Yesterday I spent the morning at a meeting of housing policy types. Around the table were policy-makers, practitioners, voluntary sector representatives, and a sprinkling of academics. Everyone there was, as far as I could tell, signed up to the idea that good quality, secure and affordable housing is not only desirable in its own right but also has positive impacts on a whole range of other policy areas – health and social care, education, economic performance, combating poverty and social exclusion.
The discussion ranged widely. Part of the morning was spent considering how to get the message out. While the housing policy community might all subscribe to the powerful benefits of good housing, that isn’t a position embraced within all the relevant policy circles. Or, rather, it is a position that many politicians and policy-makers will acknowledge, but not acknowledge the issue as sufficiently high up the agenda to devote a sizable share of scarce resources to it, in the face of competing claims.*
Our discussion yesterday didn’t come to any very definite conclusions. That wasn’t the aim. But it made me think about Baumgartner and Jones’s punctuated equilibrium theory (see Paul’s excellent brief summary). [Read more...]
A couple of weeks ago Martin Wolf blogged on the way in which modern macroeconomics has neglected the explicit and integrated treatment of the financial sector. The consequences of this omission have turned out to be of enormous practical significance. It left analysis mostly blind to a range of important real world developments. He provided a brief summary of the characteristics of the banking system that he considers economics students need to be familiar with.
This is a theme developed by Professor Wendy Carlin in the revision of her textbook currently under development. She blogged about the aim of the project a year ago. The revision seeks to move instruction beyond a three equation model which does not explicitly incorporate money or credit. The approach retains that three equation model at its heart, but grafts on to it a financial sector that is, rather than a gross simplification, relatively rich in institutional detail. The motivation is that the model needs to be able to explain how changes in financial markets shifted and intensified risk in ways that ultimately precipitated the financial crisis and the subsequent macroeconomic turbulence.
It strikes me that this is an important project. Rather than leaving consideration of the impact of a highly developed financial system to more esoteric later study – if it is ever studied at all – it starts students off with an appreciation of the fundamental significance of finance for the functioning of the macroeconomy. [Read more...]
[This post originally appeared at The Conversation under a different (longer) title, 27/11/13]
London’s population is increasing rapidly and forecasts say this growth is set to continue over the next decade and more. However, the last time the capital had enough new houses to match this rate of population growth was the 1930s. Homes are becoming less affordable; needs and aspirations are going unfulfilled. London has a housing problem of serious dimensions.
This week, Boris Johnson gave us an indication of what he is proposing to do about the situation, with the publication of another draft housing strategy for consultation.
The strategy starts with a broadly sensible diagnosis of the nature, complexity, and consequences of the housing problem. The scale of the problem is already alarming, and it is only going to get worse.
The document is equally interesting when it moves on to proposed solutions. [Read more...]
The Commentariat might, for once, be pretty much unanimous. The run up to General Election 2015 is going to be vicious. The focus isn’t going to be measured debate on the pressing issues of the day – when was the last time that happened? – but mud slinging and character assassination. There are plenty of people willing to assert that the Tories, under the baleful influence of Lynton Crosby, are going to run the dirtiest campaign since the 1992 campaign to see off Neil Kinnock. The Tories, rather predictably, deny this is their strategy.
The Labour high command have been out in force over the weekend making the case that the Tories are going to be run a “fear and smear” campaign. Ed Miliband has claimed that David Cameron is demeaning the office of Prime Minister by stooping to unacceptably low tactics such as seeking to use the manifold failings of the egregious Rev Flowers as a stick with which to beat Labour. Insinuation of incompetence and unsuitability by association is a key part of the game plan, it is claimed. Labour’s Election Campaign organiser, Douglas Alexander, in an interview in the Guardian yesterday highlighted, among other matters, the importance of an effective social media operation in countering the smears. He argued that: “You have to counter lies with truth. When your opponents smear and vilify, you have to respond quickly and effectively with the facts”.
There are some obvious responses to Labour’s pre-emptive attempt to grab the moral high ground. We can be reasonably confident that it is about more than simply defending their good name.
What are they up to? [Read more...]
I have brought together nineteen of these blogposts as a collection of essays on the philosophy, ethics and methodology of economics. The essays touch on questions such as why economists missed the global financial crisis, debates about how economics needs to change, and the impact that economic analysis has on the real world. The issue of orthodoxy, heterodoxy and pluralism in economic analysis features prominently. The need for a stronger ethical component to economic education and economic analysis is a recurrent theme. Several of the essays make the link between economics and a broader political economy.
Discussion of the need for the reform of economics in the post-crash world continues to gather momentum and prominence in parts of the econosphere. Wendy Carlin set out a case for change at the FT (£) on Sunday, while a group of post-Keynesian economists stuck their head above the parapet in a letter to the Guardian on Monday.
The thrust of the post-crash economics argument is not that mainstream economic approaches should be rejected in favour of an alternative. Rather it is the more modest plea that economics should be taught more pluralistically and contextually. Mainstream approaches should be set alongside alternative bodies of thought. Economics students would benefit from rediscovering economic history, genuinely institutional analysis, a dose of philosophy, and the history of economic thought. It’s an agenda with which I have a lot of sympathy.
We are seeing bits and pieces of a backlash. That is inevitable. [Read more...]
Last night George Ferguson gave his first Mayoral State of the City address in the Great Hall of the Wills Memorial Building. This launched both the Mayor’s Vision for Bristol and the consultation on the local authority budget.
Following the Mayor’s presentation there were brief responses from Alexandra Jones from Centre for Cities, Tony Travers from LSE London, and me. We only had five minutes each. Below is the text to accompany my presentation. Delivery didn’t quite match the text because I was editing down to 5 minutes. You can listen to the whole event here for the next few days. As usual, I win the “who can talk the fastest” competition.
We are now marking the first anniversary of our first mayoral election. The occasion is provoking plenty of reflection. Not just locally, but also nationally and internationally.
When the city voted for a mayor in 2012 it was voting for a leader with greater visibility. It is fair to say that we have got one. George is much more high profile – in person, in the media, on Twitter – than previous Council Leaders. George may not yet have the name recognition of Boris … or Madonna … but he’s on the way. If electing a Mayor was primarily about moving to the era of city leader as celebrity then that is a task we can mark as largely complete.
But visibility was never an end in itself. It was a component of reconnecting city leadership with the people. It had the aim of increasing engagement with local politics and revitalising local democracy. It spoke of aspirations for more focused and consistent leadership. It spoke of breaking away from the deadlock and instability that were perceived to afflict city leadership under previous governance models.
Having voted to move to the elected mayor model there is now limited scope for changing to a different model of local government. So there is little point rehearsing old debates about whether it was the right decision. Now is the time to take stock of whether we are moving in the expected direction. [Read more...]
One of the few policy proposals that has been able to gain support across the political spectrum is the idea that we need a new generation of new towns. If we are going to make a serious attempt to address England’s housing problems we are not going to be able to do it with incremental growth around the edges of existing settlements. Either housebuilding on the fringes will be on too modest a scale to make a dent in the problem or, if plans are scaled up, they are likely to run into implacable local opposition and make impact on the problem at all.
Eighteen months ago David Cameron was making all sorts of positive noises about the Coalition’s plans to identify suitable locations for new towns. But it’s all gone a bit quiet since then.
Jim Pickard at the FT today notes that:
The communities department had been expected to unveil a “prospectus” setting out ways to create new garden cities. But the announcement has been cancelled on at least two occasions in the past year.
Today has also seen the launch of the 2014 Wolfson Prize in Economics, which is focusing on precisely the issue of new settlements.
Progress? Possibly not. [Read more...]
And so it came to pass. Almost as you would have anticipated. Labour’s bid to win today’s vote against the so-called “bedroom tax” was defeated. There was speculation during the day about how many Liberal Democrats would vote with Labour. The answer, when it came, was two.
The Government majority was reduced to 26, but that was enough. It is hard to treat that specific number as particularly meaningful. If the major parties had anticipated the vote might be close then their whipping operations would have been rather more apparent and rather more urgent.
Labour cannot have started the day – or even the week – thinking that they were going to win. It is hard to tell whether they ever thought that was likely. Previous experience suggests that what was likely to happen was that the Liberal Democrats would make quite a few sympathetic and anguished noises about the negative impacts of a Tory-inspired coalition policy; then go on and vote for it anyway, particularly in a non-binding vote like today’s. So it is more likely that the principal Labour objective was to discomfit the Liberal Democrats as much as possible. [Read more...]