PCES Conference 2017: The Big Questions.

Our recent conference on the 18th and 19th of March was wonderful. For that weekend, University place was full of ideas and proposals from all kinds of people. There were raised voices at times, there were feelings also, at times of immense clarity, but more than anything it was just really interesting. There were over 20 talks over the course of the weekend. Richard Murphy’s one for example, was on tax avoidance and evasion and its effect on society. The level of energy and enthusiasm, and the insight he gave us on the true nature of tax avoidance. The picture that he painted provided gave us a good idea of the scale of tax avoidance and how corrosive this really is. It seemed almost comical how easily certain people and companies can avoid tax. But when we remember what our tax pays for the laughter is replaced by a kind of indignance. Especially during the last election when the feeling was very much that ‘we’ve run out of money’, and that thus we could ‘no longer afford’ to be splashing money on public services. The ‘Civil Discussion’ with Bob Kerslake was also very insightful, and similar to past events felt very much like an inside scoop on the world. Bob identified a number of regional imbalances within the UK such as London’s responsibility for 40% of UK output, despite as we know, only representing a tiny part of the UK. He suggested regional devolution in England into large areas as a more appropriate means of governance, along with some other suggestions, thereby stimulating a discussion within the room that saw us through to our...

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!...

What Is Post Crash Economics (and Why Should You Care)?

The Post Crash Economics Society (PCES) is a group of economics students who believe there is something missing from our education. Economics is a central issue in the modern world and yet what we are taught is disconnected from the economics we hear about every day: recessions, inequality, immigration, the NHS, austerity and the digital revolution. Instead of studying these crucial issues and the different perspectives on them, students only learn about the neoclassical school of thought. This means economics graduates are ill-equipped to deal with the problems faced by the world today, which is why PCES are campaigning for reforms to the curriculum so that it is more pluralistic, critical and connected to the real world. PCES set up in 2013 in response to the lack of change in the curriculum following the 2008 financial crisis. This crisis had caught economists, policymakers and politicians completely off guard, with the most widely used economic theories at the time unable to account for even the possibility of such an event. The effects of the crisis are still being felt today by everyone – economics students or otherwise – with GDP only recently having returned to its post-crisis level, 7 years on. Yet our education made little to no mention of the crisis and how it had happened, focusing instead on toy theories and repetitive mathematics. We realised that there was a problem with our economics education, not only in its failure to account for the crisis but also in its failure to address the kind of important economic issues we had expected an economics education to address. We produced a report outlining these problems in detail. Economics...

Brussels on Post-Crash

One of the key motivations for PCES has been a forward-looking desire for us, as graduates of Economics, to understand our social environment and, beyond this, to change  it. Following the economic crisis of 2008 enigmas such as unemployment, debt crises and threats of inter-generational inequality persist. Often as students we are left to accept these aspects of our economy without much thought or resolution, and so it was a privilege for PCES to be invited to attend the “Labour Economics after the Crisis” conference by László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the European Commission in Brussels last month. As the hub for EU policy-makers, the discussion over two days was enlightening on the matter of how economic theory influences the design and implementation of socio-economic policy. It was also an exposure to the power of institutions such as the EC, and their impact on the lives of people in the EU. The conference addressed key targets set for growth, youth unemployment, female participation in the labour market and job creation, and how these would be met through macroeconomic policy. The high calibre of speakers included Etsuro Honda, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister of Japan. Etsuro provided us with an analysis of Japan’s experience of reducing structural employment following the burst of an asset price bubble, and the movement to refocusing on “moral persuasion” to restore confidence in the Japanese economy. Japan’s experience was an intriguing start to the conference as a source of comparison for the EU. It highlighted the central issues an economy must focus on during recovery: the timing of policy,...