what we should love about balls

I’m totally elated that Ed Balls became Shadow Chancellor this week. Not only did he convince me of his economic alternative (the best critique of coalition economic policy out there), but he convinced me to put asides my grievances against the labour party’s past stances on civil liberties and the war ‘in’ Iraq. Gordon Browns belief in “Post Neo-classical Endogenous Growth Theory” (the sort of phrase I might repeat to myself to help pass the time waiting for a train) is well known to have been influenced heavily by Ed Balls. He’s an intellectual heavy weight and it shows. So far he is the only shadow minister I have seen who has clearly and succinctly rebutted the conservatives “we must cut x, y and z thanks to the mess of the other party” mantra. More importantly, he seems to be the only person who has remembered what the original intention of City Academies were. For a policy that set out intending to provide more resources and create ethos in large, formerly failing, inner city schools, it is strange that there should be a requirement for a school to already be ‘outstanding’ in ofsted reports to be considered for academy status now. Basically, it sounds rather as though the Academy scheme now provides extra resources to the best schools, whilst building projects for the worst schools are being cancelled. But I digress.

If we were to name notable individuals of innovation we would be surprised how many of them would nowadays be considered to be ‘jack of all trades and master of none.’ Much of our greatest development in both technology and thinking comes from generalists rather than specialists. Avoiding the obvious example of Leonardo Da Vinci (oops), take the example of the architect of specialism himself, Adam Smith. I don’t think he is not a product of his own ideas. Not only did he study Moral Philosophy, but wrote joint works on history, politics, philosophy, economics, and religion. According to James Watt, who improved the steam engine that would lead to the industrial revolution, Smith would made an excellent engineer too.

The Shadow Chancellors advocacy of Post Neo-classical Endogenous Growth Theory reminded me of this article in the Guardian. In it Charlotte Higgins comments on the same generalist nature of great thinkers, in this case she is looking at Solon, one of the earliest reformers of the law and economy. This is Charlotte Higgins the journalist by the way, not Charlotte Head Girl of Methody, whose radical opinion articles must now censored by the school. One of Solon’s other trades was his poetry, Charlotte Higgins was pondering what Gordon Brown’s ‘Ode to Post Neo-Classical Endogenous Growth Theory’ might look like.

She was lucky enough to get a response from Sir Derek Morris, with just that!

Ode to Post Neoclassical Endogenous Growth Theory

Men often think of Halcyon days of long ago
But much past time was dreary, nasty, full of woe
And for this problem no one could think of any good solution
Until one day, along came the Industrial Revolution

Man’s labour, engines and his keenest wit
Produced all manner of goods, some welded, others knit
And in this way Man’s welfare grew at a rapid rate
Saving many from a much more horrible fate

Bright Scotsmen, and some English too
Studied hard; and so they thought they knew
That this was not just something plainly magical
But was due to free markets – and explanation quite classical

But when, later, wise men asked where all the growth came from
Then many, even great economists, were struck dumb
All the statistics that they gathered were quite clear
The hard toil of people and machinery were small beer

Only inventions seemed to have any effect
And from where these arose everyone was quite bereft
So people then began to get rather weary
Of the once almighty neoclassical growth theory

But then new analyese, oh do subtle
Questioned all this and led to its rebuttal
A new explanation arrived, over which there was quite a fuss
Technical progress – innovation, ideas – were “endogenous”

Invention was crucial but needed embodiment
In people – in skills – and in capital investment
So these were important to make growth shine
Although others had known this for a very long time

All this was important to men in Whitehall
Who hadn’t had much luck with growth rates at all
Now they had reason to spend on capital, education and skills
And made sure this happened through many Parliamentary Acts and Bills

This was very much favoured by one Gordon Brown
Who soon became much the biggest man in town
And if critics did all this approach then query
He answered “it’s post-neoclassical endogenous growth theory”

Balls himself may not appear to be one of the interdisciplinary greats, asides from studying an interdisciplinary course and focusing on History and Economics. But his arguments have a clarity and coherency that make me think that perhaps he has the economic generalism necessary to deal with a recession. Perhaps I should make it clear where I stand by finishing the proverb I started with. The Jack of all trades and master of none, is oftentimes better than master of one. Here’s to Post-Neoclassical Endogenous Growth Theory, here’s to Jack and here’s to Ed Balls.

Oh, did I mention the Whitla Hall went on fire? Thankfully not too much damage, but I’m gutted I missed the excitement of the 7 fire engines (so I have been told.) None of the musical instruments were damaged, but the costume store for the play “‘Allo ‘Allo” was totally burnt. Fingers crossed for lots of nekkedness in this years play Open-mouthed smile


Photo cred to Hongjie Wen or Ben Matthews.


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