This is From Arse To Elbow's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following From Arse To Elbow's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
From Arse To Elbow
Recent Activity
tOSPOPE's suggestion is actually quite sensible, if you forget about the idea of capital punishment for a moment, in that it ressurects the idea of taboo. This cultural institution was traditionally used to limit the depletion of key resources as much as to enforce hygiene - e.g. you could only kill certain animals at certain times and in certain ways. The ostracism of the Midwest dentist is a traditional social response: he is being shamed as an example to dissuade others from doing likewise. In years gone by, it is unlikely that this story would have made any great waves, which points to the key role of social media. This is simultaneously a new institutional form and a market for outrage. Kirkup and Jenkins are merely trying to leverage that same market with their provocations. Typically, both are mealy-mouthed, insisting that they personally deplore hunting for sport, while advocating solutions to meet their ideological priors: Lion Corp for Kirkup and sustainable ranching for Jenkins. Will no one stand up for an autonomist Shona workers' collective? Where's Jeremy Corbyn when you need him?
Toggle Commented yesterday on Creating markets at Stumbling and Mumbling
I think the reason for this particular cognitive dissonance is the same as the reason why we've still got the Parthenon marbles. If we gave them back, we'd be admitting that we shouldn't have taken them in the first place. If we had an open borders policy, we'd be admitting that the historic wealth accumulations of the country might not have been largely the result of our genius for manufacture and trade, or even the advantages of geography. That a reluctance to concede this is a popular attitude, i.e. not just limited to the descendants of the exploiters in chief, reflects a fairly sophisticated understanding of our collective history, which the response to recent revelations about our historic ambivalence towards slavery would seem to support (i.e. ignore reparations; focus on slebs coming to terms with skeletons in the closet).
Toggle Commented 5 days ago on "Demography is destiny" at Stumbling and Mumbling
One of the paradoxes of the Labour leadership campaign is that the right are insisting on delegation ("we must accurately reflect the views of the voters", albeit mediated by the Tory press and centrist think-tanks) as opposed to trusteeship (the Burkean model). I think the institutional dimension of the struggle is under-appreciated. Like the SDP before them, the Blairites want to appeal over the heads of party members directly to the electorate, thereby presenting the party as a dead form that must be sloughed off if the "new" is to emerge. The popularity of Corbyn is less about his mild and antique policies, or even resentment of the "bubble", and more that he treats the party with respect. If John Prescott had still been Deputy Leader, does anyone think he would have made Harman's mistake?
@Luis, yes it's a cost/benefit analysis; but such exercises typically distinguish between "hard" and "soft". The hard case suggests that the costs (bother) may outweigh the benefits (a reduced bill). That would imply the case is dependent on the soft side - i.e. there are intangible benefits that tip the balance. The unwillingness of the Tories to discuss those intangibles suggests they are either unpopular or embarrassing. We're not a million mile away from Swift's "A Modest Proposal".
Toggle Commented Jul 16, 2015 on The Cushnie principle at Stumbling and Mumbling
Hello Nick, There would be harm in changing the benefits system to stop a non-existent (or relatively trivial) problem. We don't have an infinite number of civil servants or parliamentary time, so using resources for this means not doing something else. In other words, it's an opportunity cost. GG estimates the scale of the problem as 1% of welfare costs. According the the DWP, fraud amounted to 0.7% (£1.1bn) in 2014/15. There was a further 1.2% (£2.0bn) paid in error. Less monies recovered, the net loss was £2.3bn, or 1.4%. Unclaimed benefits are difficult to accurately estimate, because of means-testing, but are thought to be about £10bn. In comparison, the government reckon we lose £4.1bn in tax evasion. Including avoidance, they estimate the total "tax gap" at £32bn. It's reasonable to assume that some fraud goes undetected (your anecdata suggests as much), but it is unlikely to be anywhere near as big as tax evasion. A rational response would be to devote 80% of our resources to tax evasion and 20% to benefit fraud. We actually do the opposite.
Toggle Commented Jul 16, 2015 on In defence of welfare at Stumbling and Mumbling
"Fairness" is obviously a subjective - and therefore political - judgement. What could be fairer than an unconditional basic income? Efficiency appears to be more objective, but that presumes we understand a policy's purpose and scope and can therefore gauge it. The 2-child cap may cost more to administer than it saves in benefit payments, but that may be to ignore the indirect changes in behaviour it is intended to prompt, and whether it has an ideological purpose. So why are the Tories keen to discourage births given that they are ostensibly "pro-family"? Is it simple class contempt (it was amusing to see the "Cambridges" coincidentally talk of their plans for a third child, which will presumably qualify for the Civil List); or a racist bogey ("1 in 4 births to foreign mums", according to the Daily Star); or is it just another reinforcement of the primacy of inheritance.
Toggle Commented Jul 16, 2015 on The Cushnie principle at Stumbling and Mumbling
Don't forget ... 4. Unicorns The most common complaints are about people none of us actually know, though we're sure our mates know them; or maybe mates of our mates do; or we saw them on the telly, so they must be real.
Toggle Commented Jul 15, 2015 on In defence of welfare at Stumbling and Mumbling
Dang. That opening "If" should be an "I". One final point: a CI can also provide a stimulus through a temporary increase in its level. Rather than boosting the economy via QE that operates through share and security purchases, the government can use a CI to distribute "helicopter money".
Toggle Commented Jul 15, 2015 on In defence of welfare at Stumbling and Mumbling
If should have added to #1 above, "Additionally, the quantum increase in welfare payments caused by a rise in unemployment would be reduced, as it would be limited to means-tested benefits such as housing". @Ted, an alternative is for the CI to replace the tax-free allowance - i.e. only income above the CI level (from investments as well as work) would be taxed, though at a more steeply progressive rate (e.g. rising in multiple bands from say 5% to 65%)
Toggle Commented Jul 15, 2015 on In defence of welfare at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Bob, a citizens' income (CI) does serve as an automatic stabiliser in three ways: 1. The subtraction from aggregate demand of the spending of those suddenly thrown out of work is less than it would otherwise be. 2. If implemented in a distributive fashion (i.e. shifting societal income from rich to poor), aggregate demand becomes less dependent on the spending power of those in work. In the same way that a growing pensioner population acts as a muffle on demand shifts, so a CI would be a stabiliser. 3. By providing income protection, a CI encourages workers to jump ship during a downturn, thus accelerating "creative destruction". In other words, it acts as a disincentive to labour-hoarding and an incentive to entrepreneurship, thus hastening recovery from recession.
Toggle Commented Jul 15, 2015 on In defence of welfare at Stumbling and Mumbling
Your emphasis on cyclicality, collective insurance and social resilience reminds us that welfare and work were once joined at the hip: the one an essential adjunct of the other. Structural changes in the economy have been driving a wedge between them for decades; a situation exacerbated by workfare and similar brute-force solutions. Labour's recent talk of rebooting the contributory principle of NI, like IDS's foray in Schillerian insurance markets, is clearly aimed at reattaching a socially-acceptable form of welfare for "hardworking families". In other words, Harman's stance is not so much anti-welfare as anti-poor.
Toggle Commented Jul 14, 2015 on In defence of welfare at Stumbling and Mumbling
Excuse the wee tangent, but ... The introduction of driverless trains has nothing to do with the bargaining power of unions or whether the network is public or private. It has everything to do with the engineering, and thus the age, of the railway. The Victoria line and the DLR were designed for partial automated operation from day one, though the degree of automation reflects the technology of their respective eras. The 60s-vintage Victoria line still uses a "driver" as a visual safety-check, while the 80s-vintage DLR relies on remote-control and CCTV. Partial automation has already been extended to to Central, Northern and Jubilee lines. The challenges to full automation are visual (i.e. spotting track obstructions or passengers/items trapped in doors), which in turn reflects the architecture of the tunnels and platforms. The "high wages" of Tube drivers essentially reflect the challenge of controlling a steampunk vehicle in a Victorian sewer. As the alternative would be billions invested in drilling new tunnels and building new platforms, the cost is actually a bargain. Naturally the only cost-benefit analysis the media are interested in is full automation of the entire Tube network, without appreciating that this is impossible with the combination of legacy engineering and current technology.
Toggle Commented Jul 12, 2015 on Labour's failure at Stumbling and Mumbling
One possible factor in Osborne's calculation is the current low level of inflation. Conceivably, some employers will simply pass on the wage rise through higher prices, particularly if they assume that their domestic competitors will do likewise. In other words, the Chancellor is once more being opportunistic.
Toggle Commented Jul 10, 2015 on Minimum wages & jobs at Stumbling and Mumbling
It's always worth remembering that very few people conceive of themselves as living in a liberal society, beyond the anodynes of "minding one's own business" and "not hurting anyone". The anxiety of liberalism - constant competition, self-improvement, maximising assets - is a class characteristic, just like psychotherapy. There is a vast, cross-class market for social media like Facebook, but there is a much smaller market for personal surveillance, the smart home and the exploitation of one's own data. What's on you mind? Quite possibly cake.
Toggle Commented Jun 30, 2015 on who wants to know? at potlatch
Perhaps you give too much weight to the idea that the "right" is made up of "free marketeers" who laud superstars and decry cronyism. The primacy of property (whose "ladder" obscures actual income scales) and the associated privileging of inheritance would suggest that the dominant strain of thought on the right today is distinctly pro-inequality and little cares how it arose. I believe this is called conservativism.
Mike Shupp makes a good point that "skunkworks" were (and I use the past tense deliberately) a product of a historical moment in American industry. Many of the firms that pursued this approach had the "luxury" of tolerant Department of Defense contracts, notably during the military investment surge of the 60s and 70s. Many of these same firms had close ties with DoD-funded research institutions, such as Stanford and CaltTech, with the result that the idea pollinated a number of early technology companies that were incubated in the same environment. By the time that Google adopted it, it was pretty old-hat. One interpretation would be that the migration of the idea from the defense to the commercial tech sector reflected the "peace dividend" of the 90s. Today, skunkworks is largely honoured in the breach, with "own time" treated as a self-regarding perk rather than an efficiency measure. The focus should not be on trying to get the corporate world to "tune in, turn on and drop out" (for many, skunkworks is just more CSR blather), but on developing mass innovation via the "own time" enabled through a basic income.
Ex-public schoolboy suggests a government minister was "a bloody good bloke". And this is news?
Toggle Commented Jun 6, 2015 on "A nice guy" at Stumbling and Mumbling
Families adopt multiple budgeting strategies by force of circumstance, including fixed sum or percentage (e.g. entertainment), zero-based (kids), hypothecation (any bonuses towards the holiday fund), rationing (turn the heating off), and trade-offs (buy own-brand food). The problem is that government seems to be less sophisticated, hence the aversion to hypothecation, the poor public debate about NHS rationing, and the unwillingness to do proper zero-based (e.g. deriving the defence budget from a realistic threat analysis). The irony is that their tacit defence for this incoherent approach is the lack of political sophistication on the part of the public.
Smithers focuses on a particular mechanism - that bonuses incentivise short-termism and deter long-term investment - but there is another possible explanation, namely that there is a competition for funds between the capex schedule and the bonus pool. It's worth remembering that the bonus culture has spread to most layers of management over the last 30 years, so the bonus pool is now a very large item in many companies finances. It's not just City banks or C-level executives any more.
The simple answer to your opening question is: because they are frustrated. There is a lot of anger around at the moment, and some of this will inevitably erupt in "thickness". Though these incidents may appear regrettable in isolation, it is also worth considering them in aggregate, and in that context, social change comes about through struggle not by polite requests. It would be an unhealthy sign for the left in this country if no one was angry right now. I haven't seen the Carswell footage, but that's because I don't need to. I already have a "worst image" in my mind, planted there by years of media exposure, that would merely be "reinforced". If the left is activist, it will be characterised as violent, undemocratic and strident by the right. Even the soft-left will accuse it of "tactical naivety" (cf 1984). It it sits on its hands, it will be derided as weak and ineffective. @MatGB, most historians consider the combination of the 'gettes and the 'gists to have been crucial in securing female suffrage. The one did not undermine the other. That said, historians also consider the key to extending the vote was actually the introduction of universal male suffrage in 1918 - i.e. women rode in on a tide of sentiment that was driven more by male sacrifice than women's war work. It's worth noting that states that introduced universal male suffrage well before WW1 were among the latest to grant equality to women (e.g. France). If the Chartists had succeeded, British women might not have got the vote before WW2.
@Neil Wilson, "large businesses get any productivity effects largely from oligopolistic practices". Oligopolistic (or monopolistic) practices can boost profits, and this can be misinterpreted as an increase in productivity, however this tends to be a one-off (you maximise your gains early) and can thus be distinguished from steady productivity growth. You're also implying a narrow measure of productivity - i.e. profit rather than turnover. On average, larger firms have higher rates of productivity growth than smaller firms because of higher levels of capital utilisation, more skilled workers and economies of scale. Yes, they suffer from bureaucracy and other structural inefficiencies, but this is outweighed by the advantages of size. Old firms can suffer from entropy, but they can also take advantage of deep tacit knowledge, established market relationships and employee loyalty. There are pluses and minuses. Most young firms fail because of incompetence - i.e. they're not sufficiently good at what they do to supplant incumbents. What you want is a mixed economy in terms of firm size and age, as much as a mix in terms of sector and skillset, as this provides the greatest aggregate resilience and flexibility. The imbalance of the UK economy today is not just about London or financial services, or productive vs distributive, but the growing share of small, inefficient and unprofitable firms. Our creative destruction is insufficiently creative.
Toggle Commented May 23, 2015 on Blair vs the Blairites at Stumbling and Mumbling
Encouraging smaller businesses will, ceteris paribus, depress aggregate productivity. Also, bear in mind that most unskilled migrant labour is employed by small firms, not by large ones. What we need are more large worker-controlled businesses, but that would require a degree of market intervention that is well outside the Overton Window. If Blair's triangulation sought to reconcile big capital and labour, the current mood (essentially manoeuvring ahead of the EU referendum) appears to be focused on reconciling big and small capital. I think Kendall reflects this zeitgeist, rather than any misundertanding of Blair's record.
Toggle Commented May 22, 2015 on Blair vs the Blairites at Stumbling and Mumbling
A workers' cooperative is a business. A prosititute is a business. Russell Brand is a business. Noam Chomsky is a business. The point, of course, is that we interpret "business" to suit our interests. For some, pro-business means less "red tape" and fewer labour regulations. For other businesses it means the opposite - e.g. EPL footballers or Hollywood actors. One of the ideological tricks of the "business" trope is to obscure the different interests of different forms of capital. @Metatone, the standard credit days (28 or 30) haven't changed in a century. This is despite telegraphy, telex, email, BACS, SWIFT etc, not to mention ERP and accounting systems. A change would produce winners and losers (i.e. who gets more days of earned interest), so the dominant party (the buyer - which, at an aggregate level, means big business) will not countenance change. This is not about capability but power. You probably knew that. @Matt Moore, your claim, "the defining feature of the market is actually cooperation", only makes sense if you beieve that transactions tend to be mutually-beneficial. But this assumes that markets are essentially neutral - that they do not encode any prior advantage or systemic bias - which experience would suggest is an optimistic belief at best.
Toggle Commented May 22, 2015 on Pro-growth, anti-business at Stumbling and Mumbling
Metatone makes a plausible case for what is essentially a managerialist tactic (albeit an effective one, in Chris's terms), namely the appointment of an interim CEO. I suspect this may happen anyway, for structural reasons. Labour's problem is that the Blair years have weakened the institutional capability of the party to listen to both members and supporters, having replaced an active (and therefore troublesome) organisation with a passive one, and having made autonomy suspect (thus handing the SNP a gift in Scotland). The legacy of Philip Gould is a party incapable of generating new thinking from the grassroots, as opposed to taste-tasting the output of thinktanks and the media bubble. As a post-democratic party, Labour finds itself lacking a democratic culture at precisely the point when it needs one most. The decision this week to have a four-month leadership election process is an obvious compromise between the Blairite desire for an early coronation by acclamation and the non-Blairite desire for the party conference to act as a hustings. It would have made more sense to adopt a split strategy: appoint an interim leader now (if Harman isn't up the job, why was she appointed Deputy in the first place?); and spend the next 2-3 years rebuilding the party's democratic capability from the ground up. Of course, the very idea of democracy will give some grandees the heebie-jeebies, but if there is one cause that is genuinely common to the fragmentation of Labour support across the SNP, Greens and UKIP, it is the failure of representation.
@Steven Clarke, John Locke's theories on property conveniently denied rights to the land to Native Americans, on the erroneous basis that they did not cultivate or enclose it, and thus did not "mix their labour", in his narrow definition. You can take it as read that the "others" referred to in his caveat did not include either Native Americans or African slaves (Locke was an investor in the slave trade and was involved in the drafting of Carolina's slavery-friendly Constitution). Locke stands in a long line of philosophers, historians and anthropologists who have excused the theft of land from indigenous peoples by denying their agency, denigrating their technology and insisting on their essential childishness or fecklessness - i.e implying that they did not deserve to own land. You'll also notice that his theory privileges first-movers. For example, if I invest more of my labour in a small area of another man's field than he does, by cutting the grass with a pair of scissors and removing every pebble with a pair of tweezers, this does not give me a superior claim to that land. Locke is defending existing property distributions generally, and the seizure of America specifically.
Toggle Commented May 16, 2015 on Hating libertarians at Stumbling and Mumbling