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There is certainly truth in your suggestion that the urge to be transgressive has contributed to the use of stupid language on the left, but we should recognise that transgression is relative and can arise through the shifting of boundaries as much as by stepping over them. The interpretation of any criticism of the Israeli state as anti-Zionism, and the conflation of that with anti-semitism, is a political strategy of linguistic manipulation that Orwell would have recognised, even if his self-declared heirs struggle to spot this amidst the darkness. @Matt Moore, "As long as you are a socialist, atheist, anti-imperialist, and anti-Israel then you are accepted". So how did Tony Blair ever become a member?
@Passing By, The original post did not confuse the dismantling of the coal industry with the destruction of mining communities because it only mentioned the latter, not the former. If you mention apples but not organges, you can't be confusing one with the other. "Those mines were grossly uneconomic and closure was long overdue". Had the UK closed all of its mines in the 1950s and 60s, as economic "logic" would have dictated, shifting to reliance on cheaper coal imports and the use of oil and gas, the effects of the oil crisis in 1973 would have been truly catastrophic (many countries shifted demand from oil to coal at the same time, increasing international prices, but most industrial nations had the advantage of domestic coal production to fall back on). Odd though it might seem, the "lights out" of the 3-day week in 1974 was actually a sign of the UK's strategic strength - i.e. its ability to rely on domestic coal. The "weakness" that this entailed was that it gave the NUM enormous leverage, which was the Torie's beef. Of course, it's worth remembering that the NUM had been anything but militant in its history. There were no national strikes between 1945 and 1972, and only 3 in total (1972, 1974, 1984-5). The decision to accelerate the decline of the UK coal industry was political, not economic (see the Ridley Plan of 1977). Privatisation of electricity could not proceed if that industry was tied to coal, and therefore limited in its ability to increase margins through supply abritrage, not to mention potentially at risk of industrial action. Destroying the NUM, which inevitably meant destroying or at least undermining coal-mining communities, was central to this. "First, the preceding Labor governments did not close the mines when they should have done". Not so. Mines were closed under all postwar governments. This was a cross-party policy. The idea that 1984-5 was somehow the fault of Labour is akin to blaming the 2008 financial crash, the subsequent recession and the resulting spike in government debt on Gordon Brown (go on, you know you want to). "Second, the miners themselves, through their union (NUM), did not use the considerable economic and political strength they had to negotiate transition packages for unneeded miners". Again, not so. The NUM cooperated in the strategy of managed decline from 1945 on. The strikes in '72 and '74 were over wages (which had fallen in real terms relative to other workers due to inflation), not pit closures or redundancies.
So, israeli gunner, what you're saying is that we need to show more passion? That only through a commitment to FIGHT can we BRING OUR CLUB BACK from wherever it has temporarily disappeared to down our MISERABLE TUNNEL, yes? Let me think about that for a minute. In the meantime, on behalf of everyone, I'd like to thank you for your timely and cogently-argued contribution Your fallow gunners
Toggle Commented 2 days ago on On obliquity neglect at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Passing By, You're confusing the dismantling of the coal industry with the destruction of mining communities. They're not the same thing. The biggest reduction in employment in coalmining occured over the course of the 1960s, but no one sees that as being destructive in the way that the smaller reduction in the 1980s was. The point at issue was not the destination (coal had been in "managed decline" since WW1), but the route taken. In other words, the manner in which pit closures were accelerated for political rather than economic reasons (related to electricity privatisation and the "dash for gas" as much as outright class hatred), and the inadequate support offered to the communities in terms of new jobs and retraining (this was largely left to the magic of the "market" with predictable consequences). The idea that the closure of the coalfields was inevitable, so no blame can be attached to those who did the closing, is just a variant on "there is no alternative". There was an alternative in the manner in which the industry was wound down and in the attitude of disregard displayed by the Thatcher government.
@Neil, One thing that many football fans were conscious of in the 70s and 80s was that they were indulging in a theatre of internecine warfare - i.e. attacking each other, even if only verbally - beneath the gaze of their class "betters" in the Chairman's box and the more expensive seats. The problem wasn't that the Tories were elsewhere, but that they were in the ground. That's why there was a grassroots revulsion in the 80s against hooligans as provocateurs playing into the hands of authoritarians (naturally the media rarely reported crowds booing pitch-invasions or rucks), which led to the increasing politicisation of fans through supporters' groups and fanzines and a growing concern with material issues from safety to ownership and prices. Tories don't talk about class in the same way that the Queen doesn't carry any money. Pretending that something is irrelevant (or quaintly harmless) is a way of avoiding challenge. Their studied indifference is the product of years of expensive education and repressive socialisation. And for the record, Germans love playing England at football and are sufficiently rivalrous to have nicked the "Three Lions" song. You have mistaken the xenophobic shit pushed by British tabloids (which doesn't really have a German equivalent, even in Bild) for the mutual respect between fans in the two countries. See the recent Liverpool-Borussia Dortmund tie for ample evidence.
Spot on, Chris. I'd add a couple of thoughts. The idea that football crowds have shifted in composition from working class to middle class since the early 90s is overplayed, in part by a media still wedded to homogenised caricatures (from thugs to prawn sandwich-eaters). As the evidence of the Hillsborough inquest made clear, the "animalistic" fans on the day included off-duty doctors and police officers who tried to help the injured. You can expect there were plenty of other less relevantly-skilled professionals there too. All seater stadia, higher prices and football tourism have nudged attendance at grounds higher up the social scale since then, however I don't think this has been as significant as many people think. The idea that working class fans are to be found in pubs watching Sky while the grounds are full of bankers and lawyers is just another caricature, and one that still emphasises the boozing of the proles. If anything , class prejudice is less overt today. For most of the 80s, LFC fans were greeted at away grounds with the "In your Liverpool slums" chant. The central scandal has not been the lying brutality of the police (as you note, that had already been established in court), but the reluctance of successive governments to show empathy towards the justice campaign while glibly associating with the sport as it became fashionable, from John Major enjoying the hospitality of Ken Bates, a man who wanted to erect electrified cattle-fences at Stamford Bridge, to Tony "keepy-uppy" Blair responding to the request to reopen the Hillborough case with "Why? What is the point?". Today we have a PM who can't remember which claret and blue side he is supposed to support. Class matters.
@Jim, "My system works ... by making welfare less psychologically attractive. The daily payments could be made relatively financially attractive, precisely because getting them would be a pain in the arse." You're essentially reviving the less eligibility principle and the workhouse. In other words, you are advocating real discomfort (not figurative "pain") as a quid pro quo for benefits. But why should someone who has worked solidly for 10 years, and paid their taxes in full, be obliged to suffer this discomfort, even temporarily, due to the decision of an employer to make a job redundant?
@Jim, You say, back in the day "the dole ... had negative social connotations and wasn't as generous". Unemployment Benefit in 1979 was 21% of average wages while JSA today is 11%. In terms of stigma, I think you'll find that the relentless propaganda of tabloids and TV since the 80s has made benefits less "socially acceptable", not more. @Bob, You say, "a living wage job ... sets a wage floor whilst giving the private sector an incentive to automate away jobs". Nope. The private sector is actually incentivised to maintain shit jobs, paid for by the state, whose labour product they can take a cut of, even if only in the form of a management fee - see A4e.
The irritation of the economists is misplaced. I suspect Chris is making a joke here at the expense of Mervyn King, a man whose view of the world was heavily influenced by having to deal with idiots like Fred Goodwin and who then found himself faced (albeit briefly) with idiots like Randy Lerner and Joleon "a weight off our shoulders" Lescott. Despite Chris's claim that "this is not an idiosyncratic example", I think most people would concede that the peculiarities of remuneration in the banking and football industries cannot easily be explained by mainstream economics, though political economy (specifically public choice theory) makes a decent fist. Chris makes the point about bankers being overpaid to prevent stealing. I'd add that footballers' wages (treated as a package with transfer fees) can be thought of as an indirect form of voting - i.e. an expression of supporter preferences - which is why low-paid fans demand that the board "spend some bleedin' money". Villa's problem is that the fans think they're being denied this voice, through Lerner's reluctance to spend at what they consider the "right" level for a club of its pedigree (it's wage-bill is 12th out of 20), hence they have headed for the exits (a la Albert Hirschman).
Another way of looking at it is that neoliberalism has faded from view as an articulated position precisely because of its ideological triumph. It has become hegemonic in a way that classical liberalism failed to do in the 19th century, not least because the latter was contested by the counter-movement described by Polanyi and was seen at the time as very much a class interest. One way in which this dominance has come about is through the growth of the state over the 20th century, which led to a profound intrusion into the lives of working people (Foucault's biopolitics) and served to undermine many of the earlier pro-social responses to classical liberalism - e.g. the welfare state obviated the need for workers' benevolent societies. While it's true that "neoliberalism is ... what we get when the boss class exercises power over the state", it is also true that neoliberalism is a coherent intellectual response, with its roots in Habsburg Vienna, to the growth of the modern state, whose aim is to ensure that the state is not democratised. In this light, "the market decides" is simply a synonym for "the people don't".
@acarraro, "Inheritance is a gift. You don't get anything back". Not so. The anticipation of a bequest is a means of exerting control over another during your lifetime, not just through the threat to take them out of your will but through the more subtle need for them to remain in your good books. An inheritance can also entail strict obligations, so you can even exert control beyond the grave. More generally, inheritance is key to conservative ideology in terms of guardianship and the compact of the living and the dead, a la Burke, which means it plays a role in preserving antique social relations as much as old buildings. Anthropologically, gift-giving in Western societies differs from "backward" gift economies largely in the weakness of reciprocity, which is fundamentally what we're talking about re tax-havens and IHT.
Toggle Commented Apr 12, 2016 on For an inheritance tax at Stumbling and Mumbling
The term "poverty trap" emerges in the late-60s as a critique of the perverse disincentives of benefits. In Europe, it is taken up both by leftists concerned by the state's "drugging" of the proles and by rightists who despise welfare and (in the US) civil rights. By the 80s, this marginal idea became mainstream as part of neoliberal orthodoxy: people lack purpose without attainable financial goals so benefits are debilitating. Charles Moore's contribution - the wealth trap - is interesting because its suggests that conservatives have internalised this logic to the point of fearing that acts of "kindness", such as the gift bestowed by Cameron's mum, might now carry the risk of spiritual corrosion. To hear Moore criticise Cameron for being "out of touch" over how many people pay inheritance tax should remind us that "checking your privilege" is not about humility but correctly valuing your portfolio.
Toggle Commented Apr 11, 2016 on Trapped by wealth at Stumbling and Mumbling
Luke, A pedantic point, but we don't know whether Cameron is also the beneficiary of personal trusts because ... lobbying.
Toggle Commented Apr 10, 2016 on Against "Resign Cameron" at Stumbling and Mumbling
I agree that this is not a resigning matter, as it shows neither unethical behaviour (in a nation where tax avoidance has become a cultural norm) or executive incompetence, but it has been illuminating in terms of attitude, which you provocatively illustrate. £30k might be a mere bagatelle to the likes of Cameron, but it is more than the average annual wage and roughly the size of the average pension pot at retirement. Even more eye-catching has been the revelation that Dave and Sam have made £100k a year in rent from their Notting hill house while being put up in Number 10 at public expense. Together with the admission that the Blairmore fund was not open to "anyone", what this points to is public distaste not with tax avoidance or a rentier mindset but privilege and profiteering. If Cameron is in political trouble now it isn't because of the usual suspects protesting outside Downing Street, but because of the revulsion of "small investors" at the ease with which he has benefited from the system.
Toggle Commented Apr 10, 2016 on Against "Resign Cameron" at Stumbling and Mumbling
One small wrinkle ... Conservatives are supporters of central planning beyond the boundary of the individual company, so long as control of planning is limited to the class of company owners. That was Adam Smith's point: "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices". What conservatives object to is not central planning per se but planning that is under democratic control, and thus not in the interests of elites. Hayek's critique of central planning found few takers in 1944 precisely because the benefits of democratic control were felt to outweigh the problems of information aggregation, which consequently led Conservatives to amend their critique to one that side-stepped democracy: the incompetence of "the men from the ministry". As Adam Glass notes in respect of the EU, what the current Tory administration is revealing, in its mania for Whitehall control of education and Osborne's proconsular attitude towards the North, is not so much their hypocrisy in respect of central planning as their contempt for democracy.
Toggle Commented Apr 2, 2016 on Tories & Communists at Stumbling and Mumbling
Luis, capitalists are competitive in the Gore Vidal sense: "It is not enough to succeed; others must fail". This makes them wary of growth that benefits others. For example, an economy operating near to full employment will tend to bid up wages relative to profit, even if the latter increases in real terms. Similarly, in a strong economy the government is less likely to be worried over the "confidence" levels of capitalists, thus reducing the latter's influence.
Surely the lesson of QWERTY vs Dvorak was not the cost of change but the minimal gain? Rather than two clearly defined camps, there are many different keyboard layouts, not least because inventors imagine the enormous royalties that would accrue in the event of a mass switch. Their problem is that QWERTY is "good enough" for most people. Perhaps a better analogy would be VHS vs Betamax, not least because that was close to a straight choice, i.e. neither had the advantage of incumbency. Though Betamax was technically superior, it lost out because most consumers did not value the gains highly enough to pay a premium (just as most never bothered to buy a top-end hi-fi). If the EU vote comes down on the side of remain, this will surely reflect a scepticism that Brexit will significantly improve most people's lives as much as a fear of change.
Toggle Commented Mar 31, 2016 on The EU as Qwerty keyboard at Stumbling and Mumbling
Respect is a form of cultural capital, which therefore implies scarcity. There isn't enough repect to go round. If there were, it would lose value as a means of discrimination (when a football manager says his team "failed to respect the opposition", he is identifying an error of judgement not a lack of empathy). What would be genuinely egalitarian is an increase in tolerance, for which there is no limit. I would like my choices to be tolerated by others (that's actually what we mean when we say they should be "respected"), but I don't necessarily want to be respectable.
Toggle Commented Mar 29, 2016 on Barriers to equal respect at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Rich, China and Japan are further south than the UK (London is 51°N, Beijing 40°N and Tokyo 35°N), so it's less of an issue for them. The tropics (23°N & S) are pretty much the limit for DST. In the UK, the greatest support for DST has usually come from the north. If Scotland eventually declares independence, there will probably be revived interest south of the border in abandoning DST, which would mean crossing a timezone just past Berwick.
The reports of the death of politics have been exaggerated. The assumption that there is a rational (and therefore objectively optimal) basis to governing "the public sphere", and that this is corrupted by the pursuit of personal interests (or the "narcissistic revelation of personality"), isn't exactly new. Much the same criticism that you level at Cameron was applied to Robert Walpole. The idea that politics is "the art of solving problems of collective action" has an abstract elegance, but it downplays the pursuit of class interests - i.e. the prioritisation of certain individuals over others. It also runs the risk of preferring technocracy to democracy and privileging certain types of discourse. The "art of rhetoric" is just PR for the educated.
Toggle Commented Mar 25, 2016 on The death of politics at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Luis, you started by asking "Why haven't more lefties expressed surprise about the strength of employment". I pointed out that this was because many lefties didn't find it particularly surprising as they have long recognised the fundamental changes in the economy since the 80s. Their updated worldview is reflected in the fact that the demand for full employment has been replaced by growing support for a job guarantee or a basic income. "I think the standard leftist response to the proposition that strengthening the incentives to find work would have been that you can't find work that doesn't exist". No, the standard response is that increasing the desperation of the "reserve army of labour" will simply bid down wages. This can also work through a constraint on hours as well as pay, or through the growth of uncompensated time (e.g. zero-hour contracts, unpaid travel time etc). Bear in mind that most heterodox political economy, from Marx to MMT, assumes that unemployment is an artifical condition engineered by the state through property laws. There is no fixed amount of work. The "lump of labour fallacy" is a traditional canard directed at the left; a strawman intended to justify both deskilling through automation (i.e lower hourly pay) and to resist reductions in the working day (i.e. higher hourly pay). You ask for "examples of leftists responding to Tory policy saying a few years back with: what this is going to do is drive employment up to record highs". You've flipped an assumption that leftists in 2010 would have anticipated higher unemployment to a demand that they prove they anticipated higher employment. My point is that leftists don't make a festish of unemployment (and thus employment) any longer, so you're asking in vain.
Toggle Commented Mar 23, 2016 on No friend of the worst off at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Luis, you're attributing to the left a worldview of early-80s vintage. A lot has happened since then to challenge assumptions about the working of the job market, the "natural" rate of unemployment and wage-setting, not least globalisation. The issues of stagnant wage growth, job polarisation and precarity were identified well before 5 years ago. For example, New Labour's tax credits and minimum wage were a mainstream response to issues evident in the early 90s. In 2010 the fear across most of the left was not that Tory plans to cut the deficit would cause a fresh spike in unemployment (having already increased in the wake of the 2008/9 crash), but that they would extend the recession unnecessarily and fall hardest on the poor and most vulnerable.
Toggle Commented Mar 23, 2016 on No friend of the worst off at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Luis, Lefties are sceptical of the quality of the jobs growth (too much coerced self-employment, too few hours, too much low-skill etc). Some interpret the creation of these jobs as evidence that sufficient work can always be created to meet demand, thereby justifying a proper job guarantee. Others are conscious of Chris's point that there is a trade-off between jobs and productivity through the medium of low-pay: employers are disincentivised to invest as workers are incentivised to lower their expectations. They tend to support a basic income to raise pay expectations and stimulate investment. The left's focus on employment has always been about quality as much as quantity.
Toggle Commented Mar 23, 2016 on No friend of the worst off at Stumbling and Mumbling
The "gimmicks" that Martin Wolf complains of don't just distract the media, they perpetuate the idea that budgets are about winners and losers and therefore a zero-sum game - i.e. microeconomics rather than macroeconomics. The essence of this "highly political" Chancellor is his belief that he is at the mercy of external factors, from the the "legacy inherited from Labour" to the "global economic outlook". This makes the opinion poll finding that the Tories are more "trusted" with the management of the economy all the more ironic.
Toggle Commented Mar 18, 2016 on The incumbency advantage at Stumbling and Mumbling
Jarvis's spurious claim about New Labour's naivety (obviously not a trained economist among them) shows that treating the electorate as idiots remains the order of the day. When you combine this with the fatuous comments of Michael Dugher et al, it is clear that the Blairites are the new Bourbons: they have learned nothing, they have forgotten nothing. Meanwhile, Jess Philips prepares to reprise the role of Charlotte Corday ...