Monday, March 30, 2009

When is an economist not an economist

I had a rather unpleasant experience last week at the Welsh Economics Colloquium, a gathering of research-active economists in Wales. I was only able to attend for the final day but had quite forgotten how detached from the real world many economic researchers are.

In fact, economists in Wales are fairly empirical (for which read that they do take the workings of the world itself into account), but the keynote address was by a Manchester-based economist who spent an hour of our time outlining a mathematical theory about optimal currency areas without mentioning the present financial crisis at all and with barely any relationship to the euro.

Having spent several years on the national steering group of the anti-euro campaign there were a wealth of questions I could have asked but the paper was so enclosed in its own theoretical bubble that there was simply no way in. This economist publishes in the highest-level journals, which only confirms my suspicion that they deliberately exclude any work that has any thing to do with reality because that reality proves the inapplicability of the theories of conventional economics.

As Mark Blaug put it: 'Modern economics is sick. Economics has increasingly become an intellectual game played for its own sake and not for its practical consequences for understanding the economic world. Economists have converted the subject into a sort of social mathematics in which analytical rigour is everything and practical relevance is nothing.'

The level of response to my own presentation - about the excellent potential of Wales as a green economy - was much lower than I would encounter in a political setting, or from those involved in the Transition Town movement. It barely rose above the level of guilt-tripping - 'Why do you live in Stroud and work in Cardiff?' being an example question. The arch-theoretician asked a question so abstract that my mind failed to comprehend it. I do remember that it began 'If you had been alive a million years ago, when the temperature was 10 degrees hotter than it is now . . .'

Over the years I have moved from claiming venehmently that I am not an economist, to feeling comfortable using the title 'green economist' to actually think that maybe I might be an economist. After this experience I feel sympathy with Hazel Henderson revulsion from the economics profession. Too many economists are happy to draw large salaries, paid for by people shovelling chips in McDonalds, for creating work that has no value and no relevance.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Final round up

Conference is over and I'm sure over the next couple of days there'll be some snippets and thoughts coming out. As new ones come in I'll add them here, but right now many bloggers will be making their way home looking forward to the sleep of the righteous.
Meanwhile deputy leader Adrian Ramsay calls for a radical agenda for public services and banking. His speech also received press attention in Norwich.

Rowan Pelling mentions us in The Telegraph. Hurrah - Telegraph finally acknowledges we exist!

Emergency motions passed on;
Supporting student occupations over Gaza
On the medical centre behind the British Library
Funding for rape crisis centres
The Fuel Poverty Private Members' Bill
Final info on motions - check out conference documents (pdf) for texts.

DO4 "prioritisation of motions" fell
D03 "additional synopsis" passed
DO1 and D02 "members' subs" withdrawn
C17 "Northern Ireland" passed
C16 passed
C15 "criminal justice" passed (minor textual change)
C14 "geo-engineering" passed with both amendments

Also for those inclined to the detail of motions;

B10 Tourism VP (which is where we overhaul and update an entire section of policy)

A1 fell
A2 withdrawn
A3 fell
A4 passed
A5 passed
A6 passed
A7 passed
A8 passed
A9 passed
A10 fell
A11 fell
A12 passed
A13 passed
A14 fell
A15 fell
A16 passed
A17 passed
A18 passed
A19 passed
A20 passed
A21 passed – but it just duplicates TM063
A22 passed
A23 passed
A24 passed
A25 passed
A26 withdrawn

Whole paper as amended passed

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sellwood's view....

Just a few brief thoughts from Conference as I sit here in my tiny hotel room, listening to the intriguing sounds of a Blackpool Saturday night.

1) It's really nice to be at a Conference when I don't have any official duties, where there isn't anything enormously contentious being discussed, and when I've been in the Party long enough to know over half the people in the venue. I've been mostly wandering around, having cups of tea, organising informal meetings with people, and doing favours for those who look more harried than me. An excellent way to do Conference, I think!

2) Some good motions have been passed, and some useful fringe meetings put on. In particular, motions CO1 (deepening the Green New Deal) and CO2 (adopting European Green Party migration statement) were both progressive, helpful and overwhelmingly supported. As ever, the fringe meetings have illustrated the great depth of knowledge available in the Party - with sessions on 'reframing Green politics' (featuring a video appearance from my old boss, George Marshall) and 'beyond the Green New Deal' particularly intriguing. Although it should be said that the latter was absolutely terrifying - the figures on how deep a hole capitalism has dug itself into are very very very worrying indeed.

3) I've also spent some time, as is my wont, critiquing the things that we need to do better as Greens. I asked a couple of questions at GPEX Question Time, mainly revolving around my favourite subject of internal democracy/transparency/accountability. I was promised, directly, that GPEX minutes would start to go up onto the members website, and that a new and widely publicised GPEX announcement elist would be set up. I wait with baited breath. As well as this, the still somewhat timid (in comparison to what needs to happen, though obviously still miles ahead of any of the mainstream parties) Green New Deal proposals need a lot of work - both in terms of radicalising them so that we ensure a massively better deal for the poorly paid* and in terms of democraticising them so that we use this opportunity to call for economic democracy in the workplace.

4) Of course, it wouldn't be Conference if I wasn't worked up about at least a few things. One of these is D04, due to be discussed on Monday. This would introduce a provision whereby motions introduced by 'official Party bodies' would have primacy in prioritisation over motions introduced by grassroots members. Clearly, this cannot be allowed to pass and I will be speaking strongly against it. The other thing is a throwaway line by the Chair of GPEX in answering a question, which bodes ill for my blood pressure at Autumn Conference. It sounds very much as if he is intending to bring a motion to that conference proposing 2 year terms for all members of GPEX. Those who remember my (failed) fight against 2 year rather than 1 year terms for our Leader/Deputy Leader will not be surprised to hear that I am already determined to oppose such a measure, should it appear.

Well, I suspect that is all my poor, strained wireless connection can stand. I'll try to post another update on Monday!

* Which, of course, is one of the best ways to stimulate the economy...not that New Labour would realise this in a month of Sundays.

Saturday's update

More video from the leader's speech from the BBC. Accuses the government of lying on climate change.

From the national site;


Emergency motion against Heathrow - passed.
Tourism paper - passed.
  • Amendments passed - 4 to 9, 12, 13, 16 to 25
  • Amendments fell - 1, 2, 3, 10, 11, 14, 15, 26
C13 "carbon caputre and storage" falls
C12 "monetary policy" passed with amendment 1
C11 "international finance" passed
C10 "solar power" passed
C09 "intellectual property" passed
C08 "women in business" passed
C07 "zero carbon Britain" refered back
C06 "climate policy" refered back
A2 and A3 passed
CO5 "Maternity services" passed with amndment 1
CO4 "Gender and asylum" passed
CO3 "Domestic abuse" passed
CO2 "Migration" passed
CO1 "Campaigning for an alternative economic strategy" passed with amends 1, 2, and 4

You can look up conference documents here (pdf) for the wording of motions, etc. As before let us know if you have links for the round ups.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Blackpool conference

We're not doing a full blogging experience from Blackpool this conference. However, I thought it might be handy to do the occasional round up just for those who drop by on the off chance.

Key links

A few key links first. You find the Party Conference section on the national party's website useful. There's also the news section where I'm sure the press office will be posting up hot stories for your delectation.

Then there is the conference guide (pdf), which includes all the motions and amendments that are going to debated at Blackpool.

Some party members are "twittering" from conference. Check it out here.


Even on day one there's already been some blog responses to conference.
  • Joseph Healey is (or should that be was?) looking forward to conference.
  • Derek Wall is hoping the conference isn't going to get too corporate.
  • Even though I'm not at conference I've blogged on the economics resolution and why it's so important to call for the nationalisation of the energy industry.
  • Matt Wooten posts up his notes, references and further reading from his fringe on political strategy.
In the news

There was some coverage of the first day of conference;
  • The BBC has a good clip and extensive quoting for Caroline Lucas' opening speech.
  • The Independent leads with the Greens approach to recession.
  • says we were right all along. I know.
  • This is Somerset bigs up local Green Richard Lawson, showing that a national conference can be turned into local press.
Let us know, leave a comment

Please do alert us to anything we should be linking to about Green Party conference that we've missed. There'll be one or two more round ups depending on how much is out there to shout out about.