Economics and the BWC 2012
Classical Economics makes no distinction between wants and needs. Wants/needs are considered infinite. The degree of desire can be measured by 'marginal utility'. If I have no car then I get one car, my happiness increases by 100. If I have 1 car and get one more so have 2, my happiness increases by 10. If I have 18 cars and get a 19th, maybe I get a fillip of only 2 or 1! That’s the theory.
When it comes to the Conference there are an infinite number of aspirations for it: we can skype a leading academic like Homi Bhaba, we can do an exchange with writers of India in the build-up to the Conference, we can do a live link with Jamaican University, we can run a special sci fi seminar, we can digital stream the Conference across TV networks, we can get the panellists to write papers beforehand and print them as a record of the Conference etc etc. However, for every action there is a cost-benefit equation to be made, and, while aspirations may be infinite, unfortunately our budget is finite! So the marginal benefit of each addition be calculated. OKthose how have had enough of the economics bail out now!
What are the measurable economic benefits of the Conference? There’s x amount of pounds spent on tickets and y amount spent in Manchester by attendees. Then there is expenditure on hotels, venue, facilities, printers, publicists, on fees and travel. Viewed narrowly it can be measured.
The 2007 Conference spawned numerous things we found out about only afterwards. BWC 2007 gave the impetus for a major University research project called Mediating Marginalities /Moving Manchester. It provided the raw material and/or inspiration for a number of academic dissertations. It made people change careers, take up writing, forged connections that went on to be developed into collaborations. All this could not have been measured at the time.
My mind turns to the most famous Conference ever held in Manchester – the 1945 Pan African Congress. The revolutionaries Patrick Lumumba, George Padmore, Amy Garvey, Jomo Kenyatta, CLR James were all there or involved with that one (see wikipedia) . Narrow economic modelling might have shown a turnover of maybe £1000 and some £1,000 of indirect benefit via hotels, guest houses and cafes for that PAC event. That Conference was key of course to forging alliances that directly led to Independence movements and the overthrow of colonial powers across Africa. How is that modelled financially?! Sometimes economics is a blunt instrument to look through!