Thursday, 17 November 2011

And what about the kids?

Twice this last couple of weeks I've asked "what about the kids" and people have either reacted with surprise or confusion.

I was at a folk gig & book reading (of a kind) last week. They were creating and recreating folk memories - with descriptions of the British Isles and old folk songs sung and played on traditional British instruments. I really enjoyed the evening so at the Q&A session afterward I asked the leader of the group if he'd thought of taking his show into schools.

The answer came that if children were interested then they would be welcome - all very well but why not proactively go out and seek them?

At another event, I was told the average reading age in this country was between 8-14 years. So, to me, if we want to produce anything to be read, we better get 8-14 year olds to proof-read it - again this was met with surprise- but this time the speaker took the idea on board - good on him!

I think we should talk about the kids more :)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Is economic literacy improving with the economic crisis?

As the economic and eurozone crisis goes on, a number of people have remarked to me that "nobody understands the eurozone anyway". I've heard this before this year "nobody understands the Alternative Vote anyway" Hmmm....

What I'm wondering is economic literacy improving with the economic crisis? I believe the BBC does a good job of explaining terms. But does it get read? Is it still  "boring" or "scary" ? Or is it that nobody understands it so nobody pays any attention to it?

One of my Liberal Democrat colleagues George Kendall wrote this blog to explain the deficit terms in layman's language which I thought was a useful go at the problem. I'd also argue for a degree of complusory economics - at my school we did not have any education on what the government did with our money. It could be thought of as dull but even kids pay VAT on their pocket money purchases!

This is asking for more explanation of Macro, or "large scale" economics - that is what affects whole economies.

Martin Lewis of Money Saving Expert is pushing for financial education in schools which is important and I totally back him and the Government has recently responded to his e-petition

Martin Lewis is arguing for infomation that will help understanding of Micro or "small scale" economics - that is which affects individual actors such as firms and households in economies.

In order to make an informed choice at the next general election we need to have the economic judgement to judge the current government on it's merits, instead of screaming about "cuts" incoherently *glares at Labour*

So I argue for a better explanation of the terms we hear every day at the moment, and as dull and dry as it is - this can be helped by relation of large scale problems to household finances, because essentially they are interrelated. 

I would argue that better information makes for better markets, and it follows that better understanding makes for better politics.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Occupy Movement and a mention!

I feel the urge to post because I’ve just been mentioned on a proper blog and everything!

The lovely Kate Feld – mentioned this blog on her blog, Manchizzle.
I'd like any readers generated from that link to see a new post, so I thought I’d share the benefit of some of my thoughts on the Occupy movement, as I’ve been thinking a lot about it the last few days.

I’m not sure, as some people have said to me, that globalisation is at the root of the problem. To my mind, the way the establishment acts in defence of the status quo and against the democratic will of the people, without even bothering to explain itself (knowledge being power), is the main issue. Added to that, is the lack of trust in the financial sector, which to a great extent, they have brought upon themselves. This isn’t just the banking crisis, it’s a systematic abuse of people’s trust or taking advantage of their ignorance time and time again (PPI mis-selling, insurance mis-selling, Credit Card charges, “cheap” debt, overdraft charges) and moreover, an arrogance which is coming over loud and clear.

You can almost hear “Let them eat cake”.

Martin Lewis really hit home to me a few years ago with his consumer rights crusades – he both taught people the value of their rights and that it was up to them to exercise them, but also gave them the tools to do it (A Lib Dem ideal as it goes - community politics, surely?) and also pushes for legislation that both improves the spread of information (APRs to be published on statements, or compulsory financial education in the curriculum) and tries to forces companies to behave better.

There seems to be a prevailing sense that the financial sector can do what they want, privatise the profits and socialise the losses, and that, even to me, doesn’t make much sense. Perhaps it’s simplistic, perhaps it’s populist, but they do well to ask us to consider if there might be another way.

What I’d like to know is what threatens the establishment so much about the protestors that they spend time, effort, money and apparently in the end will use force to get rid of them. And also why some on the right are resorting to talking about where the protestors choose to get their coffee (Louise Mensch), mocking them for wearing masks (?) and other ad hominem attacks…. The most coherent objection against the protestors was more on the basis of if we reduce the banker's pay, they will pay less tax into the system - and that belongs in proper debate, but it’s about the only objection I would characterise like that.

I’m making rhetorical points, obviously, but to sum up there is the leftist position, clearly, but I see it as us as Liberals should be against concentration of power in a particular area, and pro improvements in equality of opportunity (with long-argued disagreements within the party about equality of outcome).

We should certainly be pro freedom of speech, and the campaigner in us should admire their ability to frame the debate and grab attention – tho as expressed disagree with some of their methods or the incoherence of their aims. I think we should still be proud of them for doing it, and besides, some enterprising Lib Dems might find a candidate, campaigner, deliverer amongst their ranks… maybe unlikely but won’t know till we try.