Having helped lay waste to the British economy, Tory MP George Osborne will soon be teaching economics students how he did it, having been rewarded with an honorary position at Manchester University, writes Neil Wilson. 

Just a few hours in, the Conservative-DUP coalition is already bearing fruit, with a 20% upswing in employment rates for ex-chancellor’s called George Osborne.

Osborne’s appointment as an Honorary Professor of Economics at The University of Manchester was met with a mixture of bemusement and dismay, understandable as Osborne was the “Austerity” Chancellor and the UK education sector, particularly in England, is crumbling from his neglect.

But this appointment is in fact a significant coup for the Lancastrians. It makes perfect sense if you abandon the romantic delusion that Higher Education exists to “advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity”.

British Universities, like many of their international counterparts, are firmly in the business of selling degrees. They take a deliberately globalist view, not because they are awesomely woke, but because international students pay a higher tier of fees than their socially-excluded UK counterparts. Many UK “Russell Group” universities now have off-shore campuses mining the New Money in East Asia, while scaling back courses in East Asian Politics that may offend sensibilities in wealthy donor countries.

Osborne’s tenure is unpaid, not that the University would ever be likely to add significantly to his net worth in any case. So, rather than asking what possessed the University of Manchester, one wonders what possessed Osborne?

British Universities have long been in the habit of handing out Honorary degrees, doctorates and chancellorships to random persons of note. Mostly, this helps a little with fundraising, allows a local-boy-made-good to support the town, and provides a celebrity presence at Awards day. The University of Manchester is not a provincial technical college – it is currently 29th overall in the QS World University Rankings, and has the 7th ranked Business and Social Science faculty in the UK.

So, Osborne doesn’t need the money, (or the prestige – he is heir to a Baronetcy in Ireland). Manchester doesn’t need the credentials. What purpose does this relationship serve? The answer is: this appointment has little to do with economics and everything to do with politics.

As Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne presided over an unparalleled period of public spending cuts and austerity, all in the name of the neo-liberal ‘sound finance’ interpretation of economics. This is the globalist austerity dogma of the 1% – a religion that preaches poverty as economic stimulation for the poor and taxes as an abomination unto the rich. Public sector spending “crowds out” the private sector. Welfare makes workers lazy. Entrepreneurs are the engines of progress.

A decade of this austerity medicine in the UK has failed to rebalance the economy, stimulate growth or eliminate unemployment. We have been left with a widening gap between the mobile rich and the static poor who are then condemned to perish in burning tower blocks. However, this anti-democratic, anti-community, anti-national ideology is now being threatened from random vectors, from the Brexit vote to Jeremy Corbyn.

University Economics departments are the seminaries for the Neo-Liberal faith. They train the next generation of young men to enter the priesthood, funded by the institutions and individuals that need this doctrine to persist in order to maintain their power.

In signing for Team Manchester, Osborne joins former Goldman Sachs man and ex-Tory Peer, Jim O’Neil, who has championed Chinese ownership of UK infrastructure, and Sir Howard Bernstein, who juggles the position alongside his strategic advisory role at Deloitte.

All of these appointments are connected to a view of Manchester as the “Northern Powerhouse” of an open, globalist economy. Running along the lines of Manchester’s regenerated tram network, the glass-walled apartment blocks, the BBC “Media City” at Salford, and the swelling ranks of middle-class students at the city’s University seem to be proof that Manchester’s economy is working. Unsurprisingly, the central city wards were firmly in the Remain camp.

But just a few miles away, before you even run beyond the limits of the tram network, there is a very different Manchester, and a very different North to the graphene-strung dreams of the Northern Powerhouse. This is a world of crime, poverty, low educational outcomes, stagnant social mobility and, consequently, huge support for Brexit. The shiny, glass apartments of Salford Quays may as well be in Switzerland for the residents of Hulme as they clean-up the streets in front of their terraced housing after another raid by the bomb squad. Manchester stands, now as it did in the 19th century, as living testimony to the myth of trickle-down economics.

Neil Wilson

Neil Wilson

Neil Wilson is the editor of Modern Money Matters and an expert in finance and information systems. He is an Engineer, not an economist, and therefore has to make things work in the messy old real world that has actual people in it.

After more than 20 years in the IT industry, Neil has learned the hard way that systems rarely follow the manual. Moving from network crashes to financial crashes, Neil was intrigued as to whether the economy could be fixed with a reboot - which lead him to Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).

Neil has become one of the UK’s leading writers on MMT and its implications. His blog “Modern Money Matters” challenges the high-priesthood of Important Grey Men who refer to people as “resources”, and who believe debt is bad for government and good for you. Neil dreams of a world where everyone who wants a living wage job can find one next to their home, friends and family.

Getting to know Neil:

- How do you spend your days?

Hopefully making a small part of the world run smoother than it did yesterday.

I do to business and information systems what Formula 1 mechanics do to the cars - continual improve them and fix them when they're broken.

- What in your answer to Q1 is especially important to you and why?

Doing more with what we have is vital to progress. I look to add to progress in my small way.

- What drove you to focus on economics? Was there a particular moment you can remember that led you to this field?

The 2008 Financial Collapse happened and it became clear that the economy was broken and ineffective.

- What drives you professionally?

I don't like to see things that are broken or ineffective. I want to sort them out.

- In your opinion what are the three biggest problems facing the developed and developing world?

Increasing income inequality, the breakdown of democracy and lack of accountability threaten the future peace and prosperity of all our societies.

- If you hadn’t become...not an economist, what would you have done?

Logically that would mean I would have to be an economist - which is an appalling thought. At that point I would have had to visit Japan, the place where economic theories go to die, and wandered into a forest with a sharp knife.

- If you look at recent history, can you identify a turning-point that explains how we come to face the peculiar challenges of today?

In 2008, billions of pounds were summoned up to save corrupt financial institutions, and yet now we are told there is no "magic money tree".

We all now know there is a man behind the curtain. We are no longer in fear of the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz.

- What are the lessons we failed to learn during and since the 2008 crisis?

This is best answered by Michal Kalecki in his essay "Political Aspects of Full Employment" ... published in 1943.

"Under a laissez-faire system the level of employment depends to a great extent on the so-called state of confidence.If this deteriorates, private investment declines, which results in a fall of output and employment (both directly and through the secondary effect of the fall in incomes upon consumption and investment).This gives
the capitalists a powerful indirect control over government policy: everything which may shake the state of confidence must be carefully
avoided because it would cause an economic crisis.

But once the government learns the trick of increasing employment by its own purchases, this powerful controlling device loses its effectiveness.
Hence budget deficits necessary to carry out government intervention must be regarded as perilous.

The social function of the doctrine of 'sound finance' is to make the level of employment dependent on the state of confidence."

There is a reason episodes of Yes Minister never seem to date...

- Name one measure we might implement immediately to improve the situation.

Stop lying to the public about the Magic Money Tree. It's about the allocation of resources, not money. Money is just a tool to move stuff
around. Nobody has ever had 'inflation' written down as their cause of death. Malnutrition and Exposure: yes, Inflation: no.

- If you were a President / Prime Minister what would your first three pieces of policy be?

Job Guarantee
Guaranteed Jobs
Jobs for All

- What was your biggest & / or your most recent mistake?

Assuming that Macroeconomic textbooks were scientific works, not religious texts guarded by a loyal priesthood.

- You are stuck in a ski lift for twenty four hours and you can have one person (living or dead) with you. Who will it be?

The dead person - they're exceptionally good listeners and never interrupt.

- Name the book that changed you.

Full Employment in a Free Society by Beveridge.It was written in 1944 regarding the unemployment crisis of the 1930s and in response to
the full employment enjoyed in the Second World War.The questions raised in the book are still to be answered 70 years later.

- What would you do differently if you were to start all over again?

I think I'd answer these questions in pretty much the same way.

- Give our readers, members and subscribers a piece of advice that has served you well.

Very little in life is under oath. But the Wayback machine lives forever.

- What is your main anxiety where you and / or your family are concerned?

We now face a world where our children can expect poorer housing, education and health outcomes than their parents or grandparents.

No-one in good conscience can hand over the world to the next generation, knowing we have made their lives worse, taken away privileges and blocked the opportunities that we enjoyed.

- What gives you hope for humanity?

That there are people out there who have actually read this far.
Neil Wilson

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