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From Arse To Elbow
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On the material interests vs preferences point, perhaps Mayism is about preserving existing gains rather than further enrichment, hence the focus on symbolism rather than practical policy. Much of the language of "fairness" and looking after the interests of "ordinary" people in the manifesto reeks of ressentiment. Perhaps the Mayite is an instinctive anti-capitalist (anti-EU) who was bought off by fictitious capital in the form of property. In other words, a lukewarm Thatcherite for whom the past is now more significant than the future. Home ownership has been in decline for well over a decade now and a sense of loss has been pervasive in political discourse since 2000: a loss of probity (Iraq), a loss of standards (expenses), a loss of loyalty (Labour "deserters"), a loss of opportunity (social mobility) etc. This culminated in the festishisation of control in last year's referendum. The sensitivity over the "dementia tax" is surely not simply about the state expropriating property wealth but about the threat of impending loss. The Tory party is not merely decadent and conflicted in its class interests, it is shackled to a generation that faces electoral decline.
@Jim, IBM was never a monopoly (there were other mainframe suppliers), but it was sufficiently dominant that it could reinvent itself as a software and business business services provider once the "big tin" market was eroded by minis and desktops. The key to this transformation was its established global footprint, i.e. the infrastructure of offices, commercial partnerships and political contacts. In other words, the network effects that benefit incumbents were at work long before social media. While competition was employed rhetorically to open up countries to globalisation, the result was the creation of a new class of multinationals who tended to shift from a vertically integrated model (controlling manufacture, distribution and sales) to a horizontally integrated model (focusing on "core competencies" such as R&D, brand and finance) with most of their operations sub-contracted. Apple is a good example of a business that went from vertical (e.g. insisting that eveything it made should be incompatible with other devices) to horizontal (essentially positioning itself as a luxury goods brand). National competitors, who are often still vertically integrated for political reasons (keep the jobs here etc), are at a scale disadvantage while the cost of entry to new global competitors is now much greater. In other words, globalisation was justified by appeals to competition but it has produced a less competitive environment in many industries. It's possible that Apple will be knocked off its perch one day, but its also possible that it will simply buy-out any emerging threat. That has been the standard MO of most Silicon Valley giants for years (and one reason for the cash piles).
Toggle Commented 5 days ago on The end of competition? at Stumbling and Mumbling
Austerity has clearly played a part, in terms of a failure to invest in system upgrades, but the larger error is one of commission rather than omission, namely the decision to reject proprietary systems for commerical off-the-shelf software. This reflected the public sector adoption of supposed private sector best practice ("buy not build") in the 90s and was driven as much by New Labour, after its u-turn on marketisation and embrace of the privatisation of ancillary services, as by the Tories. At the time, this strategy was justified on cost-benefit grounds: it was cheaper than bespoke development, it used proven technologies, it would commodify IT skill needs and thus lower ongoing costs etc. The "legacy mish-mash" problem outlined by Dipper was also a factor: we have an old mainframe "black box" but nobody knows how it works (ironically, a black box is highly secure precisely because there is no malware that targets it). Factors that weren't considered (because the case was usually made by business consultants, not techies) included the risks posed by sunsetting (i.e. inertia leading to unsupported systems, such as XP), data isolation (creating auxiliary systems, e.g. spreadsheets, that aren't backed-up over the network), and malware (more is written for Windows not because it is a less secure OS but because it has a massive installed base). The NHS IT landscape is typical of the public sector but it is also typical of much of the private sector, particularly those businesses where IT strategy has been set by the CFO rather than the CTO. The besetting sin is an obsession with short-term cost control that simply builds up greater costs down the road. The root cause is a naivety over markets and commodification.
Re the Jonathan Freedland piece you linked to, it's odd how people who claim never to read the papers or watch the TV news have somehow managed to form an opinion on Jeremy Corbyn. Freedland put it down to "instinct", which is weak even by his standards. People are obviously interested in the factors that impact on their jobs and public services, but they don't necessarily associate this with "politics", which for many is something to be avoided, like chuggers and Jehovah's Witnesses. This is rational given that politics is designed to be exclusive. Democracy's major problem is falling turnout. Unless you believe that older cohorts more disposed to vote are blessed with the wisdom of age, which doesn't quite tally with the popular explanations of Trump and Brexit, it doesn't look like that trend correlates with growing ignorance. In other words, "I'm not into that stuff" may reflect more than just a lack of knowledge.
@Dipper, The government can already legally limit the number of non-EU migrants in order to encourage UK businesses to invest in training. It has never worked - business always persuades the government to relax the quotas or criteria - yet this has never led to the government suffering anything more than minor embarrassment. The thrust of this post is that the immigration target isn't actually a target at all, in the sense of an indicator of intent, so it is pointless to imagine it could have any effect on behaviour. It is purely symbolic.
There is surely an ideological bias to the choice of an immigration target, over and above its value as a ready-made excuse. It implies that the state can manage national resources but that their efforts are undermined by foreigners and native saboteurs. Sterling used to have much the same symbolic purpose.
Another possible interpretation is that the election is fundamentally economic but that this is being expressed in terms of sovereignty. There will be some nutters for whom this means blue passports and bendy bananas, but many surely imagine that Brexit can ultimately be made a success in terms of jobs and living standards, even if there is an initially painful adjustment. I recall that support for leave in opinion polls (ahead of the vote) fell significantly when respondents were asked to assume a personal cost. Anecdata suggest that many (and not just pensioners) still think the costs of Brexit will be borne by others: migrants, the "metropolitan elite" etc. PS: "as Jonathan Freedland points out, Corbyn is unpopular even with people who avoid the MSM". Assuming they aren't all subscribers to Progress and Standpoint, how do they form their opinions?
The response to the interview is clearly proportionate to the public perception of Abbott as condescending and pretentious. That might not be wholly fair, but it's the persona she's got. I suspect that had the gaffe been committed by another shadow minister, it would have been milked as evidence of Labour incompetence, but perhaps wouldn't have achieved the same scale in terms of media coverage.
But surely Brexit is a performative insult, so the behaviour of the Tories is consistent with the brief. That's what the 52% (mostly) voted for, and that's what they expect to get: two fingers up to the French, singeing the King of Spain's beard, and an extra line to add to "two world wars and one world cup" to wind-up the Germans. You're assuming that leavers actually want to "win-win" the negotiation, when all they really want to do is fuck-off the EU. In your chess analogy, we are the pigeon: can't be reasoned with and we're going to crap all over the board.
Re people on £70k not feeling rich, I hate to be the sort of monomaniac who has to drag house prices into every discussion on economics, but, you know, house prices.
Toggle Commented Apr 25, 2017 on Beyond redistributive tax at Stumbling and Mumbling
As a long-time Arsenal watcher, you will know that Koscielny is usually the "interventionist" in a centre-back pairing with a "second ball" player such as Mertesacker. Mustafi looks to have been bought as the long-term replacement for Koscielny, but he clearly has yet to master the role. Judgement is very much a matter of experience, hence Koscielny has gradually lowered his card/penalty rate over time. The point is that Mustafi will (probably) learn and become a better player, but this requires him to push the edge of his competence and so court failure in the meantime. In contrast, the lack of consequentiality for pundits means that they never learn, hence the knee-jerk celebration of Trump's airstrike. Politicians do face consequentiality at the ballot box, so I disagree that there is no demand for them to recognise the edge of their competence, but most calculate that only the most egregious personal incompetence will make a difference. This is in no small measure because of pundits' mediation - e.g. Labour right-wingers know they won't be called out for their sabotage.
Toggle Commented Apr 13, 2017 on The edge of competency at Stumbling and Mumbling
Competition between workers is competition for the favour of employers. Stories that emphasise the nonthreatening nature of immigrants have historically been ineffective (consider the residual bigotry towards Jews and the Irish). It would be better to focus on who is actually doing the undercutting. Cui bono?
Toggle Commented Apr 7, 2017 on Immigration mechanisms at Stumbling and Mumbling
And yet ... there is a big difference between a permissive plebiscite ("Should Theresa May be made dictator?") and an indicative plebiscite ("Should we leave the EU?"). The latter ought to leave sufficient latitude of interpretation to allow representative politics back into the picture. The problem today is that the indicative is being finessed into the permissive. Though some will no doubt blame this on the opposition, or the government's fear of the Brexit press, I think a major factor has been the increasingly "dictatorial" nature of the state since the 80s. It's worth remembering that the plebiscite has historically been favoured by liberals and technocrats as much as populists and authoritarians.
Given that 27 other economies were subject to the same EU regulations, and that our domestic red tape is lightly worn, the UK's poor productivity growth relative to our continental competitors is clearly homegrown. The bulk of business "overhead" is endogenous, rather than exogenous. In other words, if bureaucracy is a drag on productivity, that is more likely to be the fault of poor business organisation and systems design rather than the heavy hand of the state, let alone the EU, hence the Torygraph's underwhelming list. Since the 1970s, the right has sought a variety of excuses to deflect attention from the calibre of British industrial management, from unions to the EU. It has successively shot every fox. What new culprit will they come up with to explain under-performance post-Brexit?
Toggle Commented Mar 29, 2017 on Newt troubles at Stumbling and Mumbling
@William Meyer, What would be the minimum qualifying period? If it were a single parliament, then we might find MPs aiming for single-term careers. Why do more if you're set up for life after 5 years? This would incentivise venal opportunists, make them more likely to adhere to centrist policy (to secure initial nomination), and less likely to put in the effort to secure promotion thereafter. If it were a minimum of (say) 3 terms, then this would incentivise MPs to abolish or undermine deselection (which might jeopardise their chances of reaching the finishing line), avoid rebellion and dissent (as this might lead to them losing the party whip), and would further encourage time-servers disinclined to pursue campaigns from the back-benches. Incentives matter, but only if you make them material, as campaign financing "reform" in the US has done. Our problem is not that politicians are easily bribed but that they are predisposed to support the worldview of the rich. As the old ditty about that related creature put it: "You cannot hope to bribe or twist (thank God!) the British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unbribed, there's no occasion to".
Toggle Commented Mar 22, 2017 on Incentivizing politicians at Stumbling and Mumbling
Perhaps the fundamental assumption of economics - that incentives matter - is right in particular but wrong in general, and simply shouldn't be applied in this context. The idea that politicians must be nudged into doing the right thing demotes agency, and it also assumes we can collectively agree what that "right thing" is. Surely what we want from them is a balance between intrinsic motivation and pragmatism, not more extrinsic incentives that will inevitably produce structural biases. Osborne's career to date suggests a man who doesn't believe in much beyond his own fitness to rule. In other words, his willingness to be subject to the extrinsic incentive of money reflects weak intrinsic motivation. The broader issue here is the neoliberal emphasis on technocracy and the market in human capital (see Tony Blair's praise of Osborne as a "capable guy"). In the case of Davis, I suspect that he has prepared a contingency plan, but he doesn't want to reveal it for two pretty obvious reasons: first, as a signal to the EU27 that the UK doesn't fear a "no deal" outcome; and second, because it would be seized on as a prediction by those opposed to Brexit.
Toggle Commented Mar 22, 2017 on Incentivizing politicians at Stumbling and Mumbling
"If people fear the sack, they’ll not invest in job-specific skills but rather in general ones that make them attractive to future employers". --- But more specialised skills are likely to command a higher wage so the reverse might also be true for skilled jobs: workers may seek to maximise training (where possible) if they feel their time in post might be short. "A lack of protection will encourage people to change jobs more often, as it’s better to jump than be pushed". --- The data suggests that employment churn increases when workers feel confident about finding a new job (i.e. employer demand is robust), not when they feel more vulnerable. The tendency of the majority is to sit tight and hope to avoid any cull. "If firms know they can fire at will they’ll devote less effort to screening or training". Maybe, or they may simply extend the probation period, effectively screening on the job. To assume that this approach would be a drag on productivity, you'd have to prove that the base case - costly up-front matching with psychometric bells on - is efficient, but there is little evidence that this is so. The broader point is that employment regulations actually have a relatively small impact on firm performance. Individuals react to changed incentives in different ways and most (not all) companies prefer to maintain their existing operations rather than seek to heavily exploit new regulatory "opportunities". The UK's relatively poor productivity is mainly a reflection on capital composition not the flexibility of labour.
Toggle Commented Mar 15, 2017 on Deregulation fantasies at Stumbling and Mumbling
I am not convinced of Harford's argument, nor your gloss on it, not least because it displays the characteristics of Hirschman's rhetoric of reaction: perversity, futility and jeopardy. The backfire effect may be real, but not every debunking produces a perverse outcome. Ostentatiously calling out the likes of Hopkins and Milo may often be counter-productive virtue-signalling, but suing the one and hoisting the other by his own petard seems to have been of some value recently. Harford's story about Big Tobacco ignores the central "fact": that despite decades of obfuscation, smoking went into steady decline from the moment that the evidence of its link with cancer was published. The facts weren't futile - they simply took a while to impact, which probably reflected generational habits as much as the temporary manufacture of doubt. The implicit jeopardy, in Harford's words, is that "More facts mean more grist to the motivated reasoning mill". In other words, we must avoid inciting the mob with our expertise for fear they go full Fascist. This strikes me as just another example of liberal pearl-clutching. It comes as no surprise that he advocates de haut en bas propaganda: "What we need is a Carl Sagan or David Attenborough of social science". I agree with your central point that we need to change the agenda, but I doubt this would lead to general enlightenment and sweet reason. There were plenty of rightist rentagobs with something to say about stagnation and "the right to manage" in the 70s, suggesting that wherever you shift the argument the reaction will produce new counter-arguments and advocates. That said, anything that marginalises David Goodhart is surely a good thing. PS: @Patrick Kirk, the finding was that 96% of people didn't consume "enough serious news", not that they were politically disengaged. See what they did there?
@Luis, Blackrock are buying: a) goodwill/insurance, in the sense that future chancellors now know where their best interests lie with regard to the specific company; and b) publicity, in the sense that we, like much of the media, are talking about them.
Toggle Commented Mar 10, 2017 on How capitalist power works at Stumbling and Mumbling
There is always a common ideology. For example, PPE assumes that politics, philosophy and economics are complementary (which leads to teaching that seeks to make them so) and also that they are members of a distinct "class" of knowledge. If broader degrees are beneficial, then why not politics, ceramics and physiotherapy?
Toggle Commented Mar 2, 2017 on In defence of PPE at Stumbling and Mumbling
Another way of looking at it is that it was Nick Clegg's fault. The decision to enter coalition with the Tories not only committed the country to austerity but collapsed the LibDem vote in 2015, thereby handing the Tories a majority that in turn led to Cameron ceding the EU referendum to placate his right-wing.
The improvement of productivity in the 80s was in part simply a return to trend following the negative impact of the oil-price shocks of the 70s, though higher business churn (i.e. exit/entry) following the carnage of the early-80s will also have played a significant part in this. Technology (digitisation) did provide a boost to manufacturing in the 1990s, though again this was amplified by the churn occasioned by the recession early in the decade. It's possible that the current low impact of technology on manufacturing productivity growth reflects the limited company churn since 2008 - i.e. extend and pretend and weak wage growth pressure are bigger problems than a lack of innovation. PS (and in response to Ian Dykes), manufacturing jobs are not intrinsically boring. People like making things and solving problems. In comparison, service industry jobs are often tedious and more alienating (in the sense of not seeing the fruits of your labour). While some have a high anxiety/satisfaction spectrum because of direct human interaction, a lot involve screen-based admin and old=fashioned paper shuffling.
There is of course a risk in changing manager after a 20-year incumbency, however Arsenal will have to do it at some point (Arsene isn't immortal) so it makes sense to grasp the nettle at a time when the club's structural advantages (increased revenue, some promising youth) may offset the cost of change. The window of opportunity has been open since 2014. Had it not been for the two FA Cup wins, and the belief that these heralded a step-change, I suspect Arsene would have called time a couple of seasons ago. Arguably, our failure to finish above Leicester last year (despite beating them home and away) was the decisive moment. Ironically, this was obscured by the hilarity of Spurs screwing up. I suspect most Arsenal fans have now come around to the view that a season of turmoil (not qualifying for the CL, finishing behind Spurs) would be worthwhile if the club then met the expectations associated with its current capabilities, i.e. that the 5th richest club in the world should at least make the CL last 8, rather than always going out in the round of 16, and should be able to challenge for the Premiership until April most years. Wenger's place in history is assured, not just the history of Arsenal or English Football but of the global game, however his time has passed. His insistence on playing the last pure number 10, on crafting a team out of unusual individual talents, and of wanting to win more than to avoid losing, is beautiful but quixotic, showing the formative impression that Platini's France of 1984 had on him (he started his managerial career at Nancy in the same year). Change is gonna come.
Toggle Commented Feb 17, 2017 on Replacing Wenger at Stumbling and Mumbling
We do indeed need a historical perspective here. Most of the intellectuals associated with the Labour Party, certainly up to 1970s, were not middle class but upper middle, a distinction that Orwell was keenly aware of. This began to change in the 1960s with the expansion of tertiary education and the related growth in professional roles, both in the public and private sectors. The conflicts within the party that reached boiling point in the late-70s were a result of this new middle class formation (both on the right and left) competing for policy control with an industrial proletariat already in retreat. Despite the sentimental solidarity of the 80s, what was really happening was an acceptance by the middle class that the proletariat had missed its historic cue as an agent of progress and would have to take a back seat. New Labour formalised that marginalisation and sought to redefine social democracy in a way that would appeal to middle class (rather than upper middle) values, such as technical expertise and managerialism. Culturally, Labour under Blair went from a high+low-brow mix to pure middle-brow (e.g. setting "output targets" for arts funding). The current problem is not that the Labour Party's policies alienate the working class (policies can be changed), but that the working class are conscious of being expected to take a subordinate role (with no hope of change). Patronisation is ultimately a bigger issue for the party than immigration. Consider how often the latter is bookended by "I'm not racist but ..." and "but they [politicians] don't care". We laugh knowingly at the former and miss the importance of the latter.
Does this mean we can now start referring to older workers as job-blockers?
Toggle Commented Feb 15, 2017 on Low job mobility at Stumbling and Mumbling