Recent Cakeeconomics Event

Two things marked the evening of our Cakeconomics event: fascinating insights from the speakers and a massive sugar rush. We had Martin Hess, an academic here at Manchester giving us a mini-lecture based on a theory by G.L. Clark about what characterizes the flow of money around the world. And Simon Edelston, who gave us some geographical indicators that he looks out for as an investment banker. The main thrust of Martin Hess’ talk was that the way that money flows around the world is consistent with mercury: in clumps and very fast. Symbolising the lightning speed with which transactions take place and the tendency of money and wealth to concentrate and then swiftly move on, which, combined with other factors, throws up problems. The main thrust of Simon Edelston’s talk was on demographics as an indication of a country’s future success and as such, it’s suitability for investment. Edelston, in some ways contrary to Hess, did overall come out ‘in defence’ of global capitalism. Which was refreshing because it created a little controversy(often little controversy is created at our events). Much discussion was had over the cake, again constituting a fun and pluralistic approach to economics. Raised in the talks were questions central to the study of economics and yet there was not a formula in sight. PCES are holding a conference on the 18th and 19th of March(this Saturday and Sunday) on the ‘Big Questions’ of economics. Many high profile and very interesting speakers will be attending. Tickets are still available, so have a look on the Facebook page. We hope to see you there!...

Classical economists: Engels on Malthus

Known chiefly as Karl Marx’ sidekick, Friedrich Engels was the other pioneer of post-Enlightenment communist philosophy. Engels and Marx worked together on nearly everything either of them produced – history had room to give only one of them the luxury of an ideological ‘-ism’, however. A work Engels did research and publish entirely on his own is The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. The Condition is a truly extraordinary text in its historical scope, detail and theoretical grounding. For Engels trawled and traversed through the city of Manchester, trying to understanding and grasp a sense of how the industrial revolution had crystalised capitalism into a specific type of modern society. He analysed factories, districts and living conditions in which factory workers lived, the wages paid out by the factory-owners or as Engels called them, the bourgeoisie, and fundamentally, the relationship between these owners and the workers employed by them. One chapter, ‘Competition’, from the book deserves particular attention in light of the previous blogpost on Malthus’ conception of excess population. Engels (p. 87) firstly describes how competition created industrial capitalism. The productive powers of industrial factories rendered the economies of agriculture obsolete, centralising capital in the hands of factory-owners and fostering innumerable ranks of inner-city factory workers, the proletariat, vying alongside each other for jobs inside the factories. Higher wages and higher profits ushered both worker and owner away from the farms in unison, towards the inner-city. We get a sense of capitalism’s revolutionary mobility here: the capacity to dissolve entire worlds into sands, forging new ones apace and without hesitation. Under capitalism, as Marshall Berman once described: all that is solid...