Britain\’s challenges require a wholly different mindset. The country has to rebuild itself economically and socially. It has to develop a good, long-termist capitalism with innovation, investment and engaging the people at its heart. But that in turn requires preconditions.
it needs a web of supporting institutions, regulations and processes, ranging from effective competition policy…..
Yup, that\’ll do it.
The rest of the prescription is Willy\’s usual, clever people like Willy (but only the clever people who agree with Willy, in fact, agreeing with Willy is the definition of clever) should be able to tell everyone what to do. But here, in these snippets, he\’s right.
The State does have a job to do in a capitalist/free market society. And no, it\’s not the promotion of capitalism, that can take care of itself very well indeed. It\’s the making sure that the capitalism part doesn\’t overwhelm the market part. For that is what curbs capitalism: the competition that markets bring.
Think of the workers\’ wages for example. Marx warned us that monopoly capitalism, if the capitalists collaborated on wages, would lead to wages inevitably being screwed down. But as Marx also pointed out, as long as there is competition between capitalists for access to that labour then as the profits that can be made from labour rise thus wages will rise: as the capitalists compete with each other for access to those profits to be made by employing labour.
The job of government then is to ensure no collaboration between the capitalists, to ensure a free market for labour.
Take another of his points for example:
to access to university that is based on merit rather than family wealth;
OK, we\’re going through a period of technological change at the moment, one concentrating on information and its dissemination. One that is arguably as large as the printing press itself all those centuries ago. Of course, I refer to the internet.
Yet our university educations are based, still (as Brad DeLong likes to point out) the pre-printing press system.
Books then, when they had to be hand scribed, were so valuable that a student could not possibly afford them. So they would gather together and listen to one, precious, copy being read to them. This is the origin of the lecture.
We still organise our universities this way. Hundreds gather in a hall to hear someone talk at them, essentially giving a precis of what is available in better form in £30 units of books, now becoming available in £0 units on the web.
Yes, sure, the sex and the booze of being 18 and all together is great fun but university as a method of learning technical matters is still two technological revolutions behind the times.
We are seeing people who get this though. The University of London external degree for example. It\’s under £4,500 to get an economics degree these days. This is the same degree you get if you go to the London School of Economics. It\’s a U of London degree. Your course is even administered, designed, by that same London School of Economics.
It\’s £4,500 for the whole degree by the way, not per year (actually, the econ degree seems to be cheaper, £3,500 before books).
That the U of London system is a state system doesn\’t matter in the slightest. It\’s competition all the same.
And if anyone was serious about trying to increase the amount of technical knowledge there is around, you know, well trained (rather than well pissed and well laid) peeps, then wouldn\’t they be tumpeting this new technological possibility at the top pf their lungs?
Ah, yes, sorry, forgot: Willy\’s just become Warden of an Oxbridge College, hasn\’t he? Part of the old establishment that needs to be disrupted rather than one impartially considering the future.