Economics: The Movie
Most people, even those who study and work at the LSE, tend to ignore — or find annoyingly cumbersome — the full title of the School which is ‘London School of Economics and Political Science’. One felt that it was inevitable that the implosion of economies being witnessed at present would have implications for a place that most people call only ‘London School of Economics’. Nobody would have expected, however, that the first shot in an epistemic assault on it would have been fired by HM the Queen during her visit to open the School’s latest building in its relentlessly street-by-street colonisation of Aldwich and Holborn. In a moment that brings to mind the well-known childrens’ story about the emperor’s new clothes, Simon Jenkins of the Guardian describes in a hilarious way here how Her Majesty, talking about the credit crunch asked one of the LSE economics professors ‘Why did nobody notice?’ Her Majesty put into a nutshell an issue that others such as Nassim Nicholas Taleb have spent much more time, text, and effort articulating, sometimes also with hilarious results as the recent priceless BBC TV clash between Taleb and Kenneth Rogoff shows. The difficulty in answering this simple question on the side of economists might force them into a re-assessment of the epistemic toolkit of economics. And it is not just a case of the analytical tools but also about how the economic can be known, accessed, but also discussed. Payback, the latest book by Margaret Atwood described in a recent Guardian review as an ‘intellectual history of debt’, and the project by German film maker Alexander Kluge to make a feature film of Marx’s Das Kapital, might provide some inspiration. The LSE marketing people might be better off re-arranging its name to something like ‘London School of Political Science and Economics’. Then again, LSPSE is not so catchy and LSE is such a well established brand. Maybe, as someone at the LSE itself had commented in the recent past, they might want to consider changing what LSE stands for to something like ‘London School of Entertainment’.