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From Arse To Elbow
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"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 3 days ago 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.
I think you're being generous in considering Phillips the least of offenders. She may well be a good constituency MP and has effectively campaigned on domestic violence and other issues, but she has achieved little and seems only too happy to be known for her performance. In a more serious, substantive political culture, I suspect she would be pretty obscure. Her promotion by the media appears to be because her ego is large enough to fill the policy void of centrism. The problem then is not just that we have effaced reality, but that we are beginning to breed monsters.
Toggle Commented Mar 9, 2019 on Postmodern politics at Stumbling and Mumbling
All states are sovereign, but some are more sovereign than others. Most historians would agree that the constraints imposed on Japan by the international community (mainly the US) in the post-war era were a major factor in its economic growth. Also, it's a de facto one-party state, but I'm not sure whether that's relevant. Just sayin'. More seriously, the relevance of its homogeneous culture to its economic performance is the tendency of its citizens to buy national debt and to invest capital domestically.
Toggle Commented Feb 27, 2019 on Brexit as symptom at Stumbling and Mumbling
Oddly, I have yet to see any criticism of Fraser note that as a C of E Vicar he has a structural interest in promoting "happy families" and marginalising the welfare state. To imagine that Blue Labour's communitarianism is just one preference in a personal liberty / social obligation trade-off strikes me as applying a liberal frame to the exclusion of material interest.
"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.