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RSA Comment offers a unique platform for Fellows to share arguments for change. New editor John Rennie explains what the platform is for, what it’s not, and why we want more of you to join the conversation

RSA Comment was born as a response to Fellows’ demands for a space where they and others could share their arguments and ideas about the RSA’s core work. We already have the Journal of course, with updates on Fellows’ and project activity, and features by a diversity of thinkers and writers, all relevant to the RSA’s mission.

But Comment is different. Its aim is to give Fellows (some of us might not be active bloggers or writers) a space to write one-off pieces where we can pick up on the work of the RSA, bring in our own ideas and arguments for change. It aims to reflect and draw on the diversity of expertise, experience and professional knowledge in the Fellowship. To take just a few successful examples, in recent months, we’ve had pieces on the need for new business models in a fast-changing world, how the organisations of the future can relearn lessons from the generations who’ve gone before, and an argument for rethinking the whole way we do economics, to build a ‘societal economy’.

Or you might use a Comment piece to expand on the ideas shared at a Fellows event, such as this piece on creating an inclusive employment future for disabled people, or from this interactive online event, Inclusive work: what are we learning? But Comment would not be the best place for an event recap. Just a handful of examples, and there are many more, as Fellows write about their own work in furthering the vision and mission of the RSA, heading to ‘a future that works for everyone. A future where we can all participate in its creation’.

While content is intentionally broad, all pieces have to add something to the RSA’s themes: lifelong learning health and social care, sustainability, place based innovation, future of work, social innovation and enterprise, and understanding and building human capacity.

There are a few simple rules about what Comment is, and what it isn’t. You’ll find detailed submission guidelines here. You should avoid promoting a particular organisation or product, but we encourage you to include links. The most successful Comments tend to have a clear, strong, central argument. To send in an article, you simply go to RSA Comment, click on submit article, and it will drop into my inbox. Or just send ideas direct to me.

A couple of things may be holding you back. You’re probably busy, you’re maybe not a regular writer, you may lack confidence in getting your ideas across in a few hundred words. I’ll help with that, and I’ll work with you to get your articles into shape. And if your piece doesn’t fit with Comment, I’ll connect you with your Area Manager to explore other ways to engage with the RSA.

This year, we’d really like to see the number of articles published rise and we want to increase interaction, with more people commenting on the pieces once they’re published. Authors have a big part to play here, sharing the links on your social media, and encouraging your communities to do the same. The aim isn’t quantity for quantity’s sake of course; it’s all about getting more people engaging with the arguments, talking, and taking them on.

Ultimately, Comment should be feeding back into the RSA’s core projects: coming up with new ideas, and with all of us participating in the creation of the future we want to see. I look forward to hearing from you… and I look forward to receiving your Comments.

John Rennie

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  • There are so many topics of which many of us do not have good knowledge but feel that we should, and wish to help others become similarly endowed. The major topic about which I do have good knowledge and wish to provide you and your eeaders with is how our social system of macroeconomics REALLY works. I am adding a short explanation below: Making Macroeconomics a Much More Exact Science Today macroeconomics is treated inexactly within the humanities, because it appears to be a very complex and easily confused matter. But this does not give it fair justice, because we should be trying to find a viable approach to the topic and examine it in a way that avoids these problems, and for us to better understand of what it comprises and how it works. Suppose we ask ourselves the question: “how many different KINDS of financial (business) transaction occur within our society?” The simple and direct answer shows that that only a limited number of them are possible or necessary. Although our sociological system comprises of many millions of participants, to properly answer this question we should be ready to consider the averages of the various kinds of activities (no matter who performs them), and simultaneously to idealize these activities so that they fall into a number of commonly shared operations. This approach uses some general terms for expressing the various types of these transactions, into what becomes a relatively small number. Here, each kind is found to apply between a particular pair of agents—each one of which has individual properties. Then to cover the whole sociological system of a country, it requires only 19 kinds of exchanges of the goods, services, access rights, taxes, credits, investments, valuable legal documents, etc., verses the mutual and opposing flows of money. The argument that led to this initially unexpected result was prepared by the author. It may be found in his working paper (on the internet) as SSRN 2865571 “Einstein’s Criterion Applied to Logical Macroeconomics Modeling”. In this model these double-flows of money verses goods, etc., necessarily pass between only 6 kinds of role-playing entities (or agents). Of course, there are a number of different configurations that are possible for this type of simplification, but if one tries to eliminate all the unnecessary complications and sticks to the more basic activities, then these particular quantities and flows provide the most concise yet fully comprehensive result, which is presentable in a seamless manner, for our whole social system and one that is suitable for its further analysis. Surprisingly, past representation of our sociological system by this kind of an interpretation model has neither been properly derived nor formally presented before. Previously, other partial versions have been modeled (using up to 4 agents, as by Professor Hudson), but they are inexact due to their being over-simplified. Alternatively, in the case of econometrics, the representations are far too complicated and almost impossible for students to follow. These two reasons of over-simplification and of complexity are why this pseudo or non-scientific confusion has been created by many economists, and it explains their failure to obtain a good understanding about how the whole system works. The model being described here in this paper is unique, in being the first to include, along with some additional aspects, all the 3 factors of production, in Adam Smith's “Wealth of Nations” book of 1776. These factors are Land, Labor and Capital, along with their returns of Ground-Rent, Wages and Interest/Dividends, respectively. All of them are all included in the model, as a diagram in the paper. (Economics’ historians will recall, as originally explained by Adam Smith and David Ricardo, that there are prescribed independent functions of the land-owners and the capitalists. The land-owners speculate in the land-values and rent it to tenants, whilst the capitalists are actually the owners/managers of the durable capital goods used in industry. These items may be hired out for use. Regrettably, for political reasons, the concept of these 2 different functions were combined by John Bates Clark and company about 1900, resulting in the later neglect of their different influences on our sociological system-- the terms landlord and capitalist becoming virtually synonymous along with the expression for property as real-estate.) The diagram of this model is in my paper (noted above). A mention of the related teaching process is also provided in my short working paper SSRN 2600103 “A Mechanical Model for Teaching Macroeconomics”. With this model in an alternative form, the various parts and activities of the Big Picture of our sociological system can be properly identified and defined. Subsequently by analysis, the way our sociological system works can then be properly seen, calculated and illustrated. This analysis is introduced by the mathematics and logic, which was devised by Nobel Laureate Wellesley W. Leontief, when he invented the important "Input-Output" matrix methodology (that he originally applied only to the production sector). This short-hand method of modeling the whole system replaces the above-mentioned block-and-flow diagram. It enables one to really get to grips with what is going-on within our sociological system. It is the topology of the matrix which actually provides the key to this. The logic and math are not hard and are suitable for high-school students, who have been shown the basic properties of square matrices and the notation of the calculus. By this technique it is comparatively easy to introduce any change to a pre-set sociological system that is theoretically in equilibrium (even though we know that this ideal is never actually attained--it simply being a convenient way to begin the study). This change creates an imbalance and we need to regain equilibrium again. Thus, sudden changes or policy decisions may be simulated and the effects of them determined, which will point the way to what policy is best. In my book about it, (see below) 3 changes associated with taxation are investigated in hand-worked numerical examples. In fact, when I first worked it out, the irrefutable logical results were a surprise, even to me! Developments of these ideas about making our subject more truly scientific (thereby avoiding the past pseudo-science being taught at universities), may be found in my recent book: “Consequential Macroeconomics—Rationalizing About How Our Social System Works”. Please write to me at [email protected] for a free e-copy of this 310 page book and for any additional information.

  • I agree with the comment regarding the need for "HONESTY". So much public debate and journalism is ill-informed or prejudiced. The greatest challenge is to inject some honesty and realism into the climate and ecological emergencies issues. I would like to see the RSA take on an effective information campaign that articulates the difficult but necessary choices that have to be made. Humanity can no longer afford to be complacent in the face of the challenges. Concrete solutions that are as equitable as possible for society as a whole are required along with effective communication. Colin Bloxham

  • So, after a lengthly process, here's my comment in response to Andy Haldane's latest broadcast. I have no issues with the subjects that the RSA spouts about but the fact is that they are mostly "small and safe". Small because they effect only 'small' groups (one at a time). Safe because they don't actually threaten 'what is'. If I would choose one single issue that over-arches all this, I would choose 'HONESTY' (or the lack of it). The UK today is suffering from a lack of honesty at the highest levels (and has done so for many years). That lack of honesty gives permission to disregard laws (e.g. 'speeding' is not 'dangerous to individual's lives' because I know how to drive safely'). That disregard for law leads to "WTFRU?" responses to any challenge to anti-social behaviour. As Kurt Vonnegut so ably put it, "And so it goes". My point is this - rather than starting at the 'bottom' (specific issues'), why not start from the 'top' (the root causes) This is not a SMALL strategy! This is not a SAFE strategy! But it IS what this country (UK) and the World needs! RSA please thing BIGGER!

    • Thanks Leslie. This is an interesting observation. There seems to be only two ways to modify behaviour: change minds OR alter environments. Perhaps with the 'small' we are working on 'the minds' and, if we were to focus on the 'over-arching', we could be working on changing the comfortable 'environments'? Honesty, perhaps comes after we work on TRUTH and the knowledge of RIGHT from WRONG. I admit to grappling with the concept of being in a 'post-truth' society, however, William Davies's 'This is Not Normal' certainly has given me great cause for concern about how we can even begin to talk about Honesty, Truth, Justice, Integrity, etc.. Let alone imagine 'service before self'!

      • I applaud and understand this criticism of how many academic parties try to act in what is a selfish interest rather than to taking of an approach which really does try to arrive at the truth. Not that truth is very easy to reach, but they should at least try to get close to it! Part of this is to select practical axioms, sensible assumptions, accurate definitions and logical arguments, before and after some proper analysis having sound judgements, arrive at what looks to be good fair and correct conclusions. This is how my 310-page e-book "Consequential Macroeconomics" has been designed and provided as the means for turning what was a pseudo-science into a real one. write to me at [email protected] for a free e-copy, and start the journey to social ethical understanding.

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