Saturday, January 16, 2010

Economics 16/01/2010: Fun and games

In the spirit of the new attitudes at this blog: a 'No Comment Needed' section will be appearing in these pages on occasion. This is one such occasions: story in the Indo linked here is certainly worth a read. It left me breathless!

And here is another link - this one made me cry with laughter. To describe 80,000 people disagreeing on pronunciation in an obscure (from the point of view of the entire humanity and the vast majority of Irish people themselves) linguistic parlor game as a schism is about as absurd as to label a queue of three at your local Tesco till a sign of food shortages hitting the Western World.

What the story does really tell us is the extent to which our state focus on engineered national identity (with Gaelic at the heart of these efforts) crowd out our real culture and history - global, internationally convertible and fully integrated culture of our world class writers, several superb painters, a handful of world class composers, masses of folk arts practitioners and so on. Instead of studying obscure and globally irrelevant historical and cultural events and figures, our children will do better learning Western and Eastern philosophers, histories, thinkers. They are better off learning Latin and Greek tragedy, Roman and Renaissance literature, the ideas of Enlightenment and so on than be boxed into a proto-nationalistic dead-end street of the Romantic version of the 'Irish identity' now fully embraced, practiced and subsidized by our state.

When 80,000 people can evolve such distinct dialects and attitudes to their language, replete with total breakdown of communications between the two, one has to fear that our cultural isolationism has finally yielded its inevitable denouement: cultural inbreeding. Irish Times, of course, can not be accused of spotting this much...

Also, my favorite blog, Calculated Risk (here), has recently highlighted the topic I've been covering for some time now - the Fed cutting back its liquidity operations (for now, via balance sheet adjustments). Good to see my earlier predictions coming true.

Another item: the latest listings of academic jobs for January 2010 show trouble brewing in the European paradise of the 'knowledge economy'. Early in 2009 I have stated in Sunday Times article that in few years time we might end up with an army of unemployed PhDs. Once the EU numerical targets for science and technology PhDs hit the jobs markets - who will be their future employers?

Back then I said that the problem is now apparent in the fact that majority of these PhDs find only temporary employment post-degree completion, largely in the form of post-doctoral researchers. These contracts tend to run 2-3 years and are non-pensionable, non-tenure track and are state-subsidized. These contracts do not lead to permanent academic employment in the majority of cases and if the subsidies were to run out, the freshly-minted PhDs have no where to go.

Well, this month I found out that we have a follow-up subsidized employment category for some of these PhDs. Several institutions in Europe now advertise for Senior Post-Doctoral Researchers posts, offering another round of 3-year contracts to bridge the gap between the doctorate and the welfare check for the lucky few who can get it.

In years time, prepare yourselves for a prospect of a friendly dinner at the house of Dady Post-Post-Post Doc Senior, kids with Senior Post-Doc grants in tow and grandchildren with Junior Post-Doc Applications in their rooms, ready for signing by the grant-supporting lead researcher: Mommy Post-Post-Doc Junior.

And lastly - current issue of the Fortune magazine has a story about the plans for converting urban land in Detroit into agricultural land. Given that land in Detroit (within 8-mile Road) sells for USD3,000 per acre, while Iowa's average agricultural land is selling for USD5,000 per acre, the idea makes sense. Of course, here in Ireland we do have Nama-lands. So hanging vegetable gardens off multistory shells in Sandyford anyone? Or pig farms in the abandoned estates in the Midlands? Mushrooms growing in three-bed semis out in the West's Bungalow Blitz Estates? You've never thought D4 stores might supply fresh produce grown hydroponically in the historical and irreplaceable D4 hotels rooms?


Anonymous said...

This report from the CSO demonstrates the absurdity of our PhD program. Only 1200 FTE PhDs engaged in research in Ireland (less than 10% of total headcount).

A target of graduating 1000 PhDs per anum has been mentioned. this shows just how daft the whole program is...unless the excess PhDs are just an unpleasant side-effect of using cheap intellectual labour to achieve other goals.

Unknown said...

The Irish language thing is quite funny all the same. It reached its apex for me back in 2005 when Sharon Ní Bheoláin on RTE's English language news kept referring to a hurricaine Catríona (pronounced Khat-reee-naa) as opposed to Katrina.

Paul MacDonnell said...

The Prof. doing the Irish language research seems to be saying that City folk learn a stripped down pidgin version of the language. But why? Answer:because they're just going through the McLuhanesque motions. Doesn't the Prof. realise that there is NO Irish language community outside of a self-selected group whose raison d'etre is simply to be - er - an 'Irish Language Community'?