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This looks like silly season filler. Alaska comes top of Nelson's league because it produces lots of oil and has a small population. Florida is mired in poverty (#48) because the coffin-dodgers contribute little to GDP. You'll note he doesn't sub-divide the EU comparators, so Germany squeezes in at #39 when Bavaria (or Lombardy or Isle de France, for that matter) would be much higher. The lowly ranking of the UK obviously owes much to the "imbalance" of the British economy that ideologists like Nelson have worked so far to produce. GDP per capita for the City of London would make an interesting adddition to the list.
Arsenal have a long history of undervalued centre forwards (Lishman, Radford, Smith), which in turn reflects the fans preference for those who play off the "9" (Eastham, Nicholas, Wright) or who start wide (Bastin, Henry). Gooners have been moaning about the position since Ted Drake hung up his boots. Compare and contrast to yesterday's opponents, Everton, a club whose fans fixate on the centre forward (Dean, Latchford, Ferguson and now Lukaku). Just as the fitness and form of the "big fella" is central to the Toffees' narrative, so nagging doubts about the focal point of the attack are a tradition in North London. In other words, criticism of Giroud is as much a cultural construct as the product of cognitive bias.
Re "except for a few would-be male MPs". Is that some transgender ting?
@Ralph, I think the apparent thrust has misled you. Chris's post is best read as a subtle riff on Swift's A Modest Proposal. This is far from being at odds with Herr Doktor. As Edmund Wilson once noted, "Marx is certainly the greatest ironist since Swift, and has a good deal in common with him"; and as Marz himself said, "If anything is certain, it is that I myself am not a Marxist". For the record, the BNP are not anti-immigration tout court. They are racists and therefore selective in their approach. They have no problem offering asylum to persecuted white farmers from Southern and East Africa.
Toggle Commented Aug 19, 2014 on Optimum deaths at Stumbling and Mumbling
"There are no alternatives but to make our less successful working class schools more like our top middle class schools". But the moment you do that, the middle class schools will evolve new characteristics that are out of reach for the working class schools, so maintaining the gap. They don't spend stupid money on sporting facilities because they genuinely want Team GB to win medals, any more than they teach Latin because they genuinely appreciate Cicero. There is a lot of training that occurs in schools, but surprisingly little education.
Toggle Commented Aug 17, 2014 on Heritability & inequality at Stumbling and Mumbling
Politics2, the focus on personality, long predates modern media: consider Athens and Rome. But these are not real personalities, they are projections that we all (not just journalists) use to incorporate certain ethical and political ideas. The significance of Johnson is not his capering buffoonery, or his Churchill tribute act (though both are important signifiers), but his role as The City's man and thus the shifting balance of power within the Tory party between varieties of capital. That he should have declared himself as a "safe" Eurosceptic, in order to win a constituency nomination, while publishing a report by Gerald Lyons that (quietly) advocates staying in, is politically significant. That we (media folk and civvies alike) articulate this through tales of his hypocrisy, unreliability and boundless ambition is just a way of dramatising the contending forces. It worked for Aristophanes.
Toggle Commented Aug 7, 2014 on Two politics at Stumbling and Mumbling
The Mas and Moretti experiment is essentially a reconfirmation of "soldiering", which is a form of peer pressure, with top notes of environmental surveillance a la Foucault's Panopticon metaphor. This is all well and good, but it isn't of much relevance to the issue of peer pressure among CEOs and other execs, and how this translates into suboptimal business decisions. A good study of how politics, (neoliberal) ideology, social norms and culture all combine to create institutionalised criminality and herd stupidity is Fintan O'Toole's 'Ship of Fools'. Long story short: people do evil when they think they can get away with it; and when everyone else is bent, you're disadvantaged if you're not.
The "ideal" corporation is one that owns revenue-generating assets, which increasingly means patents (historic human capital) and licences (contemporary political leverage). Fixed capital is no longer the sine qua non, because it is increasingly cheap (in most service businesses it is already commoditised), and globalisation has engineered a glut of labour (initially unskilled, increasingly skilled). The means of production are losing importance to rights of rent-extraction. As corporations have always provided berths for hangers-on, in order to meet tacit social obligations and support networking, the evolution from a Coasian transactionally-efficient model results in many of these parasitical roles being moved into the freelance sector (this has been going on since the late-70s), some willingly and some unwillingly. The recent increase in low-skilled self-employed obscures the secular trend by which well-paid roles (including C-suite) are now outside the boundary of the corporation and thus act to depress EBIT profits (i.e. through increased rent-extraction). It also obscures the degree to which this money is increasingly diverted offshore, thus dodging tax and understating ONS data on income. The hipsters are largely recycling the capital of their parents: well-paid executives who made a mint over the last 30 years.
Toggle Commented Aug 6, 2014 on Decorporatization at Stumbling and Mumbling
Academic economists lost public credibility in 2008 despite being largely blameless for the preceding era's policy (unlike the paid shills of the City and rightwing thinktanks). Similarly, they had a bad rep in the 70s due to stagflation etc. The result was an attempt to cultivate respect by creating a more empirical basis for their discipline (just like scientists), with a heavy emphasis on maths and microfoundations. In other words, attempting to overcome the barriers you note was a contributory factor in the evolution of academic economics as we know it today.
Toggle Commented Aug 4, 2014 on Economists & the public at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Thonton Hall, perhaps you are unfamiliar with the sterling work done by Niall Ferguson in normalising austerity. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f90bca10-1679-11df-bf44-00144feab49a.html#axzz39Ptg66cL
Toggle Commented Aug 4, 2014 on What use are academics? at Stumbling and Mumbling
Your reference to idiocy in the original Greek sense is illuminating but slightly inapt. Idiocy implied not merely non-participation in public life but a reluctance to develop the necessary skills of a citizen, which included what we would now call education (art, philosophy etc) as well as the political and the military. It was this lack of training that later led to the word being used to mean ignorant. The structural roots of British academia lie in medieval scholasticism, which placed an emphasis both on learning and retreat from the world. Though religion gave way to reason, and the ideal to the empirical, the remnants of this ideology remain, and still inform criticism of academic economists ("ivory towers" etc). Academic idiocy is thus closer to Candide's gardening. The last 30 years have seen the final extirpation of the structural support for this tradition, exemplified in changes to academic tenure, inspection and "product", as well as in the prevalence of campus security guards, the introduction of student fees and the competition of think-tanks for the donations of the rich. The consequence is that success as an academic is now more likely to be measured in TV documentaries rather than primary reasearch. This means hard cheese for economists in contrast to historians. The Tudors recast as soap opera will always be more attractive than the mechanics of the labour market.
Toggle Commented Aug 3, 2014 on What use are academics? at Stumbling and Mumbling
The Tories became a managerialist party when they became a party, having evolved from a faction via an interest. The precise moment was Robert Peel's Tamworth Manifesto of 1834. The significance of Burke is that he crystallised the thinking of the interest (land, church and monarchy) before the 1832 Reform Act signalled the evolution of parties and thus managerialist politics. Burke's continuing resonance is only partly explained by attempts to root his thinking in philosophy and ethics (Oakeshott and Norman, in their different ways). Equally important is nostalgia for a pre-democractic era and the honesty of "naked interest".
Toggle Commented Aug 1, 2014 on Am I a Tory? at Stumbling and Mumbling
Virtue in philosophy is right behaviour, which means it is a social construct, not some eternal verity. Bankers have always considered themselves to be part of a special club, with its own norms and standards. It should come as no surprise that those norms are self-serving. Much of the current bleating about virtue is unthinking nostalgia for the days when banking was run by "the right sort", which just meant that market-rigging was hushed up for the sake of The City's reputation. While bankers have power, they will avail themselves of the opportunities.
@aragon, the cost of IT per se is not large, and has been steadily falling since the 80s. Government IT projects spend only a tiny fraction of the budget on technology, in the sense of computing or comms hardware and software. The bulk goes on consultancy and professional services, i.e. people costs, including both up-front implementation and ongoing support. These costs are vastly inflated (e.g. dim grads on £21k p.a. are charged out at £500 per diem), hence the £7.6bn gross. The growth of the IT sector (in terms of employment) has been driven by the proliferation of management roles (project management, testing, training etc), rather than technologists. It has also been muddied by the overlap with pseudo-tech roles in marketing and PR. Consultancy fees have risen steadily over the last 25 years as the unit costs of hardware and software have fallen. In the mid-80s, a large IT project would have an 80:20 ratio between technology and people. That has now flipped. This is not because we need more people input, but because the market can bear the continuation in top-line price. The radical impact of ICT is obscured by rent-seeking.
Toggle Commented Jul 27, 2014 on On crowding out at Stumbling and Mumbling
Re "there are also, I fear, fewer highly intelligent working class autodidacts". But (to employ a favourite question of your own) what would be the mechanism for that? Are they being bred out? Is there something in the water? By definition, autodidacts have avoided (willingly or not) the conventional academic routes, so the increased managerialism and homogenisation of modern education cannot be to blame. Not every public library has closed, and the Internet is surely a boon in this regard. Your suggestion that there may be a specific quantum of diversity, and that this budget has been used up by "women, blacks and gays", is probably true, but the implication that this allowance was previously monopolised by working-class autodidacts probably isn't. I suspect the likes of Bob Crow and Bob Hoskins are still out there, despite the battering of organised labour and the reduction in social mobility. You're getting nostalgic.
Toggle Commented Jul 25, 2014 on Repressive diversity at Stumbling and Mumbling
@aragon, you've listed examples of government projects that successfully transferred large amounts of public money to privileged suppliers. These are not "failures" but successful extortions (government incompetence as a project manager is largely a cover-story). This tells us nothing about aggregate investment in the wider economy, unless you're supporting Jackart's contention that every £1 spent by government necessarily depresses private investment by £1.
Toggle Commented Jul 25, 2014 on On crowding out at Stumbling and Mumbling
@aragon, "it was too easy to make a profit without investment". No. What happened was that the cost of investment fell. Or, to put it another way, ROI dramatically increased. Re "lower labour costs [=] no need to invest in plant and equipment". Lower labour costs do not save on plant (i.e. factory space) and may in fact drive demand up due to labour-capital substitution. Manufacturing continues to invest in capex, but this is increasingly marginal to the wider economy. In the UK, it accounts for 12% of GDP on 8% of the workforce. Also, bear in mind that an increasing part of manufacturing is making the robots that are now substituting for labour in China (much as German manufacturing thrived on their demand for machine tools since the 80s). Low wages can depress capex in services (e.g. manual carwashes instead of automatic), but the bulk of labour growth (particularly immigrants) has been in areas with traditionally low levels of automation, such as restaurants, plumbing, cleaning etc. The typical UK work environment is neither a factory nor a restuarant, but an office. Over the last 20 years, we have seen the capex cost of IT per desk plummet, both as a result of commoditisation (i.e. China and robots) and the shift from hardware to software (the Internet, the "cloud", SaaS are all examples of this compositional change). The problem is not a lack of will to invest, but a lack of expensive investment opportunities. In the short term, this frees up cash for increased dividends, executive bonuses, and make-jobs in marketing and HR. In the long term, it can lead to stagnant productivity growth as antiquated organisational structures ossify. This is what gives rise to the perception of a "lack of innovation". It is a morbid symptom that doesn't reflect the real transformative impact of technology since the 90s.
Toggle Commented Jul 24, 2014 on On crowding out at Stumbling and Mumbling
Re "There was no-one to invest with, thanks to a more controlled labour market, and thanks to an absurd regulatory raj, investment was less profitable". The UK labour market is widely acknowledged to be one of the most flexible in the developed world, regularly held up as a paragon by such lefty outfits as the OECD and IMF, as well as the WEF referenced by paulc156. This didn't happen overnight in 2010, but is the product of many years of deregulation from Thatcher through Brown. New Labour may have introduced the minimum wage, but it also watered down the EU Working Time Directive and Part-Time Workers Regulations. It also made it progressively easier to hire and fire workers and limited recourse to employment tribunals. Anyone who was an employer over the last 20 years knows this. Business regulation, far from being inimical to capital investment or profit, is actually a key driver of both. Regulation raises the cost of market entry for new competitors and privileges large businesses (who can access cheaper capital) over small. This is why large companies and multinationals tend to be in favour of the EU, which is essentially a big capital lobby. The downward trend in capital investment has been happening since the 1980s, but significantly profits have held up over the same period. This is because capital has become more profitable. Some of this is due to globalisation (e.g. investing in China), some due to a glut of commercial property for lease (so less capital is tied up in plant), but an arguably more profound factor has been the compositional change in capex caused by the growth of software relative to hardware (I disagree with Chris that technical progress has been "slower", its just taken a form that many economists struggle to understand). http://fromarsetoelbow.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/secular-stagnation-as-software-glitch.html
Toggle Commented Jul 23, 2014 on On crowding out at Stumbling and Mumbling
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 Jul 22, 2014 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 Jul 20, 2014 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 Jul 17, 2014 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.