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From Arse To Elbow
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I doubt that many owners keep ticket prices down so they can sell more meat pies or programmes. If they were interested in offsetting revenue streams, they would subsidise ticket prices with TV income rather than matchday sales. That is the expectation of most fans, and that is why they are currently miffed by price increases coinciding with a new TV contract. What ensures that stadia are full is not under-pricing but comprehensive membership schemes and category pricing. Together with the increase in season tickets as a proportion of the total crowd (a consequence of all-seater stadia), and the disappearance of pay-on-the-day, this makes it easier for clubs to predict and thus ensure full crowds. This isn't foolproof, but the volatility in gates is far less today than in the past. The membership schemes also mean that tourists (i.e. casuals with selfie-sticks rather than international supporters clubs) will never be more than marginal to crowd composition. TV gives the impression there are far more in the ground as they often end up in the rubbish seats at the front, particularly near the halfway line where th cameras pick them up. You also need to bear in mind that ticket prices vary depending on the category of game. For example, at Arsenal A games are 2.5 times the price of C games (these categories are based on anticipated demand before the season starts, so Leicester next Sunday is still a C). What this means is that the owners are actually jacking up the price considerably for the most popular games.
Social reciprocity has long been theorised in the West as a form of exchange or barter. You can see this today in the arguments of Portes et al in respect of migration: we will get back more than we put in. The problem with this approach is that the trade-off is incommensurable: aggregate GDP vs anxiety. As a consequence of this focus on debits and credits, altruistic exchange - where we give with no expectation of a return - has been marginalised as either hospitality (with a focus on "aiding travellers" - i.e. a characteristic of business relations) or charity (the purchase of indulgences or peace-of-mind). There have been attempts in the fields of history and anthropology to highlight the political and social insurance aspects of cultural reciprocity, but this has tended to reinforce the idea that it is bounded by social divisions (tribe, nation, class) and therefore to be seen as an earned "right" (like the figment of NICs). So long as we continue to talk of "duties" (i.e. obligations) and "trade-offs", then we won't escape the ledger book and there can be no meeting of minds.
Some critics will attempt to justify their claim that a candidate or a party is "unelectable" by appealing to psephological data (e.g. Peter Kellner), while others reveal through their intemperate whining that they simply find the candidate personally objectionable (e.g. Peter Kellner). This is narcissism pure and simple: the delusion that the electorate accurately reflects their own prejudices and that therefore their opinion is decisive. All too often, "unelectable" is merely a euphemism for "impermissible".
Toggle Commented Feb 3, 2016 on "Unelectable" at Stumbling and Mumbling
Cowen's ongoing struggle to claim Mill for the right yokes the historic "Progressives" (late-19th century managerialists avant la lettre) - and by implication their modern inheritors, i.e. Democrats - to the "left" in a classic conservative manoeuvre (like claiming Hillary Clinton owed it all to Rosa Luxemburg). This allows him to construct a tendentious link between eugenics (and its presumed legacy in abortion) and "safe spaces", and to imply a monolithic left position that is casual about free speech. This is bullshit. Re "Liberals believed that free speech and intellectual progress went together". No. In practice, classic liberals believed in free enquiry rather than free speech. In other words, they disliked expression that lacked utility (they were liberals, not libertines). Free speech, as we understand the term today, is a product of the social democratic era (and still emergent) and tied to consequentiality - i.e. not suffering the sack/expulsion/ostracism for speaking your mind. Re "laws will be used by the powerful against the powerless". True. And many of the powerful will be self-identifying liberals. This tells us something about power, but it tells us little about liberalism and nothing about free speech. This is a good argument for the diffusion of power, but it isn't a compelling argument for free speech. Uncertainty (which reconciles the distinct liberal strands of Hayek and Keynes), is a good argument for free speech, but it is utilitarian, being concerned with aggregate benefit. This is problematic because it is always vulnerable to the renewed claims of certainty and net benefit - e.g. the modern pretensions of 'big data'. This means it is not a robust defence of free speech. Your conclusion ("the assertion of freedom and of substantive equality go hand-in-hand") is spot-on, but this does not mean that we should see them as equal in strategic terms. The better (left) argument is that the diffusion of power, and thus equality, necessarily entails the diffusion of speech power.
Toggle Commented Jan 30, 2016 on The left & freedom at Stumbling and Mumbling
The media don't discipline the electorate; they discipline political parties. The attitude of Progress is simply evidence of that. One reason why people are turned off politics is because the agenda (of media-owners) bears increasingly little relation to their lives. For example, reporting economics largely through the lens of the City is a turnoff because most people simply do not relate to the economy in that way, regardless of where their pension pot may be invested. Equating cognitive bias with ideology is misleading. The former is universal (it's the human condition), while the latter is tailored to a society. We also need to recognise that the ideology of the media has an industry-specific dimension. For example, the focus on national identity and ethical conformity has a lot to do with the creation of a market.
Toggle Commented Jan 28, 2016 on Don't blame the media at Stumbling and Mumbling
Re Bob's comment: "The Humber Bridge didn't really help Hull in the long run did it?". This was because the problem - the constraint of the Humber ferry on traffic between Hull and Scunthrope - was largely alleviated by the building of the M62, which improved road transport via Goole. The bridge was a classic case of over-capacity, prompted by the government's need to win the 1966 Hull North by-election. In other words, the competition for public funds created by representative (i.e. constituency) democracy. Political parties may speak *to* the mass of the people, but they never speak *for* them. They always speak for a combination of constituencies. One goal of political debate is to identify those particular interests. The "middle ground" is a rhetorical trope intended to obscure them.
You could take this further (go on, let's) and note that the BBC's choice of the personality trope reveals not only a deference to the VSPs, but a profoundly monarchical bent. Their hosting of SPOTY (and anxiety over Tyson Fury) is of a piece with their indulgence of the Royal Family and their "courtier" approach to political coverage.
Toggle Commented Jan 25, 2016 on Complexity, & BBC bias at Stumbling and Mumbling
There is a paradox here. Most of the areas where surveillance would produce a high return are the ones that have been most subject to automation, and thus no longer need surveillance. It is therefore questionable whether the increase in surveillance is actually anything to do with productivity. Another paradox: we know from classic surveillance tropes (e.g. in espionage) that it produces a lot of noise and very little signal. Automated surveillance doesn't help much as it produces lots of false-positives that require human inspection, which rarely happens. CCTV systems with a single recyled video-tape have given way to "discovery" databases that no one knows how to use. What we may be witnessing is a transitional phase where both watcher and watched in the surveillance hierarchy are human. The logical next step would be for an artifical intelligence watcher. Something like Siri, but with a slightly more peremptory tone.
Toggle Commented Jan 21, 2016 on Workplace surveillance at Stumbling and Mumbling
Paul Kenny may believe he is advancing his members' interests, but he stands in a long line of politicians and union reps who have primarily advanced the arms industry. UK National defence has always been more about iron than blood, with the dominance of the Royal Navy - what other nuclear power is solely dependent on subs? - reflecting capital-intensity (initially mercantilist and then industrial) rather than military utility. The strategic weakness this gives rise to is that we are often preparing to fight the last war (in the case of a Trident replacement, the Cold War). The independent deterrent (which we all know has been neither since Polaris in 1962) has always been more about conference room dick-swinging, but its value is fast depreciating in a world where air-power and boots on the ground are the preferred currency. The obvious compromise is to beat our swords not into ploughshares but into light-sabres.
Toggle Commented Jan 18, 2016 on Unions vs Trident at Stumbling and Mumbling
@aragon, "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck ...", then it's probably an amphibious droid.
IBM did "succeed in developing successful operating systems", most obviously for its mainframes, many of which are still in use. This might mean little to non-business users, but it's what made IBM financially successful and provided the base for its move into services in the 1990s (an example of corporate guided-evolution). It wasn't disrupted by Microsoft, though it clearly underestimated the potential of PCs. It outsourced the provision of an OS for the IBM PC (which it saw as a cross between a mini and a terminal - i.e. an office machine) to Bill Gates, thereby adopting the contemporary best practice of experts who would later eulogise disruption. In a further irony, Microsoft didn't have an OS ready and had to buy-in a kernel from SCP. Clayton Christensen's theories on corporate disruption have been extensively challenged on both theoretical grounds and his interpretation of the evidence. Jill Lepore's 2014 New Yorker article is probably the best known recent take-down. One reason why firms appear to be investing less is that the unit cost of investment has fallen as new tech has shifted in composition from hardware to software. This is a result of hardware commoditisation, the lower upgrade cost of software (due to frequency/ease), and the wider shift in the economy from manufacturing to services. In other words, exceptional productivity can give rise to the appearance of stagnation.
@reason, You could read a book on psychology, but it might be more entertaining to watch a film. I recommend The King of Comedy.
Toggle Commented Jan 14, 2016 on Innovation & well-being at Stumbling and Mumbling
I think it's well-known that our admiration for the famous is tinged with hatred. This is narcissistic: resentment that someone else is the centre of attention and (mild) self-loathing at our own emotional investment, which can never be fully repaid. When we eulogise the famous dead, there is a desire among some people (not all) to bring them down to size as a form of emotional closure, reflecting regret over our younger selves' over-investment. The solipsism of "what he meant to me" is a way of claiming that our own existence validated the deceased, which is obviously absurd, but it's too late now to get an "I owe it all to ..." tribute out of them. There is also a degree of appropriation, that is an attempt to provide a definitive statement, to "own" the history, which is where the difference between Bowie and your mum comes in. This has been particularly noticeable with Mr Jones because of the ambiguity of his lyrics ("what he really meant was ..."), his personae and his public statements (the Fascist groove thang). Our collective response has been narcissistic because its what he would have wanted. We are merely holding up a mirror to Bowie's now breathless face.
Toggle Commented Jan 13, 2016 on Innovation & well-being at Stumbling and Mumbling
Luis, When we mourn the passing of a public figure we are mourning our own past through the prism of that figure's history, hence the "what he meant to me" spin of many of the Bowie eulogies. That's narcissistic, but I'm not having a pop when I say that. It's a feature of modernity and I'm as susceptible to it as anybody else, which should be obvious from my comment above (I was a critical admirer, not a hater). As a creative artist, Bowie was also an exemplary narcissist because he had the courage to selfishly pursue his desires, despite the collateral damage it caused to others. In contrast, most of us compromise. What I've sensed in a lot of the Bowie tributes is relief that he went quietly and without regrets, that he didn't turn into a bitter old arsehole at the end, which meant the belief that "He gave me the courage to be myself" wasn't compromised. "Is everything we do narcissistic?" No, but a lot is and its a growing tendency. Bowie was a critical cultural figure in normalising this during the early neoliberal era, in particular the idea that identity could be freed from social ties and treated as a commodity in its own right. Are my comments narcissistic? Certainly. I'm not doing it for the money.
Toggle Commented Jan 13, 2016 on Innovation & well-being at Stumbling and Mumbling
Bowie wasn't innovative. Musically he was closer to Broadway than Boulez. His talent was variety, the ability to reinterpret and combine the ideas of others, from Iggy & Lou to Neu & Can (as with any magpie, his instinct was occasionally erring, from The Laughing Gnome to the Steve Strange-inspired Scary Monsters). Much of his attraction (and thus the root of our narcissistic mourning) was the conviction with which he took up and discarded new personas and ideas, which reduced the anxiety of post-60s individuation to dressing-up (hence we forgive his flirtation with Fascism as an aesthetic impulse). But though he was exemplary, few of us had the discipline to emulate him (I suspect many secretly suspect he lopped a decade or two off his life through fags and coke). He redefined variety as innovation: constantly working the angles, restlessly demanding of those around him, emblematically turning his old dressing-up box into an art exhibition and translating his future royalties into Bowie Bonds. He was the original of Foucault's "entrepreneur of himself". Was he happy? He was certainly busy.
Toggle Commented Jan 13, 2016 on Innovation & well-being at Stumbling and Mumbling
Oi, Staines, you muppet. "Capitalism has indeed brought material benefits to the common man that would have been beyond the dreams of kings a couple of generations ago". No. Technological advance has brought material benefits. This is not the same thing as capitalism, unless you think Guttenberg was inspired by Adam Smith. As for the dreams of kings, I suspect that sex on tap for a couple of decades still beats antibiotics curing your pox. "Autonomy is only ever really available to those who strike out for it. If you want autonomy, go for it. Autonomy is not something that can be given to you in any meaningful sense, you have to achieve it". I remember this was a popular mantra on Mississippi plantations I worked on in the 1850s. Autonomy is simply the absence of coercion, i.e. the exercise of power by others. Naturally, those not subject to this power are always baffled why others don't "carpe diem" (is that the right gibber?)
Toggle Commented Jan 8, 2016 on The paradox of plenty at Stumbling and Mumbling
I'm sceptical that there ever was a golden age of "proper political debate", so the idea that it has vanished recently smacks of the nostalgia more readily associated with the likes of Oliver Letwin ("In Brixton, you used to be able to leave your money on the doorstep. I saw it wiv me own eyes, guvnor!"). Preaching to the choir (or the converted) has been going on for some time (there's a clue in the idiom), and any practising politiciam will confirm that 80% of their effort is about maintaining support, not seducing the open-minded. Even when proselytising, the rhetorical technique is more likely to be akin to flogging soap powder than a tutorial in political philosophy. Lovers of the latter (i.e. readers of this blog) have always been a marginal market segment. If there has been a qualitative change in recent years, it is most likely to be the product of evolving structural pressures, notably the impact of new media on old (the reductiveness of the soundbite, the outsourcing of scepticism, the terror of the Beeb etc). I imagine Marx ("All I know is that I am not a journalist") would have been fascinated by the political economy of the modern media.
Toggle Commented Jan 6, 2016 on On counter-advocacy at Stumbling and Mumbling
In terms of electability, political parties ultimately reduce their message to the issue of trust. Not in themselves, but in a higher power or ideal: the nation, the leader, the constitution etc. The message of the social-democratic era was broadly "trust the people" (the reality may have been somewhat different, but this is about ideological persuasion). The ensuing era, from the early-70s to the mid-90s, centred on a message of "trust the state". Despite waving copies of Hayek about, Thatcher used the power of the state to break labour and her economic policy was as much about activism as deregulation (e.g. Westland). Though Thatcher is seen as a neoliberal, she actually played more of a John the Baptist role in using government to prepare the ground for the triumph of neoliberalism under Blair. The message of the New Labour era was "trust the market" - i.e. market discipline could make up for the public sector's failings and allow government activism to focus on improving labour. Being "relaxed" about the rich and "friendly" to business was performative of this trust. The period since 2010 has been marked by a lack of a clear message, both on the left and in the centre, whch has allowed the Tories to opportunistically campaign on a negative: "don't trust them". Corbyn clearly seeks to revive the first message (though without yet having crystallised what trusting the people means today), while Miliband and other centrists (like Burnham and Cooper) were inching painfully back towards the second message and the idea of an actvist (and trustworthy) state. The problem for the Labour right is that their preferred message no longer sells. Their hysteria arises because they are viscerally opposed to trusting the people (they are authoritarians at heart) and believe that trust in the state is impossible (they've drunk the neoliberal Kool-Aid). The policies you suggest are perfectly sensible, but they're also the sort of thing that Miliband might have had the nerve to pursue if he'd been elected. That makes them unpalatable to the right. At the moment, there is no point to the Labour right. This doesn't mean they should evaporate or do anything silly, but that they should go away and have a long think instead of hyperventilating in the media. Logically, their best bet is to make peace with the centrists and try and reimagine a trustworthy state, not least because the corruption of government activism will become ever more acute as the Tories cut public services and subsidise the privileged.
@Luis, stress is inversely proportional to power, in the sense of control over one's work and the stability of the working environment (see the famous Whitehall Study - there is diagreement over the mechanics, but not the correlation between job power and health). Over the last 30 years we have seen a reduction in control and stability, so we would expect to see an increase in stress regardless of the movement in real wages (and bear in mind that the impact of wages on self-esteem is relative, i.e. greater inequality around a higher median may exacerbate it). This reduction is not confined to the lower end of the jobs market, where unionised and skilled trades have been gradually replaced by non-unionised service roles. It is also evident in the professions (as Chris notes) and in offices (the impact of outsourcing & offshoring, pay for performance, and the creative destruction of M&A goes a long way up the corporate ladder). The instability of the "gig economy" is another factor. What Collins is doing (to judge from the above quote) is candidly admitting the neoliberal reinterpretation of social mobility: no longer growing the pie to create more and better jobs, but a competition for a limited number of sinecures. Chris is being generous in assuming that the Blairites are merely wrong. A harsher view would be that a zero-sum labour market is precisely what they wanted.
Toggle Commented Dec 18, 2015 on Beyond social mobility at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Luis, I'm not sure that worker control qualifies as a "small" tweak, unless you imagine that capitalism is the means of production itself rather than an ownership model (which would rather reinforce Chris's point about self-serving ideology). As for Oakeshott, I suspect he would caution against under-estimating the value of not changing things, and under-valuing the cumulative asset of historical change.
Toggle Commented Dec 9, 2015 on Ideologue? Moi? at Stumbling and Mumbling
@DFTM, the oblique approach to innovation is not specific to either capitalism or socialism. It is actually a characteristic of human nature, famously embodied in the absent-minded professor. The critique of central planning, in the context of innovation, is that it cannot know what might be of value to innovate because the demand/need may be latent. That is the premise behind the Steve Jobs quote: "people don't know what they want until you show it to them". Of course, this excuses the creation of artificial demand - the belief that you need something because everyone else demands it - and the manipulation of need to suit current supply (if life deals you lemons, sell lemonade etc). A market (however constructed) remains a useful mechanism for establishing demand because it does not presume what we need. But this does not mean that innovation is better served by a market, merely that a market is a useful mechanism for discrimination, which is only one part of the innovation process.
@DFTM, "looking at another unrelated problem" is actually a well-established technique, often referred to as "technology transfer", but it's less about flukes than decomposing a problem by thinking about it in a wholly different context. You can think of it as structured serendipity.
Baumol took a micro attitude towards innovation, seeing a marketplace of competitive firms routinising R&D as another production process, but in so doing he downplayed the macro considerations, such as institutionalised R&D (sponsored by the state through education and welfare/defence purchasing) and social factors, such as the cultural status accorded innovators. As something that springs primarily from human curiosity, innovation is fundamentally a social practice. The free market, as a discovery mechanism, is efficient in discriminating between innovations, but as with any production process, outputs are determined by inputs, which brings us back to Chris's point #2 about capital, both financial and human. Patent reform and capital allowances can help, but a radical approach to maximising innovation would look more like a combination of state-sponsored R&D facilities in every neighbourhood (Libraries with knobs on) and a basic income.
I think this is about more than overconfidence. We're not going to war in Syria, rather we're going to do a spot of drive-by shooting. If there was any risk to us (aka "boots on the ground"), there would be a lot more opposition to intervention, indicating that this is cynical calculation rather than cognitive bias We're going to bomb Raqqa - and probably kill innocent civilians along the way - because we can get away with it, and because the media demands tit-for-tat. The objective is gestural (do something to sate public demand) and political (gain some credit with the French, or at least avoid discredit, ahead of the EU negotiations).
Working people have little free time because the better sort are terrified at what they might do with it. The Devil finds work for idle hands, etc. Declining productivity is a contradiction of capitalism. Technology has increased productivity but class relations prevent us evenly remitting that in reduced hours. The consequence is bluecollar unemployment and whitecollar makework and waste (Doc at the Radar Station is observing a real phenomenon).
Toggle Commented Nov 20, 2015 on Keynes' error at Stumbling and Mumbling