. Memory is hazy here. I would have remembered if the "noted" incident was linked to the "how are you getting on?" interview at the time; they were probably separate, so my interview was quite likely meant for someone else who's attitude had been noted. "All members of the department" is funny too. There is a corridor with loads of doors. You see some members of the department in big lectures and some in smaller events, but never the lot; most doors and names remain a mystery, so maybe I should remember an add-on like "all members of the department who have seen you in smaller groups but not talked to you and by the way that summons was for someone else". Further up the page is says that "I asked him". This was a private man to web references or academic writing, although one student co-wrote a history of Guernsey financial institutions with him and apparently the man got something published in NatWest Quarterly Review. I don't know if this teacher was on first name terms with his office door, but he was not willing to have his photo on the web site ten years later. I don't know why so shy, and how much this was connected to his speciality of development economics, which I give a theory about below. Anyway I must have struck-on something beyond a desire to keep a distance. Did staff realise early-on that they were going to cancel parts of the course? I guess they did, and had decided to string-out their textbook classes as long as possible as well, just to fill some kind of gap. Economics teachers are good at stringing-out the introduction until it's too late to realise that there's no point to the course at the end - you read about it in other peoples' accounts of other economics courses. Another odd thing about these classes on second-hand accounts of ISLM curves. I'm not sure which chapter of the textbook they came from, but the most likely one has a paragraph inserted and unrelated, right at the top of "monetary and fiscal policy in a closed economy", is a kind of SOS message that I would have been interested in.

"Between June 1979 and December 1980", it says, "there was a sharp contraction of aggregate demand in the UK. In consequence, manufacturing output slumped by 16 percent. Believing that this slump would continue for some time, firms slashed purchases of raw materials and sacked workers in large numbers. And, on behalf of its member firms, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) sent a clear message to the government: get interest rates down in order to get the economy moving again". Then there is a complete change of style: "In this chapter we extend the simple model of income determination developed in chapters 20 and 21..."
If a teacher had quoted that out of the textbook, I would have remembered it, but he did not. I suppose the ISLM curve means something a bit like the Bank of England flow diagram about monetary policy, but it's hard to make any sense of it without a context and facts so I never quite got the hang at the time. Since finding another textbook on my shelf, with revision notes, I see that I must have got the hang by the end of the course but I never thought it was a useful set of graphs or what I had come to study with years of my life and thousands of pounds of funding. If IS means income and savings, and the Cambridge Economics Handbook series that Keynes edited had a book called "supply and demand", it's a fair guess that he argued that UK peoples' combined income is about the same as UK demand, give or take savings. He lived in a time when the UK economy provided more of its own goods, with a lot of medium-sized manufacturing firms. There were a lot of people with money held in government stock for savings; it was the fashionable thing. I suppose he tried to put those two facts together. Keynes wrote a "General Theory" for other economists and edited the "Economics Handbook" series for people on short courses and the general public. In the UK economy, the general public do a lot of importing and exporting, so it matters whether a policy causes change demand in UK or Asia, but in the USA it might be easier to ignore imports and exports for the sake of a clear diagram. If you publish this ISLM diagram in the UK, you'd title the chapter "monetary and fiscal policy in a closed economy", as the Begg textbook does, but I don't remember this point being taught very much even though the Felixtowe container port and fiddled exchange rates had opened the UK market to imports more than ever before. I don't know what feedback had been valued and acted-upon in the past, but I know that something was brewing because a 1996 syllabus writes

Econ 101, Introduction to Economic Theory

  • This is a compulsory course module providing an introduction to basic economics principles. The course takes three hours per week, consisting of two lectures per week, one for an introduction to Microeconomics, and the other to cover an introduction to Macroeconomics, plus an hour per week class to service the lecture streams. The aim is to introduce Economics in the analytical manner commonly adopted at University level. (Students should be aware that it is now accepted wisdom that those with A level Economics do less well in Economics degree results than those without A level Economics.)

Clearly there has been student feedback and a decision reached to warn new students with a brave statement that this is more analytical. How was my algebra-junkie course analytical? Nerdy, yes; untrue, yes, analytical, no. Oh, on another subject, if you are the man overheard in a restaurant in Kew saying "all the stats show is that people are doing their job ... yes there is a long tail and some places are failing ... Blackburn", I didn't want to walk-up to your table and say anything.

  1. The burden of assessment is from college managers, who should survey less. National student survey questions are only asked to students about once by Ipsos Mori.

  2. The few failing colleges would be more if there wasn't a test.

7. Physical Environment

Security has been satisfactory when attending classes. My institution provides an appropriate environment in which to learn. A campus university is a dull, quiet place to contemplate, but computing was a problem. I've said that printed statistics were kept in an obscure departmental library, securely away from anyone who studied other subjects or most undergraduates. Computers were even better secured, locked away from students to prevent use. This is not an appropriate environment to learn from original sources. I am sure that a polite request to use the computers would get a helpful response, but I doubt it ever happened; the student would have to have Acorn computer stats software to hand and some stats to process with it. If computers had been meant for student use, and not for show, they would have been in the main library or the computer science department, open all evening with heating and security. Anyone visiting the department would have seen it set-up for small lectures and not university-standard teaching, so I suppose nobody visited except staff and students; the grandee who came-up from London between jobs at the Royal Opera House just phoned staff while they were teaching instead of visiting. There was also the problem of distractions.  A Kirmit-weatherman at the end of the room, trying to teach platitudes is not good if you want to study economics. The people on the course might have done better if left to themselves in the library. A third might have learned more; two thirds might have dropped-out and found happier lives.

10. Assessment

Teaching staff test what I have understood rather than what I have memorised. Assessment methods employed in my course require an in-depth understanding of the course content.The workbook example tests were marked by multiple choice which required some understanding of memorised technique. I think we marked our own sheets; the answers were on the back. There were essays. Some of the optional essay titles in the exam were broad, like a question about the effects of an ageing population, but these were not subjects much taught except in lectures. The essay titles that related to class-teaching, that I remember, asked closed questions, even if the title didn't suggest so at first-glance. So "What is a public good?" meant "What does a journal article written in the 1960s say about why lighthouses and roads deserve this special jargon term?" If you wrote the official answer to a closed question, and then added some extra ideas as wikipedia does, then the official answer was marked right and the others were simply marked wrong. You had to learn this from experience; nobody warned you. Not quite as bad as the Glasgow uni. essay which is given 100% if handed-in on time, but still a depressing experience to take part in. I don't remember any careful feedback at all; you just learnt from experience that wrote-learning of a particular view of the world was marked right and original ideas were marked wrong. I don't remember any feedback on essays, written or verbal. My memory may be unclear, but a department that maximises face-to-face time with students in classes is unlikely to have any staff time left-over for feedback; if they spent so many more hours face-to-face with students than my English department, then I doubt they could have had time to give careful feedback on essays. Come the exams, a few essay titles were slipped-in to the list that had open questions like "should we be worried about an ageing population?". I suppose they were there to look good to external examiners. I had a go at answering one or two but have no idea how they were marked because we didn't questions like that in the main course. Looking at recommended standards for awarding degrees, I'm surprised that most of us got one.

11. Learning Community

I feel part of a group of students committed to learning. I have been able to explore academic interests with other students. I have learnt to explore ideas confidently within my course I feel my suggestions & ideas are valued I feel part of an academic community in my college or university

Some of the attributes that a graduate in economics possesses are generic... general intellectual skills such as literary and information-processing skills, as well as interpersonal skills... the ability to communicate technical analysis and results to various non economist audiences - Quality Assurance Agency Seminar: A discussion or classroom session focusing on a particular topic or project. Seminars are defined as sessions that provide the opportunity for students to engage in discussion of a particular topic and/or to explore it in more detail than might be covered in a lecture - the extent of interaction will depend on the delivery method. A typical model would involve a guided, tutor-led discussion in a small group. However, the term also encompasses student or peer-led classes with a staff member or affiliate present. Tutorial: A meeting involving one-to-one or small group supervision, feedback or detailed discussion on a particular topic or project. Tutorials may be distinguished from seminars for the stronger emphasis that they place on the role of the tutor in giving direction or feedback. Tutorials can happen virtually as well as face-to-face. - Quality Assurance Agency
I feel part of a group of students committed to learning. I didn't know anyone on the course; I don't know what they were there for and doubt that many of us was sure. 


I wanted to study industrial design. There was a carers master at school one afternoon a week, in between being a housemaster and a teacher. He sat in a room and if nobody visited he did marking or arranged the leaflets. He didn't copy the popular leaflets, so they ran-out, but I liked the unpopular ones. Swan Hunter wanted marine architects, assuming that a good candidate knew how to qualify to become one - I had no way of finding out. Another leaflet said "At British Leyland you can say 'I did that' ".

I wanted to be an industrial designer because I wanted to design machines or production lines or some related kind of job. When you're a teenager you only know the idea of being a designer; you don't know about being a pattern cutter for clothing or whatever the equivalent job is at a car factory. So I asked the careers master how to study Industrial Design. If had had something like the National Careers Service Guide  online in 2019, he would have read

"You could do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree to get into this career. Useful subjects include: design, product design, industrial product design, engineering

You could also do a course covering a particular industry, which has design options. Examples include automotive engineering and furniture design.

You'll usually need:
1 or 2 A levels for a foundation degree or higher national diploma
2 to 3 A levels for a degree"

At the time there was a system called ADAR and there was a new central system just starting-up for polytechnic courses, The difficulty was finding-out about it. This is what the careers teacher said:

 "Industrial Design is taught at art colleges and the difficulty is getting some art-work to show them. Do you have something?"

Well I had two strange pots from Pottery done at age 16 or 17. Somehow the adults around me found the name of St Martins College and how to apply. They also guessed how bad this careers advice was, and double-checked. My parents cornered the advisor at a school open day and asked if there was any more advice available. No.

"The important thing is that they have something",
he said looking guilty; "something to aim at", while the important thing for the school was to sound posh and say how many children went to University, so everyone was signed-up for the Uni admissions system and other options weren't mentioned. My parents tracked-down an ex teacher with a bit more sense and asked if he had any standard notes, but they were just about choosing preferences between plate glass universities to study nobody knew what. "Reading: The town is the problem" was one note. The prospectuses were tiny. A lot of people studied law because it was one of the few trade subjects that universities taught.

So I went to St Martins College with my pots from Pottery, and asked if they taught about mass production. No. The person didn't look embarrassed to say so. She didn't ask if I had tried to buy a large second hand plastic moulding machine but didn't have anywhere to put it. The subject didn't come-up. Industrial design courses like this didn't teach about moulding. It seems strange but there is backup in an account of a similar college a few decades earlier. Someone studied Pot. Then a second degree about Pot. That's weird. Only then did he first see a mold, which is weirder. So he wasn't trained to take-over a factory or set-up a factory, and he wasn't trained to buy from a factory that paid for things like art colleges either. The obituary shows a strange disregard for the idea of buying from a democratic welfare state as wellI have to admit that I would still have trouble talking about how to mould ceramics. My knowledge of molding ceramics comes only from Wikipedia, and wouldn't have been much better if I'd studied sculpture at St Martins College. Even if they'd allowed me to. If I'd known how to get to a technical college, it would not have mattered that I flunked my A-levels because technical colleges were less choosy, but I didn't know, and they were called Polytechnics and had a different admissions system; usually you had to know about them and apply to each one separately. I fell-back on the system that everyone else from school tended to do, which was choosing a university place through the shared entrance system called UCAS that handled all the applications - three per person - and a clearing system by which colleges could make-offers to anyone left-over. I tried ringing UCAS (which was called UCCA at the time and only handled about two thirds of colleges - the ones called universities) to find out more about courses, but got no reply; apparently the system involved ringing universities themselves but I didn't know that.

I didn't quite get the point of universities, which were all talk about talk. I suppose that if you know how to make a good living, it;'s good to study Plato or Eng Lit or go travelling in Thailand, and so that is why the less technical colleges are seen as classy. People who don't need a technical education go to them before breezing-on to a career they would have done anyway. If you are not so sure how to earn a living it is good to mix those subjects with something technical like Industrial Design, which is what I wanted to do but wasn't on offer. I had applied to some university some point because everyone else did, and forgotten about it. Then with flunked exam results I got an offer of Keele Foundation Year through the UCAS admissions system. If I had taken an A-level in Seething, some university I would have done quite well, but I did History, Economics, Nuffield Physics and flunked one or two of them. The options I knew about were Keele or stay on the dole.

Keele Foundation Year was a misfit invention that could have been an alternative to A-level but became a second-chance for people who flunked A-level. It did not need to be as selective as other courses for that reason, and the Keele idea was to maximise the number of Foundation Year students, for the public good, to encourage subject-mixing. They could have got much better-qualified students, easier to teach. They chose not to. The catch for students was studying for four years on a small campus out of town. "It was Keele Foundation Year or Lampeter", was a common thing to hear at Keele. Lampeter was the other last resort before polytechnics shared an admissions system. It is a cluster of teaching buildings on the back of a rainy Welsh mountain, next to a dry villiage, four hours on the coach from anywhere different with no chance of hitchiking. Lecturers have failed to attract many students there since 1822 and those that went were often taking-up an offer as a last resort.There is no motorway service station at Lampeter for escape. Once you are captive there, you are billeted next to a lot of theology studentst. Maybe they do human sacrifice a well: I don't know. The only respectable Alumni on their website is Peter Paphedes the music critic who must have hidden in his headphones the entire time here was there.

Anyway, I didn't get an offer from Lampeter. Keele sounded nice and allowed subject-changing and I could hitchike there from London and get back into economics at a time when economists were pulling the UK economy apart, apparently deliberately to close UK manufacturing. Who wouldn't want to find out how to argue back? It would be like studying Marine Architecture on the Titanic as it sank; it would be an expert view with minds concentrated by events.

Where were we?

Did I feel part of a group of students committed to learning.

I didn't quite get the point of universities, which were all talk about talk. I suppose that if you know how to make a good living, it;'s good to study Plato or Eng Lit or go travelling in Thailand, and so that is why the less technical colleges are seen as classy. People who don't need a technical education go to them before breezing-on to a career they would have done anyway. If you are not so sure how to earn a living it is good to mix those subjects with something technical like Industrial Design, which is what I wanted to do but wasn't on offer.  I had applied to some university some point because everyone else did, and forgotten about it. Then with flunked exam results I got an offer of Keele Foundation Year through the UCAS admissions system. If I had taken an A-level in Seething, some university I would have done quite well, but I did History, Economics, Nuffield Physics  and flunked one or two of them. The options I knew about were Keele or stay on the dole.
Keele Foundation Year was a misfit invention that could have been an alternative to A-level but became a second-chance for people who flunked A-level. It did not need to be as selective as other courses for that reason, and the Keele idea was to maximise the number of Foundation Year students, for the public good, to encourage subject-mixing. They could have got much better-qualified students, easier to teach. They chose not to. The catch for students was studying for four years on a small campus out of town. "It was Keele Foundation Year or Lampeter", was a common thing to hear at Keele. Lampeter was the other last resort before polytechnics shared an admissions system. It is a cluster of teaching buildings on the back of a rainy Welsh mountain, next to a dry villiage, four hours on the coach from anywhere different with no chance of hitchiking. Lecturers have failed to attract many students there since 1822 and those that went were often taking-up an offer as a last resort.There is no motorway service station at Lampeter for escape. Once you are captive there, you are billeted next to a lot of theology studentst. Maybe they do human sacrifice a well: I don't know. The only respectable Alumni on their website is Peter Paphedes the music critic who must have hidden in his headphones the entire time here was there.
Anyway, I didn't get an offer from Lampeter. Keele sounded nice and allowed subject-changing and I could hitchike there from London and get back into economics at a time when economists were pulling the UK economy apart, apparently deliberately to close UK manufacturing. Who wouldn't want to find out how to argue back? It would be like studying Marine Architecture on the Titanic as it sank; it would be an expert view with minds concentrated by events.
Where were we? 
Did I feel part of a group of students committed to learning.


We faced forwards, as in an exam, and had no reason to speak; it was an embarassing place to be seen. Not as embarassing as London School of Economics, acording to Unistats, but still quite embarassing. I didn't know anyone on the three year course that taught a coach-load of students each year. There was a friend-of-a-friend who might nod or grunt or say hullo, and someone who hooked-up to compare revision notes at the end. That was it. No great surprise to a an ex-boarder with an anxiety problem and a purple leopardskin sweatshirt, but I don't think anyone else felt part of a student group committed to learning, so, in a way, the system made me more equal.

In English, I remember faces. In Economics and Computer Science, not: we faced forwards.

In English and Politics, I remember other peoples' contributions as you remember past colleagues. Scenes. Snatches of conversation. The person who was interested in Uncle books; the person from Nigeria who carried a copy of Cosmopolitan and worried about her weight.

"should you could ride a bicycle?"
"an excercise bicycle?"

That was politics

In English I got befriended by someone who was so straightforward about being friendly that, at that age, I had not yet learned how to be pompous and keep a distance and avoid opportunities. A monkey boy who let me follow him around. I even learned about how more sensible and more heterosexual people behaved, because he let me follow him into the study-bedroom of a clique sometimes, and listen to The Doors, and discuss the world. That kind of thing was much more important than learning how to be Chancellor of the Exchequor if I ever grew-up, but I was interested in both and wanted to feel part of a group of students committed to learning.

Economics students look different to English students. Most of them boys in my year. More local accents. Shorter hair and shorter names than English students. I exect that all economics students are called "Tim". They look like people who join a sports clubs, rather than people who listen to music. There are a lot of people at universities who look as though they belong to sports clubs, which is a bit wierd and I don't know why. Maybe they want higher education as an excuse to play sport, and it anyone questions the choice they quote the economics text book that says they'll be paid more later-on.

I remember looking at lists of universities - before flunking A levels - and saw that there was one which taught industrial design. Just one. Sharing a campus with a lot of trainee gym  teachers for three years, which I guess is better than sharing with theology students, but not much better. Nor sharing a department with "management" in the title. If you have work experience, then the way organisations work is interesting. If you are a school leaver on a higher education course in management, then it could be useful but it's no good for attracting other students. It is not something you would mention on a dating agency. Nobody would expect to meet the next Jim Morrison in a department with "management" in the title.

Keele was advertised as offering mixed subjects, so I hoped to find a lot of eclectic people with odd points of view, but the prospectus mes-led: a lot of students skipped the foundation year, and opted for similar subjects like English & American Studies or Economics & Management Science, so the two groups didn't get to meet and spark ideas off each other. I suppose I was lucky not to have to share with theology students, which would have been worse.

I have been able to explore academic interests with other students.

I don't know what other economcis students thought about the wreck of the UK economy at the time, because it wasn't discussed. The course was set-up to avoid discussion, because, I suppose, in hindisght, any discussion would increase the chances of a lecturer getting sacked at University of Colorado in the 1960s, and the habits learned at that place were transferred to this place by the chief, Les Fishman.


All I know is that people occasionally asked the lecturer if he knew why the government seemed to be closing UK industry so deliberately, just as they had done at school. The answer at school and in the innovation course at Keele was the same - that the sort of people who support those policies in government believe, privately, that UK manufacturing is dead anyway. The answer from Fishman was even more diplomatic -"We used to believe in Keynsian solution; now we believe in Monetarist solutions", and then, asked about the effects, he resorted to mime. "It'll be like a cold shower. [mimed shrug]. That's what the people who believe in these policies say"


Where were we? Did I feel part of anything?

No I don't remember being part of a group of students committed to learning; I just remember boys in knitwear.

Teaching before student feedback - external reviews of 1980s Keele

In the 1980s I guess there was far less time spent on external reviews, fewer guidelines, and the process was probably a lot more hit-and-miss. Nowadays it's part of a system laid-out week by week, with checklists, verbosity from the Quality Assurance Agency and calls for things like strategic stakeholders and visions. It's not so bad if you dip-in to it at intervals and pick-out the lines that make sense. Once the sense is clear, colleges can try to find the simplest way to fit-in to the system.

6.1 A programme of study in economics should be designed to encourage the acquisition of subject knowledge, understanding and skills with increasing critical facility and independence as the course progresses. To this end, learning should be organised and supported to foster active learning. A variety of approaches to managing the learning process may be adopted to achieve this, including lectures, seminars, tutorials, workshops, peer teaching and learning, project - based learning, experiments, games and technology - enabled learning . 6.2 These approaches to the learning process should be supported by appropriate resources including access to economic data bases, such as the Office of National Statistics data base, information technology based resources,and written materials. The use of such resources encourages active learning and the ability to select and make appropriate use of supporting evidence You may want to read this document if you are ... involved in the design, delivery and review of programmes of study in economics - Quality Assurance Agency Benchmark
Keele University tell me they have thrown-out all records of external reviews of Keele economics teaching decades ago. Maybe the records self-ignited. Les Fishman certainly ceased working with students at age 64, but I don't know why. If anyone had asked me, as a student, whether the course should continue I would have said "close it - can we join a different college now please?", and then felt guilty and asked that the staff should come too, but I don't remember anybody asking me anything about the course. Something general about Keele survives from 1993. I guess that Keele's external reviews were not good, because I think the college had shrunk dramatically just before I joined. Managers tried to keep the buildings full; new students were forced to live in the halls of residence (not in the same year group - we were thrown-in where there was a space in single-sex bedsit blocks) and use vouchers to fund the canteens with their menu that included frozen cake. The college management used bureaucratic tricks to stop people transferring to other colleges: once you were sent-down, you had to serve your time. Years later I met a boy from Silverdale while cruising. That's a place a mile from Keele, full of the kinds of people it was set-up to teach. "What do you think of Keele?". "I prefer not to answer that question". I hope that people from Silverdale who are good at online stats programs get a chance to study economics at Keele in future. I also hope there are good options for exam-flunkers who fancy a subject-change like me: I got a good deal by switching to English and studying lots of subjects. I didn't realise that if I wanted to study one subject like Economics well, I could do better at a polytechnic up the road, live with my mum and dad in London and still get more life experience in gay cruising places than living on a campus in the midlands to learn about broiler chicken workbook examples from an overweight man in serious specs and tweed.

Guessing Keele economics external review statements from staff behaviour

I guess that external reviews mentioned the text-book nature of the course, because staff were keen to boast their choice of the latest textbooks, even if Fishman had not bothered to read the bits of Begg's "Economics, British Edition" that related to the UK and the crisis in which his students lived. In the last year we were asked to read it at home because "it is a christmasy book", which is a nice thing to say, although it wasn't good for revision: it has a more limited income-savings liquidity-money-supply (ISLM) diagram than the one we had to revise. The book came with some kind of standard set of lecture notes for professors, and a young teacher from Imperial College where the book's author worked was recruited to give a UK option for the one proper university style course that we could spend a few months studying. One teacher mentioned that "The Peculiarities of the British Economy" was used in the City (although we weren't required to read it); Fishman told a lecture that someone had found him a Nigerian economics text book - "quite a find" - although I don't remember ever seeing it. I suppose there were external examiners in the room where students were summoned for vivas after the end of our last year - maybe that's why the door only opened a foot. I did not know that Professor Fishman was retiring at age 64, and maybe he didn't either. Maybe the system of external checks by teachers from other colleges had finally caught-up with him, and they'd told him that they'd close the course if he didn't retire. Economics would have been easier if we had been allowed a copy of Samuelson's Economics, published in the USA in 1948, because it would have shown us what was still inside the head of our professor. References to the British economy were ignored in his teaching even if printed in the new Begg text book. The names of shorthand abbreviations on standard graphs were taught by wrote. I see that Samuelson's first 1948 edition has been re-printed so that the public can understand economists better. There is a wider world too. A generation had worse job prospects. I could easily leave for London and live with parents to face a year's job-search, volunteer work and attempts to learn some basic job skills before getting some temping shifts and and then a job for that social housing association that has the highest staff turnover and lowest wages. Students from the midlands had it much worse; I expect a lot emigrated. And the economics punditry trade still argues over Thatchernomics, mainly to approve in ignorance, like historians in the Newman and Badeal sketch "history today", and with the same lack of reference to stats or context or common sense. I remember the course as so bad that one memory prompts another.

Unemployment in the text books - there is more here

Why Is Unemployment So High - from Begg Fischer and Dornbush, p 595, chapter 26, Unemployment

By 1983 the UK unemployment rate was more than eight times as high as it was in 1965. The task for empirical economists it to try to say how much of this increase was caused by an increase in the natural rate of unemployment and how much was caused by deficient demand and sluggish wage adjustment.... [...] ....[usual telegraph-reader stuff]... [....] bla [it's very boring being deliberately mislead when you know it's happening and can't change the system. If this had been my English Lit part of the course I would have been allowed to write why I didn't trust the textbook. If it had been a data mining course, I could have written why I thought I could write a better summery of what I thought was happening based on data. But it was some wierd kind of in-between-everything course that just told me to learn the telegraph-reader opinions, which I did not trust, by heart and regrugitate them].
The textbook I used in 1984 did not blame unemployment on the collapse of UK manufacturing, which is a little bit like talking about the 1930s recession and not mentioning the wall street crash or the gold standard. On the other hand it has a very clear section explaining why manufacturing collapsed, and another section in the micro-economics chaptors explaining how, if you have cut prices to retain exports as the pound rises, you are likely to run out of cash. The process is spelt-out step-by-step. There's a reference to Professor Peter Nichol at the London School of Economics, who says that the "natural rate" - which is people between jobs who are going to get one soon - is higher if the dole is higher. There's stuff about trades unions, which I skipped, and a couple of pages later something called "structural adjustment" of industries, particularly heavy engineering. That sounds like a euphemism for something the authors don't want to write. A bit like "industrial cleansing". There is a paragraph right at the beginning of the chapter on fiscal and monetary policy to say that demand for manufacturing had dropped 16% and the CBI had asked the government to drop the interest rate that was to blame. The Keele teacher who taught that chapter didn't mention it, but now I see it there. It's a surprise because the style of the book is to explain everything to everyone, including a 17 year-old on an A level course who has never thought about any of this before. After noticing these references to the collapse of UK manufacturing there is a section called "summery" which doesn't mention any effect on unemployment or long-term prospects for damaged manufacturing industries, but there are chapters about current affairs for keen students right at the end.
The Pound in the 1970s - from Begg Fischer and Dornbush, p663, chapter 28, Open Economy Macroeconomics

Figure 28-5 shows the behaviour of the nominal and real sterling exchange rate since 1973, the date at which most countries adopted floating exchange rates. We show the exchange rates not against a single currency such as the dollar, but against a basket of the currencies most important for the UK's international trading transactions. Effectively, the period can be divided into two. In the first half the nominal sterling exchange rate was falling steadily but the real exchange rate was not changing very much. Higher inflation in the UK than in the rest of the world was being offset by a depreciating exchange rate to maintain competitiveness essentially unaltered. During the second half of the period the UK's international competitiveness collapsed. The UK had higher inflation than the rest of the world and an appreciating exchange rate in the period 1978-91. In part, this collapse of competitiveness showed-up in a reduction of net exports. For example, UK imports increased by 11 percent in 1979. In part, however, UK firms responded to the collapse of competitiveness by cutting prices and making short-term losses, hoping that the competitiveness would improve again and the decision to remain in world markets would be vindicated. This, profits in manufacturing industry collapsed in 1980-91 when the real exchange rate was at its peak. Why did the real exchange rate increase so dramatically? We already have part of the answer. A tight monetary policy was introduced to fight inflation. Until domestic prices and wages adjusted, the squeeze in the domestic money supply meant that high interest rates and a sharp appreciation in the nominal exchange rate. Professors Marcus Miller and Willem Buiter have calculated that each 1 per cent reduction in the rate of UK money growth might be expected to lead initially to a loss of competitiveness of 2.3 percent.[9] Figure 28.5 suggests that the decline in UK competitiveness may not be entirely due to tight monetary policy and the problems of temporary adjustment. Although competitiveness has been improving since 1981, it remains well below its level in the mid-1970s. The real exchange rate is still very high. We conclude this chapter by examining the role of North Sea Oil. North Sea Oil

By the late 1970s the UK was beginning to exploit the large reserves of oil that had been discovered in the North Sea. The doubling of oil prices in 1979-80 increased the importance of these reserves. What effect should we expect this to have on the exchange rate? [....] Thus, in figure 28-5 sterling's real exchange rate rose especially sharply in the period 1979-81 because there was simultaneously a move to tighter monetary policy and a sharp increase in the real value of the UK's oil reserves....
The Begg textbook was thought a bit too complicated for Keele Economics teachers of microeconomics, I suppose. The chapters are there in the book, but we avoided them I see on the net that Laidler had serious specs, and his books might have had teachers' notes and exercises about broiler chickens to go with them, but the reviews only give one or two stars out of five. I conclude from this small survey that serious specs and teachers' notes have more effect on textbook sales than reviews by readers, but it is a provisional piece of research for which a grant would need to be obtained for further study to obtain a statistically significant sample of data.

in Begg and used a more dry and theoretical microeconomics textbook called Laidler. Other work by David Laidler was about promoting the monetarist ideas that had just wrecked the UK economy. As students, we didn't just have to suffer the consequences; we had to pay a small author's royalty for each textbook to one of the culprits. In order to look grant-worthy we must use some jargon, and apparently the first person to draw graphs about consumer behaviour was called Mr Walrus. Maybe somebody was taking advantage of my nievity at age 20-odd, but the word "Walrasian" was worth a tick in the margin. The year after Fishman's retirement, one of his ex-colleagues from University of Boulder tried publishing "Microeconomics: theory with applications", so with less references to Mr and Mrs Walrus, and gets far better reviews from readers, but possibly the man didn't have serious specs and cheap teachers' notes to go with the book and that's why we didn't use his texts. There were other books in print about the UK economy, written for non-technical people. Just as there are books by Robert Peston in the bookshops now, there was one then by an Observer journalist called Britain Without Oil, and another by an academic called The British Economic Crisis. Oh and the academic was teaching in the same department, but we didn't use his book for the main course. There was some imagined un-written rule that an economics course was untrue theories of government spending and interest rates, over-theoretical theories of marginal cost pricing, hours and hours of statistics, and that was that. In the second year I chose my own text books from the shop on campus. McMillen published an economics dictionary and a more concise book for revision called "Macroeconomics: an introduction to Keynsian Neoclassical controversies". It's more concise but it's a nastier book than Begg; it quotes more and more obviously wrong theories without any balance or common sense. I spent some of the final year trying to learn these theories by heart, knowing that they were untrue, in order to pass an exam.

Chapter X:

Cow Theory of the Global North

Countries with a welfare state are called "The Global North"

They exist to be milked by governments without a welfare state

which therefore have a lot of poor people in them
The current secretary of state for international development, Priti Patel, would have done the same lecture course like thousands of others on similar courses. I don't remember what I picked-up from Keele, New Internationalist, or Make Poverty History. There are similar courses, I think, labelled New Economics Foundation at somewhere like Middlesex Uni, and a lot of people who have paid to go on them end-up doing internships at related trades like Futerra Sustainablity Communications, which is an ad agency, or Ethical Fashion Forum, which is a scam. The lecture course takes the standard ignorance of economists, which is to pretend they haven't heard of a welfare state, and then puzzles why countries without a welfare state are poor. Well, put like that, what do you think? The Department for International Development, with Priti Patel as minister, has just commissioned research into what reduces poverty, this spring 2017. My theory is that the same secondary schools, pensions, healthcare, and social insurance would work in Africa and India just as much as they work in the UK, and tariffs should encourage governments there to change, just as they should protect business that has extra costs because of systems like this in Europe. The EU tariff and the Multi-Fibre agreement are the kind of thing, or more subtle tariffs with social clauses. That's not what you hear in the lecture course, however much it tries to sound radical and socially concerned by a certain tone of voice. It isn't a history course. There is not detail about history. But if you say "colonialism" with a downward-note on the second "o", it sounds like a very bad thing, while if you say "globalisation" with an upward note on the first "o", it sounds more positive, even though the economic effects are much the same, and the history of politics in, say, Bangladesh between 1848 and 1948 isn't covered on the lecture course - just implied by tone of voice. Once the welfare state is ignored, there are some other simplifications. The exchange rate is simplified into something called "the terms of trade", and the difficulty of selling a commodity product like potatoes is simplified into that as well. So the same tone of voice says that you do not get many posh specialised goods for your potatoes. If development economists went to Irelant in 1848 and saw large families trying to survive on tiny fields of potatoes, they would have talked about the terms of trade - not the size of the families. If they dip-in to "Livestocks Long Shadow", to see what effect cattle farming has on the poor, I imagine they talk about the terms of trade again, whatever terms of trade mean.Cows come-in to the final simplification. There are countries called "The Global North", like Australia, which have a welfare state, and countries called "The Global South", which should milk the global north for every possible favour they can get with every possible excuse, and aid agancies that work with governments in the global south recycle the ideas that they are fed from those governments. So far, we have managed to sell textbooks in Bangladesh and Alabama without offending governments, but we haven't decided what needs to be done. In fact we have hidden the obvious, proven solutions to poverty, As a result, cow theorists are puzzled why a welfare state should want a slight tariff barrier against sweatshop goods, which are cheaper because their producers do not have to pay the taxes and national insurance that pay for schools and pensions and healthcare, and all the things that prevent over-population and poverty. This is rather unfair on the over-populated and poor who compete for scarce sweatshop jobs in badly-run countries, but a popular idea with the people who run these countries badly or run sweatshop in these countries. It's also a popular idea with the corporations that buy from these sweatshops, like Nike which has an office called Centre for Sustainable Fashion that they sponsor at University of the Arts, and so has a way fo getting its views known in academia. If you want to study further in a development studies course, cow theory doesn't say that people in the UK invented machines for making textiles, then put their own stalk-based fibre industry out of business to start spinning cotton instead of flax and hemp. It gives a different story, which was that system of government one or two hundred years ago gave these evil industrialists unfair access to cotton, allowing them the leasure to invent machines that might otherwise have been invented in India. Textiles are the usual example given, because the trade is very old - as old as industrialised ceramics - and so you can use some kind of marxist analysis to make it all look neat over a long period of time and that's your MA dissertation done. In the potteries, it should be obvious that clay did not come from China or India to make the pots; it continued to come from the UK just as flax and hemp had come from the UK, but that's evidence from outside the bus window, while the evidence in the long list of footnotes to the MA theory suggests something more convenient to the theory. I've learnt a bit about this since college, where there wasn't time to teach it, and found that it's often taught just as badly. The bunch I came across used material from Brooks Uni.

  • A textbook called "Rigged Rules and Double Standards" notices some problems among people in countries without a welfare state, such as Bangladesh.

  • The textbook blames the problems of countries without a welfare state on those countries that have a welfare state, for not giving more aid and buying more dumped sweatshop goods. It calls the countries with a welfare state "the north" and regards them as something like a giant cow be milked by the Mercedez-driving group of people in sweatshop countries who are called "the south". They provide sweatshop goods with their teeming cheap staff, so they do well; they get aid, so they do better, and they grumble that tariffs that protect any stable welfare state from sweatshop goods are unfair, in their view. The textbook leaves them no wiser.
The book is published by a development agency, written by one of its staff, and used as a textbook on courses sponsored by the agency. The book reflects the opinions of governments where the agency does business, which are generally against providing a welfare state and in favour of asking for lower tariffs and more subsidy. The book is silent about other problems of poverty like the need to migrate, the tendency towards a population boom, the spread of anti-biotic resistant disease and social unrest. The book deliberately deceives as well. A quote that's apparently from another development economist turns-out to be from the trade minister of Vietnam. The person who wrote the book to order - Kevin Watkins - sometimes has work published by The Guardian as though a reliable source. -------------------------------------------------------------------------

Digression on international economics. Note to self: This subject in purple on the page three times. Consolidate or at least cut-and-paste together

I was probably not a polite student; I wasn't big on social skills, and the economist who made sure by "attitude has been noted by all members of the department" was shy too. He didn't put his email address or picture on the web site. This begs a question of whether he taught something like vivisection that made him shy? The two strangest things I've heard economists say are that (1) Inflation is caused by steelworkers bidding-up wages, and if you close the steel works with cheap imports everything will be OK. This is untrue. (2) (a) Globalization was wicked pre-1948 (or whatever the date of independence of some country) and worked entirely in favour of workers in the colonising country like the UK. There ws no down side, like loss of the hemp and linen industry or cheap imports from colonies that had no national insurance system after the UK built one up from 1911. This is untrue. (b) Globalization is wonderful post-1948, and works in everyone's favour. If a country like Bangladesh still doesn't have a national insurance system in 2015, it's rude to say that because it's meddling in the internal affairs of another country; your attitude has been noted. If Bangladeshi imports therefore undercut the price of goods made in the UK, it's rude to say so; your attitude has been noted again. Even if the virtue of free trade at all costs, including national insurance, is untrue. I don't base this on anything I studied at Keele because there was only one optional option and I chose one about UK growth, but I've found the arguments as described put by people who work for development agencies. Oxfam published a book called "Rigged Rules and Double Standards" to put the point of view. This was also the special subject of the teacher I annoyed, so I suggest a theory. The more rediculous the theory put by an economist, the more touchy that economist will be. It applies to left-leaning ones like development economists, and right-leaning ones like monetarists. Even if they talk sense. the weight of textbook opinion will force them to reply to opposite opinions. By the way, the teacher I got is probably living in retirement now and if he reads this, I'm sorry if I was a bit rude and hope things go well. I googled that he co-wrote something about Guernsey financial services regulation with someone who was a student about that time. I don't know if it's a good piece of writing but it's proof that he didn't breath fire. And it looks as though he has put his 1980s international trade work up on the web for free in some form now -

Suggesting the un-knowable: development economics is touchy. Note to self: the three purple paragraphs are the same. Consolidate

I can't be sure what was thought of the short, university-like courses that were held at the end of the third year, but I know that a new member of staff had been taken-on to teach UK development economics. Keele had a lot of overseas students; development economics of African and Asian countries would have been an option most years. I know from other experience that development economists are some of the ones you have doubts about as sane, balanced people. If they'd taught in 1984 that UK job losses were the inevitable result of post-colonial globalisation being so much better than colonial globalisation, and that it was not for us to wish a welfare state or a tariff on competing countries, nor talk about the effects of globalisation on the UK economy, I think someone might have thrown something at one of the teachers. But I can't say what courses were dropped or whether anyone threw anything, nor why the one of the development economics experts was particularly touchy and chose not to have his photo or contact details on the college web site even ten years later. Nor why staff tended to stand at the end of a room, at a distance from students, like prison warders

Development Economics for a developed country: UK fashion and design - misfit paragraph

Meanwhile London College of Fashion hosts offices that don't do any teaching at all, with funds raided from the Higher Education Funding Council, which means you, me, and missing services for our grannies. One such existed to encourage out-sourcing of UK designers' manufacturing to China. It was called Creative Connexions, with an office near photography languages and the students union, and another office in China. Somewhere in government departments, groups of people thought this was a good idea, probably using ideas they'd picked-up on economics courses. Another office called "centre for sustainable fashion" is sponsored by Nike and in turn sponsors an all party group in the House of Lords. And Ethical Fashion Forum, down the road, shared offices with Pantstopoverty who appear from their actions not to want a welfare state.

Computer Science at Keele in the 1980s - misfit paragraph

this bit is in twice The Computer Science department ran one-year courses for foundation students, who would spend about a third of their time on the course. A teacher would tried to explain how to join the beginning and the end of a half-page program written in Pascal. He was not able to do this. Students study; I did my best to learn in other ways, but at the time there was no complete-enough textbook for sale about Pascal, because hardly anyone ever uses it. There was no system for putting students in touch with each other for self-help, and no way of asking any paid-staff one-to-one. No drop-in system. No supervised practise. But at least there was access to a computer for that course, which there wasn't for economics. The other place to expect computers in a college would be the library. It had a suggestions book - page after page the same. "The clocks in the library tell the wrong time". Answer: "That is a subject for the maintenance department; library staff do not adjust the clocks". I expect it's the same now. At Hull, Phillip Larkin might have written a poem about the clock-setting suggestions book.

Careers at Keele - misfit paragraph

Keele service station does not allow you to enter the area by car, but you can leave. For staff it is the other way-around. A job teaching the core of a subject doesn't help your CV stand-out, even if you are good with a range of students and learn from them. awards Keele four stars for most things, but one star for prospects. For students it was the same: there was no way of transferring-away from this college to another one. Someone tried but the burocrats found a way to prevent it. The place was run like that. Invisible dragons made decrees on no particular authority about whether you needed to rent their rooms or use their furniture or buy vouchers for their canteens. There is another point about careers for Keele Economics graduates which I can't post separately because this blog host writes a new box each time I try. The point is that people do what they were going to do after an experience like higher education. The ones that were going to persue a career in local government finance do it. The ones who were going to try to be something cool and have to settle for less do it. The score card that says economics students earn more than english students after graduation was nearly as true of the same people before their years of study. If you wanted to test the idea that univserity economics study is slightly (but maybe usefully) related to earning money, you would have to do more. I don't know what you'd have to do. Probably find people who were diverted by external events like politics and family and financial changes. I expect you'd find the same earnings in later life. And these people would be doing  something else while others study economics. Stacking shelves in Tesco or studying another subject or being conscripted or apprentices or astanauts. So it is hard to find a large goup of people to compare. Unless hundreds of people are taught stupid economics deliberately, as a placebo. Which is what happened to me but people on other courses like London School of Economics suffer even worse courses.

Reason for quoting forgotten ministers when writing about the 1980s - misfit paragraph

Alan Clark's quote about the unemployed on "tacky schemes to keep them off the register" is on page 94 of his book apparently. It's cheap to buy second hand, a lot is on google books, and googling the reference found me a page about unemployment figures that I haven't read but looks academic. I like quoting Thatcher's ministers about Thatcher because she's so divisive that their informed, conservative opinion doesn't put people off in a way that a quote from Arthur Scargill might do. I'm not sure where the quotes from other ministers are written though. Interviews were broadcast I think on the BBC in a documentary about the time of her funeral. James Prior, Francis Pym and Ian Gilmour show regrets. My impression was that some of them wanted to talk more about economic devastation - to be given a chance to apologise - but that the interviewer didn't let them. Sir Ian Gilmour looks sad about Thatcher's offer to resign on the failure of her verbal assault on other European prime ministers in Dublin. Francis Pym says something like "we should have explained that our proposed policies could not work in a recession". James Prior says something like "once you have lost that much manufacturing, it's very hard to get it back". Some of them state that William Whitelaw as the deputy who "put aside any moral obligation" to voters in deciding what to do in disputes between ministers and the prime minister and her advisers. If anyone has a link to this program I hope they can add it as a comment to this blog.

Here is a quote from someone good at economics teaching who knew about Keele in the 1980s. I emailed him to ask. Most of it was clearly much more of a course in statistics exercises and wrote-learning than the surviving 1990s syllabus which looks respectable.

"...about Keele in the 1980s, it was designed to deliver rather dull teaching - the joint honours degree meant that each department was constrained to deliver just the core of the subject, since they only had about 6 hours per week of the students total time. The purpose of the design was to enable students to put together unusual combinations of subjects through their own choices, which was a good idea, but with a teaching downside. And then in the 1990s students increasingly opted for related subjects, making the original design redundant. The second year economics in the 1980s was three hours lectures, two hours on stats, and one class. The third year was similar, with one or two options in the final half of the year. Collaboration across departments in teaching and research was also hindered by the same structure. Incidentally, I am talking about "courses", not "modules" - modules were only introduced in the early 1990s, and contributed to a reduction in the amount of teaching done - as did semesterisation. So students today, by and large, get far less contact time than they did then. In Manchester, when they built the new faculty a few years ago, it was designed in such a way that students had no direct access to the staff offices - their swipe cards did not let them in."

Untitled misfit paragraph for deletion

Teachers were funded a bit like a police force, with a similar system of peer review, like the one that says Derbyshire Police Force has not been fit for purpose for decades. The difference is that it was easier to close one college department and open another in another subject at the same college, while it's hard to close-down a police force, so the peer review system was more important. Unfortunately it would be done by people from the field of economics, so if a subject is boring everywhere, the system continues. I understand without knowing my source that the college did contract a lot in the years just before 1984 - that it halved in size - so maybe even the peer review system singled Keele out for cuts in funding. As for the subject, I see that there are classification codes for what people write about in economic journals, and, looking at them, I can't see why people would want to study some of them except by mistake A second problem is that students might not apply. That doesn't and didn't matter too much either. Prospectuses were puzzling and little-read. If, somehow, word got-out that a course was so bad that nobody applied, then a clearing system would offer the places to students like myself who had flunked our exams and first few choices of course. There might be a spiral of decline at this point, with students dropping-out or studying badly, but at least we were ready on the chairs at the start of the course, and with sufficient drilling and revision might be coaxed-through to the end of it. Lastly there were overseas students, who were offered a very high list price. I don't know if there was a discount for block bookings. I remember one student from Nigeria, who did Politics, and a bunch from Cameroon. I don't remember any from Europe where grants for study are more generous; the growth market for UK educators was Africa and Asia; videos of Keele on sunny days were sent to Hong Kong. If you are a cartoon character of a professor, rather stagy, you might put-on a show of normality for the overseas students rather like the dinner party in Carry-On Up The Khyber. If a student asked why factories were closing, and you didn't care either way, you might just pretend they weren't closing and say "I don't know - maybe their design wasn't good enough" If something worried the teaching staff in the 1980s - made them so rude to students who questioned the system - then it would probably be the chance of a bad peer review or something else that made college managers decide to close the department and expand another one instead. The college states that it has thrown-out records of 1980s peer reviews, but the professor's decision to take a phone call from his boss during a seminar with students shows that he knows student feedback wasn't a problem, but the ability to sound to the boss was important. If not good, then cheap. Now the system has changed. Most of the money follows the student, at £9,000 a head from the Student Loans Company. Government publishes unistats reviews, and I hope applicants are good at using them to find an interesting economics course before the next economic crisis. There's also a chance for colleges to expand the number of places if they want, started recently, so that the supply of students through clearing will gradually dry-up for the few really bad courses. I've not checked my facts and might have got them wrong, but now you know my gut feeling about how the system works and where it might go now that the funding has changed.

How this blog post comes-about - misfit paragraphs

The blog began to keep track of a Drupal software installation, which never happened - hence to choice of a quick and dirty blogging platform and messy url. The blog continues on the excuse of trying to promote a shoe shop that sells vegan shoes, but mainly because I just write anyway, by default. The interest in Keele Economics, 30 years after study there, began when I tried to debunk an Oxford Economics report called The Value of Fashion, which I don't believe but which has a lot of technical bamboozlement about it. It struck me that I remember next to nothing about my economics degree, which isn't surprising because I had chosen to study economics in such a cut-down textbookey way, because computers at the college weren't yet good enough to help, and because of the terrible tradition of teaching economics which applies at most colleges I think, at least in the first year, from Oxford teaching PPE to future chancellors to the full-time degrees at Glasgow or Manchester where there have been student protests, and to the odd ones like Keele or Open University. I had noticed an obituary and scholarship in memory of all who suffered bad teaching there, and, as memories like the Great Man taking a phone call in a seminar and standing to drill large classes in multiple choice exercises, I thought there was a story about the man himself. I asked a question on Quora which they kept deleting as I added more detail, very much as US colleges had deleted the man's job when they found out what party he belonged to. You don't get burned as a witch at the Berkley, California or the University of Boulder, Colorado - that's Salem - but you get the sack and end up working on the docks or doing the books for a relative with a furniture workshop. I hoped to discover that the man had some unusual set of beliefs. I only discovered that he liked to teach from Samuelson, which has been considered communist by some people in america. As I Googled and Binged and put work-in-progress here, I realised that this wasn't a story about a man teaching deliberately badly as a private joke, even if that was true. Loads of economics departments still teach this badly and their staff give each other peer reviews. So the story moved from an account of a 1980s economics course to the 21st century unistats which I discovered and played with, and sites like the Post Crash Economics Society which I had not known about before. That led to other posts about the worst degree courses, and current economics courses.

The Leslie and Eleanor Fishman Bursary at Keele University

"In brief: News from Keele, Wetley Rocks and Stoke-on-Trent By This is Staffordshire | Posted: October 10, 2008 KEELE: Hot topics like the credit crunch and the economics of the Iraq War will be coming under the microscope at a conference being held at Keele University next week. Distinguished economists from the UK and the U.S. will be speaking at the event on Wednesday at Keele's management centre. It has been organised in memory of Leslie Fishman, who was an economics professor at the university between 1969 and 1987. The conference will be followed by a reception, where a new Leslie and Eleanor Fishman bursary will be launched. It will be awarded annually to the best first year student from the Potteries. Read more:" This reads very much like a paragraph in the Cornell Daily Star fifty years earlier, promoting Fishman's grand lecture about Thorsten Veblen. Just like the Cornell Daily Star in the early 60s, the Sentinel doesn't send a reporter but publishes the invitation. Further research funding is required for reading the local paper, but at a first glance the Sentinel's catchment area is more troubled in 2008. Cornell Daily Star readers stared at adverts for horror movies and explicit pictures of underwear. Sentinel readers learn that someone from Wetley Rocks was convicted of sexual assaults and a 20-year-old admitted shoplifting £309-worth of stuff from Boots at Tunstall. These are separate stories that did not happen at the conference. During my English Literature degree I got an excuse to gut a book called The Nationwide Audience which shows how much many people hate this kind of patronising local news that dis-connects the broader issues that cause problems from some concept of local people and local readers about local issues. The Sentinel doesn't just make itself boring by failing to write a report on macroeconomics, it has a weird kind of patronising knowing incompetence. Why write "will be coming under the microscope", instead of "will come under the microscope"? While researching my awful economics professor I found an exception to the usual rule in local news. Anyway I meant to say what you have guessed: that there is some connection between what chancellors do with advice from voters and opinion polls and civil servants and economists, with some distant memory of a PPE course they took decades earlier, and what happens to the people in Stoke and Whetley Rocks who end-up doing bad things. Reports of student bursaries suggest that they are between £500 and £1,000 and awarded once each year to the best performing local economics student completing year one. The first student got £1,000. That sounds like a deal that would cost £10,000-£20,000 to a donor funding volunteer trustees to obtain 5-10% return. That's much less than six months salary for a professor who does no tutorials, ignores computers, and should not have been employed. Maybe the best thing it does is expose how much someone could think they did a good teaching job in the 1980s when the truth is that they didn't even begin to try to teach. I'd prefer the cash to be shared-out between all traceable graduates of the course in compensation, but don't know how that could be organised. The bursary will probably do a lot more good in exposing students to the limits of teaching and studying economics - specially to the future politicians studying another short economics course as part of PPE. what happened next This could be a good place to say what happened next in the office and to the next economics students at Keele. I've googled this subject so much that a story unfolded. The powers - whoever they were - chose someone with this CV as next chief: "Roger studied Mathematics at Cambridge University, followed by a PhD in Theoretical Physics in the Cavendish Laboratory. His first position was as Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer in Decision Theory at the University of Manchester.". I guess the project was doomed from that moment, but university commitment to joint-honours degrees for everyone, and to contrasting short courses, wained. The next chief managed to force his students to do separate maths courses, leaving more time on the timetable. Management of the department was now shared with another, name to repell students as "management something or other", and dreamed up the idea of "modules", which give students and tutors a lot more choice but a lot less chance to get to know each other and teach or study in depth. With these tweaks to the system, it was possible to look more like a normal university on the syllabus. I only know this from web searches, but one ex-staff member ex-staff member - author of The Economy of the Word - has a niceley-written page about it on his web site. I understand that the same kind of thing happened at other UK universities. The maths person went-on to University of Manchester, where the Post Crash Economics Society set-up.

Recent National Student Survey questions, including optional follow-up questions and extra questions for NHS students. The questions can change a little each year

Main Questionnaire

Definitely agree Mostly agree Neither agree nor disagree Mostly disagree Definitely disagree Not applicable

The teaching on my course

1. Staff are good at explaining things. 2. Staff have made the subject interesting. 3. Staff are enthusiastic about what they are teaching. 4. The course is intellectually stimulating.

Assessment and feedback

5. The criteria used in marking have been clear in advance. 6. Assessment arrangements and marking have been fair. 7. Feedback on my work has been prompt. 8. I have received detailed comments on my work. 9. Feedback on my work has helped me clarify things I did not understand.

Academic support

10. I have received sufficient advice and support with my studies. 11. I have been able to contact staff when I needed to. 12. Good advice was available when I needed to make study choices.

Organisation and management

13. The timetable works efficiently as far as my activities are concerned. 14. Any changes in the course or teaching have been communicated effectively. 15. The course is well organised and is running smoothly.

Learning resources

16. The library resources and services are good enough for my needs. 17. I have been able to access general IT resources when I needed 18. I have been able to access specialised equipment, facilities, or rooms when I needed to.

Personal development

19. The course has helped me to present myself with confidence. 20. My communication skills have improved. 21. As a result of the course, I feel confident in tackling unfamiliar problems. 22. Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of the course. Looking back on the experience, are there any particularly positive or negative aspects you would like to highlight? (Please use the boxes below.)

National Student Survey Bank of Questions (Optional)

Definitely agree Mostly agree Neither agree nor disagree Mostly disagree Definitely disagree Not applicable

B1. Careers

As a result of my course, I believe that I have improved my career prospects. Good advice is available for making career choices. Good advice is available on further study opportunities N/A

B2. Course Content and Structure

All of the compulsory modules are relevant to my course; There is an appropriate range of options to choose from on my course, The modules of my course form a coherent integrated whole

B3. Work Placements

Did your course involve any work placements? Yes (ask all questions in this section) No (skip this section) I received sufficient support and advice from my institution about the organisation of my placements; My placements were valuable in helping my learning, My placements have helped me to develop my skills in relation to my course, My placements have helped me to develop my general life skills, The taught part of my course was good preparation for my placements

B4. Social Opportunities

I have had plenty of opportunities to interact socially with other students; I am satisfied with the range of clubs and societies on offer, I am satisfied with the range of entertainment and social events on offer

B5. Course Delivery

Learning materials made available on my course have enhanced my learning; The range and balance of approaches to teaching has helped me to learn, The delivery of my course has been stimulating, My learning has benefited from modules that are informed by current research, Practical activities on my course have helped me to learn

B6. Feedback from Students

I have had adequate opportunities to provide feedback on all elements of my course. My feedback on the course is listened to and valued It is clear to me how students comments on the course have been acted upon

B7. The Physical Environment

Security has been satisfactory when attending classes. My institution provides an appropriate environment in which to learn

B8. Welfare Resources and Facilities

There is sufficient provision of welfare and student services to meet my needs. When needed, the information and advice offered by welfare and student services has been helpful

B9. Workload

The workload on my course is manageable. This course does not apply unnecessary pressure on me as a student. The volume of work on my course means I can always complete it to my satisfaction. I am generally given enough time to understand the things I have to learn

B10. Assessment

Teaching staff test what I have understood rather than what I have memorised. Assessment methods employed in my course require an in-depth understanding of the course content

B11. Learning Community

I feel part of a group of students committed to learning. I have been able to explore academic interests with other students. I have learnt to explore ideas confidently within my course. I feel my suggestions and ideas are valued. I feel part of an academic community in my college or university

B12. Intellectual Motivation

I have found the course motivating. The course has stimulated my interest in the field of study. The course has stimulated my enthusiasm for further learning

National Student Survey Questions for NHS-Funded Students only

Definitely agree Mostly agree Neither agree nor disagree Mostly disagree Definitely disagree Not applicable

N3 Practise placements

I received sufficient preparatory information prior to my placement(s) I was allocated placement(s) suitable for my course I received appropriate supervision on placement(s) I was given opportunities to meet my required practise learning outcomes / competences My contribution during placement(s) as part of the clinical team was valued My practise supervisor(s) understood how my placement(s)related to the broader requirements of my course N/A

Quality Assurance Agency Benchmarks for Economics Degree Courses

Since finding the benchmark standards, which I suppose are for discussion by external examinors if they want, I've found expectations B3,4 and 5 and C that are relevant to students on courses. If there is any legal significance to a quango document with "expectation" written on it, I suppose it's mixed-up with the idea of buyers' reasonable expectations in law, but I don't think these are enforcable in something as vague as education and of course teachers have reasonable expectations of students that aren't mentioned. There are also "indicators" which look like confabulation on the theme of write documents and form committees; this must be quite annoying to people in the trade but it makes more sense to outsiders More detail on the quality code part B

Expectation B1 (Programme design, development and approval)

Higher education providers, in discharging their responsibilities for setting and maintaining academic standards and assuring and enhancing the quality of learning opportunities, operate effective processes for the design, development and approval of programmes.

Expectation B2 (Recruitment, selection and admission)

Recruitment, selection, and admission policies and procedures adhere to the principles of fair admission. They are transparent, reliable, valid, inclusive and underpinned by appropriate organisational structures and processes. They support higher education providers in the selection of students who are able to complete their programme.

Expectation B3 (Learning and teaching)

Higher education providers, working with their staff, students and other stakeholders, articulate and systematically review and enhance the provision of learning opportunities and teaching practises, so that every student is enabled to develop as an independent learner, study their chosen subject(s) in depth and enhance their capacity for analytical, critical and creative thinking.

Expectation B4 (Enabling student development and achievement)

Higher education providers have in place, monitor and evaluate arrangements and resources which enable students to develop their academic, personal and professional potential.

Expectation B5 (Student engagement)

Higher education providers take deliberate steps to engage all students, individually and collectively, as partners in the assurance and enhancement of their educational experience.

Expectation B6 (Assessment and the recognition of prior learning)

Higher education providers operate equitable, valid and reliable processes of assessment, including for the recognition of prior learning, which enable every student to demonstrate the extent to which they have achieved the intended learning outcomes for the credit or qualification being sought.

Expectation B7 (External examining)

Higher education providers make scrupulous use of external examiners.

Expectation B8 (Programme monitoring and review)

Higher education providers, in discharging their responsibilities for setting and maintaining academic standards and assuring and enhancing the quality of learning opportunities, operate effective, regular and systematic processes for monitoring and for review of programmes.

Expectation B9 (Academic appeals and student complaints)

Higher education providers have procedures for handling academic appeals and student complaints about the quality of learning opportunities; these procedures are fair, accessible and timely, and enable enhancement.

Expectation C

Higher education providers produce information for their intended audiences about the learning opportunities they offer that is fit for purpose, accessible and trustworthy.

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 wrong

While 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 writing

Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Hilary Ben, James Purnell. Their regime and the generation of civil servants and courtiers within it were very keen on free trade at the expense of the welfare state, whether in Bangladesh where it needs setting-up, or the UK where it needs propping-up with less unfair competition from Bangladesh. So keen that they thought they ought to educate the public in underhand ways. These are people who pay taxpayers' money to explain economic falsehoods to the electorate with the technique of "social proof" provided by their favourite ad agency, Futerra. A much larger group of free-trade politicians at County Hall in London sponsored London Fashion Week, and when the Greater London Authority was set-up again, with a chance of European Regional Development Grant funding for any darn thing the mayor liked, Fashion and free trade were high on the list. Not employment of people in London - those were the little people. is a guide to what happened next and still happens in similar ways, more or less, with each different government. In the 2000s 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".  I have emailed London Assembly Members to ask why the mayor was spending money in Shanghai rather than Shoreditch, and tried to get meetings through those assembly members with British Fashion Council, the taxpayer-funded PR outfit that runs the show. 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. As Ethical Fashion Forum went out of fashion and the "founder" lost her job, she emailed to suggest we meet. I would still like to meet, but my thaughts turned to what I could possibly say to the person. I would have to explain that my whole life had been formed by UK government policies to the exchange rate and industry. How could I start trying to explain that? So I have not yet met her, but wrote this blog post instead.

Digression on an imaginary conversation with Levacic and Rebman

I 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 machines

Maybe 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 Pythagoras

The 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 teaching

I did a science subject at school, called Nuffield Physics, and it was good. On the 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 articles

Take the question of what people do after college. 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. 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 economics

Post-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 Keele buildings

"enforced... reduction of student numbers ... despite peak demand" was part of the package of cuts. I suppose it was based on buildings. Colleges owned a lot of rabbit hutches to put students in. I guess the reduction was down to the level that the college would house, to avoid reports of wasted rooms. Keele had some good rooms built in the 70s were asked to stretch budgets, called the Z-blocks. They had breeze block walls without plaster, emulsioned, with a plastic duct at picture-rail height to connect wall lamps and a bathroom string-pull to turn them on or off. At the same time the rooms were big and the kitchens and bathrroms were shared between small numbers. I've not seen that style anywhere else since but it is a good style to copy and seek-out I think. Monastic. Maybe they should be listed. There were others with white-painted brick walls lit from the side, which always look good.

Someone had been on a course at Warwick. Apparently their rabbit hutches took students of the same year-group and put them together, to increase the chance of near-strangers deciding to go to films or meals together once in a while. Keele didn't have that system.

One year, I was a cool person. A house share off-campus, which was unusual at the time. It didn't go well because housing benefit for students was cut-back a bit while we were on it, and I didn't really understand the system, but - hey! - I was a cool person for one year and it went well for part of the year.

Free Bonus Afterthought: the worst degrees make most money

International Student Course Satisfaction
Table of feedback scores for the economics degrees for the universities that take most international students. Most of the courses are at the bottom of the league table for student feedback

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 as well as motorways. 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. I think one of the Keele lecturers wrote a short paper to show mathmatically that one of them is nothing to do with anything. 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.


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