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When economics graphs go bad

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Paul Mason | 11:24 UK time, Thursday, 13 November 2008

Can the G20 save the world? Will my graphs ever come up right?

Last night, the last part of my report previewing the G20 summit "fell off air" as we say in telly. The computer programme that stores the report froze. If you are interested in seeing the whole thing it's at the bottom of this blog post. Meanwhile if you are one of those people who delight in the discomfort of others I can offer you a double helping from last night's programme. First there is my exchange with Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, where I asked if he and the MPC had lost touch with reality and he gave a robust defence of their decision making during Q3.

This was, for me, a refreshing exchange because much of the Bank of England's interface with journalists goes on either in total privacy, where it cannot be reported, or through heavily stage-managed events like the Inflation Report press conference. It's understandable that the bank wants to tightly control its own utterances, since they can move markets. But if we are learning the lessons of the credit crunch (see this link for a full and frank discussion by myself and a panel of financial writers staged last week) one of the things we have to move towards is more regular interrogations of policymakers.

For sheer hilarity you can then watch me improvise as my graph of the recession fails to materialise and I try to simulate year on year GDP with hand movements. All those years watching Marcel Marceau as a kid paid off. Jeremy Paxman thought it was very funny.

Anyway I am off to Washington to the G20 summit. If it manages to save the world and construct a new economic order I will let you know.

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    It would be wrong to say I do not delight in the discomfort of others, but if they are from a well-funded, 'market rate talent' politico-media class that seem to trade on the impression that they know each other and hence everything, it can be especially refreshing to have fate, and/or circumstance, offer up the odd humbling reminder (for the future) that, like the rest of us, they do not.


  • Comment number 2.

    ps. Speaking of technology... nice frame freeze. Ever been to Nuremberg?

    I think the IT guys are just messing with you:)

  • Comment number 3.

    How serious is this crisis? On Monday evening, 1845, I switched on the Parliament Channel to be presented with the Economic Crisis Debate – but amazingly even though I looked closely, on one of the main parties benches I could only count 5, front and back benchers, the opposite benches were similarly depleted even though a former Minister talked about the “magnitude of the crisis.” Throughout the debate the impression was continually given that short term action was required if disaster was to be averted, yet what was presented was an aggregation of simplistic convergent actions to the complex divergent problems we are currently being subject to.

    Yet two former Treasury Ministers, who didn’t seem to believe there was a need to debate the issues in our legislature, Parliament, found the time to appear on the next TV news to play a pass-the latest idea which gave the impression of plucking policy from yesterday’s environments which are obviously not the same as today’s.

    Nowhere was there a discussion about what a viable economic system might look like; no debate was provide regarding the nature of the discontinuities being experienced as the systems morphs into a new form of structure and function. Nowhere was there a debate about how we might validate the efficacy of a new or modified system, the debate was about: are we building the system right rather than are we building the right system. No matter how good the system might be if it is the wrong system no amount of resource will make it right.

    When we elect our leaders we hope, no we expect, that they will have wisdom to perceive, if it was just about making management type decisions then we would hire managers; but it is not, it is about policy, which requires vision based on wisdom, as the UK’s School of Government points out in its strapline it requires phronesis, practical wisdom. Yet even this organisation which purports to be capable of evaluating policy [it authors the Magenta Book of policy evaluation] in the real world it is incapable of grasping the complexity, likewise the Treasury with its risk evaluations, the Orange book, or procurement issues in the Green Book has no grasp of the nature of the complexity [note recent correspondence].

    What we are currently witnessing from the political and financial leadership is what in economic terms might be described as regression to the mean; not of the economic system, but of the mediocrity of the leadership. The regression in market terms having to find a new mean to regress to as it evolves from the current discontinuities.

    The leadership, political and civil service, which is supposed to have the wisdom to perceive, we have been sorely disappointed. To listen to the rhetoric which argues that the current situation was not foreseeable is only to amplify the mediocrity of the leadership whilst emphasising the ‘coefficient of fiction’ [sic] that has, and does exist; where the reality of the diminishing viability of economic and financial systems was clearly available to those who were open minded enough to look for it; whilst the leadership has found itself thwarted by the impervious barriers it subconsciously applied to the understanding, reality, which existed in the real world.

    We are not talking about perfect foresight, that is obviously not available, but we are talking about the error of basing ex ante forecasting on narrative post hoc analysis when the environment is subject to severe non-linearity, ie complexity. For the Governor of the BoE to suggest that if you can’t set policy without the benefit of perfect foresight you shouldn’t be in this business; reflects something of the current problem and the nature of the equifinality that has currently defeated policy.

    That the devil is in the detail is often quoted as the reason that mistakes have been made; YET the devil is the detail in that it hides the true nature of the system, the focus on reductionism and analysis without synthesis seems to have been a major property of the current crisis. Yet more than two years ago it was clearly recognisable that the system was becoming unstable, that the viability of the status quo would have to under go significant change; that the rocking, volatility, of the system due to easily recognisable variables such as: leverage, imbalances of current accounts and the amplifying effects of positive feedbacks, which were taking over from the stabilising negative ones would result in major discontinuities. That the nature of the discontinuities was recognisable, even to a ‘simple sailor’ tells us something about the mediocrity of the policy and the advice it was receiving.

    The debate, certainly the one in our legislature, needs to be more robust; this is a great opportunity for us all - systems only change when they are moved from their previous equilibrium, which requires the noise of the public and media to be heard above the mediocrity of the current policy. The current economic system has been kicked stated out of its previous form; the challenge now is for us to guide it to a new viable form which is fit for purpose in the new environment.

  • Comment number 4.

    REPEAT QUESTION

    Paul: do you understand the WHOLE of global money?

    I am still (intuitively) of the opinion that the trades made in umpteen-times-removed, nominal expressions of value, amount to MATHEMATICALLY FORBIDDEN OPERATIONS; illustrated to school kids as: 'dividing apples by pears' or 'multiplying chairs by tables'.

  • Comment number 5.

    I saw it on the old-fashioned TV and you were flapping a bit, yes. But not as much as Governor Mervyn "Penfold" was when Larry Elliot asked that question about him being caught with his trousers down!

    How long before David Blanchflower gets his KBE?

  • Comment number 6.

    hmmm, chances of the G20 solving the problem.... about 1 in 20?

  • Comment number 7.

    Paul,

    Fear not, we all felt your pain last night.

    You are right to note that Mervyn gave a robust response to your questioning. However, a not entirely correct response. Am I right in thinking that many prominent / vocal commentators have actually been calling for dramatic interest rate cuts for at least the last 4 to 5 weeks (Graham Turner and Vince Cable spring to mind). And as for the comment that the bank did predict a downturn in output, back in September (?), I presume it was not as stark as yesterday's predication of a 2% drop?

    As the lawyers' saying goes, never ask a question to which you don't already know the answer.

    Naturally, I speak with the benefit of hindsight.......

  • Comment number 8.

    What the G20 is essentially calling for is a reverse Marshall Plan in which china and the Asian economies release their excess capital into the world markets in order to shoe up demand for their own over-produced goods. This will undoubtedly strengthen their grip over the world economy in a way similar to that which helped the US to emerge as the dominant power after 1947 and the end of Morgenthau. On the other hand, they may as well wait until the western powers sort out their own mess and in the process weaken their positions further. It is a risky game though because though Chine and Asia, though economically powerful are still highly dependent on western levels of demand. The haven't yet developed a degree of endogamous growth and strength which would enable them to truly dominate world production. Give it a few years and they will have, but the criss will have to run its course for a while longer yet.

  • Comment number 9.

    Speaking of going 'odd' places....

    'The role of citizen journalism in modern democracy'

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2008/11/the_role_of_citizen_journalism.html

    "Take Robert Peston's blog... This highlights the difference in the audiences between those who are happy to read what others have to say and those self selecting minority who want to join in ... These numbers are also a useful warning not to set too much store by the tone of the comments. Those who join in the debate are by definition a vocal minority."

    Peter's got Google. Ashley's got Microsoft. What nice little number is Helen gunning for?

  • Comment number 10.

    ONLY IF IT REALLY HURTS, IT'S REALLY REALLY OBVIOUS AND VERY SPARKLY?

    whyandwhynot (#3) As Stelzer said last night, nothing's likely to happen in public until Obama is sworn in.

    On the predication of the Credit Crisis, as Gillian Tett said in the above liked session, there's rather a lot which we don't talk about which we should talk about far more.

    But it's naive and false to assert that many people were not aware of the looming crisis until last year, as Parliament had the UK main players in for a liitle talk in Oct 2003 over Monty Slater and other such 'oversights'. They knew what was going on, but it was policy to deregulate. These evidence sessions were sops.

    As I've said elsewhere, this is the price of deregulation, and just because it's now hitting more people where it really hurts doesn't mean it hasn't been hurting people elsewhere for years cf. Lysenkoising education (Every Child Matters, Aiming High, SEAL, SureStart), Fragmenting/privatising Criminal Justice (Offender Management Act), crippling defence (Armed Forces Act). Lots of people in these areas of work have been warning about it.

    Most people just aren't interested/are in denial, so naturally, journalists don't report on it much. In a way, it IS stupid journalism as journalism is market driven and the market is getting ever dumber.

    Look into the Hyperbolic Discounting Function and impulsivity/self-control. The market loves cash cows.

  • Comment number 11.

    I am a Paul Mason fan because he gives lucid explanations of what he is trying to tell us, unlike some. But! As a BBC man why not try to be a bit more restrained? The BOE may not be covered with glory neither are a lot of other people and Mervyn King is not a BF so why tale to him as if he were? He is after all a distinguished professor of economics and could probably have retired with a gong years ago. Despite the miraculous survival of Jeremy Paxman the BBC tradition going back to the old Home Service should be not to treat everybody who talks to you as either a fool or a rogue.

  • Comment number 12.

    REQUIRED BEHAVIOUR? (#11)

    Look right across 'EDGY' BBC-approved output, and you will see wall to wall gratuitous affront. The only conclusion one can draw is that this is what those in positions of power want. It stands to reason that, over time, they will gather front line performers who LIKE being offensive (whoever might I be thinking of?).
    Whether Paul is one of these, will probably remain unknown - if he wants to keep his job.

    You can always go to BBC radio and enjoy honking and gasping lady-presenters, microphone seducers and even a weather- presenter who just can't help herself!

    I'll get me pension.

  • Comment number 13.

    Barrie (#12) "You can always go to BBC radio and enjoy honking and gasping lady-presenters, microphone seducers and even a weather- presenter who just can't help herself!"

    Canadian (now wider it seems, see Youtube) NAKED NEWS took this almost to its limit.

  • Comment number 14.

    tonights news suggests the uk recession will be worse than the other g7 countries ??

    can i remember the pm saying the uk is better placed to weather any problems , this i think was some time before the current problems

  • Comment number 15.

    So long as you think people that knowledge only comes from people with posh voices - you are on the wrong side of the fence. And that's what this bit of media malarky suggests.

    You have missed the point with big meetings before, seeing what suits your own personal agenda, and no doubt you will miss the real action this weekend.

    You are just a Northern provincial with stars in his eyes - look Ma Im in the big city.

    Look at what is really happening to real people, not media navel gazing on a par with a week of Brant/Ross timewaste.



  • Comment number 16.

    Paul,

    I second Hawkeye_Pierce.

    On the off chance that you are still willing to consider graphs at all, there's one I'd quite like to see.

    Last night, if I remember correctly, the graph you were discussing was the BofE's projection for growth out to 2011 or so. I assume they produce those things annually (or even quarterly). It would be interesting to see the projections they produced in 2007 and 2006 with the actual results superimposed.

    I realise this could be construed as just a poke in the eye for Mr King, but I think it also serves a useful purpose. It lets us see very clearly just what their projections are worth, and therefore, how much credence to attach to them in future.

  • Comment number 17.

    I didn't mind the graph error. What annoyed me more was not seeing the end of your VT. The debate afterwards was pretty boring - would have been better if you were there to fill in on what the end of the piece was. Oh well, I'll watch the end now.

    Might I ask, was there any need to get all those t-shirts printed up? There's a recession on, you know!

  • Comment number 18.

    BoE REVISIONISM: REWARD THE IMPULSIVE (redators), PUNISH THE CAUTIOUS (SAVERS)

    From a projected 0.5% shrinkage to 2% shrinkage next year, i.e 25 billion off output. But if we're nearly 80% Service Sector, and the main engine there is 'financial services' isn't that inevitable if their notorious, if not infamous behaviour is to be reined in?

    What do such dramatic cuts in interest rates protend for this sub-sector given past behaviour? Which sub-sector benefits most from such cuts?

  • Comment number 19.

    With UK Ltd being technically Bankrupt, long term secured mortgages being the technical difference, I assume the IMF will be mentioned quite a few times. Especially as the No1 and No2 have both committed to even more public spending together with ensuring Banks resume lending at 2007. Sorry did I say ensure? I meant ask with a forcable tone.

    Collectively, the G20 can argue or discuss the merits of artifically keeping internal corporations afloat whilst desperately searching for a solution for mass job losses. Protectionist import taxes and company tax rebates for internal relocation of home grown international companies.

    In reality, we will get a short statement on how we can not allow the financial system fail and that everthing will be done to protect the paymasters of capitalism (probably more politico-diplomo than that)

    All debts are equal, but some debts are more equal than others.

  • Comment number 20.

    TO BE FAIR

    "There are considerable uncertainties surrounding the projections of GDP growth and CPI inflation published in the Inflation Report. This uncertainty is reflected by the presentation of projections as fan charts. The fan charts are derived from the MPC's projected probability distributions for the annual rate of CPI inflation and four-quarter growth rate of GDP."

    BoE November 2008

    Looking at the graph for projected GDP recovery reminded me of so many projections one sees these days, i.e the'yre probability distributions depicted graphically as Fan Charts, i.e with large error terms the further one projects into the future )think of the global warming hockey stick). The uncertainty is in the graph, so technically, King was correct. What surprises me in these blogs is how few people today seem to understand statistical language. The BoE doesn't claim to be able to predict the future accurately (how could it with so much happening?). What they try to do is provide a reasonable assessment, and to some degree, via the MPC, manage, inflation/interest rates. Given what's happened recently (banks refusing to lend to, amongst others, those who were playing the markets and making loads of money out of it, hence contributing to GDP), and given the contribution which financial services contribute to GDP, there has to be contraction/recesssion, and surely, 2% is nothing given financial services' contribution to GDP?

    The key issue is who the banks should NOT lend to at low rates surely?

  • Comment number 21.

    Paul,

    Congratulations on posting the link to the Frontlineclub discussion. I am not sure where it has got us but it is reassuring to see that financial journalists are not too proud to do a bit of thoughtful navel gazing from time to time.

    I have sympathy with journalists who have a difficult job to do in constrained circumstances. I am becoming convinced that one of the biggest problems which we see way beyond the confines of economic journalism is an over dependence on non-attributable sources and anonymous tip offs. Much was made of the reliance on whistle blowers at some points in the discussion but it raises questions of verification. If you take this along with the absolutely shameless way in which both corporate entities and government indulge in media manipulation and the problem is clear. Perhaps, far from relying on these anonymous sources, the profession were to start to take the view that people who will not go on the record and tell it how it is are not to be believed.

    The way in which the current generation of politicians have been groomed to smile smugly at the camera, trot out the party line and refuse to address the questions put to them is only compounded when those who have good reason to question these responses do so from a position of anonymity. There have been suggestions in the blogs about not just you but Peston having access to privileged information that you can use only on condition that you do not reveal your sources and this has led occasionally to suggestions that you may be in a position to manipulate events.

    It is in the nature of what Mark Urban covers that he will have to some extent to rely on these sources and Mark Mardell has had to use to nameless sources in Brussels and Strasbourg from time to time. I do not, however, understand why this should apply in economic and financial journalism. It seems to me that the motive in briefing anonymously is personal gain through manipulation and that the only way round this is for sources to go on the record or be disregarded.

  • Comment number 22.

    Thanks Paul!....your half way there!

  • Comment number 23.

    threnodio (#21) Why congratulate Paul for posting a link? Do you think he's dyspraxic?

    Why are you and thegangofone so prone to hyperbole?

    I hope you took on board what Gillian Tett said.

    Some advice:- Collectively, you would do well to do politics cleanly, i.e without emoting and without this lamentable attempt at subterfuge.

  • Comment number 24.

    Re. The Frontline.com. video

    The FT girl doesn't get it!!!

    IT'S NOT ABOUT THE CDO's.....ITS ABOUT THE CDS's!!!

    I profusely apologise for the description...but it's only the 'older woman' that gets it! (didn't catch her name...sincere apologies)

    I notice the question about FRB was conveniently/deliberately not answered.

  • Comment number 25.

    Sorry....I forgot to add....as an engineer, I often come across 'blundering thunder-busters' who try to confuse the issue with complicated concepts and ideas.

    Initially they seem very clever people. But when you hold them to book.....and ask them to explain exactly what they are prescribing, you suddenly discover they don't seem quite so clever!

    DON'T BE BULLIED!

    Nothing is so complicated......not even rocket science!

  • Comment number 26.

    Paul,

    When you get there, while they are busy planning world government, ask them why Ron Paul isn't invited to the meeting - say you expected to see him..

    That will really wind them up! ;)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COtE1J5NMbo

  • Comment number 27.

    Paul

    This is an 'inversion' of your graph put on my site.

    http://thecelticlion.blogspot.com/2008/11/will-g20-crash-planet.html

    The mauve line is human population. This is what I expect to happen if the G20 increase consumption to stabilise economic systems.

    I have taken it from this site. I have been using the Limits to Growth work in your blog. I find this a very inteligent discussion of the present situation.

    http://sunhomedesign.wordpress.com/2008/10/16/human-carrying-capacity-and-the-2008-financial-meltdown/

    Celtic Lion

  • Comment number 28.

    Post #3 from whyandwhynot is probably the most intelligent and insightful commentary that has been posted on the current malady and pretty much mirrors my own thoughts on the crisis. Nice to know that I am not the only unpopular realist around.

  • Comment number 29.

    ON EXPLAINING VS. IGNORING THE UNEXPECTED

    globalrep (#28) Why is continuous economic growth our goal? How can the way that we live be good if we're importing more and more people of lower ability to allegedly compensate for a very low birth rate amongst those who are more able?

    This, I suggest, is the cost of female 'emancipation' and hedonism.

    As most people posting here make general statements, ask yourself how biological unfitnesss can possibly be a good thing for any ethnic group, especially one which once led the world in the rule of law and innovation.

    The ideology which most people naively accept as common-sense today, is in fact, on the contrary, destroying them, whilst a minority has been prospering.

    Trust the figures relative to expected population base rates - don't let people persuade you that doing so is in any way 'prejudicial'. This is just how science works. Where there are departures from what one would expect assuming no inequlities one has to explain departures from what's expected by chance.

  • Comment number 30.

    threnodio (#21) "It seems to me that the motive in briefing anonymously is personal gain through manipulation and that the only way round this is for sources to go on the record or be disregarded."

    Might this be because you really don't understand the fallacy of argument from authority i.e the ad hominem)?

    It comes in many guises.

    Alas, these days, all too many will say anything in order to get what they want. Is that rational? Is whoring rational, or is it just sex-work?

    Does rationality (intelligence) matter today?

    If not, where are we headed?

  • Comment number 31.

    If you ever need a definition of monomaniacal then you simply need to look to JadedJean's postings re immigration and miscegenation being the reason for all our difficulties. If only it were so simple JJ.

  • Comment number 32.

    citizenthompson (#31) Comprehension is not, it would appear, one of your strengths.

    I've certainly not asserted that immigration and miscegenation is the reason for all our difficulties. Although this contributes, assortive mating limits miscegenation, and immigration has just exacerbated the main problem, which to remind you, is our below replacement level TFR, and differential/dysgenic fertility, the latter having come from our pursuit of liberal-democratic 'freedoms' including a peculiar obsession with 'equality'. In the UK this has been made far worse in recent decades by an over emphasis on 'education, education, education' which began with that infamous anarchist front for Keith Joseph et. al., Margaret Thatcher.

  • Comment number 33.

    JUST POLITICS

    citizenthompson (#31) have a look at a few of these sometime.

    Ad hominems are just political intimidation and obfuscation of what's obviously true.

    What Carter says here is reasonable and measured, and what one of the other commentators says in one of the MacDonald about dramatic changes to USA demographics is clearly just factual.

    Surely what one should discuss is not whether this is happening, who likes who etc, but whether it is good for all rather than just a minority?

  • Comment number 34.

    #32 JJ

    I'm curious to know where you stand on the nature / nurture debate.

    Is it not unreasonable to declare that "dumbing down" could be enacted far quicker by social and cultural initiatives than it could through genetic means (e.g. fertility rates, migration etc.)?

    If this is indeed the case, then a reversal of the recent declines is more dependent upon genuine up-skilling of the population, and true leadership, rather than the "emergent leaders" we are constantly blessed with:

    http://www.siliconyogi.com/andreas/it_professional/sol/complexsystems/EmergentLeadership.html

    See recent post on how we should avoid falling into the "cleverness" trap, and instead seeking inspirational initiatives:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/paulmason/2008/11/how_radical_is_obamanomics.html

  • Comment number 35.

    #34 Hawkeye

    The complex systems reference was excellent. I was castigated elsewhere for using such terms as black box.

    Celtic Lion

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    G20 and the Global Ecological Imperative

    The economic and political leaders of the world have just met to dicuss ways of stabilizing the economic system. Who or what was missing and what are the implications. The ecological system is the ‘womb’ in which the socio-economic system ‘lives’.

    To stabilize the economic system in the way the G20 is suggesting, by increasing consumption to stimulate economic growth, requires inputs from the ecological system of the planet, resources; and outputs from the socio-economic system, in terms of waste and pollution.

    If the G20 take their present strategy, there is a high probability in stabilizing the economic system, they will destabilize the planet’s ecological life support system. This will lead to collapse in a similar manner to what we have just seen with the economic system alone. Though the consequences will be far more disastrous, with the possible the deaths of more than 6 billion people. Without maintenance of nuclear installations, toxic chemical dumps there is also the added possibility of poisoning the biosphere. All higher life on Earth could be made extinct for 100s million of years. Should the G20 be allowed to take this risk?


    With the increasing awareness of the problems of climate change alone, people are being encouraged to reduce consumption. In terms of energy or just unnecessary consumables such as plastic carrier bags. The consequences of not taking such simple action we are told will be catastrophic. How will people react to now being told to act in a manner which is the opposite of what we have been previously told? We must reduce consumption to save the planet and our own lives, but we must increase consumption to stabilize an abstract concept, the economy. Cognitive dissonance, confusion, lack of motivation? Is a reaction possible that will run contrary to the decisions of the representatives of the G20. Your money or your life.


    Is there another option, where we can have appropriate development of the socio-economic system that works with and enhances the stability of the planet’s ecological system? Have the leaders of the G20 rushed in a panicked, knee jerk reaction in response to what they perceive as an ‘economic crisis’. Is the situation not so much a crisis, but more of an opportunity. An opportunity to produce a new development model, that reconciles the requirements of socio-economic and ecological systems in a common cause and common goal. Should the G20 step back and really consider what they are doing?

    It seems to me a powerful message, worth repeating and repeating, that people want peace, simplicity, beauty, nature, respect, the ability to contribute and create. These things are much cheaper and easier to achieve than war, luxury, ugliness, waste, hate, oppression, manipulation. Some day, when everyone understands that nearly all of us truly want the same kind of world, it will take surprisingly little time or effort to have it.

    -Donnella Meadows co-author of Limits to Growth

    Celtic Lion

  • Comment number 38.

    THE BAD NEWS

    Hawkeye_Pierce (#34) "I'm curious to know where you stand on the nature / nurture debate."

    Many reading these blogs won't appreciate that there's been a radical shift in scientific consensus regarding intelligence, learning, and education based on exensive reseach over many decades which basically shows that 'nurture' has very little to to with it.

    That's what my posts here have been largely about, but I sense many have not grasped this.

    That it's largely genes is why this now painfully obvious dumbing down is SUCH a problem. Efforts to reverse dysgenesis by envionmental intervention have failed, and there have been extensive and intensive efforts since at least the early 60s.

    Don't pin any hopes on what you suggest. The reason I am saying what I am saying is because we know it doesn't work!

  • Comment number 39.

    #23 - JadedJean

    Because I thought it was in order. No I don't think so. The accusation of hyperbole is a bit rich coming from someone who makes no attempt to conceal her contempt for those who presume to disagree. Yes I did note Gillian Tett's comments. There is nothing 'clean' about the politics of your first link and nothing relevant about the second.

  • Comment number 40.

    RELEVANT TO WHAT?

    threnodio (#23) That you don't see what you're doing, what's relevant and why etc even when it's transparently obvious to many others is grist to my mill.

    What I've told you doesn't draw on personal views, but on sound empirical research. That you choose to argue with that or me is just another example of the scotoma to which I am referring. It goes with the penchant for hyperbole and rhetoric. Watch the news these days and note the emoting 'reporters'.

    I suggest you need to learn something about the scientific method, and how to learn from constructive criticism and to put more trust in austere evidence.

    Read what Quine had to say here and on Rhetoric in 'Quiddities'). Decades ago he and Ullian wrote 'The Web of Belief' for people like yourself - he later said it was a waste of time. Why?

    The current storm: First financial services, next supporting services such as lawyers?

  • Comment number 41.

    Hawkeye_Pierce (#34) "If this is indeed the case, then a reversal of the recent declines is more dependent upon genuine up-skilling of the population"

    It can't be done. Ask any responsible professional with decades of experience as they have tried. I emphasise 'responsible', as there are far too many charlatans ('professors') about today who'll do anything for fame and money, even when there's no evidence - (trust Rushton, Jensen and Gottfredson and elsewhere Murray).

    Demand to see the evidence which is allegedly driving their inspirational, aspirational clap-trap. You'll find, if you're brave or diligent enough, that there is none. NONE. It's all talk/lies. Education is all about SELECTING and reinforcing (increasing the frequency or probability of) behaviours not creating them de novo. The contrary position is Lysenkoism.

    We live in an era of spin and fantasy where Hollywood, marketing/PR and the media has a lot to answer for as they fabricate, entertain and mislead. They're in the 'feminised', beguiling business.

    'Confidence' (another word for chutzpah or arrogance) is anathema to science/truth - so what do we hear from politicians and business people today..... 'it's all about confidence'....

    'Pursuit of truth' (science) demands and reinforces the opposite behaviour and tey are projeted to get rarer and rarer through dysgenesis. Back in 189, Herrnstein wrote a paper in anticipation of 'The Bell Curve' (1994) which estimated that looking back over over 5 generations, IQ would shrink by 60% at +2SDs above the mean (130) and increase by 60% -2SD's below the mean (75).

    He was thinking about times when women were less 'liberated.

  • Comment number 42.

    #38 and #41 JJ

    Ah, so the professors you agree with are "responsible", and those with a counter-point are "charlatans". Thank you for clearing up everyone’s confusion in this matter.

    I agree with you on the symptoms; dumbing down, spin, chutzpah rather than ability etc. I have yet to be persuaded on your interpretation of the causes, and am struggling to understand your proposed remedies.

    Is it beyond the realms of possibility that it is the current western style of nurture that is not working, rather than the premise of nurture?

    To dismiss groups based on the assertion that their collective intelligence and cultural values are not optimal (and somehow innate), could have two consequences. It both labels and excludes a large section of the world's population, not to mention alienates those fortunate to reside within your acceptable boundary definitions (lucky me, I'm a male WASP!) as they may find the premise outdated. It could be less a case of whether your ideas are factually correct or not, but instead a question of mass persuasion. Alas, science and truth (like history) is retrospectively written by the winning side.

    Even if your beliefs are well founded, I suspect the message (and messenger) will struggle to get heard. The only possible exception being if the world descends into a 1930’s style depression, and your "analysis" is used by many to justify mass eradication of humans seen as a drain on finite economic / environmental resources.

    Your worldview could therefore become a catalyst for human extermination, rather than a "responsible" preventative measure.

  • Comment number 43.

    Isn't there enough tweedledum/dee 'political reporting' from the likes of short sighted (as in horizonly challenged) Nick Robinson, without you using your paid time in the same way.

    Both sides of politics in this country (in fact all 3) are business-led rubbish, fooling as many of the people as possible, all of the time.

    And this is the case regardless of what colouring book answers they are offering to attract the public on any given day.

    Who is putting real alternatives on the table for the public, and daring to challenge?

    If you are not capable, move over and let someone else do it.

    There is too much at stake for individual egos and careers to matter at this point.

  • Comment number 44.

    Hawkeye_Pierce (#42) You don't appear to be following the many links on demography and heritability of behaviour. Nor do you appear to appreciate that it isn't a matter of whether I agree with someone as to whether they're charlatans or responsible, it comes down to what they say and what evidence there is for what they say. Whether you or others are 'persuaded' (a euphemism for educable?) is hardly the point either, the point is that what I describe is happening and it will continue to happen so long as 'liberals' (and it's not just the West, it's the liberal-democracies, which includes Japan, Korea etc), continue to defend dysgenic practices (and these are far more subtle, insidious and paradoxical, than most appear to appreciate).

    Click on my name, and use a skip of 9 in the URL to follow past posts and links on demographics etc.

  • Comment number 45.

    Not sure where this one should go but it looks like another BBC Day after the perceived Ross Whitewash is announced so here are the comments we made to the politicians earlier this week after the Select Committee hearing.
    We think we'll prove to be spot on and our beloved BBB will still be a sick pateient in need of new top management who CARE and are not merely interested in hanging onto jobs for which they are inadequate!
    AS WE SAY BELOW IF ROSS GOES SO TOO DO 'BATMAN & ROBIN'...ergo...!

    * Website saying errror so we'll try to post previous blog separately.
    **********************************

  • Comment number 46.

    Not a single politician, not one commentator or presenter (including you) and certainly not a single 'expert' in the news has correctly identified the two interlinked problems the world is facing today:

    1. The little financial difficulty: True, it started with sub-prime mortgages, BUT it is far deeper than that. After all the total of sub-prime mortgages is reported as being some $1.5 trillion, whereas Governments have so far pump close to $10 trillion into the banks. If the problem was just sub-prime mortgages, or 'banks not lending to each other', this $10 trillion cash injection would have solved in one go.

    No, the problem is 'derivatives'. These debts and bets are worth some $500 trillion. Compare that to the GDP of the whole planet of just $50 trillion and you get some idea why this fantastic burden of debt can NEVER be repaid.

    The only solutions are
    a) hyperinflation to degrade the whole of that debt (following Zimbabwe)or
    b) legal cancellation of all derivative contracts (!!) or
    c) collapse of the whole financial system incl just about all banks, and starting all over again.
    We need to choose one and go for it. The future is bleak whatever Gordon does, but pumping borrowed money into the economy in the utterly vain hope of recovery is just about the worst possible strategy.

    2. The little problem of Energy and Growth.
    Next year the world production of crude oil will, for the first time in history, decline for geological, not political or economic, reasons. Peak Gas will follow some 10 years later.

    2008 is the end of the Era of Growth (as growth is predicated on the availability of cheap energy) and the start of the Era of Decline.

    No matter what investment is made in oil or gas fields, the total production from 2009 onwards will decline every single year by perhaps 4%, thus our energy sources will halve every 20 years or so. This has already happened in 60 oil producing countries around the world, incl USA (1972) and UK(1999) and now, in 2009, global production will begin to decline.

    The 1930s depression was bad enough, but this decline will be on a massively larger scale. To start with, it will be at least 40 years long. 40 years will take us to about 25% of current energy usage, which is what we can expect from all renewable sources combined. So at that stage, provided Governments have been wise enough to have invested massively in renewable energy, renewables may be able to take over from fossil fuels and perhaps stabilise the world economy.

    So, the budget should
    a) embrace the Green New Deal (£50 billion per year invested in renewables)
    b) forget about tax cuts or other increases in current spending
    c) choose a strategy for the self inflicted financial crisis - and follow throug

  • Comment number 47.

    this blog is the only part of the BBC where i've heard any in depth debate about the economic crisis. last night a group of clueless MBAs still clung on to monetarist dogma on newsnight. I think 1 or 2 things will come out of the crisis
    full nationalisation of the banks
    possible entry into the Euro

    Much more needs to be done though with the banking system, serious reconsideration of the idea of property as pure investment, regional capital injections into public infrastructure, R & D, manufacturing and movement to a post carbon economy

    Paul when are we going to hear from you?

    soulpower

  • Comment number 48.

    #47 Keynes the 2nd

    If you are looking for action, things are a little less sleepy over on Peston's blog.

    If you start with the following post:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/robertpeston/2008/11/we_own_royal_bank.html

    There's a lot of stuff to wade through (try searching on "rebuild britain"), but it appears that many people would share and welcome your opinion.

    Whether it works or not, I don't know.

    But, to paraphrase Nassim Taleb:
    "preparedness is better than prediction"

  • Comment number 49.

    #48 Hawkeye

    I'll contribute the 20 pages of notes I made on 25th August 1998 regarding how the Millennium Dome would get into trouble, and how an alternative plan could contribute to rebuilding Britain.

    Not sure I fully agree with Nassim Taleb, "preparedness is better than prediction".

    If you can predict one strategy will go belly up, a good system will also automatically generate the workable alternative.

    Prediction creates the grounds for preparedness.

    Please don't move to a post carbon economy. It is like the vinyl CD MP3 analogy. CD is post carbon, there is an MP3 alternative.

    The enemy of the best workable system is the existing outdated one which requires the removal of any other datum of excellence on which it could be judged.

    I'll have a rummage through my windows 98 system for the notes.

    Celtic Lion

  • Comment number 50.

    cheers for that Hawkeye pierce (great name-loved MASH) I dont know what to make of Nassim Taleb's take on history/economics - what about yourself? He is clearly incredibly gifted - financially and intellectually - its just when i read his backround in hedge funds, I am skeptical. I think the UK economic model is finished and its probably too late to join the Euro as New Labour prevaricates more and more. Why wasnt the milenium fund spent on regional development? There are highly skilled and educated people in regions such as the North East forced to leave, retrain and retrain again or go to waste. Several friends all graduates in history, engineering etc have became either underemployed or laid off in the last week

  • Comment number 51.

    #50 Keynes II

    I'm sure Taleb would be pleased about your skepticism (as long as it's empirical skepticism!).

    I've recently finished reading The Black Swan, and have rarely read a book that has triggered so many threads of investigation and new sources of reading (I'm eagerly awaiting my Amazon order for the essays of Montaigne).

    I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but I took from the book Taleb's critique of modern dogma. It has helped to gel a coherent (but still embryonic) sense of uneasiness that I have about the modern manifestation of science. As someone who grew up in the 70s believing that science was akin to progress, I fell for the dream of technological and scientific promise.

    Since the 90s that dream is unwinding, as I fear that we have been seduced into the trappings of reductionism, determinism, and behaviorism - all extreme forms of reification that could be doing our brains more harm than good.

    A small list for the moment, but I guess this is a start of those writers and thinkers that dare to question some of the fundamentals that many of us (intelligent) people take for granted these days:

    Kuhn - Structure of scientific revolutions
    Cohen & Stewart - The collapse of chaos
    Pratchett - The science of Discworld
    Kohn - Punished by rewards

  • Comment number 52.

    hawkeye - i can see where youre going with chaos theory and theories that challenge systems of rational expectation. Since the weekend i've been considering how these ideas fit in with history and economics - and this approach does seem a very interesting and useful approach - clearly no recession is the same as the last and the complexity and interconnectedness of economic systems (the sum is greater than the whole) makes them highly volitile and unpredicatable. Have you read P. Alestis (et al) What Global Economic Crisis? or R. Reich's Supercapitalism? They seem to predict the total systemic failure of global regulatory mechanisms we have today (end of Bretton Woods, ponzi's, liquidity crisis, 'crass' (or 'bastard') keynesianism etc). I suspect you think there is no-way back - i'm probably inclined to think that way now

 

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