Tag Archives: economics

Change the pictures, change the world – Kate Raworth and Doughnut Economics

21 May
Kate Raworth

Kate Raworth

Kate Raworth wanted to change the world. She tried it in a village in Zanzibar. She tried it in the UN, and then at Oxfam.

But her days as an economics student came back to haunt her. How could a ‘social science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services’ (Wikipedia) be so far removed from ‘real-world economic challenges’? In all her forays into social justice, she banged herself against an economic brick wall. It’s impossible to create lasting change when the system itself is wrong.

Kate decided the main problem was the wrong pictures. Surely money, you may ask? But no, pictures – with a glut of blank spaces for people to fall into. University economics 101 uses a series of very memorable diagrams by a young US professor, Paul Samuelson, drawn after the second world war. These pictures, Kate said, sit at the back of visual cortex and influence our thoughts.

Just as memorable (read: creepy) was his aim for them: he wanted to ‘lick the blank slate of the mind’. You may recognise their simplistic black marks – the ones where a line starts at the bottom corner of the graph and zooms off to the top (GDP and unlimited growth); or a toilet door-style man whose only concern is how much things cost and how much he has to spend; or those hump back hill ones where some people lose out at the start before everyone starts to win; or where horrible waste is made, but don’t worry because prosperity will clean it up.  Continue reading

Change Everything

12 May

Swindon Festival of Literature director Matt Holland gave a fist pump as last night’s author concluded at Swindon Arts Centre.

A full house, a double event (for the first time), attended by Swindon’s ‘movers and shakers’, cheering. Was this a celebrity? A high-profile fiction writer? Not this time. This was an author talking about the economy.

A festival fan had suggested the event and the festival took a risk that paid off.

The speaker, Christian Felber ‘flown in from Austria by way of Portugal’, is not an economist, he tells us. In fact he’s rather cross with modern economics (as cross as such a kind, smiley man such as Christian could be). Modern economics – and there is no other kind, it’s a very new discipline – is heartless.  He tells a joke – a student worries to a university professor that he cannot decide the course to study. The professor says to follow his heart. The student thinks then says, ‘business ethics’. The lecturer says, ‘then you will have to make a choice’. Economics only cares about itself and how much money is made – ethics is seen to have no relevance to it. It mixes up means and goals and forgets money is a means to an end, not the end. Continue reading

Serious and deliberate, Sir Vince surveys the aftermath of The Storm

3 May
DSC_5436  Vince Cable Swindon festival of Literature

©Calyx Vince Cable at the Swindon Festival of Literature

There are two kinds of politicians: the quiet, steady-hand-on-the-rudder type, and the charismatic ones, who can seem appealing, but whose run-away mouths can often get them into trouble.

Serious and deliberate in his delivery, Vince Cable – who certainly falls into the former camp – nonetheless allows himself a joke at the expense of the latter.

“I see I am one of two speakers with a political background,” he tells the Swindon Festival of Literature tonight (Tuesday). “At least I don’t need to be looking around the audience to see where the Mossad people are.”

Ken Livingstone will be appearing next Tuesday.

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