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Dave Timoney
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@dilbert/Jim, The trick of the question is to get you to imagine a 3-dimesional, not quite perfect sphere. The trick of the answer is to reduce it to a 2-dimensional circle whose radius is irrelevant. So, using the well-known formula for calculating a circumference ... (2π(r+1)) - (2πr) This reduces to: 2π1, or 2 x 3.1415 = 6.283 metres. It's always best with such puzzles to start by asking: what is misleading or irrelevant in the question? That's the same principle that can be applied to issues such as immigration and fiscal management.
Toggle Commented Jun 11, 2021 on On economic intuitions at Stumbling and Mumbling
The one element you don't directly mention is property, specifically domestic housing, but surely this has the greatest potential to undermine Biden's initiative by diverting increased wages into non-productive assets?
I'd add that the CPS is an institution that is particularly unsuited to developing the skills necessary for a politician - far more so than a typical commercial organisation - having a relatively small, secretive core that relies on highly prescriptive operating procedures to corral sub-contractors (lawyers). Starmer's performance has reflected this, with poor planning and communications, and a knee-jerk authoritarianism, particularly in his dealings with constituency parties.
Toggle Commented May 20, 2021 on Starmer, skill and luck at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Blissex, I think Chris already addressed your point. People aren't necessarily one or the other: they can own capital (i.e. property) as well as earn income through labour, and this is increasingly the norm at high levels of wealth (see Branko Milanovic on homoploutia).
Toggle Commented May 11, 2021 on Class at Stumbling and Mumbling
I have a problem with: "One reason for the generational divide over Brexit is that older folk who came to maturity before we joined the EU have the impression that we can do well outside the EU". The overriding "impression" of the era before 1973 was that we weren't doing very well at all & consequently needed the benefit of the the Common Market. In terms of votes in the 1975 referendum, the young (today's old) were more pro-EEC than the (then) old. I think the Brexit vote in 2016 is better explained by changes in sentiment after 1979 than by the persistence of opinions formed before that date.
Toggle Commented Apr 16, 2021 on On generational difference at Stumbling and Mumbling
"Many on the left have been perplexed by the fact that whilst most Labour economic policies in 2019 were popular on their own, in totality they were not." I don't think this is correct. Most voters were unaware of the totality of Labour's offer (only a tiny minority will have read the manifesto and they will have been predisposed to like it). What mattered were a few emblematic proposals that the media chose to misrepresent and amplify: "broadband communism", "nationalised sausages" etc. In other words, this was more an example of negativity bias, i.e. "give a dog a bad name and hang him". You're quite right to note that a structural factor in the media's bias is the lack of a sociological imagination, which causes editors to underplay the impact of individual incidents of prejudice, but as well as that absence there is also a presence: a parisan desire to embellish or inflate specific incidents as part of a deliberate campaign of misinformation.
Toggle Commented Mar 11, 2021 on On Hans in Luck effects at Stumbling and Mumbling
Starmer's speech didn't merely omit to mention productivity, it focused on solutions that would likely further depress it. Governments have consistently encouraged SME growth since the 1980s but this has not helped. The obvious reason is that SMEs in aggregate tend to have below average productivity. Ceteris paribus, expanding the small business sector depresses total productivity and thus wages. What we need are more large businesses that, through higher wages and subcontracting, create the demand for an expansion of SMEs. The proposed bond also has the potential to further entrench rentierism at the ideological level. If the state wishes to mop up domestic savings to fund infrastructure investment then it can either borrow or tax. It's high-time we redressed the under-taxation of capital in the form of property, gains and dividends.
@Tim, it's quite possible that the aggregate value of "digital free goods" isn't being properly accounted for in GDP figures, but it doesn't follow that this means productivity is higher than reported. What social media in the workplace (like email before it) allows is the offsetting of improved comms by time-wasting. A task that would once take half a day can be done in minutes, but you then use the gained time to chat with your mates. The point of desktop IT, compared to the power loom, is that the rhythm of work is really set by the worker, & only loosely by the employer. Why do the latter allow this? Because they couldn't attract staff otherwise & they would rather provide free time than better wages. As for WhatsApp, the slow integration of it with Facebook, which does carry ads, indicates that it was originally bought as an address book: it's the contacts & networks that matter, & they will be monetised.
Toggle Commented Jan 9, 2021 on On fantasy politics at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Ralph, if you Google the word "ghost" you'll find a large variety of people and organisations that claim ghosts exist.
Toggle Commented Jan 9, 2021 on On fantasy politics at Stumbling and Mumbling
"What all this amounts to is a different way of doing politics. It sets the agenda. It says: our focus is upon real, material living standards, and we must resist distractions from this." "NZ is an island far away from anywhere, and they've turned it into a penal colony." Lol.
Toggle Commented Nov 14, 2020 on Our priorities at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Jim, the "culture war" is not being fought on campuses or in schools. It is being fought in the pages of rightwing newspapers and on compliant TV programmes that take their lead from the press. You might also have noticed that the media disproportionately feature rightwing academics, such as Nigel Biggar or Matthew Goodwin, in support of their belief that universities are intolerant or the working class socially conservative. It's a scam.
One of the features of the last 40 years has been the way that progressive causes were advanced by adopting contemporary conservative arguments about personal freedom & market choice, notably in respect of feminism (the right to a career & "having it all") & gay liberation (same-sex marriage & the pink pound). In other words, the culture war has largely been fought by the well-to-do rightist middle class in opposition to the well-to-do rightist middle class. The idea that the culture war centrally involves either the working class or the left as a protagonist is a myth.
I wonder him much of this is folk-memory (i.e. exaggerated in the retelling) of the financial repression (due to high inflation) of the 1970s? Obviously, this would be ironic, given the current circumstances.
The hysteria displayed by the press towards new media is all the evidence you need that it has significantly expanded "freedom of expression". However, while the press in its traditional form may well wither away, there will clearly be an attempt to constrain new media & recreate those structural conditions congenial to the rich. Ultimately, the solution has to address ownership - i.e. prevent other right-wing billionaires from buying up Murdoch's papers but also prevent them dominating new media, as Zuckerberg has. There was a recent article in the Guardian written by software (it wasn't that impressive), in which the twist in the tale was that it was only presentable due to the work of editors. Rather than replacing journalists with AI, what we might benefit from is replacing editors with citizens juries (yes, there are practical difficulties, but bear with me), thereby breaking the influence of owners.
Toggle Commented Sep 10, 2020 on On press freedom at Stumbling and Mumbling
Perhaps all this reveals is that the Tories are fundamentally more conservative than capitalist.
Toggle Commented Sep 2, 2020 on On Marxist Tories at Stumbling and Mumbling
Ironically, given all the guff talked more generally about inscrutable AI, the problem with this particular algorithm is that it was utterly transparent, making the reality of the social relations clear to even a child.
Toggle Commented Aug 18, 2020 on Algorithms & reification at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Blissex, My point is not that the right reject the material altogether but that they approach it in an unempirical way (and this, as I read it, is also Chris's central point). For example, BtL landlords should be in favour of immigration as that increases demand, but many right-leaning ones are not. Wanting to have your cake and eat it is evidence of an unempirical approach to politics (and it's no coincidence that this is the very metaphor employed by Johnson re Brexit). One way this cognitive dissonance at the level of the material is resolved is through metaphysical concepts, such as sovereignty, that are held to be supra-political. I was using "fictitious capital" in the sense defined by Marx: paper claims to wealth that aren't grounded in productive capacity. A materialist would view them as highly speculative and therefore risky (as time has proved). A BtL materialist would recognise that their rent was ultimately determined by the productive economy, and so would be as interested in infrastructure investment as tax cuts.
@Blissex, in the context of Chris's argument, empirical is not a synonym for material. Yes, the right are obsessed with property & the wages/benefits of others, but much of this is "fictitious capital" or other forms of fantasy, not an attempt to address lived experience. Likewise, the right actually spends more time banging on about identity or trans rights, just as Toby Young spends more time complaining about repression. The idea that the left is obsessed with the abstract & utopian is a traditional canard designed to distract from material critique. The point that Chris is making is about the historical shift in conservative philosophy (& liberal, for that matter) from the mundane & positivist to the ideal & metaphysical. Whether that is due to rentierism or intellectual exhaustion, it appears to be a real change.
@Jeremy, "It'd punish them for going to well-performing schools instead." That's a feature, not a bug. Chris is proposing this as a one-off, but clearly one reason why it hasn't been publicly discussed is that such an experiment would likely become permanent by popular (if not media) demand. Were we to use a quota system like Texas, middle class parents would be incentivised to send their kids to the local comp, not to a private school. This will not be discussed because it might mean the end of Eton.
Toggle Commented Aug 15, 2020 on Limits of radicalism at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Jim, What did we get out of the Napoleonic War?
Toggle Commented Aug 11, 2020 on A policy failure at Stumbling and Mumbling
The problem with Birbalsingh's argument is that it implies an equivalence between the true and the useful: that confidence might be as rewarding as understanding. But is there any evidence for that? It's easy to find examples of people who have been rewarded through hard work and a refusal to acknowledge the barriers put in their way, but these people are by definition exceptional. But the argument of the anti-racism movement, like the feminist movement, is not that we should recognise excellence wherever it may flower, but that we should provide equal treatment for the dull & the modest. The point about BLM is that it is arguing for systemic change, not for the recognition of the occasional superstar. In contrast, Birbalsingh's argument is actually about the cream rather than any minority. She is motivated by class, not race.
"But then a certain kind of lefty thinks we can have massively high standards of living as a right without anyone doing any actual work." This is pretty good example of the tenacity of the Protestant work ethic. Wealth is cumulative (the Earth is a closed system), which means society has far greater resilience than in the days of Adam Smith ("There is a lot of ruin in a nation"). As the pandemic has proved, we can stand down a large part of the workforce without suffering a major reverse in aggregate wealth. It has also shown that the workers of most value are often the worst paid. Going forward, the point is not to aim for a workless society of lotus-eating & robots, but one in which work & income (& accumulated wealth) is more evenly distributed and environmental & other externalities are reduced. The Protestant work ethic is probably the greatest impediment to achieving that.
Toggle Commented Jun 10, 2020 on Origins of a disaster at Stumbling and Mumbling
Have we ever had mechanisms in politics that filter for errors, beyond the consequences of failure and the ability to kick the bums out? I take the points made in your 2017 post, that there are strong mechanisms that select for mediocrity among politicians, and that these have probably increased over time, but apart from the disappearance of the public intellectual, I don't see any decline in corrective mechanisms. There wasn't a Golden Age.
Toggle Commented May 14, 2020 on How to be wrong at Stumbling and Mumbling
You're being generous (or perhaps ironic) in attributing cenrists' delusions to naivety. Cohen knows perfectly well that the problem is one of systems rather than character, but he has a well-paid gig promoting the opposite belief. Moran has no intention of constraining capitalism, rather she sees UBI as a means of reproducing labour on the cheap while "simplifying" the welfare state, hence she frames it as "a catch-all safety net". The problem with centrists is less their utopianism (though that certainly exists) than their cynicism.
Toggle Commented May 6, 2020 on Technocrats & class at Stumbling and Mumbling
@AJ, The frontline staff who work for the DWP were not hired because they hold particular views on welfare but because they have particular skills. They will moderate the expression of their own views (they need to earn a living), but the inertia you talk about won't come from them (institutional culture tends to be top-down). I'm sure many would be more than happy to operate a more generous, less punitive regime. To reinforce Chris's point, the state is much more powerful than we generally imagine and it could radically change its operations (if not the institutional culture among DWP management) rapidly. After all, we've just seen a Chancellor agree to pay the bulk of the wages of millions of workers while they sit idle, something that was inconceivable a few months ago.
Toggle Commented Apr 30, 2020 on Avoidable unemployment at Stumbling and Mumbling