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From Arse To Elbow
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Aaronovitch's article contructs a strawman: "Socialists [who] like to think Syriza’s victory will usher in a new economic order". Dave Spart gets a mention (apparently he's relocated from Neasden to Lewisham). As evidence for the existence of this beastie, Aaronovitch cites the posturing drivel of Giles Fraser and Natalie Bennett, before going on to contrast this with "the achievements of the centre-left government of the hated Tony Blair". Given Aaronovitch's fondness for an old tune, his lament for the lack of ideas seems somewhat forced. But perhaps we are being naive in thinking that newspaper columnists actually deal in ideas. From the weeping Tories of the Guardian to the true believers of the Telegraph, ideas (rather than ideology) are noticeable by their absence. PS: I managed to bypass the paywall using the Google cache, which might work for others (yeah, stick it to the man):
Toggle Commented yesterday on The left's ideas at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Neil Wilson, re "there is always something that needs doing that others see as needing doing". Yeah, like building pyramids. "BI fails because those doing the necessary work ... resent those that don't do anything". Au contraire. In a society where labour is increasingly superfluous, "work" becomes a positional good rather than an economic imperative. You can see the early stages of this in the shift to unpaid internships and the increasing cost of tertiary education. The consequence is that the "haves" are increasingly attracted to the idea of a dole for the "have nots", which is one reason why the CBI is in vogue on the right as much as the left. Always remember that a CBI is just a mechanism, that can be introduced in either an egalitarian or an inegalitarian fashion. @SpinningHugo, the free movement of labour in the EU does not entitle non-citizens to claim benefits. This point was coinfirmed by the ECJ in November. The benefits granted are a matter of domestic policy, hence why the Tories and Labour are competing to ratchet them down. @Neil21, good question. I imagine he'll be along shortly with his "cunning plan" for slavery 2.0.
Natalie Bennett's fumble points to a philosophical problem at the heart of the Green Party's support for a CBI (which is also indicated by their manifesto's silence on uprating). Short of a post-scarcity society, the argument for shifting from a predominantly contributory system of welfare insurance to one of basic entitlement is structural unemployment combined with commodity deflation - i.e. we can produce more than enough goods and services short of full employment. A Green argument for CBI would be that it doesn't make sense to incentivise marginal work that produces a large externality in environmental degradation. Better to pay people to cultivate their garden's than compete with drones as delivery van drivers etc. But if we assume continued productivity growth due to technology (which could well be faster with a CBI), then the number of jobs will continue to shrink, which means a growing cost for welfare as a proportion of GDP. Whether the CBI becomes more parsimonious or more generous (and thus redistributive) over time depends on how we divvy-up the fruits of growth. This is a political choice that the Greens struggle with because of their commitment to zero growth. In a low growth economy, where capital-labour substitution continues apace, you can only prevent the CBI from becoming a mechanism for immiseration through significant wealth redistribution via the state, which means the expropriation of capital. This conflicts with the Greens support for private property.
As he proved in today's commentary on the Brighton-Arsenal game, Savage is perfectly capable of considering mutiple and even contradictory points of view, just not at the same time. All he is actually doing is fulfilling his contractual obligations to act as a sounding brass and thus windup viewers: "X is very poor; Y is brilliant; X is brilliant; Y is very poor" ad infinitum. You could easily build a Robbie Savage random commentary generator. Just vary the above pattern with a few shouts of "magic", "you just can't do that", and "that was a good foul".
Luis, No need to apologise. My second comment in this thread was perhaps a little opaque. It was late, and I'd just polished off a lovely little Malbec that I'd picked up in Borough Market that morning. Anyway, my point is not that choice isn't important or desirable (we can all think of myriad occasions when it is) but that it becomes a fetish and thus intrudes on situations where it is trivial or irrelevant. This elevation of choice is characteristic both of choice-fundamentalists and critics of "rampant consumerism". Bourne and Sentamu need to get out more; or perhaps read The Dice Man.
Toggle Commented Jan 22, 2015 on The oblique path to growth at Stumbling and Mumbling
Luis, I was actually agreeing with the thrust of your original comment - that consumerism is a "phantasm" - but suggesting that both the critics and defenders of consumerism share an ideological purpose in treating every mundane transaction as a moment of significant choice. I wasn't lining up with the Jeremiahs, but reinforcing my earlier point that Bourne/Sentamu is a false dichotomy. For example, issues ostensibly about "community", such as fair-trade and ethical sourcing, are used to reinforce the idea of consumer choice as something powerful and serious (the rights + responsibilities trope). I'm just trying to buy a banana. As you note, the Guardianista critique of consumerism is class-biased: you are dulled by advertising into buying crap at Iceland; I exercise my good taste by buying cheese at a farmers' market. The "rampant consumerism" critique does not seek an end to consumerism, but a better quality consumerism. My point about media coverage is twofold. First, we are inundated with stories that imply we should care about retailers and the extent of market choice (the daily updates from the supermarket front, the perennial M&S "crisis" etc); that we should feel guilty about not being active choosers (e.g. switching utilities); and that we should be frustrated by a lack of choice (rail fares). Second, this selectivity narrows the agenda. For example, renationalising the railways (which would disproportionately benefit the South East middle class) gets an airing, but renationalising the utilities (which would benefit most people) doesn't. The media also bias the domain of choice to our role as consumers, ignoring our role as producers (as AAV notes). For example, we could more quickly switch our energy sources from conventional to renewable via nationalisation than consumer pressure (even with subsidies).
Toggle Commented Jan 22, 2015 on The oblique path to growth at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Luis, rampant consumerism is less about us spending every minute of our waking lives buying unnecessary crap and more about extending the mode of consumerism to necessities. In other words, framing inescapable consumption as choice. This is why Panorama devotes programmes to the doings of Tesco, why increases or cuts in gas bills and rail fares are always headline news, and why "rent" is still a poor relation to "mortgages" and "property investment" in media discourse. The effect of this is not only to frame any argument against the priority of commodities over community as a restraint on choice, but to drown out consideration of what we might actually like within the domain of true choice.
Toggle Commented Jan 21, 2015 on The oblique path to growth at Stumbling and Mumbling
As has been mentioned a few times on this blog, a citizens' basic income would be one way of simultaneously increasing growth and community. What's not to like? The reason why this, and other egalitarian measures, is outside the Overton Window is precisely because of the false dichotomy that Bourne presents. Whereas once the church acted as an ideological arm of the state ("work hard, your reward lies in Heaven"), now it acts as an outsourced conscience, providing a low-cost "indulgence" for the rich and making pro-social policy look unworldy (funny how Justin Welby, after years in business, proved utterly naive in respect of payday lenders). If John Sentamu didn't exist, Ryan Bourne would have to invent him.
Toggle Commented Jan 21, 2015 on The oblique path to growth at Stumbling and Mumbling
Mind you, this could just be an example of Mourinho's eccentric English. What he might have meant is "I like my team more than my players do". They do look remarkably glum when interviewed.
@Ben, that's "most older voters" with up to £20k spare cash. An important qualification. Not every boomer ended up with a gold-plated pension let alone a mansion.
Toggle Commented Jan 16, 2015 on Against Pensioner bonds at Stumbling and Mumbling
When you strip away the ideology, Plato's position (which has been a mainstay of reactionary thinking down the years) sees politics as the instrument of class interests. In other words, government should be left to the "best" because government should be in their interests (Marx at least made this clear). Terms such as "properly governed" beg the question. This has two effects in a democracy. First, there is an inevitable tension between the interests of the many and the interests of the few, which leads to the former being denigrated ("populist", "Utopian" etc) and the latter valorised ("responsible", "national interest" etc). Second, it causes the business of government to be biased (in presentation if not actuality) towards topics that reinforce the ideas that politics requires expertise and the elite are experts. This is why so much of political debate focuses on hyperreal economics (simultaneously obscure and ignorant) and foreign affairs (obscure and posturing). The problem with TV debates (and middle-of-the road wank like Question Time) is not the poor quality of the politicians but the poor quality of the questions. That's the key selection bias.
Toggle Commented Jan 16, 2015 on Doubts about TV debates at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Jim, you say "The IRA weren't bombing the UK in order to introduce a Catholic hegemony", but that is precisely what Unionists in Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK) maintained. I can also assure you that there were plenty of innocent Irish in Britain who got lumps kicked out of them after the Birmingham pub bombing. The position of Muslims now and then Irish then is comparable because of the point of Chris's post: that we apply collective responsibility to the "other" but not to ourselves. And yes, it was perfectly possible to be an Irish Catholic who didn't support a united Ireland, but given that this remains the avowed aim of all the main political parties, it should come as no surprise that the majority of Irish have always been in favour. Both Christianity and Islam are proselytising religions, ostensibly committed to the goal of converting everyone on Earth, but to assume that the majority of Muslims are actively engaged in a Jihad that has been running since the 7th century is akin to believing that the Pope is the Antichrist or that Western secularism is a front for the Illuminati.
Toggle Commented Jan 12, 2015 on Murdoch's common error at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Ralph, I recall you made the same point back in November (throwing in the Islamic tendency towards paedophilia and electoral fraud for good measure), so let me repeat: "At the end of 2013, there were precisely 100 UK prisoners convicted of terrorism offences, of which 93 were Muslim. This reflects current conflicts and the legacy of the 'war on terror'. If you'd taken a snapshot 20 years ago, they'd have been predominantly Irish Republicans." The disproportionate number of Muslim prisoners today no more reflects an intrinsic tendency towards terrorism in Islam than the disproportionate number of Irish prisoners in the past indicated a similar tendency in Catholicism.
Toggle Commented Jan 12, 2015 on Murdoch's common error at Stumbling and Mumbling
@distant, no I'm not going to provide any evidence for my outrageous slur, because there isn't any. This is what we evil lefties call "irony", deployed to highlight the ridiculous nature of Jim's rant. The rest of my previous comment is backed by lengthy academic citations (too many to list) and was thoroughly fact-checked by the New York Times.
Toggle Commented Jan 11, 2015 on Murdoch's common error at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Jim, There were plenty of Jews who were committed to the violent overthrow of the Nazi state after 1933, but they were mostly members of other political groups, like the SPD and KPD. Herschel Grynzspan, a member of the Bund (Jewish Polish socialists), assassinated Ernst vom Rath, a German diplomat, in Paris on 7 November 1938. This provided the excuse for the Kristallnacht pogrom in Germany on 9-10 November. Far from being a non-issue, Jewish "terrorism" played a key role in the evolution of the Nazi state. If you're ever in Berlin, I suggest a visit to the Memorial to the German Resistance, which puts Jewish "terror" into perspective (there's not so much Tom Cruise). As regards our very own "fifth column", the percentage of UK citizens of Irish heritage who supported a united Ireland, and thus the physical diminution of the British state, during the height of the IRA mainland bombing campaigns in the 70s and 80s, significantly exceeded 10%. Which proves what, exactly? That we should have interned the lot of them? And as regards people who "support violence, are against freedom of expression, are against sexual and gender equality, and support the introduction of Sharia law", just substitute "hanging and flogging" for the last of these are you are describing a large part of right-wing opinion in this country.
Toggle Commented Jan 11, 2015 on Murdoch's common error at Stumbling and Mumbling
I don't know that there is an affinity on the left with heterdox economics so much as a scepticism about orthodox theory that springs from an appreciation of ideology and (echoing your point about power) a recognition that many academic economists have been complicit in advancing a particular financial industry agenda (the Inside Job trope).
Freedom of expression entails the right to say nothing. Just as it is odious to insist that all muslims must formally denounce the Paris killings, so it is dictatorial to insist that Chris (or any other media magnate) should republish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons "in solidarity". For the record, "offensiveness" is not a crime (otherwise professional shit-stirrers like Katie Hopkins would not have a career), and nor is "hate speech" per se. A crime only arises where speech is threatening (e.g. calling for someone to be killed), causes unreasonable harassment or distress (e.g. saying someone deserves to be raped), or is intended to indirectly promote criminal acts (e.g. inciting racial or religious hatred). There is obviously leeway in interpretation over the likelihood of a consequential act, and poorly-drafted future legislation might make this even fuzzier, but it is worth remembering that many of the "police investigations" reported by the media in respect of "hate speech" fizzle out almost immediately. We are not living under a PC Big Brother.
Toggle Commented Jan 10, 2015 on Freedom's supporters at Stumbling and Mumbling
"What is odd, though, is that those subjects who were told about the lowest offers offered lower prices themselves, which was against their own interests." But this presumes that their interests are understood, whether because they are exogenous or conform to some objective "rationality". Just as there is peer pressure, there is also the awkward squad. Some participants might bid a low price simply to show contempt for the process.
Toggle Commented Jan 8, 2015 on Endogenous preferences at Stumbling and Mumbling
Re PolicyGMCVO's observation: "ridiculous hyperbole is becoming standard operating procedure for all parties at all times". Twas ever thus. In 1945 Churchill claimed that the Labour Party's manifesto would require "some form of Gestapo" in order to be implemented, which was not merely hyperbolic but in poor taste, given the circumstances. The belief that the electorate can only be stimulated by strong meat is common among the elite, and is an extension of the traditional reactionary view that the common herd are incapable of understanding complex issues. Focus groups and the patronising drivel of TV and the broadsheets ("so what does it all mean?") are as much a symptom of this as the simplistic rhetoric of the tabloids.
Toggle Commented Jan 6, 2015 on Hyperbole in politics at Stumbling and Mumbling
The aversion of owners to risk is not just a peculiarity of private equity. Limited liability, which shields beneficial owners from the risk of management incompetence or malice, redistributes the cost of failure (via creditors) onto society at large, which means that workers end up paying for it (through downward pressure on wages and upward pressure on prices). This may redistribute capital among certain owners, but at an aggregate level it preserves capital as a class.
Toggle Commented Jan 5, 2015 on Who bears risk? at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Laid back aussie, What is this "data" you talk about, in which mega-cities make it appear that diversity is wealth-creating? There is no simple correlation between city size, diversity and wealth because these are independent factors. At a country level, the diversity of the population is far more the product of geography and labour mobility than of wealth. For example, it is easier to recruit workers to Geneva from France than from Zurich, or to Zurich from Germany than from Geneva. Switzerland's high foreign population has more to do with mountains than tax-exiles. Sweden's wealth is largely the product of economic growth in the 50s and 60s, which was facilitated by the introduction of free labour movement among Nordic countries in 1952. The largest foreign-born group in Sweden is Finnish. Since the 70s, Sweden has taken in large refugee populations from the Middle East and former Yugoslavia. You could claim that this proves wealth leads to diversity, but then you could claim that the 1952-70 era proves the exact opposite. To suggest that the US's dominant paradigm has been assimilation looks odd when you consider its history of genocide and racial segregation. To imply that there were stages when the US was not "somewhat diverse" is just baffling. On balance, diversity is economically beneficial (for the reasons outlined by Chris), but this is only one of many factors in growth, such as the quantum increase to population from immigration. To insist that diversity is not wealth-creating is dogmatic.
Toggle Commented Jan 1, 2015 on The diversity paradox at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Laid back Aussie, Mega-cities are not islands of diversity in a sea of homogeneity. The largest mega-city is Tokyo, which is 98% Japanese. In fact, you have to go pretty far down the list (NY at #10, London at #20) to find classic "melting pots". Rich countries that are notably diverse include Switzerland, where 24% of the population are classed as foreign, and Sweden, where 27% of the population have a foreign background. In contrast, the foreign-born figure for the UK is 12%. The idea that diversity undermines growth is not supported by history. Most people would regard the growth of the USA over the 19th and 20th centuries to be better than most, despite the disadvantage of near-continuous mass immigration. One explanation for this is that highly-diverse societies place a greater premium on cooperation and trust, as opposed to blind obedience to traditional norms. Another explanation is that most growth is simply the product of the quantum increase in population, rather than any native genius in respect of technical progress. Re "cognitive diversity is pretty weakly correlated with ethnic diversity". Actually, it doesn't correlate at all.
Toggle Commented Dec 31, 2014 on The diversity paradox at Stumbling and Mumbling
Ensuring diversity in "positions of power and prominence" means promoting blacks like "us" and women like "us". Thus national treasure Lenny Henry guest-edits Today. It does not mean promoting "the other lot". Riaz's equivalence of "women, the poor, [and] BAME" spectacularly misses the point that "the poor" (the other lot) can never guest-edit Today (unlike Lenny Henry or Polly Harvey), because they are incapable. The invisible bigotry of "ability" is more intractable than the visible bigotry of race or gender. Likewise, Ralph is wrong to suggest that English is the result of the happy commingling of Latin, French, Anglo-Saxon and Gaelic. What Latin we have comes via French (there is no Roman heritage outside of a few placenames), and both are largely the language of property law (plus Renaissance and Enlightenment affectation). Gaelic is little more than patronised loan-words from the post-Medieval Irish and Scottish peripheries. Brythonic/Welsh has contributed fewer words to the modern English corpus than Hindi. Anglo-Saxon was a language of both them and us, and what has survived (in standard English) is largely the vocabulary of "us" (i.e. the land-owners who intermarried with the Normans) rather than them. The most despised language remains the Norse/Danish-influenced dialects of the North, which have always been the most "them".
Toggle Commented Dec 31, 2014 on The diversity paradox at Stumbling and Mumbling
The problem with Summers' use of the term "secular stagnation" is that is prompts people to see the current set of symptoms in terms of an earlier era's debate, with camps forming around deficiencies in supply ("we've stopped inventing stuff") and demand (inequality). Your fellow MMTer, Randy Wray, is perhaps closer to the mark when he notes that the current situation is more likley to be the product of success rather than failure: "To put it in simple terms, the problem is that investment is just too damned productive. The supply side effect of investment (capacity creation) is much larger than the demand side effect (the multiplier), and the outcome is demand-depressing excess capacity". Contrary to the lament of messrs Gordon and Cowen re the non-appearance of jet-packs, technological advance over the last 30 years has been enormous, with software in particular adding an order of magnitude to productivity. The problem (evident in stagnant average productivity) is these gains depend on a small and shrinking amount of labour, hence the polarisation of superstar pay at the top and labour-capital substitution at the bottom. The solution may well be printing money, but this will not reverse the underlying trend in the evolution of the material base. It's technology, innit.
Toggle Commented Dec 10, 2014 on For worker control at Stumbling and Mumbling
Distance lends perspective, but this is still a middle-distance view. Over the very long run, Brown was no different to most postwar PMs: buffeted by circumstance and a prey to his own fears and prejudices. I suspect historians will highlight only one decision during his time as Chancellor, namely his opposition to the Euro, though the significance of his obduracy will not be understood for a long time yet (contemporary counterfactuals are obviously nonsense). His decision to hand control over interest rates to the BoE may have had its technical merits, but it was of a piece with his willingness to trust the City. Some have assumed a cynical, Faustian pact - bad money being turned to good use - but it actually looks like timidity, as does his studious ignoral of the 1%. Though Brown is often caricatured as a bruiser (a hazard faced by any Scotsman who doesn't look like Michael Gove), he was actually a bit of a prig (so quite like Gove, then).