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The Coalition & Its Dwindling Band of Friends

When even the Spectator (£) turns on a Conservative PM you’d think he’s in trouble. Blogger, Prodicus speaks for many when he says he’s on the verge of leaving the Conservative party, mainly because of a complete lack of faith in the abilities of David Cameron, whom he believes to be something other than a Conservative. This is because of the Euro-sort-of-veto, right?

No, not because of the vanishingly-few attractions of UKIP. I want us out but I am a realist and it’s not the first item on today’s agenda.

Clearly not. hose are my sentiments exactly. Why is it then?

I think David Cameron is too cowardly to lead the Conservative Party as a Conservative

I am not sure the problem is cowardice. Indeed the opposite is the problem. Cameron has battles with a deeply entrenched labour establishment, who is deeply hostile to ‘the cuts’, reform in Schools, the NHS, and the rest of the public sector where the Conservatives have initiated widespread and radical reforms. On Europe, the mandarinate will seek to water down any tough talk from a mere politician when thrashing out the detail in negotiation. The problem isn’t cowardice, more a lack of strategic vision. I think of the NHS, Schools, Welfare, ‘the Cuts’ and Europe where the Government has battles with the establishment, Cameron has bitten of more than he can chew. Of these issues he can pick 2 or 3 and expect to win, otherwise he risks losing all of them.

He does not think like and does not know how to wear the armour of a national leader. He is ill at ease and reluctant and scuttles sideways when facing both domestic and foreign threats to the nation and its way of life.

I think people have forgotten just how dreadful in this regard Brown was. It’s true, Cameron does not wear the armour quite as well as Tony Blair, but there have been few politicians more teflon-coated than his Tonyness. Cameron’s not embarrassing to the UK in the great councils of the World in a way Brown, with his fawning infatuation with Barry O’Bama was.

He is the heir to the Grocer rather than to Margaret Thatcher.

For many Conservatives, any leader who isn’t Saint Margaret of Thatcher will always be Pepsi rather than the real thing. But I am not sure we need a Thatcher right now.

The problem is that coalitions just don’t work in Britain’s political culture. The Liberal Democrat voters didn’t really want power for their party, they just wanted to be able to say “Don’t blame me, I voted Liberal” at dinner parties. But in order to differentiate themselves from the Tories, you’ve got Government ministers popping up saying higher rate pension tax-relief should be abolished and the 50p income tax rate shouldn’t be. It’s not until you read past the headline that this comes from Danny Alexander, chief Secretary to the Treasury, whereas the Chancellor is against these ideas. The same is true of Cameron’s Quotas for women on PLC Boards. This is never going to become law. It’s Cameron’s attempt to reach out to non-conservative voters, not a serious policy proposal.

The most poisonous legacy of the Blair years was the extent that Government was enacted by headline. The difference between Labour and the Tories is that the latter are much, much worse at the media manipulation and so give the impression of a bunch of ferrets fighting in a sack. When you actually look at the legislation, however, you have radical pieces of legislation on Welfare, Schools or the NHS, which whilst savagely opposed by the establishment and bureaucracy in these industries, seem to me in each case to be broadly along the right lines. Millions will be taken out of income tax by the steady rise in the Threshold. This IS a tax-cut.

Above all, this Government inherited a poisonous legacy of criminally incompetent overspend and mismanagement from the last Government. Since they took power, despite chaos in Europe and an unlooked-for war in Libya, the British deficit has fallen from over 10% to around 8%, so the debt burden is still rising. However contrary to warnings, job creation in the Private sector has more than offset job losses in the public, since 2010 by a factor of around 3 times. It is true, it’s unlikely that the deficit will be eliminated “within this parliament”, and employment growth is not yet enough to reduce unemployment but does anyone, really, think Ed Balls’ plan to spend until we’re Italy and call it “neo-endogenous growth theory” was going to work better? ‘The cuts’ were always going to be disruptive at first. Economic chaos in Europe has seen the UK, thanks to the Governments commitment to deficit reduction (and 3 rounds of QE) the markets have kept the faith, seeing 10-year gilt yields fall to 1.8%.

I would like to see more supply-side reforms. I would like to see the end of the 50p rate. I would like to see less ‘banker bashing’. I would have liked Cameron’s veto to mean the EU did things differently. But while the disagreements between and within the parties of Government give the impression of chaos, the actual legislation affecting how we live appears to be vastly, infinitely better than the legislative diarrhoea of the last administration. I rather like the fact that we see disagreements in Government. It reassures me we live in democracy, compared to robotic non-entities mouthing identical soundbites which characterised the last Government.

Cameron is no Thatcher. Thatcher removed warships, which some saw as a green light to an Argentine invasion. Cameron’s hinted about nuclear subs and sent the world’s most capable air defence destroyer. Which is better? I think too many Tories (& Labour…) hanker for ideological certainties of the 1980’s and forget just how ghastly Gordon Brown was.

I still think this could be a great government, and history will be kinder than the news if they’re successful in any more than half of their agenda. I think Prodicus should keep the faith for a while longer.

The Offence Game

Dianne Abbot suggested “white people” played divide and rule… Then David Cameron suggested Dealing with Ed Balls was like dealing with someone with Tourette’s syndrome.

Leave aside the vast gulf in the responsibilities of these two characters, the reaction to the “gaffes” is the same. The people who were faux-indignantly jumping all over Abbot’s tweet, were the next day defending Cameron’s “off the cuff” remark. Those who were staunchly defending Abbot’s anti-racism were opining that Cameron’s remark was “offensive” and demonstrating his “arrogance”.

Of course this is just a game, one I play from time to time. But this constant offence seeking is poisonous to discourse, by forcing politicians into a mode of speech wildly divorced from that used by you and me. If Abbot had said “the white establishment” rather than “white people”, she’d be expressing an uncontroversial and widely held view about the tactics of colonialism. The 140 character form therefore, where truncation is necessary (whether or not she had sufficient characters left to use the longer expression, brevity is the soul of Twitter) leads problems expressing thoughts accurately. Embarrassing, and fun to hoist a Labour politician on her Race-mongering petard, but no-one’s really offended.

Tourette’s syndrome is widely used casually as a descriptor of an aggressive and foul-mouthed person. The combative Ed Balls certainly fits. I doubt this is genuinely offensive to anyone with Tourette’s, outside the grievance industry. His remarks were no-doubt jumped on as enthusiastically as they were by the Twitter mob, in revenge for the Abbot storm a few days earlier.

Perhaps we’d have more respect for our political system, if we let our Politicians speak like the rest of us. Those who use twitter engage more intimately with members of the public than any politician in the pre-Internet age, and should be applauded. It’s fun squealing “offence” to discomfit our lords and masters, but perhaps we don’t want to scare them out of Twitter and off the Blogosphere.

Let’s let our politicians speak freely. Maybe then they’ll continue to let us…

Bloggy Hiatus

For reasons beyond both authors’ control, AVBD may well be taking a couple of weeks off. If you would like to post a guest post, and you’re not certifiable, or a rancid lefty whinging about “the 1%”, please feel fee to drop me an e-mail (It’s to the right) with your post, and I will do my best to post it, if I have Internet access while I am away and If I like it.

Can I point you to My Fiance’s new novel in the mean-time. It really is rather good. If you don’t have a Kindle and want to know when the Hard-Back is coming out, follow the Blog.

See you all again in Decemeber.

A Hiatus

Fear not, though the volume may drop, this is evidence of an improving economy, for I am busy, as is TravelGal with work and impending nuptuals. I will be away for a couple of weeks after easter. Hopefully then I will be able to entertain you all once more.

Do not desert us, and fear not! We shall return.

Chasing Rainbows

I’ve finally got round to finishing Tim Worstall‘s book Chasing Rainbows, which can be yours for the trivial sum of £6.49, and it really is very good. Tim, an economic scribbler and Scandium wholesaler by trade applies the prinicples of economics to environmental questions with his usual wit. The tone reads like an extended blog post, and whilst some of the popular culture references grate occasionally, (what percentage of the potential readership are familiar enough with ‘South Park’ to get the “M’Kay” reference?) the argument that pigou taxes are better than cap ‘n trade mainly because the latter is at risk of political and bureaucratic meddling is particularly well explained and compelling.

If you’re looking for a complete junking of the hypothesis of climate change, you’re in the wrong place. On the other hand, Some of the assumptions of environmental activists: growth always involves the use of more resources, international trade is wasteful for example, are shown up to be not only wrong, but utterly counterproductive. Wealth leaves spare resources to enable people to take the more expensive “green” option. Only growth leaves the spare resources for healthcare and female emancipation that will reduce population growth. If you’re a climate activist however, perhaps you’ll be most surprised by what the scientific and economic consensus – the Stern Review and the IPCC conclusions are taken as gospel – actually say. We’re already doing enough…

This is an excellent, easy-to-read book which applies uncontroversial economics with uncontroversial climate science and winds up being surprisingly optimistic about the future. Of course, this being Britain, this will please nobody, but he’s probably closer to the truth than either of the more polarised camps.

Well worth a read.

Hiring and Firing people

Lefties believe, passionately, that the state should regulate employment: who works for whom, and under what conditions they work, what contracts they can write, and whether or not and under what circumstances they can be fired. The state is crucial for protection of workers, for in their moral universe, the “worker” reigns supreme. His labour is honest, the bosses, or Capitalist always holds the power, with employees on sufferance. Bosses stand ready to, and indeed really want to fire workers at will, driving working conditions down in a race to the bottom. The workhouse beckons, unless the state stands ready to step in and prevent abusive bosses oppressing the masses, like the robber barons of yore. Tories, in this world view as the party of the bosses, are going to take an axe to important employment legislation which is all that stands between social democratic heaven and Victorian working conditions. They argue the Tories will always legislate to the benefit of bosses aiding them in their ever more extreme search for profits, which come, in the left-wing zero-sum-game, from exploited workers. Furthermore, there is no trade off: job protection – making it harder and more costly to fire an employee – has no effect at all on whether or not jobs are created. It’s a cost-free benefit to the worker. An exemplar of this view is Claude, who can be found over at Hagley road to Ladywood. Let’s have a look at the arguments in detail.

David Cameron’s recent plans to make it easier to sack staff in the first two years of their employment have sparked an intense debate over the nature of Britain’s labour market. After the “fluffy years”, it was only a matter of time before the crook-eyed default Tory approach to the world of paid employment would resurface.

There is a trust issue. The belief, clearly laid out that such reductions to job protection or workers’ rights are only to the benefit of “the bosses”. Of course Conservatives along with liberals believe that the main cost of these workers’ rights is borne by the low skilled and long-term unemployed who find it vastly harder to get work as a result. That the left make it a moral issue suggests they haven’t looked at the evidence too closely. They might not like what they see. The motivation of reducing job protection is not some form of class-based loyalty toward the bosses, but in the fact that Governments are judged on two metrics above all others: House prices and Unemployment. Governments are incentivised to keep house prices up and unemployment down. So any argument that the Conservatives are motivated by “profit” is going to get short shrift.

The problem for Cameron and the bosses’ organisations, however, is that – unlike the Thatcher years – there’s very little left in terms of workers’ protection for the government to wade in with the axe. Extreme job insecurity in the UK is already a growing reality.

According to the OECD, Britain is in the top three along with the US and Canada (and well under the OECD average) in the strictness of employment protection index (1985-2008), which measures “the procedures and costs involved in dismissing individuals or groups of workers and the procedures involved in hiring workers on fixed-term or temporary work agency contracts”.

Statutory employment rights, whatever the OECD’s metrics, are a poor indicator of employment conditions. I enjoy no employment rights as I am self-employed, but I rather like what I do. At the other extreme, the workers of the soviet Union were guaranteed a job, and were very unlikely to be fired, yet didn’t think the trade-off in terms of freedom worth while. Of course, Temporary staff give companies the freedom to cover workers’ rights like maternity leave without the costs of doing so causing them to go bust. It also gives individuals the flexibility to ‘try before they buy’ an industry – my work experience after leaving the army was mostly temp work from post-rooms to secretarial positions in any city institution I could find. I built up knowledge from people I met, whilst taking exams. Such positions can also be viewed as an extended job interview – temp-to-perm roles are increasingly common and gave me my first break in ‘the city’. The assumption that temporary staff are always abused is ludicrous.

Given the companies’ free access to casual staff on “zero hours contract”, or the free use of “temps” (which, by law, can be hired repeatedly on fixed-term contracts for up to four years before any tie comes into place), the lax regulation on probationary period for regular staff, as well as some of the lowest levels of statutory redundancy pay in the Western world, the notion that Britain’s employment regulations may be at the core of the current dole rates is simply comedy material.

Were anyone suggesting that employment protection was behind the current unemployment figures, Claude would be right to laugh. But no-one’s making any such assertion. The truth is that any changes to employment legislation are only going to have effects at the margin. Any jobs created that would not have been so had the employment legislation remained at the status quo ante would be swamped by the much larger effect of economic growth on rates of job creation. The Government’s belief is that signals like cutting corporation tax, cutting job protection and easing the burden of regulation will all add up to a significant effect on the unemployment numbers over time as employers are encouraged to take a risk and hire a few people they might not have risked under more onerous legislation. It is not about doing down the workers…

If we carry on this way, soon the only crusade left for the British Chamber of Commerce and the Tories to embark upon under the guise of “cutting red tape” will be against the right for workers to empty their bladder or take a crap at work.

Let’s ignore the hyperbole. The idea that it is the state which prevents people from abusing workers more than the fact that in a wealthy economy, any worker is without options, is absurd. Employers seek to avoid the staff turnover that such conditions create: training people to do jobs in Britain’s increasingly sophisticated economy is a major cost of employment.

The state is not the ONLY guarantor of job security. Indeed I suggest it’s not even the major one. Claude’s argument that job insecurity is the result of legislative changes misses the point.

However, what the last few days also highlighted is the almost total abdication on the part of the left and Labour in the fight against the galloping job insecurity and its noxious effects.

This line from the normally commendable Stumbling and Mumbling blog bothered me to the extreme. While sceptical of David Cameron’s proposals, author Chris Dillow also wrote:

“There’s good evidence that [employment protection] reduces workers’ effort and increases absenteeism. This suggests that – at the margin – Cameron’s proposals might increase labour productivity”.

Now, the reason why the above quote bothered me so much is that it shows how toxic and widespread certain myths are that even well-informed and well-read people can buy into them without questioning. In brief, the Daily Mailesque-fable that a permanent job or certain guarantees at work will automatically turn you into a slacker.

Just because the Daily Mail thinks something, that doesn’t mean it is automatically wrong. Of course the evidence is clear that where job protection is strongest, in the public sector where there is no profit motive for bosses to keep costs down, and where bureaucratic headcount farming rules, shows much higher levels of absenteeism, sickness and lower productivity. Though Claude will no doubt blame this on increasing outsourcing and casualisation, it’s not the temps who are involved in stories of people off “sick” for years on full pay, which are legion. No-one’s counting the cost, so why risk the aggro of firing someone who will never work? Despite the vastly better job security, longer holidays and shorter hours, stress is the most common cause of sickness in the public sector. Where does that leave the rest of the argument?

They ain’t gonna sack me, so why bother, basically. And how can you dispute that if even the usually meticulous and pro-left Chris Dillow can cite “good evidence” on the matter? Except that said “good evidence” points to three pieces of research from Portugal and Italy which are solely and exclusively focused on specific (and already obsolete) legislation passed in those two countries in the 1980s and 1990s. Those laws were extremely protective – overly protective in fact – in a way not remotely comparable to anything Britain ever experienced, not even at its unionised peak. It’s like saying “there’s good evidence that January is not a cold month and in fact look at this link to prove it”. Except that it points to average January temperatures from the Canary Islands and Dubai.

The fact is, instead, that there’s literally a mammoth body of research out there warning of the toxic long-term effects of job insecurity (click here for a summary).

How dare Chris Dillow challenge a leftist Shibboleth! Splitter! I’m not going to argue the toss about whether job insecurity is a bad thing. Of course it is! I just don’t think it is going to be amenable to the kind of legislation Claude thinks is necessary. If you’re vital for the smooth and efficient running of your organisation, bring in business, or have vital skills developed over many years, are just good at your job, or simply try hard then you have job security. If you don’t have skills like these, then no amount of legislation is going to help you keep your job. Secondly, job insecurity may be bad for your health and happiness, but unemployment’s much worse.

In reality, One way to mitigate job insecurity is a dynamic job market in which a newly redundant worker can quickly find another job. And conservatives believe that reducing the risk of employing someone increases the likelihood, at the margin, of jobs being created. A dynamic job market also increases workers’ real bargaining power as it removes some of the fear of the Bosses’ ultimate sanction. Conservatives choose the lesser of two evils believing that state efforts to relieve job security are wrong-headed and indeed counter-productive, whilst leftists deny there’s a trade off at all: they simply don’t believe that reducing job protection results in any net increase in employment. What does the evidence say?

Over the years detailed studies took place around the world, from the US and Canada to Australia, Sweden, Korea, Germany and more. The findings leave room to no doubt: there is a clear correlation between excessive levels of job insecurity and a variety of negative outcomes.

Not in dispute: How much of self-reported job insecurity is due to weak statutory job protection though? If, however there is a positive effect on employment of weakening job protection, then that increase in job insecurity both mitigates the damage by giving the insecure worker options AND reduces the greater harm, of unemployment.

The initial advantages of “increased flexibility and lower costs” for the employers are undisputed. But little is ever said about the long-term effects that “casualisation may have on important aspects of national economic performance such as skill formation” and, most importantly, the ticking time-bomb that is widespread casualisation as weighed against “long-term financial planning”.

Having criticised Chris Dillow’s links on the grounds that they’re obsolete and foreign, he points to a paper dealing with the Australian labour market, much more involved with primary industry, and far more different to that of the UK than Italy’s. The conclusions are tenuous at best. It is trivially true that a casualised workforce will be lower skilled, but misses the bigger point that in skilled industries casualisation is unlikely to benefit the employer. It is the absence of unskilled work of any kind that is responsible, in part, for long-term unemployment. The unskilled are priced out of the UK employment market.

The leftist angst against casualisation misses many other point and belies the importance of temporary work as bridging employment between permanent jobs. Indeed the level of one form of contract over another has little correlation with the degree of labour market turnover. Cultural or institutional factors are more important. My father, a Midlands metal-basher, did not employ unskilled people off the dole. He would only employ the unskilled as apprentices if they could demonstrate the ability to turn up, on time and work hard. This skill is the first to be lost by the long-term unemployed and completely lacking in the multi-generational welfare classes – such people are a huge risk to employ. I will be accused of “demonsising the unemployed”. However a stint at McDonald’s is sufficient to demonstrate the most basic criterion for successful employment: willingness to work. From Claude’s chosen link “direct transition from unemployment to a ‘permanent’ job is less likely than an indirect one which goes from unemployment via a casual job to a permanent one”. Casualisation can be seen as a potential “lubrication” into full-time permanent employment, and is vital to the effective functioning of the Labour market for both employer and employee.

But the strongest and most consistent evidence is the one seen across firms, industries, and countries linking job insecurity with “negative employee attitudes, behavio[u]rs, and health” and with the fact – as noted by several researchers – that “job insecurity is more stressful than job loss itself”.

That may or may not be the case. But it is not clear that “job insecurity” is much amenable to statutory protection. The best defence against insecurity – being valuable to your organisation – is in the individual’s hands. Furthermore, being fired rarely comes out of the blue – there will be a period of disciplinary meetings, performance appraisals and a dawning realisation that you’re going to be fired. Under these circumstances of course, the eventual redundancy comes as a relief! I know: I’ve been fired from a couple of jobs I’ve been unqualified or unsuited for, and the laborious (state-mandated) process of getting rid of someone by creating a paper-trail of HR department meetings, and warnings is a large part of that stress. Simply working without state-mandated rights to sue your employer, or without statutory redundancy pay does not feature in day-to-day stress for someone working competently for a profitable enterprise.

Amongst the negative effects, a “powerful negative influence on motivation”, “reduced effort” and “poor safety compliance by employees”. Low levels of job satisfaction are also associated with negative employee attitudes, lower customer performance and effectiveness with customers as well as with -in turn- a detrimental effect on group morale. And that’s without taking into account what “the longer term negative effects on workers’ depression levels“, or “the systemic [relation] between job insecurity and marital and family dysfunction” or, even, the proven effects that “parents’ job insecurity has on children’s school performance as measured by grades”. The fact that “job insecurity reduces job satisfaction is attributable to the uncertainty of not knowing how to predict or control job threats”.

And more evidence is provided that job insecurity is a bad thing. No-one disagrees. But those statistics pointing to job insecurity suggest that bad management, not lax legislation is to blame. Whilst stronger protection might help at the margin, what is the cost in extra unemployment? Does Claude really believe that job protection has NO effect on the marginal propensity of a business to hire? In any case, the negative effects of job insecurity are not the issue. The effects of legislation on job security might be, but more importantly, Claude has to demonstrate the primary case that statutory job protection increases net employment, and that is far from proven.

The government is suggesting reducing workers’ rights, especially by extending probationary periods, makes it more likely that employers will take the risk of employing someone. Likewise reducing the likelihood of being sued by a disgruntled former worker will reduce the risk of hiring people, and therefore have a small effect on the likelihood of a job being created, as does reducing statutory sick and redundancy pay. No-one is suggesting that these effects are massive. Such policies are not going to end unemployment overnight, but every little change has a small effect at the margin, which may take a long time to filter through companies’ institutional inertia and will be very difficult to tease out of the data in the imperfect laboratory that is an international developed economy.

And that’s because, while insecurity in the short-term may spur a worker to perform better if the goal is a latter stage of more protection and various perks, an ongoing perception of “precariousness” will start having an adverse effect, as the worker will feel increasingly uncertain that their persistence can be sufficient enough for them to retain their job.

This demonstrates how little Claude knows about business. Using fear of unemployment is poor management. The largest employer in the country is the Small & Medium Enterprise sector: family businesses, like the one I grew up with. The risk of hiring an incompetent or idle worker is vast, as margins are thin and competition is hot. One person not putting their shoulder to the wheel at crucial times in a factory employing a couple of dozen people could cost the company a customer or its reputation. Under these circumstances, it makes sense to pay good people well and choose them carefully.

For a worker with little to lose, the lack of ties will offer no incentives to stop them from slacking off or “looking elsewhere” altogether.

Claude makes my point for me. If you need your staff, you need to motivate them – just as getting drunk on company time and crashing the company van will get you fired pretty damn quick, stakhanovite effort will get you a couple of hundred quid extra in your pocket at the end of the month, with tickets to a football match and hand-written note from the boss that a couple of days extra paid holiday should be taken to take the significant other somewhere nice, by way of a “thank you”. Otherwise they will go and find an employer who will appreciate their efforts. Good management is about a happy workforce.

I understand the point Claude’s making. But he can’t have it both ways: either cutting these rights is a big issue which will benefit company profits (which does lead to increased hiring and help reduce unemployment) or it is a drop in the ocean and have little effect, in which case, why is he so upset? My view is that state statutory redundancy and sick-pay and tribunal rights for workers have little effect on job security, and less on the workers’ feeling of job security. Their effect on employers behaviour in terms of jobs created will likewise be small. On balance, I think the trade-off is worth it. If you want to be secure at work, work hard and make yourself invaluable to your employer.

Unemployment is not constant: it is a statistical result of two fast flowing streams: people entering the job-market from education for example, or redundancy; and those getting jobs. Even during a recession 10% of people leave the unemployment pool every month, and it is this stream: getting jobs, which is the more variable. Jobs are lost at a more constant rate over the cycle than are created. Thus it makes sense if, and if you’re a sensible government you do, want to reduce unemployment, it makes sense to concentrate on job creation rather than job destruction which is much less amenable to government action.

The effect, as I mentioned above of job protection on unemployment is extremely difficult to tease out of much larger cyclical effects of the business cycle. But the effect is clearer in the more volatile seasonable data. Job protection significantly reduces job flows. It can also be teased out of intra-regional data: flexibility reduces (some) unemployment. The coalition’s policy is a step towards creating a more dynamic job market that has a better chance of creating full employment than ever stronger job protection for the decreasing band of workers lucky(?) enough to secure a job for life, ever will.

Your job is in your hands. If you’re relying on the law to prevent yourself getting fired, you’re either on the way there, or you work in the public sector.

Why NetrootsUK is Doomed to Fail

Netroots UK is the project by centre-left bloggers to “build the progressive grassroots online” in order to…

…make better links between campaigners from the worlds of politics, environment, development, civil liberties, unions, community groups…

…to share ideas for using social media to campaign against fiscal sanity the cuts. It all sounds terribly worthy, and I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than attend an event sponsored by the TUC where the key-note speakers include the likes of Sunny Hundal of liberal conspiracy, Sunder Katwala of the Fabians and Brendan Barber Current occupant of the Aleksei Grigorievich Stakhanov memorial chairmanship of the All-Union Central Council of Trades Unions.

Of course this is all new to the Lefties. For the last 13 years as the social media cranked up, a broadly sympathetic Labour party was in power. Online activism consisted of emotional blackmail of Labour members and persuasion of more or less influential MPs to sign early day motions. Once the Party lost power, their activism returned to type – violent protest, with the people smashing things and chucking bricks broadly condoned by the more moderate elements because it’s a symptom of “the anger we all feel”.

This “anger” is not directed at the policies for most of the “activists” at the rallies and demonstrations. It is tribal. The Labour party is not in power, so they’re now free to indulge their adolescent angst. It doesn’t work. The students had broad support, until they started disrespecting the cenotaph and pissing on the Statue of Sir Winston Churchill. Now the Government has a sympathetic ear from the tax-payer as they explain how their policy isn’t the herodic horror it’s been painted by the NUS.

So in order to “fight the cuts” the TUC is organising a day of speeches, and (FFS, they are parodies of themselves) ‘workshops’ in order to thrash out the unified message they’ll try to sell the rest of us. No enemies to the left, don’t split on the Labour brothers, don’t wash the movement’s dirty linen in public. Self-proclaimed “voice of a Generation” and New Statesman hack, Laurie Penny put it nicely

We’re listening politely whilst appointed arbiters of the centre-left mow the grassroots into a neat, acceptable bourgeois lawn .

Compare with the Right, Tory and Libertarian blogosphere which united to oppose the savagely illiberal and fiscally incompetent Labour government. I write about what interests me, for no-ones’s benefit but myself. If anyone’s persuaded or wants to argue, great! If someone thinks it’s useful, even better. Otherwise, I don’t care. Because there was no attempt at all from CCHQ to manage or control the message, or in anyway organise the message (I know – the Pre-Election bloggers’ forums organised for sympathetic bloggers by Eric Pickles which I attended were more by way of “thank-you” piss-ups), it was more credible. Guido, Conhome and Iain Dale built their readership BECAUSE they aren’t mere salesmen for the party. The bloggers who railed against the Labour government are now taking David Cameron to task, perhaps without the rage, but remaining independent of the Party and true to whatever grinds their axe. Even Conservative Home is often highly critical of the Leadership, whereas Guido often mocks the lefties for their complete refusal to cover stories damaging to the Left.

The result of this partisan hackery is that,under the pretext of getting rid of the Trolls (in practice this means ‘people who disagree’) and using the “network” the left-wing twitterati and blogosphere will build up at Netroots UK, they will end up speaking only to themselves. Enjoy your earnest, but deeply boring discussions about how to build a “progressive consensus” in the hermetically sealed echo-chamber of tedious student-union Marxists who never grew up. You can guarantee you’ll persuade no-one who doesn’t already agree that Red Ed’s problem is that he’s just not Left-wing enough.

Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics. And Asian Rapists.

Whilst I don’t always agree with Chris Dillow of ‘Stumbling & Mumbling’ he is excellent at challenging the cognitive biases which infest everyone’s political discourse, including mine. Just as Dubner & Levitt attempt to eke out the counter intuitive truth by the careful use of the data, it is important to challenge your own thinking, even if you don’t agree with where the logic takes you. You may think something is true, and a data point in the media confirms it. Money quote:

when we are discussing low-probability events – crime, risk, whatever – we are prone to all sorts of cognitive biases. The way to correct such biases is to use statistics. In not doing this, Mr Straw is inviting his audience to draw some inferences which might not be warranted.

Quite. If you got your information from the news, only pretty blond young women ever go missing & get murdered. So, you think Britons of Pakistani descent are rapists? That Islamic traditions lead them to be particularly prone to be abusive abusive of white girls? In Egypt maybe, but the statistics certainly don’t back that up in the UK. If a Tory had alleged what Jack Straw (albeit heavily caveatted) alleged this week, the left would have have been jumping up and down with hyperventilating accusations of racism. Jack Straw gets a by, perhaps because he’s not a racist, though that would not be a valid defence for a right-winger. But he does put people in groups first, and thinks of people as individuals second, if at all. You aren’t an individual, you’re a member of your collective. From there it’s a short intellectual step to shooting people in ditches for the good of the party. That’s why I loathe the collectivist left, but that’s a subject for another post. Much of the “libertarian” blogosphere is going to be collectivist this weekend.

I don’t like Islam, any more than I like any other religion, and I especially abhor the ‘Islamic’ attitude to women. I don’t like the idea of large, closed unintegrated communities in the UK. But the truth is Pakistanis are LESS criminal on average than ‘whites’. Practicing Muslims are amongst the LEAST criminal demographics, and the same is true of the devout of all faiths, and I know I’m going to see a lot of anti-Islamic stuff connected to the Derby case on blogs I normally agree with. Recent immigrants live in poor towns. When Pakistanis see “white British culture” they don’t see an am-dram production of ‘Pirates of Penzance’ at the local theatre or a cricket match on a village green, they see blood and vomit on the street every Friday night, the result of another aspect of British culture, whilst they’ve been at the Mosque. Under those circumstances, would YOU want to integrate?

So. There are bad apples in EVERY community. The two men convicted are vile racist rapists, who have received long gaol terms. The Pakistani “community” wasn’t on trial for these rapes, and nor should it be. Those two men were.

Friday Links

Because I haven’t time to post, I thought I’d share with you my nominations for this week’s Britblog Roundup.

  • One from Instpector Gadget about how senior officers are selected, and why they therefore ruin everything. This contains a similar argument to…
  • …The Devil’s Kitchen‘s view as to why David Cameron has changed his mind on drugs.
  • Crooked Timber on Wikileaks
  • A couple from Heresy Corner on ‘Extreme Porn‘ and the idea that Conservatives are “unevolved
  • Tim Worstall on why Bureaucracies always expand.
  • The Adam Smith Institute on what “Big Society” actually means (rather than how David Cameron is implementing it) and how it’s only possible with a tax-cut.
  • Paul Sagar at Liberal Conspiracy on why he’s letting his (labour) party membership lapse
  • Charles Crawford suggesting that the Left’s protests are rather futile. People protesting that other people should pay more tax to give them benefits they think they’re owed is rather ugly.
  • Chris Dillow on character vs. institutions in politics.

Make a note of what you think are best posts of the week and send your selection to Britblog [at] gmail [dot] com, which this week is at the Blogoir (if he’s got his PC up and running again)

Unemployment. Not caused by what you think it is.

In another post inspired by the chaps at Hagley Road to Ladywood, I take issue with Claude’s characterisation of the Tories as heartlessly stoking unemployment for political gain. This annoys me for several reasons, not least the idea that Tories enjoy causing misery, but also because it demonstrates so many levels of misunderstanding about the economy in such a short post that I could barely contain myself.


What the keynsian head-banging left is trying to achieve is to “stimulate” the economy by deficit spending. This can take the form of tax cuts or spending. They both have the effect of increasing the deficit. The aim is to borrow demand from the future to boost the economy now. I don’t believe it works: look at Japan 30 years of “stimulus” and all they have to show for it is 40% of Tax receipts going in debt service and debt at 200% of GDP. This punk keynsian approach hasn’t worked anywhere. Ever.

So. The first premise against the cuts is wrong. It won’t tip the economy into recession any more than spending will stimulate it.

The next premise is that the Tories are going to increase unemployment by firing hundreds of thousands of local government workers. Unemployment is the last economic indicator to turn. It usually turns about 18 months after the economy starts to recover from it’s bottom, and polices to influence it are noticed, if at all after a similar delay. It is therefore to blame the Tories for the direction Unemployment is travelling about Summer-Autumn 2011. Unemployment is rising: That’s still the Labour party’s fault.

It may seem foolish to increase the rate of job losses. This looks stronger than the rather stupid idea that cuts will tip the country into recession, but it too is wrong, because as I’ve argued many times, cutting the deficit is vital to prevent a catastrophic collapse in the economy, and that can’t be done without a smaller public sector payroll. And it’s wrong mainly because this level of job-losses can be absorbed by a recpovering private sector even without boom-level growth. Don’t believe me? The UK workforce of 30,000,000 from 1988-2008 lost around 2.2m jobs a year, so an extra 300,000 is neither here nor there. Except that it isn’t 300,000 as there are nearly a million jobs CREATED in the public sector each year. This 300,000 is just those jobs lost which will not be refilled. In fact, the rate of job destruction is remarkably constant during the economic cycle. The most important thing influencing unemployment is the rate of job creation. In the context of an economy which creates around 150-200,000 jobs a month, even now during what is regarded as a pretty horrible economic time, the idea that the private sector will take up the slack, although derided by leftists, is easily believable, if you’re prepared to look at the facts.

Some people on the left don’t think anyone should be fired, ever. That’s just naive. If you want to have a grown-up debate, it is important to accept that jobs have to go from time to time. If you accept that, you need to ensure that there are jobs to go to, and of course for all the reasons mentioned, it is important to look at what increases the rate of job creation.

The government, insofar as it is able must make it less risky for employers to hire. If you cannot fire a worker once hired, this increases the risk of hiring him in the first place. This means that if you make it easier to fire, there will be MORE jobs created, and unemployment will fall. This single piece of counter-intuitive logic effectively negates everything the left believes about employment.

So attempts to stimulate the economy by spending fail, because they destroy the economy. Attempts to mitigate by preventing people getting fired fail because they cause MORE companies in trouble to go bust, and they make it riskier to hire, reducing job creation and resulting in HIGHER unemployment.

In attempting to reduce a small evil – being fired in a dynamic economy, the left condemns millions to a life on benefits without the hope of work. Leftist policy is to the benefit of insiders – those with full-time public sector jobs (especially unionised insiders) but that is the detriment of everyone else, tax-payers, the crowded out private-sector. But most catastrophically the unemployed.

The Tories want the same as Labour. Low unemployment. The fact is the Tories have a MUCH better track record in delivering it. Every labour government since the war has left more people languishing on the dole than when they took office. They also usually left a weaker pound, currency and fiscal crises.

The state is the wrong tool for the job of reducing unemployment, and state spending or fiscal stimulus vies with job protection polices for the most catastrophically counterproductive policy to reduce unemployment. In fact the best thing the state can do to create jobs is build infrastructure (that basically means roads) and bugger off, leaving the people to use it as they see fit without interference by Government. People’s natural desire to solve problems and get rich will see to it that anyone who wants a job can have one. Once you sort out the over-generous welfare state to see to it that everyone actually wants one, then you have full employment.

The less the state does, the better. Every solution the Labour party regards as axiomatic PREVENTS full employment. You might even think that they WANT an enormous client state of servile benefits recipients to reliably vote for the (Labour) hand that feeds. But even I’m not that cynical. Never attribute to malice what could be attributed to mere incompetence.