Wednesday, 19 October 2011

OccupyLSX, Dan Hodges and our Lovely movement:

This post became too long, so i'm doing series on the Left and modern politics, for now i will restrict this just to demographics.

Today there is a clear and problematic divide between the Parliamentary Left Wing movement, and the activist Left Wing movement, and it is seriously hindering the whole process of getting our views out there. In part because it means we lack a forceful direction, more because it means that many middle ground lefties, between the radicals and moderates, which is still a lot of people, and the people who might be actually campaigning if they didn't feel so exempt and depressed by it all. The Left movement hinges far more on having a ground swell of activists ready to commit to work, and if we don't fix this, then there are just the career activists who few people relate too, and the people who write sneering blogs on the other side, Dan Hodges, i am looking at you.

So firstly, a bit of demographics and psychology of politics. So first things first, i am sure you are all aware that the way you perceive the world, is not the way everyone does, maybe you studied Plato, maybe you were talking with someone who just failed to get where you were coming from, the point is that people perceive the world in radically different ways and the way human beings as a whole have perceived the world has changed massively throughout history. In the stone ages a tree was green, brown and course, when i look at a tree i know these things, i also know that it is composed of billions of tiny cells that have millions of chemical reactions going on inside of them and that all of this is really just a consequence of atomic vibration stated by an explosion that occurred trillions of years ago, this means little to my day to day activities but it means that i know there is far more going on in the world than what my senses tell me, and to consequently value hardened research to reach my conclusions rather than personal experience (to brutally simplify.) So anyway, George Lakoff, in his little handbook "Don't think of an elephant" suggested that the contradictory ideas that make up our political standpoints are in fact defined by an overarching look on the world, the left tend to see the Human interaction as something that is maximized by cooperative and caring interaction, whereas the right tends to see Human interaction as one of dominance and self interest, the only thing to do is to look after yourself and your family (Gene's and all that). This view is taken in varying degrees, and among people it is usually contradictory, still the reason you will never get a political candidate get 90% of the vote, or even 60% is that there are usually people very hardened into one state of mind or the other, enough to consider themselves of one clear side anyway.

So firstly the center ground is a minority group, not the majority, just the one place where people are likely to shift allegiances. Lets break an imaginary country down then into three camps, the cooperation camp, the freedom camp and the Not sure camp, about 40% would say they are cooperative, 40% would say they are all about freedom and about 20% would be truly undecided, though there are of course people who are not 100% loyal to the first two camps and and might be tempted to opt in for the Not sure (Heard of the radical centrists anyone?). There are of course all sorts of mitigating factors, faith in politics or certain parties, nationality, race, the list is very long. But what is important to see is that there are clear ways of looking on the world, and so without ever listening to the debates or Parliamentary speeches most people with have a certain disposition to a certain political movement.

But right now we are in a real problem, there is a massive gulf between those on the Far Left and those on the Center left (Damn i hate saying far, radical or extreme) and this is knocking out a lot of people who solidly agree with left wing ideas but do not fit into either increasingly isolated camp. I feel a lot like this at times, i get bored when i hear talk about bringing about industrial revolutions and crushing capitalism because it just sounds so old, uninformed and narrow minded (not that we don't need to do this) but i get viscerally angry when i read something on Labour Uncut whinging about how the Labour party has gone all naive and left wing, or how social democracy is no longer affordable (How is it that we have more stuff but are unable to pay for what we had?). I don't think capitalism is Humanities final point of evolution, there is a lot we have to fix, but making lots of random jumps off into the darkness are not often the best ways of finding a better way, not to mention it will probably kill a lot of people in the process. But i digress.

This is a real problem because it means both the day to day social issues that activists get involved in are isolated from potential core members and the Parliamentary left (Centrists) don't have boots on the ground, meaning they have to cow tow more to easy populist ideas rather than meeting the genuine ideals of a Left wing party. This is why we need to reconcile, and it requires a great deal of effort from all sides, which i'll talk about later.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Syria, America's original sin.

1947 is the moment original sin was committed by America on the middle east, it was the first real time they actively moved to change the political dynamics in the region in their favor, with disturbing relation to the neoconservatives ambitions today. This was the moment the American government set out to bring Democracy to Syria, and of course in the process create an ally to America to contain the Soviets in the process. Oil also had a role to play in this game too.

In 1947 there was an election due, the American government warned many people in authority not to intimidate voters, oil companies made some drafts to vote (billboard pictures telling people to vote etc). This isn't either high minded or stupid of them, as much as we like to mock the American establishment for stupidity, it has been for a long time known in the field of IR or Political Science that Democracy has all sorts of international benefits for the West. This was a disaster, warning did nothing to stop intimidation, money was used to buy votes, in general it looked very much like a 19th century British election, full of corruption and intimidation, quite a few people also died over it.

What came next was the true moment of sin though. It was decided that the elites in the country were too powerful, and so to introduce a proper democracy into Syria there would be a need to create a powerful leader who would willingly create and enforce a democratic process in  the country. This led to the backing of a military leader general Za'im who promised to throw out all the corrupt influences on the political system and work towards creating an independent Democracy. The moment he got into power i am sure you can guess what happened, he went back on his promises, began a horrific campaign of intimidation and political consolidation. Eventually he was shot to bits by his lieutenants and it began a decades long series of coups, counter revolutions and general chaos that eventually led to the rise of the Baath party.

All of this is traceable back to the American action team that went in to create a dictatorship in this country, for democracy or not, their bad calculations lead to many people dead, something they are responsible even today for doing. I am not sure what is the best course of action for Syria today, but it is not a situation America can rightfully dust its hands of, whatever their means, be it economic sanctions, stern words, food and medical aid for those killed in the uprising, it needs to be done, because this isn't just Syrians being true to their nature, it is a result of American hubris in thinking they can so easily reshape the world in their image and if they want to not be ostracised by the international community for decades after they fall from grace, then they should start making reparations now while they still have the power to do something.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Palestine, Israel and Racism

If you want proof of Israel's institutional racism towards the Palestinians I would think you need look no further than this article. I am not going to go into the overwhelmingly complex and depressing saga that is the Gaza situation to day, but any country that is willing to trade over 1000 prisoners for a single private is a country that is not fearing its national security from that area.

Hitler once said that a single German life was worth 1,000,000,000 Russian lives, what we see is that arrogant assumption put into hard reality in this whole affair. Also, no i am not saying this deal shouldn't be done, just that it is telling of the country we are dealing with in a way that shatters a lot of Right wing myths of Israel feeling constantly under siege.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Battlestar Galactica: Build a fucking embassy

Just a small note here, i am in the process of watching a shit tonne of old sci fi stuff right now, well old might not be the right word, sci fi that was on sky when i was a teenager is a better description. Anyway, the whole program annoys me from start to finish in a love hate sort of way, i find myself frequently shouting out in anger at the stupidity and arrogance of all parties involved.

My biggest issue from the very first episode, to the beginning of the third season is that almost all the issues of this war could have been resolved by totally nice means.

*Spoiler Alert*

So first things first, Cylons spend all the series basically going on about how brutal and evil Humanity is and that if they do not destroy humanity they will be destroyed, even though the first episode basically involves the humans downsizing their fleet and you know, the Cylons try to commit genocide on Humans, something the Humans have never apparently tried on the Cylons.

In season 3, the Cylons have occupied a new human colony, New Caprica, and when an exasperated Baltar begs them to leave the Cylon head goes into this long diatribe at how you would nurse this injury and many years down the line seek vengeance. This is by the way after Cylon's occupy and oppress the humans for half a year, but what annoyed me is that there is just "We leave, we occupy or you die." mentality to just about every issue in this series. Still i hold firm that just about every issue could have just been dealt with by, you know, an embassy? A place where Cylons could go to Humans with stuff like "We would like to spread the word of our one god, and it would be like Super Cool if we could build a missionary's or something in your colony to peacefully convert people?" to which a Human diplomat would probably respond. "Well i am not too fond of intruding on our practices, but we are a fully functioning modern democracy that allows all ranges of opinions to be heard, so sure."

Its the same bloody problem at every turn, the whole show turns into basically one massive statement about how lying and being dishonest is bad because they keep on doing just that, and it winds up hurting whoever does it. I hope that's the big metaphor rather than all this god crap, because it would be a lot more grounded in the reality of the show in that case.

Why doesn't Labour learn its lessons?

I am a card carrying labour member, in every election i have put down their name in the electoral ballot, still, as time goes on i find myself worn down by the self destructive attitude the party seems to condemn itself too. People argue about a shift to the Left like that's a bad thing in the party, they suppress anyone within the party who says such a move might be for the best, i wouldn't mind that if they weren't such dicks about it like Dan Hodges. Still, there is something that annoys me more, this political class, have so deluded themselves that at best they are making themselves redundant, and at worst slowly committing suicide.

So firstly a bit of family history here, my Gran-dad was born into a family of Sheffield Coal miners, conservatives, my great Gran-dad was in fact a stone mason, still he entered a comprehensive and from there went into Oxford. I am not sure at which precise time it was, but i believe at some point during or soon after University he became a Fabian, an intellectual wing of parliamentary socialists affiliated with the Labour party who date back as far as the 1890's, if not more (My history on the subject is somewhat lax sadly.). Since then he helped Labour at every single election, through the bitter 1980's he would go out to the hard end estates with my mum and aunt and would canvass for Labour, in 1997 his house was a base of operations for the local canvassing operations that my whole family involved themselves in. In 2004 the Iraq war went down against mass protest, my Grandfather resigned from the Labour party though kept on as a Fabian, he hasn't canvassed for them since, though he is getting quite old so in part it is down to that, but my family do not really canvass either, a tiny bit last election, but it was really just to help me with it.

The next story took place about 3 days ago, it was freshers fair and i was standing in the freezing rain at the Essex Freshers fair, i was in a tartan black and white shirt as has become the trend around Essex as i had misjudged the weather and consequently soaked myself. Now i am sure i do not need to say that my politics are quite to the left of where Labour is now, but i am responsible enough to hold some of their opinions and not distort the message too much, we arn't directly affiliated so its also fine to be a bit more radical. Still, you have no idea how hard it is to get people to sign up to Labour on what is being offered, the Grass roots are drying up, you know how much membership has declined in the last few decades, i mean its across all parties but we started with a larger base and derive more of a need from them. People are turned off by Ed Miliband, they are turned off by soppy politics with no backbone, they crave some actual left wing policy's, half of the people signed up, and most of the Councillor's and helpers the CLP sent from Headquarters were so obviously there sustained primarily by either familial attachments, historical respect for Labour or righteous fury at the conservatives.

You can't win an election like this, Labour Heads say that the party voters vote for moderate candidates, but that's because firstly you bombard them with messages of (if you don't we will loose) but more because ideological left wingers migrated from the party en mass. The ones left are pragmatic lefties which while important for some rationalizing of policy, cannot win an election by themselves, let alone have a meaningful administration of reform.

Still what made things very sad for me, was Miliband's response to university fees, £6,000? If the saying "The difference between Democrats and republicans is that Democrats 'care' about the people they hurt" rings all the more true here. Trust me, the students do remember, because they tell me every day, and i personally am done defending their record. Its not enough to deny anything a Lefty could want and then belittle us for being politically unreasonable.

The thing is though, is that you need us, you didn't loose the election in 2010 because there was a mass migration to the Tories, sure there were some, over immigration and the Iraq war to Tories and Liberal Democrats respectively. But the majority lost were just Labour voters who didn't go out to vote, because they didn't see you doing anything for them. How do you even expect to fight the next election when you keep hitting the membership base so hard, sure there are centrists who will go out, and small groups of reluctant left wingers, but ultimately your stuck with a small team because why the fuck should they work to get a center right party in? Just because the masquerade as left wingers who are bowing to the needs of the day?

This is not to berate the Labour party, this is me pleading for them to get their act together and look out for the interests of the people they are supposed to represent, this doesn't mean going back to the 70's, it just means actually putting the Socialist bottom line of equality by Economic, Political and Social matters at the front of our policy decisions, not just in word but in white paper.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Britain's World Status:

A real problem in Britain today is definitely how we view ourselves, on one hand we view ourselves as the pragmatic defenders of liberty, the ones who helped see of the Nazi's then quietly began to dismantle our empire as the Americans took over. In the modern sense we tend to be very negative about our own chances to become something better, we think we suck at making and doing everything, we think we have a terrible government system and that we are all lazy and useless, thing is all of this is totally contrived and wrong, yet i think it explains a lot about our society today.

The first part is fairly obvious, it makes quite a few people a lot more racist than need be and makes it very hard to apologies for unanswered crimes against many cultures, i mean i do think the Empire did have some good qualities for the time, they tended to export liberal ideas about equality before the law and strong private property laws that were initially well received in places like India where people were used to having there property spontaneously taken by local dignitaries. But at the same time there is the stuff like the tens of millions starved to death in India to keep up the price of certain exports, or the whole half the population dying out in Ireland due to no aid relief that the country has never recovered from (8 million to 3 million in the space of about 5 years, and you wonder why republicans are a tad sensitive about you taking the piss out of there accent.) Also, it builds an idolized idea about the state of our society back when, which gives more unneeded fire for conservative rhetoric.

Still the second is the one that most irks me day in day out. The idea that we can't make anything firstly makes me annoyed because it tends to be blamed on the Unions, who granted played there part wiggling the growth figures but were ultimately a small part of the problem, secondly it makes me annoyed because it tends to come from a position of no idea about how we relate to other countries, so here is some British econ history done very briefly, and some stuff about free trade. All stats are rough estimates.

So firstly, in 1948 Britain was actually looking like it was going to be the golden boy of Europe in terms of growth figures, its industry was back on track, its debts kept under control from post war inflation and austerity measures imposed by the Atlee government, the NHS provided the grounds for a healthy workforce and generally things were going relatively smoothly, until conservatives got in. Now its not that conservatives are bad with economics (though its a part) but due to a trade union system that had little central control and very militant grass roots there were a lot of pointless, and disruptive union actions, it was also very political as it was felt that England had modernized and the old class privilege had eroded, they were now citizens not servants. A larger part of the problem was that there was a government in that had no scope for what to do with the half finished plan the Labour party had set out with, they were aversion to fights with the Unions, so Unions often got their way, but worst of all, was that they had no idea what to do with the nationalized industries, let alone the rest of the economy. This is the big issue because what was needed at the time was a serious industrial plan to bring the economy upwards faster, Germany did this by managing the unions, keeping wages low but with a social security safety net while giving incentives to small business's, the Netherlands nationalized their finance and used it to pump money into the other services and France nationalized industry to pump government investment into it.

This was the key problem, for while the Netherlands, Germany and France all soured in growth throughout the 50's and on wards, the British and the Irish were the only ones to not meet their growth targets (Ireland because they initially focused on creating a land owning small farmer ideal for its people and failed). This is a systemic issue with our country, we tend not to directly invest in our industry at all, Ted Heath bought shares in company's, Labour nationalized services but didn't do much else to them. This was alright while there was little inter country trading but when the barriers went down we did suffer, we didn't need to suffer in the way Thatcher led us to, but the system did need resolving, it still does, and it revolves around actually working with the Unions and founding a proper plan for investment into our industries.

Secondly is about free trade, now a lot of people tend to think China has us horrifically outprices, and if you think of it in terms of wages then you would probably be right, you can't really compare 25p an hour to £6.40 that is i think roughly our minimum wage. But in industry wages only account for about 5% of the total cost of running a secondary industry. The main money is in the 100 million or so to set up a factory, the millions in getting the machinery and buying the stock afterwards, the cost for line workers is tiny so even a big gap is ultimately a small part of the issue, this is why we loose business but the Germans still have a lot of it. This brings me back to my point about planning and investment, it isn't hard to beat wage competition if we invest in our industries, and by that i mean the government collects tax money and directly invests it in infrastructure and the companies themselves, get them better machinery and they will be able to stay ahead of the Chinese undercutting them.

Of course, we may not even want that with our many other business ventures in the services and high tech fields.

What i am trying to point out is that England isn't in some deep seated decline, nor is it hopelessly doomed to be devoured by the Asian giants, our problems are real and achievable and they don't exist in the over-romanticized lessaiz faire system we had before the 20th century.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Christmas and Other Holiday's

I am an Atheist, my whole family are atheist's, much of my extended family are atheistic, yet every year we still celebrate Christmas. It is also a proper celebration, not some formalized present giving exchange, we get a tree, we put sparkly shit on it, i still even call it Christmas, its still a christian holiday as far as i care to think and yet i still celebrate it.

Now, the issue as to why i do this, doesn't need much explaining, its fun, its nice, its all over the fucking place and hard to shut yourself away from, above all though, why not? Now, this brings me to my next point, why not, as an atheist, don't i do the same for other holidays?

Once again, obvious reason: Its not a tradition in this country, or rather its not really a national tradition. We don't have a set of seasonal holiday films for Ramadan or the Festival or Lights or Chinese new year, so it never occurs to Atheists who have no vested interest in the spiritual undertones of these festivals but might enjoy the whole sharing and giving feel of it to actually go ahead and do it. Still we could, and i say we should, unless you don't like giving and enjoying the company of family or friends, but then if that's the case why are you celebrating Christmas, except for of course if your Christian, at which point i am sure your laughing at me right now safe in the knowledge that i'll be burning in hell for all this sacrilegious devil talk.

But as for Atheists this would be great, another chance to show people you care about them, and if you have a problem with the materialistic edge of Christmas then just bake them cupcakes or some other surgery treat. But my point is that holidays are generally nice, i think most people tend to enjoy them and if we aren't restricted by religion then its good to join in. Also it would be great for wider society, religions that are smaller in this country might feel more accepted if their holiday becomes a bigger part of the year and less inclined to hate Atheists, i mean surely they would be less hateful of us if we show a keen interest and help promote their own presence in the country by just taking their religious holiday as an excuse to get together.

Now of course, we really shouldn't need an excuse to show that you care about people around you, but having something with an exact time does help it easier to organize, I mean i am terrible most of the time organizing well, any aspect of my life really, its amazing i got this far. But holidays are easy, because you see them months in advance.

At any rate, i doubt Atheists hijacking any other holidays other than Christmas are about to happen anytime soon, but i think its a great opportunity, another excuse to get people together, another means of making multiculturalism work, and a great resolution to the Xmas issue, we no longer have to make Christmas our own because we can leech the joy out of all the others too!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Needs Improvement

So i recently read a piece by Tessa Jowell and something about it has been making me uncomfortable, I am not entirely sure, but it feels to me like a false flag Blairite message. That wouldn't be so bad if it didn't reek so much of technocratic double speak with a disturbingly soviet edge to it.

So firstly there are the most piontless statistics in the world, the kind that exist on Open Europe or something, it is very Think Tankish (Not the good kind, the secret PR but masquerading as unbiased type)

"one in four of the voters that Labour lost said they saw government as ‘part of the problem, not the solution"

How does this mean anything at all? I mean Government is the most loose term anyone could use. What are these people? Daily Mail readers angry at Benefit cheats and apparently inefficient public service. Or equally likely they could be talking about police brutality and pointless wars. They could be just thinking about the Expenses scandal and other such occasions that have no indictment to the general functions of our government.

Still, the more important part i think we have is this:

"Government must move away from the ‘delivery state' to what has been called the ‘relational state': committed to developing people's relationships rather than the technocratic language of outputs, targets, and value-for-money."

Now firstly you might think: Ooh thats a lot of lovey dovey wank that will be forgotten the moment they get in. But while you could with confidence say that it sounds to at least in rhetoric come out against the managerial culture, I think it ends out being a lot more insidious.

You see, I think decentralization is overall a good thing, giving experts on local areas a greater say in local matters means a much more accurate approach to local issues, and we should be attempting to find a way to reconcile this with a strong state. I think currently we should be striving for an ideal where the local government aims and the central government shoots in regard to the application of our expenditures.

But i don't think this is what the aim is really for, these are the same people who 13 years ago were talking about bringing private sector rigor to the public sector under the idea of targets and management. These are the same people as then, and I do not think that has changed. What i think is more likely to happen is this will collide with the interests of appearing fiscally responsible and the lack of drive to really undo the target system, and what we will gain instead is a system that will intrude into the home life  make some gains, but ultimately cause a very cold, soviet intrusion into the home life, one that won't resolve much, because the finance won't be there, and won't resolve much, because people will be constrained by the targets, and rigid command diktats on interaction.

We already see it now don't we? Ed Miliband has centralized the party amid all the guff about becoming decentralized  gutted certain powers and at most opportunities gone for the route that makes him look prudent to the pundit class rather than dedicated to any "More to life than money and stats" ideas his crew espouse. This I wouldn't blame on him but of the general modern management of policy ideas - Think Tanks are the problem here, not all mind you, but many of the recently designed Tanks are not operations to develop new ideas, but are at best designed as PR machines that crank out a lot of pointless stats to support their sectional interests, and at worst actively prevent ideas that cannot be easily quantified.

This is ultimately the problem with so many policies to date, if it cannot be quantified it has no value, and while empirical evidence is of course a useful tool, it gives little room for originality in policy debates, also, basing policy on such foundations make it almost impossible to revoke systems of bureaucratic control because firstly comes the belief that everything can be planned out and secondly because to the letter bureaucracy makes keeping account of statistics very easy.

The biggest problem in all this is that i think that Labour has truly been taken in by the idea of a self sustaining system of the market, i think they have fallen for Hayek without realizing it. The entire system is not about liberty though it (as he) often espouses freedom,and that people fundamentally knowing exactly what is best for them, if only subconsciously (They don't, i certainly don't and even experts that can help you on particular issues don't on many others) But this is really just another means of control, it fixes this world is stone, and deals a very very cruel blow to anyone who is unhappy with their existence.

Labour believes in this self  balancing system, they wouldn't have ceded power to the central bank if they didn't, they wouldn't have instituted managerial in the first place if they didn't. They still do now, because they are still practicing the same politics, hiding behind stats and polls dreamed up by PR machines and stating they are acting on behalf of the people's will. There has been no grand gesture yet that we are truly moving to an age of genuine decentralization and empathy from the state, oh sure lip service has gone on, but that's all, some early speeches and a toothless Refounding Labour operation while Ed Miliband attempts to gut independents power in an attempt to better cement his leadership, rather than say unify the Left under a well constructed theory on what society should be, rather there has been almost no backbite to the Tories, no grand design.

Now, it is still early in the game. I won't say that a capacity for genuine change does not exist. But if change for the better is to come it cannot be at the tools of the past. We need to gut the Blairites and purge the party of number crunching busy bodies, and get back to deciding policy in the old style of debate and grand ideas. Sure, we may not win the next election on this, but if we don't i think we will loose the next few after this, and we won't achieve anything with the Pyrrhic victory we would win there after exhausting all our political capital. If we can get out of this technocratic culture then Labour might at least start being able to come up with grand new ideas, without getting stuck in the mire of juked stats that pervade the political class today. If we don't change how we fundamentally create our ideas then any aspirations for radical change we might have will become bogged down by Technocratic practicality.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The importance of Rap

I was born to parents who were very much socially middle class, if not monetarily so. Because of this I had middle class friends, I did middle class things and I listened to a lot of middle class music, though my parents being the open minded sorts also had a lot of variety to the latter. The importance to this is that while I grew up I knew as some unknown middle class meme that Indie and Metal were awesome and rap was for idiots.

How little I knew.

Now after going through a sort of personal music renaissance in no small part assisted by my lovely flatmates I have learned some very important lessons, namely that  it’s not about the genre, it’s about the quality of content.

Still, after reading a very interesting piece I realised that many people are held back by class based music tastes (the indie / rap divide and yes I know it’s far more complex than that.) Even if it’s not a matter they see as such, it is probably that they have an intimate knowledge of middle class music because that is what they listen to on the radio because of their parents and what not and the certain values they hold and ultimately won’t explore the deeper realms of another genre. Effectively they will know that U2 is kind of sucky but Bloc Party or The XX is cool (Shout out to Elliott Peoples yeah!). Whereas they won’t be able to tell the difference between 50cent and Public Enemy, This is a real shame for two reasons:

1.       History has repeated itself: the music of the 1960’s was at first ignored by a lot of middle class kids who might have had anti establishment feelings, after all the early hippy music was the work of the sons of the post war working classes. Not all of it, but ever since the 1950’s rock and roll was considered dirty and low brow. It is a shame that rap has been tarred with the same brush.
2.       Rap currently holds the chalice for offering a tune to resistance. It is no wonder that at in 1980’s America the counter culture was firmly in Rap (with honourable exceptions)  and by the 1990’s in Britain too ,you know that time, when the indie music stopped being a bunch of Northern working class boys and turned into  a leisure activity for middle class Londoners like me.
So now I shall defend rap, because even in a diminished state I would say that rap is an incredibly powerful force of resistance and adopting it will really make our resistance to American economic imperialism and general right wing devilry a lot more up to date.

So firstly to clear the air, yes, there is a lot of crap rap out there, there is also a lot of crap band music out there, they suffer the same problem which is the sanitising force of record labels and the marketing of music. Each genre is equally bad for different reasons, they can also be as good as each other, you just need to look, which is what this is all about really.

So before I actually go on to define some of the brilliance in rap music it is perhaps a good idea to look at what music is. What music boils down to is hitting certain pitches at certain times to develop a beat, you can expand beyond this as Orchestra’s do, or keep things real minimal, you can write good music with either. Because what is fundamental to modern music is that it is the communication of emotion. That’s the brilliance of music, you hit a few notes, maybe with some singing (though instrumentals prove you don’t need words) and people can feel a base sense of communication with the person, it is why there are so many people who develop almost cult like obsessions with bands, because it feels like the band is speaking directly to them. This is also why music is so powerful and threatening, because you can say so much more by communicating on the very base level of human feeling, something that not much else can do. Above all, it can be done with almost anything, those pitches aren’t constrained by any one instrument, they are esoteric and universal which is why it is pointless to ignore one whole genre of music.

So rap shouldn’t be ignored, but why should it be listened too? Because the medium itself is the zenith of what blues and rock started out doing that is to let almost anyone communicate powerful emotions. I say this because to rap you don’t even need to master an instrument; it’s about your mind and finding something to keep yourself to beat.

But what of substance?

Rap is what you make it, but it just so happens that the non-corporate rap, which is a large force of itself, is also a powerful embodiment for resistance. For a start huge amounts of it almost reverse what corporate power does. You know how the punks and stuff got made main stream when shredded jeans and studded jackets went on sale in stores? Well rap does the reverse by taking move soundtracks and all sorts of other sound bites and tears them apart, then revamps them and uses them to spit bars over. I mean fuck, that’s like taking the sanitising corporate structure then ripping bits off it and using it to savage them. No music genre since this has been able to turn it around so, and while yes large quantities of the rap industry are crappy sell outs, that’s how it is, it’s Sturgeons Law: “90% of everything is crap.”

But there is no point in listening to it if all they were rapping about was they are hard and get lots of women, that’s fair, I get that. It is a good thing then that the unsigned counter culture out there does nothing of the sort. Our counter culture of today is not spurned onwards by a hope for the future, it is rather a deep cynicism in the failure of our leaders to provide a better future, that our society is sick and is internally eroding and the many scandals that pervaded our system in recent years is testament to this. The true heirs of rap get this, their music is the perfect setting to those London riots, it’s about anger beyond sense, destruction beyond any reasons, it’s a: I’ll beat the shit out of you and throw you off your moral high ground how dare you idiots pass judgement on me with your hypocritical shell of a society. Listen to Meat Market by LDZ or Poison Penmanship by Rhyme Asylum. You may say they are just talking tough, but then you really don’t get were working people are coming from these days.

Still, if you’re not charmed by the esoteric ideas of resistance by existence and lifestyle, I will direct you finally to Immortal Technique. This guy has moved free of a label hundreds of thousands of his own records, and is well known on the East Coast as a talented free stylist. All his work is him rapping about the oppression of the third world and the Proletariat in general, class and societal issues with strong support for 3rd world industrial socialist principles. You want a living example of an anti establishment protest singer, don’t look for small venue middle class protest singers (not that they are bad or anything) look at a guy who was repeatedly thrown in jail before coming to his sense (his words) and now does all sorts of charity gigs, keeps his music totally independent of a label and puts vast amounts of money into land in Latin America, to understand the importance of the last listen to his music.

I would like to end this with a little quote by Ernst Fischer
“In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable. And help to change it. 
Rap currently satisfies the first half of this excellently, it is with hard hitting imagery and coarse language able to show the sickness within our society. Perhaps if we become more open to this style of music the middle class can hope to add some vision of change within it too.

That is what I hope for anyway.


Hey everyone, just a quick note.

Stop doing the whole "Oh they talk about the deficit but they seem to have the money to do X."

Not because its wrong, but because it only feeds the actual idea that the deficit is an issue. Even bringing up this point as an ironic statement is just reminding everyone about the deficit, which should be the last thing on our minds right now.

Secondly, its just nasty and cynical, it reduces some disgusting policy decisions that can ruin peoples lives but we talk about it as a budget issue. The actual problem of policies that are harming people then get less attention paid to and that should have been the center of the debate from the outset.

Yes a lot of people will state that whatever X policy decision is will be awful, like evicting people from their homes, how much money that costs is inconsequential to anyone but a total cynic, and that's a point of view, not a lifestyle. We should speak about and critique deficit reduction on its own merits of being totally stupid in the middle of a liquidity trap. Not because the government needs to spend money to do anything.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Economic Drivel 3: An Alternative to the Market

To be honest i lied, this isn't exactly an alternative, its more of a way of neutering the evils of the market, or going part way to do so. It is also a partial continuity of my previous post as i feel that just discussing what the state should do as an incomplete part to how we can rebuild a powerful left wing economic ideal. It is not also grounded economics, while i do not think it would destroy our ability to develop a grow, i do not think it is something an economist would say is a smart move, but i do think that on a social scale this would be the better course for us to take.

So last time i said basic monopolies should be handled by the state, but that is a medium sized area compared to the big picture, what about all those other services and industries out there? Am i suggesting we let a bunch of corporations run them? Fuck no, the corporation is a nasty piece of work as it is by its nature psychopathic, it has to be, if it did not, it would not function as a business model. It's like the Xenomorph from alien, the perfect predator, almost admirable for its single minded operating procedure. This is the problem, it will attempt to overcome any boundaries in its way, regulations, democracy you name it. Its not that its made up of bad people, its just these people cannot act with conscience when running the business. I would advocate then, the complete abolition of corporations in this country from operating, they can still import their goods, we can still invest in them, but all domestic business must be operated through co-operatives. Maybe not all the shares need be owned by employees of this company, maybe a safe dominant share will do so we can still have a stock market to allow private investment to flow. But no longer will there be any law demanding these industries seek the greatest profit, rather the workers can seek how much of the market they want, what they want to make and so on to their own moral convictions.

We have already democratized government, why the hell not democratize industry. I mean it makes a lot more sense when you think about it, humans desire a sense of agency, community and autonomy, all those are given if we give workers direct control over their work place. Many people used to say that Democracy was a weak and ineffective form of government, but for all the short comings we have had the last 100 years have been determined by democratic countries as the main power houses across the argument list, economically, militarily, socially and ideologically. This is also way more unexpected than business, after all in representative democracy a citizen is supposed to have knowledge of events he or she may be far removed from whereas how a persons workplace operates is something everyone is directly involved in. Maybe a direct kind of democracy might unfold on the office floor, maybe it will be more of an elected board, or just referendums on key issues while a board still do most of the work. But it will be the key necessity to putting empathy in business, and that is what we need more than anything right now.

Although some co-ops naturally choose to take this route anyway, i would still say that a real need after this would be to equalize wages within each work place. This would ensure that there would still be a jobs market and that basic mechanical industries won't go totally ineffective on us, while at the same time making a direct link between the productivity of a company and an individuals pay packet. It would also naturally deal with any major issues in pay discrepancies that currently haunt the corporate world. Think of how many issues this would solve? No more class rivalry on this front, no more gender differences in pay (at least industry by industry), and yet at the same time we could keep all that fancy investment cycle stuff that allows for investment beyond the low slow arm of government.

Businesses below a certain size of course should be allowed to go private, perhaps anything under the size of 200 people since that is the size a person can actively keep up with everyone within that group. Its the optimum size and beyond this a head of the company could become distant and natural connections to the workforce that occurs in small business ventures would be removed. Even though of course 200 is more of a medium sized business but oh well, I don't know anything that wouldn't be arbitrary under this number. But i digress. My point is that much as there is no point in creating a democratic system between a shop owner and his three clerks who may well be his kids and/or other relatives, the connection between the owner and the workers are so minimal i doubt there is much point in creating an official democratic structure around it.

I genuinely believe that this system would not only be a far more moral economic structure to follow, but it may well be more efficient in the delivery of services. The key to making this an actuality is also in place. The UK owns dominant shares in Barclays and other banks. We could use this position like the Dutch did post 1948 to channel the funds into buying up the shares of various business' while issuing an ultimatum to various companies to sell off their shares now or be liquidated later when your business is no longer wanted. We won't need them after anyway and this will make the whole process move a lot faster. Pumping all that money into the system may also cause enough force to help kick start a recovery as shares pass to employees, i am sure that the perceived sense of wealth increase (shares) backed with job security could do wonders for the economy.

Drive and the impact on economics

This issue is a more difficult chalice for left wingers to take I think.  Yes we can chime the successes of State run NHS over the terribly inefficient American system, and the impartiality and creativity of the BBC against many corporate opponents, but I don’t think it really does proper service to the issue, especially when right wingers can just mention the 1970’s and its horrible, ineffective model of economics. And although it’s not true it pushes us into a debate that won’t lead anywhere, so I will attempt to explain how the state is not the problem, but there is certainly a problem here.

Now firstly please take a look at this little thing, (most papers are pay-walled and this is shorter and more succinct). The first test mentioned here, undertaken by the federal reserve shows that most creative industries have an inverse effect to what is assumed in the theory of incentives (an idea with a fraught enough history as it comes, especially since its creator has railed against it.) I would say this leads to three main points we can make from it:

1. Humans desire a sense of agency
2. Money is a disincentive to creative work after a point.
3. Humans are at their core fixers and value a sense of purpose (social capital) to large paychecks.

This is important because the main arguments against the state run industries are:

1. Humans are self interested to a psychopathic degree
2. Earning money without any fear of it going is a disincentive to work hard.
3. Humans have no sense of moral duty, work is work is work. It all about making them papers!

What these sort of tests prove is that there is nothing innately wrong with state run industries, the government isn't magically stupid. The failings of the state to provide certain services, while in others they surpass the private sector is a matter of no small debate, one i am in no way capable of easily answering, but here are some suggestions:

1. Services which have a high degree of agency but with little need for diversity are brilliant at being lead by the state. The obvious one for this is the NHS and other types of socialized medicine. Doctors and nurses work in very unsociable hours for very long periods of time, in incredibly stressful conditions, and although Doctors make quite a bit of money this is still less than a lawyer who probably doesn't have to deal with the psychological stress many hospital staff must go through. This job has a great sense of purpose: I am saving peoples lives. And a clear goal to this, use the most cutting edge practices to do so (which is of course decided by a medical review board). Other groups have a similar advantage like the armed forces and education, rather the inefficiencies in these departments grow when the private sector is brought in (the wasted billions in NHS budgets on private outsourcing, billions wasted in overdue deliveries from MoD weapons beneficiaries and the Academy system which pulls out much needed funds and bright children from areas (Not strictly bright children but kids with pushy parents as Academies are often built in the better areas of cities.)

2. Micromanagement, Unnecessary bureaucratic and target based managerial does not really work in creative fields, regardless of the sector: A difficulty arises here in that it is clear that bureaucracy and it being unnecessary is one of those length of string arguments, its very unclear, but large organisations, be these a multinational consortium or a state monopoly tend to have a larger than necessary middle management team, all too often get into weighty guidelines on trivial matters of dress codes. These three matters all serve to abstract problems and bring less agency to those on the front, but also make everyone feel like less of a valued workforce. Teachers groan at offsted inspections because these things force you into a conformity that doesn't really serve any use, why the fuck do we need to outline the lesson to people in the beginning? Not that it's necessarily bad but its totally nonsensical to demand. Guidelines are of course important for any work, but when they begin to micromanage every aspect of the work environment then firstly there will be a lot of wasted time calling people up on it (think of the millions wasted on offsted inspection teams and other such quangos, many of which are filled with useless bureaucrats, but more importantly all the time wasted). 

3.Monopoly's issues are offset on the product they sell, a simple product that is a necessity works well as a state run industry. Water, Energy, Education, Health, Transport. Are all areas i would say don't need to be in competition to work. These are all products that do not need to change with consumer demand, there will always be a need for these things in their raw form, they don't go out of season, they don't become outdated. All that is required is for a government to run these institutions is to be able to keep investment reasonably strong to stay ahead of the curve and this can be hugely beneficial to other industries in the country. We say what happens when you deregulate energy and allow private interests to run amok with Enron in 2005. I would say that with looming environmental catastrophe approaching that it is a public necessity to ensure that our energy needs have direct oversight, as they need a radical change to green energy as soon as possible. There are certain industries that just work best as a monopoly, energy, water and transport do best with one set of taps, power lines and rail tracks, putting a company in charge of any monopoly is just a moral hazard waiting to happen, corporations are by their nature psychopathic, in legal documentation they have to pursue profit (otherwise shareholders wouldn't invest, makes perfect sense but that's the problem) and if in control of a public necessity like water, well as was seen in Bolivia in the mid 2000's would raise the price to as high a point as they could conceivably go. Attempting to create a market doesn't help either, there are 33 companies with a stake in the ticket fairs alone in our rail system and the costs and inefficiencies have ballooned since its inception in the early 90's.

So yes, the state is not the perfect engine for everything, by any means. But when it comes to industries where the good that is being sold is clearly definable and unchanging in what it basically does - Education needs to educate, Healthcare needs to stop people dying, Then the state champions the private sector because it does not need to declare a profit (though there should be an overall gain in the welfare of society from their actions)  
If a monopoly is in the hands of a party not interested in turning a profit then society as a whole need pay less for that service and more into whatever the hell they feel like. Which is good, expenditure should equal the cost of the product (taking into account wages etc) not the amount someone is willing to pay for it. Just because everything can be priced and everything has a willing buyer does not mean that all products are essentially the same.

Economic Drivel 1: Why Austerity is horribly stupid.

I have seen quite a bit of confusion in our camp lately about austerity and expansion and so on, anyway, it spurred me on to right something about it, it has also awakened my hunger for more economic drivel so i think i might do a mini series on it, since while i am by no means qualified to talk in depth about wonkish stuff, i have devoted quite a lot of my spare time trying to answer for myself old skeletons in the lefties cupboard. I don't think we ever quite recovered from the 1970's and 80's and we really need to get a grip on that stuff, i blame you all of course for not doing enough economics courses but then again i do tend to do that and its often quite unjustified retrospectively so. yeah sorry. Anyway... Some myths hand around that will do serious damage if we don't start confidently answering them. So my first one, probably the most easy to answer as there isn't much fear in this, is Austerity, and why its stupid.

In almost all recessions (the 1970's slow down may be the only exception to this) there occurs some loss of confidence either demand or supply side, one will follow the other though. This can be due to a sudden market shock like an oil crises, or a speculative bubble in a particularly large market sector (Housing, debt, Gold reserves?) it varies but these bubbles are often caused by a lack of fiscal control: the central bank doesn't tighten interest rates or currency values to stop speculation running wild. (There is more nuance to this, but keep in mind that there were no world wide recessions from 1950 to 1972 and 1972 could well have been down to a supply shock in oil). Now businesses being very good and not wanting to go out of business generally cut back on their Labour force and shrink their scope of operations, if this was in stable period this would make perfect sense, but when everyone is dealing with a slower rate of transfer in money and all business reigns in their work, then this leads to higher unemployment, which it turn leads to less spending power due to people being out of work but also a bigger desire to save among the remaining workforce who now feel the pinch of job insecurity.

But then many people will say: 'But if more people are saving and the government reduces its bond usage then the banks can lend at cheaper rates to business and we can get things moving again.' Wrong i say! Because if the economy is not growing then there is to great a risk, investment in business is only smart when you can be sure that a company is going to expand and pay you dividends! Rather what these banks will do is put their money into government bonds which have increased in number due to smaller tax receipts and larger numbers of the unemployed. Then they will say 'Ah but don't you see? The government is crowding out the market with its bonds, also if you keep on at this then eventually the rates on those bonds will rise and you will be in a trap of putting more and more money into servicing the debt, crowding out the market and leading to a self fulfilling prophecy of stagnant growth and ever growing debt. We have no money so you can't create it out of thin air, that inflationary!' AHAH you fools! I say, because you have just fallen into the trap! Well not a trap, more a cheap way of me continuing this dialogue, but still. Firstly we are not printing money in this situation, we are issuing bonds, which although inflationary at times in a normal economic cycle does not have the same effect in a liquidity trap. This is because we are not as a whole poor on money, private groups just don't want to put it in business with no expectation for growth. So yes they put it into bonds which will stay at very low rates until growth picks up, don't believe me? Look at the rates for low yield interest bonds after the S&P's downgrade on America, their bond rates went down even more. Basically the downgrade had no impact on the bonds, in fact but correlation they improved it (obviously not). 

So then what about Austerity? You could argue that if they weren't putting it into bonds they would be investing it in the next big thing right? I mean, banks do need to promise returns to those billionaire investors right? Well what happens then is generally they just put the money into hard products that are price stable like Gold, which has been increasing in value since like, ever. This won't do any good for anyone really, its just a way of securing your goods in some kind of hard commodity instead.

The government on the other hand can have almost permanently low bond rates and can use this to fund a recovery. Putting people into any kind of work will help to fill the spare capacity of an economy and while at its worst this can just be pushing the money around without adding much at all to it - Like making two men do a task one could do, the old ditch digger scenario. This will at least ease long term social fears brought on by unemployment and create a greater sense of confidence in the market as rates of consumption increase. Fortunately there are usually a shit tonne of things we can do with state money - rebuilding old infrastructure, investing in green energies, investing in high speed broadband, we could even revitalize some segments of our industry by offering low interest, or even no interest rates to companies to build or run factories in the country which could really modernize to stay ahead of outsourced wages.
The whole point is that there is a need to get confidence up, but this is not done by showing off to the markets on how fiscally disciplined we are, the only occasion that may have been true for is Greece but this is a country with an average of $44,000 of debt per head where the average GDP is about $10,000 per head and rife with all sorts of other problems unlike any other developed country that has had issues with growth. What our problem is, is we have (as in, the private sector of the country.) a lot of money but very little room to circulate it. No company is going to act, there is no company large enough whose actions would kick start the whole economy and nor would we want it to. Currently only government has large enough weight behind it to really kick start anything here, it needs to use those private funds now to bring the economy into action once more.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Electoral Illusions of Margaret Thatcher

Since the legacy of Margaret Thatcher came to pass it seems to me that most people on the left have been scared to be left wing. By which I mean whenever I watch some pundit show or Question time or any other opinion piece, the supposed left wingers on the show tend to be afraid to big up the big state, or for big taxes, or generous welfare payments without adding something about hard work. I believe this is all traced back to the 17 years of conservative rule and some myths about our electoral strategies. Most of all though, it is about the biggest rift in the left and the way we elect our politicians in this country.

Before I speak of anything more I must of course address the issue of Margaret Thatcher, now when most important people on the left speak of her, there is both a deep rage and at the same time utter consternation. On one hand she did everything that was unholy, she privatised large swathes of industry, bashed loads of union boys and crippled local power that challenged her like the Greater London Assembly (though at least we got an aquarium out of it!). On the other hand, she won, a lot, 17 years in power for destroying millions of people’s lives, how did she do it?

Common answers to this:

1.      Unions made us look bad, Arthur Scargill fought for too long.
2.      Tax cuts won over low information voters.
3.      Selling off of housing bought the favour of a lot of new lower middle class voters who now had property.
4.      Law and Order vote.
5.      Labour party was in tatters from extremism and ideological rivalries.

While I would say 1 did definitely help as she could have been beaten during the negotiation phase, and to a lesser extent the others hit the left’s recovery during the 80’s, i would say the primary reason for the wilderness for us is down to a variation of the 5’th, and what i mean by this is a ideological divorce that has been the biggest saving grace for the Tories for the past four decades, but can be traced even further back.

In 1981 the SDLP Alliance was formed, the four labour lions that had formed the Social Democratic Party joined with the Liberals and since this point the left have been divided to the most devastating of consequences. Look at how from this point the SDLP and then Lib Dem parties almost mirror in each other’s voting trajectories. The only time this change is really in 1997 when Tony Blair was at the helm of the Labour party and made a real stretch to appeal to middle England Voters. Prior to 1981 there was still some correlation but it was more sketchy because classical liberals may have felt uncomfortable with oppressive social policies and switched from Conservative to Liberal, but after 1981 this dissolves, the Conservative base remains solid until 1997 where, under the repeated scandals within Major’s government and the Labour Parties major rightward shift in economic policies and defence of law and order deprived the Conservatives of a lot of those who would identify themselves as Conservative.

Now if this is the case, this would basically dissolve the idea of there not being a left wing majority in this country, why did we not have left wing governments? Easy answer: First Past the Post. The largest minority wins the seat, what this means is that if say 40% of the population vote conservative in every seat, whereas Labour gets 35% of the vote, and the Liberals get 25% of the vote, then the Conservatives win every seat in the country (Of course that has not yet nor is it likely it ever will happen). As we see from electoral figures, this is just what happened; the Conservatives had for four consecutive electoral cycles a stable minority, whereas Labour and SDLP fought it out for the same votes. Kinnocks modernisation strategy was almost useless because of this, moderating did nothing because the group they needed were split between two parties, not to mention that the more moderates Labour grew the further away from their working class routes they went, this lead to more votes lost to National Front and other extreme groups though this is a small matter in comparison to the SDLP and Labour.

So the problem then is not anything to do with the absurd idea that people have got more right wing (More on that another time) but that there has simply been a horrible divide between the left that has been totally counterproductive. The Labour party is now more right wing than if it had reconciled itself with the Liberals at any other time, and now there is a lot to say that the Liberal Democrats are more left wing in theory than Labour is in practice.

So what can we do about this? I think there are three options available, and none of them are easy, but one of the three is necessary to stop this rightward surge of politics which is by no means down to a rightward shift in people’s belief but in a failure of the left to properly understand its own short comings and its own loss of ego.

1.      A new party: A super merger of the Greens the SWP the Liberal Democrats and Labour, even one with just Labour and Liberal Democrats would be a brilliant start. Yes there are profound ideological differences between the two, but that didn’t stop us in the past, the Labour Party started out as a mad coalition of real hard line Union boys and centrist liberal intelligentsia, there is no reason in this age of diminished (though by no means dissipated) class identity that we can get something like that again. We need to do away with political point scoring and work as a single block, united in the belief of cooperation and mutuality to reach agreements in a proper debated manner.

2.      Bring in a Proportional Representational system: This could be done also with AV+ That the Devolved chambers use but i prefer full PR, we create districts with several MP’s and then use multiple preference voting to give a fair share of the vote to parties. This would at least mean that politics would not be dominated by a single minority party, no more 18 years of dominance at the hand of a single party, granted, that still can happen in Proportional Representative systems, to the extreme in fact in terms of Japan and Sweden, but at least that is by popular mandate and hey, those guys are pretty left wing and doing rather well... Well, I promise to talk about Japans problems when I understand them better.

3.      One hell of a ballsy labour party: Basically, the next time Labour gets in, it throws away whatever it might have said in its manifesto to get in and conducts a sort of leftist revolution. It reinstitutes labour rights, perhaps makes being in a Union a legal necessity, starts turning lots of industries into co-operatives, breaks up the banks, turns private schools into state schools and engages in party donation reforms, tax reforms and wealth reforms that are so totally comprehensive that the country is changed forever with the plutocrats utterly devastated, it worked for FDR and it can work for us too. In 1933 American society was completely changed overnight as was England in 1983. Hard hitting revolutions do get appreciated and they do get votes.

Now of course the chances of these are very slim, and very difficult to do. But if I have to dedicate my life to making a proper change in this country and the only way might be one of these? I am damn well gonna try. The only way the left is going to win elections is if it not only speaks true about its ideals but really hits hard in attempting to get them through.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

A Small Bit Of Riot Stuff: A lot of Economic History

So yeah London and some other cities got into a bit of a scuffle with themselves lately, funny stuff that, anyway here is my bit on it, or rather my bit on what other little bits have said with a caveat of my own views on the matter.

So everyone has been rather dickish about these riots, calling for moderation in considering the implications and causes of the riots, and some right wingers have done the usual press buttons of how evil and scummy it all was.

So, firstly with the right: Grow the fuck up, almost everything in society comes down to basic matters of culture and the economy, if it did not then why the fuck would we devote any time fretting about it, this was obviously in part due to socio economic conditions and a vacuousness of any defining code other than consumerism, consumerism allots no room for self decency or the rule of law, its about getting what satisfies you, simple as. As for economics, well, a massive crash caused by unrestrained financial capitalism that has ruined the lives of many followed by austerity cuts that will make the ability to gain those Material goods all the harder? I am not saying riots are the necessary outcome but did you honestly not see some degree of social unrest? Honestly its like you think you can fuck over people endlessly with no negative connotations and that all arguments against your beliefs are all wedged in your failure to properly present rather than the possibility of some deeper flaw to your economic beliefs. You made this problem, stop propogating such wild forms of capitalism if you want any kind of responsibility in society because capitalism, the rule of self aquisition of rescources has a odd manner of universalising itself.

As for the Left: I don't have too many problems, obviously, i am one of you, but yes we don't have to condone the rioters but to stop this happening we must address certain conditions. But there is one thing that is pissing me off, a lot of self styled "radical centrists" (often liberals who want to sound all like they are above the partisan divide) go on along the lines of: "Yes both the left and right have elements of truth in them, I mean socio economic conditions but its not the whole truth...." and this is beginning to get wearing. Because ultimately there isn't anything else, there links to all of this the underlying route of capitalism and how it has remade society in its image over the last couple of centuries in particular, excluding blips.

So firstly economics: This is the be all and end all because scarcity and the concentration of resources define all societies and political systems and this has been the case since the inception of the human race. All our societies gravitate around the needs of the economics of the time. Firstly the tribal system was basically communist because there was no real capital, there was no reason for one member to establish any kind of private property simply because there was nothing to have a stake in that would outweigh the advantages of mutual-ism. I could hoard my berries i collected, or the hut i built for the summer, but where was the use in that? That hut was only there for the summer until we moved, and i would have to devote my time not to just berry foraging but hunting and weaving and all the other tasks which would probably result in me getting less overall as a result, nothing required vast amounts of time to make and there was next to no complexity so as long as everyone had a role there was no point in making artificial barriers that would only delay the rate of resource distribution.

Agriculture changed a lot of this, and from it we can see how powerfully societies diverge here due to simple economics of geography. Firstly this is were we first need a sense of private ownership: Crops take months to grow, and they require start-up investment: House, Granaries etc. They also required a greater division of labour as farms required all manner of tools and items to improve productivity, like shovels and rakes and pots for an increasing variety of products. And this created a greater division of labour as metal was needed on an increasingly large scale and concentrations of artisans were needed for the construction of goods needed for farming, all of this were tantalising targets for the groups that were still tribes and so eventually the farming communities required protection and so we see an increasing size of the population not directly working for the means of their own survival. Private property then was not created as a matter of nature but as a need to ensure that the scarce resources of our system were managed efficiently: Or at least more efficiently than doing nothing.

As early as this we see common scenarios in distant but geographically similar societies. Major agricultural societies based along large fertile rivers like the Nile and the Yellow River became increasingly controlled by a group of bureaucrats who managed massive operations of irrigation, which in turn required massive projects to create supporting transport operations for both goods and labour and many other specialists like doctors. In these societies the bureaucracies elevate themselves to the position of godlike figures as a means of cementing their rule with alarmingly similar religions though these cultures have no direct knowledge of one another. Meanwhile areas like Greece where fertile, open land was more spread out religion was more of a guiding philosophy and the elites became competitive, because these areas were harder to control than concentration fertile regions. We see this as time goes forward, China developed a Celestial Empire vision, their leader is God, and he politically controls the country with a totalitarian fist, which is in turn used to fund massive projects such as the building of the Yangtze canals and Great Wall, both important in different ways. Meanwhile in Europe what developed is a large amount of regional strong men in almost constant competition with one another, they too have a Leader as an almost living god, the Pope, but his power is far more discreet and is often put into repute should certain leaders become too strong. Yes there were churches in every town, but there were many heretics, like the Duellists in South France where I am currently based and later on Reformists and Protestants. All competing philosophies that put challenge to the central authority. Out of this China became a very strict hierarchy system with bureaucrats and the emperor at the top strictly managing the regime. Europe on the other hand developed into a flowing mess of Duchy's, Kingdoms, Dietetics, Principalities, Procterates and Merchant Republics. All with different competing elites that created many small towns and forts, very little standardisation but a lot of laws and pledges and guarantees to one another as a means of creating trust, as trust is essential for any kind of transaction to take place. There is nothing more telling than marriage in this system, as often it was used as a monetary transaction with dowry's,.

What I am trying to get at here is that most of society is largely based upon how our we get our daily bread, and everything else. In the beginning of our history we were at the mercy of our surroundings and so our systems developed accordingly. Its not perfect, but there are historical trends. China never expanded that far south, North or West because all those positions were hard to navigate and consequently became impractical to a centralised authority to govern. We live in an age of course where we have many tools and a lot more hindsight and knowledge to construct our society in a way that is better than the bare minimum of what we are given, and we should certainly aim to do so. But what we have to understand is that anything that occurs within society is a product of the economics of our society firstly, and all other consequences follow accordingly.

We modelled our resource management on a system of supply and demand that we believed could be managed by market forces, which would always balance themselves out. This belief has lead politicians and many people to believe then that what is moral is to simply give the people what they ask for, and what they ask for is always where their money, or their time is. This has lead over time to a rush to the lowest common denominator. You want to know why some riots happened? Its because systems don't balance themselves out in the end, people get richer because some people were smart enough to exploit a free system and then passed that money down to their children who weren't nearly as smart but got a brilliant education and a lot of high level contacts to ease them through life and keep their wealth tap strong. It happened because we catered to the worst excesses of human kind, greed, and populism and vitriol that is spouted out from tabloids  and advertisements and shitty comedy films every day. Are we so surprised to find out that people then act in a base and greedy way?

You get what you give I suppose.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Class and the lack of.

As i have made my way through the political blogosphere i have begun to notice certain things. Most importantly is how terribly middle class it is, oh sure, there is a left right divide, and there are some really smart people out there who knows where it is at, but when it comes to class, and all those areas that surround it, there is a genuine lack of real knowledge by experience.

Oh the right i grant its ridiculous, i mean most of those people have never seen a poor man, and those who have, have probably seen the extreme rural poor of South America or Africa, and this tends to mean they over-right the grievances of the poor at homes for they often do not realize the bleakness of estate existence and the strange kind of intelligence that it brings.

On the left however it is almost as bad, these people are not anti poor, but they certainly don't know what it is like to be in that position most of the time. Claiming benefits one day is not enough to understand it, because its not just about having poor income which too many people on the left fail to understand. This is worrying because it reduces our arguments firstly to abstract, and when things become abstract there is almost no point in arguing over it intellectually because all arguments can quickly become esoteric.

I am not much better, i am of middle class stock, but i lived in small houses most of my life, and i went to a proper state school, one that wasn't on the up but a ten year slump, and one which has spawned a lot of amazing music because of its heavy mix of working class kids, second generation immigrants and a sprinkling of the white middle classes, i but a lot of that cultural mixing for the successes of Hot Chip and the XX in recent years. I genuinely became friends with working class people, for many years, and although it might seem matter of factual to many, i still think it might be worth putting up a bit of what i learned.

1. Everyone knows people one way or another, i met people several estates over who could make links to friends of mine, the whole "say my name and they wont touch you" stuff actually worked. There is a huge emphasis on who knows who and because of this an estate is a highly socialized environment, as i suppose you may expect from such a lifestyle, but while middle class friends might have friends of friends that you can herald too, it is not the same as the smaller world that are these estates.

2. Look them in the eye and be honest, unless you don't know them and your on the street in which case avoid all contact. Okay first part. The whole middle class trying not to notice stuff has a major inferiority effect on a lot of people, it makes it look like you think your better than them, and almost all working class people believe that a little bit, they do feel inferior. And if you handle matters badly you will get words. So first things first, if there is some nicety you don't want to bring up with someone just say it, because they can tell your thinking something that isn't too nice and not talking is treating them like an idiot. On the other hand if this is someone you don't know on the street, don't make eye contact, especially if he is in the 13 to 19 bracket as it feels to them like your seriously disapproving of them. And there is a good chance that its gonna make them react, badly.

3. Arguments are fleeting. Obviously don't make anything an issue of respect or such, but remember that at times it might be better to get a bit loud and proud with this person. Its not that it will necessarily resolve the issue but they might get a bit of respect for you and its not gonna be held as a grudge anyway. So if its going that way over something silly, don't back down because you look like someone who doesn't deserve respect and push on because it wont be held against you later. So long as you don't go around looking for fights.

4. Be direct. All that word play bullshit from the middle class way of doing things doesn't count for shit here. You may as well say exactly what you think, how you think. Anything else just sounds like waffle and if there is one thing we learn from politics is that the public hate waffle.

If anyone for any reason comes across this i hope its of some help next time your down the Ash Burton estate, and remember, if any group starts giving you trouble, say Conor knows you.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Phone Hacking

The News of the World Phone Hacking Scandal is in many ways a symptom of the rise of market based negative liberty, the idea that the public show what is in their interest by putting their money in it. This is probably a much more genuine feeling within these boardrooms than we might wish to think, and it is to be expected considering the trend of business elites (though other groups are guilty.) to recast themselves as public servants by offering the public what they want. In many ways this is the final destination of Hayek's theories, all our desires are fulfilled by the invisible hand of the market.

While the actions committed could be considered horrific we must understand that these are corporations, and it is the duty of the corporation to maximise profits, if doing such low things were what was necessary to sell papers, then that is what it must do. We should not expect anything more of them, not until either those founding laws are changed or we move to a different style of economy. But remember if a company has to choose between breaking human lives and losing money, they will take the former, it is what they are supposed to only care about after all, anything else is a deviation from the expectations of the shareholder, which leads them open to a tidal wave of lawsuits. 

What might be most telling about the whole affair is how the Right have sought to turn this into Lefty bitching, which considering the range of phone hacking scandals is a rather disgusting move on their part, I think it suggests that other tabloids have been involved in similar illicit activity and there is genuine fear that they might get uncovered, I speak on this because I remember talking to a more conservative friend of mine, who talks while half laughing about his work with the conservative party. - "It is all one big gentlemen’s club, they cover each others backs, but the moment it gets impossible to deny, it all becomes fair game."  I think we are hitting a part where this one exposed secret might leak onto a few others if the Right are already getting so riled up over Murdoch bashing as they seem to be forgetting that this company in fact ruined scores of lives for no reason other than short term profits.

Still, we cannot expect any different from them, the sooner we realize this the sooner we can move on to getting something genuinely better, and i do not mean some kind of peer review system, the masses of corporate atrocities of the last few decades, are showing increasingly that the corporation is not some divine instrument of our holy market, merely a psychopath whose only thought about you is how to get you to give them more of your money.