In my review of John Howkins, The creative economy (4 Feb 2011), I explained how
Howkins tells the story of the development of a young guitarist called Tom. Howkins asks when the guitarist could be said to have been working and when earning. Howkins explains:
According to British Law, someone who is self-employed like Tom [the guitarist] can be broke, can even be ill and unable to work, but he cannot be unemployed. So Tom can be working and not earning, and earning but not working. Tom’s answer is forthright. He is always working
… in other words, even when he is playing his guitar in his bedroom. The point is worth pondering.
A fascinating coda to this discrepancy, between the official view and the underlying reality, is provided by an interview with Professor Jonathan Haskell of Imperial College, London.
In the interview, broadcast in an edition of BBC Radio 4’s In business programme (4 April 2013) dedicated to exploring the relationship between employment and production, Haskell draws attention to the significance of ‘intangible investment’ – investment in the form of such things as design, software development,and new businesses processes.
Haskell estimates the size of intangible investment in the UK as a percentage of GDP, as…