Seven years ago I quit my job as a manager in a Government anti-poverty programme, utterly defeated in the battles to deliver a programme that actually addressed the problem of poverty in a meaningful way.
The programme was a mish-mash of good intentions, trendy buzzwords and political rhetoric. I could never live with that. Since I was 9 I’ve seethed with an inability to tolerate any level of injustice in any situation – it’s an appalling social impediment.
So inevitably I lost all the battles and shook the dust off my feet as I left the office for the last time. All I took with me were questions:
- Why is there so much poverty, when there’s also so much wealth in the world?
- Why did we suffer an economic meltdown that (almost) no-one saw coming?
- Why do Governments and economists still seem so clueless about what to do about it, almost 10 years later?
- Why do large organisations (whether public bureaucracies or corporations) value conformity and fitting-in above everything else, rather than creative ways to improve the way we do things?
- And why do people accept it all and just get on with their lives as if all this is okay?
Maybe looking for closure, I started with the first couple of questions by studying economics. And I couldn’t believe what I found, so I kept studying. If I read something by an economist that didn’t make sense to me it became like an itch I couldn’t scratch in my head – I had to get to the bottom of it.
Which was a problem, because advanced economics is jargon-laden, arcane, complex, and usually full of algebra. And because many economists make very little sense much of the time. I just couldn’t let that go. As a result I’ve studied economics to a level of detail that cannot be good for anyone’s mental state, and is certainly completely useless to a househusband from Swansea.
Now on the one-hand, people need to be told. We’re all suffering the pain of our broken economy. Governments can’t fix it, and are for the most part making the problem worse, because the mainstream economic theories are just nonsense. We’re all getting screwed by academic economists, because there are so few people out there challenging them over their bankrupt theories (although the challenge to orthodox theories has gained huge momentum since the crash).
And I’ve found many answers to my questions. I can explain how the crash happened and why the recession has lasted so long. I can explain what is wrong with many of the standard economic theories and why this makes the problems worse. And I can explain how a way of thinking has come to dominate our society – from economists to politicians to corporate directors to the media. And then to us. And this way of thinking is at the heart of all the worst problems we face as a society and as individuals.
But on the other hand, what’s the point? Why should anyone listen to me? The internet is already full of economics blogs, that either no one reads, or that a tiny, insular group of nerds (like me) likes to read – it’s very disheartening.
But I like to write, and I’ve got to get this stuff out of my head, so I thought I’d do a blog, with a goal to write 500 words every Friday, if nothing else as an exercise in writing. I know a few of my friends will find it interesting, and just the act of writing will change how I think about all this, and hopefully some comments will challenge my perspective and help me refine my understanding.
Plus, a lot of economics blogs are pretty terrible – poorly written, disorganised, unclear – and they’re all writing for other economists. There’s a whole community of people out there debating with each other. And the tone is absolutely toxic. It’s as if the only way they know to communicate is to ridicule and lambaste anyone whose opinion differs slightly from theirs.
So that gives me a couple of interesting challenges in my writing:
- To write with clarity – no matter how complex it seems, I genuinely believe that everyone can understand how the economy works, and we all need to because it’s our economy.
- To write in a way that is dispassionate, balanced and moderate. The problem for me is that I genuinely believe, as a result of my studies, that mainstream, orthodox, conventional economists are wrong about everything. All the time. That might seem over the top, but economics education is full of so many totally false, ideologically driven assumptions, that if you don’t rebel against them, they will fill your head and shape the way you see the world in all its aspects. You will start to see the world through a lens that distorts your perception of reality. Okay, you won’t be wrong about everything, but only because even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day. Now that may not seem like a balanced and moderate point of view. It seems pretty insulting and inflammatory. But it is the well-considered conclusion that I’ve reached from years of study. So my determined intention is to nonetheless write everything in a sober and balanced way, free of polemic and invective.
I don’t know how this is going to unfold – I’m just going to start and see if I can write about economics in a way that anyone can understand, and anyone can find interesting. Because the economy affects all of us.
One Year Update:
After one year of blogging I have to say this hasn’t unfolded quite as I expected. As I got into the detail, writing clearly and briefly without compromising precision and accuracy has been much more challenging. I’m very proud of the content, but it’s taken much longer to work through the various topics than I imagined, to the extent that I’ve not included several subjects I originally intended to cover.
But as my studies continued alongside my writing, in the last year I’ve discovered papers on recent seismic shifts in financial markets that confirm my suspicions more dramatically than I could ever have imagined. This is what I’m about to start writing about, under the heading of “Financial Markets”.
The first year of the blog provides a perfect foundation for understanding this new material, and I’ve written a summary and overview of the first year, which is definitely the best place for a new reader to start. From here on I hope the blog will be more direct, accessible and compelling, and not get quite so bogged down in the detail.