This is Dave Timoney's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Dave Timoney's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
Dave Timoney
Recent Activity
@Jim, "The State owning the Commanding Heights of the Economy worked so well last time, I can't think why we stopped doing it, what with all the profits the nationalised industries must have been making". The British state has never owned the commanding heights of the economy, in the sense of a monopoly of the most profitable businesses, though it has long has a controlling interests in some, such as BP (since 1914). Most nationalisations in the immediate postwar era focused on badly-run, low-profitability but strategic industries such as coal and steel. Integrated planning and protecting the balance of payments were the chief drivers, not profit. Over time, nationalisation became a "bailout" for under-performing private industry, particularly where the market proved incapable of driving rationalisation (e.g. the car industry). The contemporary focus for nationalisation is less on strategic infrastructure or rationalisation (though both can apply) and more on market failure. In other words, excessive profits and poor service.
The reason for the dreaded vote of confidence in football is that anything less than a 100% endorsement will immediately undermine a manager, which might lead to even worse results in the short term. The dynamic is not unlike a bank run: "At first you go bankrupt slowly, then all at once". So I wouldn't read too much into the Arsenal bosses' comments on Emery. The odds are that his goose is already cooked. Freedland is the more interesting case here, not so much because he sees what he wants to believe, but because he has himself been one of the chief proponents of the idea that Labour is antisemitic. He has actively worked to build the narrative and had been on the case for some years now. Basically, he is high on his own supply.
Toggle Commented Nov 10, 2019 on Seeing what we expect at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Laurence, The claim that "politics is no longer about left and right" has been made repeatedly over the last century. It's a perennial feature of democracy, or more precisely of those who find democracy problematic. It was central to Fascism, to the social market economy, to anti-communism and to every variety of technocracy. The current vogue is to acknowledge that the dimension of economic power still matters (an admission that every attempt to sideline it has failed) but to augment it with another, and supposedly more determinant, dimension in a biaxial model (such as the one you cite). This is typically a dimension of "values" or "culture", which tends to be a mish-mash of cod pyschology (open vs closed) or polemical sociology (anywheres vs somewheres). One fundamental flaw in this approach is that it assumes people's worldviews are both stable and internally consistent, rather than being dynamic, influenced by environmental factors and subject to cognitive dissonance, but this messy reality can be obscured through aggregating data, hence the centrality of opinion polling and supposedly neutral data manipulation in "revealing" this dimension. Treat with caution.
Toggle Commented Nov 8, 2019 on Shoring up capitalism at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Jim, Decarbonising the economy is not an end in itself, any more than making ourselves poorer is. The goal is to avoid global warming causing greater loss. As such, it is a strategy of prevention. Likewise, many advocating remain are arguing that we should prevent an avoidable loss to GDP. Whether you agree with them or not, these positions are perfectly consistent.
Toggle Commented Oct 22, 2019 on Detoxifying Brexit at Stumbling and Mumbling
The irony here is that the monarchy is not just a commodity of the first sort that you describe, despite Harry's understandable beef, but of the second sort. The 17th century saw the rejection of the monarchy as divine and its conversion into a provider of marriageable units to the elite market of absolutism, which functioned from William & Mary down to Victoria's time. In other words, it became an instrument of the state rather than its embodiment. The modern commodification of the royals from the 60s onwards is certainly of the first sort, which dehumanises and degrades, but ultimately the monarchy remains a going concern because of its utility to the state, as we recently saw in the prorogation farce.
Toggle Commented Oct 6, 2019 on On commodification at Stumbling and Mumbling
Though basic income trials to date have been small-scale and sometimes quite deliberately hamstrung, what's notable is how consistent the positive benefits reported by the participants have been in areas such as mental health, career confidence and life satisfaction.
Toggle Commented Sep 17, 2019 on A start, or an end? at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Jim, Labour's policy is to give voters a choice between a soft Brexit and remain. From the perspective of the City, both outcomes would be highly predictable and together they represent economic, if not political, stability going forward. The point of Chris's post is the rationale of the City, not the internal coherence of Labour's position.
Toggle Commented Sep 6, 2019 on Capitalists for Corbyn at Stumbling and Mumbling
*wouldn't wear it.
Toggle Commented Sep 4, 2019 on What theft? at Stumbling and Mumbling
In explaining why the Tories' Right to Buy programme was legit but Labour's new proposal is not, Tim claims that "The government selling government-owned houses at a discount is fine. The government compelling private owners to do likewise is certainly not". This strikes me as specious. If anything is sold at a discount, whether by the government or a private owner, someone is losing out on value. In the case of Thatcher's policy, that was the public purse - i.e. society as a whole. The money spent on RtB discounts was not spent on the NHS or patrol boats in the South Atlantic. Ultimately, the state always has the right (subject to democratic judgement) to discriminate in how the burden of policy falls. Austerity was sold on the idea that "we're all in it together", but it has clearly fallen disproportionately on the shoulders of the poor. Tim would be on firmer ground if he claimed it was unfair that the burden of this loss should fall exclusively on the shoulders of landlords rather than being shared by all citizens. In other words, he could argue for a state subsidy or a bailout of distressed landlords. That he doesn't suggests he knows public opinion would wear it.
Toggle Commented Sep 4, 2019 on What theft? at Stumbling and Mumbling
It's also the case that in treating politics as "theatre" (or "showbusiness for ugly people") the media are defining it as divorced from real life and ultimately inconsequential: if you don't like the current production, there will be another one along shortly. In other words, this frivolous and cynical attitude is essentially saying "Don't worry about it", which ultimately means don't get involved.
Toggle Commented Aug 31, 2019 on The theatre of politics at Stumbling and Mumbling
There's obviously an element of truth in this - there are plenty of comfortably-off gobshites who reckon Corbyn is Lenin reborn - but I suspect that Corbyn's real psychic threat is not in his plans for modest redistribution but in his own modest person. The degree of contempt for Labour leaders has tended to correlate with their imputed class. Those that have posed as men of the people, like Wilson & Brown, have generated more "passionate, visceral hatred" than those, most obviously Blair, who presented as middle class. This is not just snobbery - the charge against Wilson & Brown was one of hypocrisy, after all - but a belief that political leaders should exhibit particular virtues that definitionally exclude the ordinary (w/c virtues are reserved for the rude mechanicals on the backbenches). Despite his own m/c roots, Corbyn presents (sincerely) as an ordinary bloke. This is reinforced by the media's questioning of his competence & their contempt for his modest lifestyle. The message is that he simply isn't the right sort to head a party, let alone a government. I think a lot of modest, ordinary men (particularly those in middle age for whom ambition is all but dead) find Corbyn unsettling precisely because he suggests that rising to the top may not require genius or hard work, but may in fact be largely a matter of luck. This is not to imply that Corbyn doesn't deserve to be PM. He does, and the refusal of his critics to envisage him as such says more about them than it does about him. But it does suggest that a lot of people resent him because his good fortune reflects poorly on their own. In other words, he isn't only a threat to relative wealth & privilege but a reminder that just desserts fails in two directions. You may not have deserved your status, but equally you might have done a lot better with a little more luck.
Toggle Commented Aug 30, 2019 on Origins of Corbynphobia at Stumbling and Mumbling
One factor that led to the state's change in attitude towards labour displacement between Elizabeth I and the early 19th century was the development of empire. This provided an alternative outlet for immiserated workers beyond riot, as well as a convenient oubliette for labour "agitators" such as the Tolpuddle Martyrs. The parallel with today is the global dispersal of production, which has allowed cheap labour in developing nations to exert downward pressure on wages in developed ones. As wages for that labour in turn start to rise, there is a shift towards investment in increased productivity (e.g. a third of all industrial robots have been deployed in China). Stagnation in the UK is likely to continue until global wages are roughly equalised (allowing for transportation costs etc) at which point productivity will become the focus here once more. In other words, the problem is not so much one of the differential impact of new technology as the way that the labour market has been constructed politically, which is also a direct parallel with the state's activism in the late-18th and early-19th centuries. I've not read Frey's book, but I'd be curious to know whether he cites Karl Polanyi at all.
Re "Centrists are oblivious to all this. [They] have no awareness of the reality of capitalist stagnation, let alone have an answer to it". I think this lets them off the hook through a plea of stupidity. I'd suggest that they are only too well aware of the reality, but consider it to be either irrelevant or even a necessary development. Of course they cannot publicly state that, just as the inner party under Blair couldn't admit they had no intention of reversing NHS marketisation or the Tory anti-union laws in 1997. Their politics has always been marked by bad faith (ditto the Lib Dems). Expecting humility from centrists assumes honourable intentions and the capacity to acknowledge failure. Its absence, except at the margins, suggests they remain obdurately convinced of their rightness: they'd do it all again if they could, and I'm not even sure Iraq would be an exception. Their weaponisation of antisemitism is as much about drowning-out the discourse and distracting attention from their own culpability in austerity and Brexit as it is about ejecting Corbyn.
Toggle Commented Jul 21, 2019 on Centrists' failure at Stumbling and Mumbling
Your first caveat is that Corbyn could do more to allay the fears of Jews. That's objectively true, but the same charge could be levelled at previous Labour party leaders in respect of both Jews (remember the grief that Ed Miliband got) and other minorities. Blair could have done more to allay the fears of Muslims, Callaghan of Asians and Wilson of West Indians. If Corbyn were peculiarly negligent, then your caveat would have some force. But given that he is clearly no worse than his predecessors, and arguably much better if you judge him on his record, then it is weak. Your second caveat is built on a questionable premise and a dodgy parallel. The referee in a football match is constrained in his bias by both the laws of the game and the tolerance of the crowd. He can only award a penalty for a dive in (or very close to) the box. If he acts in an obviously and egregiously biased fashion there is a good chance the crowd will riot. The contraints on the press (IPSO) and Corbyn-sceptic Labour MPs (the phantom of deselection) are much less. The premise behind the "cleaner than clean" gameplan is that it is still possible for a talented team to win even when it is playing against 12 men. What the Labour antisemitism saga has revealed is that every attempt by the leadership to compromise (e.g. adopting the EHRA definition) has resulted in the goalposts being shifted. This is a match that Corbyn cannot win, no matter how ruthless he is. But that in turn indicates the fear of his opponents that he may well win the match that matters: the next general election.
The idea that a private education teaches you self-confidence is partially true - being told you are a member of an elite will probably boost self-esteem - but it's mostly flannel intended to obscure by indirection the transactional nature of the system. Your parents are buying you a better chance of getting into a top university and/or leading profession. They rarely care about the intrinsic values of Latin poetry. For that reason, I agree that there is no need to abolish private schools. The better approach would be for those elite universities and professional bodies to apply quotas based on secondary education. The Texas model would be appropriate for the former (every school & 6th form college gets a pro-rata quota across the Russell Group), while the latter could simply have a gross quota for annual qualification awards (if private school pupils are 7% of the total population, then only 7% of new accountants each year can have gone to private schools). In a system based on equality of outcome, the interests of the sharp-elbowed middle-class would be best served by spreading evenly across all schools instead of concentrating in a few where competition for quota places would be fiercer. The result is that not only would state schools become more socially representative but "bog standard" ones would acquire a powerful constituency of supporters. This would in turn reduce the power, and absolute number, of private schools. The one profession I wouldn't initially introduce quotas for would be teaching. If more of the privately educated start to gravitate towards this career, we might see a reversal in the steady denigration of the role since the 1980s and an increase in public respect.
The first reason you offer is power. You could have stopped there. The other three are essentially exceptions and marginal situations that wouldn't necessarily impede the rollout of AI (most business decisions aren't based on innovation, nor do they require a compelling story). A hunch, or breaking the rules, might possibly produce stellar results, but most businesses will be aiming simply to be better than average - to avoid the drop rather than win the league, so to speak. That means bureaucratic risk-averseness (that broken rule might kill the business) may actually encourage the use of AI. As regards the "fallible entertainers" point, that may well be true for politicians and commentators, but it is less likely to be the case for CEOs, as Woodford shows, and it largely applies only at the very top of the professional tree. Tory MPs who witnessed Boris Johnson's shortcomings as Foreign Secretary at first hand aren't being entirely irrational in thinking he should be PM. They believe the job demands personality and will, rather than mastery of a brief. NB: The c-suite role that is most suitable to a constrained optimisation approach, and in which hunches and breaking the rules are most frowned upon, is the CFO. This is quite a simple "algorithm", which can be implemented via a spreadsheet (1980s vintage) rather than a GAN, so it ought to be more vulnerable to AI than other roles, yet there has been no meaningful attempt to automate it.
Toggle Commented Jun 26, 2019 on The human factor at Stumbling and Mumbling
One of the ironies of May's tenure is that she garnered a lot of support among Tory MPs, despite being a remainer, precisely because they thought she would put the interests of the party first. A further irony is that the Tories' best hope now may well be to elect Johnson as leader precisely because he is a lying opportunist. He is probably the only candidate who stands a chance of getting away with a reverse ferret and thus preventing a split that would put them out of power for a generation.
Leaving aside his reductio ad absurdum, Dipper frames the question of what the left can do in terms of imposing control, but this gets the issue the wrong way round. The problem with the "free press" is that it is already controlled. It is no coincidence that the press itself has displayed an antipathy towards social media and unconventional online journalism. It is also no coincidence that it is supposedly progressive elements of the press, like the Guardian, who have been most vocal in their criticism of new media.
Toggle Commented May 10, 2019 on On media influence at Stumbling and Mumbling
I am frankly appalled that you failed to condemn Edward I's disgusting Scotophobia.
Toggle Commented May 3, 2019 on Yes, ownership matters at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Paul0Evans1, "Even the question of 'what you want' is interesting, because in other spheres of life, you don't find out what people want by asking them. You use much more effective feedback loops to work out what they *really* want." This sounds like revealed preference theory, which implies a transactional model of democracy. But the problem with this (and I confess I haven't read your 'Abolish Voting' so I don't know whether you adequately address it), is that we don't reveal our preferences equally, whether through consumption or other feedback mechanisms. For example, the "just get on with it" school are clearly not plagued by self-doubt, while the statistically significant "don't knows" will include many who would welcome a dialogic approach rather than some bloodless, empirical analysis.
You might also have mentioned the consistency illusion, which you wrote about last week. Some people are actively "re-evaluating" Jackson's music, not just boycotting him, presumably because they feel they must have misjudged him (or been conned) in the past.. As regards the media, I think another dimension to this is their tendency to present issues in binary terms as part of their commitment to "balance", which gives the impression that opinions are far more divided and entrenched than they are in reality.
The danger with thinking of the will of the people as emergent is it becomes a quasi-mystical entity, which opens the door to the usual suspects presenting themselves as its unique avatar. But that doesn't make it a "fiction", any more than an election result can be dismissed in the same way. What would be a fiction is "the settled will of the people".
Toggle Commented Mar 26, 2019 on The consistency illusion at Stumbling and Mumbling
I think it's useful to question whether politics has been framed as consumption in order to better suit supply-side interests (retail-oriented parties, the media etc) or if it simply reflects the absorption of a hegemonic consumer culture. In other words, is "consumer politics" functional or ideological. If it were simply ideological, we'd expect it to reflect changes in retail culture. This has happened at the edges - e.g. the use of focus groups and more recently online feedback, but it's small beer. Whatever the expectation of leave voters, there is no move towards the Amazonification of politics outside the Communist Party of China. If consumer politics is primarily functional, then we'd expect there to be fewer problems in this approach on the supply-side than the demand-side. You suggest that "Shops do not ignore the preferences of 48% of their customers". But this is meaningless unless a shop expects 100% of the population to patronise it. In reality, shops target market segments, and so do parties. "Nor do they expect us to choose a job lot of groceries in advance only once every few years". True, but not all shops are grocers. If you're buying a car, or a house, or further education, you expect to put up with the same product for years. "And nor do they regard increased demand as a problem". Well, Burberry certainly did. I suspect that adopting consumer techniques and rhetorical tropes is functional: it suits the vested interests of parties (i.e. as institutions), the media (for whom politics is marketing), and career politicians for whom a "new product launch" is central to their ascent (I can't be the only one to have noticed the similarities between TIG and a "startup" that is in two minds about an IPO).
Toggle Commented Mar 21, 2019 on Against retail politics at Stumbling and Mumbling
"If Johnson and Rees-Mogg had thick Brummie accents, how would the media treat them?" As Jess Phillips would no doubt tell you, it all depends.
Toggle Commented Mar 17, 2019 on On class difference at Stumbling and Mumbling
@luis, The difference is the nature of the market in which the plumber and the Uber driver participate. The driver can be barred from the market if he refuses too many jobs or his satisfaction rating is too low. That's pretty clear evidence of domination by Uber, akin to the old "lump" system used in construction and the docks. In contrast, the plumber does not have to rely on a mediated market as she can bid for work directly with the paying customer.