Monday, 26 June 2017

reply to Mark's facebook post


Mark,

You argue that it is unfair on those who don't go to university to pay for those who do.


Well, a favourite canard of the Right can be used in reverse: that's the "politics of envy".


But there is a far more serious problem with your logic, which is very monetarist, narrow-minded and misses the big picture. An obsessive focus on money always renders people incapable of looking at things holistically.

Firstly, you're making the false assumption that only the student benefits from his university education. That's absolutely wrong. The non-student also benefits from it. For example, the non-student benefits from the services provided by a large host of graduates - in medicine, teaching, social work, engineering, architecture, journalism, arts, ... . But conservatives and libertarians focus on the self, not society as a whole, because their ideology is individualism (' everything is about *me* ').

I'm in good health, so I don't really use the NHS at all. Other public services I hardly use include: the police (I've almost never been a victim of crime), the roads (I do very little driving), the rail network, the fire brigade, counsellors, legal aid, prisons, etc. By your logic, I should be bleating about paying taxes to support all those services for others, not myself.

But I don't bleat like that because I take the holistic view. All those services are needed for a civilised society. My taxes are the subscription I pay for membership of a club called 'civilised society'.

You keep bleating about "over-taxing", but that is simply another irrelevance (in addition to Dean Joel's irrelevant speculations about humans colonising other planets).
Over-taxing and colonising other planets are interesting theoretical discussions, but irrelevant because no one is even proposing either in the foreseeable future.

Labour are simply proposing to raise taxes to put us less out of step with others; and even with Labour's proposed increases, we will still be taxed less than most of our competitors.

Tories like to invoke the Laffer curve to support their argument about 'over-taxing'. But the Laffer curve actually supports Labour's proposals because it shows that revenue increases as you raise taxes. (According to Laffer, revenue is only damaged beyond a critical high tax rate, but Labour are not proposing to go anywhere near that region of the curve.)

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Why isn't *everyone* most concerned (like Corbyn) about the least vulnerable in society?

I don't think Corbyn is very skilled, e.g. cleverness, oratory, tactics.

I think his electoral success just boils down to his transparency and his 'simple' values, which simply concur with the vast majority of humans, e.g. such (bland) principles as 'fairness' and prioritising the needs of the most vulnerable (because that could be your own mum or you yourself tomorrow).

Corbyn sticks out like a sore thumb in the House. Almost no one else there is 'simple' like him.They are all preoccupied with manoeuvring and positioning themselves, and they are all self-serving. They are completely detached from the simple values of Corbyn and the public. This was strikingly illustrated today: they overwhelmingly voted not to take Chilcot's report to its logical conclusion and hold Blair to account, whereas any poll of the public produces the diametric opposite result.

I referred to the simple "human" values of Corbyn and the vast majority of the public, which implies that our politicians are (as a group) mutants.

And that seems spot-on to me: just listen to the weird convoluted way they (double-)speak.

How is it that an overwhelming majority of humans can allow a tiny minority of dangerous mutants to rule and ruin their lives?

Perhaps there's something deep in the human collective psyche that fears freedom and actually wants dictatorship (by the elite) because that's less effort than creating your own destiny.

(It's late, I'm tired, and I'm just thinking/rambling out loud. There must be scholars out there who have considered these questions properly. Any feedback/references welcome.)

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Trump v Clinton

If I can stay awake, then I am going to watch the final Trump v Clinton debate (0130 tonight). Missed all the previous ones.

This presidential contest is quite intriguing because it's entirely unprecedented (is my understanding).

I've seen clips from the last one and 'debate' is a complete misnomer. It's just a slanging match. It feels very much like watching a fall-out between housemates in BigBrother!

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Russia's (superior?) military capability

There has been increasing discussion about possible direct military confrontation between America and Russia, particularly an air war.

That sparked my curiosity so, in an idle moment, I browsed info about fighter jets.

I was amazed to discover that, out of the top ten fighter jets, Russia possesses more of those models than America (including the top two spots).

(Of course that may depend on what website you look at and what metrics they apply; but I'm pretty sure that that conclusion applies pretty objectively because I scanned several sites.)

I'm very used to thinking of Russian technology as primitive compared to American.

And this, incidentally, reminds me of that Clint Eastwood film from the eighties, 'Firefox'.

- where American agent Eastwood's character is tasked with stealing the super-advanced 'Firefox' Russian fighter from the Russia.

That film has always puzzled me in this respect:

On the surface, it's a celebration of American derring-do: Eastwood sneaks into Russia and manages to steal the fighter from right under their noses.

But, at the age I was then, I was particularly aware that Russian technology was a joke. So it was then, and continues now, to be puzzling why a successful act of theft should be seen as more impressive than someone else's (Russia's) triumph in producing something that you would covet in the first place.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Academics are cowards.

Consider this:

https://mainlymacro.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/economists-brexit-and-media-epilogue.html#comment-form

Wren-Lewis: "This really is like blaming scientists for not warning enough about climate change."

Wren-Lewis implies that it is  *wrong*  to blame climate scientists for not being politically engaged.

But that is indeed largely why we are in a climate crisis: the blame lies largely with climate scientists.

The problem is the same problem that manifests with academics generally. They are closeted in their seminars and conferences; they are like anoraks and nerds who prefer to stay in their basements playing video games rather than getting their hands dirty through involvement with the real world with its dirty business (e.g. politics). That is: prefer to stay in their comfort zones.

The attitude is: Let's wait til all the fighting blows over, then, when things have calmed down and we can feel safe again, we'll stick our heads above the parapet again.

All that academics really care about is being feted by others, e.g. politicians, through being invited to expound their  *professorial*  expertise.

They always want to run away from a fight.

But their running away only exacerbates the misery (e.g. austerity) for citizens. Academics who are both intellectual giants  *and*  political fighters (e.g. Noam Chomsky) are very rare.

Economic experts are happy to  *advise*  Corbyn (because that boosts their own profile), but they don't want to be seen as  *endorsing*  any politician because that would bring them too close to the heat of the battleground.

And they spin that detachment from the fight as a virtue ("neutrality"), just like the BBC spins its 'impartiality' between climate science and sceptics as a virtue (but is actually journalistic cowardice).

The ivory tower brigade (Corbyn's economic advisors) are too closeted to understand politics, ....

... too closeted to understand politics, a dirty business.

Consider this:

http://labourlist.org/2016/06/exclusive-labours-economic-advisors-criticise-corbyn-over-eu-campaign/

It seems the advisors have suspended their work because they're unhappy about Corbyn's performance in the EU referendum campaign, whose Leave result they consider "disastrous".

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that they're correct: Corbyn under-performed.

My point is that that's a technical issue - measuring his performance and measuring the impact of Leave on the economy (personally, I don't believe you can predict the economic impact because human behaviour is the massive variable that disqualifies economics from being a science, like, say, physics).

And that's the problem with the ivory-tower academics: they can only deal with technical questions; they have minimal/zero appreciation of dirty stuff like politics, because they never have to get into the sewer, as Corbyn and McDonnell have to. They like to be 'above' politics.

They don't understand that their precious technical assessments are, in the real world, merely political ammunition. They have handed the plotters another weapon with which to attack Corbyn.

It seems they haven't thought ahead because they're apparently oblivious that it's all a dirty game, not a civilised academic discussion, like the seminars they spend their lives in:
If Corbyn is eliminated, then there is even less hope that their anti-austerity economics will be implemented.

Their delusion is that their first priority should always be to academic questions, e.g. how bad will Brexit be for the economy and what proportion of blame lies with Corbyn?

They cannot understand that strategic questions must sometimes trump academic ones.

The same problem (closeted lifestyle of academics) occurs with climate scientists. They have spent decades in the delusion that it is enough simply to be getting on with their work and leave the politics to others. Now they regret their isolationism and can see the consequences of staying in their comfort zone.