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Jesus's statement, "let he who is without sin cast the first stone", was not a lesson in humility nor a suggestion that we shouldn't rush to judge, but an insistence that man had no right to pass judgements in matters reserved to God. It was an argument from authority that led logically to both papal infallibility and biblical literalism. Our problem is less the decline of religion than the triumphant hegemony of its binary judgmentalism. This can be seen in the way that tolerance, which actually means putting up with something that you may positively dislike, has increasingly come to be framed in terms of a catechism of right beliefs with "calling out" (essentially "bearing witness") providing the means to separate sheep from goats. Without getting all John Grey about it, there is a case to be made that hipster self-righteousness is just the continuation of religion by other means.
Toggle Commented Nov 29, 2017 on On moral self-licensing at Stumbling and Mumbling
@MJW, The green belt is clearly not an impediment to sprawl. After all, if it were, this would have led to steadily increasing densification within cities during the postwar era. In fact, the reverse happened as cities lost populuation to new towns, many of which were created as reservations within the growing green belt area. The high price of London housing has less to do with limited supply than most people imagine. Though the population increased from a low of 6.6m in 1981 to 8.2m in 2011, this merely returned it to its postwar peak of 1951. During the 70s and early-80s, London had loads of squats because there was a lot of empty property. Smaller household sizes have raised the demand for dwellings over the last 30 years, but this was largely offset by brownfield development as old industries moved out (e.g. along the banks of the Thames). Growing current demand for both dwellings and commercial space is now encouraging densification in the capital (the population is expected to hit 9m by 2021), but a lot of that is being achieved by replacing older council estates with newer developments in which social and affordable housing gets squeezed. Londoners in need of social housing can now find themselves offered homes in places as far afield as Hastings. That's not a malign policy of "social cleansing" but a result of the green belt stretching as far as Tunbridge Wells. I don't seriously expect golf courses to be turned into retirement villages. My point was simply that such an improbable strategy had more chance of making a difference than trying to tackle the myth of urban under-utilisation (my serious proposal would be to abolish the green belt along the axial transport corridors to Reading, Luton, Southend and Crawley, where much of the necessary infrastructure is already in place). The emergence of that myth is indicative of a tendency to see the housing problem as the responsibility of urban areas, rather than a collective challenge. The original intent of the green belt was to provide an amenity (a green lung) for city-dwellers, not a cordon sanitaire for the countryside (let alone the actually existing exurbs). Over time, the green belt has become simply a way of creating an artificial boundary between planning regimes, largely to the advantage of landowners.
@MJW, You appear to be suggesting that the Green Belt is an area of high demand, but if that were so, then prices would be higher there than in the city. They're not, which is why a family can sell a 3-bedroom terrace house in Clapham to a couple of hipsters (the Overground will get them to work in Shoreditch in 30 minutes) and buy a detached, 5-bedroom house in Epsom with the proceeds. There may be "intense pressure to lay concrete" in the green belt, but, as you note, this is pressure for limited development (to maximise prices), not for mass-building. Unfortunately, the media representation of this suggests that large parts of the green belt might be concreted over. Given that the London belt is actually 3 times the size of the area it surrounds, this is nonsense. At 5,000 sq km, there is enough space to build as many homes as already exist in the entirety of the UK at current densities: around 27 million. To return to the original point, under-utilisation of housing (as opposed to low densities) is not a major problem in cities, so tax-breaks to encourage downsizing are likely to be ineffective. It might actually make better sense to target tax-breaks in the green belt. It is estimated that developing half the golf courses in the London green belt could provide 1 million new homes. If we prioritised turning them into retirement villages, that might free up a lot of larger homes in the green belt (and with a multiplier effect), which would in turn attract growing families from the city, thereby freeing up more space for the hipsters.
Ian Mulheirn makes a good point about space relative to population, but this ignores the secular change in household composition. Since the 1960s, household sizes have declined due to factors such as fewer births, increased divorce and longevity. If housing supply and population had remained static these last 50 years, we'd still have seen growing prices due to increased demand. Contrary to the media prominence of millenial and immigrant over-crowding, the reality in aggregate is more space per person, but this is less the product of individual selfishness than social change. Re MJW's point: "In areas of high demand private owners sit in family homes after children have flown". The empty nests are disproportionately to be found in the suburbs and small towns, which are not areas of high demand. That, after all, is where the young tend move away from. The trope of the smug 60 year-olds occupying a multi-bedroom Islington townhouse is a myth peddled by those who want to limit building elsewhere, notably encroachment of the green belt (e.g. Simon Jenkins). Ironically, this echoes the old Tory myth (peddled to justify the Poll Tax) of the poor old widow in her family home being clobbered by rates. Where critics like Jenkins have a point is in terms of density. London is notoriously inefficient in this regard compared to cities like Paris, essentially because our typical urban property is 2-3 stories high while theirs is 5-7 stories. The British urban vogue for loft conversions and garden extensions is a sign of planning failure. It's unlikely to happen (not least because the Tube would have to densify as well), but doubling the height of London terraces would go a long way to meeting demand and capping prices. On Blissex's point about transport, the investment in London has not been done to "keep concentrating jobs" in the city but in response to job growth in the centre. A lot of that growth has seen formerly residential areas become increasingly dominated by offices and commerce (e.g. Shoreditch and Old Street), with working class populations pushed further out (e.g. to Tottenham and Enfield). Though national transport policy is often portrayed as a struggle over limited resources between London and the rest, this ignores the struggle in London between servicing the traditional Greater London area (buses, the Tube, the Overground) and the ex-urban commuter belt (HS2, Crossrail).
Re "the builders of the Metropolitan didn’t intend to cut house prices". No, but what they did intend to do was secure a slice of the housing market and capitalise on increased land values. That's why they bought up so much land alongside the rail route, giving rise to Metro-land.
@Acarraro, You are correct that someone will have to buy the pounds so that we can pay the EU in euros, and logically those extra pounds will find their way back into the UK economy unless foreigners wish to hold Sterling as cash (let's assume they don't), but that means foreigners buying export goods and services in the main. This will have an indirect impact on domestic demand, but one that is more than offset by other benefits - e.g. an export boom might lead to increased overtime and thus more domestic spending, but it would also increase GDP, wages and perhaps productivity (because of sector averages). The risk to inflation would largely arise from a fall in the value of Sterling. In theory, that should also help boost exports, though recent experience suggests it is now a weak effect (essentially because the export sector is smaller and its composition less price-sensitive). The political point is that Brexiteers who object to paying the EU anything are the same people who reckon we're all set to become a thriving trading nation once again. Self-interest should suggest that they be generous. The more we pay the EU, the greater the potential demand for exports. That's the logic of QE: put more money into the hands of people who can spend in a beneficial way.
@Phil, I presume your med student mate was referring to the famous Whitehall Study that found it was pool drivers and the like, rather than mandarins, who were most at risk of heart attacks, essentially because they had so little control over their working lives. In other words, the stress of high-powered jobs isn't stress at all, it's just performative anxiety.
Toggle Commented Nov 17, 2017 on The politics of death at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Jim, You're confusing a benefit with a subsidy. This is a classic rhetorical manoeuvre of the right because it suggests that all benefits have a market equivalent and can therefore be provided by the market. A subsidy is only meaningful within a market because it is geared to a price (a characteristic of a subsidy is that it can be formally accounted for as a monetary value). By defining a differential of £17k, you (and Rex before you) are projecting a council flat into the local housing market. But a council flat is by definition not in that market. That it might become so at a future point is irrelevant. To put this in the terms of your other analogy, being provided with a mobility car for free because you have been judged disabled is a benefit. The zero-rating of mobility cars for VAT is a subsidy. They are not the same thing.
Toggle Commented Nov 17, 2017 on The politics of death at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Rex, as Grenfell residents who were tenants of the local authority could not legally realise the market value of their utility, it is as meaningless to talk of it as a "subsidy" as it would be to describe a course of NHS chemotherapy in similar terms.
Toggle Commented Nov 16, 2017 on The politics of death at Stumbling and Mumbling
There's a risk of hindsight bias here. Carrington, who was never elected, resigned over the FCO's complacency in the run-up to the Falklands War; Howe should be remembered more for the disastrous 1981 budget than his elegant knifing of Thatcher; while Hurd's policy probably caused unnecessary deaths in Bosnia. To many of their contemporaries, they were distinctly unimpressive. More broadly, we shouldn't forget that the goal of neoliberalism has been, in Will Davies' words, "the disenchantment of politics by economics". Perhaps it has succeeded.
Toggle Commented Nov 15, 2017 on Selecting for inadequates at Stumbling and Mumbling
I think you have to distinguish between US anticommunism in its domestic and international settings. The former, which was by no means limited to the derangements of McCarthy and Hoover, was intimately bound up with the defeat of organised labour and the repression of blacks. This is why a "staunch anticommunist" like Richard Nixon could be both authoritarian and unyielding at home and pragmatic abroad, e.g. in the rapprochement with China and the start of the SALT talks. There was no contradiction in this. Internationally, anticommunism was little more than resistance to decolonisation and land reform. Though terms like "capitalism" and "socialism" were employed rhetorically to draw lines, these had little meaning for most people on the ground.
There is a well-known correlation between age and voting leave in the EU referendum, but as this is broadly a linear trend we need to focus on those voters in the middle who swung the result, not those at either end. The pivotal age group appears to have been 45-55 years old. Given that we joined the EEC in 1973, these people will have been no more than 10 at the time, so I doubt their memories of "life before" amount to much. Many of them will also not yet have paid off their mortgages, and plenty will still be prone to anxieties about job prospects and the value of non-state pensions. Many will have young children, not grand-children.
Toggle Commented Oct 24, 2017 on Brexit & risk attitudes at Stumbling and Mumbling
I think you've underplayed the impact of expected earnings on house prices. The move towards later retirement had been matched by a growth in mortage terms (about 1/3rd are now 30+ years). The increase in the state pension age may turn out have had a much greater impact on house prices than Help to Buy or other government interventions. Also, much of the house price inflation over the last decade has been focused on London and the South East, where there is an expectation (by foreign investors, as much as anyone) of above-average wage growth. Short of a recession, a sensible policy would probably seek to address the ever-elusive rebalancing of the economy between London and the regions, though that would mean a supply-side strategy to prompt demand-side growth. I'm also not entirely convinced by D2's argument (cited by Luis) comparing house prices to IPOs. While shares are obviously bought in part with a view to capital appreciation (i.e. as an asset), there is also a calculation of the potential for future earnings (i.e. dividends) relative to GDP or index growth, which doesn't find an obvious parallel in the utility of housing services (i.e. shelter).
Toggle Commented Oct 17, 2017 on On cutting house prices at Stumbling and Mumbling
Related to this, there is also a class of policies that have supposedly been pursued but whose fruits have remained tantalising out of reach because they "haven't really been done at all". In other words, the failing was not one of bad implementation, which might be the result of incompetence or unfortunate circumstance, but of insincerity. While Universal Credit will be characterised by some as a botch by Whitehall, I suspect Brexit will be framed by many leavers as deliberate sabotage.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is farting in the general direction of Europe ...
The audience for Hammond's speech is not the general population, let alone young people with no experience of the 70s but a vague appreciation from parents that houses were cheaper then. He is arguing against the principle of a return to earlier times, whch on the face of it seems an add manoeuvre for a conservative. Specifically, he is warning the Tory base (and Brexiteers in particular) not to try and wind the clock back to the 1950s. In other words, he is trying to defend the neoliberal putsch that was effected in the Conservative Party under Thatcher. I don't rate his chances.
Toggle Commented Oct 3, 2017 on The lesson of the 70s at Stumbling and Mumbling
Let me put an opposing view ... The shift from manufacturing to services has been paralleled by an increase in cognitive labour. This is because services tend to require more flexibility and interpretation, and because consumers place greater value on customisation (this has even fed back into manufacturing, where variety and build-to-order is now commonplace). The growth in cognitive labour is both cause and effect in the growth of data. This demand for greater flexibility in the production and delivery of both goods and services has encouraged a move away from hierarchical control in task management (self-managing teams on production lines and artisan bakers have this much in common). More workers today are doing jobs where they have to exercise judgement, and this is independent of the compositional switch between manufacturing and services. Were these workers to rely on belief over evidence, you'd expect the results to be poorer. The development of process analysis in manufacturing (and empirical techniques like SPC and Six Sigma), which mpc refers to, only gained traction in the West at the point that manufacturing started to go into decline, i.e. the 1970s & 80s, having been road-tested in Japan by the likes of Deming and Juran during that country's reconstruction in the 1950s & 60s. Before then the dominant regime was Taylorism, which focused on task sub-division and the minimisation of labour autonomy. An alternative theory for the rise of "post-truth" politics is that people have come to value their own opinions (however formed) more highly than before, which may be partly attributable to the way that increased demand for judgement in the workplace has boosted confidence, though I suspect the wider social trend of greater individualism (and narcissism) has perhaps played a larger part. Ralph's point about the intrinsic difference between science and arts grads is arguably the wrong way round as regards political utility. The humanities teach you how to potentially resolve conflicting claims where conclusive evidence is lacking, as it is in many real world situations. Arts grads don't have a contempt for facts (for example, any half-decent historian employs empirical techniques), but equally they don't have a contempt for fiction.
High CEO pay is a symptom of the end of feudal relations, in the sense that it is a feature of modern, financialised firms rather than more traditional family-owned companies (or paternalistic trusts like John Lewis). Overpaid CEOs are rarely organic products of the business - either family heirs or churls who've worked their way up. They're closer to condottieri: mercenaries brought in from outside, often as part of a leveraged buyout or as prep for a flotation. I appreciate this is stretching the analogy, but it highlights that high CEO pay is a product of surplus corporate cash, just as the prevalence of mercenaries in Northern Italy in the late Middle Ages reflected that region's liquid wealth (the emergence of banking and merchant capital markets in Rennaisance Italy is not a coincidence). It also suggests that the process of financialistion has inflated remuneration by creating an artifical market for CEOs in which pay norms are divorced from the productive base (so greater shareholder power would not necessarily arrest this). The simplest way to restrain high CEO pay may be to increase the cost of capital.
Toggle Commented Aug 30, 2017 on Against high CEO pay at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Luis, much of what you say is good and true, but it really applies to civvies like us, not MPs. Part of Pidcock's role is to represent attitudes as much as constituents: think of it as performative oppositionalism. I suspect she's more broad-minded that she's letting on, and I doubt she'll refuse all social contact with Tories. MPs can't engage each other in the common manner (Eric Joyce's crime was to overstep this invisible line), so there is inevitably going to be a premium placed on gestures. The value of Pidcock's is that it shows she considers politics to be a serious matter. Compare and contrast with Dennis Skinner's sarcasm, which has merely earnt him a reputation as a lovable eccentric. Interestingly, much of the negative commentary on Pidcock has seen her action in terms of school friendship groups, a la Mean Girls or Heathers. A less middle-class media might have referenced the long tradition of workplace ostracism as the corollary of solidarity.
The criticism of Pidcock has predictably come from the political centre, not the right. Over and above the usual happy mean ideological guff, I suspect this reflects anxiety over the diminishing prospects of a cross-party compromise on Brexit.
The cost of capital is at an all-time low. This is not just because of monetary policy since 2008 but because of the secular fall in the cost of capital goods since the late-1970s. Capital is increasingly surplus (i.e. in glut) not because of a shift to immaterial labour but because of the change in the composition of fixed capital itself, most notably the increase of software relative to hardware. This has had two consequences. First, it has led to more promiscuous investment: "fail fast, fail often", as the Silicon Valley mantra has it. Second, it has shifted capital from productive to distributive activities, notably marketing and brand-building (the shift from tangible to intangible capital is a symptom of this). Uber is not just subsidising prices to wipe out the competition and prevent new entrants, it is consciously buying market share in the hope that it can eventually monetise its dominant position. Uber's problem is that the strategy for monetisation keeps changing. First the app was meant to disrupt traditional taxi firms and allow both cheaper fares and profit (didn't happen); then monopoly would allow it to ratchet up prices (hasn't happened and isn't likely to); then expansion into mass transit and home deliveries would get it over the line into the black (improbable). The latest (and probably last) iteration is that autonomous vehicles will allow Uber to dispense with drivers and their associated costs/profit-share, but this move would ironically require Uber, hitherto a capital-light firm with a lot of free cash, to become a fixed capital-heavy business with signficant debt (i.e. it must buy/lease lots of cars or else sell up and become a service front for an AV manufacturer).
Toggle Commented Aug 23, 2017 on A new capital? at Stumbling and Mumbling
Your statement "They had hoped that the defeat of trades unions, privatization, cuts to top taxes, deregulation and fiscal austerity would unleash a dynamic, productive economy" could equally be applied to liberals. One interpretation of post-1974 history is that progressive liberals deserted social democracy and threw in their lot with the Tories, providing much of the "reforming" impetus of the 80s and 90s. Margaret Thatcher was an oddity within her own party because she was a conventional social Tory pushing a classical liberal line, which allowed the reactionary right to focus on the former while liberals focused on the latter, or more precisely on a managerialist liberalism that saw the state as a practical as much as an ideological market-maker (i.e. neoliberalism). The Tories' current electoral prospects are dependent on motivating that tranche of social reactionaries who drifted away from voting after the mid-90s and returned for the EU referendum, but doing so will likely further alienate both liberals and the more pragmatic conservatives. May's problem is not that her core support sees the 21st century as a refutation of their beliefs but that they consider it to have been the product of a conspiracy by liberal entryists into the Conservative Party (this idea was key to UKIP's growth). They want to actively reverse the liberal gains that the Tories oversaw, from the EU single market to gay marriage. The Tories are at war with their recent history but, averse to dissing the Blessed Margaret, they are forced to imagine a fantasy land that predates her and the "liberal 60s". This explains why so many Tory reactionaries in their 60s and 70s valorise decades, the 40s and 50s, that few had any adult memory of.
I think previous commenters are missing the key point: the success or failure of Brexit may not become irrefutably apparent until most of us are dead, and even then other factors may complicate the picture. After all, historians are still arguing over whether the sclerosis of the Spanish economy in the 18th and 19th centuries was the result of the disruptive impact of South American gold and silver in the 16th. On a similar theme, it's worth noting that David Aaronovitch is still in denial about the Iraq War, even if his recent columns read like the shrieking of a soul in torment. I fear he is way beyond the point of recantation.
@Mark, "As a Red Tory I would much rather see the labour market fixed to eliminate rents than paper over the cracks with more redistribution". One thing that Tories of any colour tend to discount is that it is a lot more difficult to eliminate rents than it is to redistribute. Indeed, the claim that redistribution is a blunt tool (e.g. that universal benefits are wasted on the better-off) is a feature, not a bug.
@Blissex, "Indeed there is a large age-related component to the Bexit story, people who still feeel angry at England's defeat in WW2 and the loss of the English Empire, and feel that being "just a member" of the EU is a national humiliation ... What however I cannot understand of Brexiters is their blind spot as to how the USA have political and operational control of english foreign policy". People who were conscious of the "defeat" of 1945 - i.e. the formal ascension of the US to the role of global hegemon and the UK's irrefutable relegation to the second rank - would have been born in the 1920s, so they'd be in their 90s now. There aren't that many of them still around, which is why the very real anti-americanism of that generation has faded into the background (the last cultural manifestation of the tension this gave rise to was probably Yanks, the 1979 John Schlesinger film). The British Empire disappeared between 1948 and 1965. The current generation of 60-70 year-olds who appear to have such a pivotal influence on politics mostly came of age after this period and consequently have no direct experience of empire either as a reality or a rhetorical trope in political discourse (Enoch Powell was probably the last politician to play this tune and he was marginalised after 1968). What this generation did have experience of were the economic shocks of the 1970s, which were widely (and incorrectly) presented as evidence of British moral decline by that earlier, empire-minded generation (i.e. a 50 year-old in 1973 would coach an impressionable 21 year-old on how Britain had sunk low despite two world wars and one world cup). Imperial nostalgia has been and continues to be an important factor in British politics (the Falklands War didn't help), but it has been a pastiche rather than the real thing (see the collected works of messrs Johnson, Fox and Gove). In essence, what we're still suffering from is the Thatcher generation, the cohort born in the 1950s who has no lived memory of empire but experienced a stultifying cultural backdrop that surivived the impact of the countercultural 1960s, largely because it was the provincial norm while the latter was the metropolitan exception.
Toggle Commented Jul 16, 2017 on My Brexit dilemma at Stumbling and Mumbling