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June 23, 2021


Steve Davies

I think the intellectual decline you describe is indeed general and found in all parts of politics. It's not that there aren't keen and bright people in think tanks or scholars doing serious work in universities but that these connect less and less with politics while policy is dominated by technocrats with unexamined and unconscious ideologies. I think the reasons are the way the academy has been corrupted progressively by money (both public and private) and the publish or perish and group-think incentives and the transformation of the media, partly by technology.

Hugh Mann

"the wrong side of history, given the trend towards increase educational qualifications"

I have worked with more than a few semi-literate people with firsts. When 45% of the age cohort head for uni, GCSE-level jobs ask for A levels, A-level jobs want degrees, 2-1 degree jobs want a masters at minimum. The pressure to inflate degree grades is pretty impressive as well - the uni is well aware that someone paying 15k for a masters wants that piece of paper.

"a general decay of intellectual standards in public life"

How does that compute with your quote above, and what Miliband D called "the best-educated generation in history"?

Unless of course demography IS destiny.


"yes, dear reader, economics, done properly, is a cultured science."

It's a very uncultured and anti-cultural discipline. A lot has been said about the philistine character of economists. Sargent, Prescott, Summers or Fama are examples of the type. Economics should be connected to society and humanity, but it is very removed from it.


Sure, we can easily see our politicians are charlatans. But why are they that way? Why have non-charlatans not outsmarted them and shown the way to political and economic nirvana? I would suggest that the reason is we are in a deep hole with no easy or pleasant way out.

Economics (and mathematics) are useful tools but you need a lot of them to usefully model anything. A bit of honesty plus some inspiration and rule of thumb methods are probably more likely to identify a useful way forward, the figure f**kers can come later. Equally, it is not obvious at the moment that a spot of Marxism or Keynesianism would put things right. My intuition says we are in a hole and some new thinking is required before choosing this or that econ ism.

A few thoughts. We seem to be a very mature and sclerotic democracy. Our electoral structure means we cannot get out of our overpriced housing market. Which makes us not so competitive and makes setting up here a PIA. We seem a nice stable place in which to invest in property but new businesses, not so much.

If I were of a revolutionary turn of mind, which groups might I send to the guillotine? As a rule of thumb, the upper middle could do with a trim. The braying classes too. And of course all the Brexiteers. A Maoist approach to re-educating the Eton classes might do well. Rees-Mogg and friends (such as are spared) can work on the land - barefoot. The green benches could do with a few unrepaired bullet holes - as a salutary reminder.


Don't non-charlatans just quickly sell out, typically? Once in a while a Gandhi comes along to shame them, but they quickly forget?

Aren't we always in a hole? Don't charlatans benefit most from the "there's just no money left" line?

Isn't the best policy solution simply to eliminate inflation constraints by having central banks explicitly sell inflation swaps to set expectations as needed? Can't inflation be insured or hedged away, and isn't that what the private financial sector already does (backstopped by central banks)?

andy gray

"I suspect very few government ministers know how to code, but they know that it is Not Art and therefore a Good Thing."

Certainly agree with the first statement but not always the rest

(warning - flickering/flashing lights)


Thinking about what might happen to a stable upwardly mobile society. Everyone would end up on top.

But in accumulating these assets perhaps this bourgeoisie pushes up the price of assets to those lower down the pile. Worse, they might achieve some sort of capture to entrench their position. This effect is well known. The question is whether this has gone further in the UK than elsewhere. Are for example the Germans or the French or the Dutch seeing this sort of effect.

The long term accumulation of wealth by a bourgeoisie does not intuitively seem an entirely good idea - but what to do about it. Probably not the guillotine. The game of life seems to have unevenly distributed the ladders and snakes. Not enough small ladders and not enough unavoidable snakes perhaps. Two or three generations of wealth seems quite enough.

Herein seems to lie the central difficulty of Tory and Labour policy. How to stir the pot without disturbing the status quo.


"in accumulating these assets perhaps this bourgeoisie pushes up the price of assets to those lower down the pile. Worse, they might achieve some sort of capture to entrench their position."

Doesn't arguing against the central bank's ability to push up incomes in lockstep with prices simply enable the capture, though?

Terry Needham

If you think that intellectual decline afflicts only the right, then you haven't been paying attention.

Ralph Musgrave

Far from the Tories being "Philistines" for not giving special privileges to the live music industry as suggested by Chris Dillow, the Tories should be congratulated. There is no more reason for that industry to get favourable treatment than there is for favourable treatment being given to chess clubs, golf clubs, bowling clubs, strip clubs, sailing clubs or you name it clubs.


No, no, no; the problem is the likes of Keir Starmer. Could there be a more perverse and ignorant Labour leader?


The point to me is that the leadership of Labour no longer has a care for the well-being of ordinary workers. Th problem is not empty Conservatives, but an empty Labour leadership.


Why Matt Hancock should have to resign for kissing a partner, strikes me as utterly absurd. Talk about ignorance.

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