1.2.6 Change of the label without change of the content

The following chapter is about the so-called Bologna Process. The process itself is only attractive for European countries, but it illustrates some general problems. The aim of the Bologna Process is to make the studies inside the European countries comparable and increasing the mobility of students and graduates.

The Bologna Process establishes a framework aiming to make the studies comparable. This refers to the academic titles all over Europe and old academic titles, like the German Magister or Diplom or the Spanish Licenciatura, are going to be substituted by Bachelor (first academic degree) and Masters (the second academic degree). The bachelor in this framework is defined by the credit points. A certain amount of credit points, corresponding to a certain amount of hours, is needed to get the Bachelors or the Masters.

The changes introduced by the Bologna process refer, therefore, more to formalities than to the content and was therefore doomed to fail. The basic problems like those relating to the content of the studies, were not resolved and not even mentioned. Concerning the problems mentioned before, see problems with the presentation of economics, the situation is even worse. An Accreditation Council must accredit studies and that reduces the options for the students, in the German Magister and Diplom. For example, it was possible to get study achievements in other areas accepted for the actual study. (An achievement in informatics, for example, could be accepted for economics.) This flexibility is eliminated. Furthermore, it reduces the capacity of the universities to react to the changes in the labour market in a flexible way. As a result of this, the Bologna process made universities become some kind of schools.

The goal of the Bologna process was to foster the mutual recognition of academic titles and the comparability of the studies. However, the promotion of mobility was not achieved.

The mutual recognition of titles was not necessary because this problem has already been resolved. Anybody who is qualified for a job in a particular country can work in any other country of the European Union and there was no need for the additional processes as it was already granted in 1989.

Comparability is not obtained and is not necessary. It is not obtained because the mere fact that the same amount of hours and credit points doesn't mean that the things taught, respecting content and quality, are comparable.

Comparability is not needed and even harmful. What we want to know is which academic programme fits best with the requirements of the labour market. What we therefore need are data about the efficiency of a university programme, to be able to compare between different programmes and to find out which programme should be the model. However, if all the programmes are the same, there is no way to determine what should be changed.

The last goal, the mobility of the students, isn't attained neither. Mobility depends on money. It was never a problem to study abroad for some time and if the academic achievements obtained in the foreign university corresponded, there was never a problem to get them recognised after. If that was not the case, students learnt something more and lost a bit of time, what is not and was not a big problem.

The Bologna process is a good illustration of the fact that the strength of market economies is seldom understood and never by public employees or bureaucracies. It is not very clear who initiated the Bologna process. The declaration signed at the University of Bologna in 1999 is only the outcome of initiatives started much earlier, and it is not very clear, apart from the goals already mentioned, which problem this process should resolve. However, it is supposed that the aim was to improve the quality of the studies, in other words, the integration into the labour market of the graduates.

There are two different way to improve the quality of the studies. The first way is to introduce a market mechanism in the academic world. This means that every university and every faculty can do whatever they want, but they have to publish the outcome. In other words, they have to publish data on the integration of their graduates into the labour market, they choose what they teach, how they teach and their academic staff. Each faculty individually calculates the costs of one place of study based on a product cost accounting. Therefore, they don't get the money they think is necessary, but the median cost of all universities multiplied with the place of study they offer and a bonus for each graduate successfully integrated into the labour market. The wages paid to the teaching staff are market prices and every kind of tariff system is abolished and research is completely separated from teaching. This would be a market solution and would lead to a significant change and dynamism in the academic world. This kind of system would be efficient and would have very little overhead costs because small bureaucracy is needed to control it.

This type of solution will seem "shocking" to most people, but even in jurisprudence, there is a similar controlling system that has been implemented in Germany and are implemented a lot in the public administration. It is obvious that there is a strong opposition from the academic staff against this controlling for obvious reasons.

The Bologna process tried the opposite. The improvement of the efficiency and quality should be obtained by more central planning and control. The market solution would automatically lead to an optimisation of the contents of the academic curricula and an optimisation of the didactic skills of the teaching staff, as well as an improvement in the way teaching is organised. (More e-learning, for instance, better textbooks, more interesting projects, more collaboration between universities.) In the Bologna version, a central accreditation institute decides on the topics to be included in academic curricula, the hours needed, the qualification required to teach at a university and so on. We get a very rigid system, more rigid than the previous one, where an adaptation to the labour market is slow, incentives for an improvement in teaching inexistent and the costs uncontrolled. In the case of lack of money, the only solution will be a rise in the tuition fees.

It is obvious that the Bologna process fits better with the interest of the universities than the market solution. There is some truth in the videos of Milton Friedman, Free to Choose Part 6: What's Wrong With Our Schools Featuring Milton Friedman. The more centralised a system is organised, the more difficult it is to exert any control. The problem with the Milton Friedmans solution is that he believes it is enough to introduce tuition fees in order to get a market solution. That is completely wrong. The mere fact that a bureaucracy takes more money for a service doesn't mean that it works more efficiently.

In economics, the Bologna process strengthened a tendency already observable before as economics became more standardised. We are going to see throughout this manual that only the concepts of the original authors survived which can be modelized mathematically. (Even if, in the original version, there was no mathematical modelization at all.) That means that economic theory has been drastically simplified.

Standardisation doesn't promote mobility, as intended. The mobility of the students has not increased since the introduction of the bachelors and masters, the increase in mobility is related to the Erasmus programme, which promotes mobility through financial help, and the mutual acceptance of study achievements is as low or high as before. It is not even guaranteed that a course in statistics or algebra, something very similar all over the world, is mutually recognised. It is not even very plausible that the different faculties have a great interest in mutually recognising the study achievements. That would lead to competition. Every student would choose a subject based on the University and it would result in some kind of "vote by feet". This might by the explanation why even at national levels, the various faculties of different universities refuse to recognise the study achievement obtained by another university.

If controlled by an objective data, for instance, integration in the labour market, it may be useful that every faculty of the different universities decide what to focus on. In this case, it would be a way to find out which focus is the relevant one. In the absence of data allowing to assess the relevance, it doesn't make any sense.

To put it briefly: If clear parameters are allowed to control the efficiency of a system, the market solution is superior, although that doesn't mean, as frequently assumed, that the system is privately financed. Market solutions were introduced in many sectors of public administration in Germany, but the financing of this administration is still public. It may be useful to introduce tuition fees for students to have an incentive to finish their studies as soon as possible. However, it can be assumed that students already have an incentive for completing their studies as very quickly because they want to get a job and earn money. If they remain at the university, it is because they don't believe they can get a job. In this case, there is something wrong with the subject of the academic curricula and/or the teaching. Tuition fees don't resolve the problem because the mere existence of tuition fees doesn't resolve this problem.

The situation becomes more complicated if the goals are only vaguely defined and if there are no clear parameters allowing to control the system. This is the case of the basic school system and the jurisprudence. (Although in Germany controlling systems in jurisprudence are more and more established. The product of the jurisprudence and judgements, are difficult to assess referring to the quality, but it is well possible to calculate their prices for each area of law. Some cases are more complicated than others, but in the long run, at least if the social circumstances are similar, the average cost should be the same. If there are big differences, they should be explained.)

We will discuss this topic more in detail in the chapter about Milton Friedman. If we assume that education is only useful if there is a practical use for the things learnt, the vast majority of the topics learned in schools such as philosophy, history, literature, art and history of art, linguistics beyond grammar or music are useless. At the other side, we know that all over the world, most of the curricula consists of these "useless" things. We can deduce from this, that nobody nowhere believes that these things are useless; otherwise they would have been already substituted by more "useful" things. Nevertheless, the outcome of this kind of studies can't be measured. We can say that all these subjects are regarded as merit goods, in other words, that the consumption would not be sufficient if the government doesn't intervene. The argumentation of Milton Friedman is, therefore, contradictory. If basic schooling is regarded as a merit good, tuition fees doesn't make any sense, because they would reduce the consumption of these goods. If he wants to argue in favour of tuition fees, he must negate that basic schooling, or the topics mentioned before, is a merit good. We will discuss the issue again, but the author would say, to put it simple, that in this kind of situation, unclear goals, a certain lack of control and a dispersal of funds has to be, as well as in public financed research and development, accepted.

Nevertheless, and although we can't define the goal of teaching humanities in school, there is still a place for improvement and videos like this one In Defense of Humanities are not very helpful. He stresses the point that even graduates in humanities can find a job, that may be true, but other graduates get it much easier and the other argument that humanities helps to become what one is is a somehow nebulous assumption. In this case, tuition fees would be justified because the only one who profits from this kind of education is the one who studies ist. It this case it wouldn't be merit good. Everybody has to pay himself for his adventure holidays.

The basic point is this. We don't know what humanities is, but we know that people talk the whole day about philosophical problems, literature, art, music and so on. If this happens only at an entertainment level and mostly through mass media, then we have an issue with the presentation of humanities and the graduates of humanities lack the skills to fascinate others for their topics. Writing discussion papers nobody will ever read is not a useful activity, not in economics and not in humanities.

There are thousands of videos like this one Not for Profit: Why Legal Education Needs the Humanities where someone explains that things become worse every day because humanities become more and more irrelevant. It is hard to prove this thesis and even if the argument is true; it would be irrelevant. What we need is a discussion about how to present humanities, in other words how to entertain people in a way that the day after, they still remember what they saw and heard the day before. That's the same thing about economics. Nobody cares about economics topics, but if Michael Moore makes a film about an economic issue, millions of people go to see it.

Another example is that millions of US citizens go to Acapulco/Mexico partaking in the same thing they can do in the US such as going to the disco and drinking a lot. That's not bad and even normal at a certain age. However, if the Mexicans would be offered more possibilities to come in touch with their culture making concerts easily accessible and easy to find without a word of Spanish, it is to presume that a lot of people would be curious to know what is going on. There are thousand of bands doing things, the infos24 GmbH, the company behind this manual, corporates with one of them: Cuentame Viejo. If people study Roman Philology, French, Italian, Spanish and so on, they can try, to give an example, to organise festivals, cooperating with tourism companies and so on. It is not enough to write a paper about Juana Inés de la Cruz. In order to interest a wider public, more skills are needed than the ones that make part of the academic curricula. The problem is not the product, the problem is the marketing and distribution and it is not very clear how the Bologna process can lead to a solution of that problem.

The Bologna process stresses the importance of a professional qualification, hypothetically obtained with the bachelor's and a more scientific qualification obtained with the masters, but it is not very clear how the mere fact that the academic titles were changed would improve the integration in the labour market. A discussion about the content would have been more useful than a discussion about the title.

The public debate about humanities, is mainly dominated by academic professors, opposes free investigation to "commercialisation", which is supposed to be a big difference. If irrelevance was opposed to "commercialisation’’, the problem would be described more precisely. With "commercialisation", they mean that culture becomes something easily consumable and therefore deprived of any meaning since culture is a kind of dialogue. If two persons are more or less at the same level when talking about a topic, their dialogue is smooth and this type of conversation doesn't require any effort. Maybe it is fun, but there is no progress. If two persons are not at the same level, one person has to make an effort to process the new information. This perhaps is less fun but is enriching. However, this is only true, if the "information" concerning culture we have to extend the notion of "information", a new feeling, a different way to see the world, to become more sensitive to certain things is "information" as well, is relevant. The relevance depends on the context and is not the same for everybody. For some people, very few, the theology of Thomas Aquinas may be relevant, for 99 per cent it is just bullshit. The real art, necessary to convince people that interesting things are to be discovered in humanities, is to put things in the individual context. If graduates of humanities succeed in doing that, they will find a job. However, it is hard to see why the Bologna process will change the academic curricula. The only thing that was changed is the name of the academic title. What we need is a discussion about contents. The opposite of "commercialisation" is not "free investigation". The opposite of commercialisation is relevance. Commercialisation means adaptation to the people, depriving them this way from any progress. Commercialisation means producing the same thing for a lot of people and that means producing irrelevant things.

Let's talk a little bit about didactic. The author of these lines for a long time gave classes of PHP, Perl, JavaScript and SQL. It was not very difficult to convince the people of the relevance of all this stuff. (And it is still easier to convince them that the teacher is right and they are wrong, because by typing the code into a computer, it turns out very quickly what is wrong and what is right.) What can be done with these techniques is obvious. There is no discussion about the usefulness. Most people think that teaching things like literature, philosophy and so on is easier than teaching "hard facts". That's not the case, not at all. Teaching humanities requires a lot of fantasies, creativity, spontaneity, authenticity. It is very hard to convince a wider public if one is not convinced of the relevance. Making a lecture about just any arbitrary topic is easy, and it is only necessary to read some books and to summarise them. However, to make an excellent lecture, personality is needed.

The defenders of humanities, mostly belonging to the academic staff, argue that the cutting of funds is due to a supposed neoliberal policy, which considers everything irrelevant that can not be measured with money or at least in concrete numbers. Perhaps, there is some truth in that statement, but it is not the whole story. The real problem is that humanities stopped being the opponent to a commercialised world. There is little difference between the standardised product of culture industry and the ossified culture. The first one only serves entertainment; the second one is a status symbol, but both of them have little to do with culture. There is no need neither for public financing of entertainment nor public funding of status symbols. Both of them are not merit goods, and no public funding is needed.

What does the author want to say with all this sermon? He intends to illustrate by some prominent examples that it is difficult, sometimes, to control a system through some clearly defined parameters. The ideal of the neoliberals, the free market, is a systemic control that produces the best results under certain conditions. The data delivered through prices are objective data, and people will adapt their behaviour if these data change. If the price of petrol goes up, they will buy a less consuming car, go by bicycle or share a car when going to work.

Other systems like humanities or jurisprudence, can't be controlled in such an easy way. If, it is for instance not possible to improve the skills of the teaching staff in humanities, at school, college and university level, the only thing that can be done is to shut down these faculties and to invest the money in something else. One possibility to improve the quality is to employ more people with professional experience. Students who want to make theatre or organise festivals, write books, make music or paint could learn more from teachers with a professional background in these areas, than from people who spent their whole live in schools or universities.

A possible solution to the problem would be the opposite of what is happening right now. If nobody knows what will happen in the future, and nobody knows it, the academic curricula should only prescribe essential basics, in other words, the things that will be essential to whatever happens in the future. The essentials of economics, for instance, are described in this manual. No more than two years, maximum, are needed to get acquainted with these concepts and it is not difficult. We are not saying that we are telling things that are eternally true, but we describe the corridor inside which the truth can be found.

A central planning office can prescribe the content if it is sure that these contents will be relevant in the future. A central planning office can, for instance, prescribe that every child has to learn to read and write, and the basics of math. The more insecure the relevance is for the future, the better it is to offer options. In this case, students learn at least what they are interested in and what the can do best.

To give a concrete example; for a very long period, a central planning office prescribed Latin as a compulsory language to be learned at school in Germany, before World War II even as the first foreign language to be learned. The arguments advanced for that were somehow wired and motivated by a particular ideology and of course by the self-interest of certain groups (the classic philologists). Nowadays, it is obvious that this was not a good idea.

In general, universities are not aware of the basic problems. We find thousands of statements like this on the internet.

The Cambridge Philological Society was founded in 1872. Its objects are the furtherance of classical studies in general, and in particular the discussion and publication of critical researches into the languages, literature and civilization of Greece and Rome. Any person interested in the ancient world is eligible for membership, and any library is eligible to become an institutional subscriber.

Cambridge Philological Society and CCJ

Of course, the University of Cambridge can study whatever they want, on the condition that they don't do it with the money of the taxpayer which is the normal financing all over the world. If the taxpayer is involved, there must be a definite answer to what he gets for his or her money. The answer is very often that he and she gets nothing. It is to supposed that many people who continue their studies in Cambridge do that because they don't have any alternative. The author doesn't say that it is impossible to earn money with this kind of studies, but if the product is only a paper in a "scientific" journal financed by the taxpayer, the professional perspectives are reduced. If they succeed in fascinating a wider public with their topics, producing interesting websites, book, films, alternatives to mass tourism, make museums more attractive, etc., they can find a job. However, this requires qualified personnel and not people who had spent their whole live in school, college or university.

This example is taken from the website of the Cambridge University, and without any problem and in five minutes, it is possible to find similar statements in all languages all over the world. (And in the Spanish and German version we actually choose different examples.)

We have to move away from the idea that systemic problems are different depending on the country or cultural region. The discussion about teaching, content, professional perspectives, methodology and all of the topics we will discuss later on in this manual, has lasted now for several years without any improvement and no improvement is to be expected because the economic caste doesn't have the will nor the skills to improve the situation. Academic economists are part of the problem and not part of the solution. A change can only start with private initiatives cooperating at an international level.

Economists stick to their old models. They publish in "scientific" papers, "advice," politicians, work in public financed "research" organisation and the mainstream doesn't change his mind due to new insight, but due to a change of mood and fashion. There is no progress, but a movement in a circle.

Economists like to discuss topics like "power without competence". There is an entire book on this subject from Friedrich August Hayek. We will talk about this topic later on. Hayek belongs to the same species as Milton Friedman; the last known fatally remembered in South America as the spiritual rector of the Chicago Boys.

The problem with neoliberalism and similar tendencies, like the Austrian school or, to a more limited extent, the ordoliberalism, is that a right argument, the efficiency of the market, can lead to nonsense when exaggerated. This explains in part, apart from being used by different interest groups in an ideological way, the success of neoliberalism. It is a widespread impression that there is an abuse of power by the government and that the government captures more and more resources which would be better used by persons and companies. Apparently, the argument is used very often to question the amount of taxes to be paid. At the other side, people quickly demand governmental intervention in case of a problem.

If people are in favour or against governmental intervention, it depends on their personal situation. Academic economists for instance and nowadays, in a world where neoliberalism is widely spread, argue in general for more market. They argue very often that tuition fees is a market solution. When it comes to their salary, the situation changes. Then they argue in favour of jobs for a lifetime, salaries paid independently from the performance and so on. Then it is argued that a high standard can only be granted if the jobs are secure and independent of changes in the economic structure.

By leaving aside the ideological aspect of neoliberalism, the fundamental problem is that it may be right that the market is always the best solution if it is possible to find parameters exerting enough power to control the system. Normally this would be prices, but very often this is not possible. The answer of neoliberalism to this kind of question is simple. If something can't be controlled through the market, there is no need to control it, and that is for two different reasons. First of all, because in every system, a certain kind of control is needed. We can't say that the best thing to do in jurisprudence is not to exert any control of the costs. Second, the market is not the only way to control a system; there are many other ways.

The error of the neoliberalism, if we take it seriously disregarding its ideological character, is its assumption that everything can be resolved through the market and if something can not resolved through the market, there is no need to resolve it.

In this world, there is no need for a democratic decision-making process because nothing is resolved by resorting to democracy by a majority vote. The apparent anti-democratic positions of both Friedman and Hayek are not accidental aberrations, like the one here, Milton Friedman on Democracy, but the logical outcome of their way of thinking.

We agree that governmental intervention is only useful in these unclear cases, where the market solution is not possible, and even then we find ourselves in a situation between Scylla and Charybdis. The market solution is not possible and the governmental intervention is hard to control.

However, neoliberalism is as well interesting from another point of view. Implicitly he denies that human beings react in a responsible way, and abstract parameters can only control their behaviour. That might be true, but nevertheless, it is strange that an assumption of this kind is universally accepted without even discussing it. The assumption is still stronger. The assumption is that selfishness only guides human beings. That's quite evident. Milton Friedman in this video Free to Choose Part 6: What's Wrong With Our Schools Featuring Milton Friedman blames "the system" of the assumed bad results of the schools, arguing that private initiative would do better. However, something like "the system" doesn't exist. It is well possible that in a system are false incentives, incentives that award bad behaviour, but very seldom the people in the system have no choice. They can correct the errors if they want. He talks about systemic errors; he means human failures. We are going to see throughout this manual that this way of thinking is a neoclassic legacy.

This systemic way of thinking has pro and cons. The advantage is that this way of thinking is better suited for quantitative analysis. It presumes that the changing of one parameter, for instance, any price like wages, interest rates or commodity prices leads to a reaction. This is even true, obviously. At the other side, this systemic thinking leads to a problem from a methodological point of view. It can be said even, that it leads to a fatal error of economics. Systemic thinking observes the relationship between different measurable parameters. The problem is that it doesn't examine the impact of things outside the system that can't be measured. The impact of social facts, the political system, changes in technology or production, the discovering of new markets and changes in the logistics. We will see very often throughout this manual that systemic thinking tends to suppose relationships as stable, which in the long run are very unstable. The most prominent example for this is David Ricardo. The climax of this tendency is reached in the neoclassical economy, which abstracts completely from everything beyond the economics parameters in the narrow sense. (From everything that can not be measured with money, to give one definition.) This way of thinking, and some other reasons reduced the quantity of economic parameters and an abstraction of the real world.

The most illustrative example of this phenomena is the inexistence of entrepreneurs in economics. In textbooks, a market economy works without entrepreneurs. The market forces are something like gravity, no subject behind. They explain in detail the impact of a change in prices on the supply and demand, but the question of why prices change is only discussed by moving the supply curve to the right or to the left. In reality, things are a little bit more complicated.

It is easy to imagine that this way of thinking leads to the impression that there are actually no entrepreneurs needed, and, therefore, there is no need to introduce this topic in the textbooks or the academic curricula. There is even a joke about that. .

Question: How many people are needed to change a light bulb?
Answer: None. If it was necessary, the market would have already changed it.

However, even if an academic economist realises unconsciously that there is an entrepreneur needed who takes risks, invents new products, changes the structure of the productive system and so on, this entrepreneur is only the object of study. It would never have occurred to him that he himself could be entrepreneur and act like an entrepreneur.

It is well possible that all things talked about here seem pure theory to many people. To smell, see and hear the relevance, one should go to Cuba. (Not possible for US citizens, but for the rest of the world.) Cuba is the easiest way to understand why we need entrepreneurs. In Cuba, holidays can be used to learn something. Beach and economics are a fascinating mixture. The second possibility is to go to a lecture of a professor of neoliberal tendency. These people talk a lot about the efficiency of the market, and neoliberals are less static and more dynamic than neoclassic thinkers, but for them as well, the entrepreneur is only an object of study. So actually, the difference between Fidel Castro and Milton Friedman is not really big. The first denies the need for entrepreneurs and the second knows them only, in theory, it is, therefore, a mere theoretical difference.

From a practical point of view, the question is how can we get more entrepreneurs? how can we improve the transfer of knowledge? How can we make research and development more effective and so on. We are going to discuss all these topics throughout this manual. The answer of Milton Friedman is market, market, market and the basic assumption that the market will resolve any kind of problem. Unfortunately, things are a little bit more complicated.

What is really impressive is the description of economics by the Harvard University. We can learn from that, that the mere effect that a university has tons of money doesn't mean that their performance is better than the performance of any other university. After reading this section, one can get the impression that it would be better to save the money and not waste it on tuition fees at Harvard University. The author has introduced the numbers and it is easy to find texts like that in any language all over the world.

(1) Economics is a social science that is at once very broad in its subject matter and unified in its approach to understanding the social world. (2) An economic analysis begins from the premise that individuals have goals and that they pursue those goals as best they can. (3) Economics studies the behavior of social systems – such as markets, corporations,legislatures, and families – as the outcome of interactions through institutions between goal-directed individuals. (4) Ultimately, economists make policy recommendations that they believe will make people better off. (5) Traditionally, economics has focused on understanding prices, competitive markets, and the
interactions between markets. Important topics such as monopolies and antitrust, income inequality, economic growth, and the business cycle continue to be central areas of inquiry in economics. (6) Recently, though, the subject matter of economics has broadened so that
economists today address a remarkable variety of social science questions. Will school vouchers improve the quality of education? Do politicians manipulate the business cycle? What sort of legal regime best promotes economic development? Why do cities have
ghettos? What can be done about grade inflation? Why do people procrastinate in saving for retirement – or in doing their homework? (7) In understanding what economics is, it is crucial to keep in mind that economics today is a scientific discipline. Bringing their particular perspective to the questions of social science, economists formulate theories and collect evidence to test these theories against alternative ideas. (8) Doing economic research involves asking questions about the social world and addressing those questions with data and clear-headed logic, employing mathematical and statistical tools whenever appropriate to aid the analysis. An undergraduate education in economics focuses on learning to analyze the world in terms of tradeoffs and incentives – that is, to think like an economist.

Undergraduate Economics at Harvard

Let's discuss that. Perhaps it becomes than clearer what we wanted to say in the previous chapters and what we want to say in the next chapters. Someone would say that it is not fair to analyse this text in detail because it addresses undergraduate students and its only aim is to give them a general idea. The author don't agree. We will find rhetoric propaganda of this kind in any discussion about economics. The Harvard University affirms that studying at Harvard is an enriching experience and that students meet there a lot of fascinating, intelligent people discussing the whole day in the most stimulating way. Reading this text one can get the impression that studying at Harvard is a very boring experience with a bunch of dull people having nothing to say.

(1) Economics is a social science that is at once very broad in its subject matter and unified in its approach to understanding the social world.

The point is not that economics is a social science, this is obvious. Even authors like Léon Walras who argues that the same methods used in physics should be applied in economics as well, didn't say that economics is a natural science. What is less clear is the relationship between other social sciences like politics and sociology, to name the most important ones, and economics. These delineations are difficult to define and are defined in a different way by the different authors like Alfred Marshall, Léon Walras or Vilfredo Pareto. Just saying that economics is a social science is nonsense. What we want to know is the impact of the social and political facts, and how these facts influences the economy. We want to know if it is possible to study economic facts, in the narrow sense of the word, in isolation. This question is in the centre of the actual debate, for more information see Post-autistic economics. We can assume that Harvard University didn't understand the problem.

(2) An economic analysis begins from the premise that individuals have goals and that they pursue those goals as best they can.

From the first sentence, it was to be expected that they were going to write something like that. The big questions of the Positivism dispute,the debate between Popper and Adorno, are not understood. It is obvious that people have goals and that the try to achieve these goals. In a positive sense, the Popper position, there is no need to talk about the goals and economists, assuming that this methodological approach is very objective and scientific, don't discuss goals. However, if we say that social facts, see sentence 1), have an impact, then the goals are the mere result of other circumstances. The question is not only if and how people attain their goals, but the question is also why they pursue these goals and not other goals and if the goals can be manipulated. This is important because depending on the goals pursued, we get a different economic result. The fundamental question is not understood.

(3) Economics studies the behavior of social systems – such as markets, corporations, legislatures, and families – as the outcome of interactions through institutions between goal-directed individuals.

(4) Ultimately, economists make policy recommendations that they believe will make people better off.

Well, that's what we expect them to do. We don't expect them giving recommendations that they believe will make people worse off. However, here again, the central problem is excluded, see politics and economics. Policy "recommendations" consists most of all in discussion papers and are rarely actually read. Politicians need these kind of papers; that is why money is spent for producing them, to give politics a "scientific" appearance. Economics would say 'who cares'. Everything is alright if they get paid. It is doubtful that this is going to work in the future. With more websites appearing on the internet who deal with economic issues, more and more taxpayers will get aware that they pay for something which is good for nothing.

(5) Traditionally, economics has focused on understanding prices, competitive markets, and the interactions between markets. Important topics such as monopolies and antitrust, income inequality, economic growth, and the business cycle continue to be central areas of inquiry in economics.

These topics are indeed the central areas textbooks of economics are about. The question is if these topics are the relevant ones or are they only the effects of causes. The interesting issue, by the way, is not what is studied, but how it is studied. If it is studied with the same methods as physics, the ideal, in the tradition of the neoclassical theory, of nowadays economists, it is still a social science, but cut off from the surrounding social environment.

(6) Recently, though, the subject matter of economics has broadened so that economists today address a remarkable variety of social science questions. Will school vouchers improve the quality of education? Do politicians manipulate the business cycle? What sort of legal regime best promotes economic development? Why do cities have ghettos? What can be done about grade inflation? Why do people procrastinate in saving for retirement – or in doing their homework?

Indeed, there is a little, very little, change in the topics. However, by the examples given we can conclude that the topics they study are very limited, and the "new" questions are the outcomoe of very old theories. If people 'procrastinate' in saving, that is perhaps because, as Keynes already said, it is not possible to secure the same level of consumption in the future by saving today. By the way, they make the questions the answer is predictable, preference for the consumer in the present, but if the question is wrong, the answer will be wrong as well.

(7) In understanding what economics is, it is crucial to keep in mind that economics today is a scientific discipline. Bringing their particular perspective to the questions of social science, economists formulate theories and collect evidence to test these theories against alternative ideas.

It is a stunning phenomenon that economists feel the need to mention that economics is a science. Other sciences, medicine, physics, chemistry and so on feel no need to mention that. If they think that it is necessary to mention that, that is because either they are not convinced themselves or that there is a general doubt concerning that. In both cases, it would be much better to prove this assumption instead of simply affirming it apodictically. The expression "particular perspective to the questions of social science" is somehow wired. That means that economists study any question of social science but from a particular perspective. It is hard to believe that the economists of Harvard University do that. It is to presume, that they study certain phenomena, the same as in any other university in the rest of the world, abstracting from everything that can not be quantified (normally in money). Testing against reality is another empty statement. What economists actually do is to establish a statistical relationship between one phenomenon and another without really explaining the causal chain that explains how a change in one phenomenon triggers a change in another. Very often, it is not even clear what is the effect and what is the cause.

These sentences could be expected as well from the first sentence. If the basic problems are not clearly understood, all the rest will be nonsense. Now, in giving a definition of social systems, for example, markets, corporations, legislatures and families, these are actually entities studied by economics. We are going to discuss this several times throughout this manual, if we get stable relationships between these entities abstracting from other social parameters and we will see that this is not the case.

(8) Doing economic research involves asking questions about the social world and addressing those questions with data and clear-headed logic, employing mathematical and statistical tools whenever appropriate to aid the analysis. An undergraduate education in economics focuses on learning to analyze the world in terms of tradeoffs and incentives – that is, to think like an economist.

As we already mentioned, the whole chaos was predictable from the first sentence. Firstly they say that economists make research on question of the social world. That includes everything, while Alfred Marshall, Léon Walras, Vilfredo Pareto, Joseph Schumpeter and implicitly Keynes only want to study economic problems. Then they define the methods, which with this phenomenon could be studied, presuming, as any textbooks of economic does, that mathematical modelization is the right way to analyse these phenomena. The last sentence reduces the social phenomena to be studied. In the last sentence, we learn that tradeoffs and incentives are studied, which leads to, as mentioned before, a systemic kind of thinking. As already mentioned, this systemic kind of thinking has problems. Implicitly, it makes some assumptions about human behaviour in general. Humans are never obliged to react to incentives. (By the way, in Kantian philosophy, they should not do it.) Secondly, it remains unclear what the incentives depend on. If one is Diogenes, happy in his barrel; it is very hard to make him react to any incentive. The incentives depend on non-economic circumstances. See above the link to the debate about positivism.

To resume what is studied in Harvard University, they study a lot of incoherent stuff glued together by unconsciously formed assumptions and presumed scientific methods, without any clear vision what the goal of economics studies should be.

Nevertheless, the Harvard University is more honest than others.

About one-quarter of Economics concentrators proceed straight to further education upon graduation; a significant portion enters law schools. About three-quarters of Economics concentrators will eventually earn some advanced academic or professional degree. Law, business, and public policy degrees (in that order) are the most common. An Economics concentration has obvious intellectual advantages as a foundation for any of these three professional degrees. However, once again it appears to confer little if any advantage in gaining entry to such programs.

In other words, economics is good for nothing, and the economists do more or less the same thing as any other unqualified people or continue to study. The only thing they can do is to work at a university teaching the same irrelevant stuff which hab been taught themselves.

There is no doubt that economics is important, but it must be clear what is taught, how it is taught, what is the goal and what is the time to be spent on each subject. We will try throughout this manual to give an answer to these questions.

Out of the biotopes financed by the taxpayer, there is little to do for economists. Outside these biotopes, they compete with graduates of business and management because these graduates have at least a clue of accounting, controlling, marketing, data processing and so on. In Germany, the situation is even worse, because due to the German apprenticeship training there are not only graduates from universities with these skills.

The fact that economics doesn't prepare for a well-defined profession like informatics, engineering, medicine, etc. wouldn't even be a problem. In a world of continuous change always appear new professions. However, it is unacceptable that people without working experience decide on the topics to be included in academic curricula.

Very often, a cross-sectional knowledge is needed, and the economy is best suited for that. We can even say that new solutions can only be found with a wide cross-sectional knowledge. The more complicated a problem is, the more knowledge on distinct fields is needed to resolve it. It is pretty clear that a specialist on solar energy knows more about solar plants than an economist but in complex projects that’s, not the problem. Constructing a desalination plant driven by solar energy is not only a technical problem and to find investors, the plant must be profitable. Data is needed on the amount of water it produces, how many acres of land can be irrigated with this plant, what can be cultivated on this land and what are the best methods to do that and what is the market price of the output. Besides that, there are a lot of other problems to be resolved.

There is a broad discussion in highly industrialised countries about a presumed lack of demand. It is said that the actual problems are not only due to a lack of purchasing power but due to a lack of needs to satisfy. That's stupid. Given the big existing inequalities around the world and the technological gap between continents, there are a lot of needs to be satisfied already and a huge amount of possibilities to do so. However, we are not going to see that happens with university professors spending half of the time discussing the pareto optimum and things like that, for instance total equilibrium.

To give a simpler example. There are a lot of things to do for economists improving the public debate, see the journaille and
and a lot of graduates of economics work in this field. However, if they want to earn a living with that, they have to understand how the market works, most of all, how the internet works, because journals are going to disappear in the long run. The ad market will move more and more to the internet because ads on the internet are more effective and cheaper, and nobody will pay for a newspaper if he can get thousands of them for free.

For students who want to work in this field, it would be helpful therefore if they had a good understanding of the internet, including the subjacent technical infrastructure, mastering Linux and an Apache server, HTML, XML, PHP, Javascript, Perl, Flash, SQL, content management systems and so on. It is easier to start a company if one doesn't depend on other people. In this kind of situation, a decision must be made and topics and concepts with only a few impact on public debates, like the consumer/producer rent, can be explained verbally, but there is no need to explain the same topic in three different way, verbally, graphically and mathematically. One explanation is enough and the time saved can be used for more important things.

The academic curricula has to as flexible as the real world. After a basic study of two years, students should have the possibility to get their credit points in any subject, at least in everything that makes sense and having accumulated enough of them, wherever, they obtain their bachelors or masters.

If a student of economics wants to specialise in public health care as a journalist, it can be helpful as well to assist in some classes of public health care. There is no need to create hundreds of specialised bachelor or masters which need to be accredited by an accreditation authority. There is no evidence that an authority like this knows more than the individual student, who know best what he likes to do and what he wants to do and if this is not the case, he has a serious problem and the accreditation authority will be of no help in resolving his problem. The Bologna process goes therefore in the wrong direction.

The Bologna process strengthened a tendency already existent before. The subjects of the academic curricula have been already standardised during the last one hundred years. A general rule for what was canonized and what was not canonized is observable. From the large amount of concepts in the original works, Principles of Economics from Alfred Marshall, Wealth of Nations from Adam Smith, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money from John Maynard Keynes etc, nowadays only the concepts that can be modelized mathematically form part of the international canon of economics that we find in any textbook. We will see throughout this manual that a reductions of concepts and topics has happened.

The Bologna process strengthened this process because standardisation is one goal of the Bologna process. The aim of standardisation is comparability and compatibility. Comparability means that the different faculties can be more easily compared, and compatibility means that it is easier to move from one university to another. The first goal, comparability, is not useful and the second goal, compatibility, didn't work.

Comparability is not useful because it reduces the number of options. If all the programmes are equal, there is no way to find out if a change of the programmes would deliver better results. Compatibility revealed useless because the aim, make it easier to study abroad for some time, was not attained. After Bologna, fewer students are studying abroad than before. (The situation was changed when Erasmus was introduced, giving financial support, but that is another story.)

Standardisation doesn't make sense if the labour market doesn't need millions of people with the same skills and know how, but different people with different skills and know how. Moreover, it makes less sense if nobody knows what is needed in the future. In the case of insecurity, a market system is more efficient.

The logic behind the Bologna process being applied to normal markets of consumer goods would mean that only one type of washing machine is produced that has to fit for every kind of use. One person household, family, hotel and company. This washing machine would be comparable, of course, they are all the same and compatible with each other, but a very bad solution.

There can be hardly any doubt about the advantages of e-learning, either in synchronic (chat, video conferencing, etc.) or asynchronous (website, videos, forum, etc.). Instead of giving the same lecture millions of times in a bad way, it is easier and cheaper to prepare this lecture once for the internet. It is obvious as well that the distribution of textbooks through the internet is cheaper than their paper colleagues and can be actualised in an easier way. (For obvious reasons the authors of this kind of books are not interested in doing that, although they are actually paid for teaching and produce the textbooks which goes along with their lectures is part of their job. On the other hand, if several universities cooperate, these kind of books could be produced quickly. However, cooperation, especially at international level, is not the strength of the academic teaching staff.)

The internet has more didactical possibilities than an offline lecture and can make use of different channels at the same time; text, video, audio, animated graphics, interactions with the user (little tests, games, forum, etc.). It is easier to address a public with different background and knowledge because it is possible to give further information only if needed. (By clicking on a hyperlink.)

The argument that it is very expensive to produce online courses is somehow strange. If a lecture is given one hundred times to hundred students and one perfectly prepared lesson on the internet can address the same students, then the online lesson is much cheaper if it is possible to reduce the academic staff. If that is not possible, there is of course no cost reduction, but, in the long run, it is possible.

The tuition fees, therefore, depends as well on the autonomy of the students. The more they need a personal supervision as in school, the less there are possibilities for cost reduction.

It can't be denied that in the protests of the last years against tuition fees we often had a strange kind of situation. Student protests very often were addressed to politics demanding for more money, but never they discussed the organisation of the universities. If the same thing can be achieved with less money, there is no need for tuition fees.

Besides the fact that e-learning will lead to a reduction of the academic staff, there is another obstacle. If the classes are online, it is easy to get an impression of the quality of a certain faculty. That's easy to understand. If the whole microeconomic classes of the Massachusetts Institut of Technology were online, see an example here, Principles of Microeconomics, and not only a small part and if this would be the case of all the other universities it would be very easy to get an idea what is going on there. (And this would also be very helpful, because the same issues would be, at least if there is some creativity, be explained in different ways.)

(By the way, the lecturer in the video makes a lecture about irrelevant things, but he is a very, very good teacher. This way, even irrelevant things are funny to learn, although it is the only kind of entertainment. The problem is that the concepts are from Vilfredo Pareto and at the end, as we will see later, Pareto is pure ideology.)

It is obvious that universities are never going to do that, because more sophisticated online lessons, making use of all the possibilities offered by the internet would make universities in great part, at least if there is no practical training needed as in biology or chemistry, superfluous.

Actually, they are already superfluous. If students were more independent, they would be no need for lecturers. (If no practical training is necessary, see above) The problem is that most students continue to be pupils even after leaving the school. That is a problem. Real live requires long live learning and long live learning means to be able to learn in an informal environment, through books, through the Internet, discussing with other people and so on. Even learning and most of all live long learning requires creativity. To learn how to learn is part of the joke. Processes like the Bologna process which lead to more school like teaching are counter productive.

The affirmation that universities are not participating in this process substitute the traditional lectures by e-learning in the large sense of the term is confirmed by concrete experiences in the European Community. In total, European Community, nations and federal states almost 400 million euros were spent to accelerate this process. The result is zero. The major part of this money went to universities and the universities produced courses like that and took the money, but they never produced something useful, with the result that these initiatives were stopped. The author has similar experiences with other projects in the field of languages because universities are not willing to offer online courses and perhaps they are not able to at all.

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The Bologna process: A planned economy without plan.

Market economies are characterized by a decentral information processing through prices. The individual in general is better informed about the possible options and the concrete circunstances than a central planning institution. Therefore every time the individual is better informed than the central planning institution it is to assume that the individual make a more rational choice.

That means that in the cases that a university study doesn't prepare for a well defined job, like medecine for instance, the academic curricula should be reduced to the essential topics and more choices should be offered.

The aim of the Bologna process, comparability and compatibility, is not a useful goal. More useful is diversity.

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