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A few tweaks here and there

18 Sep

I have been reading The Communist Manifesto recently, which I should have done four decades ago. It is only 48 pages long, so not at all daunting to read. Marx was a journalist and even if his style is a little florid for modern taste it is still thoroughly readable.

The analysis of the situation of a modern industrialised society is uncannily accurate. If you substitute neoliberal for bourgeoisie it is completely modern. Here is one passage:

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors,” and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, callous “cash payment.” It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom–Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.

The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.

I have a problem with the predictions which follow the analysis. Marx and Engels failed to see the endless reinvention of capitalism and the appeal of consumer durables or the American Dream. In other words, the wannabe society. With fewer and fewer reaping the financial rewards of global capitalism there will come a tipping point. I make no predictions as to when it will happen or what the outcome will be.


Declining gracefully

17 Feb

When this country was at its greatest, in Victorian times, we had a virtually open border. There were waves of immigrants who flooded in to areas like the East End of London. Almost all the major ports had large numbers of immigrants. They almost all started at the bottom and worked hard to create a better life for themselves, and the culture and economy of the country was much enriched by their presence.

Political agitators, like Karl Marx found a home here, whereas he could have been imprisoned in France or executed in his home state of Prussia. I’m sure that he was watched, but he was allowed to work and live in safety. Would a modern government let him in?

Whatever else you might think about the Victorians it cannot be denied that they had a breadth of vision entirely lacking in modern Britain. These days many little Englanders whinge about foreigners taking our jobs and houses. This is a distraction from our real problems. We have started to become a pessimistic, inwards looking and repressive society.

If we really want to become a great country again it will not be done by battening down the hatches, but by looking outwards and taking our responsibilities to the world seriously.

Times have certainly changed, and we no longer have an empire to rule, thank heavens. We still punch above our weight economically and militarily, but we are too dependent on the financial services sector and on London. The rest of the country is starved of resources and has huge untapped potential.

One of the greatest issues to address is the non-payment of tax by multinational corporations. Currently most European countries compete to offer the best deals for companies by offering tax dodges, especially Luxemburg and Ireland. A new initiative in the European Union would force these companies to pay their taxes where they earn their profits, and Europe as a whole is too large a market to ignore. If we pull out of the EU we can kiss good bye to this tax windfall.

Europe is a large enough block to resist outside forces. Currently the decline in Chinese financial growth is causing panic in trading rooms worldwide.  And when the US sneezes Britain catches cold. There is far less instability if we belong to a larger grouping.

We cannot return to some mythologized golden age, but we can regain the sort of attitudes that made us great as a nation. Burying your head in the sand will not do it.

I find this fascinating

11 Jan

This is from Quora, about the US system, but very applicable to the UK:

Mark Ward

Mark Ward, I have taught Political Science courses for the last 8 years

There have been a number of studies that have addressed this issue.

A 2010 study using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, for example, found that the IQs of young adults who described themselves as “very liberal” averaged 106.42, whereas the mean of those who identified as “very conservative” was 94.82.

Similarly, when a 2009 study correlated cognitive capacity with political beliefs among 1,254 community college students and 1,600 foreign students seeking entry to U.S. universities, it found that conservatism is “related to low performance on cognitive ability tests.”

In 2012, a paper reported that people endorse more conservative views when drunk or under cognitive pressure; it concluded that “political conservatism may be a process consequence of low-effort thought.”

Of course, all of this depends on how you define “conservative” and “liberal.”

Based on these studies, such a policy would benefit the Democrats.