This morning I spoke to a visiting group of undergraduate students from the University of Ulster, brought to the European Economic and Social Committee by Dr Michael Smyth (Various Interests Group, in the picture), a respected professor of economics at the university and Chairman of the EESC’s ‘ECO’ Section. It is easy for insiders to get lost in technicalities (as a student I sat through many such boring talks on official visits), so I went back to the very basics. Where did such advisory bodies come from? Answer; first, when national economies started to coalesce and got complicated organisationally, rulers (monarchs, basically) increasingly found they needed advice; and, second, after the industrial revolution, when labour started to organise itself, leaders realised that dialogue and planning was a better long-term strategy than confrontation. Advice and dialogue; that just about sums up the basic function of all economic and social councils and similiar institutions.