Posts Tagged 'economy'

Election focus: Missing the point – education in the #GE2017 manifestos

Stephen Ball, author of the best-selling The education debate (third edition out in August) gives a passionate take on how the party manifestos are missing what should be at the heart of education policy.

Stephen J Ball

“What is most striking when reading the party manifestos for the General Election and listening to the speeches and debates is the absence of education.

There is quite a lot of writing and talking about money – funding – and about structures – grammar schools or a National Education Service – but very little about what its purpose is, about teaching and learning, about what is means to be educated.

To some extent those things are taken for granted, pre-given, closed to debate. Education is about and for the economy. Its about investing “in people to develop their skills and capabilities” (Labour Party) – investing, a key trope of the neoliberal sensibility, sits oddly in the Labour Manifesto.

Over and against that, in a perverse rhetorical reverse,for the Conservatives education is about meritocracy – although clearly no one Labour or Conservative has read Michael Young’s book! – and it’s about tackling “enduring injustices” and “breaking down longstanding divisions” (Conservatives).

How do we go about breaking down these divisions?

Well, obviously we re-install new divisions recycled from injustices of the past – Grammar schools and ‘a knowledge-rich curriculum’ and knowing ‘the times tables off by heart”. And this is because “if you are a white, working class boy, you are less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university” – who writes this stuff? Have they never read the statistics relating to Roma and Traveller and looked-after children?

If you want to read something that’s actually about education you have to turn to the Liberal Democrats. For them it “fosters understanding and tolerance, and it empowers children and communities”, although it has “a dual role” in also “giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to be part of a productive, competitive economy” – well being and emergency life-saving skills and arts subjects also get a mention by the Lib Dems alongside entrepreneurship.

At least there is a glimpse here of someone thinking that education might be about something else than preparing for the world of work, something that is about our social relations, our role as citizens, about development critical capacities.

“Education might be about something else than preparing for the world of work, something that is about our social relations, our role as citizens, about development critical capacities.”

Despite all of that, you cannot write about education policy in a manifesto without rehearsing the key tenets of the global education reform consensus.

When it comes down to it education policy is about “driving up school standards” (Lib-Dems p. 28) and “we will drive up standards” (Labour p. 37) and ensure improvements in “schools’ accountability at key stage 3” and have “75 per cent of pupils to have been entered for the EBacc combination of GCSEs by the end of the next parliament” (Conservatives p. 51). And to achieve all of that we need, of course, “strong leadership” (Labour).

“It’s not about education, it’s ‘the economy stupid’.”

The Lib-Dems remind us, that “England’s young people are some of the unhappiest and most anxious in the world”. I wonder why, and I wonder why that does not seem to bother politicians or parents?

Well that’s because when it comes down to it, what really counts, what is really important is not the educational experience itself, not the sort of people we have become, not how we relate to others, not our mental health, but how well we do in tests and exams. That’s what gets our school to the top of the league table, that’s what get praised by the Inspectors, that’s what gets our teacher a rise in their performance related pay, that’s what gets us into a university with a high rate of return in terms of graduate pay. That’s what we are investing in. It’s not about education, it’s “the economy, stupid”.

“It’s not about education, it’s “the economy, stupid (James Carville for Bill Clinton 1992).”

Is a general election an opportunity to debate and consider the sorts of young people our education system is producing and thus what sort of society we might be living in the future? Forget it, “its all about money kid, everything else is just conversation” (Gordon Gekko).

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Article 50: where we are now

Janice Morphet, author of Beyond Brexit, looks at what the future holds for the U.K. after the triggering of Article 50 and the formal beginning of the Brexit process. 

Janice Morphet

As the UK government faces its two-year roller coaster ride of negotiation, following the Prime Minister’s triggering of Article 50, many pressure points have already been revealed while some remain as haunting unknowns.

The first challenge that has emerged is how ill prepared the UK government finds itself. While the letter triggering Article 50 and the subsequent White Paper on the Great Reform Bill are full of words addressing internal political party agendas, any pretence of maintaining a united view across the UK has been abandoned.

No legal basis for devolution

Although stating in the White Paper that everything would remain the same until dismantled and changed through Parliamentary procedure, this is completely undermined in the chapter on devolution which confirmed the re-centralisation of returned powers on agriculture, environment and some transport issues.

Subsidiarity is based on principles laid down in the Treaty on European Union and there are no guarantees that it will survive Brexit as a principle of the UK state. Following Brexit all devolution within the UK, including to cities in England, will transfer to the whim of each five-year Westminster Parliament and cannot be agreed in perpetuity.

Continue reading ‘Article 50: where we are now’

It doesn’t have to be like this: Why capitalism needs to change, and fast

Where has capitalism gone wrong? In Too much stuff, Kozo Yamamura upends conventional capitalist wisdom to provide a new approach. Read about his new perspective on capitalism’s “sickness.”

kozo_portrait

Kozo Yamamura 1934 – 2017

Over the past three decades, the financial and environmental prospects of the UK, US, Japan and Europe, have slowly but surely been moving in a calamitous direction because of ill-conceived “easy money” policies pursued by those in power, from governments and banks through to multinational corporations and the advertising industry.

The result: a self-perpetuating cycle of stagnating economies, social unrest and political upheaval.

The advanced economies of the world are sick and democracy is floundering. Capitalism as we know it has created a climate where extremist, anti-EU political parties are flourishing by tapping into widespread dissatisfaction with the way things are.

They’re right in one sense – the system does need to change, because if it doesn’t, “what becomes the issue will not be the survival of our system, but the survival of our civilizations”.

“The advanced economies are sick, and the environment is getting sicker.”

Continue reading ‘It doesn’t have to be like this: Why capitalism needs to change, and fast’

What does the post-Brexit future look like?

Janice Morphet, author of Beyond Brexit, out today, warns that without due consideration of all the challenges that lie ahead, Brexit poses a real threat to UK economic and social stability.

In this article Professor Morphet looks ahead to what the coming months could bring, and suggests priorities going forward.

janice-morphet

Janice Morphet

“As Brexit is a negotiation, it is a dynamic process.

The Prime Minister took this essential position last July and spent her first six months in an enigmatic ‘Brexit means Brexit’ mode.

This allowed some space for the machinery of government to be realigned and the new departments to lead on Brexit – International Trade and Exiting the EU – to be established. But what does the future hold?

The loss of economic security

In terms of economic security, the effects of Brexit on the UK economy have started to pile up – the loss in the value of the pound in the first days after the referendum equated to the value of UK contributions to the EU for fifteen years.

“The loss in the value of the pound in the first days after the referendum equated to the value of UK contributions to the EU for fifteen years.”

Deals have been offered to Nissan in Sunderland by the government which have appeared to transgress state aid rules, although more recently the company has suggested changing its mind about remaining in the UK. Asked about investment in the UK, a Chinese source commented that, before the referendum, the UK was a door to the EU and now it is only a door.

Continue reading ‘What does the post-Brexit future look like?’

Coming soon… Creative Destruction: how to start an economic renaissance by Phil Mullan

Phil Mullan discusses his new book, Creative Destruction, out in March.

phil-mullan-2

Phil Mullan


The mature economies have been stuck in a long, contained depression since the 1970s.

The pressing question that arises is not why investment and productivity have been so weak, important though that is. Rather, it is whether we are hitting the limits of effectively muddling through this dismal reality.

The financial crash of 2008 was the first significant indicator that sustaining reasonable living standards could no longer rely on an ever-expanding financialised debt economy. The subsequent recession was one of the sharpest since the 1930s but thankfully the system’s collapse was avoided. Can we expect to be as fortunate when today’s bubbles burst?

This book explores the interaction between the forces of productive decay and the sources of resilience that have characterised Western economic history for almost half a century. In particular, it highlights the consequences of state interventions that have sought economic stabilisation, but have unintentionally entrenched economic stagnation. Governments have brought about a corporate dependency that is as debilitating for the economy as the welfare dependency they have created for individuals.

“A zombie economy: an economy dead in productive dynamism that is being propped up to ensure the semblance of life.”

Continue reading ‘Coming soon… Creative Destruction: how to start an economic renaissance by Phil Mullan’

#PanamaPapers: Beyond Naming Names

Media coverage of the Panama Papers, the leaked set of 11.5 million confidential documents that provide detailed information about offshore companies listed by the Panamanian corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, has been widespread this week.

But in today’s guest blog post, author and academic Andrew Sayer warns against seeing tax havens as anomalies and asks us to look beyond the current focus on naming and shaming the users of Mossack Foneseca’s services… 

Andrew Sayer

Andrew Sayer

‘We have done nothing illegal’. If you’ve been following the stories of tax dodging that have come out of the Panama Papers, you will have seen this feeble response many times.

To explain why the elaborate schemes for avoiding tax are not illegal, just remember the golden rule: those with the gold make the rules.

And they make them to suit themselves.
‘When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living in society, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.’ (Frédérik Bastiat, liberal economist, 1850)

Tax havens are not are not anomalous islands in an ocean of normality. Continue reading ‘#PanamaPapers: Beyond Naming Names’

Royal Society is set to repeat Malthus’s mistakes

The decision by the Royal Society, Britain’s premier scientific organisation, to launch a study into the effects of population growth is a retrograde step. There can be little doubt that it represents a move towards adopting a more openly Malthusian outlook: accepting that humans themselves constitute a problem.

Thomas Malthus, an Anglican clergyman, argued as far back as 1798 that population growth would lead the world to disaster. Since population would grow faster than food supply the future was one of impoverishment, mass starvation and endless wars.

In the event his predications proved hopelessly inaccurate. The world’s population has grown from about one billion in Malthus’s time to almost seven billion today. Yet we are better fed and more affluent than ever.

Over two centuries later the Royal Society is set to repeat Malthus’s mistakes. That is because, like him, they essentially see every human as a mouth to feed. We are parasites on the planet who devour resources like a plague of locusts.

What this misses is that we also have two hands and a brain. Every person has the ingenuity to help reshape the world for the better. To produce more resources rather than simply to consume. To grow the economy so we can all live in a more prosperous world.

Daniel Ben-Ami, author of Ferraris for all: In defence of economic progress, published 14 July 2010


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