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Thursday, 27 July 2017

Education, Immigration and Austerity

More than thirty years ago I was Dean of Social Sciences in a major English University, from which I had previously graduated. As a graduate, I regularly receive information from the university, accompanied by invitations to make donations to various aspects of the work that goes on there. In the latest issue, they gave figures for the numbers of graduates in each faculty: and social sciences was more than twice as prolific as any other Faculty. When I was on the staff, social sciences were similar in size [and therefore in numbers of graduates] to the arts, science and engineering faculties.

During the time when I was Dean, the worst of the Thatcherite destruction was being done to the steel and related engineering industries in the region: which had the impact of reducing dramatically the potential for growth of the materials sciences parts of engineering. In the subsequent decades demand from students - especially, from UK students - has been pathetic in applied sciences [which mean that there has been plenty of capacity to train tens of thousands of scientists and engineers and metallurgists for emergent economies], poor in pure sciences and weak in the 'hard' arts like languages. The result is that Britain has been preparing people to do parasitic jobs in the media and other sectors where no material product emerges, and in financial services [which, at high risk, brings significant income to Britain from the world economy: and which could now be threatened by Brexit].

The material economy requires workers to do jobs that are alien to UK graduates, who are 'too good' for farm work or for ordinary jobs in the retail and hospitality sectors, or in building and construction; so those jobs have been taken up by migrants, many from the EU and many from beyond Europe. Thus it is important to note that simply barring EU immigrants will not make the total net migration statistics 'look right'; but it will denude agriculture, construction and hospitality of their essential workforces.

The educational system has totally failed to create the British workforce that Britain needs. Teaching tens of thousands of young people every year the dogmatic nonsense that is uttered by the Econocracy makes the situation worse, because it renders reality incomprehensible to the people who are supposedly educated to illuminate economic life.

Thus the material economy has stagnated: except for those areas of the services sector which largely import the material components of the things they use, and import their labour: to which the British population comes - largely with borrowed money - to buy consolation for their nagging awareness that their incomes have generally not grown [in real terms] for more than ten years. Companies are hoarding their profits, or returning them to shareholders in buy-backs [in the cases where they still make profits, usually in overseas markets]. The only conspicuous sphere of investment is the proliferation of branches of quirky dineries, nail-bars and bars; none of which are famous for longevity.

The misapplication of neo-Keynesianism in the later nineteen-sixties and early' seventies means that it has been impossible to persuade an 'Economics Profession' dominated by 'rational markets' nonsense that a keynesian stimulus would restart the real economy. Instead, successive government have adopted and stuck to the policy of austerity; which has clearly become a mantra that will eventually provoke a populist revolt. The misdirection of education over the last four decades means that the economy lacks the people who could implement a Keynesian reflation of the economy; and the economic devastation that the Thatcherite monetarists achieved means that many of the means by which a traditional Keynesian restoration of economic growth could be accomplished do not exist. Yet is is only by a strong pattern of state support for the revival of construction and manufacturing that the economy can be rebuilt. It will be a task of immense complexity; but it must be achievable.

More of this in the coming days.

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