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From Arse To Elbow
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"Obviously, using a Ouija board to decide a man’s guilt is incompetent". I'm not sure that is obvious. Competence simply means getting it right, and in this particular case it appears that the jury were right to convict. In deferring to competence we are simply deferring to then-dominant expertise, but that isn't necessarily any better than random chance: consider the expertise of a Medieval physician or a modern fund manager.
@staberine, A paranoiac thinks the truth is hidden. A cynic thinks it's in plain sight.
@staberinde, The number of articles on matters of identity in the Times/Telegraph/Mail etc vastly outweighs those in the Guardian. Who is setting the agenda there? A cynic might suggest that the performative wokeness of the Guardian is all part of the scam, and that's before you consider their indulgence of transphobia.
@Sesh, I stand by my last paragraph. You are exaggerating. In 2003 it was claimed that Labour were doomed because they'd lost the progressive vote over Iraq. They then won the 2005 general election. It was on a reduced vote (40.7%), but still decisive. Bear in mind that there are plenty of self-styled "progressives" who find an excuse to shun Labour and vote LibDem or Green (not to mention Conservative) at each and every election. They are a noisy claque that is over-represented in the media. The significance of the polls is not that Labour haven't opened up a 20-point lead but that both main parties are on 40%. I suspect the Tories' healthy showing is entirely down to grudging support to get Brexit done. Once it happens, it is hard to believe their numbers will go anywhere but down. Labour's showing is clearly a continuation of the support built in 2017, which has little to do with Brexit and everything to do with their other policies. I'm no fan of the perverse death-wish that is Brexit, but I'm equally repelled by the perversity of so-called progressives who would terminate Labour with extreme prejudice simply to secure a referendum that they've shown themselves as all too capable of losing again. Given that the only viable route to a 2nd referendum is through Labour, you'd imagine that building bridges would be a better strategy for the PV crowd, but it appears they have another agenda.
I think this is a correct analysis given the Parliamentary arithmetic and Labour's conference decisions. That Corbyn & co are simply following their own policy to the letter seems to have surprised many people, for some reason. What was notable about both Simon's and Chris's posts was the emphasis on emotion - the strength of feeling among remainers and the fear of betrayal - which led them to imagine that Labour could be kept out of power by the desertion of progressive voters, or even ended as a viable party. This strikes me an exaggeration. The rarely admitted truth is that "progressive voters" are not all die-hard remainers, and some don't even consider Brexit to be that important. I fear too many people have become emotionally invested in Brexit, which partly explains why Labour's pragmatic approach causes a lot of otherwise rational individuals to lose their shit over anodyne statements on issues such as state aid.
There are two types of sovereignty: internal (who is ultimately in charge?) and external (the exchange of rights and obligations between states). One is foundational, the other contingent. In most representative democracies these are split between different branches of government. External sovereignty is typically reserved to the executive (acting as the agent of the "sovereign", whether that is the people or a constitutional monarch) while internal sovereignty (the ultimate authority of the people) is deemed to be reflected in the legislature. The UK is peculiar because of the concept of parliamentary sovereignty, "the Crown in Parliament", which confuses the two. This is a result of the incomplete revolution of the 17th century: we never fully acknowledged the people as sovereign. This confusion has allowed the forces of the crown to masquerade as democrats, insisting that the EU has encroached on the Commons ("they make all our laws") when what it actually did was circumscribe the executive. Brexit is another cycle in the long-running struggle between Crown and Parliament, but despite the claims that in "taking back control" we are restoring Parliamentary sovereignty, we are actually increasing the power of the executive. That might appear a paradox given the travails of Theresa May, but the longer-term impact will be to make the office of Prime Minister even more dominant (just consider the powers being repatriated from the EU but reserved by Whitehall rather than devolved). Sovereignty may be presented and popularly understood as an intrinsic good, but it is fundamentally (as Dipper noted) a simple matter of power. A confusion over the difference between external and internal sovereignty has led to a situation that will increasingly compromise the latter.
@AMB I think it's both. Brexit is a bitch but the Civil Service is also weaker than it might have otherwise have been, not least because it has gradually lost capability since 1973 as a function of the EU's pooling of competences. The diversion of talent to the City has been a factor, but so to has been the ideological war on big government, which has devalued the very idea of state expertise.
I think the question this raises is: to what extent is the government shit-show symptomatic of structural failings within the state? Despite the Brexit ultras' painting of Olly Robbins as some eminence grise, it's pretty obvious that Whitehall has lacked capacity and often competence. It's not all down to May's stubbornness or lack of finesse.
I think Brexiteers have made this argument, but specifically in terms of the trade-off between higher growth and lower immigration. This has allowed it to be dismissed as the price of xenophobia, marginalising the "procedural utility" angle.
One of the characteristics of the neoliberal era has been the idea that the agenda is set by global forces beyond the control of any domestic political party: "I hear people say we have to stop and debate globalisation. You might as well debate whether autumn should follow summer." - Tony Blair, Labour Party annual conference, 2005. Leaving aside the ideology for a moment, one result of this may have been to lead politicians to assume that they had limited influence on the agenda. I wonder whether a politician from an earlier era might have been more cautious than Cameron in agreeing to a referendum. In other words, the charge that he was insouciant perhaps doesn't account for the extent to which he simply couldn't imagine the agenda being changed in such a dramatic fashion.
Toggle Commented Dec 2, 2018 on Changing the agenda at Stumbling and Mumbling
Given the number of barristers already in Parliament, the suggestion that court-room procedure should be an example for better political debate is dubious. The Commons is already highly structured, with extensive rules on debate and what is admissible. If anything, it is too lawyerly. If the aim is to establish facts, then the better example would be the scientific method, but that comparison highlights a key difference. While science is open-ended, politics is constrained by deadlines and consequent uncertainty. The one seeks to understand, the other to decide. Debate is an imperfect tool for making decisions, but it may well be the least-worst option we have available.
Toggle Commented Nov 30, 2018 on Against debate at Stumbling and Mumbling
I think poshness is a red herring. The entitlement that the likes of Johnson, Rees-Mogg and others display looks more like a peculiarity of the UK's politico-media milieu. The idea that "Britain is best" and simple will is enough to solve complex problems is the core belief of most of the UK press. That Michael Gove (a journalist of modest background but much social pretension) is currently weighing up whether he should step in and save the day is evidence that we remain trapped within this delusional environment.
Toggle Commented Nov 15, 2018 on Angry Brexiters at Stumbling and Mumbling
Another reason why young people went to pubs in the past (specifically the 70s through 90s) was the availability of live music. More restrictive regulations, compounded by the fact that many music pubs were Victorian buildings in urban areas now subject to gentrification, has produced a decline in such venues, with some converting to gastropubs and others being bought for redevelopment as private homes. This suggests the causality may be bi-directional. Higher prices lead to cultural change, but cultural change in specific locales may also drive pubs to target different market segments that support (and even expect) higher prices, or owners to consider a change in use.
I disagree that Roger Scruton is a contrarian. Within his own social milieu - shire Tories still resentful of the 60s & 70s - his views on Jews, gays, eugenics and women are pretty much par for the course. A real contrarian is one who seeks to oppose (or at least satirise) conventional wisdom and must therefore risk alienating his own tribe. Scruton isn't interested in changing public opinion (that would be contrary to his own conservative philosophy), nor is he engaged in social engineering (his views on architecture will focus on elite buildings, not standards for new council houses). As such he is neither a contrarian-entertainer, a la Christopher Hitchens, nor a wind-up grifter targeting the media, a la Tommy Robinson. I don't admire the man (I think his emotional resentment towards French philosophy betrays the empirical tradition he claims to cherish), but I don't think his opinions are egregious (they're ugly but all too typical). As you note, he is unlikely to bring anything of value to the role, though in his favour he probably wouldn't be as destructively stupid as Toby Young would have been had the latter secured his own government sinecure. I think you're over-straining in making the parallel with McDonnell's (conditional) support for the IRA. McDonnell came to that position through a lot of thought and debate, rather than just ancestral loyalty, and has never been shy about justifying it. Scruton's habitual prejudices are the product of his milieu, not some lifelong project of philosophical enquiry.
"It is no coincidence that support for Brexit and faith in free markets are so correlated: both derive from the same dubious assumption." Except there really isn't a clear correlation between the two. Many supporters of Brexit are anti-free market and much more wedded to the idea of an economy embedded in place and community, notably the inhabitants of ex-mining towns. I also think you're being generous in describing free market evangelists like McVey as "utopian". The assumption that labour is fungible is essentially class contempt.
I'm a little concerned about the methodology of the quoted study because it divides management into "bad" and everything else. In reality the bigger problem is mediocre bosses - those who aren't notably bad but not notably good either. As Nick Drew notes, the hierarchy is often gummed up by these people. If there is a "poor management" angle to low UK productivity, it may be down more to the slight shittiness of the average than the awfulness of the long tail.
Toggle Commented Oct 11, 2018 on Adam Smith's two economies at Stumbling and Mumbling
How can we change this? Mandatory reselection.
Toggle Commented Oct 11, 2018 on Adam Smith's two economies at Stumbling and Mumbling
I don't think the problem is that the UK is monoglot - the Spanish aren't much better, for example - so much as that the use of English biases it towards a greater interest in the US than the rest of the EU. Jim's comment above is a good illustration of this. The NHS is actually a standard type of healthcare system in that it is funded by public insurance. Where it differs from France or Germany is largely a matter of organisation, notably the historic reliance on direct state control. Few countries seek to emulate the UK because they started from a different place in the early 20th century, e.g. where insurance was managed by social organisations or unions and hospitals built by private firms. The NHS evolved out of the interwar system of limited national insurance and council infirmaries that often started life as poorhouses. 1948 was nationalisation of a system that was already quasi-public. The US is unusual because it maintains both public and private healthcare systems in parallel, which is why its cost as a % of GDP is double that of the UK. Basically it over-provides but is so inefficient (or exploitative, if you prefer) that the poor and chronic get a bum deal. The NHS is not that different to other EU healthcare systems, and a lot of its "reform" has been aimed at making it more European, not just opening it up to privatisation. The US, on the other hand, is an outlier. No other country is so wasteful or so inconsistent.
Toggle Commented Oct 9, 2018 on Our insular culture at Stumbling and Mumbling
I think one way of thinking about McDonnell's speech is that it is part of a bid for hegemony. What matters is less the nuts and bolts of the policy proposals, which would probably change once in government anyway, than the emphases on common ownership and the responsibility of business to fund public services. As such, this was an example of social democratic performativity. The exasperated tone of Sam Dumitriu's response suggests that the likes of the ASI recognise that this is an attempt to shift the Overton Window that might in turn mitigate the constraint of neoliberal performativity. The media has generally seen McDonnell's proposals in terms of the war of manoeuvre when he may be engaged in the war of position.
Toggle Commented Sep 27, 2018 on The neoliberal constraint at Stumbling and Mumbling
One aspect of McDonnell's speech that hasn't garnered much coverage is the idea that "a proportion of revenues generated by the ‘inclusive ownership funds’ will be transferred back to our public services as a social dividend". This provides a way of increasing taxation without necessarily changing the headline level of Corporation Tax, and in a manner that is likely to command popular support. Significantly, this hints at a path towards a possible UBI rather than just a conventional sovereign wealth fund. In other words, McDonnell appears to be interested in something wider than just workers' equity within a subset of industry.
It's worth recalling that the phrase "a bias against understanding" was introduced by John Birt in the mid-70s, essentially to promote the new-kid-on-the-block LWT at the expense of the BBC. Ironically, its lasting impact was in persuading the Beeb to poach Birt in the 80s. On his eventual appointment as DG, one of his chief initiatives was the investment in rolling 24-hour news coverage. This was meant to provide the time to drill into issues and provide greater context. In practice, it simply created an empty space that was increasingly filled by think-tanks keen to provide "balance" and by the recycling of print media stories. Birt was probably sincere about the need for greater depth in current affairs (he produced the Frost-Nixon interviews, after all), but he seemed to have no real empathy for investigative reporters. I don't want to lay all the blame at his door, but there was a noticeable and detrimental change in the quality of the BBC's journalism that occurred on his watch. In many ways, the BBC's current failings are a reflection of a wider change in the media landscape. The symbiotic relationship with newspapers in particular has meant that as the latter have degraded, valuing opinion and lifestyle bollocks over reportage, so the Beeb has declined as well.
@cjcjc, Marx's essay is a response to an earlier work by Martin Bauer called The Jewish Question. In other words, Marx wrote "[Thoughts] On 'The Jewish Question' [of Martin Bauer]". There is a long-standing dispute as to whether Marx was antisemitic (even a "self-hating Jew") or simply employing sarcasm and irony (as he frequently did in his writings). Given that his criticism of Bauer was actually a defence of German Jews, the case is not-proven. Even Jonathan Sacks, the UK's Chief Rabbi, has said that applying the term "antisemitic" to Marx is anachronistic, as he was simply using the common language and stereotypes of the time, which just goes to show that the layers of irony are infinite.
Toggle Commented Sep 6, 2018 on Against moral crusades at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Dipper, but John McDonnell already has.
Small businesses may well have planning horizons no greater than reporting periods, and they may also defer investment if they fund it out of free cash or operating profit, but I'd be very surprised to find this going on in a larger business, let alone a listed company. Large-scale investments are usually funded by debt and have no short-term impact on earnings. As the charge of short-termism is typically levelled at big businesses, I'd suggest something else is going on here. The term is typically used by politicians (and think-tanks like the IPPR) as a synonym for an antipathy towards planning, with the inference that this should be coordinated. For financial journalists, it usually acts as a euphemism for executive looting. For executives, it is a ready defence against market expectations. I doubt that short-termism, in the sense of a habitual and widely-shared attitude, really exists. It's just rhetoric.
The IPPR report certainly marks a step-change away from the usual technocratic pabulum, and its focus on genuine tax reform is significant, but I suspect in this it is merely reflecting the shift in public opinion over recent years, and no doubt anticipating Labour's programme. It is (for the left) essentially comforting rather than challenging, and even a bit nostalgic (e.g. the fetishisation of exports and R&D is reminiscent of David Edgerton's histories). That said, it's recognition of the importance of power in the economic sphere is welcome, though it has perhaps pulled its punches by not extending that analysis to the social sphere (e.g. education, the professions, the media etc).