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
Looked at in terms of consequentiality, there are three types of lies. There are lies whose net consequence is beneficial: avoiding hurting Aunt Jemima's feelings, or convincing the Germans D-Day would target the Pas de Calais etc. There are lies who net consequence is damaging: allowing your partner to be publicly ridiculed because you didn't warn her that her new dress made her look like Mrs Brown, or Iraqi WMD etc. Corbyn's sit down protest falls into the third, intermediate catagory where it is not clear what the consequences are. That the railways are overcrowded and overpriced is hardly news, so this will not have raised much consciousness. Richard Branson's business interests won't be damaged because he enjoys a monopoly. The idea that Corbyn has single-handedly debased politics is absurd, while the charge of hypocrisy is like a charge of farting: we all do it - grow up. In sum, this is silly season bollocks. The substantive point is that the policies discussed in the leadership contest are largely revivals (nationalise rail, recommit to the NHS, restore student grants etc). As these have all been proven to work, and as the intellectual case against social democracy collapsed in 2008, critics must of necessity resort to the ad hominem. What #traingate reinforces is the trivial and unserious nature of our media.
Toggle Commented 3 days ago on Truthful lies at Stumbling and Mumbling
This is a widespread feature of contemporary conservative thought - e.g. Paul Ryan's "magical asterisks" - and not just limited to the wilder shores of euroscepticism, though it is difficult to find anyone more on leave from his senses that Daniel Hannan once he gets going. I think a lot of this is down to the infection of conservative thought by futurism (in the sense of imagining a wonderful future), much of which crept in from the libertarian wing in the 80s and 90s. Whereas conservatives have traditionally preferred the past for its sense (however misplaced) of certainty and pragmatic proof, the modern version seems to have imbibed too much third-rate sci-fi.
A more cynical view would be that the objective of many of the right's "reforms" is to diminish, fragment and otherwise dissipate the workforce. Leaving aside for the moment whether that is a counter-productive (i.e. a "crisis of capitalism"), it perhaps helps to explain why the right's critique of the left so often focuses on manipulation of the electorate and the imputation of dishonesty. The current hysteria over antisemitism/misogyny/bullying etc obviously reflects the intellectual vacuum of the right, but it also looks like projection.
Toggle Commented Jul 30, 2016 on Left & right: a common aim at Stumbling and Mumbling
@David Owen "If we have Corbyn Benn and Watson, for example, and each role has specific veto powers then they will be required to cooperate and compromise". A party in which conflict is resolved through vetoes is, by definition, a conservative party. Progress is routinely impeded unless there is unanimity. I appreciate that you're trying to stimulate a discussion here, rather than precribe a particular solution, but your thinking betrays an obvious ideological bias.
This sounds like a proposal to marginalise the membership through the institution of the Chair. In the example outlined by David Owen, the role would clearly have little power to effect policy and strategy (routinely outvoted by the PLP Leader & Gen Sec combo), presentation (MPs and the PLP Leader would always "interpret" for the media), or candidate selection. One explanation as why the members are so keen on Corbyn is that the only lever they currently possess to keep the Party "honest" is the leadership ballot. Had the Party encouraged greater internal democracy over the last 20 years, rather than varieties of PLP/union stitch-ups and the parachuting in of besuited drones, then the Corbyn insurgency might well not have happened. Of course, if they'd done that then Tony Blair might have been deselected as Leader after 2003, the 2010 general election might have been fought on a "make the bankers and their Tory mates pay" ticket, and the PLP might not have committed to mini-me austerity thereafter.
Obliquity in the realm of politics means implementing policies with uncertain or collateral effects, but whose results are (hopefully) benign. For example, a basic income might reduce demand on the NHS, while we know that rationing in WW2 and after improved levels of health. Politicians should do more of this, but "Let's try policy X and see what happens" isn't what the ideological frame encourages, and not just because this is seen as risky (in this regard, evidence-based policy-making often inhibits useful experimentation). Politicians are valued for certainty and decisiveness, even when they serially cock-up (see Churchill). Like credibility, these are aspects of performative authoritarianism. One could go further and suggest that "electability" is merely performative authoritarianism in democratic guise. What was depressing about Smith's criticism of Corbyn's PMQ performance yesterday was the suggestion that May's authoritarianism can only be met with similar nonsense from the Labour benches. The intellectual vacuity of the centre continues.
One long-standing example of the halo effect is the assumption that as Tory ministers are generally richer than their Labour counterparts, they must be clever with money. This points to a truth: most people imagine "running the economy" is a matter of monetary and fiscal policy alone. Despite the right-wing focus on supply-side reform, and the leftwing focus on productive capacity, the chief concerns are prices (of goods and shares) and rates (of tax and exchange).
Toggle Commented Jul 20, 2016 on On economic "credibility" at Stumbling and Mumbling
"Supporters of a citizens income come from left and right, but are decentralizers. Those who favour conditional or needs-based forms of welfare, on the other hand, are centralizers". I'm not sure that's true. Some (not all) right-wing advocates of a BI talk about empowering the individual, but their objective is to cap or slowly reduce welfare spending in aggregate. Perhaps a better way of distinguishing centralisers vs decentralisers is to ask whether they envisage an outcome that is predictable, this being a characteristic of the former. Advocates of a one-size-fits-all safety-net (e.g. negative income tax) consider predictability important. Advocates of needs-based systems (assuming they aren't constrained by an aggregate cap) consider unpredictability to be a feature rather than a bug (e.g. counter-cyclical stabilisers).
The claim that the Black Death led to higher wages is largely a myth, arising from the confusion of real and nominal prices in a period of oscillating inflation and deflation. Real wages did go up in the late 14th century, but this was 30 years after the Black Death, around 1380. What the Black Death did do was fracture the feudal system, which led to greater geographic and social mobility (the Statute of Labourers of 1351 was about preventing farm workers moving as much as capping wages), a spur to labour-saving technology, and a greater focus on marginal value (e.g. poorer quality land was temporarily abandoned as demand fell). Ceteris paribus, a consistent decline in the population means a fall in both demand and labour supply, so the net effect would be neutral. Where there is evidence of increased wages in the 1350s is in specialised occupations that were disproportionately hit (i.e. particular jobs in particular areas - and mainly urban rather than rural). Talking about pulling things from one's arse ...
Toggle Commented Jul 15, 2016 on Responding to Mayism at Stumbling and Mumbling
I'm not sure that austerity significantly "increased hostility to immigrants". If we take the Ipsos-MORI 'Issues Index' as a guide, then concern over immigration starts to ramp up in the late-90s and reaches a plateau in 2007. It then drops down, as concerns over the economy came to the fore, before returning to the higher level this year. In other words, the degree of concern (and by implication hostility) was established well before austerity kicked in. What seems to have been more significant is the linking of immigration to the issue of public service demand, and pointedly the casting of "bogus asylum seekers" in the 90s and early 00s as emblematic claimants. Cameron's failure was therefore a continuation of policies and attitudes established during the last years of Major and the early years of Blair. Austerity probably exacerbated this, but the failure was already hardwired in the wider political culture. Where Cameron (as a representative of his class) is particularly culpable is in failing to see that two decades of 'Benefits Street' etc would not only demonise the underclass but would pollute social trust and solidarity more widely, creating an atmosphere in which xenophobia was normalised. Austerity held out the prospect that "the guilty would pay", but in the event the innocent suffered (as usual). As such it was probably the final straw for a lot of people, so in that sense it was material to the referendum result.
@Blissex, There's more to Ordoliberalism than a CD/SD mashup. The important idea is the 'rechsstaat' - the legal state - and the centrality of regulation. This can look like One Nation Toryism in a UK context, but it's really about discipline and constraint. It's more Wolfgang Schauble (and his "rules is rules" schtick) than Ken Clarke. In this regard, it's important to remember May's tenure as Home Secretary. While she has been a stickler for due process and even-handed in holding the powerful to account (e.g. Hillsborough), she has also been obsessive about imposing tight regulation (e.g. surveillance) and changing the rules to suit her priors (the ECHR, her infamous tale about the cat that subverted immigration policy etc). What we are looking at is a genuine nanny state, not the figment beloved of Tory proaganda directed at the left.
Toggle Commented Jul 12, 2016 on Theresa May, Labour PM? at Stumbling and Mumbling
I think Warren is on the right track with his parallel to the continental CD tradition (an amusing historical irony given Brexit), but I think Mark is even closer to, er the mark: "a market that is free is not one that is unregulated but rather one that is regulated in such a way that it is fully contestable, by all prospective participants". The word is Ordoliberalism.
Toggle Commented Jul 12, 2016 on Theresa May, Labour PM? at Stumbling and Mumbling
A priest pronouncing a couple man and wife is an example of performativity, but at two levels: speech and insititution. If performative speech is a way of conjuring reality, an institution is a way of defining an authority with the power of performative speech. Traditionally, marriage was effected simply by the couple making a statement in front of witnesses. The encroachment of the church (and later the state) was driven not by a concern over sexual habits but by a desire to adjudicate issues of property inheritance (through marriage and legitimate birth), as well as a handy form of rent-seeking. (Once property rights became exclusively a civil matter, all the church was left with was sex). The antipathy of the PLP towards Corbyn arises not just because they don't rate him but because they see him as a threat to their institution (he's never been a member of the club). This is because Corbyn is engaged in his own performativity in which speech (all those packed CLP meetings, and all those solidarity platforms down the years) realises participatory democracy. So Corbyn isn't just a victim of performativity; he's also a practitioner.
Toggle Commented Jul 12, 2016 on On performativity at Stumbling and Mumbling
"Politicians are selected for overconfidence". True, but there are significant differences between countries, reflecting history and national self-image. For example, pessimism is always admired in a Russian politician. Blair is part of an establishment obsessed with the UK "punching above its weight". Ironically, what will finally put us in our place (and end the delusion of the special relationship with the US) is not Chilcot but Brexit.
Toggle Commented Jul 7, 2016 on The same old mistakes at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Luis, a "sport", perhaps?
@Jane, The theory of false consciousness holds that everyone is subject to the same forces, though they react in different ways. The idea that lefties are uniquely free of it and can criticise others from a position outside society is a canard used to paint such critics as patronising and elitist. The presentation of false consciousness as binary - you either suffer from it or you don't - is ideological in that it assumes a worldview that is internally consistent. In fact, most people get by with a mix of ideological fragments, some of which may be contradictory (i.e. cognitive dissonance). The recognition of false consciousness proceeds from "the saying that the really clever human is the one who knows they might be wrong".
A citizens' basic income could potentially "address voters' concerns over immigration", if it were limited to UK citizens (which could be done outside the EU). To do this, pay rates would be dropped substantially but made up through the CBI. For example, if we assume a decent BI of £150 a week, that would equate to £4 an hour for workers, allowing the minimum wage to be dropped to £3.20. Whether through calculated generosity or simply through improved worker bargaining power, that minimum might be set higher, say £5, but that would still serve to undercut pay rates for non-citizens who wouldn't get the BI. A more authoritarian approach would be to implement a separate and higher non-citizens' minimum wage of £10 (i.e. biasing the employment of non-citizens to more skilled, higher-pay roles). I'm not outlining this because I personally think it's a good idea, but to point to a dog that has yet to bark. Rightist proposals for a BI usually see it as a substitute for the welfare state, but this means they tend to be parsimonious (in the UK, most proposals, from both right and left, suggest £75 - i.e. the same as the JSA). There seems to be little interest as yet in a "nationalist BI", even though that would probably find favour among working class voters both because of its sense of control and its (positive) sense of entitlement. It might even appeal more to employers than a bureaucratic points system. If UKIP ditch their commitment to a "basic cash benefit" to replace JSA/Incapacity (i.e. fuck-off money) and suggest a generous CBI, they really could make significant electoral inroads.
Xenophobia and racism have taken a turn for the worse since 2010, but let's not forget the spadework that was put in from the mid-90s to prepare the ground for this. The rapid rise in public concern over immigration (as measured by Ipsos-Mori) starts in 1999, not with EU enlargement in 2004, and actually fell after 2008, as the economy became more salient, before rapidly rising again over the last 3 years. Prudence was the mother of austerity, just as "rights and responsibilities" birthed "strivers and skivers". Neoliberalism provided a vocabulary by which racism could be recuperated as a contest over resources: "I'm not a racist but ... they get council houses, they get more benefits, they clutter up the GP surgery" etc. In other words, the legitimisation of bigotry actually starts during the "good years". The roots of this lie in the Tories attempt to arrest their post-1992 decline in popularity with a turn from economic to cultural issues (the "nasty party" years), notably with the 1996 Asylum and Immigration Act, which was followed by the first Blair government's 1999 Act that simply rearranged the same words and thus delivered a similar message.
Toggle Commented Jun 28, 2016 on Austerity and racism at Stumbling and Mumbling
Bear in mind that some of the stronget advocates of the BBC promoting "the best that has been thought and said" are those (e.g. Murdoch pere et fils) who would like it to become an elitist and relatively unpopular broadcaster, leave the airwaves free to more partisan and "entertaining" channels.
Toggle Commented Jun 26, 2016 on The BBC problem at Stumbling and Mumbling
On the question of WTF happened in Sunderland ... Across the 3 parliamentary consituencies grouped in the referendum as Sunderland, Labour got 62,655 votes in the 2015 General Election. Assuming the national opinion poll splits were representative, e.g. Labour votes broke 60% for Remain while Tories broke 65% for Leave, this would predict a total Remain vote of 51,598. The actual vote was 51,930. The projected Leave figure on the same basis was 65,901. The actual vote was 82,727. The difference is essentially turnout, up from 56% in 2015 to 65% in the referendum (the combined pop is 209k so 9% is 19k). The reasons Leave won in Sunderland are that a) the opinion poll "undecideds" appear to have broken largely for Leave, and b) the increased turnout overwhelmingly benefited Leave in net terms. In other words, Labour successfully got out its core vote. The real "Sunderland problem" (replicated nationwide) is that Labour's vote across the 3 constituencies dropped from 85,187 in 1997 to 63,234 in 2001, reflecting a decline in turnout from 60% to 49%. This 22k appears to have initially abstained and then gradually drifted to the Tories and UKIP over the 00s (the non-Labour vote grew from 35k in 1997 to 55k in 2015). Even without the benefit of a higher turnout skewed to Leave, the Sunderland area was due to deliver an "out" vote. To pin the blame for this on Jeremy Corbyn is bizarre, particularly when the claim is that he failed to energise "core voters". The evidence is that Labour's post-2000 core held firm and that the defeat was due to voters disillusioned after 1997 who headed elsewhere or who abstained until the referendum.
Toggle Commented Jun 26, 2016 on In defence of Corbyn at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Guy, Nobody is old enough to care about what happened in 1688/9, but we in Britain still make a fetish of Parliamentary sovereignty. I agree that "the Brexit referendum is the wrong question at the wrong level", both in the sense that it won't change immigration policy (or existing numbers of immigrants) in the way that many Brexiteers believe, and in the sense that amendments to the free movement of labour (or capital) would be better decided by the EU people as a whole. My original point wasn't about Switzerland (that was just responding to endrew), but about how referenda tend to divide society and thereby weaken the very concept of popular sovereignty. When this happens, you either have an authoritarian turn in which one side suppresses the other to restore national unity, or you have to double-down on direct democracy and allow referenda for trivial matters, which devalues the mechanism but thereby avoids compromising sovereignty. The latter can work in a federal system (such as Switzerland or the US), where the structure of devolution exists, but it becomes problematic in states that are highly centralised and protective of legislative sovereignty. The UK has managed to accommodate devolution in Scotland, Wales and NI, but it has singularly failed to do so in England. This is why the EU referendum on Thursday is proving so socially divisive.
Toggle Commented Jun 20, 2016 on Against this referendum at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Endrew, "Was there a point in there somewhere?" Yes, but you presumably missed it. The Swiss employ referenda as a constraint on the federal government. There is an irony here if you consider the history of the EU since 1992 and its attitude towards referenda on treaty acceptance. The Swiss model of locating sovereignty with the cantons (i.e. states) rather than the people is precisely what we have in the EU (this is otherwise known as "the democratic deficit"). In other words, Switzerland is an appropriate parallel for the EU, but not for the UK.
Toggle Commented Jun 18, 2016 on Against this referendum at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Endrew, The Swiss fondness for referendums is a product of their history, specifically the evolution of the federal system of 1848 following the short civil war between the Protestant and Catholic cantons. Even in its modern incarnation (1999), the Swiss constitution does not locate sovereignty with the people but with the cantons (article 3). To put this into US terms, which are probably easier to understand, it's as if the South won the Civil War (i.e. the primacy of states' rights was affirmed). The reliance on referendums (many of which address trivial issues due to the bar for citizen initiatives being 100k signatures) is, to use a later coinage, a form of Mexican Standoff - i.e. a way of preventing progress, not a principled commitment to direct democracy. While we in the rest of the world get to hear about votes on banning minarets or introducing a basic income, the important votes (and typically the ones that stand a chance of being approved) concern federal government initiatives, e.g. the reconstruction of the Gotthard Road Tunnel.
Toggle Commented Jun 17, 2016 on Against this referendum at Stumbling and Mumbling
@SpinningHugo, The reason why we should prefer democracy is not that it secures popular acceptance, let alone that it is efficient or effective, but that is legitimate, assuming you accept that "the people" are ultimately sovereign. The one thing we can say with confidence about next week's result is that it will not "achieve acceptance from the population so that civil society can continue". Whoever loses will be bereft and unlikley to concede gracefully. With regard to football, most teams (being amateurs involved in kickabouts) do make decisions democratically. Of course, they might make better decisions if they had a dictator/manager, but if the purpose is to enjoy yourself, rather than winning at all costs, then democracy fits the bill. Democracy is about collective utility maximisation, while dictatorship is about sacrificing personal interests to a "higher good" (the team, the nation etc). Referendums are usually a bad idea (unless there is a binary choice, with agreed consequences, that cannot be resolved otherwise) because they hold out the illusion of popular dictatorship. In fact, all they do is undermine popular sovereignty. It's worth noting the number of times a plebiscite has preceded the institution of an executive dictatorship.
Toggle Commented Jun 17, 2016 on Against this referendum at Stumbling and Mumbling
I imagine what Blair really means is that the Labour leadership aren't asking the right questions, which shows that his intellectual straitjacket remains as tightly-buckled as ever. One of Blair's defining characteristics is his narrow-mindedness. If after resigning he had decided to become a pig farmer or learn the bagpipes, rather than continue as a para-statesman, I think his views would command a lot more respect today.
Toggle Commented May 28, 2016 on Labour's economic answers at Stumbling and Mumbling