Welcome to episode 4 of "How did I get here? Discover Economics"
In this episode, we talk to Ben Chu, Economics Editor of The Independent, the UK's largest quality digital news brand. Ben was previously economics editor of BBC Newsnight, the BBCs flagship current affairs programme. He is co-presenter of Coronanomics and is on the International Advisory Board for SPERI, The University of Sheffield’s Political Economy Research Institute
Thank you so much for joining us on discover economics. How did I get here? podcast? Just who? Or what is an economist, there's an economic lens for every topic that you can possibly think of the economists in our podcast are motivated by a desire to change the world. And their belief that better data and better understanding are key to achieving this theme. I'm very excited and enthusiastic about learning more about what economics can offer us as a society. And what are the options when it comes to careers for young people. And it's been an absolute delight to do this series on To learn more, to indulge my noisiness to get to ask so many questions, I'm hoping you as listeners will have wanted to ask yourself, thanks for listening. So today's guest is Ben Chu, who's economics editor of the independent before I dive into the kind of more official and podcast voice intro that I do for the guests. I just wanted to get in there to give you a little bit of an overview of what today's interview is all about. What's nice about Ben's interview is that he's obviously coming at things from quite different angles as a journalist, so obviously, he's an economics journalist. So he doesn't come at it from an economists perspective, if you like, and that's what I really love about this. So it's quite interesting to see, you know, he's written books about economics, and he's hugely experienced and has met so many different economists who specialise in different areas and he has a really good YouTube channel as well, and he does quite a lot around the economics of Coronavirus. Also, if you follow him on social media, if you click the links in the description below, he does a really good job of kind of breaking down some quite complex ideas about economics and presenting them in a way that is much easier for us to consume as non economists. So I hope you enjoy the interview on the show. Okay, so today we're talking to Ben Chu, economics editor of the independent UK is largest quality digital news brand. Ben was previously economics editor of BBC News night, the BBC his flagship current affairs programme, and he's co presenter of Quran omix hands on the international advisory board for SPERI the University of Sheffield's Political Economy Research Institute. Wow, that's a lot. So hi, Ben. It's lovely to meet you. And I'm looking forward to find out exactly how you got here. So to get us started, and I imagine as a journalist, this section of the interview is a little bit weird for you, but I wanted to talk to you about your family and what you were like at school, and what it was like growing up in Manchester. Well, thanks for having me, Jennifer. It's very good to be here. Gosh, so we're going back quite a long time now for me. Growing up in Manchester, well, my father is Chinese and my mother is sort of Scottish heritage but she's from Sheffield, and they met in Sheffield. So then they moved to Manchester when they were quite young. And that's when they had started a family. That's where I came along. I went to our local Church of England Primary School in South Manchester. And then I went to Manchester Grammar School, which is a very famous independent school in central Manchester. Yeah, it was a great time. Really, it was a fantastic time, the 80s and 90s. Manchester was a real cultural hub. Some of your heroes may remember a lot of great bands and great musicians and a great nightlife. So growing up in the late 80s, and going out as a young adult when I was sort of 1516 in Manchester, to the nightclub scene, the Hacienda bill the great gigs, very jealous listening. Yeah, I grew up this great time. And yeah, every boy I went to school with looked like he wanted to be an oasis. And yeah, yeah, it was also a great time for football as well. When I started supporting Manchester United it was before they started winning trophies. So I wasn't a glory supporter. I just have to say that all the time. I used to have to say a lot more. Yeah, it used to be the first thing people say, Well, why did you support them and honestly started before they were successful, but I lived probably about 45 minute walk from Old Trafford, so it was the natural team to support everyone at my school supported them at my primary schools, but and then they went on this amazing run, and became, you know, the dominant team in the country by a country mile so that the football and the music, it was just a great, great time to be in Manchester growing up as a young adult. It sounds amazing. Like I said, I think we're probably around the same age because you're a lot of your cultural touchpoints. And I'm like, Yes. 100% Yes. So I'm very jealous that you got to grow up like in the centre of it. Well, I was in a little fishing town in Scotland. It wasn't quite so cool. Although my dad does look a bit like Alex Ferguson. But he doesn't have his money and is a lot less grumpy. He's a lot heavier than Alex barks at my daughter. So what were you like at school? Like what kind of subjects Did you like? weren't being pulled into football and music and other stuff? Yeah, very different from what I do. Now. Not much economics, not much math. Not Statistics, it was basically classics. I was really into and enjoy Latin, Greek ancient civilization. I did a lot of history as well. I mean, I went on to do history at university. Yeah, when I was in school, I did a lot of learning Greek and Latin nouns and declining verbs. And you know, all that stuff. Because on our show, Ben, it was something I really got into Actually, I didn't go to an independent prep school. So I was kind of I came into this quiet high powered Secondary School, a little bit behind in a lot of subjects. But no one had done Latin and Greek. So it was kind of a level playing field. When I started them. I was interested in it, I liked doing I was quite good at it, I stopped, like something I could run with. So I did. So that's what I did Latin and Greek, a level and then I did history, and it was whether I would do classics, university, or try to do classics, university or history. But in the end, I opted for history, which is another massive passion, something I was really interested in and quite good at. So that's how it happened. I was pretty studious, really quite sweaty as a kid at school, as well as I went out a lot. I didn't pay attention to my schoolwork as well. That's why looking back, it was quite a strange mix of studious nurse and fun, really, but yeah, great time. I love that. And it's funny, I did Latin in university, mostly because I'd missed out on so much of the rules of grammar that just weren't covered in my kind of secondary school. And I did English and linguistics at uni. And Latin was one of the options. I was like, well, it might help me a little bit, I think, to go into that and kind of go through it. I think like as a student a bit older, I do wish had been an option, I think when I was younger, but do you have them all at once? That's a lot. But I suppose like you said, If you come in and everyone is starting from the same point for that subject as a kid at that age as well, when you just want to be like everyone else for a while. That's a really good kind of place to find yourself, I suppose. Yeah, definitely. And it's funny when you say about grammar, I think our generation weren't really taught grammar. So learning it through another language is the way you learn how to ground your own language works. It's quite interesting. Yeah, no, I just really enjoyed it. It was a interesting way of thinking about Yeah, language, you can't learn a language without also learning about the culture as well. So it was a really great way in that way as well to another, another world and I suppose ended up in economics. Now, I know you said you listened to Rachel's episode that she talks about this, where it's very common for people in their, you know, when they get to their 30s, and 40s, to be doing things that were not connected to the subjects they studied at school, or even at university. And I used to talk to students and young people about this. And I was teaching where you said a couple of these things already yourself, like you find subjects that you loved, that you enjoyed, and therefore it's much easier to excel at something when you enjoy it. And then it's easy to be easy. Or let's say it's not easy to be studious, when it's something that you get a lot of kind of personal value from studying. And I think that's something that we want to do with the podcast as well. And I suppose discover economics as a whole is the whole point about being a successful economist or being good at it is that you're pulling in experiences and information from lots of different places. And that can be true within yourself as well. Like, by the time you get to focusing on economics, you've done a lot of other things, and you understand a lot of other things. And I suppose history, and especially political history tells us a lot about today's economy and you know, patterns. And there's a lot to pull up on, I suppose from those historical text things as well. What were your parents like, when you were at school? It sounds like you were a dream. So do you have any siblings that were doing the rebellious thing for you? What was the set up there? Well, I had my moments, I suppose, you know, like all young people when they go out and they start drinking for the first time, and they have to find their limits. So I wouldn't say I was a complete dream. I mean, I was always brought up with a certain expectations. And so it was quite hard to break out, you know, picking up children now you kind of think, how do you set them on the right path. And I think it's just in the way you behave this as much as anything. So the way they behave was the way that I assumed that people can and should behave your parents. And you know, family is a huge role model inevitably. So I guess that's what kept me on the straight and narrow, but also I just enjoyed schoolwork on it enjoy the intellectual side of things. So I think that as much as anything keeps you going, but I really keen to talk about what you just mentioned is like discovering economics. And I would say I didn't study economics at school. I didn't study at university formally, but economics discovered me rather than me discovering economics. Because I did a lot of 20th century history and you cannot talk about or study seriously 20th century history without studying or at least understanding the economic context, the Great Depression, the First World War, the post war period, you know, the Industrial Revolution, economics is absolutely central. And I found myself at university when I was doing modern history, just getting more and more into economic history. So in the end, a lot of the papers I did were basically economic history papers. I wasn't Formally studying economic history effectively, that's where my interests and that's where I felt the subject matter. You know, that's where I felt the subject was taking me more and more. And I went on to work for the independent as a leader, writer, which is someone who writes the editorials, which is like the papers view of what's going on in the world. So this was sort of the mid 2000s. And then we've got the financial crisis. So I was writing all the time about this sort of bolt from the blue, global financial crisis explaining where it came from explaining what policymakers needed to do, explaining about how the system needs to be reformed to stop it happening again. So I wasn't an economic leader, writer. But basically, I find myself a bit like when I was doing my degree, sort of writing over and over again, about this area. So that's how I got into economics, it felt like this is the world was saying, this is where you need to be focusing your intellectual attention. So yeah, the basically the world brought economics to me rather than me sort of going out to find it. And I think you're completely right, natural, though. It isn't. It certainly felt organic. You know, it wasn't like, what what am I going to write about? I'm going to write about economics, it felt like, you know, this is the subject that's being thrust into your, into your path in a way. But I think, you know, what you said is completely right about the fact that I've done so many other things and thought about so many other areas, because of, you know, my background, and my intellectual history was a real benefit rather than this benefit. You know, if I just thought about finance, or just taught about economics, I think that would put me in as good a place as I was to do the job. I do. You know, because I've written a lot about politics. I'd written a lot about, you know, societies. And I think the key thing as an economic journalist is being able to link the economics to the politics, in a way. And I think that's a really vital skill to review. If you're thinking about it purely in economic terms, I think you miss a lot of that political economy, as they call it, that sense of you know, economics and policymaking happens within a social and political framework. Unless you understand that framework, the advice you give or the analysis, you produce by Mr. Mark a little bit. So yeah, I think it's really, really important for people who do economics to have that hinterland and that understanding of the broader context in which economics happens if you like, Yeah, because it happens to people. That's the thing. Like it's not something separate. I was listening to your episode, I think it was BBC analysis, podcast, the future welfare. And that's something that I've talked to you about with a few other people like this idea that we need more people who've been on welfare as children and adults to be involved in talking about, you know, the economics of the welfare system. And you know, not only people who've been through it, but like you said, if you don't have participants in the conversation that have had those different experiences, it's very easy to miss something that ends up having a big impact on people's lives, either for good or for ill. And I think that, you know, that's obviously a big part of discover economics is that we want people to think about economics as a profession, who do have different backgrounds who don't all come from the same background that necessarily we see economists today, having, I think it is, you know, slowly changing. And economics isn't the only industry that has one issue. You know, we can look at journalism, we can look at finance as a whole medicine, there's a million different industries, where obviously, we benefit from widening participation, but it's the brilliant thing about your job is that you get to kind of ask so many different people and talk to so many different people about these issues, that you get all of those perspectives, which is brilliant. And what we need, I suppose, is to make sure that all of those perspectives are represented when it comes to policymaking. So what would you see having gone to like said the grammar school and then go into Oxford? And yeah, your educational background isn't focused on economics, like it seems a lot of economists don't have necessarily their first undergrad Lita to economics, what advice would you give? Or have you ever thought about how we get more people to kind of follow this path or see economics as something that they could focus on? Yeah, I think in a way economics sells itself as an influential topic. I mean, this is sort of the what you say, it's so important that it does have that diversity in it, because it's so privileged in the hierarchy of Social Sciences, isn't it? You know, if you look at the governor of the Bank of England, of course, he's going to be a trained economist, they would never dream of appointing someone who didn't have that background. And he is probably the most powerful civil servant in the country. And it goes right through government, you know, every department will have economists and the Treasury is the dominant department, and that is dominated by economists as well. If you look at the United States, they have a Council of Economic Advisers, they don't have a council of historical advisors or sociological advisors. Yeah. I mean, this is for good or real economics is immensely prestigious, and powerful in public policymaking. You know, it's clear there's power there, and there's clear there's prestige there. The key is, as you say, to make sure that everyone from whatever background they're from, can aspire to that and does aspire to that because they should, because as you say, different diversity is massively important in every sector, people's different life experiences and to the value do not want monocultures whether that's on background or ethnicity or whatever. Because we know that doesn't lead to good results. That's wrong in in a sort of a deficiency sense. But it's also wrong in a fairness sense. So how do you, as you say, make sure people aspire to that and feel that they can do it? I think a lot of it is efforts from within the profession itself. In all these diversity debates, there's a sort of reactionary view amongst some that well, it's the problems of society, fix that, and then people will come in, I think, that's very myopic. In most sectors, certainly a myopic in economics in economics itself has to change. It has to promote people, it has to mentor people, it has to do outreach, it has to do all the things which everyone says all these sectors should do. Economics is no different from them. And it probably has a bigger problem, you know, looking at the statistics of representativeness in all these dimensions, it has a bigger problem. So it needs to make bigger efforts. And it needs to make bigger efforts. Because as I said, it is so powerful, it is so privileged, and it is so important in the public policymaking world, that it's got a special responsibility, I would say, to do all that outreach to do all those things, which people are very sensibly recommending. Yeah, you may cringe at this next thing I'm about to seek some invite to quote an interview from 2014 that you did, but it really relates back to this. And I just had to his notes. I wasn't even sure if we would get to it. So we haven't mentioned your book, Chinese whispers. Now my first question, Is that an audio version? Because I've been searching for an audio version? I can't find one. Because I'd love an audio book to complement my reading, Ben. So if there's not one need to get into this same studio? Yeah, I think it was before the big boom in audio, because it came out in 2013. And I think they kind of took off a little bit after that. And sort of along with the podcast revolution, it seems to be Yeah, but was that but yeah, no, you're right, there isn't one and it'd be great if they asked me to do one. Come on. Yeah. So there's that that's just a personal thing, because I love an audio version of whatever I'm reading. So I go back and forth. But you were interviewed in a publication called banana writers. So I have to admit, I very much enjoyed the fact that your favourite childhood book was Asterix legionary, because that was also a favourite of mine, as well. As soon as I read that, I was like, well, this is all I need to know. But something you mentioned, which was really familiar to me, not just in my own story, but in others when you were asked about kind of particular challenges in your profession as a journalist, and this is your quote, and you may want to change it. Now you may feel different than what you've got, that's when I realised that assuming that your boss will notice and reward quiet hard work was naive in any business, what senior people noticed is self promotion and pushing us through competence is often ignored. So I started to get more pushy and was in the end, rewarded. Now, I've seen that I know lots of my friends and colleagues have seen that even though that was a few years ago. That's something that I hear people say personally, but also it is so connected to the diversity conversation, because that's how we see the same people who look the same, get promoted and get to senior levels. So when I read it, I thought, well, this absolutely connects to what more senior levels within the economics profession need to be more aware of? And again, yeah, we could apply it to a million other professions as well. But I suppose my question is, do you think that is still the same? Do you think that's changed at all? And how do we make sure that those people at the top do see competence? A little bit more clearly? Because not everyone is going to shout? And that does make it harder to get a diverse range of people? Yeah, I do definitely think that still holds that advice. I've seen faces. I've worked since my experience was an aberration. It's interesting, isn't it? I mean, I think competence is so super important. I mean, who would Who wouldn't? But I, you know, it's very, very important that people work hard and apply themselves and I would never advise someone to sort of, forget the competence just focused on the self promotion, you know, that would make for a worse world, you do have to do both. It is a case of, if you don't stand up for yourself, if you don't tell people what you've done, and why you should be recognised for and rewarded for it, no one else is going to do it for you. I mean, that may be if you're very, very lucky, you'll have some mentor who will do it for you. But the reality is more more likely than not, you'll have to do it yourself. So people should definitely take that on board and cultivate it as a skill, you know, standing up for yourself, making it clear when it's done. And you know, thinking about it, then one thing that has slightly changed is that I'm a bit more sympathetic to managers in the sense that they have a lot on their plate. I can see that a bit more now that it's just Very, very difficult when you've got an A, you know, this isn't to justify the system. But often they have a lot of people who are pushy. And suddenly they've got all this influx of stuff and like, what will who do I choose? You know, who am I thinking about? You've got to get in, you've just got to be in the mix, you can't assume that they will have this headspace to sort of look around the office. And they showed, you know, if you could argue that they should be thinking about everyone, but the reality is, it's often quite difficult for them to sort of think holistically. So get involved in it. Yeah, this is the advice that you don't get, you know, a lot. And I think this goes to the diversity issue. A lot of people from certainly background mine, I was never taught to promote myself, I was told to work. Yeah, I was told to get your head down, work hard. And that's how you get success. Now, you've got to do all those things. But you've also got to sort of say, here's what I've done, you know, here's why you should be considering me, blah, blah, blah. And that's what you don't get told. So I would definitely urge people to listen to that and to do that. But I would also urge, you know, just flipping it around, how can the profession any profession, but also especially economics do better, it's to consider that people do come from different backgrounds, and that some people just don't have a background of promotion, self promotion, and a culture of self promotion. And they've got to bear that in mind. And part of good management is actually finding the people who have the potential, but perhaps don't have the self confidence, and the tradition of promoting themselves, and you go to them, right, you adjust. And I think that is part of good management. And people in positions of power should be thinking about, if they want to get a more diverse workplace and organisation which they should. Yeah, I'm scribbling away here as you're talking because it does bring me back both to when I've been working with young people and mentoring young people. And we've only published one episode, we've done a few interviews, but something some of the other podcast guests have said about. And this isn't a criticism of state schools. But the reality of the curriculum is that there's not so much time devoted across the board to things like debate, and how you present an argument, it's your kind of hits and misses to you if you happen to do a course or an A level course for thought as part of it. But it's not at the core necessarily of what you're given in the state system, it seems to be much more, what's part of your day to day, let's say in the independent schools, and that kind of the language of self promotion, where you can present this is what I've done in this way have achieved, you know, without sounding like an idiot, or without you feeling so uncomfortable with what you're saying that you can't get it out. You know, there's all kinds of levels to it. And I think, you know, there's obviously gender differences into how we're brought up and how we speak about our achievements. There's also ethnic differences in how we're brought up in different ethnic communities as to how we talk about our achievements, and etc. And I think that just giving young people and honestly, people who are in the workplace right now, the language to present themselves and their achievements in a way that they feel comfortable and confident about, and that is easy for a manager to understand something I used to do with the students, which I think I might have mentioned before, so I won't labour the point, but I would give them a task of right you've got to negotiate with me as your boss as to why you get to work from home one day a week. And this seems like a small thing, but getting them to flip in their heads as a teenager who only focuses on what's in their teenage life at that time to not how do I present this as why it's good for me, but how I present it, why it's good for my boss. And the same thing stands, I think, when you're talking about your own achievements in the workplace is not necessarily you're gonna go to your boss and say, This is what I'm really good at, this is what I've achieved. This is what I've done. And this is why you should care. And I wonder if that next part is something that we need to get into schools a little bit earlier, just that language and not experience, I will be interested to hear from you. Because you know, like you went to a prestigious school and an incredibly prestigious university. But I imagine that growing up across Manchester Manchester is an incredibly diverse city. So I don't imagine that all of your friends in your circle necessarily have that same experience. Absolutely. Well, I mean, I was not the sort of typical independent school Oxbridge person in this in my background in the sense that I was never, as I said, before, taught that instinctive self promotion, I was much more of the sort of diligent, keep your head down and hope that you know, your good works are recognised, you're totally right, the ability which I have now to sort of self confidently talk about what I've achieved, what I will achieve, why you should take note of me, we've learned quite late in life relative to a lot of other children. I'm trying to think about what it is, I think is part of it is as you say, it's talking to adults, not as an equal, but as a kind of the adult wants to hear you reason. And the adult wants to hear you're summing up of what's going on around you and presenting it as you say, that's a really, really key skill and it's something that people aren't expected to do, I think, or too often they're not expected to do And it is something they really do need to learn. I'm just thinking back about my own career in life, you know, and there's so many things that you don't know that you're not doing right at various stages 100 there was a job that was applied to honours that, you know, advertised internally at the independent many years ago. So I just fired off an email saying, I'd like to apply for this. And then it was a sign that I hadn't heard anything about it. And then what I'd realised was that other people had been lobbying directly to the person who's giving out the job, why it should be there. So it never occurred to me. So I just thought, Oh, you know, the editor, or whoever, it was just too busy, they're not going to welcome me in the door and saying the quiet word out of that job, here's why, you know, I really, really want to do it, I'd be great at these the reasons why, you know, the email is just kind of irrelevant. It's all about the kind of the personal approach, which now I realise, of course, she did that, of course, you try and have a chat with the person. And it's really hard, that's not an easy thing to do is hard. It's a skill that needs to be learned. It's, it's hard. But the more you do it, the more natural it becomes. And that's the key. I mean, talking about, you know, people from a state school background, and they arrive at university or they arrive at a new job. And there's all these fluent public school boys, whatever, who will sort of naturally go into it. Now, they weren't born that way. Now, they've learned and they've been coached, and they've been hothouse, and they've got their skills from the environment they've been in, there's nothing in the background of anyone. I don't think he's bright and ambitious, that they shouldn't be able to do those things. Too often, it's assumed that they're not that kind of person, I completely can't be those kinds of person, they need to be given the ability to fulfil their potential to do those things. And it's about the attitude. Yeah. When we talk about self promotion, or self confidence, like you can see people cringe when you say that, and I knew I've cringed in the past when someone said stuff like that to me. And it doesn't have to be cringy. It doesn't have to be I think, as well, that's the other problem, something you described there, I definitely have experience of a man from the northeast of Scotland. So my first work experiences were in the oil industry. There's far less public schoolboys in the oil industry in Scotland than there are less sadly, when I moved to London and started work in The Guardian on the commercial team. And there were so many of the type, let's say that you've just described, but they weren't always appealing to managers, like man, you could see managers go into, I can't listen to this again, like you're not as good as you think they are. Because, exactly, as you said earlier, they weren't also doing the hard work. So it's okay, being wild and pushing yourself. But actually, it's better if you do it in the style of someone who maybe does find it slightly less comfortable, but they're doing it because they are now confident that they've done the hard work. They have the evidence and the experience. And now they can talk to their boss about it. So I think there's definitely a balance where we need a language to present this idea to people where we need you to do more self promotion, but not use the word self promotion, so that everyone starts to panic and is like, No, I can't do that. That's not me. It's not my style. That's right. Everyone does a CV, don't they, you know, everyone's used to that maybe presented as like a verbal CV, don't assume that they're going to read your CV, assume that they don't read your CV, but you want to convey the key elements of that your achievements and what you can do your skills to them verbally, maybe presented like that. And then it's more like, well, it's not self promotion. It's just like a verbal CV, you know, and present it in the most engaging and lively and interesting way. I mean, self promotion is hard. I mean, probably the same in northeast Scotland as it was in Manchester. But there isn't a culture of going out and talking about what you've done. That's just really uncool. Right, you know? Yeah. Like, you know, better than anyone else. Yeah. And it's just not very attractive. And I still feel that in some way. But I do sense it's an attractive in a way that it was not in the southeast and London, you know what I mean? Yeah, in many ways. So it's something to get over, I would say, for kids from outside, what is still the sort of the centre of political and economic power in the country? Absolutely. But don't lose what special qualities you get from your background, but you do have to accommodate slightly, you can't just go and expect everyone to sort of see your potential and brilliance without you doing a bit as well. Yeah, it's something I used to explain to young people that I've taught and also in the workplace, when when you people join the team by explaining to them that your manager may not have got to be a manager, because they're great at management. They might just be really good at the job they had before. And thought was the next step up for them. And you need to remember that because then, like you said, they're not necessarily trained to look out for things and the people on their team and kind of seek out the people to promote their or maybe slightly more passive or they've never managed a team before so but there's so many dynamics going on there. It's like economics, there's not an easy answer. There's not one answer. It's death by 1000 cuts. I suppose. Actually, that leads me on to your video, actually, that you shared last week about paying back the Coronavirus debt. And you know what we're saying about things need to be broken down. But there are many, many factors at play. So there's many factors at play as to how we open up different voices in economics. But I think part of that is, you know, the media plays a huge, huge role in how we get people more comfortable with complicated solutions to problems. Because there's a big part of the media that is you know, all about simplified headlines and reading back on interviews that you did about your book, I suppose that was a big part of why you ended up writing your first book, Chinese whispers, because people were simplifying stereotypes, there's just this very simple one dimensional message about not case a whole country. But I think that that comes up with economic problems all the time, as well, as well as diversity as a as an issue and something we want to tackle. So what I loved about your video, is that it's incredibly accessible. And it does break down concepts. While I think holding on to the idea that this isn't a simple thing, that there are many factors at play here, especially when I think near the end of the video when you talk about timing. Now, resources like that are hugely valuable for the public, but also hugely valuable for teachers and parents as well to kind of share with young people. And I wanted to get into your kind of editorial headspace there a little bit. And just to ask, you know, what are the things that you think about when you're trying to break down a concept like that, and you know, you want to present the idea without oversimplifying it, but making it accessible? So how would you go about that process? I suppose to talk about the genesis of it. There was a lot of talk on Twitter and in amongst the economists about why this talk of paying down the debt, the national debt in the wake of the Coronavirus, it was just hopelessly misleading. And there was a lot of griping on it, which I completely agreed with. And if anybody watches the video, we'll see why I agree with it. But I just felt, okay, this thing keeps coming up. It keeps coming up. People keep debunking it on Twitter, or maybe in articles or blogs or whatever. And it just keeps coming back that we're not reaching people. That's what I was thinking something is not getting through. I've long felt there's been a space for video explainers because people will lay person will read, you know, they probably don't follow an economist on Twitter who is debunking it, they're probably not going to go to an academic blog debunking it, they may watch, I hope, you know, we'll see how it goes. But you know, if a two minute three minute video, maybe that's a way of reaching them, I've always had a hunch that this is the kind of the missing link, if you like and economic explanation. So that's why I thought it'd be a good idea to do the video. And it's interesting process of doing it. Why I say videos, because I think moving images of charts are much better than static charts, I've often felt this because you can talk about what's happening on the screen, and the chart and move. And you're explaining the difference between the two lines. Whereas if you just look at it on a flat chart, you know, you have to do an extra bit of mental work to work out what's going on in the sense, that's the hurdle that some people quite often fall out. So I think there's potential in the video format for explaining these concepts. The next thing is, when you're scripting it, you have to strip out all the jargon because you've got to know what your audience is, if your audience is someone who doesn't follow economics, there's no point in using a concept like the output gap or slack and you've got you know what I mean, there's no point throwing something in there, which isn't entirely understandable or explainable through what you're doing. So you've stripped all that out. And then you just try and make it as simple as possible. At every stage not simple. with, you know, I don't know, there's a famous quote, you got to make it simple, but not too simple. A golden mean, because you don't want to oversimplify as simple as possible, but no more so. And that's what you've always got to be aiming for. For all my economic journeys. I just want it to be something that anyone can pick up and learn more. They may not understand it in its entirety, but they can certainly understand it more than it's written by often a professional economist writing for other professional economists or financial economists writing for the people who work in the market. I always try and do that through all my economic journalists and make it accessible because otherwise, what's the point? I am not an economist, I would never I never describe myself as a candidate. I describe myself as an economic journalist. And I think there's there's a big difference between the two. You know, I write for economist as well, because they they read it, hopefully, but also, I'm certainly not only for them, it's supposed to be for everyone. That's a key part of what I try and do is to try and take these really, really important issues like the national debt in the wake of the coronavirus, crisis, inflation, growth, unemployment, whatever, all massively important for people's livelihoods and explain why these economic concepts mattered to them why they should be interested in also what they can do about it, you know, linking it to their own lives and their own agency. So yeah, that video is part of my unending attempt to take difficult issues in some ways, but more difficult than they need to be in some ways, bring them to people to help empower people by understanding them better. And are you going to do more? Because I would love more of those, please? Yeah, we will hopefully the more and the independent that we've got an independent TV project, which is hopefully going to take issues like crypto currency, like universal basic income, decarbonisation, the green new deal and sort of make them relevant to people's lives, they won't all be in that kind of video explainer format. But certainly, we think the independent, there's a lot of space for that. And there's a lot of demand for that. I don't know if you feel this, and it might just be wishful thinking at this point. But I feel like in the public sphere, there's a little bit more of an appetite for everything, not needing to be simplified, it's like Hold on a minute, I don't need you to just write the headline, I would actually like to understand this because it impacts my life. And I can't wait to see some of the research that comes up like some of the more social impact research that comes out. I know, I have some personal research projects I'd like to see because my brother in law is a lawyer. And I'd like to see about the whole not wearing a suit to work because everyone's working from home, just little things like that. There's so many little bits of research into people's behaviour. And I do wonder about media consumption. And after, you know, I know, you've covered a lot of the stuff about Donald Trump's presidency in economics. And I wonder about the public appetite for information that is much more aligned with that Video Example. You know, I'm not an economist, I don't need to be an economist. But I would like to understand this thing that has a really direct impact on my life. And what I love about what you've just said, and also just the type of content that you produce across all of the places where you produce content, I hate that term, actually producing content, but where you write and you obviously broadcaster and podcast is that it's not just about letting the public know and understand things, I would like to think that you're setting quite a good example for economists where they might start to think actually, if I talk like this, I could maybe get more people to understand what I'm trying to do. So hopefully, there's a little bit of learning on all sides there. Also, this goes back to some of the language that we have across different socio economic groups. Because I know I certainly grew up with the concept of debt being a terrifying awful thing that you should avoid all costs, and not understanding what it means in terms of a global economy and national economy. And even just in your household income, and how, you know, certain types of debt are better than others and all of that type of education that if you come from a background like mine, and and many other peoples, where it's just a kind of, there's a line in the sand, that is bad. So then very easy for like you see this misinformation to come up when we're talking about it on the national or global scale. So I do like to think that all of these types of things are chipping away at it if you like. And again, I suppose that's why I wanted to kind of volunteer to do this podcast for discover economics, because I feel like everything we can do to chip away and get those different voices, you've had those different experiences to come in and be able to think Well, how do I make my family understand this? How do I make my peer group understand this and be excited or interested or responsive to this thing that's happening to them and with them is really important. I'm hoping that these interviews will help to do that. So just to kind of finish off, if you like, I think you're in a very unique position as kind of an observer if you like, because like, so you're an economics journalist. And that means that you get to observe economists a lot you get to observe politicians and people at every part of the process. So I think as an observer, are there any misconceptions that you think young people might have about economics as a profession? Like from how you've seen it, versus what the perception might be? Oh, absolutely. I mean, I'm sure your your other guests who say the same things, but people think economics is about predicting what will happen to the economy, they think it's about oh, you know, the economy will grow by 3%. Next year, no, it'll grow by 6%, or inflation will be two and a half percent, no, it will be 2.75%. Or Oh, the stock market's going to go up by 500 points. By 2025, you know, all these kind of spurious predictions. That's a lot of the sense of what economics is, or they think it's very abstract, model based predictions and analysis of the economy, which sounds very complicated as in a language that they don't really understand. It doesn't really relate to their ordinary lives. So those are two of the big perceptions of what economics is, which people probably have. Some of it's a relatively small part actually of the professional though the people who do it tend to get a lot of media and broadcast time, unfortunately. So yeah, though, you know, and I'm sure as I say, your guests will, other guests will make the same point I think, well, what won't save you know, what is economics all about? Why should I care about it? If I'm an ordinary person, I'll say everything that happens in politics and not everything, but a lot of things that happen in politics and policy. Making her are underlaid by economics, you know, why are we having austerity? Why is there cuts to public services? Why are my wages lower, you know, lower in after adjusting for inflation than they were a decade ago? Why are we cutting the foreign aid budget all these big questions which interest them in politics unless you understand the economic context to them. This is the envelope, which is set for politicians, you know, this is the environment they have to work in. Unless you understand those underlying economic things, you're only going to get a part of the picture, you're going to be sort of arguing about the flotsam and jetsam, you know, floating on the ocean rather than than the ocean itself, I think about economics and the value it can bring, and why it's important in those terms is really, really important for us in all our lives. And then the force that actually we can influence. You know, it isn't actually some abstract thing, which we just have to accept, like the weather, we can change the way the economy works. That's why you should be interested in it. So in a way, if you think economics is all about forecasting, or it's all about accounting, or it's all about adding up and just selling, saying that's the way it is. That's a wrong impression and a misleading impression. It's so much more than that. And it's so much more important than that. I would say it's as important as any subject you can imagine. It's more broader and more interesting as well. Yeah. People think about it as beer. Yeah, definitely. This is because I think a lot of people see it as money only. And there's just so much more to it, like said, Yeah, and yeah, I mean, I always have this issue, because on a lot of the newspaper websites, economics is under business. And I always think that actually, business should be under economics. In the, you know, in the in the tabs, because economics is much bigger than business. You know, business is just an element of it. And I kind of fear that people think about economics in that way as a sort of subset of well, this is the world of business is over there. And economics is just a way of, you know, talking about business is not it's a way of talking about politics, it's a way of talking about, you know, every every subject sport, you know, a culture is all one economic element to it. Yeah, I think vironment Yeah, well, exactly, you know, so central to that. So breaking out of that silo is really important. And maybe that's a way of sort of trying to help diversify it as well, taking it out of that box, where it's just a part of business, or it's a part of, you know, accountancy and just sort of saying, you know, it's so much that this discipline, and this subject has to offer to all these areas that people might be interested in, you know, if you're an environmentalist, a young kid growing up, and he's really into protecting the environment, economics is a way for you to achieve what you want to achieve, you know, if you're interested in, you know, representation of women or policing all these areas, you know, economics is an area for you as well, because it gives you a framework to analyse all those issues. So yeah, I think if your perception, which I think it is, for many people is that economics is a very narrow and kind of complex, inaccessible thing, then I would say, try and change the way you think about it is much, much broader than that. 100%, I'm hoping that teachers as well, because I think that some of this, we need teachers and parents to understand that as well. Like before, we can start to introduce Well, not before we can do at the same time, to get young people to realise that it's an option. And like you said, I'd love for young people who are very into the environment like that, as an example, to realise that if they start focusing on or learning more about how economics works as a concept, then they will be far better placed to do something about the things they care about. Yeah, for Yeah, I suppose just as an addendum to that. I mean, there is this perception that economics is quite right wing as well, that it's all about free markets. It's all about deregulation, it's all about a smaller state. It's all about getting government out of the way. There are economists who think like that, but they are by no means totally representative. There's, there's a lot of other economists who say, you know, where you can have a bigger state, you can have more taxation, it brings trade off. So I think that is the key thing. And that's what economics is really valuable for it's forcing you to choose. And it presents those difficult trade offs. But there's no inherent reason that economics gives, and I hope people do get this impression sometimes that there is no alternative, but to cut government, but to pay off debt, but to charge tuition fees. You know, what I mean, is there's definitely, I think, if you think that economics gives one answer to any big difficult political policy question, you're completely wrong. It gives you options. It's a framework for thinking about those choices. I love that. And I think we should end there. And know that I couldn't I could talk about this for ages. I could talk to you for ages about all the work you've done, but I think we want to leave people thinking Like, it's not what you think it is, there's so much more for you to learn. And for you to find out about it, I suppose just to end, thank you so much, Ben for your time. And hopefully we'll get to do some follow up interviews as well. And we might even ask some teachers and parents to give us some specific questions. So I hope that you'll be up for that if I can grab you again. And again, thank you so much for your time. Well, it's a pleasure speaking to Jennifer ally, very best of luck with the whole project. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much for listening to our episode. We hope you enjoyed it. Please get in touch if you visit our website, discover economics co.uk. You can email us through the site, get in touch, see all of our resources. And we'd love to hear from you. If you've got any questions for our guests that we can pass on to them. And I keep nudging our guests. We're hoping to get them back in the hot seat again with your questions. So please do get in touch and let us know what you think. If you've enjoyed the podcast, remember to go to Apple podcasts and rate and review. Remember to subscribe so that you get all the new episodes as they come in. And we look forward to hearing from you and let us know what you think. See you in the next episode.