Job snob? No, I’ve got the T-shirt


by Dave Osler    
2:13 pm - February 21st 2012

      Share on Tumblr

One of the numerous job creation schemes of the Thatcher years was known officially as Employment Training, although the acronym was colloquially translated into ‘Extra Tenner’, because that was how much it paid on top of the dole.

These days, it seems, even an additional ten quid a week is a bit much to ask. Many of Britain’s  most profitable employers are securing staff for nothing, with the state picking up the tab for Jobseekers’ Allowance and a bus pass.

When I did my six month stint on ET, my employer provided me with what turned out to be useful training as a press officer for a voluntary organisation. I guess there is not quite so much to learn about the finer nuances of night time shelf stacking.

But the current controversy has sparked widespread outrage and a bit of argy-bargy at a Tesco store in Westminster, and this morning the rightwing press has gone onto the defensive, with numerous articles in defence of workfare.

It was Labour that introduced the practice in the first place, says Philip Johnson in the Telegraph. Nonsense; workfare was commonplace in the Tory 1980s, it’s just that it wasn’t called that at the time, and Labour still had sufficient courage to oppose it.

It shouldn’t even be called workfare, Iain Duncan Smith tells the Daily Mail, before setting out what looks awfully like a distinction without a difference, and then proving how it all turned out well in the end for a woman from Neath. Opponents of the work experience programme are betraying the young, he maintains.

Employment minister Chris Grayling has even coined the term ‘job snob’, mendaciously asserting that the objection here is to the nature of the work rather than the principle involved.

Nobody I know from a working class background looks down on anybody undertaking less than glamorous tasks to earn a living. We have all done that ourselves. In my experience, ‘she’s only a shopgirl, Henry’ sneers more typically emanate from those who consider themselves above all that.

At a time when youth unemployment tops 20%, of course the state should take measures to bolster the chances of those who have been out of work for an extended period.

But I’m not convinced that the current scheme is the way to go about it. Indeed, it is actually a disincentive to job creation. Why employ anybody on a contract when the local Jobcentre will send you an uninterrupted stream of expendable labour power at no cost whatsoever?

If the work needs doing then there is a vacancy. And if there is a vacancy, it should be filled at an appropriate rate of pay.

The definition of appropriate rate of pay will vary according to taste. For me, that means union rates. Given the current weakness of the labour movement, others will regard the local average for similar work as good enough.

But at the non-negotiable very least, it has to mean the minimum wage. The clue is in the name here; if thousands of people are working for less than that, it no longer does what it says on the tin.

Widespread workfare will then exert a downward pressure on what everybody else takes home. And don’t tell the Tories hadn’t thought of that one, either.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
Dave Osler is a regular contributor. He is a British journalist and author, ex-punk and ex-Trot. Also at: Dave's Part
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Conservative Party ,Economy


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


“of course the state should take measures to bolster the chances of those who have been out of work for an extended period.”

Another point here is that these schemes are now actually harming the career prospects of people by forcing them to give up voluntary work they may be doing into workfare – the example of the geology student forced to give up her work at a museum to stack shelves in poundland comes to mind. Any tories want to defend this?

If the work needs doing then there is a vacancy. And if there is a vacancy, it should be filled at an appropriate rate of pay.

Absolutely. If there are unemployed people out there employers shouldn’t need to use the State to force people to fill there positions, nor should tax payers be expected to foot the bill.

It was Labour that introduced the practice in the first place, says Philip Johnson in the Telegraph. Nonsense; workfare was commonplace in the Tory 1980s, it’s just that it wasn’t called that at the time, and Labour still had sufficient courage to oppose it.

Only because they weren’t in power. This is the State against the individual and it doesn’t matter a toss who’s in power. That’s why its called ‘power’.

The true “job snobs” are actually all the Graylings and Duncan Smiths of this country who, in their warped Tory mind, obviously think that those jobs are so shit that they don’t even deserve to be paid at NMW rates.

I think they could prove they weren’t snobs if, say, unemployed bankers were forced to work at a bank for £1 a week.

“This is the State against the individual and it doesn’t matter a toss who’s in power.”

Could you see Alex Salmond doing this in an independent Scotland? Would it happen in Denmark, France etc?

Shatterface @ 2

Only because they weren’t in power.

This is the type of crass statement that infuriates me, because it glibly re-writes history to suit the viewer’s perception. The Labour Party of 1983 is a very different beast, for better or worse, from the Centre/Centre Right careerist Party of today.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Thatcherism, there is little doubt that a central pillar of her Party’s strategy was to bump up unemployment for a whole host of strategic reasons. Remember, by 1983 the policy of monetarism was pretty much in tatters as much of the Country, outwith the Tory heartlands, was suffering under mass unemployment.

Whatever the Rights and wrongs of Labour’s strategy, we would not have had a policy of deliberately causing unemployment and no need for schemes to mask the true level of unemployment.

Labour would have not supported or needed workfare, because Labour still believed (rightly or wrongly) in Nationalised industries.

Now, what would have been the net result of Labour (or a one Nation Tory) in power between 1981 and 1990 is a different thread, but let us not assume that Labour would have been in the same condition or driven by the same ideology of the Tory Party of 1985.

Why employ anybody on a contract when the local Jobcentre will send you an uninterrupted stream of expendable labour power at no cost whatsoever?

I think something probably needs to be nipped in the bud here. The wages paid by a company to an employee are only a part of the cost to the company of employing that employee. Unskilled workers on extremely short-term contracts are likely to cost companies more than they are worth, even if no wages are paid at all. Training, health & safety, additional supervision, compliance and paperwork: Govt schemes have a habit of generating substantial additional work.

I suspect (given that there really is no labour shortage) that most of these firms were participating in this scheme more because of their Corporate Social Responsibility departments than their recruitment departments. That’s probably also why they’re all quitting the schemes now – they were in it for the good publicity, not the money. If the publicity is bad, there’s no reason to stay involved.

8. the a&e charge nurse

[6] we can only speculate about your hypothesis, but nowadays too many parliamentarians from either side of the house have their snout in the same trough.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DdF0VPBjVA

“Training, health & safety, additional supervision, compliance and paperwork: Govt schemes have a habit of generating substantial additional work.”

It depends really – if you have the genuine need for a shelf stacker for 3 months it will save you money to take someone on workfare over someone you pay min wage to. You have to train, supervise, complete paperwork for a new member of staff on probation anyway. The additional cost of complying with the workfare paperwork (and knowing the DWP this probably will be a lot of paperwork that can’t even be submitted online) is still going to be substantially less than 3 months wages plus NI for an employee on min wage. I think you exaggerate the point. It is only when you don’t really need the work done that the costs outweigh the benefits.

The obviousness of its unfairness is part of the point.

Those being exploited are being used to encourage others to sign off, rather than work as slaves, and into the black economy, where they vanish from the statistics.

“But at the non-negotiable very least, it has to mean the minimum wage”

…and note that there’s already an ‘apprentice rate’ of the minimum wage in place – £2.60 an hour – which is presumably supposed to reflect (from the apprentices’s point of view) the fact that this is part work, part training, and (from the employer’s point of view) the fact that the apprentice is going to be less productive than a fully-trained staff member, but still make some worthwhile contribution. Paying any less than that just takes the piss; the employer would only have to match JSA for workers to be receiving at least *that* much. (And even then, you’d want to be sure some genuinely worthwhile training/experience was being provided in order to justify paying so little.)

12. Matt Wardman

>Why employ anybody on a contract when the local Jobcentre will send you an uninterrupted stream of expendable labour power at no cost whatsoever?

Answered here.

It will cost *more* to employ 10 unskilled placement people while you find the one wh o can do the job.

Try employing some people to see.

Timj @ 7

Training, health & safety, additional supervision, compliance and paperwork: Govt schemes have a habit of generating substantial additional work.

Yes, but Tesco get a hundred quid each recruit. A room filled with ten employees is a cool grand for nothing. The health and saftey video is already there and the training officer and supervisor is earning a wage anyway. To be fair, Tim, Tescos are well used to this, because they hire Temps for Christmass and to cover summer holidays on short contracts. So it makes sense to get some free labour at peak times.

I suspect (given that there really is no labour shortage) that most of these firms were participating in this scheme more because of their Corporate Social Responsibility departments than their recruitment departments.

I find that hard to believe, because when big business does something that they think they will get good publicity from something, by God you know about it. Come, Red Nose Day, Help for Heroes and the like, you see a massive fanfare and huge publicity campaigns etc. Yet until this week, I was vaguely aware of this scheme. It only appeared on my radar last month when the graduate was forced to give up volunteering at the local museum because dole has promised Poundland free labour.

I have never seen Tesco advertise this scheme in an independent manner, other than the adverts shown here. I doubt if this were something they were proud of, this would have been firmly stapled to the Nation’s foreheads. If there is one thing Tesco does well, it is publicity. Furthermore, if they were proud of it, they would be defending it to the hilt and openly lying about it. Again, big businesses are more than capable of facing down a bit of bad publicity, if they see a long-term positive outcome.

Tesco have been caught with their greedy hands in the till on this, unlike others who who have put their hands up with a polite ‘sorry, it shant happen again’, Tesco have decided to wriggle on the hook, so the ‘bad publicity’ can’t outwiegh the economic benefit from getting shelves stacked for free plus a hundred quid per recruit.

An easy way out of this would be for Tesco to announce that all of its current conscripted labour will be given employment contracts and backdated wages to those exploited at the beginning of the scheme, the Government could waive the claw back too. Apparently, they have had fourteen hundred people on this scheme at one time or another, so not a huge amount of money when compared to a Billion quid in profit.

@9 Planeshift

Spot on. Tim J is exaggerating the point indeed. He’s the same one who, calling straight from century IXX, in another thread saw nothing wrong with women being freely fired due to pregnancy. Nice.

I must admit, I almost shed a tear for poor wee Tesco as I read Tim J’s words about the strains that health & safety compliance may have on the multibillion pound company. Oh bless them.

Tim J heroically chooses to ignore the incentives for companies. Potentially thousands of free workers while not a single one of a company’s pennies going to national insurance, tax, holiday, sickpay.

Oh…and lest we forget. To the prophets of the “something for something” myth: most people on the dole paid National Insurance for years, in some cases decades. They already contributed so that they could one day receive benefits in case of need.

Don’t forget that, Tory.

It depends really – if you have the genuine need for a shelf stacker for 3 months it will save you money to take someone on workfare over someone you pay min wage to.

I thought these were three week contracts max? If so, you’d be rotating what, 4 or 5 unskilled employees over that period?

He’s the same one who, calling straight from century IXX, in another thread saw nothing wrong with women being freely fired due to pregnancy. Nice.

Imbecile. You said on that thread:

In the UK dismissing a pregnant woman is “automatic unfair dismissal”

And I pointed out that you were wrong. Dismissing a pregnant woman in the UK is only automatically unfair if she’s dismissed because she’s pregnant. No value statement, or anything like it. Just a straightforward correction.
http://liberalconspiracy.org/2012/02/20/why-work-reforms-in-spain-are-a-warning-for-workers-across-europe/#comment-358254

If you really must lie about what other people say, it’s as well not to do it about something so instantly verifiable.

@15.TimJ, it’s meant to be time limited but I’ve seen enough comments on the internet that suggests it’s not necessarily the case in practice. This is, no doubt, the fault of rogue JobCentres as such things have been explained away in the past.

Also, for the disabled &c., it’s not time limited at all. It’s ongoing – which is obscene.

Regarding training and supervision, again that’s in theory. In practice – and based on what I’ve heard from people personally – I think it’s very different. Large organisations like Tesco are set-up to need very little supervision – it’s hardly one-to-one mentoring.

As a general point regarding ‘snobbery’, I daresay that the bulk of the people that are being pushed onto workfare (whether Mandatory Work Activity, Job Centre Work Experience or whatever) are actually from the same demographic who would be working in big name retail – if only because of the size of Tesco, Asda and the like. It’s not all ‘geology graduates with a career plan’. The issue isn’t that the job is beneath them, it’s that they’re doing practically the same job as some of their peers without the same renumeration.

These schemes serve no one and nothing. Workfare might make some kind of sense if it was applied to different sectors, but the overwhelming majority of it is in the retail sector with massive firms who don’t actually need a subsidised labour force (but won’t say ‘no’ to the offer). I think that’s the most telling thing about this.

Watch your language, Tory.

You were the one arguing the toss over nothing, which is typical of right wingers when they know they’re talking BS. Take a look at the government’s own website, you dipstick.

This is what you find under the big fat header that says:

Automatic unfair dismissal. And if you scroll down a little, it includes everything connected to pregnancy and maternity rights. But you had to argue the toss.

Of course no employer will be so stupid to openly sack a pregnant woman because she’s pregnant. I was pointing out that in Spain they can now. They dont even need to pretend that it’s for something else. I don’t recall you even implying that that’s wrong. You just argued the toss. I wonder why…?

18. Chaise Guevara

@ 14 claude

“Tim J is exaggerating the point indeed. He’s the same one who, calling straight from century IXX, in another thread saw nothing wrong with women being freely fired due to pregnancy. Nice. ”

If you mean the thread I think you do (i.e. the one where firing pregnant women is being discussed), he said nothing of the sort. SMFS did, you might be mixing them up.

My first job, just after ‘A’ levels, was as a “bar porter” shifting beer barrel and crates of bottles for £6 a week. Do I sympathise with poor downtrodden Dave Osler who only got £10 more than the dole? Well, do I?

Tesco have been forced into a humiliating retreat and cover their greed with a bit of astroturf:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2104392/After-days-Twitter-campaigns-Tesco-makes-dramatic-u-turn-slave-labour-scheme.html

No, I am not taken in with this at all. This is still a bad scheme because three works work is still useless, if you do not get a job at the end of it. However, at least Tesco are not profiting from other people’s misery. What about the other parasites who are in this scheme? Any move to force them to pay people for actually doing work in their stores?

It is just IDS and the rest of the Tory vermin that are seen to exploiting young people.

21. So Much For Subtlety

When I did my six month stint on ET, my employer provided me with what turned out to be useful training as a press officer for a voluntary organisation. I guess there is not quite so much to learn about the finer nuances of night time shelf stacking.

So Workfare worked for you, but you still want to deny it to others? Because, as far as you can see, other options are not useful. Are you sure that is not a failure of your imagination? Isn’t this just a product of your incredulity that other types of work could be useful?

Employment minister Chris Grayling has even coined the term ‘job snob’, mendaciously asserting that the objection here is to the nature of the work rather than the principle involved.

We have established that the objection here, specifically, is to the nature of the work. You have just said that working in such a scheme for you provided you with a useful experience, while the present scheme is useless because it is only Shelf Stacking. Not an objection to the principle at all.

More objectionable is that use of the word “mendaciously”. You have no evidence Grayling does not honestly believe what he said. But you felt you needed to lie about what he said to boost your case?

Nobody I know from a working class background looks down on anybody undertaking less than glamorous tasks to earn a living. We have all done that ourselves. In my experience, ‘she’s only a shopgirl, Henry’ sneers more typically emanate from those who consider themselves above all that.

Yes but that is not what Job Snob implies. Not looking down on the person but looking down on the work. Which we know happens in Britain because under Blair people created some 3.5 million jobs, virtually all of which went to Eastern Europeans. Because British unemployed refused to do them.

At a time when youth unemployment tops 20%, of course the state should take measures to bolster the chances of those who have been out of work for an extended period.

I agree. Such schemes ought to be compulsory for those claiming benefits. No one could be allowed to get welfare for not working unless they are completely unable to work. Not merely unable to find work.

22. So Much For Subtlety

1. Planeshift

Another point here is that these schemes are now actually harming the career prospects of people by forcing them to give up voluntary work they may be doing into workfare – the example of the geology student forced to give up her work at a museum to stack shelves in poundland comes to mind. Any tories want to defend this?

How many geology students volunteer in museums? Which ought to be paying a living wage, surely? You want to blight the future of some 8 million people on benefits of some sort because half a dozen students volunteer in museums and might be affected by this?

Out of curiosity, I googled to see what is published about unemployment rates for graduates by degree subject:
http://www.allaboutcareers.com/features/article/19/what-are-the-unemployment-rates-for-your-degree-subject

As reported, graduates with IT degrees have the highest unemployment rates but other reports are saying this is because the quality of many IT degrees is suspect. I doubt that graduates with Cambridge computer science degrees have much trouble finding work.

24. Arthur Seaton

Arbeit Macht Frei*

*Apologies for setting of the Godwin’s Law alarm.

This kind of experience is not capable of reducing unemployment, because it does not increase the number of jobs available. While it may conceivably help one person get a paid job, it has to be at the expense of someone else not getting it that job, so there is no net change.

26. So Much For Subtlety

Tom (iow)

This kind of experience is not capable of reducing unemployment, because it does not increase the number of jobs available. While it may conceivably help one person get a paid job, it has to be at the expense of someone else not getting it that job, so there is no net change.

There is no fixed number of jobs. Jobs, like everything else, are subject to the laws of supply and demand. If workers become expensive, they are replaced by machine. Or the work is not done. If they become cheaper, machines are not used or more work is done. Any company has a number of things that could be done but they are marginal. Lower the cost of one input, such as labour, and they would be done.

27. Yeah, but am i bovered?

@25 “There is no fixed number of jobs. Jobs, like everything else, are subject to the laws of supply and demand. If workers become expensive, they are replaced by machine. Or the work is not done. If they become cheaper, machines are not used or more work is done. Any company has a number of things that could be done but they are marginal. Lower the cost of one input, such as labour, and they would be done.”

Ok, so now we’ve established that economics is another subject you failed at O level. Is there actually any area in which you have sufficient knowledge to avoid embarassing yourself?

I find it a bit annoting that they keep talking in the media about this just being a scheme to give young people work experience. Everyone on JSA has to do it eventually.

It’s called ”Steps to Work” and after you’ve been signing on for several months you will be called in for a meeting with your own special ”advisor”.

You then get sent to ”Step One”. Which is two weeks of sitting in a classroom with some other people in the same boat and having motivational talks, doing online job searches on their computers, going out and signing on with some job agencies and doing CVs.
There are even team building excercises, like making a big tower out of newspapers and sellotape, to see who could build the best one. If you don’t attend you loose your dole.
For two weeks I was told. Many people don’t turn up and take the hit.

You’re also told that Step Two will be doing this job training/experience for JSA plus £15. It will be compulsory, but you can choose some areas you might prefer.
Working in an office, at a record shop, at a hairdresser if you can find one to take you etc.

Some weeks later you will be called in for the interview to set you up with Step Two.
I think it all kinds of sucks, as it’s not voluntary, and you may not need work experience and training. Just a decent job.

@25 SMFS: “Jobs, like everything else, are subject to the laws of supply and demand. If workers become expensive, they are replaced by machine.”

True enough but workers only have control over their money wages, they have no control over the general price level and, hence, their real wages.

A general cut in money wages won’t necessarily result in a corresponding cut in their real wages – the incentive that employers need to create extra jobs – because a general cut in money wages will reduce aggregate monetary demand as workers have less money income to spend. With that and competition between between producers, there is a fair chance that prices will tend to fall as well and a downward wage-price spiral will result.

We call call that spiral “deflation” and that leads to consumers and businesses postponing spending in the expectation that prices will fall further if they wait a while. This can result in a stagnating economy with loss of real GDP and a more-or-less stable pool of unemployment. The critical policy issue is what policy initiatives will stop that cycle and boost aggregate demand so employers have market-driven incentives to respond to new sales opportunities by offering new jobs.

Try this brief by the HoC Library on Trends in the 20th Century. Section XI on Economy: Prices and Inflation includes a graph showing how retail prices fell year-on-year during the 1930s:
http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/rp99/rp99-111.pdf

This is what you find under the big fat header that says:

Automatic unfair dismissal. And if you scroll down a little, it includes everything connected to pregnancy and maternity rights. But you had to argue the toss.

That’s right. As I said, dismissing a pregnant woman because she’s pregnant is automatically unfair. But you can dismiss a pregnant woman for any other, unrelated reason. So when you said that dismissing a pregnant woman is automatically unfair in the UK, you’re just wrong.

And it’s an important difference – arguing that pregnant women should be specially protected from dismissal in ways that their colleagues aren’t is very different from arguing that pregnant women shouldn’t be specially singled out for dismissal in ways that their colleagues aren’t.

I don’t recall you even implying that that’s wrong. You just argued the toss. I wonder why…?

Because all I was doing was correcting a factual error you’d made. No more and no less. There’s nothing wrong with being ignorant about the law, most people are. But getting all shirty when it’s pointed out is a bit crass. Llying about what I actually said is just a bit of a dick move. Not exactly unexpected, but a dick move nonetheless.

Ok, so now we’ve established that economics is another subject you failed at O level. Is there actually any area in which you have sufficient knowledge to avoid embarassing yourself?

In pure economic terms he’s right isn’t he? If you lower the cost of labour, you’ll increase demand for it. And in terms of switching labour for capital he’s just describing the entire post-industrial revolution history of the world. For example:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-14368244

@damon – I thought that was how the new deal worked, but that the coalition had scrapped it?

My brother went on one of the step 1 courses years ago, and spent the entire time on the internet whilst the staff dealt with people who couldn’t use a computer.

Timj @ 31

In pure economic terms he’s right isn’t he? If you lower the cost of labour, you’ll increase demand for it.

Can it be as simple as that though, Tim? Surely ‘labour’ is unique in so far as it exists because people exist. Labour is not like apples and oranges in that strict sense. An over supply of apples can be dealt with pretty easily, but too many humans will mean people going hungry and being homeless.

Imagine a dentist. That dentist only has work because his patients have problem with their teeth.

People brush their teeth because they do not want the pain of toothache, not because fillings are expensive. It is not as if that people would be more or less careful with their teeth depending on the supply demand dynamic of dentistry in the area, is it? I mean if a new dentist opens up and pushes down the cost of treatment that the number of fillings does not increase does it? Same with roof tiles.

It does not get windier just because the number of roofers increase, does it. Your roof does not lose as many tiles as you can afford, you need to repair your roof irrespective of the price of labour.

It must be the same with shop workers. If the demand for goods is there then there will be a demand for people to work in shops. Surely, that must be true? Tescos do not have a single empty shelve in its entire chain because it is too expensive to stack stuff onto it. That must be true for every chain store in the Country. Is it ever likely to be true, no matter the price of labour. I cannot imagine how high the price of labour would need to increase before the cost of stacking shelves would make Tescos completely change its business model from a shelf-based shop.

I accept there is a lot of empty shops in our high streets, but is that down to the price labour? I cannot see how that can be true when you factor in everything else like parking and the change in shopping habits.

“In pure economic terms he’s right isn’t he? If you lower the cost of labour, you’ll increase demand for it. ”

That can be true for an individual or small groups but the systemic consequences of a general cut in money wages upon real wages – which is what matters to employers – are uncertain because workers have no control over prices. If competition between producers drives down prices in line with the cut in money wages then real wages remain unchanged, not least because workers have less to spend.

If a downward wage-price or deflationary spiral is started then that will likely lead to the postponing of spending decisions by businesses and consumers to await the benefit of lower future prices. Those circumstances are not conducive to net employment creation.

@6

Remember, by 1983 the policy of monetarism was pretty much in tatters as much of the Country, outwith the Tory heartlands, was suffering under mass unemployment.

That’s a very charitable reading of the situation – I’ve long suspected that what you are describing *was* the policy. The monetarists simply didn’t care what happened to the (largely working class) people affected by the policy and those people didn’t have the good grace to just quietly stop reproducing and eventually die off to usher in the glorious new financially-led service economy.

I don’t think Thatcher herself gave it that much thought – she simply hated the unions (particularly the NUM) for turfing the Tories out of power in the early ’70s – mass working-class unemployment meant less union membership, less union membership meant weaker unions and weaker unions meant a happy Maggie.

Planeshift, that’s how it was working as of a few weeks ago. I was in the building where the Step One course was taking place. The local company doing it went by the name of ”Core Gateway” and although the woman leading it is a very nice person, the whole thing is quite patronising. It’s all power point presentations and talking about self-esteem and the stuff you might be saying to school children, not adults of various ages.
One woman who turned up was 57 and had worked in a bank for thirty years.

And yes there was a lot of people doing their own thing on the internet.
One woman was a Somalian refugee, very shy with not very good English who finds it really hard to understand the Belfast accent and who has never worked in a regular job.
But she had minded children sometimes in Somalia she said, so she was being encouraged to write out her CV stressing her child minding experience and to apply for jobs in that field.
Which is a bit of a joke as she’s never going to get paid employment doing that anytime soon.

As for Stage Two, there were one guy in the building doing that, who’s ”job” was to sit at the reception desk and do nothing but ask people to sign in and out as they came and went. So he just browsed the internet all day.

I cannot imagine how high the price of labour would need to increase before the cost of stacking shelves would make Tescos completely change its business model from a shelf-based shop

“I cannot imagine how high the price of labour would need to increase before the cost of filling up cars would make Esso completely change its business model from a ful-service petrol station”

“I cannot imagine how high the price of labour would need to increase before the cost of manning check-outs would make Tesco change its model and introduce automated check-outs”

Businesses change their way of business to accommodate changes in costs all the time. As labour costs rise and substitutable capital costs fall, you’ll see companies switch from labour to capital. This really isn’t controversial.

In the two examples above, outside London and city-centres, self-checkouts are relatively rare. In London they’re ubiquitous. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a manned petrol pump in the UK – I’m only 32. They’re standard in Africa. The reason? Cost of labour.

Tim @ 32

Tim working practices and technology change all the time, you cannot halt that. Self-service checkouts are never going to be stopped by cutting the minimum wage because the technology exists and the public are open to using them. Is it the cost of labour that has forced them onto the public? Do we really want an economy as backward as Africa to allow petrol pump attendants to become economically viable?

To be honest, Tim, I doubt that the reason petrol pump attendants have disappeared from Europe for economic reasons. How much would a six quid an hour put on a full tank of petrol?

Of course, we could re-introduce them tomorrow, if we passed legislation that banned non trained staff from using petrol pumps on the flimsiest premise. It won’t happen of course, because BP want you buying fags and porn from their shops

Tim, the truth is you cannot halt progress and you would accept that. We could ban self-service checkouts or demand that they are fully manned, but that is not what you want either. Technology has been making labour obsolete since year dot, but the trick is to deal with obsolete people as humanely as possible. That does not entail cutting people’s wages to stave off progress or else we would be living in the middle ages.

Damon, yeah that doesn’t suprise me – the welfare to work industry and dwp are specialists in wasting people’s time and taxpayer money. Thanks for the info.

40. Chaise Guevara

@ 37 TimJ

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a manned petrol pump in the UK – I’m only 32.”

I have! It was at a charmingly absurd little place in the middle of nowhere with one pump, which probably specialised in selling leaded petrol. And I’m only 27!

While I don’t agree we should be encouraging wages to fall (if you’re making that argument) you’re right r.e. cost of labour. There seems to be this weird idea that firms only make changes to their business model when it’s that or sink, rather than from the moment it becomes the most cost-effective option.

The Medium Term Financial Strategy, introduced in the 1980 budget, was formally abandoned in the autumn of 1985 in favour of a strategy to line up the Pound to join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, which it did eventually join in October 1990 – and that led on to another disaster.

There’s a tendency among some to blame Britain’s depressed economy and high unemployment during the early 1980s on “monetarism” regardless of the predictable consequences of the tight fiscal stance of the 1981 budget, intended to rein back the inherited high inflation rate, and the steep appreciation of the Pound as it became a petro currency with the export of North Sea Oil at a time of high world oil prices. In other words, “monetarism” is blamed for too much and despite the government’s inability to stay within its own monetary targets.

For a better grounding in the realites, try this with its account of policy changes and many graphs showing actual data movements:
http://www.socscistaff.bham.ac.uk/backhouse/homepage/aukm/Chaptr13.pdf

Perhaps the final obituary on monetarism was delivered by the IMF in 1996:

“…instability of monetary demand, especially in the context of supply shocks and declines in potential output growth, complicated the task of monetary authorities. As a result, during the 1980s most central banks – with some notable exceptions – either abandoned or downplayed the role of monetary targets”. IMF World Economic Outlook, October 1996, p 106.

In West Germany, the Bundesbank applied a policy of tightly controlling the money supply for much of the period since WW2 with a much better historic record in curbing inflation than was achieved in Britain over the same time span. For one reason or another, “monetarism” evidently worked in West Germany.

When the Euro was launched in January 2000, Germany pressed for the European Central Bank to adopt monetarism as it main policy stance but that was rejected in favour of a policy of inflation targeting.

42. Chaise Guevara

@ TimJ

Jim makes a good point. Decades of automation and improved efficiency haven’t led to miniscule wages, nor to half the country on the dole: they’ve generally led to people having more stuff, with available jobs springing back up to meet the new demand.

Technology has been making labour obsolete since year dot, but the trick is to deal with obsolete people as humanely as possible. That does not entail cutting people’s wages to stave off progress or else we would be living in the middle ages.

I don’t disagree with this at all. Nor with Chaise’s point regarding the effect of growing mechanisation. But I don’t think it’s possible to argue against the fact that increasing labour costs reduces the demand for labour at the margins. Equally, the successes that Germany has had in maintaining both competetiveness and employment in manufacturing have been largely achieved by holding down wages. I’m not advocating that, I’m just pointing it out.

What I suppose we’re all tip-toeing around is the fact that the biggest structural shift in labour demand over the past 30 years has been the crash in demand for unskilled labour in the UK. Add to that the difficulty in becoming skilled (it took me two years academic study, and a further two years on-the-job traineeship to get my job – and that was on top of six years graduate and post-graduate study) and there’s a real barrier to getting on the first rung. Workfare may not have worked (I don’t really have an opinion on its efficiency), but it was at least attempting to address the problem.

Put it another way – in the media, you can’t (usually) get a job without experience, or a portfolio of work – but obviously you can’t get experience without a job. That’s why unpaid/minimally paid freelancers and interns are rife in the sector (hell, I’m an unpaid freelance in the media). How would you go about addressing that?

@37

Neither of those two examples you mention would have been possible without advances in technology at the time those changes happened, re-aligning the cost/benefit ratio of staff.

The Luddites had a point, it’s just a shame they went about it the wrong way. The truth is, however, that this supports the argument on the left that the real reason behind unemployment is a lack of jobs – which in turn was baked into the monetarist ideology that the Thatcher government pursued, up-ending the postwar social democratic consensus.

45. Chaise Guevara

@ TimJ

“Put it another way – in the media, you can’t (usually) get a job without experience, or a portfolio of work – but obviously you can’t get experience without a job. That’s why unpaid/minimally paid freelancers and interns are rife in the sector (hell, I’m an unpaid freelance in the media). How would you go about addressing that?”

The problem there is simply that many more people want to be journalists than CAN be journalists. That’s not going away based on policy towards internships; essentially, people pursuing this career path would be well-advised to have a back-up dream, just like people who want to be rock stars and actors.

As such, banning internships wouldn’t suddenly mean nobody could get a job in journalism anymore, it would just remove some of the advantages enjoyed by people from rich backgrounds who can afford to live and work in London without pay, and perhaps mean that other people wouldn’t get exploited, living on the breadline to gain experience in a company that might dump them tomorrow.

46. Chaise Guevara

@ 44 bluepillnation

“Neither of those two examples you mention would have been possible without advances in technology at the time those changes happened, re-aligning the cost/benefit ratio of staff.”

What technological advance got rid of full-service gas stations?

There was another change that had a huge impact on the retail sector and wasn’t particularly reliant on any new technology: the move from shops being places where you asked the person behind the counter to get items for you, to places where you browse for your own goods and bring them to the checkout.

Not sure why TimJ’s statement is so controversial. It might be because people think he is making a value-judgement (he isn’t) instead of a statement of fact.

Jim,

Your roof does not lose as many tiles as you can afford, you need to repair your roof irrespective of the price of labour.

So if one tile falls off you rush out and hire a roofer?

Tescos do not have a single empty shelve in its entire chain because it is too expensive to stack stuff onto it. That must be true for every chain store in the Country. Is it ever likely to be true, no matter the price of labour. I cannot imagine how high the price of labour would need to increase before the cost of stacking shelves would make Tescos completely change its business model from a shelf-based shop.

No nuance in this paragraph at all, is there?

I accept there is a lot of empty shops in our high streets, but is that down to the price labour? I cannot see how that can be true when you factor in everything else like parking and the change in shopping habits.

The price of labour is a factor. It might be a small factor, but it dosn’t make zero contribution.

Chaise,

Decades of automation and improved efficiency haven’t led to miniscule wages, nor to half the country on the dole: they’ve generally led to people having more stuff, with available jobs springing back up to meet the new demand.

Manufacturing output in the UK has increased over time but manufacturing employment has decreased. Why?

Look at Foxconn in China. They have been pressured to increase wages and are doing so. But they are also looking at replacing some workers with machines. Why?

48. Chaise Guevara

@ 47 UKliberty

“Manufacturing output in the UK has increased over time but manufacturing employment has decreased. Why?

Look at Foxconn in China. They have been pressured to increase wages and are doing so. But they are also looking at replacing some workers with machines. Why?”

TBH, not sure what any of that has to do with what I said. I’m not saying machines don’t undercut human employees or make them unnecessary in some cases. I’m saying that there are positive pressures on employment that are fed in large part by the new opportunities being created by those machines.

You automate your doodad factory, firing most of your workers, and find yourself making ten times as many doodads for your money. All those extra doodads need to be distributed, and sold to retailers and then customers, meaning you or someone down the line is hiring more staff. And that’s not to mention the people supplying all those things you need to make doodads in the first place.

BTW, Tim says he agrees with this, so I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that I think his comments are “controversial”.

@44: “this supports the argument on the left that the real reason behind unemployment is a lack of jobs – which in turn was baked into the monetarist ideology that the Thatcher government pursued, up-ending the postwar social democratic consensus.”

C’mon – it was Callaghan as Labour PM in 1976 who first explictly rejected the post-war consensus to maintain full employment:

Talking on BBC TV in 1976.

“We used to think that you could spend your way out of a recession and increase employment by cutting taxes and boosting government spending. I tell you in all candour that that option no longer exists, and in so far as it ever did exist, it only worked on each occasion since the war by injecting a bigger dose of inflation into the economy, followed by a higher level of unemployment as the next step.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3288907.stm

He made the same statement in a speech to the Labour Party conference that year. By the account of Peter Jay, Callaghan’s son-in-law, Jay drafted that passage for Callaghan’s speech.

Chaise, it seemed people were arguing with TimJ’s claim that “In pure economic terms [SMFS is] right isn’t he? If you lower the cost of labour, you’ll increase demand for it.”

51. Chaise Guevara

@ 50 UKL

I’m not arguing with that. I’m saying that automation and improved efficiency don’t necessarily lower the demand for labour in the long-term.

I’m saying that automation and improved efficiency don’t necessarily lower the demand for labour in the long-term.

But they’ll change the nature of that demand surely? From unskilled to skilled, for example. Or from easily substitutable industrial jobs to less substitutable service jobs.

Timj @ 43

What I suppose we’re all tip-toeing around is the fact that the biggest structural shift in labour demand over the past 30 years has been the crash in demand for unskilled labour in the UK.

Tim, this is the problem I have with the media and politicians who vilify the unemployed and drive barely masked hate campaigns against them. There just is not the work for people coming onto the labour market and trying to cram more people onto an oversubscribed market is pointless. To be brutally honest Tim, the resentment I have for your Party stems mainly from finding this persecution of unemployed people completely repugnant.

In the past, I have found myself unemployed for reasonable lengths of time and have always found myself a route back into work. However, knows what will happen the next time I am in that position or when that will be? I could be unemployed six weeks or six days from now and at the end of a long queue of people, trying to get back to work.

The harsh, brutal reality is that for hundreds of thousands of unemployed people in this Country there is no place in the workforce for them. There is no polite way of saying it but they are too old, too sick, too disabled, too unfit, too unskilled, or just plain too damn stupid to hold down a job.

Now attempting to cure any of the above with a three week placement, stacking shelves is outrageously stupid and past the point of incompetence. By the same token, redefining people as ‘fit for work’, when clearly, there is not an employer in the Country that would give that person a job, when there are millions all over Europe eager to bite of a hand for that job, cannot be classed as an ‘oversight’. There is something more sinister going on in the Tory Party, nobody can honestly think what millions of people need is three weeks in Poundland to set them straight.

Given that the skillsets you will learn in three weeks are the very skillsets that are vastly oversubscribed in the market (tales of a thousand applications for 80 jobs are commonplace), I can not imagine any decent person with an IQ above that of a decent sized tree could think that is the answer.

Tim. What are the minimum requirements to get a job anywhere in your firm? Three weeks stacking shelves is not the answer, is it?

54. Chaise Guevara

@ 52

“But they’ll change the nature of that demand surely? From unskilled to skilled, for example. Or from easily substitutable industrial jobs to less substitutable service jobs.”

Certainly from industrial to service, and quite possibly from unskilled to skilled. What do you mean by “substitutable” in this context? If you’re talking about transferable skills I’m not sure I agree.

Timj @ 52

But they’ll change the nature of that demand surely? From unskilled to skilled, for example. Or from easily substitutable industrial jobs to less substitutable service jobs.

Yes, I would go along with that, but you need to recognise that along the way there are going to be losers, people who cannot upskill (for whatever reason). These people are going to have to be dealt with.

What do you mean by “substitutable” in this context? If you’re talking about transferable skills I’m not sure I agree.

Labour/capital. It’s easier to swap a production line worker for a robot than it is to swap a hairdresser for one (although if you’d seen my hair you might disagree).

And, more generally, of course a scheme of short placements isn’t the answer to the decline of unskilled employment in this country. It might provide a route into employment of some sort for young people without qualifications, and if it does then great, but it’s not a panacea.

What is the answer? Education is the start of it, but as Jim says there are people who aren’t up to the modern working environment. What do we do about them?

“What do we do about them?”

Can we start with an agreement from you about what we don’t do about them?

We shouldn’t make them homeless

We shouldn’t make them destitute and unable to feed themselves without turning to crime or prostitution

We shouldn’t force them into unpaid work that will have no positive effects.

And we should start to think about ways in which we can start to value people again in the UK

58. the a&e charge nurse

[57] “And we should start to think about ways in which we can start to value people again in the UK” – the government have ‘valued’ people, and up until a few days ago that value stood at <£2 per hour on the supermarket nightshift.

Sadly neither valuing people nor increased competition will break the cycle of deprivation – our policies have contributed to large urban swathes populated by those with virtually no political clout, communities that are generally ignored until they decide to kick off when things get particularly frustrating.

Just to clarify, I wasn’t saying that very volunteer worker displaces a paid worker.

I was merely poiinting out that giving unemployed people more experience, skills, etc cannot reduce unemployment, because if if an unemployed person is helped into a job they are displacing another less skilled jobseeker from that job. It’s just a pointless arms raise in outcompeting others to the same job.

Timj @ 56

What is the answer? Education is the start of it, but as Jim says there are people who aren’t up to the modern working environment. What do we do about them?

Tim, I am genuinely not trying to be rude here, but I think you are 32 and active in the Tory Party? If so, speak to some of your older colleagues, retired; ones that I would recognise as ‘One Nation’ or perhaps a ‘Wet’ and they will tell you the answer.

A fifty eight year old sheet metal worker is made redundant and turns up at the dole. He has a touch of sciatica and no real academic prospects and is application poison. Two hundred Poles are younger, fitter and more active apply for every job he is likely to apply for.

You clap the subs bench and take him to the sidelines and shake his hand. You give him money to live on and you don’t bother him. Call it ‘early retirement’, if you will.

‘Yeah, the bastard doctor signed by off with my back, no one will touch me with a bargepole, now, health and safety, I blame Europe myself. Put a complaint in with BMA, but the x-rays were pretty conclusive’ as a dignified way out for the guy.

You do not send him to job interviews, spend money on courses, give A4E and ATOS money to test him, send him to restart interviews, or ‘training’ among sixteen year old who call him ‘granddad’ or ‘geezer’.

So, he gown down the bowling club or the odd round of golf, so what? He does next door’s garden for beer money, so what? Nobody dies.

Every penny you give him will go back into the economy pretty quickly anyway, so where is the harm?

@46

What technological advance got rid of full-service gas stations?

The ability to electronically control pumps from within the booth. Full service wasn’t just about assisting the customer without them having to leave their vehicle, it was also a way of making sure that people couldn’t drive off without paying (or sneak in behind the driver in front). Interestingly when Mrs. Blue and I were driving around California on honeymoon I noticed that a lot of the rural gas stations in small towns were still not electronically controlled, but had a lever which alerted the attendant at the same time the flow was enabled.

But I digress…

@49

Where in that speech does Gentleman Jim refer to dropping high levels of employment as a fundamental goal? All he’s saying is that in the climate of the late 1970′s the methods which had been used up until then weren’t going to work. Given time, methods that were less destructive in the long-term may well have been found – but instead the monetarists forced open the crack that Callaghan gave them and shouted from the rooftops that the whole concept of social democracy was broken, and that their credo* was destined to take it’s place. I have to say that as an essentially pro-union lefty that the unions scored a spectacular own goal with the Winter Of Discontent – because it made people who wouldn’t normally have given the Hayek brigade the time of day actually think they might be on to something.

* – Essentially a conflation of Social Darwinism and the Life As A Shit Sandwich philosophy – i.e. that the nature of humanity was that there would always be winners and losers, and that anything goes when it comes to obtaining enough bread to claw your way out of the “loser” bracket (in fact the first thing to go is recognisance of everyone else in the world as human beings).

@52

I’d have thought the fact that the first thing big business did when given a pool of effectively free labour was set them all to menial tasks like shelf-stacking will forever disprove the notion that the bottom-rung service economy jobs are any less skilled or less replaceable than those in manufacturing or heavy industry.

@ TimW, 31
Surely you are describing only one parameter there. How do the equations play out when you take into account the fact that labour is also customer, reducing labour “cost” also reduces demand, and given the fact that what is reduced to labour in the simplistic ecenomic model SMFS describes are actually people, how sure are you that the equation works in a reproducible way when applied to them?

Over the past 40 years we have had a monetarist paradigm, which has seen real wages for everyone up to senior management level reduced by between 40 & 50%. Demand has skyrocketed for goods & services until 2008, but only through double digit inflation rates on bricks & mortar (consumer demand was buoyed up by cashing in equity) yet that is an unsustainable bubble reminiscent of tulipmania! The reason it is unsustainable is because housing costs have far outstripped income, and the next generation is effectively left out in the cold.

That same period has seen an endless succession of shall we say increasingly chaotic stock market movements, and what looks like an exponential increase in the amount of money swallowed up in bailing out banks.

When you look at who benefitted from that simplistic spreadsheet interpretation of ecenomic theory, all you end up with are billionaires and executives, and now, even they would start to face the consequences. When the rest of us have to go to the likes of wonga.com to cover monthly living expenses, I give them maybe a decade to realise how badly wrong they have been, & they have much further to fall…

Should I pity those “poor executives & billionaires” for the future they are making for themselves, or condemn them for their wilful ignorance? You cannot build a long term capitalist system on selling a few luxury yachts, champagne bottles or tins of caviar!

Daz: “Over the past 40 years we have had a monetarist paradigm.”

That’s complete nonsense. For years prior to the outbreak of the financial crisis in 2007, the banks were on a personal lending binge – which is hardly “monetarism”. As this news report from September 2007 shows, Alistair Darling as chancellor was attempting to rein in the scale of lending.

Chancellor Alistair Darling has urged Britain’s banks to take a more cautious approach to lending.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Mr Darling said both lenders and borrowers needed to “think long and hard” about the risks involved.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6992450.stm

In the Turner Review in 2009 of the Financial Services Authority, failings in the regulation of the banks were admitted.

@63

For years prior to the outbreak of the financial crisis in 2007, the banks were on a personal lending binge – which is hardly “monetarism”.

Maybe not in the strictest terms, but with the property bubble skyrocketing it was the only way the monetarist scam could appear to still be working for anyone other than the already disgustingly-rich…

“Look, everybody – house prices may have risen to ridiculous levels, but that doesn’t mean all the good shit we promised you is out of your reach forever… Watch in amazement as we magic the money you need out of thin air!”

The fact that it was the marks who took the mortgages out who would end up homeless if their circumstances changed and the bank could then sell the property for an even higher amount when it happened was just the icing on the cake.

@63: “Maybe not in the strictest terms, but with the property bubble skyrocketing it was the only way the monetarist scam could appear to still be working for anyone other than the already disgustingly-rich…”

That’s a confusion about the term “monetarism” – a policy framework for the tight control over the “money supply” once the proposers can agree on what definition of “money” to apply, which is a challenging issue when we recognise the range of near-money assets available. That is one reason why inflation targeting as a policy objective for the Bank of England superceded monetarism.

There was certainly a massive expansion of personal lending by the banks and a property-price bubble but those features and consequences of the financial markets had nothing to do with monetarism, a term which is in grave danger of becoming just a vague expression of abuse.

The problem at large in the run up to the financial crisis was that no one seems to have been keeping a watchful eye on the scale of bank lending or the means by which banks were raising the wherewithal to sustain their scale of lending. Northern Rock was borrowing on the wholesale money market to maintain its sales drive on easy mortgages so when interest rates in the wholesale market rose as lenders became suspicious about the quality of collateral being offered to support borrowing, Northern Rock was in grave trouble.

For heavier commentary, try this illuminating analysis by Martin Wolf:
http://blogs.ft.com/martin-wolf-exchange/2011/10/24/the-threat-of-the-volatility-junkie/?catid=486&infernooffset=11&SID=google#axzz1n9cYCsyA

66. So Much For Subtlety

33. Jim

Can it be as simple as that though, Tim?

Yes it can Jim. I was right and you should learn to deal with it.

Surely ‘labour’ is unique in so far as it exists because people exist. Labour is not like apples and oranges in that strict sense. An over supply of apples can be dealt with pretty easily, but too many humans will mean people going hungry and being homeless.

No it won’t. Because, as Mao Zedong famously said, every mouth has two hands. Human beings have another unique feature – they can go out and find work. Which they do. People going hungry and being homeless is a product of chaotic private lives and mental illness. It is not a product of a lack of jobs. At least in the West. Because people see gaps in the economy. They move to fill them. They have agency. They do not sit passively until someone gives them a house. Or at least most people don’t. Or didn’t.

I mean if a new dentist opens up and pushes down the cost of treatment that the number of fillings does not increase does it?

No but the dentist can offer teeth whitening. He can find more business. My dentist has certainly got a lot more active in reminding everyone the sky will fall if they do not come in at least twice a year for a check up. He rings me these days to make sure.

And if all that fails, he can retire early or go open a coffee shop or something.

It must be the same with shop workers. If the demand for goods is there then there will be a demand for people to work in shops. Surely, that must be true? Tescos do not have a single empty shelve in its entire chain because it is too expensive to stack stuff onto it.

Shops are moving to self check out because shop workers have got too expensive. Shops have been reducing their staff for years. I used to have a relative who worked as a door man and then a floor manager in a Department Store. Both those jobs have gone although some of the more up market stores might still do it. The girls who swipe the price tags will go soon too.

But it is not a disaster. If they want to work, they will find work elsewhere.

67. So Much For Subtlety

61. bluepillnation

Interestingly when Mrs. Blue and I were driving around California on honeymoon I noticed that a lot of the rural gas stations in small towns were still not electronically controlled, but had a lever which alerted the attendant at the same time the flow was enabled.

I was driving around the countryside once and I filled up with gas. The old guy behind the counter said “How much?” as I walked in. Self reporting was the system there it seems. And I told him down to the last penny.

A shame that we can’t do that any more.

Given time, methods that were less destructive in the long-term may well have been found

And unicorns could have been trained to shoot rainbows out their rear ends. But I don’t think either was likely. Especially as by the 1970s welfare was not seen as something that was for the needy, but as a right for everyone. Indeed the Fox-Piven people in the US were arguing that going on welfare (or putting as many people as possible on welfare) would bankrupt the system and hence bring on the Revolution. So it was a revolutionary act to claim what you did not need. Once the social consensus broke down and we got the parents of Baby P, plus massive immigration, the old system could no longer work. A shame but there you go.

that the nature of humanity was that there would always be winners and losers, and that anything goes when it comes to obtaining enough bread to claw your way out of the “loser” bracket (in fact the first thing to go is recognisance of everyone else in the world as human beings).

The only people who have ever believed anything goes much less refused to recognise other people as human beings have been the Hard Left. As you would know if you read Trotsky. Or listened to Jim. Or Sally.

Daz

How do the equations play out when you take into account the fact that labour is also customer, reducing labour “cost” also reduces demand, and given the fact that what is reduced to labour in the simplistic ecenomic model SMFS describes are actually people, how sure are you that the equation works in a reproducible way when applied to them?

Except increasing wages above the level of productivity does not increase demand either. It simply fuels inflation. People cannot consume what they do not produce. So if they demand wages above that level, they have too much money for what goods are available. The ideal level of wages is one where demand and supply match. We are not talking about depressing wages here. We are talking about restoring them to a market level. And I am not even doing that. I want the government to top up their wages to a reasonable level.

Over the past 40 years we have had a monetarist paradigm, which has seen real wages for everyone up to senior management level reduced by between 40 & 50%.

This is a flat lie. Everyone’s wages have increased except perhaps the very bottom – which is a problem with immigration, not Thatcherism.

When you look at who benefitted from that simplistic spreadsheet interpretation of ecenomic theory, all you end up with are billionaires and executives

Look at it. Because that is not what you get. British people are about twice as wealthy now as they were in 1980. And that applies to pretty much everyone.

You cannot build a long term capitalist system on selling a few luxury yachts, champagne bottles or tins of caviar!

No, but luckily if those millionaires are left alone, pretty soon the West would be as rich as Hong Kong and we would have no poor people. This is the only sensible aim.

68. So Much For Subtlety

51. Chaise Guevara

I’m not arguing with that. I’m saying that automation and improved efficiency don’t necessarily lower the demand for labour in the long-term.

Excuse me while I feel smug. It is so rare that everyone agrees I am right. As I said, there is literally an infinite number of jobs that could be done. The only problem is finding the right price level for wages and everyone will be in work.

TimJ

But they’ll change the nature of that demand surely? From unskilled to skilled, for example. Or from easily substitutable industrial jobs to less substitutable service jobs.

Except machines sometimes put skilled workers out of work and replace them with unskilled labour. We have seen that within the last 20 years with CAD systems. Skilled draftsmen were replaced by work experience girls with very expensive software packages. I think you may be seeing a little of that with Taxi drivers. That used to be a skill in that you had to know a lot to be able to do it properly. Now you often get some recent immigrant with limited English and a GPS. So I would think the pull has been more complex than that. Some skilled jobs have gone. Some have risen.

Reduced price of labour (or more correctly – greater exploited labour) does lead to the creation of jobs. Witness the gang masters with their cocklepickers for a good example of what hyper exploited labour jobs look like. Without an easily exploited workforce in the shape of immigrants with dubious rights and reduced living costs (because they where all crammed in together into small apartments) to take advantage of, no one would have been sent out picking cockles.

Those calling for lower wages want more of that. Regardless of any protests they make to the contrary.

70. Chaise Guevara

@ 56 TimJ

“What is the answer? Education is the start of it, but as Jim says there are people who aren’t up to the modern working environment. What do we do about them?”

I favour offering them state-funded jobs at minimum wage, doing things like beautifying towns and helping out charities. Although I’m aware that comes with attendent problems.

71. Chaise Guevara

@ 61 bluepillnation

“The ability to electronically control pumps from within the booth. Full service wasn’t just about assisting the customer without them having to leave their vehicle, it was also a way of making sure that people couldn’t drive off without paying (or sneak in behind the driver in front). ”

Fair play, didn’t know that. Although the same could have been achieved in a low-tech way by having a bloody great clacker board (or whatever they’re called, those things you get in old train stations that don’t have modern display screens) on the top of each pump, displaying the price to the booth.

Of course, now you mention it I realise that the self-service model is probably also fairly reliant on CCTV.

72. the a&e charge nurse

[70] “there are people who aren’t up to the modern working environment” – is the term ‘modern’ a synonym for computers?

What (from the workers perspective) is modern about working the nightshift at tesco, or driving a train, or emptying bins, or working in the food trade, or retail.

Hell what is modern about teaching, or the law once we discount computers or other digital technology.

Perhaps modern simply means loss of a manufacturing base?

66. So Much For Subtlety

“But it is not a disaster. If they want to work, they will find work elsewhere.”

Where though? ‘Efficiency’ works towards reducing manpower wherever it can – everywhere – but this has been particularly noticeable in traditional ‘working class’ jobs, whether it’s factory-based work, agricultural work or shop work.

Under New Labour, whether right or wrong, a lot of ‘working class’ people denied the above moved into office-based work in both the private and the public sectors. Even this area saw an ‘efficiency’ boom with various bits of software. However, we’ve seen culls that have closed this door in people’s faces, too.

Remove traditional ‘working class’ jobs, deny them ‘middle class’ office jobs and there’s not a lot left. Office skills and IT skills were routinely pitched as the way out of the ‘ghetto’ for a long time. And yet now lot of that IT work and call centre work has gone abroad: another door closed.

There’s not really a lot left for many ‘working class’ people. The idea that sheer graft and determined will automatically lift someone above their peers and onto the golden ladder of social mobility is a fallacy, despite the ‘I grew-up on a council estate…’ Four Yorkshire men’ sketch style stories. These are the exception and it’s no guarantee. The plight of millions of Americans living under the American Dream is evidence of that.

So what is left? The service sector? Is that where you’re expecting everywhere to go?

On general but related note, I wonder whether a ‘domestic service sector’ is where this heading (or maybe being purposely steered towards). With Cameron’s ‘maid credit’ and tax breaks for the middle-classes who want to take on domestics, it certainly looks like it’s going to be the case.

It’s obscene. Looks like Julian Fellowes is in line for a promotion at the Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda then.

#yeah,Godwin,fuckhim

@65

Monetarism was not an ideology that was intended to work, it was a scam to transfer what little wealth the working- and lower-middle classes had to the upper-middle class and the rich. The people that initiated the policies dressed themselves up with the intellectual cloak of Hayek and the Austrian School, but cherry-picked the bits that they wanted in much the same way that Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin did with Marx and Engels. Hayek himself renounced unregulated capitalism towards the end of his life, once he saw that his theories could be exploited the way they had been.

SMFS, I’m not going to refute your sepia-toned Dacre-lite canards, which are as always conspicuously light on data.

75. Chaise Guevara

“#yeah,Godwin,fuckhim”

?

76. supermarketsweep

As someone who works in a supermarket putting shit on the shelves for morons to buy may I say I am incredibly pleased to know that my job can be done for a pittance, and wish for the day when I am sacked only to be rehired to do the same shitty job I have been doing for 10 years, but for less money.

Also may I say that SMFS is a fucking dick, I hate him and wish asscanceraids of the eyes on him and his whole family. I fucking hate the dick soooooooooo much and feel that his sudden death would make my life soooooooooo much better. I know that sounds bitter and downright rude but then again I am.

@75. Chaise Guevara

It was a pre-emptive response (in the style of Twitter hashtag) in case anyone dismissed everything I’d written on the grounds I’d made a reference to the Nazi’s propaganda unit and therefore invoked ‘Godwin’s law’.

78. Chaise Guevara

@ 77

Fair dos. Incidentally, I love the fact that Godwin’s law – an observation by a bloke and an informal convention on a website – has been adopted as many as some kind of Immutable Debatorial Law.

@78

Note also that it only affects one side of the debate – right-wingers have no meme stopping them from prattling on about Lenin, Stalin and Brezhnev at wearisome length…

The funny thing is that Godwin’s Law originally said nothing about losing the argument – merely that as a debate on the internet continues, the odds of Hitler and the Nazis being brought up increase in certainty.

80. So Much For Subtlety

73. Oliver

Where though? ‘Efficiency’ works towards reducing manpower wherever it can – everywhere – but this has been particularly noticeable in traditional ‘working class’ jobs, whether it’s factory-based work, agricultural work or shop work.

Sure. And that is a good thing. Because they will find work elsewhere. As we saw with agriculture. We used to have 95% of the population grubbing in the mud. We now have, using generous definitions, less than 5%. But we are much better fed. The workers did not starve to death. They got other, more productive, jobs. Everyone was better off in the end.

Remove traditional ‘working class’ jobs, deny them ‘middle class’ office jobs and there’s not a lot left. Office skills and IT skills were routinely pitched as the way out of the ‘ghetto’ for a long time. And yet now lot of that IT work and call centre work has gone abroad: another door closed.

No one is being denied a middle class office job. The door is not closed. Even if it was, there are still an infinite number of jobs that could be done. Old jobs go all the time. New jobs are created all the time. We need to find that tiny number of people who actually create jobs, products people want and new industries and encourage them. Nurture them. We don’t.

There’s not really a lot left for many ‘working class’ people.

There are not many working class people left because they have all become middle class. They have been lifted out of the poverty I (much less my parents or grandparents) can remember in places like London into much nicer places.

The idea that sheer graft and determined will automatically lift someone above their peers and onto the golden ladder of social mobility is a fallacy, despite the ‘I grew-up on a council estate…’

No it isn’t. It is a reality – and we can see this mostly clearly with immigrant communities. Or some of them anyway. The most common surname for millionaires in Britain is supposedly Patel. Besides, you don’t need to do much to be lifted out of poverty. In the US you only need to do four things – graduate from High School, hold down a job for at least a year, get and stay married. If you just do those four things – not a big ask I would think – you have less than a one percent chance of being poor. The same is probably true in the UK although I have no data on it.

So what is left? The service sector? Is that where you’re expecting everywhere to go?

Why not?

On general but related note, I wonder whether a ‘domestic service sector’ is where this heading (or maybe being purposely steered towards). With Cameron’s ‘maid credit’ and tax breaks for the middle-classes who want to take on domestics, it certainly looks like it’s going to be the case.

And why would this be a bad thing? Not that any sane person would let a member of Britain’s underclass into their home. But on the positive side, it might give them a glimpse of what a functioning family looks like.

81. Chaise Guevara

@ 79 bluepillnation

Indeed. It would be better rendered as “As an internet conversion continues, the odds of some muppet making ridiculous and hysterical comparisons approaches 1″. That seems to be what Godwin was talking about in any case.

Orwell said it a lot better, when he remarked that the term “fascism” had become so broad as to be meaningless.

Towards the end of my student days I had a line on some of the most potent yet fluffy LSD I’ve ever experienced. The intricacies of the perceived world magically seemed to open up and all was right in the universe for a few blissful hours.

One of the reasons I no longer partake these days is because I don’t think anything could ever match the psychological and physiological sense of well-being I felt back then. That said, I think whatever SMFS is on must be better.

Anyone looking for an illuminating read on the turmoil in the financial system and its historic roots might like to try: Philip Coggan: Paper Promises (Allen Lane/Penguin). The author, now capital markets editor for The Economist, was previously a FT journalist. This book is highly readable and does an excellent, mainstream job in covering its territory while exposing weird nostrums. The author points out that Roosevelt campaigned in the 1932 presidential election on the need to balance the budget, which showed that he really didn’t understand the causes of the depression in the 1930s.

84. So Much For Subtlety

79. bluepillnation

Note also that it only affects one side of the debate – right-wingers have no meme stopping them from prattling on about Lenin, Stalin and Brezhnev at wearisome length…

Because the Left does not think a comparison with Stalin or Lenin is shameful. They were proud of it. Right to up the moment the USSR collapsed anyway. Unlike the Right’s dislike of Hitler. Thus the comparison with Hitler is different as no one is on Hitler’s side. Much of the Left was and is pro-Stalinist – either openly or tacitly.

The funny thing is that Godwin’s Law originally said nothing about losing the argument – merely that as a debate on the internet continues, the odds of Hitler and the Nazis being brought up increase in certainty.

I knew Godwin. I was there when he made his comment. I think I remember him pointing out that resorting to Hitler comparison was a sure sign of losing. That was kind of the point.

85. Chaise Guevara

@ 82 bluepillnation

“One of the reasons I no longer partake these days is because I don’t think anything could ever match the psychological and physiological sense of well-being I felt back then.”

I’ve never tried acid, unless shrooms count. But yeah, drugs do tend to lean hard into the “oh great, it’s not that fun anymore” side of the bellcurve. Including booze, incidently, although I still use that particular narcotic for its ancillary benefits. I remember when alcohol made the world an incredible place full of amazing lights and fascinating people. Now it just makes me chill out and occasionally fall over. Bah.

SMFS: “Because the Left does not think a comparison with Stalin or Lenin is shameful. They were proud of it. Right to up the moment the USSR collapsed anyway. Unlike the Right’s dislike of Hitler. Thus the comparison with Hitler is different as no one is on Hitler’s side. Much of the Left was and is pro-Stalinist – either openly or tacitly.”

That is mendacious nonsense and cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged. Attlee, as Labour PM 1945-51, issued secret instructions to start development of a British atom bomb – without telling his cabinet. Ernest Bevin, as Britain’s foreign minister in the Attlee government, was a leading participant in the negotiations leading to the NATO Treaty of 1948 to defend western Europe against the Soviet threat. Note – Stalin died in March 1953.

For comparison try this speech by Lindbergh, the pioneering American aviator, at Des Moines, Iowa, on 11 September 1941:

“The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration.”
http://www.charleslindbergh.com/americanfirst/speech.asp

By the account of William Shirer in his seminal book: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, there was no inclination in the US Congress or the US military to engage in a European war. The fact is that America became involved in the war in Europe because Nazi Germany – very stupidly from Hitler’s own perspective – declared war on America on 10 December 1941.

Lord Halifax, Britain’s foreign minister at the out break of WW2 in September 1939, was something of an admirer of the National Socialist government in Germany. Come May 1940, he wanted to negotiate a peace settlement with Germany while Churchill, with the support of Labour members of his war cabinet, wanted to continue with the war. Halifax was posted out to be Britain’s ambassador in Washington.

Famously, Lloyd George, Britain’s last Liberal PM, visited Germany in August 1936 to meet Hitler. On his return to Britain, he produced a glowing account of Hitler’s leadership in Germany for the Daily Express on 17 November 1936:

“I have just returned from a visit to Germany. In so short time one can only form impressions or at least check impressions which years of distant observation through the telescope of the Press and constant inquiry from those who have seen things at a closer range had already made on one’s mind. I have now seen the famous German Leader and also something of the great change he has effected. Whatever one may think of his methods – and they are certainly not those of a parliamentary country – there can be no doubt that he has achieved a marvellous transformation in the spirit of the people, in their attitude towards each other, and in their social and economic outlook. . .

“What Hitler said at Nuremberg is true. The Germans will resist to the death every invader at their own country, but they have no longer the desire themselves to invade any other land. . .

“The establishment of a German hegemony in Europe which was the aim and dream of the old pre-war militarism, is not even on the horizon of Nazism. …”

87. So Much For Subtlety

86. Bob B

That is mendacious nonsense and cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged. Attlee, as Labour PM 1945-51, issued secret instructions to start development of a British atom bomb – without telling his cabinet. Ernest Bevin, as Britain’s foreign minister in the Attlee government, was a leading participant in the negotiations leading to the NATO Treaty of 1948 to defend western Europe against the Soviet threat. Note – Stalin died in March 1953.

Sure, there were decent people in the Labour Party back then. Not many but some. The rot did not set in until the 1960s when all the non-Stalinist left wing alternatives died – we had open Stalinism and soft-Stalinism which wanted to achieve his ends through the ballot box but virtually nothing else.

However even then, notice that Atlee’s government gave the Rolls Royce Nene engine to the Soviets which enabled them to build the Mig-15. Not sold. Gave.

For comparison try this speech by Lindbergh, the pioneering American aviator, at Des Moines, Iowa, on 11 September 1941:

And the comparison you pick is with an utterly marginal figure who had nothing whatsoever to do with the Republican Party? Interesting.

By the account of William Shirer in his seminal book: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, there was no inclination in the US Congress or the US military to engage in a European war. The fact is that America became involved in the war in Europe because Nazi Germany – very stupidly from Hitler’s own perspective – declared war on America on 10 December 1941.

Sure, but American Isolationism was formed by a dislike of the British, not a favourable view of the Nazis. Unlike the Left’s subsequent isolationism and appeasement on virtually every other war.

Lord Halifax, Britain’s foreign minister at the out break of WW2 in September 1939, was something of an admirer of the National Socialist government in Germany. Come May 1940, he wanted to negotiate a peace settlement with Germany while Churchill, with the support of Labour members of his war cabinet, wanted to continue with the war. Halifax was posted out to be Britain’s ambassador in Washington.

So he did. But of course Labour did nothing of the sort – they did not become fully supportive of the war effort until June 1941. Halifax did not press his case for the PM job when Chamberlain went. There was, allegedly, some Conservative push to replace Churchill later on, but that was confined to the Tories.

Famously, Lloyd George, Britain’s last Liberal PM, visited Germany in August 1936 to meet Hitler. On his return to Britain, he produced a glowing account of Hitler’s leadership in Germany for the Daily Express on 17 November 1936:

Hardly a figure on the Right. But by all means, let’s compare him with all the Labour figures who have taken money, services or gifts from the Communists. People like Peter Mandelstam for instance. Virtually all of Blair’s Cabinet was made up of people who were openly on the Soviet side during the Cold War – most of them being members of the Communist Party or one of its Front groups. Halifax was not, whatever else you can say about him, a Nazi.

SMFS: “And the comparison you pick is with an utterly marginal figure who had nothing whatsoever to do with the Republican Party? Interesting.”

But what Lindbergh – hardly a marginal figure given his international celebrity status as a pioneering aviator – was saying in his infamous Des Moines speech in September 1941 chimes in with William Shirer’s assessment of Congressional and US military sentiment in the immediate aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.

The fact is that America became engaged in the European war against Nazi Germany because Germany declared war on America on 10 December 1941, not because America wanted to liberate occupied Europe from Nazi oppression.

The fact is also that Britain stood alone in Europe against Nazi Germany from the fall of France in June 1940 until Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 – much to Stalin’s surprise. Btw Britain’s population in 1940 was c. 40 millions whereas the combined populations of Germany and Austria was 80 millions, which rather limited Britain’s capacity to conduct a successful land war on the European mainland. Had Britain negotiated a peace settlement with Germany in May 1940 – as Halifax and others proposed – there could have been no D-Day Normandy landings on 6 June 1944.

Of course, there’s not much doubt about the support for the Nazis in Germany on their rise to power by Republican Senator Prescott Bush (1895-1972), the grandfather of President GW Bush. Try this doc:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISOs_GXEL40

There is much other documentation posted on the web about Prescott Bush and his Nazi connections. Whataver argument can be mounted about the significance of Lindbergh in American politics, there can be little doubt that Senator Prescott Bush was well connected in the Republican Party. As Lindbergh observed, the pressure in America to become involved in the war in Europe came from the Roosevelt administration.

89. So Much For Subtlety

88. Bob B

But what Lindbergh – hardly a marginal figure given his international celebrity status as a pioneering aviator – was saying in his infamous Des Moines speech in September 1941 chimes in with William Shirer’s assessment of Congressional and US military sentiment in the immediate aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.

Sorry but no. Lindbergh was a pro-Nazi. The isolationists were not. They tended to come from the Left and from the “populist” states mainly settled by Swedes and other Scandinavians. They did not hate Jews and in fact they tended to vote to the Left. That Lindbergh agreed with them at one time on one issue does not mean they were anything other than Fellow Travellers.

The fact is that America became engaged in the European war against Nazi Germany because Germany declared war on America on 10 December 1941, not because America wanted to liberate occupied Europe from Nazi oppression.

That depends on what you mean by America. US Navy vessels were already attacking and sinking German U-Boats by this stage so we can agree that the US Navy and behind them, Roosevelt himself certainly did.

The fact is also that Britain stood alone in Europe against Nazi Germany from the fall of France in June 1940 until Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 – much to Stalin’s surprise. Btw Britain’s population in 1940 was c. 40 millions whereas the combined populations of Germany and Austria was 80 millions, which rather limited Britain’s capacity to conduct a successful land war on the European mainland. Had Britain negotiated a peace settlement with Germany in May 1940 – as Halifax and others proposed – there could have been no D-Day Normandy landings on 6 June 1944.

This is all dubious and not particularly relevant. Britain and its Empire stood against Nazi Germany. Which means that not 40 million people but over 600 million stood against the Nazis. Plus some minor allies like the Greeks. Britain’s limitations in 1940, as now, were all self inflicted.

Of course, there’s not much doubt about the support for the Nazis in Germany on their rise to power by Republican Senator Prescott Bush (1895-1972), the grandfather of President GW Bush.

It is no surprise you continue with this lie. In the real world, Prescott Bush did not lift one single finger to help the Nazis. This is just a Blood Libel like saying the Jews killed Christian babies or African Americans all want to rape White women. It is pathetic and disgusting.

There is much other documentation posted on the web about Prescott Bush and his Nazi connections. Whataver argument can be mounted about the significance of Lindbergh in American politics, there can be little doubt that Senator Prescott Bush was well connected in the Republican Party.

There is no documentation on Prescott Bush because he did not have any Nazi connections. There may be lies but that is something else. It is true that Prescott Bush was well connected in the Republican Party. And what he thought can be seen by the fact that his son George H. W. Bush volunteered for the Canadian Air force so he could fight the Nazis before American entered the war – with his father’s blessing.

As Lindbergh observed, the pressure in America to become involved in the war in Europe came from the Roosevelt administration.

With the support of the Republicans. In fact his Secretary for War by this stage was a Republican.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Jason Brickley

    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2012/02/21/30306/

  2. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Job snob? No, I’ve got the T-shirt http://t.co/U2FtIw7E

  3. #Workfare #WorkProgramme: My Solutions for #UKgov #WRB | The Creative Crip

    [...] Job snob? No, I’ve got the T-shirt (liberalconspiracy.org) [...]

  4. often called pez

    Job snob? No, I’ve got the T-shirt | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/23apTlv9 via @libcon it's blame new labour Blair et al

  5. Lawrence

    Job snob? No, I've got the T-shirt | Liberal Conspiracy: It shouldn't even be called workfare, … http://t.co/rNPt28j1 #muscle exercise

  6. Richard

    Job snob? No, I’ve got the T-shirt | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/NEfRhLAU via @libcon





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.