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Big Money Rules

I've always been overly fond of irony, even though I also accept Rilke's sage advice in 'Letters To A Young Poet':

Irony: Don't let yourself be controlled by it, especially during uncreative moments. When you are fully creative, try to use it, as one more way to take hold of life. Used purely, it too is pure, and one needn't be ashamed of it; but if you feel yourself becoming too familiar with it, if you are afraid of this growing familiarity, then turn to great and serious objects, in front of which it becomes small and helpless.
(Viareggio, April 5th, 1903)

I'm neither young nor a poet, and I'd never actually become ashamed of irony until now. The irony that finally proved too much for me is this - that fate of democracy may now depend upon the best efforts of the US intelligence agencies. They may now be the only institutions capable of arresting (for their own far-from-progressive interests of course) the process described in Diane Ravitch's NYRB …
Recent posts

Social Democracy Uber Alles

The outcry over the revoking of Uber's London licence shows that the service it provides is popular, and it's unquestionably a significant, innovative use of new technology to improve transport. On the other hand the outcry from drivers about lack of benefits and job security show that the application of technology is being used (not uncommonly) both to increase exploitation of the labour force and to flout legal regulation designed to protect labour and customers. The outcry of Black Cab drivers against Uber ignores the fact that people flocked to Uber not merely for convenience (though that is considerable) but because Black Cabs had priced themselves out of the market with the last big price hike.

Put all this together and it's clear that all the parties need to get together and find a workable solution, which is highly unlikely to happen because of the vastly different political atmospheres between UK and USA, and a general lack of adult leadership on both sides. I ca…

Collapse of the Left

The devastating setbacks recently suffered by the Left in the UK, USA, Turkey, Hungary and Poland (perhaps soon to be followed by more within the EU) have not yet lead to any satisfactory explanation of what is going wrong. They're still largely discussed in terms of Right v Left, but using partially outdated definitions of what these terms imply.

For the first half of the 20th century, the democratic Left was associated with socialised services, economic regulation, high wages and worker's rights,, while the Right espoused militarism, privatised services, free markets and low wages. The 1960s counterculture crucially changed the beliefs of the so called New Left in the direction of pacifism, minority rights and social libertarianism, and these positions have now merged into the mainstream Left to produce a bewildering range of different combinations and sects.

The Right still likes militarism, free markets, and individualism but has also adopted substantial parts of New Left …

Trump of Doom?

Thought for the day. The type of economy we call social democracy depended for its success on a willingness of the majority of the population to cooperate as well as compete with one another, giving up a portion of their income in taxes to be spent on various public goods like medicine, education and transport. If the population loses its willingness to make these reasonable sacrifices then it becomes impossible to maintain a social democracy.

The UK population was so willing for at least 30 years following WWII, to a large extent thanks to the experience of necessary cooperation among the generation who fought that war. But over the *last* 30+ years that willingness has been steadily eroded by many factors, including (but by no means confined to): greater individualism stemming from precisely the relative affluence and economic freedom that post-war social democracy conferred; successive economic crises (some related to oil, some to financial recklessness); industrial decline, outsou…

What I've learned this week.

That insecure, narcissistic, retarded-adolescents who can barely distinguish between reality and computer games, are inventing and controlling technologies on which the future of civilisation may depend (Andrew O'Hagan's "The Satoshi Affair" in the LRB, 30th June). That a majority of working people are being written out of this future, robbed of dignity, security and jobs, and they're so furious that they'll lash out right and left at institutions they blame - like Parliament, the EU, and perhaps in November the USA. And that we lack any politicians who have clue what's going on, the nous or the backbone to handle it. It will take some time to digest these lessons.

To be absolutely honest, I did know all this already but, hell, I don't get too many opportunities to exercise my rhetoric nowadays...

Blimey, it could be Brexit!

It's a year since I wrote a new entry on this blog, and that isn't because I have nothing to say, merely that the world is getting crazier faster than I can focus on it. Now though, faced with an imminent EU referendum, it would be remiss not to say something. Boris, Gove and the other Brexiteers have the scent of victory in their nostrils, a scent wafting from a silent majority who don't share their real thoughts with pollsters. This scent is part xenophobia – the Brexiteers are convincing many people that leaving the EU would reduce immigration, which it won't – but also partly from their simmering rage against liberal media and cultural elites who have for several decades been fiddling while they were robbed of security, dignity, jobs. Unfortunately the Remain campaign relies on precisely those elites for advocates, which simply turns up the heat under the simmering pot.

So what of a "Left Case For Brexit"? There isn't one. Even if you sneakily share s…

Connection Lost: the crisis of social democracy

I'm not going to claim to have predicted Cameron's success and Labour's defeat in the general election: that would suggest an expertise in psephology that I don't possess, as well as being in poor taste. I will claim though to have expressed a bad feeling about the way things were going for some years before the disaster. For example in reply to a Facebook friend who reposted Paul Krugman's excellent refutation of the case for austerity on April 29th I said this:
"A very good article on economics, as you'd expect from Krugman, but this election is about politics. Austerity is really about punishing 'welfare scroungers' and the immigrants who 'steal our jobs'. The Tories and UKIP are succeeding in selling this story to a large part of the public. Never underestimate the desire to punish. Labour is trapped by this story, as it can't be seen as soft on either scapegoat group. It's not about the real economics at all." That reply co…