Friday, 30 December 2016

Jerome K Jerome ....a Man of Surpise and Some Disappointment

Jerome k Jerome is of course as synonymous with "Three Men in a Boat" as Joseph Heller is with "Catch 22” or Slade are for "Merry Christmas". He can too easily be taken as a one hit wonder.

For the fan of the spell binding cameo of quintissential English middle class leisure that 'three men' " is, I wuld recommend not first and foremost going on to Three Men on the Bummel. Rather take a necessary detour through his wonderful autobiography.

He is far from the typical english gentleman if we consider the child being the father of the man. He spent much of his childhood in relative poverty in a famly where financial peril was always at the door, or trampoing right in over the threshold. Far from just being a humourist as he was once labeled, he is a marevllous writer on contemporary history and debunking cynic on politics and the nature of man. His life spans the late Victorian and Edwardian period, and  experienced perhaps the second large wave of 'metropolitisation' of London as its collection of villages and minor townships conurbated  with the loss of pastures, parks and stables and much of the remaining ancienne housing and 'cottages' was swept aside in the rush to modernism and the rebirth of the city as the banking capital of much of the empire and hence world. From horse to horse power, and the expansion of the underground London was conjoined with arteries of traffic for the speed and pace of a 20th century power house. With this too, many of the old quaint customs and foibles of coach travel died away, many of which had been in place since 'Good Queen Bess' donned Crown.

If we talk of the "gig' economy today, then we need only read back to Jerome's own experiences of very loose connected work as a young school leaver to realise how tenuous life with no labour safety rules was. His career we may interpret as strangely modern from thus outset through his 'struggling' writer phase, his theatrical flirtation and his enterprises in publishing and media. A true portfolio career with his books , hunorist novels as th may be, not only being major milestones but also punctuating the flow of real living history which ran through his life. His works are largely autobiographical on the oine hand, and on the other they are steeped  in clever observation of his fellow human kind, and witty social and political comment. In driving for a few-more-bob, and living often a little hand to mouth in his formative years,  having been born into a financially naive and misadventurous houshold, it seems he let his quick wit get the better of him perhaps in pursuit of next month's rent payment?

His writing life times span a transitionary period which had great uncertainties, impirical arrogances and social exploitation which culminated in WWI in western Europe, and the revolution in Russia. The pre war Edwardian period gets little mention in the history books without this very after context. He manages to capture a sense of what was actually happening in the various strata of  English society in the upheaval of modernity which came in the wake of the wealth created by the industrial revolution. He also is very pro German as is clear in his Autobiography and "..On the Bummel" which is set in Germany.

The sequel to Three Men in a Boat, is a pale cousin in structure and althougnh the content is rich and often delightful, it dwells too much on the minutia of the Germany of the 1880s. The first book has strwgnths in havng a natural structure and literal sense of direction in being a journey both well known and in the mundane Thames, while of course revealing the hidden nature of river life and idiosyncrasies which only the itinerant floating traveller truly experiences. Also he has three equally bumptious, pig headed and clowning fools to develop in character and test in mettle by the trials of a Thames holiday. Not forgettting Montmorency as a foil and distraction which gains our instant affections and shines through as the only one in t party with a grain of sense. In '..on the Bummel' Jerome fails to advance the characters and their friendships, over familiarness and petty rivalries. This and the rather disjointed and unaquainted route they choose mean to me at least, that the whole book lacks cohesion and becomes a series of witty essays, observatiin of the then teutonic and character cameo inserts.

I have had time on my hands to re-read " a Boat" , many notes upon its route along the Thames, his autobiography and "...on the Bummel" yet being somewhat idle, have not come to "idle chap" or his other novels. I find Jerome to be very much like myself. Interested in the truth of matters, and prone to a self opinionated view of the world, witty and crass and a little disorganised. "Three Men in a Boat" gave him what I too need in life, a hand rail to feel his way forward in a new modern style, and perhaps a scaffold to build his architecture. When lacking this machinery of a well ken't and easily parceled journey, his narrative wanders off into self indulgent journalistic commentary or these character cameos which just last too long in ' on the Bummel"

I feel he could easily have been the English Joyce if only he had written more on the passing plights and social moires of his times, and produced perhaps a "Londoners" or his own great greek framed divine comedy of a Ulyssian tome. I am sure James Joyce was indeed influenced by Jerome when I consider the charactures, the dialogue, the wit and the pathos we find in "Three Men..." . Scholars of course point  how clevery-clever Joyce was to quote and follow the Greek meta structure which they so care to extrapolate to and pontificate on. Ulysses is titled though out of Irony as our anti hero, our mundane king of Dublin, is really better understood by those of us who have spent time on the lower banks of the Liffy amongst the Irish and their stream of wonderful collective consciousness. What irony that the imposition of a foreign, conquering g Imperial tongue  upon the people's of the emerald Isle would then bestow upon them the possibility to extort the same language to heights of expressiveness in the every day street banter and the  literary genius. Some consider Ulysses to eclipse all of Joyce's other work, but for Jerome it is true that his Thamesian excursionary tale is by far the author's greatest novel. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Trump - A Gift to The Left

Trump is a gift to the left becasuse he is the first republican in three decades to renounce global neoliberalism as failing the blue and white collar workers of his western homeland.

Bernie Sanders has been quick to pick up on this point. which may come as a total shock to many on the left. However his positive comments are to be welcomed by all.

Neo Liberalism has the common sense appeal that you are worth as hard as you work. The republicans have cut income taxes such that a significant proportion of employees in the US don't pay a jott. This has been the compensation for the removal of those nasty restrictive union negoatiations, which hindered the economy- according to the 'old' - new-right. Only that after 30 years a larger amd larger proportion of the US workforce is finding it harder to even make ends meet, let alone save for the size and location of house they need, or a college education for their kids.

Trumpanomics are set to sweep aside Reaganomics. Where the republicans once fought for NAFTA and Milton Friedman followers  completely burried their heads in the sand when it came to socialist, keynsian China, Trump offers the soltuion which only the so called fringe anti globalist left, like Bernie Sanders and a younger Jeremy Corbyn touted before.

Anti globalism was an underground movement. Mask wearing students with rucksacks and cycle helmets toying with the Police at G8 summits to grab media attention as the bad-boy rebels of our age. Now anti globalisation is at the centre of the neo-neo-conservative government of the USA.

Neo liberalism and the concepts of Milton Friedman and others are a bit like Keynsianism- they maybe work to create well being in closed economies. When you globalise, they both fall to bits. Being only worth what you work for means that your job will inevitably go to a cheaper land, unskilled shop floor or skilled CAD designer. In a world with so many countries having moved vast elements of theirn population outbof subsistance and barter since the 1970s, this is inevitable.

So Keynes and Friedman just don't really work in a global economy, because you actually have endless labour supply and maybe a half century in each developing country before the standards of living and costs of living render the difference negligble. On the Keynsian side, you can't "print" money when half of it is spent or invested abroad- you can't underpin the world economy by US 'qauntitative easing either'.   Unless like China, you cheat.

China has on the one hand access to global markets virtually uninhindered by virtue of both trade deals and global corporations moving production there. On the other hand they restrict access to their market by owning domestic suppky chains and artificially deflating their currency through Keynsian printing, while restricting also the free exchange od that currency. They tackle inflation as RPI only with a huge supply of cheap labour, massive investment in agriculture and some degree of command competition, where in fact there are many more competitors in some markets than typical of the west. Their banks are national and lend money to support all of this. Living cost inflation for actual workers is as bad or worse than in the USA, but real life style inflation is dressed up as desirable capital gains in private property. Whilenthe central banks and finance systems of all the major economies underpin this with public money and inadequare housing policy.

Trump has not only defied the politically correct, to the joy of the "phobes" and "ists" of the country, he is also not economically correct. He defies this system, and offers an alternative. When he stood in front of blue collar workers in a Michigan Ford Corp' plant, he threatenrd Ford management with 35% tariffs if they moved to Mexico. Clinton and Bush era just went along with more and more globalisation and lived with mediocre real, money economy while the super rich expanded their immense wealth in real estate by astronomical figures, pricing many ordinary workers out of ever owning a home in the cities or within an hours' commute of all the main Metropolii in the USA. He knew there was a fundamental disconnect between wealth creation and globalisation which was punishing the working person. No one else dared go against the monetarist orthadoxy, even though it was dead on arrival in september 2008.

That my friends, is why Trump won and will be a remarkable president it has to be said.


Why Then Is Trump a Gift to The Left?

Barack Obama stood 8 full years against a partisan republican congress, who frustrated and slowed much of his policy and continued with economics which secured wealth for the rich and an expanding poverty for a greater percentage of employees. Hope could be sold, but those hopes could not be delivered because the Reaganomic hang over is rising costs of living on wages falling in real terms, or actually cent for cent lower than they were 20 years ago. Affordable healthcare took longer to come into effect, and congress sat back without interfering as the inflationary pressures it exacted, went unchecked by policy and tougher negotiation with suppliers.

We had an impasse. At a time when hope was promised, and so much money was used fixing the broken laissez-faire that the US government may have well shot the bankers and payed everyone directly. There was a bad political situation, which in part reflects the republican 'partitioning' of the geodemographic electoral system, but it just was not tenable. Clinton in charge of a republican congress would be more of the same.

It is then now far better to let the republicans get on with it. Why  is this better than a Blue POTUS, Red Congress?

This is because by no means is this business as usual. Trump has won on a promise to cut immigration drastically from Mexico, and protect  US manufacturers from Chinese and Mexican (the two main 'outflagging' nations for the US)    This goes against two of the long held Republican Tenets  of ideological free market economics. Free movement of goods and labour. Protectionism - against cheap currency in China, and slave condition labour in Mexico (just one step down the supply chain if you are a 'clean' investor in plant there)

Also it puts a focus back on manufacturing and primary extraction of raw materials domestically. These are two alien concepts to Reaganomics. The republicans and Bill Clinton years did nothing much but allow industry to become less productive, while the rising sun of socialist bank rolling China was too tempting even for those with free market religious fervour. The rush to the east was on again, after Japan had penetrated the US in the 60s and 70s. 

This is the biggest gift to the Left across the world. The left has swallowed so much of monetarism since the 80s that it did not dare suggest protectionism. China was touted as the sunrise land where the west could sell its' higher value products, against inflation busting supply of the cheap, unimportant stuff. This is a completely wrong strategy for China at the wrong time. China is printing money - lending companies huge sums to start up and grow, building enormous infrastructure the likes of which HAVE NEVER BEEN SEEN ON EARTH before. Manufacturing companies in the west, even when they are profitable, are told by their investors to move to the far east. Reasonable ROI from production twenty years ago are no longer good enough when the opportunity for more margin and easier expansion is on the cards in China. In effect the balance of trade will continue to grow worse until all the West have left are local service industries and protected defence and health industries. The US is already perilously close to that with the next round of relocation on the cards.

Despite the promise of China being an ever bigger market for western wares and services, the balance of trade will get worse. Luxury brands which become successful in China, will be bought out by the Chinese and production moved there. The qausi private/state banks and their chinese clients are investing big time in the 'rentier' economy round the pacific rim, and as far away as Sweden where the state banks own the 'privatised' high speed services. Property, leisure and golf, mining. They are like locusts over the world, all with socialist printed money and command capitalism. Yet we in the west have had to swallow this, with stiff monetary policy and wage control in the tide of higher real costs of living.  We are told that we have to compete, we have to be cleverer, we need more capitalism and freedom of movement.

The Left would never dare have gone back to protectionism. Yet Reagonomics had run its course, in a similar way to how post war Keynsianism ran against the buffers of inflation in 1973, so in 2008 the house of cards fell in on itself when so much of the economy and money supply was tied up in the housing market yet there was no real value adding economy underpinning the growth in property wealth and debt. It seems thirty years is about the time economic orthodoxies take to cycle through before they stop working, or people come up with alternative theories which can be put into practice.

In fact Reagonics and Thatcherism did not stop the fundamental idea of growth through the money supply - printing money. Both relaxed access to mortgages and consumer credit. This meant that people for a decade could enjoy a higher standard of material goods, while wage rises were moderate. Many ran up debts they could never expect to pay off, and many home owners took out long term interest only loans. Growth was further fuelled by tax cuts, and of course in fact, expansive public spending on defence and health care (The US government employee contributions are the lions share of medical insurance payments in the USA, and it gets a long term bad deal on drugs and treatments because of bought out congressmen) After the volatility of the late 70s and early 80s,  quietly, manufacturing industry decayed further and when China came on line as a free supplier with trade deals which could only make for a bad balance for the west, the decline accelerated. The internet bubble burst and it was down hill for the west after that, with entire economies living off national credit cards and the circulation of money through debt. Qauntitative Easing is basically keynsianism and it basically secures and benefits the banks and worlds richest investors at the top of the Pyramid. The lie of trickle-down became the diffusioin of socialism for the rich, and that trickle-up in wage/cost of living to the rentier rich had eaten the quality of life of not only the lower working class, but the ediucated middle class.

The UK is only now an inch behind the US in this respect, with further privatisations, brexit related errosion of employment laws,  and a tight supply of housing. There has been a 71% increase in child poverty since 2010. Camerom's response was to redifine our western, 'luxury' level poverty line. The Brexit vote was largely about immigration and that was largely about competition for jobs. Instead of any unionisation or national wage negotiations for tariffs based on skills ( as they still have in several EU and EEA countries incdentally) a market solution could be offered, and many hope for deportation not just 'control' over immigration. Also in respect of China, it just cannot be really economic to fly fresh Salmon from Scotland to be filleted and packaged in China, and then flown back for sale. There is something fishy with that! The chinese are subsidising via bank loans and infrastructure.

Trump then can achieve much for the Left against the old neo liberal establishment if he really is serious about flagging-in US jobs and investment. This protectionism will be inflationary, but China may be brought to a less skewed place by harder negotiations which render US and western products more competitive domestically, and protect the key auto and aero industries from unfair competition.

Of course Trump may fail on this policy, because his own Republican Congress may block him. But that will be hard, the message is out there, and it is based on the truth. China and Mexico are stealing jobs unfairly. If he does fail to secure a better trade deal because of congress, then who knows, he may jump ship and become a democrat? Also this will leave a new, more left Democratic leadership to rush in and claim this ground and get control of congress and POTUS.

Raging Against the Trump Machine

There are a few other areas of policy which he will find resistance to over time. Firstly he is the great blue collar hope, so worsened pay and conditions which are likely under the republicans, may lead to a back lash of disappointment over percieved broken promises. He has to deliver to a lot of discontented people in blue and white collars who are struggling to make ends meet, and can in no way expect the material standard of livbing and free time their parents generation enjoyed.

Climate is there also. Finally the sceptics and their paid for, minority report, pseudo science and doubt calling gets centre stage. However Global warming is happening, and at a rate which is quite possibly purely antho-acclerated. Nearly the entire population of Florida will be adversly affected if the antarctic and greenland ice caps melt by a third. It will destroy land, infrastucture and  in so doing demand vast public spending or a decimation of the economy there. Rivers and harbours in the US will also be threatened. Four years more warming under Trump and a reversal of climate policy may then lead to real fear scenarios with more extreme weather and more rapid melting measured on the ice caps. Soon we will have  over 50 years of weather satellite data to analyse and 150 years of sea level measurements.  Fear of the unknown for the public and fear of economic catastophe for the state will drive post Trump politics back to the green.

In terms of minorities, where as Trump could cynically exploit the racist and islamophobe vote, the Democrats can secure more of the Latino vote and retain their black vote. With Pence as VPotus, there will be a clear anti LGBT bible-belt agenda. These may seem like small minorities, but they can have a large impact on the overall result as we see with the Bush/Dukakis and other runs which have been closer than Clinton/Trump.

Most of all we come back to the economy, stupid, and Trump has broken the wheel of Reaganomics, of globalisation, of putting up with your lot and not expecting politicians to actually change anything but for lower taxes. Even if Trump is frustrated by congress, or the economy falters for other reasons, the net result is that new economics are on the cards, and Keynsian new deals for the people and protectionism, could once again form a new epoch of growth in well being for western citizens. Shorter working hours, better pay, better holidays, more free stuff from the state. All these terribly bad things that Thatcher and Reagan tried to sweep away and sold the public on 'nanny capitalism' - your own best efforts from cradle to grave will secure you a good future alone, in a free meritocracy. Breifly we saw this hope flicker, but it has soon been taken away by on the one hand investors moving plant to China, while on the other the same investment over class tightening supply of housing and forcing more money to flow from your pockets to theirs via capital investment and the banks they own.

Coming out from all this then, there are four years with positive economic ground-shift changes from the broken epoch to a new, and very much else to rally against. Race, climate, nature and environment,  worker's rights, women's rights, healthcare for lower paid workers, access to higher education. All these are issues which like the in the civil rights' period will come to be movement issues once again and new campaigners will emerge organically, without the backing of billionaires, but via word of mouth and social media. The trad' media will continue to go on line, and new battle lines will be drawn now that the centre of politic is drifting to the far right such that some media will find themselves on the left.

There may even be a new moderate 'anti tea party' republican movement who try to drag politics back into the centre, with common sense if Trump goes wild with Pence in arms with him. No longer have we the 8 year dichotomy of hard right congress and a progressive President, we have a way out there right wing candidate with a conservative mid right trailing behind him in where they stand and how to react. We have four years of  Republican against republican with a POTUS & vPOTUS agenda which is more radical and less tolerant than all the Reagan and Bush 1&2 put together. The public can no longer blame one side, there is only one side, and republicans blaming republicans in congress or against Trump,  looks a lot like civil war and hitting the self destruct button.

Trump is a gift then. Like Thatcher and Reagan, Roosevelt, IKE, Kennedy and Clement Atlee, he is symptom of a demand for change after difficult times and an impasse in the ways things have been done in the outgoing, failed epoch. The Left need to ride this four year wave and in the UK, tackle Brexit outside the EU or by going in again, but in either way, the hipocrisy of command capitalism in China needs to be tackled in order for the west to do any value adding activities in production, and not keep on living off the house of card property and consumer services' industies. That is the recipe to grind the western worker into poverty, and Trump is breaking that mould.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Why Brexity Dear God?

Brexit is just a lot of hassel for me personnally and also I can see that lots of people in business are going to hate all the administrative and customs/ quota related bull shit which will result when the EU has the boot on its foot as the larger of the two in this quarrell.

Brexit was not about our pucker fishermen and back bone famers - they only make 1-2% of GDP and including food processing, only about 5% of employment. It wasn't about becoming an offshore investor haven, because London is so entwined with EU investors that it will be subject to legislation anyway, and also of course as is happening, a chicken run to the continent. It wasn't about British manufacturing being hindered by those ISO EN's which even the Americans and Chinese are adopting. Nor was it about CE labelling, and the existing right for national sellers to use local country labelling anyway.

It was about " johnny foreigner taking our jobs and women". It was about the percieved threat of mainly mulsim and african migration. 

On the first , it offered the neo-new-right, a way of dressing up a market solution to solve low wages and unemployment, while avoiding any other legislation - the UK would still be a wonderful place to invest due to its weak labour laws and easily sacked, overtime free and otherwise exploited work force. On the second, the war in Syria will come to an end, and migrants form Somalia, Ethopia, Afganistan, Sudan and Eritrea will be sent back and blocked eventually from coming because those countries have large safe areas and the young men leaving ar just economic migrants in the vast majority, not persecuted sects or political assylum seekers.

The key question then is will controlling EU worker immigration actually be a market solution which will force up standards of living and training or will the net loss of flexibility and skill availability in the work market slow the economy enough that other "British jobs for Brits" will be lost? Is there in simple words, a net economic benefit from EU workers being migrant and seasonal or relocating to the UK or not?

What is actually in reality affecting those glorious UK manufacturing jobs and exports is China more than anything. A socialist dictator state which prints money to keep its' currency artifically low, and fiddles with various different rare metals and silicon chips. Command capitalism with party lead 'private companies' and the national banks investing in businesses and infrastructure like there is no tommorrow.

 In a word, a Tory hades, economic hell on earth, a dystopia for the Tory dream of free markets and supremacy based on the good old days of British endeavour. The balance of Trade with China will be negative for a long time. Salmon from Scotland, gets freighted by plane and filleted in China and shipped back fresh and frozen. In factories funded by 'socialist hand-outs'. Ooh, but the growth possibilities for those luxury goods the UK wants to sell ? Well the Chinese are very interested in buying up those brands and shifting production to their nation. And buying property. And land. All under pinned with the printed money that David Cameron was so keen to warn Jeremy Corbyn about on his first stand at the despatch box.

Trump bless his cotton socks, knows this. He sees China as the fools gold of western capitalism and as the major threat to the economies of the old west and the whole concept of free markets. Pity he's a lunatic.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Irony of Therese May Leading the EU to Solve the Refugee and Migrant Crisis

Ironically Therese May will now lead the campaign to shore up the flow of migrants. Which is in fact no more than for following the actual rules of the international convention on refugees- that they have the right to seek assylum in the first country they come to.

Furthermore the UK leads the way now on offering assylum to families with young children directly from camps, which is of high humanitarian value in the face of the alternative of illegal trafficing to seondary states and migration to perfered state of assylum. Further to this, is the consideration of safe areas in Afganistan, Somalia, Sudan amongst others countries, where single males of non persecuted ethnicity in particular, could be expected to relocate to  instead of migrating.

 A stage yet further would be to consider the status of Eritreans and Ethiopians in particular who are not political assylum seekers, rather fleeing poor economic possibilities.

These types of sensible actions coupled to a closure of borders and setting up of assylum centres on the periphery of the EU and in such as Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Libya and Lebanon are the way forward for the EU to show that they have control and are acting legally and decently. Merkel can no longer wish for 2 million new, cheap workers to make up for German women wanting to have careers and using contraception.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Nature vs Nurture ....Never Really to Be Solved?

I was a bit perturbed to a state of almost irritation by the full broad side against physical, evidence based science which was unleashed by Professor Oliver James of the Nurture camp. I was rather happily living with the presumption that in the many years since I was actually a scientist, that fellow geneticists would have dropped the notion of genes determining the next Einstein or neurotic teenager, and likewise the nurturists would have dothed cap to hereditary molecule folk and accepted some predetermination tendencie. Alas, not on Prof' James' side.

As his full frontal attack developed I had the destinct assertion that the man had been got at by the American Republican Party's worse science denier PR types, who are doing so much to damage progress on climate change and are also allowing the backward Christian conservative movement to teach theology and worse, pseudo science side by side with equations, DNA, and paleantology. His main contention was that the human gene project had drawn a blank and that all other research on specific links to evern diseased states like schizophrenia, where unconclusive at best.

Well let us indeed criticise the Human Genome Project (HGP). The main finding from the HGP was that there were far fewer nominal genes in our chromosomal DNA than previously envisaged. Which was good news in fact for science, because had we discovered a closer relationship possible between one-gene/one-disease then the patenters would have been out in force, and the uber liberals would have been up in arms about a brave-new-world or GATTACA scenario laid on the plate of big pharma and medical corporations. Instead we found out that all those little threads of evidence in 'post translation', epigenetics, meta controls and so on were actually a bigger part of the picture than the gargantuine hammer laid down to crack the nut of human genetic encoding, the HGP.

Science can now flourish in the areas which were once seen as the 'ticklers' in the flow of genetic information, are now the extended software which creates the ghost in the machines. Higher organisms and even some rather simple bacteria, have evolved to pack down their blueprints and allow other mechanisms above this concentrated coding to unravel and write a larger programme which creates the species and helps it not only survive, but evolve over time. All this would be worthy of a blogg, a chapter, a book, an encyclopedia......

We might actually expect that the mamalian brain was something which requires the most intricate of drawing packages, the biggest instruction book, the longest syphonic sheet music of all creatures. The debate there after is about how much of the human brain is just a white page, or rather a machine programmed to learn - epiphenomenologists would agree- or if far more of the way the animal will behave is predetermined in tendency at least, by genetics and in particular genetic variation. And in that area we are still just beginning to look at genetic variation at the DNA base pair level, on particular locii and in genes which seem to have a correleation to mental disease. Let alone studying the epigenome and its potential effects on complex biological phenomnenon like the nervous system.

Back to Prof'James then. He would rather not concurr with the jolly consensus behavioural and social psychologists had made with geneticists- that the two sciences both have a contribution to make in unravelling both normal and abnormal behaviour, achievement and mediocrity in life.  A full frontal blunderbuss against this notion, the ground of behavioural scienc shall not be shared with the test tube crowd! The geneticist and ethologist I think they were, also taking part in the debate grew a little tired of James's badering, especially after thay had offered the usual well trusted olive branch that upbringing, experience, learning and free will play a large part in any psychological trait, and genetics may or indeed maynot be a contributing factor.

Furthermore, they defended science as not being a route to eurgenics in parents DNA testing each other, because of the amount of genetic recombination going on in our ahem, yep, Gonads. We are mixing new potential people every day of our fertile life span. In turn those mixes get blended together., one set from mum, one from dad, we are 'diploid' we mammals all. i studied one of those little side alleys of genetic control when I was a scientist way back quarter of a century ago- allellic exclusion, where one of the pair of genes we inherit is switched off in either all cells or some special cells like those in the generation of blood cells. It was seen as a fascinating aside, most important in immunology. Years later work keeps on showing that maternal or paternal copies of genes are switched off or turned down to the benefit of the other half's genes.

It turned out that Prof' James is actually on an UberLiberal Ticket - he is most worried about the GATTACA scenario, the eugenic society. Also I dare say like all departmental heads in the UK, he is worried about his streams of funding and this is perhaps then a less than subtle strategy for getting more wonga for non biological psychology.

We stand rather at a point of bafflement from both sides. Psychologists have had since at least the time of Freud, if not the days of Socrates, to come up with solutions to the human condition and of course mental illness. It has longer than molecular biology to observe and then extrapolate ways of predicting and avoiding disease or criminal behaviour. Neuroscience has recently had some major break throughs, in Norway, the USA and UK in particular, and this is because they have decided to look at very simple systems in the brain at the very fewest number of neurones and thus been able to produce experiments and observations which have lead to some level of proof of how our cauliflower like cranial computers.  So we are baffled like the child who took a screwdriver to an iPhone to see the pretty pictures piled up inside. Confused by the compactness of our genetic material in relation to the number of proteins and variations on those we have in our cells and bodies. Left to muse again on how behaviours can arise in one individual yet not another exposed to the same set of social and familial environment.

One area Prof' James side stepped like Fred Astaire was the evidence from identical twin studies, especially those seperated at birth and adopted to disparate families. These can be quite damning in terms of the nurture camp. However there has been criticisms levelled at the methodology and if there is really statistical significance. The main issue here is that some individuals seperated at birth or very early childhood, show remarkably similar behavioural patterns and life choices when studied as adults. These are explained away as the anecdotal, the researcher showing bias in questioning and reporting on the similarities between the twins and ignoring blatant differences. However the anecdotes are pretty over powering in some cases beyond any face value doubt that could be denied in some kind of philosophical or judicial mechanism. Yes though, even perhaps fifty years of identical twin studies is not very conclusive but has some remarkable individal twin pair stories.

Going to a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist with a set of purely verbally reported symptoms seems just as dangerous these days as would have been the case if we had found one-gene/one-disease from the HGP. There is a massive over diagnosis amongst teenagers of ADHD. People who are introverted and a little asocial get landed with teh stigma of Aspergers disease. Clinicians are maybe more likely to reach for the prescription pad now than ever given diagnosis 'disciplines' from patient histories and simple mental agility tests. They get a sure fire diagnosis for a chronic, high value debilitating disease,  and big pharma come along with the cure. a life on ritalin to be normal ...prozac for the neurotic house wives...only big pharma have been in there a long time influencing the diagnostic routine. Pure non molecular psyhological study and routes to describing the normal and differentiating the abnormal, have lead to an epidemic of teenage drug taking in order for angstful, energetic young people to fit into the NeoLiberal success-or-fail economy.

My own little bits of science which put me off being a scientist when it came to micropippetting and loading gels, were odd side shows then and glorious for it. Allellic exclusion. Familial porphyria, the alleged disease of vampires. In studying genetics and in esscence what the hell I wanted to or took my fancy down the library from the journals, I usually discovered that in considering the esoteric in genetics and mol'biol', you usually uncovered a new realisation about the grandoise. In the diversity, you found universality. The miniscule illustrated the bigger system. I remember too an old adage which was coined long before, but much used in the 1980s counter culture which science was in those days - "the more we understand, the less we realise we actually know". I hope prof' Oliver James realises that the benefit of the doubt is wisdom while riding in on your high horse and claiming an unsound higher ground, often leads to a fall.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Scots Whae Hae Wi Wallce Fled?

Scots whae hae wi Wallace- goan aff wur?

I get a bit irritated listening to BBC Scotland's satruday Outdoor magazine. Firstly it is based in Aberdeen, a long way from anything other than dog walks and golfing to do with the outdoors which really is otherwise the essence of so much of  Scotchlandshire- the great escape, the get away from it all. Secondly it is a pair of old duffers who now run the show, and are rather more keen on motorised transport than anything involved sweat and exposure. Thridly, as with their partner in crime Helen, there are rather a lot of English accents where ever they go and talk to people either running small enterprises or managing charitable activities or nature conservation.

This is not a qausi nationalist or racist chant about the English. Nor is it a nasty rant about 'white-settlers' taking jobs and decent housing from rural Scots....although that is worthy of a bit of an economic analysis with posion, this is a cry to Scots themselves!! Where are you all when it concerns our natural heritage, our extreme sports, our leisure opportunities, our hipster craft breweries with hand made sausage suppers?

But first the clearances....the clearances of the Highlands were not all a bad thing in some ways - the most optimistic of the folk took up their kilt hems and ran onto boats bound for the Americas, where they built themselves often farming or mining empires. In fact quite a few who were not evicted or not even crofters joined them on the passage to New Foundland in particular, because life was really a scraped existence in the soggy, wind swept western isles. in The late 18th early 19th C, it was just as easy to get to Halifax as it was to get to Glasgow from Stornoway, when a direct ship could offer you passage o'er the pond.

 Did those who chose to flee to Canada and the USA take with them all the optimism, the risk taking and the bravery? Did we the 'damp, deep fried wee' who were left then also get landed with all the negative genetics, trapped in a dour gene pool for generations to come? What of those  who said, "naw, it's Gleschu for me"- did they not  take a dourness, pessimism and cowardly streak to the fledgling city and central belt?

When I hear about the jobs and enterprises run in Scotland by sasenachs, it gets my hackles up a bit because there are so very many of them on the radio and TV compared to Scots. It seems the majority of Scottish National Heritage's field staff and contractors are from 'up north, down south' while those running quad bike bungee rafting and heather gin nano distilleries have a well recognisable soggy biscuit-school dipthong set or Londinium south bank drawl.

Where are youse, wi  Wallce bled?

Well I have to look at myself and my pals. We were instilled with the 1980s get the hell on in life and probably get out of Scotland or get your head above water with a proper career and education caus it isnae gettin ony better..... public service careers in things like conservation in the late 80s looked like a sure fire area for the Thatcherite axe to fall on. Also running a small, craft business just isn't something our dour, cautious paretns would fund by remortgaging their houses. Other businesses, like those damp hotels with a coal fire, flat old beer and home made scones could be snapped up for little or no money - if you were selling up your two-up-two-down in Surbiton or Mill Hill. That is to say we got a whole set of good lifers who made their capital gains in the 80s on their hooses doon sooth and wandered up to run hotels, cafes, restaurants and so on.

...and all the better the heelan's have been for it. Gone now is that suspicious, sniffy look from the plump barmaid and bald bar manager when you turned up in a goretex jacket rather than fishing tweeds at the local hotel bar. Gone is fish and chips you could play cricket with, and rump steak you could use for repair car tyres. In came venison hot pot, rod caught salmon, aberdeen angus burgers, langoustines.....

White settlers have probably done more for the highland economy in the last twenty years than the HIDB did in the preceeding two decades. They have seen the untapped market for decent grub, decent beer, full booking at reasonable room prices and a warm welcome despite the Surrey Set accent. Gone is that 'white russian' local who disapproved of hillwalking and mountain bikers because they once a month got a £20 tip from a rich huntin-fishin-shootin guest from up the lodge. Gone is having to drive half a day to get a decent meal, or cafes being shut most of the year and in the late afternoon.

However Edina (fowl pretender to the throne of 'capital' ) and the posher bits of Glesga have also had their massive cap-gains for in fact my generation and those a wee bit older who are in the prime of life and ready to go-it-alone, turn on, tune-in, drop-out, seek the a dilapitaded hotel in westerross and start organic tofu farming with yoga classes. But naw. By in large it is the spunked gingersnap slant you hear of the owner proprietor of said whale hugging tours Ltd or tartan themed vegan hotel.

I think the central belt have two issues here. One, we are materialistic bastards so we seek better paid jobs at lower risk to our consumer cedit all the time, while wanting bigger hooses and mortgages all the time. Secondly we look upon the highlands as a nice place to visit for a day or maybe a dirty weekend at Inveraray or Tobermory. Holiday wise, midges rain and traffic queus behind caravans. Our parents may have taken us once or twice to Torrelominos, but often it was 'let's experience our own wonderful, beautiful country and its sour and dour landladies and barstaff".  We got eaten alive ande boiled in the bag of cheap oilskin jackets while our bare legs and faces were pummelled with ice cold, horizontal rain. Nah, heelan's for a jaunt when there is a good wether forecast, out of midge and english caravaner season thank you. Munro bagging and a pint and pie by an open log fire, then piss off back doon the A82 hame.

Heelan'ers are just as bad about their own front yard. Ever since I have been going to the western highlands, the yokals are usually the ruddest barstaff. The fact is that 'service jobs' are below many of their expectations. They want to be in fishun, offshore or self employed forrestry so they can drive round in a twin turbo WRX type shitty korean car with a 12 inch exhaust muzzle and fluffy dice they keep up to taunt the local polis, who keep tellin them to take them doon. Many locals in wester ross, oban and locahber used to hate tourism and didnae like the look o' me mutch. There was nae money in tourism, just the misery of winters on the dole livin in a caravan on at yer maws' hoose. Tourists, especially 'lallan' Scots, were interlopers, perpetuating the circle of shitty lives for chubby wee waitresses who bunked school all the ime.

Since the White Settlers began to untapp those guilders and marks all those years ago now,  by actually offering tourists a scottish experience beyond Birdseye, Bells,  Walkers Shortbread and Fray Bentos,  the whole thing took off with tourists spending more and more cash. Weekend domestic tourism became an all round phenomemnon, as mentioned above, and hillwalking overtook huntin-shootin-fishin as a source of income for the heelands by the late 1990s.

I just don't think that central belters, the vast majority of Scots, set a big enough price on the highlands as much more than a place for short visits. In fact it is often seen as a bit naff having anything to do with the Bens and the Lochs, when compared to clubbin', fitba or the best cappucino in Candleriggs. Renton and co said it all by wanting to get out into the heelan's to take in the breathtaking beauty only to conclude it is shite being scottish if you are scum - even though you have been to RADA ya big poof Ewan.

We just don't see the point in risking our necks in business ventures in somewhere even soggier and colder than Glesga or Edina. My generation are also about ten years behind our paretns at least in terms of size of property we own now, so we don't quite feel we have made it yet, and therefore are not bored enough to become good-lifers on said pine cone tofu farm. In terms of jobs too, Eagle minder, upland recreation officer or wetlands gaurdian type careers just seem silly to us. Not something that will pay the bills, and something likely to get cut back or privatised down to minimum wage.

Well the trick la'lan' Scots are missing is more than enthusiastically taken up by folk who come from really grim places, like Bolton, Basingstoke or Milton Keynes who do want to breath in bracing air and will not dissolve in all day rain. And for those with good equity release, fuck it, why try to run a pub in Croyden when you can sell up in Cranford and buy a hotel with a view of Cruachan?

Coming from the Central Belt of Scotland is a major handicap for optimism it seems. We are just too pessimisteic and cynical to give up graffiti, used needles and broken buckfast bottles for a life in the heelands. Also we maybe are a bit patronising about Teutchters and dont get a warm cosey feeling back from them either.

My own solution would have been Inverness, a town claiming to be a city, but wrapped or even smothered in beatiful highland scenery within easy reach and lots of activities, plus ok pubs last time I was there. I lived there a a summer, 1993 it was, and loved it. But what the Eff would I do there to progress my sidewaysly mobile urban proffessional career? Hee Haw,  without working in the public sector. HIDB was still on the go then, but I never did get to play ball in the Scottish Enterprise croquet team.

I have an old class mate who live there now, bought an old forrester's gaff oot in the woods somewhere between Dores and Nairn, he won't quite elaborate for fear I descend on him no doubt. Works in Ardersheir I think in a high tech siesmic analysis company, probably going bust as I write with these ooil prices.

Retirement plans now loom for me, with only twenty odd years left in work. A meagre inheritance when the olds pop said cloggs. Perhaps I should look at the heelans for a good life in retirement with a wee business reelin it in? Or will I still see the place as nice to visit, but noh tae luv in?

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

What Next for The Left ?

A lot of peooke say that the left have lost their way. They say that the resurgence of elder statesman liberals in opposition like Anthony Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, Jonas Gahr-Støre, is just the last groans of a dinosaur religion.

However it ias not this Left that has lost its way. It goes back to the Blair and Clinton administrations who moved the Left to in effect the centre right, and in essence offered a neoconservative set of policies on many issues, trying in some areas to be as laisez faire and more than their far righ predecessors either side od the Atlantic.

In effect these soft right movements managed on the one hand to oversee a fairly amicable period of economic growth and an ongoing meritocratic change in society. However they also over saw the further shift of power to oligarchical, meta-democratic structures which serve the loose alliances of international capital more than governments and citizens.  Also on the other hand they failed to really appeal to on the one hand, aspirant skilled workers, youth and the economically marginal in the way the left had done so for more than half a century.

Why did the left lose so much of its traditional base? The main reason we propose is simply that people failed to see how the Left's politics could benefit their lives. Also it can be argues that ordinary citizens did not understand the implications of the power shifts happening in the meta-structures of international politics. The simple making-ends-meet and small business economy was that which was sold to the public in the 1980s by the Thatcherite movment and press. People understood more about econonics on that scale and about personal responsibility. These are by no means at odds with most left wing democratic thinking, and in fact we are beginning to come full circle in how making-ends-meet for many workers will require politicisation.

The Neoconservative "new right" had suceeded in creating a post-liberal, some say post-democratic era . They had blamed the dire circumstances of the late 1970s malaise on the outgoing democratic and Labour governments and could pin the labels of negativity on unions and heavy handed fiacal control. In fact many of the root causes of hyperinflation and "stagflation" can be traced back to the Nixon and Heath governments who were unfortunate to endure the oil crisis. 

So we have the 1980s concept of the self steering meritocracy which was a challenge to both old-school-tie /ivy league establishment and collective labour organisatuons. The Left have been painted as part of the old, the outdated, the spent force to which meritocracy is the solution - almost a mass existentialist revolution.

However the net result of 30 years of the far-right and the shift of the parliamentary lwft parties to right of centre, is that power and wealth have been inevitably accumulated in fewer in society. This is by the 'laws' both Adam Smith and Karl Marx described. We have returned, in the west, to a Rentier dominated economy- that is capital collects rent on living and consumption rather than production and value-adding activities.

Relative to the post war 25 years of growth in the Western economies, the neo-conaservative period has been typified by relatively low annual growth figures. This is coupled to fiscal policy which has kept inflation in most of the G7 to low single figures. These two macroeconomic factors are very much what capital needs in orser to accumulate wealth by rentier extraction rather than investing in production.

Manufacturing output in the west has only declined relative to cumulative growth in the economy. It is at a surpirsingly stable value in the UK and USA when adjusted from the end of the 'golden epoch' post war when it flattened. Investment has followed some primary production where economies of scale and often flat labour costs made them viable in the western deposits. Also it followed specific technologies and productivity automation. More than this though it not only followed defence and healthcare, capitalists constructed larger lobby organisations and deeper penetration into especially the Republican and Conservative parties each side of the Atlantic, but also the new, softer left.

It can be argued that growth in the western economies is still generated by primary and secondary elements of the economy, and that the tertiary service sector is not contributing because by nature it does not multiply value, it just moves value. The counter agrument is that industies like tourism change the balance of trade and import net value. Also that some areas considered service are actually a form of value adding on the global market- in particular stock and securities financial industries and service-engineering, be that soft-ware or mechanical servicing etc.

The net result of the value adding is gross domestic product (GDP) measured financially and often discussed in relation to balance of trade with other nations or between say the EU and R.o.W. When the net value of GDP no matter its volume, is financial and that is what constitutes  economic growth or recession. In the global economy we experience the effects of growth in different ways as a nation. We most likely experience lower unemployment due to more demand in the economy. We may experience more spending power on say electronic items made in the far east as our pound, euro, krone or dollar increases in value. We may get wage rises despite being outside any union negotiating power, or we may well find  it easier to move to a better paid job.

The meta-current, the stream above the seemingly low growth, low inflation in national economies and average hourly wage rates, is the Rentier economy. Here internatioinal capitalists can multiply their investments in housing and utilities based on another bottom up mechanism driving value of the basics of life - warmth, food, and a roof over your head- that mechanism being population growth. With only meagre growth in population and meagre growth in average take home pay there is a multiplying 'leverage' in both capital gains on real estate and investment in the flow of credit to consumers who need houses.

Coupled to the ongoing phenonmenon of metropolisation, more people moving to and being born in the big, financially successful cities, Rentier economics are a powerful attraction for capital, with far better return on investment than in manufacturing industry, and often at a lower percieved risk.....especially when the national governments bail out the flow of money to mortgages.

In 2006- 2008 Rentier capitalism became a victim of its own self belief and precipitated the worst global recession since the 1929 Wall Street crash. The crash and recession were bailed out not this time by a new deal to the population and the subsequent command economy of WWII but by huge funding to banks and large creditors. This was paid for by tax, government borrowing and diversion of public spending. Socialism was rolled out for the global elite creditors and best paid employees in the world.

Almost a decade post crash and the average weatern worker is no better off, with fairly stagant wages and even negative equity on their houses if they were unlucky on where and when they bought. Also we are taking far more time to buy, and in the metroplotan areas and high tech 'valleys' many skilled workers are simply priced out of the market. Many are left to live in hope that meritocratic principles will kick in and they will 'work hard and get on'. However the Rentier econony has not only the super global rich in its ranks, it also has the  investment property owners who were the skilled workers of the post war ers, and the successful yuppies and entrepreneurs of the 1980s. They are highly politicised on local and national levels via the Republican and Conservatice parties because they are keen that the Rentier economy is not threatened by legislation.

Here we come back to the humble average worker. The believe in the meritocracy yet is now diluted by low economic growth and export of skilled jobs even in profitable firms like Nabisco. Furthermore, those with higher income can afford to buy their offspring into more favourable economic situations - better education, internships, networking & nepotism and the outright corrupt means of gaining contract levered positions for their graduate children.

Then we have a whole raft of further 'deregulation' via goverment policy and internet facilitated services like Uber, which will reduce earnings per hour for much lower paid work as people compete with simple, available resources like a driving license and a car via another Rentier system. "Rather one percent of one hundred people's labour than 100% of my own" transits from the value added economy to transfering more wealth from the circular sevice economy as labour access is facilitated and devalued.

The cards get stacked against average people and this leads to increasing inequity and dissolusionment. Were before there was dissolusionment with socialist principles and unionisation, which were movements themselves created by dissolusionment with capitalism and the eatablishment. There will be several more years of pain before most of us who sell our labour decide once more than we can achiece gains in our quality of life via organisation and politics.

Monday, 18 April 2016

A Plague of Likes Descended Upon The Chosen of FB

FB and Other Peoples Likes..... Bothered by your newsfeed being full of random other folk's Likes ?

Well you can change it but NOT in settings any more. Simple though as follows......

......just click on the wee pull down top rhs and select "remove from newsfeed" for that post. Do this with three or four asap and FB "learns" you don't want to see other people's Likes,

just the usual shite we post once in a while, vid clips of activities which induce breast oscillations and who has stabbed who in Arendal..

Alternatively You can always delete the app if other people's lives, pets, kids and xenophobia just incessantly annoy you of course ;-)

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Osborne Gets Bitten in the Arse By Thatcherism

Thatcher was of course very right in taking the view point that a soveriegn state should concentrate on balancing its books. This can include of course, having a national mortgage and paying it off consienciously while also like the Uk managed in some years in the mid eighties, to be a national creditor and have a surplus like Norway of course does.

Osborne has the difficult job of fixing this again post Thatcerist 'revolution'. The wheel of capitalist systems has revolved maybe its full and inevitable course to the western societies which embraced the Neo Conservative mantra of low tax low wages, high freedom for business to organise internationally. High unemployment and massive under-employment as industry organised to relocate production and entire brands to Socialist Command Capital China. The anarchy of the global financial system has had nearly a decade of ruin and coroporate and banker welfare in its wake.   Let run free by the Laisez Faire and later confusion governance in the US in particular, but the weaknesses of all soveriegn states, it came back to bite the countries which had levered too much money through their national banks and allowed merchant banks to follow. Ireland, Spain and Greece have just impossible debts to ever realistically pay off within any normal commercial terms.

Also the Thatcherite Neo Conservative philosophy has been firmly bitten by its own rabid dogs - the financial system, the mega billionaires and the mass under-employment we see in the west today. Instead of creating less socialism and state intervention, the revolution has created new, huge forms of socialism in order to avoid social unrest and collapse in trust within the anarchic financial markets. Instead of paying manufacturing industries to survive and perhaps modernise, they now pay for service industries to have a super flexible, disposable, cheap workforce. Instead of increasing public spending on better schooling for all, better health care and better public sports facilities and preventative medicine, they have bailed out the same banks, financial institutes and uber-wealthy oligarchs who demanded they stop bailing out manufacturing industry and opened up trade to China. We see also that former public utilities and privatised services command far higher sums from either the public purse or in comparison to RPI, from the consumer than they did when they were publically owned. While the worker gets most often less take home in these industries, and profits are exported.

George Osborne then finds the biggest sump of money for working age, healthy workers in the public spend is in what Labour tried to address - getting people out of dependancy culture by making work always pay more than not working - in work benefits and tax credits, which by in large now prop up part-time, temporary work or extremely low wages and lack of access to overtime payments. The trouble being that these also prop up bad management practices and marginally profitably business models. In turn his problem is that these are in consumer services, privatised public services and some business services which are all the growth potential areas for the UK as more manufacturing leaves for China. (for example the remnants of the steel industry - Trident 2 will be built from Chinese steel mills)

On the other hand, the years of subsidising and spending on R^&D Linked to supposedly new business creation has turned out to be very closely linked to public spending anyway- a huge proportion is towards defence and health care which in the UK and indeed the US via public employer contributions to health care, are the largest single spends , as for western nations by in large.

If you look at the FTSE top one hundred and other listings, you find that a large proportion of companies are linked into public spending - defence, pharma and of course the propped up financial sector whose debt to societty should be seen as staggering and should be reigned in with new payments. Also we then see the formerly public utilities, who have been exacting above inflation price rises via confusion marketing for two decades now.

Osborne opens Pandoras box  with ideoligical mittens and discovers that his economy is running in a crypto Keynsianist nightmare with money circulating through the state as almost never before. Despite trying to find the usual 'blame Labour' rhetoric, he should really reflect on the Thatcher Revolution being a wheel which will break the back of its own ideology.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Osborne and the Armies of Under-Employed

The chancellor has come round again to of course "Blame Labour", as is the long lasting and middels successful approach to bolstering Tory vote in times of adversity. Now he is trying to firmly pin under-employment and the large social benefits bill which accompanies it, on Labour policy on 'in work benefits and tax credits', known at the time as 'making work always pay'.

As with privatising the Police or bothering to invest in Trident 2 when the Russians or Chinese could buy out the Tory party if they wanted to, the Chancellor will feel the irony of the free market bite him if the Tories live out another parliament and see the fruits of their drive to economically marginalise more voters. What he forgets is the very reasons why 'making work pay' was made policy.

Back in the 1990s Britain was in two transitions- the long term de-industrialisation continued while the privatised service sector grew rapidly and started devaluing work. New enterprises within consumer services blossomed partly by metropolitan and shopping centre demand, but also on the availability of cheap, part time, temporary labour which lowered their cost base significantly. There was of course both a need to have part time staff, and a ready supply from students in particular, or people locked in low wages looking to work harder in job number two.

The problem was that these type jobs came to predominate many areas of the country because of the savings to be made by employers on inconveniences like pensions and redundancy money which permanent staff used to enjoy. Graduates found themselves in the mid nineties that the market for their 'breeze block' university degree skills was saturated. They competed with unqualified school leavers for flipping burgers and cleaning offices. Under-employment became the new hidden social ill. The sickness spread from fast food and shop-jobs to everything from hospital hygeine, life gaurds, supply teaching, agency nurses and airline cabin staff.

The unemployed long before 'in work benefits' could work part time and as long as they kept under 50% and a certain earnings limit, they could claim the dole anway. What Labour tried to do was to coax people off this 50% margin, where many would actually avoid working too much because they would then fall off benefits, while in good knowledge that their employers would cut their hours at a later date or lay them off altogether. Thus they avoided the paper work and bad cash flow of waiting for both their last pay cheque and their first new dole money.

Labour also wanted people to get used to asking for more work, and hoped that as the economy grew, more of these jobs would become less marginal and go over to full time. The trouble was, that both Blair and Brown also wanted to continue and even extend the 'flexible portfolio career' so did not tamper with enmployment laws weakened under Thatcher and Grey Man Major. There was no real economically meaningful improvements in maternity leave, it just got better for some in permanent employ, who may well have had such terms offered as loyalty 'credits' from their better employers anyway. No improvements in the rights to a permanent contract or extended hours.

For people with young families, the benefits culture became all too attractive in comparison to low paid, part time, temporary jobs with no hope of maternity, and the single mum in the council flat became both a small but expensive phenomenon, and a Tory stereotype to bash the welfare state with. The Tories would rather today, forget that Labour tried to reverse this trend by making-work-always-pay more than sitting on purely benefits. Now though they suddenly see that 38% (need citation, it may include tax credits which are not necessarily in the departments budget) of the under pension age social welfare pie goes to these type of benefits.  They suddenly see this as a suibsidy to industry! Wallmart in the USA, have long realised this and have an army of employees who are cheap and readily available, topped up with state benefits.

Now George Osborne run on a knife edge of not being able as a Tory, to weigh down business with a less flexible work law which would favour workers right to full time, permanent employment. While on the other hand he wants to cut this bill and get people off these benefits. He wants to then offer no other incentive than 'go find a full time job' in effect, because by nature of where they stand now, they are in those positions because employers prefer them and can get a virtually endless supply of either UK or now EU and refugee workforce to fill them regardless of benefits on the side.

The heart of the matter is that these benefits are caused by the nature of the post industrial economy and the deskilling of the workforce into a service economy, and privatisting public services with their 'expensive' full time, unionised workers. It still remains pro-rata cheaper to employ part time and/or temporary staff than take on people permanently to longer guaranteed hours.

The old argument of the Tories was that there will always be a demand for out of office hours part timers, seasonal workers and peak hour supplementary staffing, and that indeed there are many students, house wives and early retired people who get real income from these jobs. Also that rather false holy cow of the modern, Eatonite Tory party, THe Small Business, who are always talked of being the future, may be dependent on part time workers to get a foot into growth beyond being one man bands. The trouble is that too much of the economy has gone this way, and the last Tory government let the bill for part timers only rise as we entered the recession aka the finance crisis.

Any UK chancellor in the next parliament has to rather recognise that Capitalism is inherently unbenevolent, and needs democratic laws to reign in its excesses of exploitation. Blair and Brown tickled the situation and cajoled some part time workers and long term marginal benefit workers into working a little more or into taking up those rather low level  jobs that were available. As stated above, the Tories initially did not want  However what is needed is the reduction  or removal  of the pro-rata per hour on costs advantages of part time, temporary staff so that employers face no barrier in how they choose to cover requirements, and gain loyalty and productivity from full time, permanent staff in greater numbers.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Adam Smith's Division of Labour Hits the Buffers

It would seem that Scottish Entrepreneurs are somewhat turning their back on the received wisdom that was once Adam Smith.

As part of a dissertation -part thesis on economics and society I have embarked upon, i am going to compare and contrast two great works in the light of the modern global economy down to the granular, personal economy. Firstly appraising ".....The Wealth of Nations" and then "Das Kapital " with what will - me being me- be taken together and in a modern hiatorical comparisonm as a critical consideration of ideology versus reality.

Adam Smith both observed early pratcices in industrialisation as well as theorising what would come to prevalence - in particular the division of labour in manufacturing processes and its relation to productivity and wealth creation. His theory would suggest that wealth generation grows as the division tends to zero- further division leads to further productivity gains to the point where the smallest practical component or value adding process is commanded by a single worker.

Marx and the Luddites took a partisan view of this particular pratice in jndustry, which they both saw as reducing the skill of a worker and rendering them automatons, and thus reducing their net personal value.
There is a contradiction in Adam Smith's own works regarding this- he viewed on the one hand cottage industries as the example of wealth limitation, as also per sum of output, national wealth, yet he identified that the real denominator in any exchange of value is that of labour rather than money per se.

The conflict here being with the Marx-Luddite view - a worker commands less value for their labour in the infintesimal process,  and is exposed to being overworked due to pressure to produce more or rapidly made obsolete by new machines, or competition from other workers prepared to work for less or forcing down the value of the process in other companies who enter the market.

Today we see a return to see exactly this dilema in western societies - skilled labour for a vast amount of products and primary extraction, are cheaper elsewhere, unskilled process workers also are cheaper, and the remaining unskilled service jobs have a virtually limitless supply of labour in populated areas. However there is a more or less natural movement away from this 'natural' process of finding the lowest common denominator in a global market. This is mannifest in different economical phenoma.

Firstly there is the huge push for qaulity and safety, which both the moderate right and socialist unions and left have driven forward in policy, while many reaponsible corporates have followed in order to avoid current day litigation and future policy shock costs. A big topic, suffice to say it employs cross process highly skilled HSEQ proffessionals, amd empowers operational workers with a higher skill set and hence value.

Secondly you have those areas which are highly linked to national public spending and protected markets - be that by tariff or cultural resistance. The biggest two areas remain defence and health-care . the supposedly private US health care system is arguably dependent on the large, high margin contributions paid for public workers, such as the  police and postal workers.

Getting closer to my otherwise pico-rant-point, the next is where cross process IT and financial market - sector  workers deliver a range of skills across a range of high value industries, projects or transactions and thus command a high price on their head. 

Finally we get to Scottish Micro Brewers, organic ski manufacturers, gin 'instillers', guerrila restaurants and personal therapists ....the nouveaux artisan, the modern craft business, the hipster we are back to piss on the chips of Adam Smith.

We have reversed the process of wealth creation he described, in that in order to command a higher price for their wares while reducing cost to market by being local, the new cottage industries have evolved. Here workers carry out a broad specteum of operations and have an interest and ownership of the product and its high qaulity.

The free market dogmatists have relentlessly moved production to lower-labour-cost-countries, even from profitable western manufacturing companies, or centralised and scaled production, curtting out regional and even national  brands in the name of profit.  Now many skilled graduates and craftsmen miss out the corporate career ladder - moving to the super brewery in Belgium or the desing offixce in Shanghai, and get into these craft companies,moften negotiating share pay, stock options and cheap private equiuty buy in early.

New middle sized, regional brands with some kinds of authenticity, terroir or taste, will emerge and be inevitably sold out to big capitalism, but are likely to last longer and have higher worker equity ownership. Craft delivery and whole supply chains- twee shops, farmers markets, real ale bars, organic restaurants, the wee pie van....people will have less discretionary income if capitalism continues unabated to restrict the metropolitan property markets and lever it into being endless rental for many educated people, and there ia a trend to spend it on local experiences and quality food and drink.

Adam Smith of course didn't get it wrong- he could summise very well the lead indicator and peri-indutrial trends for the times, and in being observative and creative he thought through much logic in what was happening and the shape of things to come. An irony for his staunch ideological followers however, is his anomalous view on the fundamental time over nominal monetary value.

This is a comparative value of labour which has both a truth as an economic principle, while also fights against the way the capitalist system trends to accumulation of wealth and the reduction of value of that labour hours.

Monday, 22 February 2016

The UK's Three Way Split ?

How does the UK break down these days into those who are satisfied their lot as adults of working age ? That is to say  with their income relative to outgoings, their work-life balance and their prospects for things like personal fulfillment and family fortunes?

Going by a mixture of voting statistics over the years and pure wetted=thumb-in-the-air, I would say there is a three way split. This is not actually directly relational to over all household income or net wealth, but follows that bell curve quite well in general.  We could deduce that a third of society are thoroughly discontented, a third of society are very happy thank you while a third of society encompass those who would like to be in the top third, but are frustrated in their efforts or not quite wealthy enough yet.

The happy-thank-you is not mutually exclusive to low income or those who are just breaking even. Rather the opposite, some folk who can just about cut their cloth to suit their form, are content or in ignorant bliss. Yes many of the super rich are in there, but of course many just want to get richer and are paranoid about labour getting better off at their expense.

Happy with their lotters probably correspond with the low turn out for voting, until you put the Scottish Independence Referendum in front of them in Terrra Caledonia that is, when they are moved to keep the status quo ( like status quo the group, a worn out series of releases which are outdated and gathering dust while  a new generation seek indy) Or those in wealth or high position vote Tory to keep the old inverse Robin Hood government in power, and let the capitalist system keep on feeding them at the top at the expense of those at the bottom.

Those Wee Davey Cameron is really interested in is the middle lot who are aspiring. For that we can understand that it is of those people "who want to work hard and get on" who feel that they can best achieve growth in personal wealth by a combination of lower personal taxes and higher house prices. The New RIght had almost succeeded in ridding the country of the idea that Unions or politicians can deliver things like pay rises linked to inflation and not subjective productivity and bonuses based on financial performance of the whole corporate which never quite see the light of day or are piddling litte , a night at a Travel Lodge for the average family.  Or other things like mandatory overtime and anti social hours which politicians delivered, or a large public sector rental market which kept the heat off the housing market and helped middle class junior get their first starter flat before they were middle aged as the case will be now.

Such terrible, terrible things too as rent caps and higher rates on second properties are things which arent wanted by the top third because they have long since discovered that bricks and mortar in a land which does not allow too many new homes to be built, means a levered multiplier which is inflation proof and has survived even this 8 year slow down intact.

What they want you to think the Tories, is that your tax money is being wasted and the best way to personal family income growth is through tax cuts, not sordid union negotiations with employers, oh no. It's always easy to find some council or department or quango who are misusing money, but it is increasingly easy to find disabled people who are having a poorer quality of life due to 'austerity' and what the merchant bankers did to us all.  The Blue Meanies roll out more austerity and further tax cuts to the rich, plus a nice 10% pay rise to politicians. This all to stimulate the economy and make it more attractive to invest in Britain.

The Tories have lived off this mislead middle third for many years, with the top up to the solid vote in their heart lands and the swing vote in the midlands coming from the aspirants who basically have become snobs and hope to be rich enough soon to fund their klids through private schools and  universities and help them buy their first flat. They have been able to lever enough seats on only 37%-43% of the national vote for decades. They have captured a wandering ten percent of the vote, and relied on the lib dems to split the opposition vote.  Only the tories and that ten percent too are locked into the law of averages.

Average income, average pay growth and average house prices and average house price growth. By some level of default, these asipirant peoples are at around average income when single, in the band 22 /33 (by standard deviation guesstimate)  thousand a year, and in the family income of around 40 - 50 k per year, They are no longer the biggest tax cash cow as the rate for higher tax is up, and tax for the first third is removed. Most of them certainly cant rely on a Union negotiating them a pay rise, and are more linked to the career ladder, capital gains on houses and the promise of tax cuts.

There are also within this section many self employed folk, who often fall into being staunch Tory supporters and like having cheap, disposable staff in the new zero-hours, super flexible labour market which damns so many to renting and insecurity. Many of them though feel the breath of the inland revenue and pay their taxes dutifully, while they see trillion pound corporates export their profits and pay a paltry amount of their turn over. Think of the local coffee shop versus star bucks, or the local internet directory versus google. The small staffing agency versus Adecco. The small plumber versus the emerging super pipe bender firms which are emerging. All the time this, and the decline in their customers discretionary income as wages for below average workers stagnate, while the cost of living mysteriously feels a lot higher than the RPI.

My generation, the baby boomers first babies or the war brides second brood, are the first who on average will have a lower standard of living and quite possibly a poorer quality of life than our parents did through working age (which is why I do not live in the UK anymore BTW) We will have less material wealth, all be that at a higher price, we will have longer working hours, we will have slower pay growth and we will work until we are older and many will have to work part time as pensioners in order to have those little luxuries through their 70s.

We have bought our first house age 37 versus a decade earlier for our parents. In part this reflects of course womens careers, but it is a damning indictment on 'a home owning people's democracy' when the majority of us have lived in other peoples houses for the first half of our working lives. This trend, as many of those above, will continue if poltics do not change. Our children will have older parents who need to use more of their capital to pay for themselves in old age. When will they on average be buying a first apartment? age 43? Age 45? Dont forget that the first standard deviation will be buying (like me actually) now into their forties and soon into their fifties with only a decade and a half to pay off the mortgage or have enouggh capital gain to come out even?

Also if we do not stop the trends with how employers treat us and expect us to behave, our children will work even longer for relatively less money in relation to the cost of housing in particular. Internships and work-practice are now becoming an insidious norm in many higher value industries and this will inevitably creep down into all echelons of society as employers simply can demand it because most people expect to do it and the law says nothign against it. This is another force which works against employees and leads to more ageism. As more youth work for free and then grab paid employment at lower rates to pay back that extra year (god help us maybe more( of work experience sans income, ) then they become more attractive than any ageing employees who are seen as less productive, wanting to get home to their families before bedtime and such uneconomic, anti competitive socialist desires. They will be more easy to sack, or more easy to employ on temporary contracts as this becomes the norm across all sectors where labour supply out strips demand.

People have to re-appraise what Capitalism actually does for the individual, and that it failed in the past to provide for the majority of families from cradle to grave. The inevitable extreme of market forces in a society hurtling towards a tertiary, service dominated economy is that you end up paying to go to work, and that is no joking matter.  You pay now to get into work through those months or year as an intern. You pay now by having work in areas where rents are high or rail commuting is ridiculously expensive. More and more of your income goes to capitalists you didnt vote for and have no control over. This is the same set of economics which evolved in the industrial capital age which led inexorably to the rise of organised labour and the movements of both communism, democratic socialism and the milder liberal social democractic centre position post war.

Amongst the aspirants, there are then a lot of baby boomers who now see darkness at the end of the tunnel as they enter their 60s and realise that they arent going to get any better off as employees, and as self employed business people, it is likely that their lot  in or out of the EU will not get that much better under austerity (outside the south of England). Then there are the baby boomers off spring born really in the 1970s and early 80s who are nearing forty, half way into their adult careers and realise they are never going to be as materially well off, or have as much leisure time as their parents. Where as the baby boomers enjoyed unionised work places and high wages in the public sector, their offspring are subjected to pay freezes, down sizing, unpaid over time and under employment in part time or non vocationally relevant jobs. Where as the baby boomers enjoyed a free college education and came out into a good labour market for their rare skills, and an honours degree in anything was a sign of endeavour, the current generation entering middle age have struggled outside the main professions to get a foothold in the market.

Then there are a lot of happy-with-their-lotters who have had it good, not been interested in politics and got by or thrived and tended to vote Tory to be on the safe side. Many of them in the public sector now will be under threat of unemployment or being out sourced or both. Many in manufacturing will be hit by the next round of 'fuck it, lets locate in China' even if their UK based, high tech companies are making profit, the margins will be higher in the peopl'es socialiist republic and the new growth market domestic. Bathed in small, weak government propoganda and unions-made-a-laughing-stock-of-us-in 1978 rhetoric, they still dont see that they can achieve a better standard of living through politics and organised labour.

Back then to looking at Capitalism and how by its own mechanisms, it can only provide from cradle to grave for those who rob enough from other people's living, breathing, waking hours of labour. Capital has organised itself well against organised labour, and tried to break the back of it in most western countries and most all developing countries. It is just out with living memory now, when police in the USA and nazi militia in germany gunned down trade union demonstrations with sub machine guns. Yes, people died for the right for organised labour to grab too much power and become a corrupt parody which bankrupted companies and put national budgets into inbalance. But now capital is able to move and organise where it wants to, exporting profits away from the tax man from wealth extraction countries like the UK, and buying production labour where it is cheapest and least bothered by human rights.

The squeeze is tangible, particularly on the white collar new workers who range from the lowliest of call centre operatives up to some highly educated city executives. As an employee you are either made more and more into a commodity by the supply from Universities, or you are treated more and more like an expendible commodity rather than a resource, because that is the lowest common denominator, That is how low capitalism can go in reducing costs and reducing the risk of having too many employees on its bank roll, with too high a cost of sacking when the new financial year or even quarter comes.

The Tories and the New Right across western countries are still able to of course rely on Organised Captial to help them and they are part and parcel of it, while they can buy the share of voice in the traditional medias for now, and social media soon, in order to get their anti left propaganda across. Coupled to this are all the moral issue but also the aspirant appeal, the American Dream, where the promise of lower taxes and higher property values. This is a linked leverage. In the old days of wage rises, a 1 % rate rise in wages lead to a 3% rise in property value because the average worker could lever three times single income. Now people can lever 5 times family income given they have some seed capital, so a 2% tax cut and a measly sub RPI 1% pay rise, can lead to a 9% rise in property value. Rentals are even better because people without capital or with wages lower than entry level property in a metropolitan area, can pay a far higher portion of their income than owners have to. More well heeled middle to older age workers can move into property and use their time managing flats for rental, with the ability to pay capital and release gains into further investment. Surgeons, dentists  and engineers just give up sweating all day for a living and buy a chain of flats in former slum areas, move out the slum tennants, a lick of paint and some chinese white wares and now it is 'what the market will bare' with the Google Bus or walking distance to the Tube in the former ghetto.

Of course there was a time when I wanted to be one of those well heeled new gentry, but I qualified about three years too late with all and sundry of masters graduates to compete with, rather than a feather in my cap, I was over qualified for the positiion in the ladder I had come on. So really I have rationalised away my mediocre income relative to responsibility and hours travelling or writing meeting reports or strategies, and pissed off abroad where I can work an 8 hour day and no one bats an eyelid, plus I get over time or time in lieu if I work more. Of course all those niceties are under threat across Europe, Canada and Australia now too as we are asked to compete.

Compete with what? We are primary-tertiary economies with a thin layer of high tech which is only there because of government spending on medicare, pharma and defence. On the primary side, we see how Aus , Canada, Norway and the UK are hit by slumps in prices and demand. However there will be uptimes too, where commodities like oil are economic to extract and no one cares if workers make a decent living out of them again. The tertiary economy then, just what are we competing with ?

In the service economy you have many sub sectors where you just cannot really deliver from a lower cost country. Energy for example. Despite new interconnectors, the majority of energy in most EU/EEA countries is produced and  consumed domestically. Interconnectors just have capacity for selling the excess energy when prices are high. Think of this, you cannot sell a burger to a hungry man in Birmingham from Shanghai. There are many more complex consumer and business to business transactions which cannot happen elsewhere, and despite tourism and the internet, a large amount of money circulates within national or regional economies due to physical and cultural ring fences. However these industries are those with the lowest wages and worst working conditions where profits are very often most exported. These are the industries most used to part time labour, avoiding any over time, using zero hours contracts and sacking people at time served or age related thresholds for higher 'on costs'.

We are living in tertiary economies where there is an illusion of the need to compete globally and the propaganda in the media against the ills of unionisation and stronger labour laws which favour full time work, permanent contracts and wages people can live on as active and aspirant members of society with. Taxation is the big stick to hit the electorate with, with the wasteful left wing bearing the brunt while pharma companies extract huge prices for new chronic treatments, while neglecting to invest in new life saving antibiotics. Increasingly, the government pays for the secondary economy, manufacturing and construction, while allowing it too to offer poorer and poorer pay and conditions to workers, relative to the real cost of living.

Capitalism is the only economic system so far which has worked for more than five years in a row, and many capitalist enterprises have failed such as the UK railways before the big 4 monopolisation act. The canals before that. Marconni after all this. The various internet bubble companies. Clive Sinclair, Rover Cars. Woolworths. When capitalism organises itself and then organises government and media to its own ends, then in fact fewer people are taken cradle to grave in a degree of security related to working effort. More people are locked out of being house owners. Fewer people have access to healthcare. Most of all, fewer people actually have ability to earn more money in relation to the cost of living, even when they are self employed. Capitalism accumulates wealth upwards into those who own more at the expense of those who sell their labour, that is an inavoidable truism which Marx, Thacher, Clement Atlee and Donald Trump can agree on. It has found the leverage mechanism to keep that thin third layer in the middle happy most of the time by tax cuts levered to the property market, but now in the west capital is looking to a future where far fewer people own homes and far more are dependent on capiital to provide for them.

In then a bizarre through-the-looking-glass paradox, capitalism offers to be a system to bet on from your cradle to your grave, which will reward your hard work with material gains only that they will be rented to you and provided by nanny capitalism. This view then goes further to mirror the failures of socialism, because increasingly capitalism needs more and more of your income and denies you more and more discretionary spending in order to feed itself as a system of greed and actually build those houses you will rent. It goes so far as of course needing to locate businesses in areas to increase demand for rented property, a planned economy as we see with co-investment in the USA. Also of course it owns more utilities which you have to use, and squeezes more money out of you via these because in order to attract capitalisation on the stock exchange, the 'competing' utilities have to pay-to-play with price parity and high profits, otherwise they dont have enough capital to lever investment in infrastructure.

With small and large employers alike, the owners or 'made man' managers can basically get something cheap or for free in the same way people expected second pairs of glasses on the NHS, or above inflation pay rises from the 'bad old days'. They can expect workers to do interns, or state subsidised work experience. They can offer zero hours contracts, or cut hours without warning. They can demand unpaid overtime as part of the job. When they do all this it goes out over the work force personally, and the state picks up the tab in unemployment and family income support - " work should always pay " is a mantra of both Brown and Cameron, rather than in fact forcing employers to take the responsibility and risk. The nanny state steps in to help prop up weak employers who dont want to risk having too many full time, permanent employees. Corporate welfare by the back door and front.

The state comes and bails them all out these days. Wallmart in the US, get cheap workers bailed out with welfare cheques. Big pharma in the US stil get preferential negotiatioins against the main government private insurance system because it has lobbied it into a cocked hat. The rail companies in the UK get their infrastructure paid for with state bail outs to keep the track safe and open new capacity, and even they get their new rolling stock bought by the state. They get their monopoly routes and over inflation fare rises rubber stamped by a Tory party still desperate to make a success of the mess they made of privatisation without competition. And of course the biggest bail out of them all, they first get national governments and state banks to borrow squillions totally irresponsibly and quite like with wide scale corruption dressed up as economic development. They also demand less control, less restriction, looser laws and the resulting increase in state sponsored, corrupt loans and anarchy in the financial vehicle markets crashes nearly the entirre western economy. Only they get a bail out from the casino they built, the nanny state gives them corporate welfare to protect society from themselves, and then uses the capitalist media to tell citizens that their last (left wing usually) governments were so irresponsible in their borrowing and are the real cause of the ills of society. Capital has organised itself to be ultimately powerful and ultimately legally corrupt.