Writing in today’s Daily Telegraph Roger Bootle makes the point that economics is too important to be left in the care of academics. The emphasis on mathematics and econometrics at the expense of economic history and pragmatic interpretation of events is evident. “Pick up the leading journals today and even many economists cannot understand the titles, never mind the articles. Open the pages, littered with algebra, and you could be forgiven for thinking that you were looking at a musical score. The mathematicians have taken over.”
“Students of economics today are force-fed theoretical models of startling banality and irrelevance, leavened only by doses of econometric techniques of dubious validity and near-zero intellectual interest. Typically, they complete their course knowing nothing about the British economy and untrained in how to think.”
I do like Roger Bootle. I once went on a course to understand GARCH modelling. This is a modelling technique involving Gaussian or general autoregressive conditional heteroskedasticity. I didn’t understand a word as the lecturer began to chalk obscure hieroglyphics onto a blackboard from 9:00 am in the morning. There were only six of us in the room and was feeling more than a little overwhelmed. As time moved on 11:30 in fact, the lecturer realised he had made a mistake in the chain process at around ten minutes passed ten and a full hour and ten minutes were wiped off the board. We broke for coffee and I didn’t go back.
If you read the minutes of the Bank of England Monetary Policy committee for last month you begin to think that RB has a good point. The Bank of England is puzzled that theory isn’t working. A depreciation of sterling according should lead to an improvement in the Balance of Payments. Exports are cheaper and imports are more expensive. There should be a reduction in import volumes but the bank noted :
“It was puzzling that import growth had remained so robust, despite the substantial depreciation of sterling. It was possible that domestic substitutes for some imported goods and services were not available. It was also possible that UK firms in some industries lacked the plant or capacity to expand production rapidly in response to the past depreciation of sterling and it would take time for them to install it."
Hello! It’s a wake up call for the Bank of England. The Bank has over two hundred economists educated to Masters or PhD standard. They produce much research and analytical papers. Two of my favourites from last year are :
“How non Gaussian shocks affect risk premia in non-linear DSGE models”. (No. 417) and “An efficient method of computing higher order bond price perturbation approximations.” (no 416). Very helpful to policy makers everywhere, I am sure.
Someone should commission a paper and send it to the MPC, on why depreciation has never worked, be it 1931, 1947, 1967 or 1992. Peter Spencer of the ITEM club points out the manufacturing has been in decline since the 90’s. I presume he meant the 1890’s. In 2011 there is little manufacturing capacity in the UK and this is likely to remain the case. There will be no rebalancing of the economy towards net trade surplus.
In 1983 the UK went into deficit in manufactured goods following the Howe Thatcher pogrom. The trend decline is getting worse not better. Only in one manufacturing sector, chemicals does the UK trade at a surplus the rest is in serial deficit.
The Bank seems to think that in pubs around the UK discussions are taking place about the merits of open hearth steel making versus Bessemer and the electric arc furnace. Resurrection of tube making facilities using the pilger process is also on the agenda presumably but where to buy the equipment? Back to the darts with a pint and a packet of pork scratchings the only option. Import substitution - buy real ale. Devaluation isn’t working but then it never did.
|The Saturday Economist|
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