The Open University -
Evolutionary Economics 2000

We came to 'evolutionary economics' along an unusual route -

@ home we survived complexity, change, conflict & scarcity and learned about families  

@ King's School we studied science but learned about cricket & friends  

@ Glasgow University we met up with giant ghosts from the past Adam Smith & James Watt 

@ Port Sunlight we were overwhelmed by bureaucratic kludge & pontificators

@ Apapa underneath the soap pans we learned how to by pass the blockages & let the blood flow

@ Smiling Malawi we learned how to climb out of poverty

@ R&D we enjoyed much more than snake oil

@ Hindustan Lever we absorbed another way to skin a rabbit

@ Warrington we focused on cultural investment technical excellence Persil  

SJ revealed the intimate interconnections between Psychology & Biology ...

JJ revealed the ingredients of success at the coal face were Beer & Fun ... not being slick & clever

@ Open University we chose the relevant study modules -

neoclassical economics

complex adaptive systems

history of empirical science

failure of government intervention, intelligent design & unintended consequences   

evolution of liberal democracy

evolution of economic behaviour

Bishops, Princes, Generals & Bureaucrats identified us as uneducated, ignorant & deplorable but we ended up happy as paid up members of a different club where we discovered & accumulated synergies of specialisation & scale.

1970 Institute of Works Managers

Thermodynamics didn't help much on the Twilight Shift at Port Sunlight so in 1970 we decided it was time to study Works Management.

Things were hectic in 1971 preparing for the 'overseas circuit' but studies at the IWM were appropriate and interesting - Works Management Theory & Practice - Economics of Industry - Psychology & Sociology - Statistics.

In 1972 the second year studies - Industrial Accountancy - Industrial Law - Management Techniques - Personnel Management - were all highly relevant and study time almost enjoyable. However there was not time to take the exams ... hard work under the soap pans in Apapa was a priority ... there were bills that had to be paid! 

Report Writing was a rewarding project in the curriculum - Career Development - was awarded a remarkable grading ...

The Open University1994 The Open University

The six year course in Economics 1994-2000 involved six modules with continuous appraisal through tutor marked assessments, Computer Marked Assessments, written examinations and two summer schools York University and Bath University.

1 Introduction to Economics - D210 - economics notes - OU tma notes

tma01 -

tma02 -

tma03 -

tma04 -

tma05 -

tma06 -

tma07 -

2 Working with Systems - T247 - systems notes

tma01 - complexity, interconnectedness, feedback & Apapa factory systems efficiency?

tma02 - different viewpoints on the Hillsborough disaster?

tma03 - computer stock control model? cognitive maps 'working for Multinational Coporations'?

tma04 - CATWOE modeling systems - Clients, Actors, Transformation, Worldview, Owner, Environment constraints?
XL spreadsheets modeling -

 company balance sheets from sales inputs and cost structures

 m&a analysis from P/E ratios.

3 The Rise of Scientific Europe 1500-1800 - AS283 - scientific europe notes

tma01 - Copernicus's revolution?

tma02 - Agricola & Paracelsus?

tma03 - How did its geographical position on the fringe of Europe affect the development of science in Sweden?

tma04 - Understanding of attitudes toward science in counter reformation Spain?

4 Economics & Government Policy - D345 - economic policy notes - OU tma notes

tma01 - the budget? market failure? fiscal & monetary policy?

tma02 - reduction in spirits tax? reduction in mortgage interest tax relief? fiscal neutrality? working incentives a & marginal income tax rates?

tma03 - monopolies & resource allocation? regulation & natural monopolies? competition?

tma04 - equalising income? Lorenz curves? Gini coefficients? Cash benefits & tax? Income redistribution? the NHS?

5 Democracy from Classical Times to the Present - D316 - democracy notes

tma01 - What are the significant differences between the liberal democratic and the Marxist models of democracy?

tma02 - Set out and assess what the writers of the New Right contribute to our understanding of contemporary liberal democracy.

tma03 - No capitalism, no democracy? Evaluate this statement, drawing on examples from Europe and the USA.

tma04 - A powerful class of landlords is a major impediment to democratisation. What does the comparative evidence from Latin America and Asia say about this statement?

tma05 - What evidence is there for the argument that economic development plays a determining role in the process of democratisation?

tma06 - The globalisation of economic activity is transforming the conditions of democracy in nation states?

tma07 - The best hope for democracy resides within the secure shell of the nation state. Advocates of transnational democracy are championing a utopian and mistaken ideal?

6 Understanding Economic Behaviour - D319 - markets notes

tma01 -

tma02 -

tma03 -

tma04 -

tma05 -

tma06 -

tma07  -

Unfinished BusinessOur original schematic for our final project was 'unfinished business' ...  we ran out of time ...

At the Open University there was an initial focus on the neo classical economic tradition and all the bum assumptions were mortifying for some of us who had bought the T-shirt. But the insights of John Maynard Keynes & 'animal spirits' and Franklin D Roosevelt & 'nothing to fear but fear itself' consistently returned the debate to social animals, human behaviour and Adam the Smith; it was 'moral sentiments' that underpinned 'gains from trade' and the associated synergies of specialisation & scale.

The emotional flip flops of excitement & fear made the case for evolutionary economics and the science of choice ... the two handed economist: on the one hand some folk got excited and took risks but on the other hand some folk were frit about failure ... and often the same folk did both.  

Inflation or deflation was always good or bad ... or irrelevant ... depending on which way the flip flopped ... which way the cookie crumbled.

It was Darwin's insight which loaded the dice of trial & error in favour of the synergies of specialisation & scale; cooperative synergistic behaviour tended to survive because the genes themselves did cost/benefit analysis.

Models of DemocracyHeld held that democratic ideals required producers and consumers meet on equal terms of economic power and intelligent design dirigisme was the theme ... but ignorance and evolution touted diversity and trial & error. Democracy touted Liberal Democracy. The process of natural selection turned out to thrive of a bias towards morality and synergies of specialisation & scale where producers and consumers had to be satisfied to do deals and avoid bankruptcy.

Inequalities, imbalances, protectionism, price fixing, unsustainability; were all distortions as market prices cleared markets.

Bottom up human social behaviours were experimental interactions within Complex Adaptive Systems; diversity enabled adaptation.

Top down intelligent design and bureaucratic dirigisme destabilised Complex Adaptive Systems; fewer and fewer competitive alternatives delayed adaptation.

Darwin's insight encouraged everyone to diversify their experiments and discover & learn what works where & when ... but as Darwin himself said, 'most folk just didn't get it'.

Darwin's natural selection, did not, as Held held,

'serve to remove certain critical issues from politics, to treat them as if they were not a proper subject of political action', Held 1996.

Quite the opposite ... political intent produced the experimental diversity but natural selection did the selection.

Institutions of Liberal Democracy generated diversity but 51% did not select for imposition on 49%!

We learned about choice and opportunity costs. The Max Weber bureaucracies and their enormous transaction costs associated with tax & spend & regulation and the neat, clever & simple way Coasian bargains reduced costs and speeded up adaptation

RIP Ronald Coase September 2013.

We must add that our tutor was sceptical and offered the other hand -

'evolutionary economics is a confusing false analogy and an undemocratic right wing diatribe?'

Day by day the evidence mounts supporting the explanatory power of Charles Darwin and Complex Adaptive System Theory.


Two Handed Economits

 The Two Handed Economists.

The star of the course was the two handed economist and how the cookie crumbled; on the one hand it was clear theory under pinned policy but on the other hand outcomes were always messy.

Two handed economists don't pretend to know ... they experiment & observe!

Economies were human activity systems and were best described as Complex Adaptive Systems where outcomes were unknowable and folk learned by trial & error. 


'The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values' by Sam Harris, 2011.


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