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David Bowie's success holds lessons for Britain, Foreign Office economist says
He has received plaudits for his remarkable surprise comeback, his critically-acclaimed song writing and his longevity, but it appears David Bowie’s appeal may have reached a new high.

For his successful career could also be the key to saving the British economy, according to an economist at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Writing on the department’s official website, the Counsellor for Economics based at the British Embassy in Washington D.C. said Bowie’s “phenomenal” career held important “lessons” for success.

Peter Matheson, who is head of the economics team at the embassy and writes regular blogs for the FCO, said he could identify” at least three” key lessons from Bowie to improve Britain’s “broader economic performance”.

In a light-hearted post, he cited the artist’s international appeal, constant evolution and ability to learn from past mistakes as integral to success.

Writing of Bowie’s career and recent comeback at the age of 66, Mr Matheson added: “That degree of accomplishment has to offer wider lessons and, as an economist, I found myself reflecting on that issue while enjoying the new Bowie album.”

The economics counsellor, who has previously worked for the Treasury, said the “list of economic principles” embodied by Bowie “goes on and on”.

Even his surprise recent song release could be considered in light of the British economy, Mr Matheson argued.

“And [at] a time of economic challenges, it’s worth remembering the spirit of the latest chapter in Bowie’s long story,” he wrote. “Never count out, or underestimate, a true living legend.”

Mr Matheson identified three areas of lessons to be drawn from Bowie’s life and work.

He is a senior member of the British Embassy, based in Washington D.C, and writes on the FCO website alongside Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott and deputy head of mission Philip Barton.

The “number one” lesson, he said, was that of global recognition, with Bowie “the quintessential internationalist” and a “superb manifestation of transatlantic team work”.

From his example, he claimed, economists should learn to “think internationally and grow internationally”.

Mr Matheson’s second lesson is that of constant evolution and diversity, keeping one step ahead of his rivals by “never putting his eggs in one basket.”

“So lesson number two is diversity: modern economies need to be sufficiently diversified in terms of the industries and sectors on which they are based,” he said.

In the UK, he explained, this translates to recognising the economy was too dependent on financial services, and working to build a wider range of strengths.

The third lesson, according to Mr Matheson, is to learn from past mistakes and strive never to repeat them, either in Bowie’s “woeful” songs of the 1980s onwards or global failed economic policies.

The positive blog will be a welcome change of fortunes for Bowie in terms of his impact on the British economy.

In 2009, he was bizarrely blamed for the credit crunch after an economist pointed out he had offered fans a chance to buy bonds in the 1990s.

Evan Davis, from the BBC, said banks then “caught on to the idea”.

He wrote: “They thought, 'We have billions out there in mortgages which are going to pay us back very slowly. Why don’t we sell those and get the money now?'

“So the banks started doing what Bowie had done – in a big way.”
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