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There is of course a risk in changing manager after a 20-year incumbency, however Arsenal will have to do it at some point (Arsene isn't immortal) so it makes sense to grasp the nettle at a time when the club's structural advantages (increased revenue, some promising youth) may offset the cost of change. The window of opportunity has been open since 2014. Had it not been for the two FA Cup wins, and the belief that these heralded a step-change, I suspect Arsene would have called time a couple of seasons ago. Arguably, our failure to finish above Leicester last year (despite beating them home and away) was the decisive moment. Ironically, this was obscured by the hilarity of Spurs screwing up. I suspect most Arsenal fans have now come around to the view that a season of turmoil (not qualifying for the CL, finishing behind Spurs) would be worthwhile if the club then met the expectations associated with its current capabilities, i.e. that the 5th richest club in the world should at least make the CL last 8, rather than always going out in the round of 16, and should be able to challenge for the Premiership until April most years. Wenger's place in history is assured, not just the history of Arsenal or English Football but of the global game, however his time has passed. His insistence on playing the last pure number 10, on crafting a team out of unusual individual talents, and of wanting to win more than to avoid losing, is beautiful but quixotic, showing the formative impression that Platini's France of 1984 had on him (he started his managerial career at Nancy in the same year). Change is gonna come.
Toggle Commented Feb 17, 2017 on Replacing Wenger at Stumbling and Mumbling
We do indeed need a historical perspective here. Most of the intellectuals associated with the Labour Party, certainly up to 1970s, were not middle class but upper middle, a distinction that Orwell was keenly aware of. This began to change in the 1960s with the expansion of tertiary education and the related growth in professional roles, both in the public and private sectors. The conflicts within the party that reached boiling point in the late-70s were a result of this new middle class formation (both on the right and left) competing for policy control with an industrial proletariat already in retreat. Despite the sentimental solidarity of the 80s, what was really happening was an acceptance by the middle class that the proletariat had missed its historic cue as an agent of progress and would have to take a back seat. New Labour formalised that marginalisation and sought to redefine social democracy in a way that would appeal to middle class (rather than upper middle) values, such as technical expertise and managerialism. Culturally, Labour under Blair went from a high+low-brow mix to pure middle-brow (e.g. setting "output targets" for arts funding). The current problem is not that the Labour Party's policies alienate the working class (policies can be changed), but that the working class are conscious of being expected to take a subordinate role (with no hope of change). Patronisation is ultimately a bigger issue for the party than immigration. Consider how often the latter is bookended by "I'm not racist but ..." and "but they [politicians] don't care". We laugh knowingly at the former and miss the importance of the latter.
Does this mean we can now start referring to older workers as job-blockers?
Toggle Commented Feb 15, 2017 on Low job mobility at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Blissex, I wouldn't say that Tom Walker (Sandwichman) argues that there really is a lump of labour but that the fallacy is a strawman that is usually employed to undermine labour movement demands for reduced working hours. The broader point is that labour is rarely perfectly fungible, hence an experienced worker retained beyond the state retirement age is not the same as a young worker, as David Br notes (the lump of labour has impeccable micro-foundations, being demonstrably true at the level of the firm). While this may be a wash in terms of aggregate demand, it may exacerbate intergenerational inequality.
A quibble. I'm not sure you're correct to say that young people cannot "complain about high pensioner incomes to the extent that these are due to more pensioners having jobs". While there is no lump of labour, there is a different dynamic at work with pensioners compared to immigrants added to the labour supply. Pensioners who push back their effective retirement age will often do so by staying in existing jobs, even if at reduced hours. This incumbency means lower employment churn, which has the effect of reducing the number of better-paid vacancies that open up for the young because we are living in an era when newly-created jobs tend on average to be more poorly-paid than established ones. More working pensioners means more aggregate demand and thus more new vacancies elsewhere, but if those new jobs are of a lower calibre then we can legitimately say that pensioners working longer (as incumbents) is detrimental to the young without invoking the lump of labour fallacy.
The problem is that the low-hanging fruit of privatisation and outsourcing have long since been plucked. The student loan book is trivial at a macroeconomic level. A privatisation capable of stimulating the economy today would mean encroaching on the NHS or state pensions, neither of which would garner electoral support and either of which could prove counter-productive by depressing demand through precautionary saving.
Toggle Commented Feb 10, 2017 on The case for privatization at Stumbling and Mumbling
Incentives tend to be a projection. Rich people insist they need the incentive of more riches because they are motivated by wealth. The rhetoric surrounding child refugees has centred on the idea of cheating ("check their teeth!") because those who object often assume everybody else is on the make and will always take advantage. They are projecting their own cynicism and probably their own habitual cheating.
Toggle Commented Feb 10, 2017 on "Incentives" as bigotry at Stumbling and Mumbling
Confidence is an slippery term because it can mean either a belief in the reliability of something or access to restricted information, plus there is a third sense, combining the two meanings, in which confidence implies the membership of an informal group. Thus: I am confident the bus will arrive shortly; in all confidence, the bus driver is an alcoholic; I have the confidence of the bus driver's wife. In practice, the sort of "confidence" displayed by Sarah Sands is a rational display of the first ("I'm in") consequent on an appreciation of the last ("I'm a member of the in-crowd"). What won't be revealed is the second - i.e. whether she was actively encouraged to apply on the understanding that the job was hers if she wanted it (she clearly didn't send her CV in on spec). "Top" jobs are rarely filled by open competition, as both Sands and Tristram Hunt know. They are by invitation only.
Toggle Commented Feb 2, 2017 on Class & confidence at Stumbling and Mumbling
The idea that commerce brings people together is rather antique, conjuring up pictures of sailors dockside and merchants in market squares. The historic trend of trade has been towards segregation (e.g. docks moving out of cities and being increasingly automated) and evanescence (e.g. digital goods and services). What brings people together is increasingly shared experiences, whether in the form of face-to-face work or tourism. For example, the mechanism by which racism declined in British football grounds after the 70s was not "increased commerce between white fans and black players" but that black players attracted and encouraged black fans. This led to the recognition of shared interests among spectators and made overt racism unfashionable. We have probably already reached a point where trade tariffs are likely to have only a weak impact on international understanding, so Tyler Cowen's analysis could be extended from the economic realm to the cultural. Our problem may be that commerce, in the traditional sense, has already lost much of its power to "soften barbarism".
Toggle Commented Jan 29, 2017 on On soft commerce at Stumbling and Mumbling
As leavers never tire of reminding us, the Brexit decision has been made. We don't have to reinforce it with further popular votes and the likelihood of a conclusive referendum on the terms of separation (or even an early general election fought on the issue) looks remote. For that reason, I'm dubious that Labour's electoral prospects would suffer because of its position on this one topic, no matter how fudged, though I suppose it could damage the party's chances by crowding out other issues in debate (I think I espy an agenda). Voters don't only care about Brexit, and those that insist on virtue-signalling (in either direction) through a secret ballot are unlikely to be "reliable" voters anyway. We look to be making a mountain out of a molehill. PS: This comment thread was worth it just for the Freudian slip of "right below our noises".
If the UK economy really were in a position to take advantage of a radical change in circumstances, such as Brexit or comprehensive deregulation, we would expect to see signs of that potential exhibited as tension. In other words, a visible straining at the leash or chafing under existing constraints. In the absence of such signs, you'd have to conclude that either the potential isn't there or that the existing constraints aren't material. In the case of deregulation (of which we've had plenty), it looks to be the former; in the case of Brexit, it looks more likely to be the latter.
I fear you're setting up a false dichotomy between boring facts and frivolous politics, which will only encourage the epistocrats and democracy-haters. The role of gobshites like Young is the result not just of TV execs' lust for ratings but an ideological division of politics into public drama and private competence. The vast majority of actual politics is already dull: think of employer/union negotiations, local council deliberations or the entire third sector. Most "important stuff" doesn't actually make the news. The problem is, as you say in your final sentence, one of "appearance".
Toggle Commented Jan 23, 2017 on In praise of dullness at Stumbling and Mumbling
One cultural change since the 80s has been the tendency for innovators to systematically use large firms as launchpads. In other words, they don't tinker in the garage so much as develop a skunkworks within the corporate host and then decamp on the promise of VC funding and an eventual IPO. Back in the day, the instinct was to stay and convince rather than go solo as soon as an idea was monetisable. This may reflect a growing corporate inability or uninterest in exploiting new ideas that springs from shareholder value, though the tendency to get employees to sign restrictive covenants on IP rights suggests otherwise, so perhaps it is more a reflection of the decline in corporate loyalty and the rise of promiscuous employment (the flip-side of precarity). Of course, these are more effects than causes. The underlying dynamic is probably the shift from physical to intellectual capital - i.e. less plant, more patents. The problem is that this may also be masking an accelerated shift from productive to distributive activities, which would explain sluggish productivity. An example of the distributive trend is the growth of talking shops and vapid consultancy - something that Liam Byrne seems well versed in.
Not only will we struggle to compete with Romania and Bulgaria on labour costs, but we will struggle to outbid Ireland on corporation tax and Luxembourg on tax avoidance. The rational approach would be to identify the UK's intrinsic strengths and then exploit them to the max. Those strengths were: a) being in the single market but not the Eurozone, b) providing a business environment that was culturally and institutionally midway between the US and Europe, and c) having a number of centres of expertise in services that can be leveraged globally (finance, law, consultancy, media etc). We've bollixed the first of these for the sake of a dubious sovereignty and a reduction in immigration that will underwhelm its supporters. The second is now looking more fragile under a Trump administration (a trade war between the US and EU would hit the UK harder than either of the protagonists). That pretty much leaves the last, which is why the "Singapore model" is at least coherent. The problem is that it means relying even more on London, so the Brexit heartlands can expect further neglect. Supply-side socialism might be the better approach, but politically this will struggle against a Tory party increasingly focused on the Home Counties and looking to the LibDems and UKIP (and the Blairite remnants) to fragment opposition votes. It also means the Tories will probably be increasingly sanguine about both Scottish independence (the Scots may ironically be pushed before they jump) and Northern Ireland moving closer to Dublin. It may be a good time to re-read Tom Nairn.
@Gary Taylor, The BBC analysis you have used is from 2007, which was not only a single year a decade ago but an atypical year in terms of contributions. To avoid (ahem) cherry-picking, you need to look at the trend over time. Here is a Danish analysis for the 2006 to 2014 period. You can clearly see the anomaly of 2007: This next analysis (see page 2) shows the trend between the 4 largest contributors graphically: In other words, my original statement above - that the UK has "usually paid less in absolute terms than Germany, France and Italy" - is correct. Of course, there are many ways in which the numbers can be represented (hence the analyses vary), to suit all arguments, but the key political truth is that the UK has always had a "good deal". This is actually a cause for some resentment among the EU27, which you can see in the way that the European Parliament presents the numbers, making explicit that the UK rebate is calculated per country, not in aggregate - i.e. France, Italy et al pay for the UK to be a member; the rebate isn't a back-hander from Brussels. I'm not sure that many Brexiteers understand the psychology of this (see the title of this post) and how it will impact negotiations. See:
Toggle Commented Jan 19, 2017 on On Brexit solipsism at Stumbling and Mumbling
@MJW, Exiting the single market does not put an end to cherry-picking. That remains very much alive in respect of the customs union. We must either cherry-pick to preserve advantageous elements or we must start with a blank slate. The former would likely be by sector, so some UK industries will lose out, while the latter would require a comprehensive trade deal that we'd have little chance of negotiating inside 2 years. The EU27 are expecting cherry-picking. The UK has long been a net contributor to the EU, but it has usually paid less in absolute terms than Germany, France and Italy. As a percentage of gross national income (GNI), the UK is actually one of the lowest net contributors, thanks to the famous rebate. Similarly, on a per capita basis, we have traditionally paid in less than the likes of The Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Denmark. It's academic now, but the idea that the EU is financially dependent on the UK is simply wrong. If it could absorb new net beneficiaries in Eastern Europe, it can accommodate the loss of the UK. EU contributions are the ticket price for access to the single market etc and the wider economic benefits this brings. The redistribution between contributors and beneficiaries is incidental and marginal overall (about 1% of EU-wide GNI). The UK's seat on the UN Security Council has never been representative of the EU because the UK's policy has been to position itself as equidistant between the US and Europe. It is the French who have traditionally sought to informally represent the EU on the UNSC (though even they are prey to chauvinism on occasion). The EU loses nothing here. The majority of free movement occurs on the continent, not across the Channel, for pretty obvious reasons of geography. If Poland was seeking to "export its unemployment" it would do so to Germany, not the UK. The end of free movement to Britain is only going to be an issue if we deny visas to skilled workers and students (and the objections will come mainly from domestic business) or if we mass-expel existing residents (unlikely). This is going to be close to a non-event for the EU27. English is an advantage for skilled jobs, not low-paid ones like picking beets, and because it is the corporate lingua franca skilled Brits can find work in Berlin (or San Francisco) as easily as French people who speak English can find work in London. There may be an asymmetry of supply (lots of monolingual Brits), but this is offset by a reverse asymmetry of demand (lots of global jobs that require English).
Toggle Commented Jan 18, 2017 on On Brexit solipsism at Stumbling and Mumbling
The paradox of May's revolutionary fervour is explained by the aim of restoring a glorious past (so she's more Whig than Tory). Given that Brexit is a "phantastic object", a sober consideration of the practical difficulties or a cautious estimate of the potential isn't likely to get a hearing, as yer man Rogers found. More worrying is the disconnect between expectation and reality, the characteristic of the patsy, which was evident in the moon-faced glee of Michael Gove faced with a notorious shyster telling him "Yeah, we can do you a great deal". The UK doesn't just lack experienced trade negotiators, too many of its politicians lack an understanding of our own history. The myth at the heart of Britain's concept of free trade is the idea that our historic partners were just that: partners who freely entered into mutually-beneficial deals rather than mostly subordinates coerced into asymmetric relationships. Philip Hammond (who doesn't appear to be an idiot) has realised that we'll only get what we can secure by force, hence the threat of regulatory arbitrage. I get the sense that the government is divided between happy-clappy free trade loons and empire nostalgists on one side, and pragmatists and the London interest on the other, the latter advocating a cynical Singapore strategy that will condemn the Brexit-voting heartlands to further decline. Brexit is going to be well 'ard.
Toggle Commented Jan 17, 2017 on On Brexit over-optimism at Stumbling and Mumbling
Michael O'Connor also made the point that a disproportionate increase in poorer households can paradoxically result in narrowing inequality between the top and bottom quintiles, essentially because the top 5th expands to include more households that were previously in the 4th. See: What we should also ask of statistics is why they are presented in a particular way, given that this is potentially subject to ideological bias - e.g. the occlusion of the top 1% by using quintiles instead of centiles.
There is obvious truth in this, but you're in danger of creating a false dichotomy in which leavers are overwhelmingly driven by issues of identity while remainers are uniformly pragmatic technocrats. Some leavers (and potentially a pivotal minority) were thinking in consequential terms, and not necessarily without reason (e.g. those concerned about the fishing industry), while there was no shortage of remainers for whom the EU was an intrinsic good bound up with a cosmopolitan and modernist identity. In that sense, the current remain campaign in-all-but-name makes strategic sense, i.e. targeting consequentialist leave voters while assuming that identitarian remainers aren't going to desert the cause. This may make it look like a dialogue of the deaf, but a focus on the "pivotal minority" is consistent with long-term British political practice.
The idea of the economy as an alien force is hardly that recent. It goes back to Smith's "invisible hand" and Ricardo's "iron laws", not to mention Marx's teleology, and is part and parcel of Enlightenment thinking and the broader issue of scientism. This is a problem of demand as much as supply. In other words (and despite the claims of 2016), we actually over-value expertise, which is why Martin Lewis is so popular. The vanity of some economists plays a part, but the distinction between them and dentists comes down to a difference in our expectations. An improvement requires not just a change in behaviour among economists but a change in attitude among the public (or at least the media). We need to stop asking What will happen? and ask Why might anything happen? I'm not holding my breath.
@Blissex, Re migration flows, you have consider three things: numbers relative to home population; that congregation can make immigrant groups invisible to much of a country; and that dispersion across multiple destination countries can do likewise. For example: Slovenia is very small (and Slovenes are routinely mistaken for other nationalities); a 1/4 of the Portuguese in the UK live around Vauxhall and Stockwell; and about 4% of the Greek population have emigrated since 2008 but to a lot of different countries (many with existing congregations), e.g. the US, UK, Germany and Australia. Taiwan is a special case because of its relationship with the mainland, but Korea has seen plenty of emigration historically, notably to America and Japan. The UK Korean community is another example of "congregational invisibility", with many to be found in New Malden (betwee Wimbledon and Kingston). After 1989, lots of East Germans "emigrated" to what was the old West Germany. To say that they have remained in (a unified) Germany rather misses the point. As for the Russians, many of them have emigrated but they've preferred to go to Germany (often backfilling "Ossis") and former Soviet republics. Relatively few have made it as far as Kensington. The point is that we are living in an era of unprecedented mass movement (into cities as much as between countries). This is a global phenomenon caused by rising living standards, falling transport costs and the tendency of technology (which includes learning English) to make skills more transferrable. This process isn't a deliberate conspiracy by capitalists, so much as the working of capital itself, so it cannot be arrested by policy or bought off by Western investment.
@Blissex, Re "the best way to stop economic immigration is to invest in the source countries creating local jobs there". The evidence (not anecdata) suggests the opposite. Investing in a developing economy improves the skills of local workers, making them more marketable abroad, and simultaneously raises incomes, giving skilled workers the wherewithal to mirate to developed economies with higher wages. Re "why do they risk their life to cross the Channel to come to the UK? After all France is a rich, safe country like the UK, with similar or better low-end wages". Because France has a national ID card scheme and without an ID ('sans papiers') it is very difficult to get a job in the formal economy (perversely, this explains why the French black economy is larger than that of the UK). On top of this, the UK has weakly enforced laws. The 'right to work' checks by corporates are often outsourced to recruitment agencies who have a conflict of interest, while SMEs often lack the interest and/or skills to properly check. The UK has a reputation as being a relatively easy place to find work (or start a business). Ironically, this "truth" has been amplified over the years by media tales of the state being a "soft touch" and incompetent at securing our borders.
Bloodworth is engaged in constructing a strawman consistent with media norms (hence the nerve-jangling use of "bien pensant"). I doubt there are many liberals who claim that immigration "is all sunshine and rainbows", even if they do reason that the aggregate benefits outweigh the costs. You'll note he also criticises McCluskey and Coyne of "demagogic electioneering" for "responding to the prevailing mood among Unite members", ignoring that antipathy towards immigrant labour among union members has a long history. There's more continuity here than change. Bloodworth's piece is just another example of the modish "facts versus feelings" false dichotomy. The flip-side is the belief that members of the "traditional" working class are immune to evidence or reason, and peculiarly vulnerable to the charms of Paul Nuttall, essentially because they are thick. No surprise to see Rob Ford cheering from the sidelines.
@Parus major, Chesterton wasn't a Christian, he was a Catholic (and a famous lover of paradoxes). I would echo Chris's pointer to the title of Weber's famous work. The belief that capitalism instrinsically serves the "work of God" comes from Protestantism. Catholic doctrine tends more towards corporatism - the integration of capitalism within a "natural order" - which in turn reflects history: Protestantism as a disruptive force and post-Reformation Catholicism as a conservative one
Toggle Commented Dec 22, 2016 on Against busyness at Stumbling and Mumbling
I suspect your appeal will be in vain. The timidity and lack of interest displayed by journalists and economists is due to structural changes more than a "disposition to admire": the growth of the financial sector, the decline of academic tenure, the consolidation of the national media in London (and the upper-middle class), the slow death of local journalism, the substitution of PR for specialist reporting etc, etc. Appeals to get their boots dirty will no doubt touch a chord with many metropolitan journalists and economists - it being the season of reflection and new resolutions, after all - but this will no more arrest the current direction of travel than Crisis at Christmas solves homelessness.
Toggle Commented Dec 20, 2016 on An appeal for ground truth at Stumbling and Mumbling