These exponential times

Faster innovation. More churn? But no egalitarian paradise.

1.  A plummeting Coasean floor means we can do more things outside of traditional organizations like businesses.

Here’s a question that I try not to ask in earshot of my bosses.  Instead of employing me on a salary, why don’t my firm put out a tender for every piece of work I deliver?  In an open market, with other people competing to perform broken down chunks of my job, my company could end up paying less.  Reassuringly for me, Ronald Coase explained why in The Nature of the Firm in 1937.  It is because of the additional transaction costs that my firm would incur – in particular of finding a contractor and enforcing a contract for every piece of work I currently undertake. We can describe these kinds of costs as the cost of cooperating.   Companies exist in order to manage these cooperation costs.  They do things like employ managers and pay for HR departments  – and create, for the most part, hierarchical organizational structures – because, for the activities that they’re engaged in, this is a more effective way of directing a workforce than an open market.  But of course this management has a cost, much of it fixed.  Firms exist, therefore, when the costs of employing and directing staff to undertake a particular activity are less than the potential gain from that activity.

But what if those cooperation costs exceed the potential gain of an activity?  Continue reading These exponential times

A little (Blairite?) optimism about the internet.

Peasants Revolt 1381
Richard II diffuses the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt at Smithfield

The tools that are (really only just) becoming available on the internet have the potential to place the interests of the many, probably for the first time in our history (since the early Medieval period, since…forever?) , on an equal footing with the special interests of the few.

Continue reading A little (Blairite?) optimism about the internet.

On the use of the blog

In response to some feedback and in order to ensure I make regular posts, blog entries are now going to be shorter.  And therefore probably less considered!  The purpose will be more to stimulate discussion and flag up some themes.  They will be more like my initial musings – as opposed to how they have been so far, my second or third drafted, but by no means final, thoughts.

On the use of this blog.  As it gets longer the topic themes on the right may be the most useful way to navigate.  Please make sure you read any comments to my posts, because there is some very insightful stuff.

Restatement of the purpose of this blog.

The purpose of education in UK schools should be to contribute to the development of adult citizens.  There are a couple of obvious weaknesses with this statement.


The first is that it is of course legitimate (but I suggest not enough) to say that education is not a means to an end, but an end in itself.  However, education occurs not isolated from, but within, society and  it inevitably helps shape any future society.  Therefore isn’t education, more than being simply an end, necessarily functional?  (I would value comments or criticisms on this train of thought.)


The second weakness is ultimately the subject of this blog.  That is: what do we mean by development and what is an adult citizen?!


I used the phrase ‘contribute to the development’ because as a starting point I think we should acknowledge that school cannot teach everything.  A school’s principal function must be to offer a minimum foundation for further development.  The contemporary buzzwords ‘learning to learn’ and ‘lifelong learning’ are appropriate.  Nevertheless, the problem is still there:  what knowledge, skills and understanding do we consider make for the foundation of a developed adult citizen?  What qualities do we consider students should have developed by the end of their compulsory schooling?


So far in this blog I have pointed to ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘citizenship’ as starting points for possible answers.  There are discussions on entrepreneurship below.  I have also suggested ‘social justice’ as a requirement.  The words ‘social justice’ require discussion, but what I mean for the moment, and what is perhaps most important, is that we need to find a way to break the link between educational attainment and socio-economic status.


The purpose of this blog is to serve as a stimulus, and repository, for my thoughts on the above considerations.  It is not supposed to be academic in any formal sense and my comments and content are supposed to be tentative and probing in nature.  I welcome any input: to comment upon, clarify, help define, and, most importantly, criticise and rebut anything that’s been said.

To kick off the discussion.

Please read the page ‘What’s this blog about?’

To kick off the discussion I would appreciate some thoughts on anything that arises from my research brief, but particularly the following:

‘Rites of passage’. What do we consider marks the transition from childhood to adulthood in the UK? Are there any experiences common to all? Is the transformation marked somehow by concepts like responsibility? What does this mean?

I have suggested three outcomes that an effective education system in 21st century Britain should strive for: social justice, an entrepreneurial attitude and citizenship. Perhaps these are wrong? Can anybody offer a decent definition of these ideas in relation to education?