Posts Tagged ‘United Kingdom’

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Martin Rowson 25.1.2014 142983_600

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NnWDU.AuSt.79 Steve Bell on St George defending The dragon 16.01.2014

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Martin Rowson 13/01/14 142977_600

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Clay Bennett editorial cartoon MaguireMysticMag-2971533

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Neil Irwin, in commenting on the fact that the per-capita income in London is now 90 percent higher than the rest of Britain (which means it’s twenty percentage points higher than it was in the late-1990s), suggests a modified version of Dutch Disease:

Britain’s Dutch Disease isn’t driven by the export of oil or natural gas, but of something more ephemeral: A safe place for the global elite to park their money. When a Russian oligarch pays $80 million for a house in Knightsbridge, or shifts a billion dollars worth of his assets into British banks, the economic effect is similar to what would happen if he were buying exported oil.

And when Mark Carney and the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee get together each month to set interest rate policy for the UK, they see a rosier economic picture by looking at the whole of Britain than they would if London were not part of the equation.

Just last week, the bank signaled that interest rate increases may come sooner than it had thought, which pushed up the pound on global currency markets. Surely if Carney & Co. were setting monetary policy only for the UK excluding Britain, they would not be so eager to raise rates.

The result of all this is that businesses across the countryside of Britain have a more challenging competitive environment than they would otherwise, leaving them less able to compete with German or French or American competitors.

Of course, the United States has its own version. It’s called New York City.

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140116_600-1 Martin Rowson cartoon 15.11.2013

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140089_600 14.11.13: Steve Bell on the Bank of England's latest economic forecasts

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Steve Bell 13.11.13 139960_600

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Yesterday in class, after explaining to students that graduate students in economics no longer study either the history of economic thought or economic history, they asked me if I thought, in the wake of the crash of 2007-08, the training of students in economics—at either the undergraduate or graduate levels—would change.

My answer was, “I don’t know. But, the last time ‘business as usual’ in economics was challenged, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was students in economics—at the University of Michigan and elsewhere—who were the ones to initiate the change.”

There are signs that it is happening again today—at Cambridge University, University College London, the London School of Economics, and now at the University of Manchester.

The financial crisis represents the ultimate failure of this education system and of the academic discipline as a whole. Economics education is dominated by neoclassical economics, which tries to understand the economy through modelling individual agents. Firms, consumers and politicians face clear choices under conditions of scarcity, and must allocate their resources in order to satisfy their preferences. Different agents meet through a market, where the mathematical formulae that characterise their behaviour interact to produce an “equilibrium”. The theory emphasises the need for micro-foundations, which is a technical term for basing your model of the whole economy on extrapolating from individual behaviour.

Economists using this mainstream economic theory failed to predict the crisis spectacularly. Even the Queen asked professors at LSE why nobody saw it coming. Now five years on, after a bank bailout costing hundreds of billions, unemployment peaking at 2.7 million and plummeting wages, economics syllabuses remain unchanged.

The Post-Crash Economics Society is a group of economics students at the University of Manchester who believe that neoclassical economic theory should no longer have a monopoly within our economics courses. Societies at Cambridge, UCL and LSE have been founded to highlight similar issues and we hope this will spread to other universities too. At the moment an undergraduate, graduate or even a professional economist could easily go through their career without knowing anything substantive about other schools of thought, such as post-Keynesian, Austrian, institutional, Marxist, evolutionary, ecological or feminist economics. Such schools of thought are simply considered inferior or irrelevant for economic “science”. . .

We propose that neoclassical theory be taught alongside and in conjunction with a broad variety of other schools of thought consistently throughout the undergraduate degree. In this way the discipline is opened up to critical discussion and evaluation. How well do different schools explain economic phenomena? Which assumptions should we build our models upon? Should we believe that markets are inherently self-stabilising or does another school of thought explain reality better? When economists are taught to think like this, all of society will benefit and more economists will see the next crisis coming. Critical pluralism opens up possibilities and the imagination.

The current state of affairs is not good enough. Our classmates tell us that they are embarrassed when their family and friends ask them to explain the causes of the current crisis and they can’t. One of our professors was told that he should follow the dominant research agenda or move to the business school or politics department. Another was told that if he stayed he would be “left to wither on the vine”. This situation is reflected in economics departments across the country – it is national problem. Economics academia can and should be better than this, and that’s why we are calling for change.

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Martin Rowson 26.10.2013 GziQE.AuSt.79