Tag Archives: economy

The Love of Learning

What are we doing to our young people? Testing them until the joy is out of learning and school is just one tick box after another. The head of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, said

The regular taking of test papers does little to increase a child’s ability to comprehend.

We have completely the wrong approach to learning. We need holistic education for our young people, encompassing the widest range of subjects, building character and instilling the love of learning.

This includes the arts. When I was 11, we moved to Missouri. I started at a new junior high school (years 6-7 in the English system) which had a school band. Up to that stage I had played a bit of piano and sung in the church choir. The music teacher asked if I’d like to learn the clarinet as he needed more players in his band. Within three months I was sitting 2nd chair in the clarinet section. I would never have learned an instrument if it hadn’t been for the opportunity at this state school. I remember my parents, who were on a tight budget, scraping money together for some private lessons later that year, costing $4 a lesson.

Years later, I’m a professional musician, wondering where the next generation of musicians is coming from. We need music, and all the arts, as an integral part of our schools. The economic argument is obvious – the creative industries contribute £87.4 billion per year to the economy. We would be denuded as a society without the undergirding of the arts which permeate and enrich our lives.

But I wish to make the moral argument, bringing me back to the opening point of school being too much about testing. Having an arts-inclusive curriculum builds a well-rounded intellect. The brain, when it has to marry the left and right halves in analysing and performing a piece of music, develops physiologically. Attention spans are lengthened when one learns to concentrate on playing your part in a band. Aesthetic awareness is broadened, that life is not about ticking boxes but about beauty, relationships and creativity. Learning to sing together builds community and teaches young people to work together. We learn that coming together produces something more wonderful than striving alone.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 9 Comments

Homeowners as Currency Counterfeiters: a Parable

In the UK, gains on domestic property values are virtually untaxed. This put renters at a huge disadvantage. But far worse is the damage this does to our competitiveness. Failing to tax gains in property value means that our economy in effect hosts a currency counterfeiting operation with a £50bn turnover. This can be illustrated with a very short story.

Once upon a time a newly crowned king wished to prove his military prowess, and decided to raise a navy to conquer lands overseas. His councillors protested that the royal coffers were empty, but he hit on a brilliant idea. He would licence his councillors to print banknotes, in exchange for them providing sailors and ships. The councillors readily agreed. He ordered royal printing presses to be built, and handed them over to the councillors each with a licence to print money. The councillors set their presses in motion and provided the necessary sailors and ships. The king went to war and returned victorious.

Fortunately the king had wisely limited the speed of the printing presses so the currency would not collapse. Merchants and labourers still worked and traded, but were poorer because the newly printed banknotes meant their money were worth less than before. But the same banknotes made the printing press owners richer.

As time went by a market developed for the printing presses. Some of the king’s councillors had a great fondness for expensive claret, or lost money at cards, so had to sell their presses to repay debts. Successful merchants found the purchase of a printing press was an excellent and safe investment. Unfortunately skilled labourers found they could earn more abroad and started to emigrate. After the king had ruled for many years, there were few skilled shipwrights left in the kingdom and the navy fell into disrepair. Sensing their chance, the neighbouring kingdoms sent an invasion fleet, sank the king’s ships and the kingdom fell.

Posted in Op-eds | 48 Comments

What you see and what you don’t see. Time to ditch GDP and measure our progress differently

The yardstick for the success of an economy is the measure of its Gross Domestic Product or GDP. It is essentially the sum of all goods and services that a country produces, corrected for seasonal fluctuations and inflation.

The modern concept of GDP was developed by Simon Kuznets for a U.S congress report in 1934. President Herbert Hoover had the challenge of tackling the Great Depression with only a mixed bag of numbers that were extremely ineffectual when trying to answer the question, “how is the economy doing?”

Over the next 80 years the GDP not only became the way in which politicians, journalists and the public measure the economy, it actually defined what the modern economy is.

So what’s the problem?

The problem with the GDP is that it pretty good at measuring the things that you can see but is terrible at measuring things that you can’t see. Therefore things that are easily measured like manufacturing and monetary transactions push the number up whilst advancement of knowledge, community service, clean air, are all pretty much ignored. Even worse, the social damage caused by an activity is not factored in negatively, in fact the transactions that relate to poor health, depression, pollution, societal breakdown like divorce lawyers etc. actually push the GDP up.

In his book Utopia For Realists, Rutger Bregman highlights this point humourously but with a large dose of dark truth.

“If you were the GDP, your ideal citizen would be a compulsive gambler with cancer who’s going through a drawn-out divorce that he copes with by popping fistfuls of Prozac and going berserk on Black Friday.”

The fact that a huge chunk of government policy is formed on the drive for growth at all costs based on a measure that rewards things like carbon polluting manufacturing, deforestation, over-fishing etc. goes a long way to explaining why we live in such an unequal society.

Posted in News | 25 Comments

LibLink: Vince Cable: It’s time to tackle the UK’s dangerous addiction to debt

One of Vince Cable’s claim to fame is that he accurately predicted the 2007 financial crash. Ten years on, he recently wrote an article for City AM in which he said that our economy was again at risk because of high debt levels.

Debt, in itself, isn’t bad. He talks about his own experience:

Indeed, my own youthful borrowing included buying my late wife a grand piano on an overdraft, a decision that underpinned 33 years of happy marriage. (And I paid off the debt after a struggle.)

The issue with debt is one of limits and sustainability, for both the individual and the wider financial system. The same, clearly, applies to government debt and corporate and financial sector leverage.

What the 2008 financial crisis and its aftershocks have taught us is that those limits may be closer than we think – and, once crossed, can lead to rapid and painful corrections.

He looks at the current situation in which we are seeing high levels of personal debt again:

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 54 Comments

WATCH: Vince talking about the financial crash

Here’s Vince on Good Morning Britain talking about the 10th anniversary of the financial crash. Could it all happen again? What does he think about the current state of our economy?

Posted in News | Also tagged | 4 Comments

A new economic vision for the Lib Dems

The Liberal Democrats need new thought on how we view the economy and the role of the state and this idea could influence what we choose to support. We often struggle to find an economic system we can get behind.

Unrestricted capitalism leads to unacceptable inequality. The Conservatives stand for a small rich elite, while everyone else struggle to make ends meet. The Corbynite vision of socialism would leave us all worse off. The Liberal Democrats must form a new vision of how our economy should work and what role the state should play in it.

I would propose the Enabling State as our vision.

The state has a duty of promoting liberty in all its forms, and to ensure everyone has the chance to make the best of themselves. This would include freeing people from poverty, through a basic income, to ensure everyone has the money for basic needs.

Posted in Op-eds | 83 Comments

New thinking on job creation

 

One of the big challenges of our time is to provide work for all those who need it, work which is useful, fulfilling and which pays enough to live on. And although the British economy is creating around half a million jobs (net) a year, many of them do not satisfy those simple criterion.

The need for good quality jobs will increase as the population increases and working careers get longer, yet hardly anyone is thinking about where these jobs are to come from.  Government departments, unions and think-tanks tend to concentrate on where jobs have been created in the past or predicting where they may come in the future, or on skills training or how to improve conditions for those already in work. The private sector seems to regard jobs as a by-product, a necessary evil in the process of making a profit, and in the public sector the government wants to cut as many jobs as possible to save tax-payers’ money.  No one is actively looking at areas where new and worthwhile jobs can be created and how to do it.

Let me be bold and suggest six sectors where this might be done, in what I call the “infinite industries” ie where there is no limit to the amount of production that can be done: education, health, energy, environment, sport and the arts.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 27 Comments
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