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The Educatocracy - Ed's journal
The Educatocracy
So, as a country the UK is a little island. We're about a fifth the population of the US, with about a 50th of the land area.

Our production over the last centuary started out as heavy industry, but has shifted towards banking and finance - London being the banking capital of the world and all. This is mostly what has kept our economy afloat.

In a world where emerging markets are the place where cost per raw man hour are much lower, and the cost of living in the UK is high, it's hard for us to be competitive in that area - our natural resources are few, and even if they weren't we'd have to shift a bit to balance cost of living, minimum wage and make it possible to out-produce China and India.

So what does the rest of this century leave for us? Banks aren't doing as well as they were.

So I'd like to propose that what the UK can do in a serious fashion, is become the largest University in the world. We're small enough that connecting the whole country with fiber optics clocks in at about 5 billion 29 billion. Every house has a TV, more or less, and a very large proportion have game consoles and desktop computer systems.

And there's the Open University - lets extend that. Let's finance it, and make it's course cheaper. Even better, we make them not just _free_ but actively pay for people who do well at them - Maybe not a large sum - maybe we skew that by how much a skill is 'worth' in the world economy. But we ramp it up. We kick this notion that somehow 'being clever' is a bad thing, and instead try and convert everyone in the country into a scholarship student in some degree.

Let the process build upon itself, and sell this education service internationally - we're already a very popular country for international education - can you imagine how much better this would be if every man on the street was working towards a degree to supplement his unemployment benefit?

Yes, we'd devalue education a bit - we'd raise the bar on employment, because if everyone has a degree, you're nothing special any more. But at the same time, we'd be pushing forth the best educated people in the world, and focussing our collective culture on becoming the research and design powerhouse of the world. That's something that's very hard to value, much like banking services are - information is finally reaching a cusp of being an infinitely scalable resource, so lets start thinking about spreading it.

Maybe you'll still get people who never work, and instead spend all their time getting money from the education system. I can't help but feel though, that's infinitely preferable to the world as it is today - where we're effectively paying our people to breed ignorant and feral children.
11 comments or Leave a comment
darkgodfred From: darkgodfred Date: February 13th, 2009 06:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I can't find the numbers, but I think your cost of fiber to the door for the entire UK is an order of magnitude to low.

Not that this in any way really invalidates your argument.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: February 13th, 2009 07:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

"With punters all across the UK mad for some ultra-fast broadband action, the Broadband Stakeholder Group got out its big calculator and after a lengthy session of frenzied tippety-tapping, put the cost of rolling out fibre-optic cable across the UK at a whistle-inducing £5.1 billion, potentially climbing up to an astonishing £28.8 billion depending on the technology used."

So... yeah. Sort of.

Either way, I don't care. Far better value than a bank bailout IMO.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: February 13th, 2009 07:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Here's a better one:

Fiber to cabinet: 5bn
Fiber to home: 28bn.

Either way, money well spent IMO :)
mister_jack From: mister_jack Date: February 13th, 2009 09:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Either way, I don't care. Far better value than a bank bailout IMO.

Argggh! It's not the frickin' same, for crying outloud!

The banks have not been given a penny* by the government, we've invested in them. It is not the same as spending the money; not in the blinkin' slightest.

* - Northern Rock is slightly different, but should still turn a profit.
cthulahoops From: cthulahoops Date: February 13th, 2009 11:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
The government is still buying below market rates, lending on favourable terms or taking risks that no sane person would take. All of those things have considerable cash value, which amounts to giving away far more than a penny.

It may not be the headline numbers, but it's still a big number.

(On the upside, it's good to see banks in national hands at least - and there's always the cost of doing nothing.)

mister_jack From: mister_jack Date: February 14th, 2009 08:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Our government paid less than the market value, not more. And it's not a great risk; the advantage the government has is that it can happily ride out the storm and sell when the market recovers. In the mean time the banks acquire much needed liquidity.
(Deleted comment)
mister_jack From: mister_jack Date: February 14th, 2009 08:51 am (UTC) (Link)
You're wrong. In every comparable case, the government involved has made a profit.
jorune From: jorune Date: February 14th, 2009 09:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Precedents as noted by the Wall Street Journal.

Perhaps your commentator was referring to the size and scale of the problem and perhaps they were flying a kite for their own preferred scheme.

There is a honest disagreement over which course to take next. There is a debate over whether insurance schemes or a bad bank or nationalisation are the best solution. The debaters are men and women of good character and sincere reputation, they are not loonies or gold crazed apocalypse watchers. Hopefully during the next 2 months of summits one group view will be adopted and the world will collectively help each other.

When a bank is in extreme trouble the govt can step in and back it. But if the banking system is so large in relation to the rest of the economy then the country itself can be threatened. Which countries could that be? Certainly Iceland, Ireland and Switzerland. While not as bad I would say that US, UK and the Benelux countries also get a stern looking at.

Historians will note that the Benelux nations with their tightly integrated economies had many banks that needed to be bailed out, Dexia, ING, Fortis, etc. The UK, through RBS, took on responsibility for the giant ABN AMRO. Just how much extra strain could they and the eurozone tolerate if they had to support one more wafer thin bailout?

I, for one, will be expecting a valentine's card from the Netherlands.
serpentstar From: serpentstar Date: February 14th, 2009 10:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Hope you've passed this thought on to people who might be able to make it happen...
sobrique From: sobrique Date: February 14th, 2009 10:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Not yet. I was wanting to see if there were any gaping holes in my reasoning, and figured LJ would be a good starting point.
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