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From Arse To Elbow
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I think you're unnecessarily narrow in identifying Blair's "managerialist ideology" as his weakness. This was clearly just an aspect of a wider commitment to neoliberalism at home and abroad, which included the privileging of The City, his mugging by US neocons over Iraq, and his subsequent ascension to the global 0.01% Janan Ganesh makes the astute point that "he did not come from anywhere in particular". His problem was not over-confidence, but a lack of the groundedness that encourages caution or scepticism. It's worth remembering that long before the "Bliar" meme, his nickname was "Bambi".
Toggle Commented yesterday on Blair's legacy at Stumbling and Mumbling
Football clubs usually start as player-owned but are taken over (often by a minority of ex-players) once they require capitalisation (e.g. for a permanent ground). As the club becomes more successful, so its capital increases (i.e. the capital value of the club, not the players who are pseudo-capital). Thus there will always be more player-owned (i.e. amateur) clubs than pro outfits. All this tells us is that when an opportunity for profit arises, capital moves in. This is why Barcelona, for all their 'Mes que un club' schtick, have sold shirt-sponsorship rights to Qatar Airways, Nike and Beko. Paul Walker's suggestion that worker-control tends to thrive in environments with homegenous skills, little organisational hierarchy, and simple decision-making, could be reinterpreted to say that worker control tends to occur where there is a high percentage of variable capital (i.e. labour). In other words, it tends to be factor-contigent. This suggests that the limited success of worker control is as much about the secular trend of capital-labour substitution through automation as it is about an inhibiting ideology.
Toggle Commented 3 days ago on Why not worker control? at Stumbling and Mumbling
Given Montgomerie's audience at The Times and elsewhere, I suspect the answer to your closing question is yes.
Toggle Commented 6 days ago on Forced into work? at Stumbling and Mumbling
The Internet (i.e. online job sites) does not provide an accurate representation of the jobs market. Most job ads are placed by recruitment agencies, not by employers, and most of them are CV bait rather than real jobs. If the Internet was going to improve job search and matching, it would have disintermediated recruitment agencies by now. The challenge agencies faced with the arrival of the Internet was that advertising was no longer expensive. Previously, large agencies could dominate the page advertising in newspapers and specialist mags, keeping small competitors out through high prices. With low costs for online ads, they could only preserve their dominant position (in terms of hoovering up candidates coming onto the market) by massively increasing the number of adverts they placed. The global coverage of the Internet also resulted in the growth of CV spam (unqualified candidates applying for everything because email is cheaper than photocopies and stamps). This proved to be a good thing for agencies as they justify their fees in part by "screening" these out. The more noise, the better. In other words, the increased efficiency of search has been offset by the massive degradation of the (virtual) database.
Given the ample evidence of Cameron and Osborne's prior contempt for IDS's intellectual and managerial abilities, I don't think this can be explained by any theory that rests upon their delusion. More likely is that IDS remains in post because he is, in their eyes, a success. Perhaps we've just misunderstood that the brief was to knacker the benefits system so that claimants increasingly give up, while shovelling large amounts of public money to favoured suppliers. He's certainly done a good job in proving the incompetence of the state in managing services.
Toggle Commented Jul 15, 2014 on Why idiots succeed at Stumbling and Mumbling
The irony of Larry Page opining on reduced working hours is that Google are famous for doing everything to keep their employees working, from desk-side massages to free food and onsite laundries. Their approach is more akin to a cult (satirised by Dave Eggers' The Circle), which harks back to the monastic order origins of factory discipline. Factory time is the product of technology, in the form of concentrations of capital such as power looms (more profitable than piece-work, i.e. "putting out"), and the discplinary need to prevent "soldiering" through regulation (i.e. controlling work speed) and surveillance. This provided the template for all subsequent work organisation, from banks of desks and open-plan offices through realtime monitoring and hidden cameras. The Googleplex environment is less about capitalists maximising labour and more about the way that work is becoming a positional good as employment bifurcates into a high-status clerisy for whom the boundary between work and non-work increasingly evaporates, and a low-status proletariat whose labour time is increasingly fragmented and commoditised.
Toggle Commented Jul 15, 2014 on Time at Stumbling and Mumbling
The Easy Street of the old City was largely the prerogative of partners, not the more humble middle-class employees. Those partners weren't edged out by changing norms, they sold out to US firms. I'm sceptical that the "easy middle-class life" has gone. Large businesses are awash with overpaid and supernumerary IT, marketing and HR types. Times change: liquid lunches, like desktop ashtrays, were the product of a predominantly male environment. Now we have digital gossip and cat memes.
@Jim, the process of removing items from raion began in 1948 under Labour, starting with bread and clothes. There was no ideological difference between the parties on the subject, though the Tories campaigned on the false claim that there was. The biggest factor in the timeline for the end of rationing was the balance of payments. Imports had to be choked until domestic and export production was converted from wartime use. On top of this, the US insistence on early replayment of Lend-Lease made hoarding Dollars the priority. This meant minimising spending outside the Sterling area, hence imported items such as meat (from South America), wood (from Scandinavia for furniture), sugar (and thus sweets) and (famously) bananas were only taken off ration later on. The timeline of UK rationing owed more to US economic power and intransignece at Bretton Woods than it did to the killjoy spirit of socialism.
Toggle Commented Jul 6, 2014 on Incomes & satisfaction at Stumbling and Mumbling
I think there is more to it that just technology, though that is unquestionably the dominant manifestation. The dynamic is necessity. For example, when faced with an existential threat, we can rapidly amend centuries-old customs. Thus women take on manual labour during wartime. But, when necessity weakens, we're happy to revert to older customs. Thus women lose their jobs at the end of war and are exhorted to return to breeding and homemaking. This might suggest that a narrowing in the pay gap is superficial and that innate sexism remains strong, which would certainly explain why the advance of female employment over the last twenty years has been paralleled by the expansion of Spearmint Rhino et al. That said, necessity/technology (the base) must gradually temper custom (superstructure). The Aussie evidence of persistent sexism is about relative degree - i.e. some areas are laggards but the overall direction of travel is common.
The Tories have been a periodically unstable alliance of different capital interests since the days of Robert Peel. Arguably, the intermittent Parliamentary success of the "progressive" opposition, from Liberals to Labour, has depended on division in the Tory ranks (protection vs free trade, Europe vs empire etc). Big capital (pro-EU and pro-state contracts) has conflicting economic interests with small capital (anti-regulation, pro-wage repression). The decisive factor has long been finance capital, which is part of the reason for the imbalance of power in the modern economy. The resolution of the current iteration of Tory strife will depend on the City's calculation of where its best interest lie, which is why the guff about EU tretay renegotiation ultimately boils down to removing constraints on finance - i.e. if Cameron can preserve the City's privileges, the small capitalists can go hang. Until then, UKIP are useful idiots.
Toggle Commented Jul 2, 2014 on Tories for whom? at Stumbling and Mumbling
The solution is surely a variation on the Texas Rule: oblige the Russell Group to take students on a pro-rata basis across all schools / 6th form colleges - i.e. each school has a guaranteed number of places (approx 10) that are available to the highest achieving pupils. This would incentivise the rich to maximise their child's chances of selection by evenly colonising state schools. Congregating in public schools would be counter-productive if you wish to go on to study Law at Oxford or Medicine at Imperial. While some will wish to preserve the public schools for reasons of sentiment, those that don't close/convert would quickly revert to their ancient, pre-Arnoldian function of servicing the dim offspring of the rich, who will continue to progress to the study of Art History at St Andrews.
Toggle Commented Jun 20, 2014 on School utopianism at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Dipper, the ICT sector accounts for 3% of the UK workforce. It's still growing, but not as fast as in the past. Growth in the 80s and 90s was driven by hardware. Since 2000, growth has shifted to software as hardware has been commoditised and offshored. Software employs relatively few people directly due to a) its marginal cost of production being near zero, and b) the tendency towards monopoly (most people use one search engine, not several). Silicon Roundabout really is as small as the name suggests. Most ICT professionals are actually species of middle management in non-IT firms rather than techies, which means their employment ultimately depends on corporate norms rather than discernible value. The scope for "more and more" jobs is slight, despite government and industry propaganda. The issue is not a one-for-one substitution of robots for people, but the replacement of entire industries by cheap software (often cobbled together opensource) running on even cheaper hardware. There is no iron law that says new technologies create more new jobs than those they displace.
Toggle Commented Jun 19, 2014 on Miliband's managerialism at Stumbling and Mumbling
With the passage of time, many people have become misty-eyed about Thatcher's Enterprise Allowance Scheme, in no small part because of atypical succes stories such as Creation Records and Viz. Though its macroeconomic impact was negligible (it largely funded sole traders who would have become self-employed anyway), it represented an attitude towards personal responsibility and the role of government largesse that now, after 30 years of managerialism, appears revolutionary: give the kids some cash and let them get on with it. What's depressing about Labour's plan (and the whole fetishisation of the contributory principle by the IPPR and Blue Labour types) is the lack of both imagination and ambition. They simply don't trust the people they puport to represent.
Toggle Commented Jun 19, 2014 on Miliband's managerialism at Stumbling and Mumbling
One of the positive effects of Piketty et al has been to shift the focus of the debate on social mobility away from the failure of the poor to haul themselves up to the persistent immobility of the rich. Greg Clark's voguishness owes much to the ideological need to find an alternative explanation to power and privilege, hence the ready eliding by many of the neutral "inter-generational transmission" to the more pernicious idea of "social competence" as a genetic trait. We should never forget that most immigrants are not illiterate peasants, stowing away on lorries, but middle class professionals and skilled workers who not only have "get up and go" but the financial resources necessary to move country. They are the Daily Mail readers of tomorrow.
Toggle Commented Jun 19, 2014 on The poor white problem at Stumbling and Mumbling
Mensch's failure to appreciate the Burkean debt of the present to the past would be amusing if it were not for her insensitive language: "They were mostly kids and teens. It's absolutely immoral to blame them." Yeah, that's what we thought in 1989.
Toggle Commented Jun 17, 2014 on History's winners at Stumbling and Mumbling
A distinction needs to be made between "expert commentators" and "pundits". The former are chosen to illuminate the action with a pro's insights, but the nature of the (TV) product means they have to be be uncontroversial and avoid detracting from the lead commentator (i.e. play straight man to the wit), so the insight in often vapid. The criticism of Neville, Carlisle, Townsend, Keown etc is not their susceptibility to cognitive biases (which is no worse than the norm), but that they are boring. That said, an interesting subplot of this World Cup is that some, like Neville and Keown, have started to advocate fouling as a "technical" aspect of the game, which is genuinely insightful, if hardly eye-opening. In contrast, pundits are chosen for their metrosexual attraction: hooded eyelids, lambswool cardies, sonorous Cointreau advert verbals etc. Shearer and Savage are there purely to reassure us that it's perfectly hetero to watch 3 well-groomed men (and Adrian Chiles) airing their crotches. PS The smart money is on Germany at sixes.
@Christian Hofman, it's entirely possible for productivity to be weak as robots march on. Though we assume that automation starts at the bottom, and raises per capita productivity, this only occurs where wages are high (hence why car production was such an inviting target in the 70s/80s). Technological advance gradually pushes automation up the wage scale, where the benefits of substitution (i.e. the cost of labour) are greater. This leads to polarisation, with previously well-paid labour pushed down the wage scale (the growth of the self-employed is one aspect of this). This can produce stagnant productivity as cheap labour makes automation uneconomic at current prices, and can even push productivity down if labour starts to substitute for capital (e.g. automatic car-washes give way to manual ones).
Toggle Commented Jun 12, 2014 on The productivity slump at Stumbling and Mumbling
If by values we mean distinctive social norms, rather than culturally-determined habits, such as queuing or sentimentalising pets, then we run into the problem that many of these values conflict. For example, Britain's great contribution to philosophy is empiricism and a rejection of the supernatural. This would suggest that the abolition of religious education is overdue. However, this conflicts with tolerance and pluralism, which suggests we really ought to let the Jedi open up faith schools. Perhaps the ultimate British value is skepticism that such a thing as "British values" actually exist.
Toggle Commented Jun 10, 2014 on "British values" at Stumbling and Mumbling
There are two tendencies at work: the desire of capital to extract the surplus value of labour, and the desire of privileged labour to extract rents (this is as prelavent in the private sector as the public). The latter depends on social interactions (meetings, politicking, developing tacit understanding etc), hence there remains a strong incentive to spend "face-time" in the office, even though many workers admit they get more done outside. The higher rate of remote working by senior managers is driven by status in three ways: the performative "always on" of the self-defined indispensable; the executive property right to "manage your own time"; and the early adoption of new technology (a symbol of corporate valuation, as cars once were).
Toggle Commented Jun 7, 2014 on The home-working puzzle at Stumbling and Mumbling
Surprised to see you still pushing the myth that high levels of Greek tax avoidance can be attributed to the Ottomans.
Ford didn't ignore customers and introduce a revolutionary product. He simply built a much cheaper car than the competition, which he achieved through better process design, not product design. Similarly, Jobs's success was in repurposing technologies already developed by others, rather than in creating new product lines or sectors. His "genius" was in opportunistic integration and marketing. The "build it and they will come" meme is just marketing. Labour are probably only too well aware of this. After all, the key corporate technique they have adopted since the 90s is spin. I don't see that changing.
The prominence of the advice of economists in political debate is a choice made by politicians, not by economists. This is less about the Overton window and more about the instrumental use of science (or pseudo-science) to advance policy. This was made hilariously clear recently by the self-satisfied marketing for the latest Freakonomics book. Cameron's stony silence when the dudes advocated charging for NHS services was not a mark of their iconoclasm, as they thought, but of their failure to supply what he demanded. Ironic, no?
Toggle Commented Jun 1, 2014 on Economists' advice at Stumbling and Mumbling
I take it the return of "gratuitous eye-candy" means you are fully recovered.
@Blissex, the size of a financial centre reflects the volume of monetary flows through it. London is on a totally different scale to Zurich and Geneva (Bermuda, the Caymans etc are extensions of London). It is in the global premier league, along with New York and Hong Kong. It has a geographical advantage, midway between Asia and America, but so too does Frankfurt et al. Its differentiator is regulation, which takes two forms. The first is institutional privileges, notably the Corporation of London and British Overseas Territories (London's tax haven annex). Being a semi-detached member of the EU provides a conduit for European capital to avoid tax and oversight. The second is foreign regulatory arbitrage, i.e. London's role in shielding the deposits of foreign concerns that want to avoid domestic tax or possible confiscation. For example, the original Eurodollar market arose because the USSR wanted to hold its oil revenue, in Dollars, outside the US. Today, US companies hold huge profits offshore (via London) to avoid US corp tax. London is the chief offshore market for the Euro, and is trying to become the same for the Renminbi. This in turn makes it the chief market for inward investment to the EU and for Euro derivatives. If the UK left the EU, the EU would restrict Euro trades. A major chunk of capital flows would disappear from London, as would a number of banks (BNP, DB etc). London would then lose its attractions for non-EU depositors. EU companies needing Dollars for trade would go to Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Dublin etc. This would push up interest rates (i.e. the price of Dollars), attracting US funds to those markets. London could still offer the tax haven conduit, but this, together with a shrunken domestic investment market, would demote it to the level of Zurich (NB: Switzerland is not in the EEA but has a special deal, essentially a cover-up re dodgy Nazi-era and Mafia money). UKIP, despite Farage's previous as a stockbroker, represents small capital, i.e. employers who are more worried about the EU Working Time Directive than the Financial Transactions Tax. They want to grow profits by repressing labour. The City is a middleman, operating a sophisticated toll-booth, so it depends on privileged access. It wants to be where the money is.
Toggle Commented May 28, 2014 on The Overton wall at Stumbling and Mumbling
Apologies to Fred if I'm knicking his punchline, but aragon fails to consider how the presumed right to live where you were born (or anywhere, for that matter) is potentially in conflict with the actually existing right to own land and exclude others from it. Some countries recognise a "right of return", which effectively means they can't exile you, but this entails no specific settlement rights within the borders. The only thing that keeps the propertyless from being trespassers in their own land is the extent of public space.
Toggle Commented May 27, 2014 on The left & immigration at Stumbling and Mumbling