Three Debates on 31 July 2003

ENGINEERS AND ECONOMICS

Peter Hanley

Peter Hanley is a submarine engineer exploring how the engines of economies can benefit from the insight of 30 years electrical, mechanical, nuclear & acoustic experience to unravel more successful patterns of productivity.

The debate revolved around two propositions

1. Should engineers learn more economics (including finance and management)?

2. Should economists learn more about engineering?

Both motions were carried 13 for, 4 against, 4 abstaining & 12 for, 5 against, 4 abstaining

The argument put forward is that engineering principles could be vital to economic planning. Three key principles were offered to underpin the debate.

1. Processes are used with inputs and outputs as part of a Closed Loop Feedback system responding to changes in output. This creates a comparison of Actual output with the Desired output.

2. Measurement must be achieved without influencing the system you are measuring else the results are false.

3. Productivity follows the ancient pattern of the Fire Triangle where fuel, oxygen and heat produce fire, which can sustain itself. The Economic Triangle is based on cost, time and performance respectively.

Through the debate the following issues emerged:

1. Can economies run without money?

2. Money did not replace the barter system _ ancient tribes grew to greater than 300 people, which drove inter-tribe exchange (see: William Bloom Money workshop).

3. With 6 billion people on the planet, old systems of economics are clumsy; need to work at macro and micro level at the same time; planning needs to address all these issues at the same time.

4. Economies are like engines and can stall.

5. Are the Japanese efficient or failing? _ they are funding US deficit.

6. Management tiers stifle people and innovation, so give engineers their head. There is a need for tools for decision-making. It is worth paying now for long-term benefits. This raises issues of Cost versus Value; short versus long-term.

7. Economies; Black versus Official. Impact of oil in creating black economy at macro level. World economies imploding, what is the impact of trading from small scale to £billions with the same ideas. Why is 10 percent of population doing what it takes whilst the 90 percent are shovelling the economy along with little impact.

Many threads of thought emerged that need to be pursued in the future, in which hopefully BRLSI will take a lead role.

VOTES AT AGE 16

Clare Tyson, Member Youth Parliament

At 16 you can marry, serve in the Forces, have a job and pay taxes but you cannot vote to decide which party governs the country.

Sixteen year-olds are vitally affected by education policies from the curriculum and school funding to teacher training and classroom assistants. They are involved with and concerned about transport, healthcare, hospitals, affordable housing and the environment just as much as older people and are just as capable of evaluating arguments and assessing policies.

If they had the vote politicians would pay more attention to their views.

Citizenship is now included on the curriculum but it does not provide adequate information about political parties and Government departments; it deals mostly with health _ AIDS, drugs _ but not social security benefits and local authority organisation

The UK Youth Parliament, of which Clare Tyson is the Member for B&NES, last month drafted a manifesto which will be presented to the Westminster Parliament in the Autumn. (The last manifesto they presented two years ago has just received an anodyne reply). A suggestion during the discussion that the age for voting should be 17 revealed that the grievance was the inequality of three different ages, 16, 18 and 21, for various privileges and responsibilities; the cry of `No Taxation without Representation' that triggered the American War of Independence was still valid.

The proposal that: `The age of voting should be reduced to 16' received 14 votes for; 7 against; and 6 abstensions

 

THE CAUSES OF DECLINE OF SMALL COUNTRY TOWNS

William Barnes

Small country towns have been in decline for many years providing few opportunities for employment of young people who have to move to large towns for jobs. There has been some slight improvement in recent years, firstly when major multiple stores and charity shops moved in, and subsequently as a result of the influx of residents escaping from large towns. But in general their decline has steadily continued since the Enclosure Acts began the process in the 1760s when commonhold and copyhold were abolished. (1,2,3,4,5)

The King's [George III's] Friends party in Parliament in 1760 were responsible for the Enclosure process. Out of a population of 7 million, 1.2 million were evicted and the agricultural yield declined. This was accentuated by the actions of the City of London's attack on local banks. Local Banks, like Moger's and many others in Bath, raised capital for agricultural improvement from local sources. The City's big banks reduced the availability of capital by restricting the operation of local banks in several decline of small country towns.

During the discussion it was suggested that the new Regional Development Agencies might restore the situation but Mr Barnes considered they were not personal enough to provide the local contacts that a local bank could provide.

The disadvantage of reducing the power of the big City banks was the effect it might have on their international reputation. However, the Swiss cantonal banks, which provide the sort of services required, are an interesting model, as were the Yorkshire Penny Bank and others. Local Banks would not have, as they used, to issue their own notes or money. ways. No local bank could be set up within 65 miles of the City; clearing facilities were denied.

Without capital and entrepreneurs a town cannot prosper. In addition, the introduction of mass-production (rather than the Industrial Revolution) provided competition to small shops and these factors together resulted in the long

The proposal that: `With Government encouragement we should seek the establishment of regional banks' was passed with 16 votes in favour; 5 against and 7 abstensions.

Donald Lovell

1. Enclosures in Britain 1750-1830 Michael Turner, EHS, 1984
2. Enclosure and the Yeoman R C Allen, Clarendon 1992

3. The Economic History of Britain (2 vols) 2nd Edn. Floud & McCloskey, Cambridge, 1994

4. Social History of England G M Trevelyan, Penguin 1959

5. Progress & Poverty M J Daunton, OUP, 1995