I try to focus on cities, but last post I talked about Norway, and today I will talk about Spain. I also think that national policies can teach us lessons about local economic development.

A few weeks ago Richard Florida informed me (and to his 60,000 followers in Twitter :), that Newsweek came out with a new ranking for countries. Newsweek it’s the type of outlet that when I’m living for a few months in the US I feel they’re in the left, and that once I live in Europe a few months, I consider them as a conservative piece of work. Anyways, I always like to take a look at these rankings. I think they made a good job overall. I always like to see how the countries that interest me, the US, Denmark, Bolivia, Ecuador and my native Spain score. There was something that striked me about Spain. I mean, I knew it, but it seemed so clear.

Why the education system in Spain sucks and the healthcare system is so good?

Both, are mostly public, with some private activity though. Both, had the same governments, and similar policy makers, similar history, similar environment, similar population (now 45 million), similar civil servants, similar everything! But why they’re so different??.

The healthcare system in Spain, of course it’s not perfect, but citizens overall are proud of it. That is, universal healthcare, including the 5 million immigrants in the last decade, no waiting lists longer than any other country (or different waiting time than in the US – I tell you this if you’re American), and good quality for all. Great doctors by the way. Also many other countries try to learn from us.

In the other hand, the education system after the golden Spanish era, a few centuries ago, it has been quite bad compared to the rest of advanced countries. 20 years ago it seemed it was taking off, but again is doing really bad. In primary, secondary and university level.

One day I will find out why both systems have such a different results. If you have any idea, please share. I think this gives an important lesson on economic development and policy, even on similar circumstances a mostly public field (there are competing private schools and health care provides but they are the minority) can thrive while other fail, when compared to the rest of the world.

p.s. Here is this ranking, and this opinion to complement the one of Newsweek, which point out Spain’s healthcare top position. I will not post about Spain’s position in education, but you can trust me on this one.

This week I listened to an article on NPR (American public radio) which suggests that the MBA’s were highly implicated in this economic crisis (click on “listen now” 7 min. article). If you consider that all CEO’s, CFO’s, economic planners, and many influential politicians (including presidents) had earned their MBA’s from these prestigious schools, have they not been infected with some type of hard core capitalist virus? Have they not been thinking about making profits instead of creating real wealth for the society?
Of course, the professors of business schools declare in their interviews how stupid it is to put the blame on them. Actually for me, it does not make a lot of sense to blame their education to what has been happening all around the world and all types of industries. However I would say they are guilty of something.
First of all, I should say I probably have a bias. My background is in business studies and economics, however I mingle with many economist, who having been disenchant with the mainstream economic have entered the realm of Economic Geography. When I could have done an MBA in United States or Spain, I preferred to go to Scandinavia to do a Masters of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, with a good dosage of Evolutionary Economics.
Where I think they’re guilty is on not having told their student enough about economic cycles (see my previous post to get an idea). That businesses and economies come and go, surge and plunge. I have several friend in the US and Spain with MBA’s, I know their classes and I believe this is somewhat missing. I mean, it’s something really basic. You don’t grow in a linear way. Economic growth, should be more understood as Economic evolution. You can’t make a business plan of how a business it’s going to evolve. Stories that have been told for ever (the 7 fat and 7 lean cows anyone?) were discontinued. This never ending economic growth mentality, not only happened in the mentality all across the industries, also happened with the Goverments, and the majority of the citizens.
So NPR’s article while is wrong, goes in the right direction. However, many blame the economists for having created all this bubble, and not having predicted it. But I actually believe the problem is that we don’t have, in our business schools, society and government, enough real economics.