The Bank of England Museum

I have been to the Bank of England Museum several times and highly recommend it. It provides a good overview of the Bank’s history, contains interactive content, and has special exhibitions. Situated in the basement of the Bank (and therefore very close to the eponymous underground station) it’s open on every weekday and even opens late every third Thursday. The best part: it is totally free!

My most recent visit was in June 2024.

I started by looking at early examples of currency. Gold coins originate from c7th bc in Lydia (now in modern Turkey) and here is my photo of one of the first:

The museum has a section on the historic non monetary uses of gold. Here is a photo of a gold-plated visor from a metal workers helmet:

The bank’s notes originate from 1743 and the most popular types served as a type of payable receipt, that would enable the holder to redeem coin deposits. Here are some examples of early bank notes:

Notice how some are torn in the bottom corner. As this page explains, this shows that the balance has been paid.

I was very pleased to see a section marking the history of women at the bank. The first female employees started in 1894, and the bank was one of the first institutions in the City to employ them.

My favourite part of the museum is the attempt to explain how monetary policy works. This machine gives visitors the chance to play the role of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) and move interest rates up or down depending on how close inflation is to the target.

As you can see, I wasn’t very good!

But I did get it in the end!

While I was visiting there was a special exhibit on slavery and the bank. Over a 300 year period the global slave trade took over 12 million Africans from their homes, and this map reveals the scale.

I didn’t learn much about the banks role, but I was encouraged to reflect:

I hope you enjoyed my tour as much as I did. Please consider visiting the museum for yourself!

You can take a short quiz to test your knowledge here:

The Museum of Neoliberalism

I was saddened to learn that The Museum of Neoliberalism is closing (see here). It is located near Lewisham and I visited in November 2023.

In this article I wanted to share 5 points that came to mind as I looked around.

(1) There is a tendency for critics of neoliberalism to present a conspiracy theory view of the movement. The museum presents this in the following way:

I mean, they even used red thread!

The serious point is that these outside accounts don’t match my inside knowledge, and I don’t believe that’s due to naivety on my part. I’m a senior fellow of the Adam Smith Institute and disagree that they constitute a “total perversion of Smith’s ideas”, but welcome an intellectual conversation about that claim. Back in 2016 Sam Bowman (then Executive Director at the ASI) wrote an article called “I’m a neoliberal. Maybe you are too” and yet I’ve not seen an honest engagement with them.

Ultimately, I think that the truth is less exciting than the museum depicts – these think tanks are transparent with their objectives and activities, punch above their weight in terms of resources, but have little direct power or influence. It’s an error to present them as something they are not.

(2) There is lots to be said about what has happened to economic inequality (and why) over the course of the twentieth century (my teaching materials are here). But the idea that governments responded to falling inequality by increasing prices is simply wrong. Milton Friedman’s monetarist prescriptions were a response to the prevalent inflation, and succeeded in controlling it. That inflation was a result of excessive money creation, in part due to the fiscal profligacy of government spending. The chronology is clear – neoliberalism gained dominance within the context of high inflation, and sought to combat it. It did not generate inflation as a means to reverse declining inequality.

(3) There is this a long list of notable moments of privatisation in the UK. I suspect the assumption is that because people typically don’t like privatisation, this is persuasive. However, the paradox of privatization is that although most people believe that the process by which assets are returned to private ownership is often flawed, they typically do not want the state to control those industries. (Note that the solution, therefore, is to avoid nationalisation in the first place.)

But when you actually look at these companies – Lunn Poly, Thomas Cook – does anyone really want state ownership of travel agents? Is Rolls Royce really a company that the UK government has to manage and run? Really?

(4) The section on “bullshit jobs” exposes poor working practices and elicits sympathy for workers who lack certain employment rights. In my view, though, the last thing you should do in such situations is to take away options. And yet this is what higher labour standards, by imposing costs on employers, tend to do. Ultimately I find these sorts of judgments elitist and snobbish. There’s a million jobs I’d hate to do, but any job that someone voluntarily agrees to, because they view it as an improvement over their next best alternative, is ok by me. Generally speaking, the gig economy has been a liberation within the context of excessive restrictions on labour.

(5) And what’s the conclusion? Well this final panel, called “there is an alternative” sums things up nicely. Apparently

“the current crisis is an open moment of possibility in which the world will step beyond it into something else. What that ‘something else’ looks like is up to you.”

Forgive me, but I do not see an articulation of an alternative. This does nothing to dispense the fear that the alternative to a free market system of private property rights is a utopian nonsense.

I love the concept of a Museum of Neoliberalism and am sorry that it is closing. I found it provocative and hope you enjoyed my reflections.

Zagreb

I’ve been regularly visiting Zagreb for over a decade, and have noticed that it is unique for three main reasons:

(1) The old town – all nice European cities have an old town, but five things make Zagreb’s particularly memorable.

    • The Funicular is the shortest in the world and Zagreb’s first form of public transit.

©Vladographer/Getty Images Plus

    • The Gric cannon fires at 12:00pm every day, and has done for for over a century. Kaboom!
    • The Stone Gate is in the upper town and displays an icon that supposedly survived a fire in 1731 (see here). Here is a photo of the stone gate from the 1940s:

    • The Gric tunnels are handy ways to pass through parts of the centre. I first heard about them from an episode of one of my favourite YouTube series, Cockpit Casual.

    • Croatia (as in “cravat”) invented the tie. See more here.

(2) Weird museums – Zagreb is home to several bizarre sounding museums, all in the centre of town. I’ve been to most, but am not sure what order to list them here. The perfect night out?

(3) Festival of light – held in March each year, the festival marks the arrival of Spring and includes installations throughout the city. The use of light in public spaces is a theme in Zagreb, as you can see from the display on the Hendrix bridge:


Finally, here are some ad hoc recommendations:

 Music

Movies

Food

  • Zagrebačke kremšnite (from Vincek)

And here’s my favourite photo from Zagreb:

Montalbert

We own a charming 2 bedroom apartment in the family-friendly ski resort of La Plagne Montalbert. It has a master bedroom and a smaller bunk room making it perfect for a family of 4, and the sofa bed in the lounge means that it can cater for 6. Located on the second floor, the balcony overlooks the piste and provides hours of entertainment and afternoon sun.

 

✈️ Montalbert is a 2 hour drive from Lyon or just over 2 hours from Geneva. Both airports are served by low cost flights with usual car rentals available.

Aime station is at the bottom of the valley (11km), and easy to reach by taxi (15 minutes) or a regular bus service via Altibus. During the ski season there after often direct trains from St Pancras, however return journeys depart from Bourg-St-Maurice, which is twice as far away (this is because Bourg has the security equipment that allows it to have international passengers). A good option is to get a standard Eurostar to France and then change for a TGV to Aime. There is a regular (and cheap) service from Paris Gare du Lyon but you can also change at Lille. This means you avoid having to cross Paris! For more see the Man in Seat 61.

We are 976km from Calais which is around 9 hours of driving. It can be done in one day, but France has plenty of clean and affordable hotels at convenient stops along the way. There are quick and cheap ferry services from Dover and the Eurotunnel goes from Folkestone.

Winter

Montalbert is part of La PLagne which is world famous for its size and array of runs. Best suited for all rounders and families, there are enough black runs to challenge serious skiers but the main places are accessible via blue runs. Best of all the Vanoise Express connects La Plagne with Les Arc, providing over 400km of ski runs with 70% above 2000ft. There are 18 separate “fun zones” and new activities and lifts are added each year.

Summer

Montalbert is a charming mountain village which makes it a suitable place to vacation all year round. Outside of the ski season there are still plenty of amenities and the summer wildflowers are stunning. The gondola ski lift still operated and this allows walkers to reach the higher mountains all through the summer. Mountain bikers can take the ski lifts up several runs and enjoy the descent.

Sustainability

Lecture handout: Sustainability

⭐ Required readings:


Here’s how to visit the grave of J.B. Say. Here is a photo from a book written by Richard Cantillon, published in 1755, which uses the word “entrepreneur”.

Here is a video on poverty being a lack of cash, not a character trait:

Here is the Bushradical video about building a log cabin in the woods:

Here is the Outdoor Boys video building a snow shelter:

Recently there has been increased attention to the concept of “degrowth”. I recommend the following:

Here’s a great visual showing different carbon pricing initiatives:

Here is more on the doughnut model:

Some spinning donuts (you see! it is meant to be measured after all):

Recommended books:

  • Ridley, M., 2011, The Rational Optimist, Fourth Estate
  • Rosling, H., 2018, Factfulness, Sceptre
  • Munger, M., 2019, Is Capitalism sustainable?, American Institute for Economic Research
  • Tupy, M.L., and Pooley, G.L., 2023, Superabundance, Cato Institute
  • Ritchie, H., 2024, Not the end of the world, Penguin

Recommended podcasts:

Learning Objectives: This session considers whether infinite growth is possible on a planet with finite natural resources.

Spotlight on sustainability: Doh!

Business Economics (BIM) 2024

This course will develop students capacity for economic analysis and awareness of the most important insights for management.

 Assessment
Textbook

Evans, Anthony J., 2020 “Economics: A complete guide for business“, London Publishing Partnership

Digital copies of the relevant section are available in the links below.

Content
Session Before During After
1. Incentives Matter Nothing Lecture handouts
2. Markets: Beyond AI Watch the full movie Arrival (2016), Denis Villeneuve

You can download all of the above in a single PDF file here.

Lecture handouts
3. Market Applications Lecture handouts
4. Competition and the Market Process Lecture handouts

5. Global Prosperity Activity: Global conditions quiz Lecture handouts
6. Growth WatchGrowth is like an iPhone

Lecture handouts
7. Sustainability Lecture handouts
8. Inequality Activity: Thinking about wealth

Watch: “$456,000 Squid Game In Real Life!” Mr Beast

Watch the full movie Parasite (2019), Bong Joon Ho

Lecture handouts

Long reads

Here are a collection of slightly longer newspaper articles that I’ve found absorbing and well worth reading:

️️ Events

⚖️ True crime

Music

For more, see Best of 2023: Personal Essays

ChatGPT

My policy on ChatGPT (or other other Large Language Learning Models (LLM)) is a simple one:

  • Treat ChatGPT as the equivalent of your parents. 

What doe this mean?

✅ You are allowed to ask it questions.

✅ You are allowed to get advice on writing.

❌ You are not allowed to submit any text that it generates as your own work.

❌ You are not allowed to submit any text into another piece of software that rewrites it.

The issue is accountability. An attribution of authorship carries with it accountability for the work, which cannot be effectively applied to ChatGPT. When you submit a piece of assessment the aim is to establish your unique understanding, as opposed to the understanding of your parents, or ChatGPT. This means that while you can use a wide variety of inputs to provide help, any output needs to be generated, and “owned” by yourself.

If you have found a way to automate your work, such that anyone (or anything) else can follow the steps that you take and create the same output, you have succeeded in finding efficiencies, and possibly even generated important knowledge, but you have failed to complete the assignment you were set. Your formal assessment is intended to establish your ability, as a human, to complete the task. It is not intended to establish your capability to use technology to meet an objective. That is why submitting other people’s work (whether it’s your parents, or ChatGPT) is fraud.

An inaccurate analogy would be to treat ChatGPT like software, such as Microsoft Word. It is obviously not cheating to type answers in a word processor, and use spelling or formatting advice to improve your work. Unlike Word, however, ChatGPT goes beyond helping your writing to actually help with content. It is more of an oracle than a piece of software. Therefore I think it’s better to imagine it as a helpful person. Or, as Cowen and Tabarrok (2023) say in this very useful article about how to use ChatGPT,

“It resembles collaborating with a bright and knowledgeable research assistant, albeit one from a different culture.”

Their advice includes:

  • Be specific with your prompts
  • Ask for comparisons and contrasts
  • Ask for lists
  • Ask follow up questions

I recommend this article:

I also recommend developing some custom instructions. Here are Eli Dourado’s.

I also like this graphic:

If you decide to use ChatGPT you should be honest and open about it, and provide an appropriate discussion in the Methods section (or, if a Methods section is not used, a suitable alternative part) of the manuscript. That will allow your advisor and committee to establish whether your use is appropriate. If you decide to use ChatGPT but don’t explain how, this is fraud. In some cases, it may be that use of ChatGPT is so heavy it warrants being a co author. This is fine if you list ChatGPT as a co author, and you can do this for other types of work, but a thesis or other formal assessment must be single authorship.

Finally, ethical behaviour is important. Therefore:

  • Just because other people do something wrong, doesn’t mean you should.
  • A thesis isn’t just about producing the best piece of work, it’s about demonstrating your knowledge of research methods (which includes ethical design and execution) and your ethical decision making.
  • If you’re not sure, ask for help.

Justice

A particular emphasis is placed on the concept of justice, and how managers can apply these insights within an organisational setting.

Handouts:

Textbook

Other courses

Further resources
A charming example of passing on a favour is the music video to Clay Walker’s ‘Chain of Love‘:

Here’s Hans Rosling explaining why most of the world is better off than you think:

You can watch the PBS version of ‘Command and Control’ here.

There is a short series of videos where David Schmidtz discusses Equality. You can view them here:


Quiz