Recently in Economics Category
Having lived here for 18 years I have heard quite a few lectures. But Professor Kathryn Moore, speaking on 'Transport and Living Futures' delivered one during the Birmingham Made Me Design Expo, which was, for me, in a different league.
It was visually inspirational showing Birmingham in a new light as an ecologically friendly city - 'open, green and connected to the outlying areas through its unique and beautiful natural features'.
"Beauty and Birmingham are two words which don't go together too well in popular perception," said Professor Kathryn Moore, Past President of the Landscape Institute as well as lecturer and researcher at the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design, BIAD, at Birmingham City University.
I was involved in a debate which took place as part of 'Birmingham Made Me' Expo concerned with what is an appropriate economics strategy for the Midlands.
This debate surfaced some really crucial questions.
Probably the most crucial is what should such a strategy consist of?
Another is how to facilitate a culture that will ensure growth and jobs in this region?
Unsurprisingly much of the debate involved the issue of whether there are structural problems that militate against this region.
Those involved also debated the role of both central and local government level, as well as the other interested agencies, in facilitating a recovery which is sustainable.
The thing that was absolutely agreed by all was that encouraging innovation in all sectors was crucial.
All panellists reinforced the message that in order to compete effectively it is vital for companies to provide goods and services that are perceived by customers as being superior to those offered by competitors and include the latest technology and ideas.
Interestingly, an earlier speaker on concluding his talk about the origins of manufacturing in Birmingham was asked by a member of a school party why the manufacturing industry lost out to other countries.
There's no easy answer to this question but, for a multitude of reasons, despite this sector being the effective 'bedrock' that created opportunities over the last two hundred years, in terms of jobs it has declined rapidly since the late 1970s.
It would be foolish to believe that these jobs lost will ever be replaced though many argue that more should be done in dedicating effort and funding to ensure that we support the manufacturing and engineering sector.
In the UK we are two years away from the general election which will mean that economic data will be closely analysed by both commentators and politicians in order to demonstrate whether we are recovering or not.
Recent events will not provide much comfort to the coalition government which placed so much faith in austerity as the way to solve this country's economic problems.
However, the reality of the situation is that the economy will be influenced by as much by events overseas as by whatever policies are being pursued by the incumbent government.
At present the portents do not look good.
The comments that are believed to be contained in a report to be published this week by the prime minister's aide of enterprise Lord Young have excited some controversy.
For example, he has commented that if you are in business and your competitors go bankrupt (he used the expression "fall by the wayside"), it allows those businesses who are efficient to increase their market share.
Many might believe that this is simply commonsense.
Let's face it if you can incubate an idea and make it work in the current economic environment then it should be in good shape when the climate becomes more benign.
However, some have seized on Lord Young's comments as being indicative of a culture in which it becomes acceptable to exploit those who are weakest. He has stated his belief that if "factors of production" become cheaper this will allow a greater return on investment.
As critics point out, business failures result in job losses which bring misery. Additionally they stress that the factors of production which become cheaper will include wages paid to workers which will have a knock-on effect in terms of standards of living.
David Bowie is undergoing something of a renaissance caused by the fact that there is an exhibition of his stage outfits at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London for which tickets are like 'gold dust'.
For those not able to get a ticket you can always listen to his back catalogue especially his hugely influential 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars which includes the opening track 'Five Years'.
'Five Years' is a typical Bowie ballad in which there is a suggestion that within this period the earth would be doomed to destruction.
Given that Britain was at that time in a pretty dystopian state with industrial conflict and an existential threat from nuclear war with the Soviet Union there may have been many who would have agreed with the sentiments of 'Five Years'.
It is just over five years since the beginnings of the global financial crisis and, coincidentally, that is the maximum period of an English Parliament. As we know, the impact of the crisis are still very apparent it would seem that we are not yet at the point at which our economy can be considered to have fully recovered.
Last Thursday's local elections provide an early, though I accept, limited snapshot of the way that the main parties will performs and much analysis will be made of the economic policies offered by each of the main parties (which may now include UKIP) for ensuring consistent growth. And they will all be considering development of economic strategies for the five years following the next general election.
The thing is, our current situation does not give allow us to be tremendously optimistic.
I'm just old enough to remember the impact that George Best had on the game of football in Britain in the late 1960s.
Though Best was seen as possessing sublime talent, his showmanship and desire to engage in a hedonistic lifestyle was seen as not right. Football had typically been viewed as a game largely watched by the working class who supported local teams consisting of players who came from the community.
Best, a Belfast lad, though not exceptional in coming from outside the area, was a prototype celebrity footballer; he was sometimes referred to as 'the fifth Beatle'.
As many recognised, British football was changing. Earlier in the decade, January 18th 1961 to be exact, the maximum wage of £20 a week had been abolished. As many have since argued, this was the start of British football - and especially players - losing touch with its fans.
In 1961 the average weekly wage was £17. Though wages earned by footballers steadily increased after the abolition of the maximum wage, Sky TV's decision in 1992 to televise games vastly accelerated the earning power all footballers; particularly those in the Premier League who now typically earn over £35,000 a week.
Football became a game in which ever-increasing amounts of money was invested into securing the best players to ensure an ability to achieve continued success. This means that more and more money needs to be raised in order to pay higher and higher wages.
The consequence has been that now very few teams can effectively compete to win the Premiership.
There is an adage which says that you can make a small fortune in football; provided you start with a large fortune.
This is not untended to be a rhetorical question and is borne out of last week's news that an economic model which has been used as the basis for deficit reduction has been shown to have been based on spurious data and calculations.
This model, based on the work of Harvard Professors Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Roghoff (who used to be the Chief Economist at the International Monetary Fund), was believed to demonstrate that once public debt exceeds 90% of GDP any growth slows down dramatically.
For those who wish to impose austerity as the justification for cutting public expenditure Reinhart and Roghoff's research was academic validation. Who could argue with a model that was based on sound logic and valid data.
In their 2009 book This Time It's Different (published by Princeton University Press) drew upon extensive historical research to prove the fallacy of increased borrowing.
And so the debate over Margaret Thatcher's economic legacy continues.
The debate about the change she created will continue and historians will present their considered views about long-term effects.
What is a fact is that she was prime minister in October 1986 when so called 'Big Bang' occurred; the deregulation of the financial markets operating in the City of London.
It is worth stating that Mrs. Thatcher and her government's desire to deregulate the City of London institutions was borne of a belief that they would be able to operate more competitively against other world centres of finance - most especially New York - which enjoyed much greater freedom.
As many commentators have argued in recent days, this very deregulation set in motion the circumstances that led to the financial crisis more commonly known as the 'Credit Crunch'.
The recent death of Margaret Thatcher has provided an opportunity for historians to engage in reanalysis of the period leading up to her election as Prime Minister in 1979.
For many the election of Thatcher at the end of the decade heralded an end to what some saw as a dark period of industrial strife and, as many on the right believed, an urgent need for militant unions to be dealt with and for managers in British industry to reassert their authority.
When the TV series Life on Mars, which was set in the early 1970s, first appeared on television one critic commentated that Britain was made to look like it was a different country in which the landscape was characterised by decaying factories and a sense of gloom.
British industry was seen to be in a spiral of decline and none more so than the many once great and proud names of motor manufacturing such as Austin, Morris, Jaguar and Land Rover that were now operating under the brand of British Leyland.
British Leyland which had been formed in 1968 had been intended to herald a new era of mass car production in Britain though financial problems meant that it had to be partly nationalised.
If any company needed urgent reform when Mrs Thatcher took office in May 1979 it was British Leyland which had become infamous for the recent history of industrial conflict and the belief that when cars were actually being produced they weren't terribly good.
Something had to change.
Any temptation to celebrate the EU/IMF bailout of Cyprus and that the dream of a 'United States of Europe' continues will have been tempered by the fact that this deal is not one that will be good for anyone in particular; least of all Cypriots who can look forward to rising unemployment - already running at 15% - resulting from continued business closures and economic uncertainty.
It looks pretty grim.
The fact that banks have not been able to re-open, that one of the two major banks, Laiki, will be shut down, capital controls introduced, limits on cash withdrawals and bans on cashing cheques and the use of some debit and credit adds to a belief that the crisis is far from over.