Sen 2014 har andelen toppbetyg fördubblats från 0,25 procent till dagens 0,5 procent (knappt 500 elever). Denna andel är nästan 40 (!) gånger så stor som andelen med maximala betyg (5,0) under det relativa betygssystemet i början av 1990-talet …
Det finns flera problem med denna utveckling. När betygen stiger och fler slår i taket så försvåras urvalet till vidare studier och varje enskilt betyg blir helt avgörande för huruvida eleven hamnar i den växande gruppen maxbetygare. Det är också känt att kunskapsnivån faller när det är lätt att få höga betyg. Ett ännu större problem är dock den bristande likvärdigheten; samma kunskapsnivå kan ge helt olika betyg beroende på vilken skola en elev går på och vilken lärare eleven har …
För alla någorlunda insatta betraktare torde det vid det här laget står klart att det svenska betygssystemet saknar alla spärrar och att betygen stiger utan hämningar. Trots detta har inga verksamma åtgärder vidtagits för att göra något åt vare sig betygsinflationen eller den bristande likvärdigheten i betygssättningen. Blocköverskridande överenskommelser är ofta en fördel när det gäller skolfrågor, men det är att beklaga att enigheten aldrig verkar vara så stor som när det gäller att låta betygshaveriet ha sin gilla gång.
Som svensk skolforskning kunnat visa under en längre tid nu är betygsinflationen ett stort och allvarligt problem för svensk skola av idag. Men tyvärr inte det enda.
År efter år kommer larmrapporter om hur illa det står till i svensk skola. PISA och andra studier visar otvetydigt att svenska skolelever presterar sämre och sämre. Och vi som arbetar inom universitetsvärlden märker av att våra studenter i allt större utsträckning saknar nödiga förkunskaper för att kunna bedriva seriösa studier.
År efter år ser vi hur viljan att bli lärare minskar. I början på 1980-talet fanns det nästan åtta sökande per plats på lågstadielärarutbildningen. Idag är det en sökande per plats på grundlärarutbildningen. Detta är en samhällskatastrof som vi borde tala om. I en värld där allt hänger på kunskap är det på sikt avgörande för svensk ekonomi att åter göra läraryrket attraktivt.
År efter år ser vi hur lärarlönerna urholkas. För ett par år sedan presenterade OECD en rapport där man menar sig kunna visa att framgångsrika skolnationer tenderar att prioritera höga lärarlöner. Lärarlönerna som andel av BNP per capita är i Sverige väsentligt lägre än i de länder som ligger i topp i PISA-studierna.
År efter år ser vi hur ojämlikheten ökar på många områden. Inte minst vad avser inkomster och förmögenhet. Skillnader i livsbetingelser för olika grupper vad avser klass, etnicitet och genus är oacceptabelt stora.
År efter år kan vi konstatera att i skolans värld har uppenbarligen familjebakgrunden fortfarande stor betydelse för elevers prestationer. Självklart kan det inte uppfattas som annat än ett kapitalt misslyckande för en skola med kompensatoriska aspirationer.
År efter år kan vi notera att tvärtemot alla reformpedagogiska utfästelser så är det främst barn ur hem utan studietraditioner som förlorat i den omläggning i synen på skolan som skett under det senaste halvseklet. I dag – med skolpengar, fria skolval och friskolor – har utvecklingen tvärtemot alla kompensatoriska utfästelser bara ytterligare stärkt de högutbildade föräldrarnas möjligheter att styra de egna barnens skolgång och framtid. Det är svårt att se vilka som med dagens skola ska kunna göra den ‘klassresa’ så många i min generation har gjort.
Höjda lärarlöner är inte en tillräcklig förutsättning för att vi åter ska få en svensk skola av världsklass. Men det är en nödvändig förutsättning — inte minst för att locka de riktigt duktiga ungdomarna att satsa på en lärarkarriär. Omfattande skolforskning har övertygande visat att det kommunala huvudmannaskapet är en av de viktigaste orsakerna bakom lärarlönernas och den svenska skolans kräftgång de senaste decennierna.
De politisk partierna måste droppa sina ideologiska skygglappar och inse att en och annan helig ko måste slaktas om vi ska få rätt på svensk skola. När skolfakta sparkar så får man vara så god att ändra kurs – även om det eventuellt skulle stå i strid med ideologin. När ska de politiska partierna gemensamt våga ta det steget? Ska vi verkligen behöva vänta tills nästa PISA undersökning åter igen pekar på svensk skolas katastrofala utförsåkning?
Jag har sagt det förr — och jag säger det igen: kommunaliseringen av skolan är den största floppen någonsin i svensk utbildningspolitisk historia. Men misstag går att rätta till. Som den store engelske nationalekonomen John Maynard Keynes brukade säga: “When I’m wrong, I change my mind.”
Återförstatliga svensk skola!
According to the Ricardian equivalence hypothesis the public sector basically finances its expenditures through taxes or by issuing bonds, and bonds must sooner or later be repaid by raising taxes in the future.
If the public sector runs extra spending through deficits, taxpayers will according to the hypothesis anticipate that they will have pay higher taxes in future — and therefore increase their savings and reduce their current consumption to be able to do so, the consequence being that aggregate demand would not be different to what would happen if taxes were rised today.
Robert Barro attempted to give the proposition a firm theoretical foundation in the 1970s.
So let us get the facts straight from the horse’s mouth.
Describing the Ricardian Equivalence in 1989 Barro writes (emphasis added):
Suppose now that households’ demands for goods depend on the expected present value of taxes—that is, each household subtracts its share of this present value from the expected present value of income to determine a net wealth position. Then fiscal policy would affect aggregate consumer demand only if it altered the expected present value of taxes. But the preceding argument was that the present value of taxes would not change as long as the present value of spending did not change. Therefore, the substitution of a budget deficit for current taxes (or any other rearrangement of the timing of taxes) has no impact on the aggregate demand for goods. In this sense, budget deficits and taxation have equivalent effects on the economy — hence the term, “Ricardian equivalence theorem.” To put the equivalence result another way, a decrease in the government’s saving (that is, a current budget deficit) leads to an offsetting increase in desired private saving, and hence to no change in desired national saving.
Since desired national saving does not change, the real interest rate does not have to rise in a closed economy to maintain balance between desired national saving and investment demand. Hence, there is no effect on investment, and no burden of the public debt …
Ricardian equivalence basically means that financing government expenditures through taxes or debts is equivalent, since debt financing must be repaid with interest, and agents — equipped with rational expectations — would only increase savings in order to be able to pay the higher taxes in the future, thus leaving total expenditures unchanged.
To most people this probably sounds like nothing but witless gibberish, and Willem Buiter is, indeed, in no gracious mood when commenting on it a couple years ago:
Barro (1974) has shown that, given perfect foresight, debt neutrality will obtain when three conditions are met: (a) private agents can lend and borrow on the same terms as the government, (b) private agents are able and willing to undo any government scheme to redistribute spending power between generations, and (c) all taxes and transfer payments are lump sum, by which we mean that their basis of assessment is independent of private agents’ decisions about production, labour supply, consumption, or asset accumulation. Under these extreme assumptions, any change in government financing (government saving or dissaving) is offset one-for-one by a corresponding change in private saving itself financed by the accompanying tax changes.
All three assumptions are of course hopelessly unrealistic. Condition (a) fails because credit rationing, liquidity constraints, large spreads between lending and borrowing rates of interest, and private borrowing rates well in excess of those enjoyed by the government are an established fact in most industrial countries. These empirical findings are underpinned by the new and burgeoning theoretical literature on asymmetric information and the implications of moral hazard and adverse selection for private financial marketsl1; and by game-theoretic insights of how active competition in financial markets can yield credit rationing as the equilibrium outcome.
Condition (b) fails because it requires either that agents must live for ever or else effectively do so through the account they take of their children and parents in making gifts and bequests. In reality, private decision horizons are finite and frequently quite short …
Condition (c) fails because in practice taxes and subsidies are rarely lump sum …
I conclude that the possible neutrality of public debt and deficits is little more than a theoretical curiosum.
It is difficult not to agree in that verdict.
And how about the empirics? Let’s have a look:
In a series of recent papers … I and co-authors measure the impact of the receipt of an economic stimulus payment in the US in 2008 on a household’s spending by comparing the spending patterns of households that receive their payments at different times. The randomisation implies that the spending of a household when it receives a payment relative to the spending of a household that does not receive a payment at the same time reveals the additional spending caused by the receipt of the stimulus payment.
So how do consumers respond to cash flow from stimulus in recessions?
First, we find that the arrival of a payment causes a large spike in spending the week that the payment arrives: 10% of spending on household goods in response to payments averaging $900 in the US in 2008 (Broda and Parker 2014).
Second, this effect decays over time, but remains present, so that cumulative effects are economically quite large – in the order of 2 to 4% of spending on household goods over the three months following arrival.
On broader measures of spending, Parker et al. (2013) find that households spend 25% of payments during the three months in which they arrive on a broad measure of nondurable goods, and roughly three-quarters of the payment in total.3 Interestingly, the difference between the two measures largely reflects spending on new cars.
Finally, the majority of spending is done by household with insufficient liquid assets to cover two months of expenditures (about 40% of households). These households spend at a rate six times that of households with sufficient liquid wealth.
As one Nobel Prize laureate had it:
Ricardian equivalence is taught in every graduate school in the country. It is also sheer nonsense.
Joseph E. Stiglitz, twitter
Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström won this year’s ‘Nobel Prize’ in economics for work on applying contract theory to questions ranging from how best to reward executives to whether we should have privately owned schools and prisons or not.
Their work has according to the prize committee been “incredibly important, not just for economics, but also for other social sciences.”
Asked at a news conference about the high levels of executive pay, Holmstrom said,
It is somehow demand and supply working its magic.
Wooh! Who would have thought anything like that.
What we see happen in the US, the UK, Sweden, and elsewhere, is deeply disturbing. The rising inequality is outrageous – not the least since it has to a large extent to do with income and wealth increasingly being concentrated in the hands of a very small and privileged elite.
Societies where we allow the inequality of incomes and wealth to increase without bounds, sooner or later implode. The cement that keeps us together erodes and in the end we are only left with people dipped in the ice cold water of egoism and greed.
And all this ‘Nobel prize’ laureate manages to come up with is demand and supply ‘magic.’
Impressive indeed …
Loanable funds doctrine dates back to the early nineteenth century and was forcefully restated by the Swedish economist Knut Wicksell around the turn of the twentieth (with implications for inflation not pursued here). It was repudiated in 1936 by John Maynard Keynes in his General Theory. Before that he was merely a leading post-Wicksellian rather than the greatest economist of his and later times.
Like Keynes, Wicksell recognized that saving and investment have different determining factors, and also thought that households provide most saving. Unlike Keynes, he argued that “the” interest rate as opposed to the level of output can adjust to assure macro balance. If potential investment falls short of saving, then the rate will, maybe with some help from inflation and the central bank, decrease. Households will save less and firms seek to invest more. The supply of loanable funds will go down and demand up, until the two flows equalize with the interest rate at its “natural” level …
Wicksell and Keynes planted red herrings for future economists by concentrating on household saving and business investment. They did not observe that trade and government injections and leakages play bigger roles in determining effective demand. Keynes made a major contribution by switching the emphasis from interest rate adjustments to changes in income as the key macroeconomic adjustment mechanism. In so doing, he argued that the interest rate and asset prices must be set in markets for stocks, not flows, of financial claims …
Today’s New “Keynesians” have tremendous intellectual firepower. The puzzle is why they revert to Wicksell on loanable funds and the natural rate while ignoring Keynes’s innovations. Maybe, as he said in the preface to the General Theory, “The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones …”
That a country that has given us presidents like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, should even have to consider the possibility of being run by a witless clown like Donald Trump is an absolute disgrace.
Among Swedish economists, Paul Romer is the favourite candidate for receiving the ‘Nobel Prize’ in economics 2016. Let’s hope the prediction turns out right this time.
The ‘Nobel prize’ in economics has almost exclusively gone to mainstream economists, and most often to Chicago economists. So how refreshing it would be if for once we would have a winner who has been brave enough to openly criticize the ‘post-real’ things that emanates from the Chicago ivory tower!
Adam Smith once wrote that a really good explanation is “practically seamless.”
Is there any such theory within one of the most important field of social sciences – economic growth?
Knowledge – or ideas – are according to Romer the locomotive of growth. But as Allyn Young, Piero Sraffa and others had shown already in the 1920s, knowledge is also something that has to do with increasing returns to scale and therefore not really compatible with neoclassical economics with its emphasis on decreasing returns to scale.
Increasing returns generated by nonrivalry between ideas is simply not compatible with pure competition and the simplistic invisible hand dogma. That is probably also the reason why neoclassical economists have been so reluctant to embrace the theory whole-heartedly.
Neoclassical economics has tried to save itself by more or less substituting human capital for knowledge/ideas. But Romer’s pathbreaking ideas should not be confused with human capital. Although some have problems with the distinction between ideas and human capital in modern endogenous growth theory, this passage from Romer’s article The New Kaldor Facts: Ideas, Institutions, Population, and Human Capital gives a succinct and accessible account of the difference:
Of the three statevariables that we endogenize, ideas have been the hardest to bring into the applied general equilibrium structure. The difficulty arises because of the defining characteristic of an idea, that it is a pure nonrival good. A given idea is not scarce in the same way that land or capital or other objects are scarce; instead, an idea can be used by any number of people simultaneously without congestion or depletion.
Because they are nonrival goods, ideas force two distinct changes in our thinking about growth, changes that are sometimes conflated but are logically distinct. Ideas introduce scale effects. They also change the feasible and optimal economic institutions. The institutional implications have attracted more attention but the scale effects are more important for understanding the big sweep of human history.
The distinction between rival and nonrival goods is easy to blur at the aggregate level but inescapable in any microeconomic setting. Picture, for example, a house that is under construction. The land on which it sits, capital in the form of a measuring tape, and the human capital of the carpenter are all rival goods. They can be used to build this house but not simultaneously any other. Contrast this with the Pythagorean Theorem, which the carpenter uses implicitly by constructing a triangle with sides in the proportions of 3, 4 and 5. This idea is nonrival. Every carpenter in the world can use it at the same time to create a right angle.
Of course, human capital and ideas are tightly linked in production and use. Just as capital produces output and forgone output can be used to produce capital, human capital produces ideas and ideas are used in the educational process to produce human capital. Yet ideas and human capital are fundamentally distinct. At the micro level, human capital in our triangle example literally consists of new connections between neurons in a carpenter’s head, a rival good. The 3-4-5 triangle is the nonrival idea. At the macro level, one cannot state the assertion that skill-biased technical change is increasing the demand for education without distinguishing between ideas and human capital.
Romer’s idea about ideas is well worth a ‘Nobel Prize.’
The case for changing the way we teach economics is—or should be—obvious …
But as anyone who teaches or studies economics these days knows full well, the mainstream that has long dominated economics … is not even beginning to let go of their almost-total control over the curriculum of undergraduate and graduate programs.
That’s clear from a recent article in the Financial Times, in which David Pilling asks the question, “should we change the way we teach economics?”
Me, I’ve heard the excuses not to change economics for decades now …
Here’s one—the idea that heterodox economics is like creationism, in disputing the “immutable laws” captured by mainstream theory:
Pontus Rendahl teaches macroeconomic theory at Cambridge. He doesn’t disagree that students should be exposed to economic history and to ideas that challenge neoclassical thinking … He is wary, however, of moving to a pluralist curriculum in which different schools of thought are given similar weight.”
“Pluralism is a nicely chosen word,” he says. “But it’s the same argument as the creationists in the US who say that natural selection is just a theory.” Since mainstream economics has “immutable laws”, he argues, it would be wrong to teach heterodox theories as though they had equal validity. “In the same way, I don’t think heterodox engineering or alternative medicine should be taught.”
Rendahl also argues that students are too critical of the models they encounter as undergraduates:
“When we start teaching economics, we have to teach the nuts and bolts.” He introduces first-year students to the Robinson Crusoe model, in which there is only one “representative agent”. Later on, Friday is brought on the scene so the two can start trading, although no money changes hands since transactions are solely by barter” …
The assumptions built into each and every one of these defenses of mainstream economics and attacks on heterodox economic theories as well as any hint of pluralism in the teaching of economics are, at best, outdated—the leftovers from positivism and other forms of post-Enlightenment scientism. They comprise the “spontaneous philosophy” of mainstream economists who have exercised hegemony in the practice and teaching of economics throughout the postwar period.
And, yes, Pilling is right, when that hegemony is challenged, as it has been by economics students and many economists in recent years, “the clash of ideas gets nasty.”
Once Cambridge was known for its famous economists. People like John Maynard Keynes. Nowadays it’s rather infamous for its economists inhabiting a neoclassical world of delusion. People like Pontus Rendahl.
In this book Gustavo Marqués, one of our discipline’s most dexterous and acute minds, calmly investigates in depth economics’ most persistent methodological enigmas. Chapter Three alone is sufficient reason for owning this book.
Edward Fullbrook, University of the West of England
Is ‘mainstream philosophy of economics’ only about models and imaginary worlds created to represent economic theories? Marqués questions this epistemic focus and calls for the ontological examination of real world economic processes. This book is a serious challenge to standard thinking and an alternative program for a pluralist philosophy of economics.
John Davis, Marquette University
Exposing the ungrounded pretensions of the mainstream philosophy of economics, Marqués’ carefully argued book is a major contribution to the ongoing debate on contemporary mainstream economics and its methodological and philosophical underpinnings. Even those who disagree with his conclusions will benefit from his thorough and deep critique of the modeling strategies used in modern economics.
Lars P Syll, Malmö University
The idea that we can safely neglect the aggregate demand function is fundamental to [classical] economics …
But although the doctrine itself has remained unquestioned by orthodox economists up to a late date, its signal failure for purposes of scientific prediction has greatly impaired, in the course of time, the prestige of its practitioners.For professional economists, after Malthus, were apparently unmoved by the lack of correspondence between the results of their theory and the facts of observation;—a discrepancy which the ordinary man has not failed to observe, with the result of his growing unwillingness to accord to economists that measure of respect which he gives to other groups of scientists whose theoretical results are confirmed by observation when they are applied to the facts …
It may well be that the classical theory represents the way in which we should like our economy to behave. But to assume that it actually does so is to assume our difficulties away.