The piece was written last week, although minorly updated last night, and is my first comment as Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City University on The Conversation site, which was reserved exclusively for academics.
I can hear the ego expanding from a thousand miles away. I is an academic, don’cha kno’?
City University London provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.
Ie, we’ve paid to have this gubbins put up here.
And it is quite lovely too. The opening line:
As the creator of what has come to be known as Corbynomics, my ideas on what is now known as People’s Quantitative Easing, progressive taxation, tackling the tax gap and other matters caused quite a stir in the Labour leadership race.
Can ermine be far behind?
In the real world of political economy that I wish to explore with my students in due course, there are three big themes.
What economists choose to measure and how useful it is to measure these things.
The way those measures are constructed and what they are intended to communicate.
The role of economists in this process: what is their background or ideology that may influence their behaviour, and what might they have chosen to omit from consideration as a result?
Given that he doesn’t know anything at all about 1) and 2) my guess is the course will be heavy on 3).
Recall, for instance, his insistence that economists predict income maximisation, rather than what they do predict, utility maximisation.
It is my belief that there is no form of measurement, whether economic or (as importantly) in accounting, that is value-free. The choice of what we measure frames the debates we have. And the tools we use and the options they accept or reject are entirely subjective.
So no need to have any foot or base in objective reality then. This is all very PoMo, isn’t it?
My point is that it is clear that the economist is not an objective observer. His or her decisions necessarily affect the real world: the very act of measurement itself has an impact.
What astonishes me, in that case, is how little work by so many UK academics in the fields of economics, accounting and tax has any chance of achieving that impact. It is not, it seems, ever designed to reach out to those who might have the chance to effect change by making use of it.
It is my hope that this is an issue that a new Labour leader might address. If the Labour leadership campaign has proved anything it is that there is need for a change in economic thinking if those policies to be offered in 2020 by all parties – but most especially those on the left – are to resonate with people anxious for change.
What also seems very obvious, is that politics is not, at present, either the source or repository for that thinking. In that case, the chance for meaningful dialogue between academia and Labour does at this moment appear to be high, and with it the prospect of real, impactful, engagement.
That is why I hope a new Labour leader will reach out to academia and positively invite new ideas, research, thinking, dialogue and so policy formulation. Now is the time for this. The politicians and academics involved all have until 2020 to achieve a result. There is a desperate need for an economics of the real world that is quite deliberately intended to change not just measurement, but reality.
Gissa job Jezza!
And he wants economics to be normative now, does he? How cute of the little Ritchie that is! Might we not ask that he grasps the positive aspects first?