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Technocrats move over, we need to read some books

I was reading the recently published (June 11, 2012) – CBI Education and Skills Survey 2012 – from the Confederation of British Industry today. A day after the Report was published, the British Office of National Statistics released the latest (April 2012) – Index of Production – data which shows that “the seasonally adjusted Index of Production fell by 1.0 per cent” over the 12 months to April 2012 and that in the last month the “seasonally adjusted Index of Manufacturing fell by 0.7 per cent”. That is a large collapse. Since 2008, British production has slumped by 10 per cent overall even though the currency has depreciated by around 20 per cent against the Euro over the last 5 years. Earlier today I saw news footage of ignorant males (mostly) beating each other up over a soccer game in Warsaw. And in recent national elections, polarisation towards the extremes is evident. And all the while, technocrats that dominate organisations such as the IMF and the ECB are, inexorably, pushing economies into even more dire situations that we could have imagined four years ago, when the neo-liberal bubble burst. And in my own sector (higher education) the buzz is STEM and technocrats are using that buzz agenda to pursue strategies that will diminish our futures irrevocably. All these events, outcomes, strategies etc are related and cry out for a major shift in thinking by governments and educational institutions.

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Education – a vehicle for class division

Yesterday I wrote, in part, about the way in which the term long-run is mis-used by the mainstream economists to assert “natural rate” theories, which essentially deny a role for government macroeconomic policy in stabilising the business cycle and reducing mass unemployment. I also get asked by readers (several times now) to provide some discussion of what were known as the Cambridge capital controversies in the 1960s and 1970s. They are related in fact to the notion of the long-run. These were rather esoteric debates which are now largely ignored by the mainstream despite the fact that the results of the debate showed, beyond any shadow of doubt, that the whole body of neo-classical distribution theory (that is, marginal productivity theory) is plain wrong. MPT was developed to justify the claim that capitalism delivers “fair” income distributions because everybody gets back what they put in. The Cambridge debates killed the legitimacy of those claims. But my profession continued oblivious because the results would have meant that a major part of the mainstream apology to capitalism would have to be jettisoned. Who understood the debates anyway? It was easy to just sweep the results under the carpet. I still plan to provide some commentary in this regard as I used to teach a course in capital theory covering these debates. But in thinking about them I started thinking of prior questions which also feed into a policy debate in Australia at present. It relates to educational outcomes and class.

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I feel good knowing there are libraries full of books

Today’s blog might appear to be something different but in fact is more of the same. There was an article in the New York Times recently (October 10, 2010) – The Crisis of the Humanities Officially Arrives – by US academic Stanley Fish, which discussed the growing demise of the humanities in our universities. While the debate is about the role of the humanities specifically, the points Fish makes about how we appraise the value in education resonates more broadly to a consideration of the role of educational institutions and human activity in general. One of the vehicles the neo-liberals use to promote their anti-intellectual agenda is the false claims that governments are financially constrained. By appealing to this myth lots of questions about motivation are avoided. They promote the myth that some activity is “too expensive” or “not productive enough” and we are thus shoe-horned into that way of thinking. But I feel good knowing there are libraries full of books of poems and plays and stories and I know that sovereign government are not financially constrained. I might not be able to defend the quality of a poem but I can certainly explain how the monetary system works. So you poets and playwrights under threat – come aboard and learn about fiscal policy and the monetary system and spread the word.

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I have found an inflation threat

I read a news report today – 13,000 riot police, troops guard Obama. Hmm, I thought it might finally be the groundswell of people imbued with the logic of modern monetary theory (MMT) and anger over rising disadvantage, who had decided to take action. Especially after hearing the President’s latest foray into the media as an “expert” on matters fiscal. And only 13,000 troops … good odds I thought. But he was actually in South Korea and the report says that the assembled crowds were chanting “We love Obama”. Don’t they know anything … these people? Didn’t they hear or read his latest interview?

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