When I was just a bit younger than my older son is now, I was asking myself which University to go to and what should I study.
I wanted to become an engineer as I was fascinated by car engines. My father was an engineer and I grew up with engines and discussions about engines at breakfast. Both mum and dad told me that I should not become an engineer. This was Romania ’85 and the jobs were given to you by the State. You could not choose where you work or what you do.
“As a young engineer”, my parents told me, “you will be sent in a factory in themiddle of nowhere, working the night shift. You just don’t want this. It would be dangerous for you. This is when people steal from the factory. Any factory.”
“Ok”, I said. “I want to study Physics”.
“You shouldn’t “, my mum said. “You will be allocated a job either as a teacher in a village or in a nuclear plant. That would be tough.”
“What about Economics?”, I asked.
“You would be able to see the light of the day”, my mum said. And Economics it was.
I started University in September ’89 a few months before the fall of the communist regime, after passing advanced mathematics exams and learning by heart the Directives of the XIVth Congress of the Communist Party. The school was boring beyond belief. Our professors were demagogues and it turned out that they were thoroughly unprepared for the change. Starting January ’90 Marxist Economics was not fashionable anymore and they were at a loss at what to do with us as they did not know anything else. Moreover they did not speak any foreign languages so all the books which flooded the country were inaccessible to them.
We were given as mandatory task to translate from English and French from Macro and Microeconomics books. It was interesting indeed and fun as we found ourselves inventing economic terms, which did not exist in our language. How do you translate “economy of scale” when you don’t know what that is because nobody has taught you?
The funny thing turned out to be that later on same professors started teaching us from our very notes, which were such an approximation… Most of us did not know how our notes will be used so we jumped paragraphs and shortened phrases just to get on with the task. We would exchange glances in the class — “WTAF is this?” Until one of us would give us a sign that he or she has translated that part and he/she still has the original text… In the end, for us it was mostly self-study from all the sources we could access.
Why this comes to mind now?
I’ve studies socialist planning economics and then went through many flavours and theories from Keynes to Neo-liberal. I cannot however identify what economic theory UK politicians use at the moment. I am wondering if somehow they don’t use our poorly translated handbooks full of jokes. I called it Klingon Economics because you can get away almost with any invented explanation and very few figure out what you are all about.