I can’t say who in the UK doesn’t understand what it means for the nation to be part of a single market. I know those who lived before the UK became part of the EU understand it clearly, even in the simple but relevant instance of what it means to travel and buy (or sell) goods that attract no duties. As the BBC put it succinctly: the EU is treated as one territory so goods, money, services and people can move freely. It embraces 500 million consumers and includes EU member states and four other countries that have secured access but retain some opt-outs.
Think back to those days of travelling to mainland Europe and coming back to England with a car full of wine, cheese, and other goodies that were available in local stores and not seen in British supermarkets. I used to love heading to places like Carrefour (especially before similar hypermarkets like Asda took off in England) and just pulling things off shelves that were different, so that when I used them in England people would ask “Where’d you get that?”
The UK will now remain a member of the EU’s single market but only during a “transition period” until the end of 2020, beyond which the economic and political relationship will change and the UK might not enjoy the “frictionless trade” it has enjoyed as a member of the EU and a member of its single market and the guarantee the free movement of goods, capital, services, and labor — the “four freedoms” — within the EU.
That’s part of what the majority of people voted for, and its cost will gradually be clear, as with the loss of easy access to markets the British now enjoy. It’s still not clear how much of EU rules and regulations the UK will remain after deals are struck. Long live confusion!
≈ Comments Off on Lenten reflections 2020-13: Making it count-Challenges with mathematics
“But in my opinion, all things in nature occur mathematically.” ― Rene Decartes
I’ve said something like that to my youngest daughter many times, after she talked to me about how she “hated” maths during her middle school years. She resisted the sentiment. Then, in her first year of high school, her new maths teacher touched a nerve and she began to “love maths”. She’s now a high school junior, not a math whiz, but happily talks about her study units and tests and things like polynomial functions:
I’m happy for her, wherever that change of heart takes her.
I shared with her once a story from my youth about my own struggles with maths. Funnily, the core of it came back this weekend while I was playing golf with my usual Saturday crew. The kernel of the story is that my intake at grammar school was a set of guinea pigs for a maths book that was being written by three teachers there. The book was entitled Westminster Maths, fitting for the school’s name; it was published in 1968, three years into my grammar school years. Bravo, for them!
But, in getting the book and its contents right, I will argue that some of us didn’t get the focus on teaching that we should have. From my earliest memories, I had no fear of numbers, and my instruction to mathematics in primary school was smooth. Then, I hit a bumpy road, and the book was one of the obstacles. Now, these were all great teachers, and two of them I liked very much and got on with well, but the other and I locked horns for some reason and my love for maths never blossomed. For me, it was painful because I failed my O-level (ordinary level, standard set for secondary school graduations) exam in maths. Unthinkable! Now, I admit that I had some test anxieties in my secondary school years through O-levels: test grades often fell short of course work levels. (My daughter has had some of that now (more so in maths than other subjects, and we’ve tried to address it—taking a little more time to assess questions and working methodically through papers—and it seems to have worked well: “I got a 91 on my pre-calc test” came the excited Whatsapp message last week). But, here’s the kicker to that failure.
I was good at languages and everyone expected I would take French A-level (advanced level, for those heading to 6th form, and needed for university entrance) studies. I didn’t (to much consternation of my Scottish woman French teacher), and opted to start Economics (which was becoming strongly mathematical in its content). I managed the course very well, and was able to go beyond, to S-Level (Scholarship level, or Special paper was a public examination in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, taken by the most able A-level students). We could say, the rest is history, but it had two more twists.
When I left grammar school, I was headed to university to read law and got a place at Queen Mary College QMC), London University (ranked in the top 50 law schools worldwide). But, on day 1, something flipped, and I walked from the law faculty to the economics faculty (then housed in a former dog food company building, Spratt’s), asked for an interview and was accepted on the basis of that oral test.
My interviewer, Dr. David Currie (just one year at the college, then), became my first year tutor and has since gone onto greater things (professor, dean of City University Business School, government advisor…) as a result of his associations with me, and is now Lord Currie of Marylebone. But, he was a maths graduate and during my interview the situation with my maths qualifications came up, because A-level maths was a prerequisite, and I didn’t have even O-level. I’m forever grateful to Dr. Currie for finessing the situation by proposing I take and pass O-level maths and enrol in the first year maths course at QMC! Are you kidding! Ok, you’re not.
So, in my first term at QMC, I was studying for O-levels on my own and attending maths lectures and tutorials as part of my university course work. I took and passed O-levels in the winter sitting, about 3 months into my university term. I went on to get a First-class honours grade (level grade) in maths. (Now, I know my limitations and don’t go about writing fancy equations to baffle people–actually, I’m also from a school of thought that focuses on the understandability of economic arguments not their presentation in mathematical form), and gladly think of myself as a political economist (much influenced by the thinking of Cambridge University Professor Arthur Cecil Pigou in both economics and philosophy, with whom Keynes had many diasagreements). I really did not enjoy econometrics, though I got a great grade :). I also do not have much faith in things like regressions–that’s almost heresy for an economist and once swore that I would never run one in my working life–I’ve run fewer than 10 in my whole career).
The trick, or not a trick, was that I had learned from after my O-levels how to study and how to take exams. So, my grades caught up with my in-course work, and I found a way to teach myself maths, especially.
As a result of that, I will not accept my daughter ‘dropping’ maths, prematurely (I coax her with less fervour than the statement suggests 🙂 ).
For completeness, I checked the Internet to find out about Westminster Maths. It’s currently hard to find on Amazon.
The QMC Economics Department in the early-1970s had several great English economists (eg Professors Maurice Peston), who went on to be significant advisors to government, and its focus was very much on applied economics and economic policy, which made me a natural fit later in life at the IMF, I guess. Dr. Currie taught me many valuable things about economic propositions and how to frame analysis that I now understand are not how many or all go about their economics. I’ll take it from his resume that I walked on a path better trodden.