Site menu:

Site search

Get Updates

Enter your email address to hear about new posts. (You can view my privacy policy here.)


RSS Recent Posts

Archives (month)


Regulatory dreams and economic nightmares

In the early days of my career, I occasionally dreamed that I had failed my professional exams and was being summoned back for a re-sit. Since I never actually practised in the discipline in which I qualified, I’m not sure what game my subconscious was playing with me. But last week I dreamed I was back at university… only to wake up and find that I was.

It left me wondering if there might be something wrong with the teaching of economics in our universities

I was attending the 25th anniversary conference of the Regulatory Policy Institute at Oxford, where the early giants of the UK’s economic regulatory scene were reflecting on what had gone well and what had gone less well in the three decades since Margaret Thatcher had appointed Bryan Carsberg as the UK’s first economic regulator, to oversee the newly-privatised telecoms industry.

British regulators have included many who joined from academia, including several who returned there afterwards. So it was intriguing to hear one of them report that the experience of regulation had taught that markets don’t work as well as he had expected when he started out in the role.

Even more intriguing was the riposte from a more senior academic to the effect that all economists start out with too strong a belief in the effectiveness of markets and then they learn the reality. Some of the audience may have inferred that that there should be a minimum age before an economist can be allowed to regulate. But it left me wondering whether there might be something wrong with the teaching of economics in our universities!

See also:  Marx out of ten for the attack on price caps?

But this was my alma mater, the city of dreaming spires and nightmare essay crises. One of the former regulators at the conference, who apparently follows this blog, reproached me for not writing here frequently enough. I took it as a compliment wrapped inside a complaint. He now knows that I was working on a piece for the International Forum for Responsible Media, which he has since read and described as “depressing”. All things considered, I’m relieved that my return to university was only for two days.

Sign up for updates by Email, Twitter or RSS Feed.

Related articles on this website
Regular readers of this blog must be sick to death by now of me repeating how much damage accounting standards are doing to pension schemes (here, here, here and, even ...
Read the complete article
It seems that, when it comes to Brexit, we can’t trust anyone to get their facts right. Not even lawyers. At least, not Lawyers for a People’s Vote (LfaPV). I don’t ...
Read the complete article
Until a few days ago, I had never heard the expression: "When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras". A visiting US professor used it in conversation with me. ...
Read the complete article
… to be giving a presentation whilst the audience is tweeting their comments onto a screen behind your head. Perhaps that’s going to be the way of the future. For me, ...
Read the complete article
The separation of retail and investment banks is back in the news following the Chancellor’s recent Mansion House speech. Ever since the Government bail-out of Royal Bank of Scotland and ...
Read the complete article
I took the morning off to watch Andy Murray’s semi-final in Australia before heading to the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation for a discussion on risk modelling. Intriguingly, ...
Read the complete article
I keep hearing that last Friday's agreement between the UK and the EU 27 means that a hard Brexit is off the table. Well, I'm looking at the table and ...
Read the complete article
I think the three words at the end of the following sentence must be the most chilling – and the most heart-warming – I have ever read from an accounting ...
Read the complete article
Accountants in a tangle with Webb
Lawyers for Alternative Facts?
A horse. A zebra. Or maybe it’s a fish?
It’s very disconcerting …
Bankers cooking with Gas?
Game, Stress & Match
Hard Brexit is dead. Long live … hard Brexit
Accountants becoming effective?