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Sunday, 1 October 2017

Why Blog?

For some months I have maintained a daily post on this site. Sometimes I have reiterated a broad point of principle, at other times I have drawn attention to an emergent fact [such as point protectionism as a major factor in the Brexit debate], and on few occasions I have enunciated a new principle; but more often I have merely commented on the recent news. I have found it enjoyable - sometimes even cathartic - to have got my reaction down in writing and thus 'off my chest'; but in taking that route I have departed from the main reason for starting the blog. So I will go back to the beginning, then state my plan for the near future.

I had the immense good fortune to go up to Durham University, and specifically to the Durham Division of that university when King's College, Newcastle and the Medical School were fully parts of one federal university. Had I gone to Newcastle I would have been able to study Economics as a single subject, and my entire career would have been different. In the Durham Colleges at that time there were well under 2,000 students, which meant that teaching resources were limited. Thus the only social sciences honours degree was in Politics and Economics; and furthermore the Economics syllabus had a heavy component of Economic History, while first year students also had to study Ethics or Statistics and a modern foreign language. This meant that we had a broad introduction to the field which has made me sceptical of the inner dogmatics of Economics ever since. We were well taught in Economics: my first year tutor became a distinguished regulatory knight under the Thatcher regime and the most of the rest of the staff were comparably competent and qualified.

By the time I graduated I had become so sceptical about Economics that I applied for - and, to my eternal surprise, got - a research place to study how Economics had evolved into what it was. At that time successive governments were keen to expand the university system and money was no problem; there was a shortage of able and willing graduates [this was long before the massive influx of overseas students provided an over-supply of good graduates alongside the growing cohort of UK students]. Hence, via scholarship funding and a research fellowship I was able to complete a Masters degree and a Doctorate: and I was invited to take up a lectureship before my doctoral thesis was completed. As a teacher who rose through the hierarchy of a good university to become Dean of Social Sciences and Pro-Vice-Chancellor I maintained my agnostic approach to Economics as the neoKeynesians urged governments into the inflationary spiral that undermined the entire system after 1973. I was PVC at the time of the first imposition of Monetarist-inspired cash limits on university spending, and was instrumental in getting a cash bonus for the university as one of the few that believed what the politicians were reciting from their Monetarist mentors and capped its spending plans accordingly. By that time the amiable notion that academics had 'tenure' of their posts for life, however ineffectual they proved to be, was ended; and the state funded a round of redundancies that marked the opening of a new era of 'efficiency' that covered a reorientation of Economics towards the free market dogma. It took a few years to impose the predominance of that doctrine: the first Thatcher cuts were opposed by 364 Economists who signed a letter to the Times which was ignored by the new establishment, and within a generation their opinions were either consigned to retirement or radically revised in accordance with the new dogma.

I saw no place for myself in that world, I so moved with modest success to the City of London where I found significant fulfillment. But I have constantly developed my contrarian views on Economics; which I expressed at length in the book that is advertised on this page: The Brexit Vote and Economics. In June, 2016, I took the view that the rejection of the government's advocacy of the Remain side in the EU Referendum was also, implicitly [and perhaps more importantly] a rejection of the underlying orthodoxy that gave us Thatcherism,the financial bubble and the inevitable crash of 2007-9, austerity and widespread disillusion and cynicism to the political class. I stated my own conclusions. Then I took the decision that instead of constantly trying to issue updates of the self-published text, I should make a constant commentary on my views and on the real-world events that I believe my text illuminates. This week the Tory Party Conference is likely to provoke some splenetic reactions on my part, so I have decided to take a more cerebral line, with less frequent but deeper ruminations on the site. We'll see how that goes....

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