The same persons who cry down Logic will generally warn you against Political Economy. It is unfeeling, they will tell you. It recognises unpleasant facts. For my part, the most unfeeling thing I know of is the law of gravitation: it breaks the neck of the best and most amiable person without scruple, if he forgets for a single moment to give heed to it. The winds and waves too are very unfeeling. Would you advise those who go to sea to deny then winds and waves -- or to make use of them, and find the means of guarding against their dangers? My advice to you is to study the great writers on Political Economy, and hold firmly by whatever in them you find true; and depend on it that if you are not selfish or hard-hearted already, Political Economy will not make you so.
-- J.S. Mill

went for a lecture by dr charles bean today, director and chief economist of the bank of england, just to take notes, take photographs and generally cover the event so i'll be clued in as to what is going on and not be hoodwinked by my journalist.

professor pissarides stepped up to introduce him, and soon enough a woman got up and heckled something to the effect of "this is england, speak english". whyever she did so, i can't figure out. pissed off at economics professors? ultra-nationalist? couldn't here or over-hassled by ushers? an ex-mistress?

in any case, it was a pretty clear lecture replete with statistics and interesting indicators you wouldn't consider normally from your average macroeconomics course. not excessively complicated, mind you, but common sense indicators which go beyond interest rates etc. this is diagnostic economics, something like house (yes that crazy doctor), and what i think distinguishes economics today, an empirical approach to things from looking at data. that's why i don't like my macroeconomics principles course that much because there doesn't seem to be much necessarily stable or "principled" about the economy, you should always keep one eye on the data. and anyway, it is something like sach's recommended approach (to development economics) in "the end of poverty", where he suggests going around to the countries involved to collect data, understand more (kinda like talking to patients). it was interesting though, that i ran into a lady i met at summer school in beijing who's now very interested in development, and she got the impressions that charles bean had never been to china, and she was hoping more for some more insights in that regard. fair enough, but i guess his job is monetary policy in the uk (meaning he has to keep one eye on china as far as that affects inflation in the uk), but he doesn't claim it's his field of interest or expertise.

but what should i know right, i'm not an economist. but another person comes in and heckles and goes on about the voodoo banking multiplier and how all this debt hole think came about, that debt is sin etc. i must confess i was initially upset by the banking multiplier. and though the idea of money being printed by the government going straight into our pockets sounds neat and attractive, i guess people underestimate the importance of financial intermediaries in trying to push us back into the 17th century. it is difficult, though, i feel to argue with someone who doesn't try to take at least an empirical approach to data. i don't mean being able to quote statistics like "50 billion a year is wasted on... (and i didn't really get the rest of what he said)" or quoting abraham lincoln , i guess there has to be progress in the financial markets. and then i realise you need the theory to figure out that some concepts/principles are just wrong (given the world that we work with).

but the heckling made me think that some people, i think, are absolutely disgusted with economists. oh well.

also, this is another poem posted by my philosophy lecturer. yet again, a poem likes this sometimes makes me wonder if literature is not simply about weakness in all its forms, and is a desperate search by readers to find out if someone as terrible as them exists in this world. it is comforting, you know.

Why should not old men be mad?
Some have known a likely lad
That had a sound fly-fisher's wrist
Turn to a drunken journalist;
A girl that knew all Dante once
Live to bear children to a dunce;
A Helen of social welfare dream,
Climb on a wagonette to scream.
Some think it a matter of course that chance
Should starve good men and bad advance,
That if their neighbours figured plain,
As though upon a lighted screen,
No single story would they find
Of an unbroken happy mind,
A finish worthy of the start.
Young men know nothing of this sort,
Observant old men know it well;
And when they know what old books tell
And that no better can be had,
Know why an old man should be mad.

W.B Yeats

and you wonder if all these hopes you have for yourself will ever be achieved. yes, what happens to those who know all of dante?

in the end, no matter how much i claim not to believe in fate, i think deep down i must believe it. maybe it's my natural disposition, but i think sometimes that's the reason why people think i am cold/cool in certain situations, why i don't react more etc... i think sometimes that is what frustrates people most about me. i just have never had this feeling where i could control the world, and sometimes i take it too much as a given.

at the end of the term, i hope to go to italy. one of the stops will be venice, which used to be famous for the rialto and... jewish moneylenders. even in the 17th century they needed debt.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, the place to learn about Jews is Prague. I spend an entire day at the jewish quarters.

The jews were forced into money lending because it is a sin for anyone else (catholics or christains)to do so. Furthermore, the government backed these debts with the full faith of the government to attract them into money lending.

Of course, money lending was unpleasant because people generally hated them when they cannot pay up their interest or principal. Being outcast of society, the government frequently wiped off all debts whenever times are bad and the Jews have to accept this. (I wonder what happened to the 'full faith of the government' guarantee... I guess political concerns are more important.)

Therefore, the Jews loan at very 'high' interest rates and are frugal because they never know when the government will declare their debts as unclaimable.

I guess it is just their fate that money lending happens to be extremely profitable and they became wealthy. It also lead to their downfall because people became jealous and did all sorts of things to them. =P

I'm just sharing what I learnt from the displays in the jewish quarters. hope you find it interesting.