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!...

The Employers Panel Event

On Tuesday 7th February we were lucky enough to be joined by Frances Coppola, a former banker and now prominent financial writer, Andy Ross a former deputy of the Treasury and Howard Kingston, head of maritime insurance at the Zurich Insurance Group. Where we settled into a lecture theatre for an evening of insights into the world of work. A number of themes stood out, some related closely to the guiding topic of the talk (‘are our degrees failing us’) and most about general advice on how to approach the world of work. The message was nuanced, but broadly similar across the board: are degrees are not failing us, but they could be a lot better and more applicable to the working world. This models we learn are not useless but not always useful, and that what we learn is far from the whole picture. Andy Ross gave a number of very funny accounts of people using simple macroeconomic models to look at issues as complex as immigration. To this end Frances Coppola had a lot to say. Adding that we need to understand how things actually are: banks create nearly all of the money in circulation and that money itself, while it is often skirted over as a ‘means of exchange’, it can be far better understood as a product in of itself. A product that is bought and sold at a price determined by market forces, just like any other(take the dollar as an example here). Can an economics education that doesn’t really factor this in be considered fit for purpose? The world is messy and complex...

The Econocracy: Manchester Book Launch

Recently, Joe Earle, Cahal Moran and Zach Ward-Perkins presented the central arguments of their book, The Econocracy, to a packed room in Uni Place. Noone could debate that these three had really thought this all out. Challenges were met always with referral back to the core message of the student movement, one which appeared more than ever to be uncontroversial. The room seemed engaged and respectful of the message. Present were all kinds of people of different ages and voices, ranging from one man who semi-jokingly suggested that economics as an entity might reasonably be discarded of, given it’s apparent uselessness in understanding the world. We had an engineering professor who proposed most enthusiastically that there should be a charter, similar to most professions. Such a charter would likely see countless economists struck off following 2008 of course, the thought of which elicited a chuckle from the audience. This proposition did seem to have a certain strength to it somehow. It stood out when Francesca in the work of PCES, rather than satisfying our youthful urge to ‘smash things up’, we instead reason and establish a dialogue with, the economics department and university at large. Rather than just expressing our frustrations to the good pedestrians of Oxford Road. This observation seemed particularly meaningful given the composition of the room where we had economics professors, administrators and general serious-looking adults. I was talking to a social anthropology professor in front of me who was most vociferous about how he thinks that social anthropology is in a similar state to economics. He talked of there being very specific case studies with...

The Recent Trip to Edale

  The society’s recent trip to Edale was comforting. Set in the distinctly non-urban environment of the peak district, ‘delegates’ from societies similar to our own all came to the lodge. It was comforting to know that we were not remotely alone in our cause: there were groups attending from London to Aberdeen and most places in between. All sharing the same vision of a more pluralistic economics, providing great opportunities to bounce ideas off eachother. Similar to other events we’ve had, we got a sense that we are putting into practise the pluralism that we talk so much about, by actually getting together and holding reasoned debates on the subject. It was felt that we had created a hub that could cement the movement nationwide and internationally by providing a kind of informal headquarters. This cementation is vitally important of course, when groups such as ours campaigning for curriculum reform are constituted of students who, of course, graduate after 3 or 4 years. Thus, the Rethinking Economics hub helps towards ensuring that the movement does not run out of steam. There should always be an organized voice for students expressing their discontents at the way they are being taught. And more broadly there should be that voice that challenges an established approach to economics that has been shown to be limited in its utility for understanding the world. Let’s not forget that this society and movement in general only really started post-crash, the ‘crash’ being in 2008, when many of us currently in the society were about 12. This weekend gave us a real sense of how far we have come...

Why Oh Why Can’t We Have Better Post-Crash Commentary?

Allison Schrager has written an article in Quartz about the global student movement to reform economics education, entitled “The single most important thing an economics course can teach you”. The article does not answer the question in the title, which might be forgiven as a publishing error except that it doesn’t seem to have a point at all. Instead, Shrager’s approach is to throw everything possible at the student movement and see what sticks. Unfortunately, the result is a prime example of almost everything wrong with the way some economists have responded to this movement: it’s full of inaccuracies about what we believe, repeats popular caricatures of any challenge to economics, and is unnecessarily harsh. We would expect a professional economist to produce something better than this. Schrager’s working hypothesis is that the student movement is “ignorant” about economics and has a “sloppy, inaccurate portrayal of mainstream economic theory”. She suggests that we have “barely studied the subject they think needs radical change”, and that we are “are already getting [diversity in economics], they just don’t know enough to realize it”. It’s interesting that she seems to know more about our education than us, and we wonder what she thinks we’ve been doing on economics degrees, if not being exposed to economics. In any case, if we are apparently coming out of economics degrees with little knowledge of economics, then whose fault is that? What’s worse is that the sole piece of evidence Schrager can muster to back up her assertions is that in our report, we allegedly “call out the mainstream, top-tiered “Chicago Journal” which isn’t an economics journal)”. Firstly, even if we grant this error,...