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From Arse To Elbow
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While "Thatcherite" isn't pejorative in the Tory Party, "Heathite" usually is, largely because Ted was seen to have failed to adequately preserve domestic privilege (the prime directive) and to have undermined the UK's exceptionalism through courting and joining the EEC. It will be interesting to see which way "Cameroon" develops. My suspicion is that it will be airbrushed from history as a failed experiment, much as "Edenite" was (fun fact: Ted Heath was Eden's Chief Whip during the Suez crisis).
Toggle Commented 3 minutes ago on Not trashing Thatcher at Stumbling and Mumbling
"Let’s concede that immigration does undermine social cohesion (something which I doubt). So what? Cohesion is a collectivist ideal which shouldn’t appeal much to free market individualists". This begs the question. For many on the right, a better word than "cohesion" would be "loyalty". Likewise, the Conservative eulogising of the invisible hand since the 70s was always instrumental (the rollback of the state) and very much at variance with traditional Tory thinking about the visibility (and immutability) of the social order. As you suggest, the Conservative Party pragmatically adopted (and has now partially retreated from) neoliberal policies, proving that a commitment to the free market is not foundational. In contrast, the party has never been pro-immigration.
Blairism was always about more than just the one man. What Reeves and Umunna show is that much of the living legacy is Mandelson's elitism and Campbell's instrumentalism, and thus a reliance on discredited practice to compensate for a lack of theory. They're going through the motions, hence the common perception that their comments on immigration are insincere and opportunistic.
Toggle Commented 5 days ago on What Blairites? at Stumbling and Mumbling
One way of thinking about centrist politics is not that its eclipse is a consequence of people "turning away" from moderation and the middle way (in the sense of becoming disenchanted in light of 2008, Brexit and other calamities) but simply the operation of time: we've become utterly bored by it. Tony Blair benefited from the impression of novelty in the 90s ("you were the future once") due to the popular imaginary of failed socialism and failed Thatcherism, which gave the impression that a "third way" with top notes of technocratic futurism was both historically inevitable and desirable. That vibe is dead (as evidence for the prosecution, I offer David Miliband). The centre's intellectual vacuum owes much to the success of Brown et al in stabilising the neoliberal order in 2008/9. It has become a morbid symptom because the new has not been born. While politics remains hysterically wedded to the past (May's nostalgic authoritarianism, the Labour right's obsession with the 80s), the people have moved on.
Toggle Commented Sep 22, 2016 on The centrist crisis at Stumbling and Mumbling
Tidegate is an example of the reverse halo effect: we gleefully pounce on Carswell's ignorance to justify our belief that he is a fool on other subjects too. The original point by Paul Nightingale to which Carswell was responding (i.e. gravity theory of trade - distance matters as well as size) has been rather lost in the fun. PS: The "Milanovic's elephant" hyperlink in your top blogging list is missing.
I suppose you could argue that the rise and fall of Nokia, and the impact this had on Finland's economy, is an example of a technology shock.
Theresa May's advocacy of grammar schools shows that what she means by social mobility is selection: some may succeed, but not all. Likewise, the proposals for immigration are not that it be stopped altogether but that only those deemed valuable to society be let in. Seen as exercises in discrimination, there is no contradiction. The problem (common to both the 11+ and a points-based immigration system) is the basis of valuation, which for May and others reflects social prejudice, e.g. that doctors are more valuable than toilet cleaners (epidemiology suggests otherwise) or that apeing public school manners improves educational outcomes.
Rather than arguing the case for aggregate efficiency (working class do better, middle class kids do no worse), perhaps the better argument for allocating grammar school places to the worst-performing in an 11+ test is ethical: that we should aim to rectify the educational disadvantages that take effect during the pre-school and primary years. Of course, this is only a thought-experiment because in reality middle class parents would coach their kids to advantageously fail, or would desert the state sector for private schools and lobby for greater tax breaks to subsidise their "choice". The irony is that in times past the state happily spent considerably more per capita on specialist schools that selected only a minority of failures. They were called borstals.
@Dipper, what the Chris Cook data (and other studies) show is that grammar schools actually reduce aggregate performance - i.e. while a minority benefits this is outweighed by the decline for the majority. In the scenario you give, the introduction of selection to one school would lead to a fall in performance across all of the other schools in the area, but this fall would exceed the sorting effect (i.e. putting all the smarter eggs in one basket). The case for grammar schools must be not that a minority will benefit but that the majority will not be any worse off, but this is demonstrably wrong. We did the experiment and the aggregate performance of British schools was improved by the introduction of comprehensives.
@DFTM, Entropy doesn't stop things, it slows them down. Most productivity increases follow a common profile in which a rapid improvement is followed by a slow but steady decline. This is why productivity is best approached as a continuous series of refinements rather than periodic leaps. Capitalism encodes this through commoditisation and inbuilt obsolescence.
Toggle Commented Sep 4, 2016 on On incompetence at Stumbling and Mumbling
I'm not sure incompetence is the right word here. That would suggest an innate inability that might only be obscured by luck. Most trains aren't late, showing that a competent service is possible, whereas you're not going to make it as a top-flight footballer no matter how many you fluke in off your shin. I think what you're really addressing is efficiency. Given the universe's inexorable entropy, efficiency is simply more exceptional than we are prepared to admit. Where standard economics goes wrong is assuming that a system can tend towards efficiency because of inherent incentives. In reality, entropy (decay, dissolution, the path of least resistance) is a stronger force. I suppose one way of thinking about the vogue for stagnation in economic debate is an overdue recognition of entropy.
Toggle Commented Sep 3, 2016 on On incompetence at Stumbling and Mumbling
Looked at in terms of consequentiality, there are three types of lies. There are lies whose net consequence is beneficial: avoiding hurting Aunt Jemima's feelings, or convincing the Germans D-Day would target the Pas de Calais etc. There are lies who net consequence is damaging: allowing your partner to be publicly ridiculed because you didn't warn her that her new dress made her look like Mrs Brown, or Iraqi WMD etc. Corbyn's sit down protest falls into the third, intermediate catagory where it is not clear what the consequences are. That the railways are overcrowded and overpriced is hardly news, so this will not have raised much consciousness. Richard Branson's business interests won't be damaged because he enjoys a monopoly. The idea that Corbyn has single-handedly debased politics is absurd, while the charge of hypocrisy is like a charge of farting: we all do it - grow up. In sum, this is silly season bollocks. The substantive point is that the policies discussed in the leadership contest are largely revivals (nationalise rail, recommit to the NHS, restore student grants etc). As these have all been proven to work, and as the intellectual case against social democracy collapsed in 2008, critics must of necessity resort to the ad hominem. What #traingate reinforces is the trivial and unserious nature of our media.
Toggle Commented Aug 24, 2016 on Truthful lies at Stumbling and Mumbling
This is a widespread feature of contemporary conservative thought - e.g. Paul Ryan's "magical asterisks" - and not just limited to the wilder shores of euroscepticism, though it is difficult to find anyone more on leave from his senses that Daniel Hannan once he gets going. I think a lot of this is down to the infection of conservative thought by futurism (in the sense of imagining a wonderful future), much of which crept in from the libertarian wing in the 80s and 90s. Whereas conservatives have traditionally preferred the past for its sense (however misplaced) of certainty and pragmatic proof, the modern version seems to have imbibed too much third-rate sci-fi.
A more cynical view would be that the objective of many of the right's "reforms" is to diminish, fragment and otherwise dissipate the workforce. Leaving aside for the moment whether that is a counter-productive (i.e. a "crisis of capitalism"), it perhaps helps to explain why the right's critique of the left so often focuses on manipulation of the electorate and the imputation of dishonesty. The current hysteria over antisemitism/misogyny/bullying etc obviously reflects the intellectual vacuum of the right, but it also looks like projection.
Toggle Commented Jul 30, 2016 on Left & right: a common aim at Stumbling and Mumbling
@David Owen "If we have Corbyn Benn and Watson, for example, and each role has specific veto powers then they will be required to cooperate and compromise". A party in which conflict is resolved through vetoes is, by definition, a conservative party. Progress is routinely impeded unless there is unanimity. I appreciate that you're trying to stimulate a discussion here, rather than precribe a particular solution, but your thinking betrays an obvious ideological bias.
This sounds like a proposal to marginalise the membership through the institution of the Chair. In the example outlined by David Owen, the role would clearly have little power to effect policy and strategy (routinely outvoted by the PLP Leader & Gen Sec combo), presentation (MPs and the PLP Leader would always "interpret" for the media), or candidate selection. One explanation as why the members are so keen on Corbyn is that the only lever they currently possess to keep the Party "honest" is the leadership ballot. Had the Party encouraged greater internal democracy over the last 20 years, rather than varieties of PLP/union stitch-ups and the parachuting in of besuited drones, then the Corbyn insurgency might well not have happened. Of course, if they'd done that then Tony Blair might have been deselected as Leader after 2003, the 2010 general election might have been fought on a "make the bankers and their Tory mates pay" ticket, and the PLP might not have committed to mini-me austerity thereafter.
Obliquity in the realm of politics means implementing policies with uncertain or collateral effects, but whose results are (hopefully) benign. For example, a basic income might reduce demand on the NHS, while we know that rationing in WW2 and after improved levels of health. Politicians should do more of this, but "Let's try policy X and see what happens" isn't what the ideological frame encourages, and not just because this is seen as risky (in this regard, evidence-based policy-making often inhibits useful experimentation). Politicians are valued for certainty and decisiveness, even when they serially cock-up (see Churchill). Like credibility, these are aspects of performative authoritarianism. One could go further and suggest that "electability" is merely performative authoritarianism in democratic guise. What was depressing about Smith's criticism of Corbyn's PMQ performance yesterday was the suggestion that May's authoritarianism can only be met with similar nonsense from the Labour benches. The intellectual vacuity of the centre continues.
One long-standing example of the halo effect is the assumption that as Tory ministers are generally richer than their Labour counterparts, they must be clever with money. This points to a truth: most people imagine "running the economy" is a matter of monetary and fiscal policy alone. Despite the right-wing focus on supply-side reform, and the leftwing focus on productive capacity, the chief concerns are prices (of goods and shares) and rates (of tax and exchange).
Toggle Commented Jul 20, 2016 on On economic "credibility" at Stumbling and Mumbling
"Supporters of a citizens income come from left and right, but are decentralizers. Those who favour conditional or needs-based forms of welfare, on the other hand, are centralizers". I'm not sure that's true. Some (not all) right-wing advocates of a BI talk about empowering the individual, but their objective is to cap or slowly reduce welfare spending in aggregate. Perhaps a better way of distinguishing centralisers vs decentralisers is to ask whether they envisage an outcome that is predictable, this being a characteristic of the former. Advocates of a one-size-fits-all safety-net (e.g. negative income tax) consider predictability important. Advocates of needs-based systems (assuming they aren't constrained by an aggregate cap) consider unpredictability to be a feature rather than a bug (e.g. counter-cyclical stabilisers).
The claim that the Black Death led to higher wages is largely a myth, arising from the confusion of real and nominal prices in a period of oscillating inflation and deflation. Real wages did go up in the late 14th century, but this was 30 years after the Black Death, around 1380. What the Black Death did do was fracture the feudal system, which led to greater geographic and social mobility (the Statute of Labourers of 1351 was about preventing farm workers moving as much as capping wages), a spur to labour-saving technology, and a greater focus on marginal value (e.g. poorer quality land was temporarily abandoned as demand fell). Ceteris paribus, a consistent decline in the population means a fall in both demand and labour supply, so the net effect would be neutral. Where there is evidence of increased wages in the 1350s is in specialised occupations that were disproportionately hit (i.e. particular jobs in particular areas - and mainly urban rather than rural). Talking about pulling things from one's arse ... https://ideas.repec.org/p/tor/tecipa/munro-04-04.html
Toggle Commented Jul 15, 2016 on Responding to Mayism at Stumbling and Mumbling
I'm not sure that austerity significantly "increased hostility to immigrants". If we take the Ipsos-MORI 'Issues Index' as a guide, then concern over immigration starts to ramp up in the late-90s and reaches a plateau in 2007. It then drops down, as concerns over the economy came to the fore, before returning to the higher level this year. In other words, the degree of concern (and by implication hostility) was established well before austerity kicked in. What seems to have been more significant is the linking of immigration to the issue of public service demand, and pointedly the casting of "bogus asylum seekers" in the 90s and early 00s as emblematic claimants. Cameron's failure was therefore a continuation of policies and attitudes established during the last years of Major and the early years of Blair. Austerity probably exacerbated this, but the failure was already hardwired in the wider political culture. Where Cameron (as a representative of his class) is particularly culpable is in failing to see that two decades of 'Benefits Street' etc would not only demonise the underclass but would pollute social trust and solidarity more widely, creating an atmosphere in which xenophobia was normalised. Austerity held out the prospect that "the guilty would pay", but in the event the innocent suffered (as usual). As such it was probably the final straw for a lot of people, so in that sense it was material to the referendum result.
@Blissex, There's more to Ordoliberalism than a CD/SD mashup. The important idea is the 'rechsstaat' - the legal state - and the centrality of regulation. This can look like One Nation Toryism in a UK context, but it's really about discipline and constraint. It's more Wolfgang Schauble (and his "rules is rules" schtick) than Ken Clarke. In this regard, it's important to remember May's tenure as Home Secretary. While she has been a stickler for due process and even-handed in holding the powerful to account (e.g. Hillsborough), she has also been obsessive about imposing tight regulation (e.g. surveillance) and changing the rules to suit her priors (the ECHR, her infamous tale about the cat that subverted immigration policy etc). What we are looking at is a genuine nanny state, not the figment beloved of Tory proaganda directed at the left.
Toggle Commented Jul 12, 2016 on Theresa May, Labour PM? at Stumbling and Mumbling
I think Warren is on the right track with his parallel to the continental CD tradition (an amusing historical irony given Brexit), but I think Mark is even closer to, er the mark: "a market that is free is not one that is unregulated but rather one that is regulated in such a way that it is fully contestable, by all prospective participants". The word is Ordoliberalism.
Toggle Commented Jul 12, 2016 on Theresa May, Labour PM? at Stumbling and Mumbling
A priest pronouncing a couple man and wife is an example of performativity, but at two levels: speech and insititution. If performative speech is a way of conjuring reality, an institution is a way of defining an authority with the power of performative speech. Traditionally, marriage was effected simply by the couple making a statement in front of witnesses. The encroachment of the church (and later the state) was driven not by a concern over sexual habits but by a desire to adjudicate issues of property inheritance (through marriage and legitimate birth), as well as a handy form of rent-seeking. (Once property rights became exclusively a civil matter, all the church was left with was sex). The antipathy of the PLP towards Corbyn arises not just because they don't rate him but because they see him as a threat to their institution (he's never been a member of the club). This is because Corbyn is engaged in his own performativity in which speech (all those packed CLP meetings, and all those solidarity platforms down the years) realises participatory democracy. So Corbyn isn't just a victim of performativity; he's also a practitioner.
Toggle Commented Jul 12, 2016 on On performativity at Stumbling and Mumbling
"Politicians are selected for overconfidence". True, but there are significant differences between countries, reflecting history and national self-image. For example, pessimism is always admired in a Russian politician. Blair is part of an establishment obsessed with the UK "punching above its weight". Ironically, what will finally put us in our place (and end the delusion of the special relationship with the US) is not Chilcot but Brexit.
Toggle Commented Jul 7, 2016 on The same old mistakes at Stumbling and Mumbling