Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Desert Island Discs

Hello. My name is Kostas Economides and I am a lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of the South of England (USE for short). Well, actually that is not true really as the names of individuals and institutions in this blog have been changed to protect the innocent - and the guilty!

I listened to Desert Island Discs on Sunday as the guest was Sir Mervyn King, the soon to retire Governor of the Bank of England. It was an interesting programme. If you missed it you can catch up on iPlayer.

Sir Mervyn's choice of discs was quite eclectic. As well as music by Mozart and Beethoven there were tracks by Bob Dylan and Lou Bega. He also asked for an Aston Villa supporters' song called Rotterdam in praise of King's favourite football team's 1982 European Cup victory.

Kirsty Young attempted to press Sir Mervyn on the Bank of England's handling of the 2007 financial crisis and its aftermath but we didn't really learn anything new. King seemed content that what could be done had been done and that the politicians involved are more competent than we sometimes give them credit for.

Perhaps the most interesting parts of the programme related to King's personal life. He told us about his lifelong love of cricket and how, with Mark Nicholas, he had set up a scheme to get more cricket back in state schools. King revealed that working as a supply teacher in Wolverhampton in the 1970s was his hardest job, leaving him emotionally and physically exhausted at the end of each day. We also learned that he married his Finnish wife in 2007, having first known her in 1970 when they were both students at Cambridge. She went back to Finland, married and then later divorced, until she contacted him out of the blue again many years later. King had never married, concentrating on his academic and then Bank of England career.

Having heard the programme I wondered which other economists had been featured over the years. There is now a huge archive available on the BBC website where you can find all the programmes that have been broadcast since the programme started in 1942.

To my surprise, apart from economists who were also politicians, such as Vince Cable, I could find no economists amongst the list of people who had been on the programme. There are plenty of historians, writers, films stars, musicians, sportsmen and women, business people etc., even scientists and mathematicians (Brian Cox and Marcus du Sautoy have featured recently). I thought that maybe Alan Walters might have been asked during the 1980s when he was such an important influence on the Thatcher government. Or maybe Sir Alan Budd. But no. Neither of these, nor any other economists are there. Isn't it time we asked maybe Lord Desai or Amartya Sen? Or, if you want someone more in the public eye you could go for Robert Peston or Tim Harford. Perhaps some of these people have been asked and turned down the opportunity?

Some obvious discs for economists to choose such as Wall Street Shuffle and Money, Money, Money have been selected already, respectively by the geneticist Dame Kay Davies and George Davies the clothing designer and retailer. There was also Money by Pink Floyd chosen by Tasmin Little and Money for Nothing by Dire Straits chosen by Lynda La Plante.

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