Why is this generation worse off than their parents?


9:47 am - October 15th 2013

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by Stewart Lansley

Later this week, the government’s social mobility and child poverty commission will report that middle-class children from families with above average incomes are set to become materially less well off in adulthood than their parents.

For a growing number this is old news – it has been reality for a small but rising proportion of the working population for years. Growing numbers of the young have already had to face much bleaker life chances than their parents: a more treacherous job market, lower pay and fewer chances of advancement. On top of this they also face shrinking housing opportunities, a weakening safety net and a more punitive benefit system.

Across Britain, adverts to work in cinemas or in coffee shops attract thousands of applications, despite the jobs on offer being low paid and often temporary. Even short-term Christmas jobs in warehouses are hugely oversubscribed. With sometimes up to 200 chasing every job, the search for work in Britain has become increasingly futile.

Such trends are imposing profound social and economic costs. They are capping opportunities and trapping more of the workforce into poverty. On top of this, they are weakening the incentive to work and putting a growing strain on the benefit system.

While the global crisis has exacerbated these trends, they have much deeper roots. The last thirty years have seen a shrinking earnings pool, a doubling of the numbers on low pay, the decline of labour’s bargaining power, deindustrialization, a much more individualised social and economic culture and a housing market that benefits the already well-housed.

Three decades ago, the UK was one of the most equal countries in the world. Today it is one of the most unequal, with the proceeds of growth increasingly colonised by a small corporate and financial elite, leaving most of the rest with a shrinking share of the cake, greatly polarising life chances in the process.

Those who have suffered most are those with parents on low and middle incomes, the very groups who prospered most in the immediate post-war era.

Before the war, the social shape of Britain looked like a pyramid, with a small top and a large group at the bottom. By the 1970s it had turned into a diamond shape with a much larger and more prosperous middle. Today the ‘diamond` has gone, replaced by a contorted ‘hourglass’ with a small bulge at the top, a long thin stem in the middle, and a fat bulge at the bottom.

The impact of these trends can be seen most forcefully in the US, where the reversal of opportunities began in the mid-1970s. With incomes stagnating, the size of the middle has shrunk by more than a tenth since 1980. With large numbers of the current generation now facing lower living standards than their parents, more and more US citizens express a ‘fear of falling`, exposing as a myth one of the country’s once most widely shared values – the much vaunted ‘American Dream’.

Britain is not far behind. Here the ‘fear of falling’ has been mostly confined to those in the lower half of the income ladder. Middle class professionals – a group that sits somewhat above the ‘squeezed middle` – have largely been protected. That may be about to change.

With a third of graduates now in permanent non-graduate jobs – many from middle class backgrounds – the tightening cap on aspirations may already be spreading upwards.


Stewart Lansley is a visiting fellow at Bristol University and the author of The Cost of Inequality

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Reader comments


“adverts to work in cinemas or in coffee shops attract thousands of applications”
That’s interesting, but do you have any evidence for this? I might find it useful if you do.

@McCurry

Well this one off the top of my head: http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21521125.

It’s a nice article, detailing the situation as it is (though not new information to most LibCon readers, I should think). It doesn’t however address the question in the headline, which is why is this happening? I’d find a commentary dealing with that question far more interesting.

It is inevitable that if a generation does not live sustainably, its wealth is achieved and maintained at the cost to subsequent generations. What is remarkeable, is that this cost is so apparent even within the cash economy.

the solution needs a radical reshift of funds away from the baby boomers(and older generations). Very low interest rates is the most powerful way we are doing this. But we need more, including an even handed approach for provision of welfare and other social support. How can free bus passes for the elderly in this day and age be justified? and TV licences?

for transparency, I am in my 40’s

@3. Janvier,
It seems to be a side effect of globalisation and perhaps the internet. Factories that used to create semi skilled jobs have been exported to cheaper countries. India is now doing our accounts and other stuff online. More locally, the internet is closing down shops and service industry and replacing them with a low labour model.

“middle-class children from families with above average incomes are set to become materially less well off in adulthood than their parents. ”

I’m really looking forward to seeing the paper. For I’d love to see how they prove this. There’s two possible ways to do so:

1) Show that actual livings standards are declining. Which you ain’t gonna be able to do. For they’re not, the last couple of years aside.

2)Show that some children of some middle class people are moving down the economic scale while the children of some other, not middle class people, are moving up said economic scale. Which might well be true but if that’s it then I would have thought you would be cheering it on.

For the other name for it is social and economic mobility.

7. Paul peter Smith

In a global economy almost everyone loses in the long run. When our manufacfuring industries were being destroyed we were told its ok we can be a service economy, what do we do when the service industry heads for the sun, tourism? I wonder how long it will be before the Indian’s and Chinese start worrying about the emerging African economies poaching their semi skilled jobs?
No country will ever again achieve economic stabilty while their manufacturing/skill base can be shipped offshore at will. Local (national, provincial) economies benefit everyone except the do nothing financial class, wealth stays close to where its created and is more equitably distributed without the need for intervention.
Its better for the environment aswell if thats your bag.

The OP rings true, and I’d like to see a follow up with references.

It seems to me that to answer how this is happening we need to follow the money.

Chances are we’d find it all wizzing off to tax havens as corporations do to us what we’ve been doing to the developing world for centuries.

The thing is, the money we took off those poor colonials at least benefitted most of us here. Sitting in secret bank accounts so that money-loving sociopaths can gloat over the number of zeros before the decimal benefits nobody. Even the most craven apologist like Timmy above knows that.

4. David Hodd

How can free bus passes for the elderly in this day and age be justified? and TV licences?

Neither are ‘free’.
To be exempt from paying the TV licence, someone in the household has to be aged 80 years or over.
The bus pass for pensioners is paid from Council Tax and central funding. If travel cards for the over 60s were withdrawn, I doubt if the transport companies could afford to run any of their full day services and more shops would close when pensioners stay away.

the solution needs a radical reshift of funds away from the baby boomers(and older generations

Yes, how dare they get born?

10. gastro george

“the solution needs a radical reshift of funds away from the baby boomers(and older generations).”

This assumes a fixed quantity of money in a zero sum game, lasting into the (unknowable) future. The real issue is resources. One of the prime resources we have is people. Idle or low productivity people are a waste of resources. If the current generation want more, then they ought to ensure that these resources are utilised.

9. Ceiliog
“Yes, how dare they get born?”
we need to move the debate beyond this level of discussion. I am not really railing against my parents or anyone else’s for being born. What I am suggesting is that the historically unprecedented circumstance of having such a large percentage of the population over 60 brings with it huge socio-economic challenges. These are made far worse by the reality that the post war generations (including my own) have enjoyed a standard of living that was not sustainable, since they removed resources for subsequent generations. It is also these generations that have created the conditions that have led to our austerity, not those currently under 25.

We are not going to resolve the intragenerational conflict that exists in austerity Britain if any attempt to discuss it gets reduced to “how dare they get born”.

The cuts to welfare in Britain since 2010 have been disproportionately hitting the under 25’s, with pensioners largely unaffected (I know that will not be true for those less well off). There is something wrong when young people I know have to pay a bus fare to get themselves to college, whilst someone living in their £600k retirement home (or worse, spare £600k home) in Swanage gets a free bus pass for the same journey. Many of the generations now enjoying the opportunity of free bus travel also enjoyed in earlier times, free college education, and many other features of a welfare state that worked. And the relative costs of housing post war means that now that generation are sitting on land values that many have little need for.

We need to find a way that that wealth can go to where it most useful. But the “We are all in this together” discussion also means that many well off older people need to give up some of what they are getting for free, and we need to get some of their wealth redirected to younger people.

Don’t take anything I have said here as a rant against old people, or disrepect for what they might have done in the war / consription or paid their taxes. These issues are worth looking, they cannot be a taboo.

12. Paul peter Smith

@David Hodd
I agree that difficult questions shouldn’t be avoided but looking to blame pensioners for global economic circumstance is plain wrong.
The baby boomers may have benefited from the prevailing economy at the time but they had no control over it. The manufacturing base that made them wealthy wasn’t dismantled at their behest. The baby boomers didnt want their grandchildren to be poorer than them, they were told if they worked hard and saved everything would be alright, both for the country and themselves. Now that makes them obliged to provide reparations to the generation that they clothed, fed and expended some much of the worlds resources on?

This isn’t a generations thing, its a good old fashioned class thing. The top table gets more pie than it used to and that means less for everyone else. Return to the share of profit/GDP that went to wages of the past and prosperity will return to the general population.

Britain’s national debt as a perccentage of national GDP was well over 200pc at the end of WW2 but the economy grew sufficiently since to pay that debt down. We had paid off Britain’s debt to the US by December 2006. Currently, national debt as a percentage of national GDP is about 80pc.
http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/uk_national_debt_chart.html

Britain’s present GDP is running about 3pc down on what it was in 2008Q1. Living standards, as measured by average real disposable incomes, are back at 2004 levels. Try Martin Wolf in the FT on: Osborne has been proved wrong on austerity [FT website 26 September 2013]

The problems for present and future generations are sustaining economic growth and the rising dependency ratio – that is the ratio between the number of inactive people in the population (mainly the young and the elderly) and the total population – mostly because of population ageing. Encouraging immigration of working age educated and skilled migrants is one way of reducing the dependency ratio. The NHS is reportedly back again having to recruit nurses abroad to bring up staffing levels to standard.

Another factor affect prospects for future generations is Britain’s unusually low rate of social mobility as compared with our peers. Try this report from the Guardian: “Social mobility: the charts that shame Britain”

“Britain has some of the lowest social mobility in the developed world – the OECD figures show our earnings in the UK are more likely to reflect our fathers’ than any other country” [Guardian website May 2012]

12. Paul peter Smith
I agree with you on this:
“they were told if they worked hard and saved everything would be alright, both for the country and themselves.”

is it fair that this message that they were given is now no longer sustainabile. The fact they were told this in the 1950’s / 1960’s and 1970’s does not mean that they can continue to expect it to be true.

15. gastro george

“The fact they were told this in the 1950?s / 1960?s and 1970?s does not mean that they can continue to expect it to be true.”

Yes, but that generation built the welfare state in those years – only to see others start to dismantle it.

For those who distrust GDP figures and the like – or politicians – we can compare other metrics of living standards such as home-ownership rates (going down), car ownership, foreign holidays, etc but try this illumination by Nick Robinson:

Living standards – going down and, er, up
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23464466

17. So Much For Subtlety

Across Britain, adverts to work in cinemas or in coffee shops attract thousands of applications, despite the jobs on offer being low paid and often temporary.

Yes, how is that government regulation of the work place working out? It ought to be obvious to everyone that the regulatory framework cannot adjust to market conditions fast enough. Meaning we are always going to have a mis-match between supply and demand until we let the market sort it out.

Three decades ago, the UK was one of the most equal countries in the world. Today it is one of the most unequal

Thanks to, among other things immigration as Labour attempted to import an underclass of reliable voters to replace the indigenous population of these isles.

Today the ‘diamond` has gone, replaced by a contorted ‘hourglass’ with a small bulge at the top, a long thin stem in the middle, and a fat bulge at the bottom.

You import millions of Third World peons, you are going to have a lot of Third World peons. Why is this a surprise to anyone? A Somali immigrant, whose language was not even written down until well within the life time of many people posting here, is hardly going to become a charted accountant.

With a third of graduates now in permanent non-graduate jobs

You mean there are only so many jobs for second rate sociology graduates from third rate universities? You don’t say. The problem here has been the insistance that everyone go to university. That would be Blair if I remember right.

@ David Hodd

My take on the baby boomer effect can be summed up better when you realise they figure it is not ‘their’ children and grandchildren been shafted. It is always other peoples who deserve it. After all the newspaper they read tells them so. It is always easier to be feckless with a strangers life than with someone you are related to.

What they don’t realise is that to another baby boomer, their own children and grandchildren are strangers…

17

‘how is government regulation of the work place working out? …..we are always going to have a mis-match between supply and demand until we let the market sort it out’.

Agreed, until we stop paying out £51 billion pounds each year for tax-credits and Housing Benefit there will always be a mis-match between supply and demand.

18. Dissident
I think you are absolutely right here, it is why this debate is difficult to have sensibly. I am sure my attitude to this debate is also affected by situations like some retired people doing everything they can to prevent wind turbines etc being built. This is a generation that have emitted trillions of tons of carbon – the costs of which are now beginning to be dealt with – but are now wanting to carry on as before. The view from their retirement home is more important than the future for theirs and other’s grandchildren. I see many of our older generations doing rather a lot to prevent younger generations flourishing, in order to maintain their situation.

I should add, I also know many of that generation who are saddened / angry / actively doing the opposite. My argument is built around the reality that enough older people are doing ok, and are maintaining the status quo.

15. gastro george
If you take serious efforts to dismantle welfare state began around the time of Thatcher’s government, you can also say that the same generation began dismantling it.

One might even read that as pulling up the draw bridge.

In what sense has the welfare state been “dismantled”?

The thing is, the money we took off those poor colonials at least benefitted most of us here.

The Empire never ran at a profit – we spent more on those poor colonials than we ever took from them.

23
‘ The Empire never ran at a profit’.

True, only a small number of a particular class had benefit the rest of the population paid the taxes to fund it.

25. Richard Carey

It all goes back to the money system. Governments grant banks the privilege to create money out of thin air, which they then lend to the governments who can then spend without directly taxing the people. Given this privilege, it’s not surprising that the banks have grown so powerful. Take away this power to create money, and banks would be reduced to their two legitimate functions, i.e. as middle-men between those with money spare to invest and those seeking investment, and as providers of a safe place to store deposits.

This act of legal counterfeiting sucks the wealth of the world upwards, because printing money does not create any wealth, but merely dilutes the purchasing power of the existing money in the hands of the many, transferring the purchasing power to those with the newly created money.

As the inflationary boom has been led by the dollar, the world reserve currency, which was supposedly backed by gold until 1971, it has gone on far longer than other, more limited booms, such as in Yugoslavia or Zimbabwe, but it’s possible that it may be coming to an end, and if that happens, then the advantage that the monetary system has brought to the USA and the rest of the West will disappear. Then we will see the real meaning of wealth is not money, but stuff. It may be good for the rest of the world, but it will be painful for us.

26. Polish Jenny

In the way that a shark will drown if it stops swimming without growth capitalism is fooked and must pass away. It cannot grow any more. Globalisation behind a politically unified imperialism is as far as it goes. It has exhausted its historic potential. Monopolisation and financial bankruptcy means that it can no longer reproduce itself as a functioning economic system. Monopoly profits, a rapid decline in the spending power of the masses and the state and the fatal credit crunch ensures that economic stagnation and shrinkage is now inevitable. Not only is there nothing profitable to invest in but for the monopolies further investment can only endanger their monopoly. Even a global war sweeping away the current arrangements would not be able to over come this problem. The system is eating itself and all we can look forward to is the rewinding of the film of globalisation in a most unedifying manner, the re-emergence of inter-imperialist rivalries at a violent level and the approach of a permanent New Dark Ages.

But that is not quite true. Whilst the end of growth does presage this doomsday scenario it has another potentiality. Growth gives capitalism the ability to isolate the poor, the vulnerable, this week’s victims from the main stream with its promise of a better life for the individual lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Without the social mobility that growth makes possible, without The Dream, then individual consciousness is swapped for a growing class consciousness and the means for transcending capitalism rather than being buried with it are bought into being. Socialism or barbarism.

Reyes certainly plenty of potential for growth in the green economy. Sadly our politics has been so corrupted by oil you have to be a brave politician to say so.

Interestingly with regard to the need for capital to be used to make more capital, it always surprises me how threats to disinvest from our economy, the fourth largest globally, are taken seriously. I can’t imagine any board being able to defend such a silly, costly move.

Sorry, spellchucker substituted Reyes for There’s.

29. Richard Carey

@ Polish Jenny,

if the only hope is for humanity to become something it is not, a transformation from individuals into some kind of hive consciousness, then we are doomed. Surely it would be better to assume humans will stay pretty much the same as they have been for these last few millennia?

There are many problems to face, but they are not insurmountable. What is necessary is to identify them correctly, which doesn’t seem to be happening. If the choice really is barbarism or socialism, I think I’d prefer barbarism, firstly because pretty much anything’s better than socialism, and I have, most likely, more of a faith in human nature than you. A belief in justice and morality is deeply embedded in humanity, and precedes the establishment of any state or government.

22. cjcj

– I was running with gastro george’s phrase, so it is best he / she answers your question. I didn’t challenge it because I think it is perhaps fair to say there are several things which are now longer free at the point of delivery. There are also some other aspects of social support – for example college training – which are considerably less affordable than they were between the 1950’s and 1980’s.

This latter point matters, because education is widely considered a key to social mobility.

SMFS
“You mean there are only so many jobs for second rate sociology graduates from third rate universities? You don’t say.”

I would love you to share with us your educational credentials: it might help us put more or less weight to what you are saying.

Happy to share mine, which I am pleased to say has given me pretty much full employment since I graduate in 1991. But you have raised the issue of relevance and reputation of college training, so we should hear yours first.

32. Polish Jenny

`If the choice really is barbarism or socialism, I think I’d prefer barbarism, firstly because pretty much anything’s better than socialism…’

Yes I have no doubt that you would prefer barbarism. You probably have a dog in the capitalist race. Nevertheless despite your ravings amongst working people there is a growing understanding that only by acting consciously as a class can they defend themselves against a decaying system and eventually all this shit will be emptied into the dustin of history in favour of genuine democracy based on economic equality and not the sham democracy of the corporations and their fucked up food banks.

This is another powerful reason why the present generation may not do as well as their parents:

“England’s young adults trail world in literacy and maths”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-24433320

Blunkett used to go on and on about the “haves” versus the “have-nots” in access to computers. But the real problem is that using computers stresses literacy and numeracy skills. This was the finding of a recent OECD survey:

“24% of adults have maths skills no better than a 10-year-old”
http://www.standard.co.uk/news/education/24-of-adults-have-maths-skills-no-better-than-a-10yearold-8866906.html

A recent experience brought this home to me. I recently bought two small, screw-type halogen bulbs in a supermarket for a bedside lamp discounted “for clearance” from £1-99 to 98p.

At the checkout, I was charged the full £1-99 so I went to complain at “Customer services”. The white assistant had difficulty in calculating that I had been overcharged by £1-99 minus 98p per bulb, which is £1-01 per bulb. She produced an electronic calculator to do this challenging arithmetic and then had difficulty in using the calculator.

This is one of the consequences:

In the first quarter of 2011, around 1 in 5 workers, or 20.6 per cent, in low-skill occupations were born outside the UK. This figure has increased from around 1 in 11 workers, or 9.0 per cent, in the first quarter of 2002.

This represents an increase of 367,000 non-UK born workers in low-skill jobs, with 666,000 in the first quarter of 2011, up from 298,000 at the start of 2002.
Over the same period there was little change in the number of workers in low-skill jobs in the UK, which stood at around 3.2 million. However, the number of UK-born people in low-skill jobs fell from 3.04 million to 2.56 million.

There were also increases in the percentage of non-UK born workers in each of the three higher-skill groups, although the increases there were not as large as that in low-skill jobs.

Low-skill jobs are those that need a basic level of education and a short period of training, while high-skill occupations normally require a university level of education or extensive work experience. [ONS website May 2011]

I expect the upcoming US default isn’t going to do us many favours either.

@ Richard Carey, 1.46pm October 16

” I think I’d prefer barbarism, firstly because pretty much anything’s better than socialism, and I have, most likely, more of a faith in human nature than you.”

In our system now, the highest bidder is given a free ride at the expense of the rest of us, and all too frequently the highest bidder is either a sociopath or the offspring of such people. A collapse into the barbarism you naïvely seem to prefer would give such people the freedom to do whatever they want to you without any consequence. Unless of course the rest of us got to them first like what happened in the Mayan civilisation, when they realised how much their own economic elite had failed them!

On the long road to our civilisation, the first systems that emerged from the barbarism that ate away at the former Roman Empire were various forms of absolute monarchy, in which one family of thugs used weapons to murder and subjugate entire communities, and force them into paying tithes/taxes to keep such thugs in the lap of luxury. (So no different really to how the Roman Empire behaved)

Of course the Roman Empire collapsed because of the various memes glorifying selfish short-term thinking. Those same memes are now vigorously peddled to too many baby boomers, who accept without question the legitimacy of the propaganda churned out because it always seems to be ‘the other’ who is demonised in justification for such stupidity, and they bizarrely think they will be looked after! When it is their own targeted, they seem so wedded to such propaganda that they cannot see the cognitive dissonance it creates. They shout ever louder…

As for you preferring Barbarism to Socialism, maybe my comment regarding the next part of your statement is applicable, as it can really apply to any socio economic system.

“A belief in justice and morality is deeply embedded in humanity, and precedes the establishment of any state or government.”

Yet 1% of our species are sociopaths that think winning at all costs is preferable, no matter how many people are sanctioned in various ways into slavery, starvation and suicide. Currently, the very people who will keep our civilisation going are the ones targeted the most. They are our children. If things continue as they are, we face steadily worse conditions. Read about the reality of that. Jared Diamond wrote an insightful book on this subject. You may have heard of it, Collapse.

It is true that none of the problems we face are insurmountable, as you stated, yet it is unwise to disregard any possible solutions on the basis of a sociopath’s propaganda. To be blunt, who would you side with. Our children, or a bunch of sociopaths?

Can you really trust them to look after you & yours? Do you feel lucky?

36. So Much For Subtlety

24. steveb

True, only a small number of a particular class had benefit the rest of the population paid the taxes to fund it.

The millions of people in the Empire are hardly a small number of a particular class. Best thing ever to happen to British Africa or India.

37. So Much For Subtlety

31. David Hodd

I would love you to share with us your educational credentials: it might help us put more or less weight to what you are saying.

Why? Why is it important? Either we have too many second rate sociology graduates from third rate universities, and we do, or we don’t. But we do.

@ Richard Carey

” I think I’d prefer barbarism, firstly because pretty much anything’s better than socialism, and I have, most likely, more of a faith in human nature than you.”

In our system now, the highest bidder is given a free ride at the expense of the rest of us, and all too frequently the highest bidder is either a sociopath or the offspring of such people. A collapse into the barbarism you naïvely prefer would give such people the freedom to do whatever they want to you and your children without any consequence (it is bad enough now.) Unless of course the rest of us got to them first like what happened in the Mayan civilisation, when they realised how much their own economic elite had failed them.

On the long road to our civilisation, the first systems that emerged from the barbarism that destroyed the former Roman Empire were various forms of absolute monarchy, in which one family of thugs used weapons to murder and subjugate entire communities, and force them into paying tithes/taxes to keep such thugs in the lap of luxury. (So no different really to how the Roman Empire behaved)

Of course the Roman Empire collapsed because of the various memes glorifying selfish short-term thinking. Those same memes are now been peddled to too many baby boomers, who accept without question the legitimacy of the propaganda churned out because it always seems to be ‘the other’ who is demonised in justification for such stupidity.

“A belief in justice and morality is deeply embedded in humanity, and precedes the establishment of any state or government.”

Yet 1% of our species are sociopaths that think winning at all costs is preferable, no matter how many people are sanctioned into slavery, starvation and suicide. The very people who will keep our civilisation going are targeted the most. They are our children. If they are ‘lucky’ they can work for a pittance on an insecure zero hours contract, within which they will be forced to obey without question. No matter how incompetent and amoral their employers and said employer’s government patsies are. This is a genuine question, do you feel proud they face that? It is a step closer to the barbarism you seem to prefer…

As for actually seeing barbarism as preferable to socialism. Why do you say so? Have you swallowed wholesale the propaganda peddled by the sociopathic scum that rise to the top? Provided it is democratic, what is so wrong with been equal to others, why do you think that ‘looking down’ on person A while simultaneously envying/rimming person B is better? Is it just because person B has more money? Especially since you know money is just a symbol invented by us!

~~

If things continue as they are, we face steadily worse conditions. Read about the reality of that. Jared Diamond wrote an insightful book on this subject. You may have heard of it, Collapse.

Would you side with our children, or a cartel of sociopaths?
To paraphrase Dirty Harry: Do you feel lucky, punk?

Try this helpful entry in Wikipedia: List of dates predicted for apocalyptic events
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dates_predicted_for_apocalyptic_events

Marx predicted the inevitable end of capitalism because of its internal contradictions. He was correct in this respect: buyers tend to look to purchase goods and services at the lowest prices while suppliers look to sell at the highest achievable prices. Evidently, the interests of buyers and sellers conflict. Marx thought this could be resolved if everyone worked according to their ability and took what they thought they needed.

We could get there ‘peacefully’ if the government applied a tax rate of 100pc on all incomes and used the proceeds to distribute goods and services according to assessed need. Not many think that would work.

40. Richard Carey

@ 37 Dissident,

“In our system now, the highest bidder is given a free ride at the expense of the rest of us”

I’m not sure what you mean by ‘highest bidder’. If you are commenting on the power of the very wealthy over the government, then I may agree.

“A collapse into the barbarism you naïvely prefer would give such people the freedom to do whatever they want to you and your children without any consequence”

‘naïvely’ is just ad hominem and does not advance your argument. The rest is predicated on the term ‘barbarism’ having a fixed definition, which it most certainly does not in the present context, where it is being put forward as the *only* alternative to socialism. As for the sociopaths you note, I put it to you that a socialist state is the perfect vehicle for such people to exercise the greatest tyranny.

“On the long road to our civilisation, the first systems that emerged from the barbarism that destroyed the former Roman Empire were various forms of absolute monarchy”

Not so. Absolute monarchy came later. Europe after the fall of Rome was poly-centric, with over-lapping spheres of power. I don’t dispute the brutality and oppression you mention, however.

“Of course the Roman Empire collapsed because of the various memes glorifying selfish short-term thinking.”

There is no ‘of course’. The collapse came about for complex reasons which cannot be reduced to simplicity. In any case, the Roman Empire continued in the East for centuries longer. Was this because Constantinople lacked these memes you mention?

After quoting me, and seemingly agreeing with my view of human nature, you state:

“Yet 1% of our species are sociopaths that think winning at all costs is preferable”

I’ll accept the statistic, but you must acknowledge that this 1% exist among us whatever the political system. With a socialist system they will be the ones striving for power, just as now. Or do you think sociopathy and greed would evaporate under the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ or its vanguard?

I do not accept the idea that we face a stark choice between barbarity or socialism. I do not accept that any choice other than socialism equals barbarity. There are ways for us to live peacefully together which do not involve the inherent coercion of socialism.

One last comment:

“Especially since you know money is just a symbol invented by us!”

Money evolved out of barter, when one commodity became adopted for indirect exchange. It serves an incredibly useful purpose, which is undermined by governments and banks inflating, but that’s another issue.

@17. So Much For Subtlety: “…second rate sociology graduates from third rate universities?”

That is an interesting turn of phrase. Twenty odd years ago, before the 1992 changes which allowed polytechnics to become universities, sociology was possibly the most disparaged university degree. Howard Kirk and all his fictional associations made it a joke. It also happened because the abusers were so ignorant of degrees in history of art and similarly ‘useless’ subjects.

Post 1992 sociology courses and their intake, at old universities and former polytechnics, have changed significantly. Sociology is currently a rigorous degree in the UK which attracts non-UK students, factors which should signal that graduates expect to be employable. Without university applications clearing, most courses would be pretty full. Much the same can be applied to relatively new related disciplines such as media studies (the course ain’t about watching blockbusters).

If we wish to identify ‘joke’ or ‘useless’ degree courses, we can turn to the clearing supplements published each August by the broadsheet papers. We can ignorantly laugh about the merits of ‘golf course management with german’, and we can ponder more reflectively about continuing and vocational education. There won’t be many clearing places for a degree in sociology.

The phrase ‘second rate sociology graduates from third rate universities’ describes failures of the past, assuming that failures were true. SMFS parrots a 1991 critique of higher education, ignorant of positive and negative change in HE.

42. Polish Jenny

“Of course the Roman Empire collapsed because of the various memes glorifying selfish short-term thinking.”

`There is no ‘of course’. The collapse came about for complex reasons which cannot be reduced to simplicity.’

It was based on a mode of production that had run its course. If not it would have continued and not just as a decaying rump. It only looks complicated because as it decays the contradictions mount and get messy.

38

‘We could get there ‘peacefully’ if the government applied a tax rate of 100pc on all incomes’

Interesting to see you speculating about a Marxist, socialist society, just one problem, according to Marx there will be no central state, so who exactly will be collecting the 100pc taxes?

44. Richard Carey

@ 41 Polish Jenny,

“It was based on a mode of production that had run its course. If not it would have continued and not just as a decaying rump.”

Even if it were so simple, that doesn’t teach us anything about our own mode of production and whether its doomed and if so, when, nor that socialism offers a better mode of production – for one thing, because the socialist economies of the 20th century have largely disappeared, which, by your crude analysis, would indicate that they had run their course. You may retort that the attempts to create socialist economies in the past did not work because they were not true socialist economies, but the question arises; what makes you think a new attempt to do so, however well-intentioned, would succeed where they failed?

43

Attempts to implement a socialist economy have failed because they were built on a peasant style economy, it was as likely to succeed as attempting to build industrial capitalism from a hunter/gathering base. The key is small evolutionary steps.

@ Richard Carey, 2.37pm October 17

“I’m not sure what you mean by ‘highest bidder’. If you are commenting on the power of the very wealthy over the government, then I may agree.”

That is precisely what I was talking about! My phrase ‘billionaire bribe master’ covers it better, if more colourfully :)

“As for the sociopaths you note, I put it to you that a socialist state is the perfect vehicle for such people to exercise the greatest tyranny.”

“I’ll accept the statistic, but you must acknowledge that this 1% exist among us whatever the political system. With a socialist system they will be the ones striving for power, just as now. Or do you think sociopathy and greed would evaporate under the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ or its vanguard?”

Agreed with one caveat. All systems, including capitalism show ample evidence of this happening. So the question there is simple, how do you stop them from taking over? We only have to look at the ‘Bullingdon Club Rioters’ in the current government, who failed to get a mandate even with the daily bombardment of propaganda supporting them. What is there to stop the ultimate tyranny happening in our system. especially when disadvantaged people are already dying in their thousands. That can be reduced into another sound bite…

One step, two step, three step four.
Five step, six step, seven and more…

“There is no ‘of course’. The collapse came about for complex reasons which cannot be reduced to simplicity.”

Yet those complex reasons were understood by many at the time. Instead the former Roman Empire lurched from bad to worse because that civilisations 1% chose the imperial purple and equivalents, and the selfish memes led to endemic tax evasion by those who profited the most. Leading to a combination of crumbling infrastructure and a disproportionate imposition of taxes on those least able to pay. The eastern half of the empire only survived because it froze itself into a kind of caste system, and was partly shielded by less than favourable geology for an invading army. Only in the long term did that freezing leave it vulnerable to the advancement of surrounding civilisations.

The complexity you cite is remarkably easy to understand. My question is, are there any parallels with our civilisation?

“I do not accept the idea that we face a stark choice between barbarity or socialism. I do not accept that any choice other than socialism equals barbarity.”

Will the consequences for our civilisation of the current crop of powerful sociopaths give us any choice? It is ironic that we are also for the first time in possession of the scientific knowledge necessary to identify who they are. Would it be wise to use such knowledge? Given the fact that you cannot catch all of them at once, and such knowledge can itself be abused to remove the enemies of whichever one happens to own the technology?

“Money evolved out of barter, when one commodity became adopted for indirect exchange. It serves an incredibly useful purpose, which is undermined by governments and banks inflating, but that’s another issue.”

Agreed, my question for you is simple to ask. Is it the ultimate tool, given the ease with which it is abused, or do you think it is a passing technology that will become as obsolete as barter trade? That may be necessary to prevent collapse.

Apologies for the ‘n’ word, I should have put seemingly in front of it! It was shorthand for what I felt…

@ David Hodd

“I see many of our older generations doing rather a lot to prevent younger generations flourishing, in order to maintain their situation.”

That is perhaps because their synapses are becoming less – flexible lol

Errata Richard, 2.55pm. Mobile version should have date and time…

@43. Richard Carey: “You may retort that the attempts to create socialist economies in the past did not work because they were not true socialist economies, but the question arises; what makes you think a new attempt to do so, however well-intentioned, would succeed where they failed?”

Capitalism and markets, as currently operated, are pretty shit too. Are you willing change?

You presume a binary divide between ownership and wealth production.

50. Richard Carey

“So the question there is simple, how do you stop them from taking over?”

I would say; we must severely limit the power of the state, in its own activity and in its enabling of oligarchies, and as we do so, we will reduce the threat.

We need our fundamental liberties protected (habeas corpus, right of silence, freedom of the press, freedom from warrant-less searches and seizures etc). It is not enough to have paper guarantees, and they have to be constantly and vigilantly guarded; we also, I think, should apply the principle of subsidiarity, to devolve power down to the lowest levels, out of the hands of the central government; methods of direct democracy are worth looking at – the last presidential election in the US gave examples of petitioners getting things put on the ballot, like for legalising cannabis; then there’s all the other stuff I’d like to see abolished (being a libertarian) which I won’t bore you with.

“We only have to look at the ‘Bullingdon Club Rioters’ in the current government”

They are not as powerful as they like to think; they are hemmed in by public opinion, the bankers and events (dear boy).

“Is [money] the ultimate tool, given the ease with which it is abused, or do you think it is a passing technology that will become as obsolete as barter trade?”

As long as people are free to exchange, then money will exist. When one type of money dies or is excluded, others arise, as with cigarettes in prisons, or foreign currencies when one currency succumbs to hyper-inflation.

The heart of the matter (discussed above) is the monetary system. The power to create money, assumed by the state or granted to banks by the state, will be our downfall. This is not a power that can be trusted to mortals, the temptation is too great. Once a policy of inflation is embarked upon, there is no way out of the boom without a bust, and the longer it goes on, the bigger the crash.

I know I haven’t answered every point you raised, but that would probably take quite an essay :)

51. Richard Carey

@ 48 Charlieman,

“Capitalism and markets, as currently operated, are pretty shit too. Are you willing change?”

The financial markets are indeed pretty shit. I have to mention again the monetary system, which, through the creation of new money and the suppression of interest rates, has undermined sound investment and saving.

“You presume a binary divide between ownership and wealth production.”

I’m not sure what you mean by this.

charlieman @ 48:

“Capitalism and markets, as currently operated, are pretty shit too.”

Really? Capitalism and freemarkets have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of absolute poverty since the late 20th century. China pulled 680m people out of misery in 1981-2010, and reduced its extreme-poverty rate from 84% in 1980 to 10% now. And much the same is now happening in Africa.

50. Richard Carey: “I’m not sure what you mean by this [re binary divide between ownership and wealth production].”

Organisations work best when all members feel that they are winners. Members may not expect to be wealthier, but they aspire to be on a chain of progress.

In a traditional company, the chain of progress is awkward; progress depends on how well you get on with your bosses.

In a co-op, theoretically members have power. Power depends on how the divvy is scooped.

Neither of those models is absolutely true.

@TONE
You have heard of the concept of bait & switch?

@ Richard Carey

I know the essay is long…

“I would say; we must severely limit the power of the state, in its own activity and in its enabling of oligarchies, and as we do so, we will reduce the threat.”

Does that mean you are against multinationals? Since they are the de facto state now. If you disagree, explain why such multinationals have such power – even if that power is via that big, thick brown paper envelope…

“They are not as powerful as they like to think; they are hemmed in by public opinion, the bankers and events (dear boy).”

Agreed. Pity public opinion is manipulated by billionaire bribe masters isn’t it! As for bankers and events, well that brown paper envelope is ever so useful!

“Once a policy of inflation is embarked upon, there is no way out of the boom without a bust, and the longer it goes on, the bigger the crash.”

I refer back to the bribe masters. Since money is just a tool, and all tools can be substituted. Whether that is for – as you imply the previously blunted axe been replaced with another (cigarettes in prisons) or a new system. What is more important. An IOU or a recipe? Think about it…

@51. TONE:

‘Me, Charlieman @ 48: “Capitalism and markets, as currently operated, are pretty shit too.’

“Really?”

I presume that TONE does not count corpses. Or incidental demise.

@ Charlieman.

Maybe corpses are just statistics…

59. Richard Carey

@ 52 Charlieman,

I think if co-operatives had an obvious advantage over private companies, we would see more of them. I’ve got nothing against co-ops. I expect the share of ownership does provide a motivation, but it would only be one among a number of factors.

“Organisations work best when all members feel that they are winners.”

I don’t think this can be said. The feeling of being a winner is not necessarily correlative to working to the best of one’s ability. Imagine a company where the staff’s lottery syndicate won a stack of money. They would all actually be winners, but get no work done at all!

@50. Richard Carey: “I have to mention again the monetary system, which, through the creation of new money and the suppression of interest rates, has undermined sound investment and saving.”

Indeed, it is fair to give space to your bat shit crazy idea about the value of the pound or euro coin in my pocket.

My pound is worth about 1.1 or 1.2 Euro. And I am pissed off about Greece: the economy runs on Euros. I understand that a taxi runs on Euros, cost of fuel, which cannot be diminished. I wanna go on holiday there. I wanna go to cheap Greece. Or stay close to home, instead

But, according to some people’s rules, other life events occur.

We need to nibble that down.

@ Charlieman

What’s bat shit crazy about monetarism ;)

62. Richard Carey

“Does that mean you are against multinationals? Since they are the de facto state now.”

I think this is an exaggeration. I don’t think there’s anything wrong per se in multinationals. As long as a company is operating within the law and supplying goods to the market, I don’t think it makes any difference whether they are foreign-owned or multinational.

“If you disagree, explain why such multinationals have such power”

The power of big business comes from their wealth and their influence over governments. Insofar as this wealth comes from providing services to people, then its legitimate. Insofar as it comes from gaining monopoly privileges from governments it is not, nor would it be from any criminal behaviour. In the latter case, the financial crisis of the last five years seems to have been caused in large measure by criminality in the most powerful financial institutions, who have been deemed ‘too big to jail’. Slightly differently, various of the top banks have been caught money-laundering billions of drug money. Unfortunately the unhealthy relationship between these institutions and governments insures nobody gets busted, other than occasional sacrificial goat. I don’t see how this will change, as long as governments are running up debts which can never be paid back.

“Pity public opinion is manipulated by billionaire bribe masters isn’t it!”

The problem is our economy is hooked on the drug of cheap credit. Any government who tries to sanitise the money supply will cause the pain of cold turkey. For a politician to do anything other than kick the can down the road would be, to invoke Sir Humphrey, heroic, and likely to be dumped by the electorate. Looking at the world, I would also note the last political figure who attempted to dump the dollar (in favour of a gold-backed currency for Africa and the Muslim world) was Gaddafi.

“Since money is just a tool, and all tools can be substituted…”

I don’t really follow you here. Money is very useful, as it enables indirect exchange. Different things can serve as money, but some things are better than others. Gold and silver became widely adopted for their physical qualities and limited and reasonably stable quantities. The period since 1971 and the death of Bretton Woods has been an experiment in pure fiat money. We do not know how it will end yet, but it may not be pretty. Although different things can serve as money, there must always be money, as long as people are free. The problem is not money itself, but the legalised counterfeiting of the banks and governments, practicing the modern equivalent of debasing the coins.

60. Dissident: “What’s bat shit crazy about monetarism”

Yeah, nothing.

Perhaps, we should be polite.

64. Richard Carey

@ Dissident,

whether or not I’m crazy, I’m certainly no monetarist.

65. So Much For Subtlety

40. Charlieman

It also happened because the abusers were so ignorant of degrees in history of art and similarly ‘useless’ subjects.

Actually no. But no one expects historians of art to be anything other than vapid Sloane Rangers, as they then were, and of course History varies enormously. History is one of the hardest subjects to get into in the UK. As long as you do it at Oxford. But sociology is everywhere vapid.

Post 1992 sociology courses and their intake, at old universities and former polytechnics, have changed significantly. Sociology is currently a rigorous degree in the UK which attracts non-UK students, factors which should signal that graduates expect to be employable.

Rigorous is not a word that can be applied to any sociology degree. Why does the fact that a useless degree manages to attract useless students, even from overseas, amount to anything? No doubt a lot of Africans want to work for NGOs and a lot of South Asians want to immigrate. Doesn’t make the degree any less of a joke.

?If we wish to identify ‘joke’ or ‘useless’ degree courses, we can turn to the clearing supplements published each August by the broadsheet papers. We can ignorantly laugh about the merits of ‘golf course management with german’, and we can ponder more reflectively about continuing and vocational education. There won’t be many clearing places for a degree in sociology.

So your defence is that there are even more useless degrees invented since people recognised the uselessness of sociology? Interesting.

@ Richard Carey, 11.31pm October 17

“The problem is our economy is hooked on the drug of cheap credit”

For now, I will only ask about this. Because what too many people are facing is credit inversely proportional to income.

For whom is this cheap credit available? It is certainly not available for me, the lowest rate of interest I have ever got personally is 30% APR – plus PPI. I effectively paid more in interest on anything than ‘baby boomers’ cashing in ‘equity’ on bricks and mortar! What I have paid out over the years would equal a sizeable deposit on my own property/business investment, yet those payments also prevented me from saving anything like enough to do so. especially when you take into account stagnation in real terms on wages since monetarism came into force! I am glad you state you are no monetarist incidentally. The rest you no doubt know from other threads…

Other points I will ask about tomorrow.

67. So Much For Subtlety

56. Charlieman

I presume that TONE does not count corpses. Or incidental demise.

Dissident

Maybe corpses are just statistics…

I am sorry but in a century when the enemies of capitalism have piled up something like 150 million corpses, usually with the full support of people like you, you are actually criticising someone else for supporting capitalism and its non-existant death toll?

@ Attack bot, 1.54am October 18

“I am sorry but in a century when the enemies of capitalism have piled up something like 150 million corpses, usually with the full support of people like you, you are actually criticising someone else for supporting capitalism and its non-existant death toll?”

You are a sociopath’s useful idiot.

100 million in India, with the instigation of the ‘democratic capitalist experiment’ from 1947 to 1979, with tens of millions more after that date
17 million killed by the British Raj in India
18 million slaves killed during the Atlantic slave trade
5-10 million native peoples during the invasion of the Americas
8 million by King Leopold’s forces in the Congo
10 million in the Nazi slaughter of Jews, gypsies, communist and gays
15 million slaughtered in the First World War’s ‘reordering’
55 million killed in the invasion of Europe by Hitler and then the Second World War (of which 8 million Russian soldiers and 16 million communists killed behind the lines after the invasion of the USSR)
3 million killed by the US led forces in Korea
3.5 million killed by the USA in Vietnam
1 million killed in the US bombing of Cambodia and Laos
1 million slaughtered in Indonesia by proxy by Suharto (helped by the CIA and MI6)
1 million slaughtered by pro-US dictators throughout Latin America
1.3 million killed in sanctions on Iraq
1 million killed in current invasion of Iraq
… and on and on.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmYSNDr84M4

69. Richard Carey

@ Dissident

“For whom is this cheap credit available?”

Primarily the government (the biggest debtor in the country), and also the banks. Prior to 2008, there was cheap credit for buying houses etc, which was the main (but not sole) driving force in pushing up prices.

If we had a sound money supply, interest rates would undoubtedly be higher, but prices would not be increasing, rather they would resemble that which is seen in technology and come down over time.

“… when you take into account stagnation in real terms on wages since monetarism came into force! ”

I’m not sure what you mean by monetarism. As far as I know, the Thatcher government abandoned monetarism quite early on. Bob B’s the man to ask on that, although he would reject all my opinions on money. As far as stagnation in wages, it is an effect of inflationary policies that prices increase, because the new money siphons off the purchasing power of the existing money. Printing money doesn’t increase wealth, but it does shift purchasing power from pensioners and workers to governments and those first in line for the new money, i.e. bankers.

Somewhat off topic, but someone’s making an app that will help people reach their minimum 35 hour per week provable job searching requirements for JSA.

http://automation.strikenow.org.uk/get-the-extension/

For young people this may a) Help them find a job
and b) give them free time to enjoy their youth, since the app will be doing their job searches and applications for them.

Course it’s worth pointing out that such automation is what will kill jobs off in the future.

@ Cylux

That’s a brilliant app! Too bad it doesn’t work on all browsers though…

I wonder how DWP would react? Would they sanction you for using it, as that is now their default mode of operations. That high ranking baby boomer civil servant needs a bigger office/house/champagne bottle, and don’t forget Ian Duncan Smith’s underpants budget!

I wonder how DWP would react? Would they sanction you for using it, as that is now their default mode of operations.

Depends on if they can detect it being used I suppose, it’s not really something that jobseekers should be owning up to using. The main giveaway I suspect is that it will do a far better job of meeting the jobcentre’s demands than any human could manage on their own, which could lead to a somewhat Kafkaesque situation given that it is genuinely applying for jobs on the user’s behalf, and thus cracking down on it’s usage in order to restore the onerous situation of being on jobseekers would actually be a deliberate move to reduce people’s chances of finding employment.

It’s a mess of their own making of course, they decided they needed to monitor jobseeker activity to the hour each week and creating a one size-fits-all jobsearch site that tracked their usage was the only way to go about it. Not to mention their various work programs which in terms of finding people work have results that were worse than doing nothing at all and letting people find jobs naturally, although the bosses of the work provider companies have made lots of money from the DWP shovelling it into their pockets.

73. Derek Hattons Tailor

This has been true for pretty much everyone born after 1963. Real wages have not risen since the early 1970s so however you measure it living standards have not gone up since then as fast as they did before then. The expansion of female employment – which drives prices and taxes up, but real wages down – means we are now effectively going backwards. Protectionism is the only solution.

@ Richard Carey

“Printing money doesn’t increase wealth, but it does shift purchasing power from pensioners and workers to governments and those first in line for the new money, i.e. bankers.”

Understood, and agreed. Have you ever heard of a proposed medium of exchange based upon information? To put it crudely, it doesn’t matter how many digits there are in your accumulated wealth, if you don’t have the recipe to (say) make an omelette, how can you get the ingredients to make it, and if nobody else knows, how can you exchange the result for anything else?

Information can always be added to, and traded, and unless you physically destroy the database and means of communication, you never lose it. It’s worth would hold true until a better recipe comes along, etc.

It goes without saying we are not yet at the stage such a system can be practically implemented, as we don’t have the right technology for it, or a secure enough resource base accessible to all.

Apart from those hurdles, are there any flaws?

75. Richard Carey

@ Dissident,

the idea vaguely rings a bell, but I don’t see how it would work as a medium of exchange, rather than take us back to barter. The benefit of money is that everyone will take it, so the man with a fish who wants a chicken doesn’t have to find a man with a chicken who wants a fish. With information, I don’t see how items of information would be universally accepted nor fungible (i.e. one £ is the same as any other) as money (of whatever kind) is.

76. So Much For Subtlety

67. Dissident

You are a sociopath’s useful idiot.

Thank you. From you I consider that not inconsiderable praise.

100 million in India, with the instigation of the ‘democratic capitalist experiment’ from 1947 to 1979, with tens of millions more after that date

Sorry but WTF? Whatever it is you are smoking, stop. Explain to me how this experiment in Fabian socialism has managed to kill anywhere near this many?

17 million killed by the British Raj in India

They didn’t between 1900 and 1947. In fact they didn’t at all. You’re just making sh!t up as usual.

18 million slaves killed during the Atlantic slave trade

I did say this century. And by “killed” you mean “had any involvement at all with slavery”? Even then your figure is high.

5-10 million native peoples during the invasion of the Americas

This century again. Not do I think there is a capitalist form of smallpox.

8 million by King Leopold’s forces in the Congo

This century yet again. Nor was Leopold’s Congo capitalist. More of an early experiment in Eurosocialism.

10 million in the Nazi slaughter of Jews, gypsies, communist and gays

Not capitalists. Socialists in fact.

15 million slaughtered in the First World War’s ‘reordering’

You going to count every death under a non-socialist government as some how the fault of the economic freedom that government protects? By all means then, every stubbed toe in Tomsk is Stalin’s fault, right?

55 million killed in the invasion of Europe by Hitler and then the Second World War (of which 8 million Russian soldiers and 16 million communists killed behind the lines after the invasion of the USSR)

Two socialists get together to start a war and then fall out. Naturally you think capitalism is to blame.

3 million killed by the US led forces in Korea

Defending the South from worse. Again you blame every death on the Americans when most of those deaths were the work of Koreans.

3.5 million killed by the USA in Vietnam

Is greater than the Vietnamese government’s estimate for their death toll and again most of those deaths were caused by Vietnamese people. But you blame the Americans. Naturally.

1 million killed in the US bombing of Cambodia and Laos

Now you’re back to making up sh!t. But again, if only they had won! The Khmer Rouge shows why America’s wars were necessary and just.

1 million slaughtered in Indonesia by proxy by Suharto (helped by the CIA and MI6)

To crush the attempted coup by the Communists and so saved Indonesia from greater massacres.

1 million slaughtered by pro-US dictators throughout Latin America

Making sh!t up again. But as above.

1.3 million killed in sanctions on Iraq
1 million killed in current invasion of Iraq

And this is just shameless nonsense. If the Baathist form of socialism was unable to provide health care, that is the fault of the Baathist form of socialism.

… and on and on.

Although at some point reality must bite.

Ignoring your lie about the Raj, the fact that the Nazis were not capitalists, and the fact that the death toll in WW2 is equally divided between Stalin and Hitler – the two people who wanted a war – you have managed to count some sixty million people. Or about the civilian death toll in China and the USSR – not together but each – due to socialism. Great. You had to go back to 1492 to do it but you did it. Well done. You had to include absolutely everything to get there – and ignore everyone else’s role except the evil White Males, but you managed it.

Capitalism wins hands down even by your count.

@ Attack bot

You have been programmed with a remarkably warped perception of socialism. Where did it come from? The Tea Baggers of ‘Murica, brandishing their Randian bible? In that disgustingly bizarre and amoral world your programmer inhabits, every genocide committed to protect the profits of the 1% (and the list is very far from exhaustive) can be twisted onto somebody else, usually the victims. Wow. Glad you sorted that for me.

Maybe there are modules in your programming that do the same trick Ian Duncan Smith is doing now, he passed an edict to the Department of Work & Pensions to stop collecting information on how many people his policies are killing. Policies which protect the profits of the few. After all if you don’t even bother to count the corpses of your victims, you won’t have to face prosecution right?

72

‘Real wages have not risen since the early 1970s so however you measure it living standards have not gone up since then as fast as they did before then’.

This is the problem with capitalism itself, it can never stand still, it will always need profit to finance another round of production. The benefits of the introduction of full employment had, by the 1970s, encountered the problems of inflation which led to ‘stagflation’, something that no economist or government predicted. Keeping wages down was only one way of addressing it but unfortunately this then meant that consumption was decreased which would then constrain the ability of producers to make profits. There was also the problem of newly developed countries competing, most were assisted by their respective governments.

You do mention the increased employment of women, which, whilst I agree that this did have an impact, it possibly wasn’t in the way you perceive it:- Since the introduction of the Equal Pay Act, it has been beneficial to employers to employ only women and mainly part time. Equal pay is not an issue, very few joined unions and many more were not paid enough to pay national insurance.

But the absence of a living wage also affects the ability to consume and following the increased numbers on decreasing incomes the government extended the welfare state to address low pay, presently we are paying-out around £31 billion each year in tax-credits and £20 billion in housing benefit. With other benefits such as pensions and child benefit, we now have a welfare state which supports the economy rather than the other way round.

You suggest that protectionism is the only solution but I’m not sure which area you propose to be protected.

75

Fail again SMFS, Fabian socialism was a process, I’ll leave you to do your own research. Socialism requires that there is no private ownership of the means of production and from my own experience there was quite a lot of private ownership prior to and during 1979.

The rest of your post is a load bollocks and I can’t be bothered to address that much shit.

64. So Much For Subtlety:

“But no one expects historians of art to be anything other than vapid Sloane Rangers…”

I have worked with many smart people and one of the smartest had a BA and MA in history of art. She wasn’t from a Sloane background, more ‘county set’. She had ideas about document management and worked with technologists to assemble shredded Stasi records.

I worked with a history of art academic from a different background. He sold adverts for television, but he was passionate about the subject, fully knowing that he was starting from scratch when he took on his BA and PhD as a mature student. I hope that he is happy.

“Rigorous is not a word that can be applied to any sociology degree.”

This is an assertion without evidence.

“So your defence is that there are even more useless degrees invented since people recognised the uselessness of sociology? Interesting.”

I am not defending. I am attempting to debate.

Sincere discussion about the validity of degree courses talks about continuing education, vocational qualifications, jumping beyond university education at 18 years et al.

Your definition of ‘useless’ is crass and insulting; it amounts to anything that SMFS does not like.

There are many things which I do not like, but I do not describe them as ‘useless'; it is just stuff which I do not like.

“Rigorous is not a word that can be applied to any sociology degree.”

IMO Anthony Giddens [Director of the LSE and previously professor of sociology at Cambridge] inflicted great harm on the reputation of sociology when he became the leading guru for Blair’s Third Way, an ideological notion that was universally panned in the serious press — see Gidden’s Reith lectures in 1999:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith1999/lecturer.shtml

OTOH compare Cameron with Sebastian Sprott, who wrote several academic texts on sociology:

Cameron in 2005: “There is such a thing as society, it’s just not the same thing as the state.”

Sprott in 1967: “The answer to the first question – ‘What is a society?’ is that it is a figment of the imagination. . . The fact is that in physics and chemistry you start with lumps of matter; you then analyse things into their chemical elements, into different combinations of entities, protons and the like. Far from being directly acquainted with the elements, it is not unknown for philosophers to question the existence of them. Equally nonsensical is it to say that we have a direct acquaintance with society. We do not. We have direct acquaintance only with people interacting, ie the elements of society, in so far as as it exists at all, is constituted. So I say that society is in some sense a figment of imagination. But we do in fact have in our minds models of the society in which we live. You can, if some foreigner asks questions about your society, refer to your model – not a very clear one perhaps; ‘scheme’ would be a better word in use. But you have some sort of model with its political system, economic system, legal system, religious system class system and so on. You have some sort of model in your mind of the society in which you live and, if you go abroad, you prepare a model which you hope will correspond in some sort of way with the society they happen to have.”
[Source: "Society: what is it and how does it change?" from The Educational Implications of Social and Economic Change (HMSO 1967), reprinted in: DF Swift (ed): Basic Readings in the Sociology of Education (Routledge, 1970)]

Btw Sebastian Sprott was a member of the Bloomsbury Group and a close friend of Maynard Keynes.

80

‘So I say that society is in some sense a figment of imagination.’

I’ve also suspected as much about the invisible hand.

@80. Bob B quoting Sprott in 1967: “You can, if some foreigner asks questions about your society, refer to your model – not a very clear one perhaps; ‘scheme’ would be a better word in use. But you have some sort of model with its political system, economic system, legal system, religious system class system and so on.”

Indeed, if an Englishman is asked about what it is to be English, there is no coherent answer. Which is good. We are all different. Most of us perceive to be English or British, but we cannot answer the question.

England and UK law does not have a written constitution. As citizens, our rights are defined in UK (or something like it) law and by deference to other authorities. It is a huge muddle, but we should have already become the most thoughtful of nations.

steveb: “I’ve also suspected as much about the invisible hand.”

The “invisible hand” is only a metaphor. With good and some bad results, markets do allocate scarce resources among competing uses. Hammurabi’s code of laws in ancient Babylon c. 1772 BC included many market regulations evidently intended to enable markets to function better or more equitably:
http://eawc.evansville.edu/anthology/hammurabi.htm

I’ve posted here often enough references in the economics literature to recognised instances of market failure going back at least as far as Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776).

But the fact is that Britain pioneered an industrial revolution around 1800 without state planning, direction or control, which arguably led to a lingering complacent faith in the benefits of laissez-faire. Even so, we find examples of Parliament legislating factory acts going back at least to 1809 to curb what were regarded as socially unacceptable examples of the eploitation of women and children in factories and mines. Parliament did ban the slave trade in 1807 whereas an unqualified commitment to laissez-faire would have allowed the trade to continue.

An education act of 1870 introduced administrative structures for providing universal primary education up to the age of 12, paid for through local levies, as it came to be recognised that schooling could not be left to the churches and charities.

85. So Much For Subtlety

76. Dissident

You have been programmed with a remarkably warped perception of socialism. Where did it come from?

If you can’t argue the facts, attack the man. Well done Diss.

every genocide committed to protect the profits of the 1% (and the list is very far from exhaustive) can be twisted onto somebody else, usually the victims. Wow. Glad you sorted that for me.

If North Korean invades the south, or starves a tenth of its population to death, it is the fault of the North Korean government. Not the South Koreans for resisting or the Americans for helping them.

steveb

Fail again SMFS, Fabian socialism was a process, I’ll leave you to do your own research.

Sorry but that is an irrelevance and clearly an attempt by you to change the subject of conversation – which is still your insane-r than usual claim that Nehru’s socialism managed to kill over 100 million people. Evidence please.

The rest of your post is a load bollocks and I can’t be bothered to address that much shit.

Can’t be bothered, can’t manage, unable. Whatever.

Charlieman

I have worked with many smart people

And right there you go wrong.

This is an assertion without evidence.

But it is an accurate and truthful assertion without evidence. Nor do I feel the slightest obligation to provide a shred of evidence any more than I do for the claim the Earth looks flat or Paris is the capital of France.

I am not defending. I am attempting to debate.

The latter requires the former.

Your definition of ‘useless’ is crass and insulting; it amounts to anything that SMFS does not like.

If a degree was useless and cost people of lot of valuable time and money, it would only be right to not like it. Or should I defend this rip off because you seem to have a degree or two in this field?

83. Bob B: “An education act of 1870 introduced administrative structures for providing universal primary education up to the age of 12…”

Which is why need liberals.

It is why we need contrary thinkers.

87. Richard Carey

@ Bob B,

“Parliament did ban the slave trade in 1807 whereas an unqualified commitment to laissez-faire would have allowed the trade to continue.”

Opposing slavery is not in any way contrary to laissez-faire, any more than opposing laws against rape and murder. Indeed, slavery is the very antithesis of economic liberty as far as the slave is concerned. Your statement seems flawed by anachronism. Monopolies and protectionism, pre-existed the movement for free trade in England, as in France, where the term laissez-faire was coined.

Charlieman: “It is why we need contrary thinkers.”

The 1870 education act was Liberal government legislation. I’ve quoted before from this research by Sanderson:

“We have noted a substantial body of original research . . . which found that stagnant or declining literacy underlay the ‘revolution’ of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. . . Britain in 1850 was the wealthiest country in the world but only in the second rank as regards literacy levels. [Nick] Crafts has shown that in 1870 when Britain was world economic leader, its school enrolment ratio was only 0.168 compared with the European norm of 0.514 and ‘Britain persistently had a relatively low rate of accumulation of human capital’.”
Source: Sanderson: Education, economic change and society in 1780-1870 (Cambridge UP, 1995) p.61

FWIW my impression is that the English have long under-appreciated the significance of education standards perhaps because we became complacent. Having pioneered industrialisation without a formal structure for schooling before other European countries and having built an empire which, at its zenith, covered a quarter of world’s land surface, we felt that schooling didin’t matter much.

There is a lot of evidence that sentiment is still deeply rooted among working class boys. The trouble is that science and technology have become increasingly important for economic prosperity and good standards of literacy and numeracy matter for competence in the sciences. Looking forward, there will be little growth in unskilled manual jobs and there is clear evidence that low skilled jobs have increasingly been taken by migrants from mainland Europe.

@84. So Much For Subtlety:

You are so fucking dumb that I might presume to be smart.

On slavery and laissez-faire, the Mansfield judgement of 1772 had held slavery to be unlawful in England but it took Wilberforce and his colleagues in the anti-slavery movement 18 years of campaigning before Parliament finally banned the slave trade in 1807. Slavery in the British empire wasn’t abolished until 1833, the year Wilberforce died.

If slavery is incompatible with laissez-faire, it took Parliament a long time to recognise this in legislation.

91. So Much For Subtlety

85. Charlieman

Which is why need liberals. It is why we need contrary thinkers.

Liberals have not been contrary thinkers for a long time. In fact the status quo is what the Left defends. One thing is true about the Left – the boring predictability of their views. Ask them what they think about whaling and you know what they think on pretty much every other major issue of the day.

Richard Carey

Opposing slavery is not in any way contrary to laissez-faire, any more than opposing laws against rape and murder. Indeed, slavery is the very antithesis of economic liberty as far as the slave is concerned.

If you define liberty that way. Slavery is natural to the human condition. As soon as the State stops banning it, it comes back. The 20th century saw more slavery than any previous era – even though it was technically banned. It is just that the State allowed itself to do what it no longer allows individuals to do.

Charlieman

You are so fucking dumb that I might presume to be smart.

But I am not wrong.

@ Attack bot,

“If North Korean invades the south, or starves a tenth of its population to death, it is the fault of the North Korean government. Not the South Koreans for resisting or the Americans for helping them.”

Tell that to the billions of victims of capitalism worldwide, and remember, opportunists use the fact that capitalists impoverish and kill for profit as leverage for their own ambitions. If capitalists didn’t act in that way for profit, would such opportunists ever have that leverage?

Ever hear of the potato famine in Ireland? The fact that a fungus wiped out the potato harvests didn’t cause the famine. England’s economic elite did. They chose personal profit over people’s lives because they sold the grain harvests of Ireland at a fractionally higher price elsewhere – even though those harvests were enough to avert death through starvation of a million people.

During the course of the potato famine those ‘merchants’ and ‘landowners’ – your favourite capitalists – bribed the government to make it a crime to help the starving (like in India, in another avoidable famine). Criminalising their victims in response to humanitarian catastrophe that they instigate, is a 1%er’s wet dream.

To this day, Ireland is still a partially depopulated runt of Europe with an economy to match. It could have been different, and amoral behaviour led to what, precisely? Ah yes, really edifying examples of anger like New Yorker’s of Irish descent funding a terrorist organisation called the IRA. A short term percentage trumps such effete considerations (in your programming) as helping people in a time of need doesn’t it.

“Liberals have not been contrary thinkers for a long time. In fact the status quo is what the Left defends”

You show clear evidence of another module of programming. Like the kind of lawyers that concern themselves solely with the symbols £/$ etc, or more accurately the digits following them, you twist reality inside out and backwards. Auschwitz, Apartheid and ATOS were all made legal, through such explicitly corrupt behaviour.

If it wasn’t for capitalists, capitalism would have a good reputation.

@84. So Much For Subtlety: “And right there you go wrong.”

What the fuck are you talking about?

I described the ability of a history of art student to use her talents in a field that that you might consider valid. @79 I talked about skill and ability.

Your response is that of a cretin. Look up the word. Please do not try to explain yourself; you will only make yourself appear more stupid.

“Or should I defend this rip off because you seem to have a degree or two in this field?”

I would not mind one. But I studied engineering and my formal qualifications are tech based. I kid myself that I am an all rounder; I strive to read good stuff and listen to smart people. You might grow up too if you followed similar rules.

75. So Much For Subtlety

You are automatically gainsaying yet again.

May I remind you of this
http://liberalconspiracy.org/2013/07/01/edl-pc-gawn-mad-as-sainsburys-markets-to-muslims/#comment-451472

It helps to reference factual claims. Like many people,I find life is more nuanced than you continually suggest. There are, I believe, very few pro-capitalism historians who believe no one has died as a result of capitalism, which is what you have stated.

95. So Much For Subtlety

91. Dissident

Tell that to the billions of victims of capitalism worldwide

What billions would these be? The billions that are alive thanks to Capitalism? The human population never having stood so high. Or been so well fed. Or been so free. Or been so rich. All thanks to capitalism.

and remember, opportunists use the fact that capitalists impoverish and kill for profit as leverage for their own ambitions.

It is not a fact, it is an opinion – nowhere is poorer thanks to capitalism. Even Marx had to lie and cheat to “prove” the British working class was getting poorer. When it wasn’t. But I agree that opportunists use that lie. And I keep asking you to stop it.

Ever hear of the potato famine in Ireland? The fact that a fungus wiped out the potato harvests didn’t cause the famine. England’s economic elite did.

Well no. The fungus was an act of God. The British elite did not force the Irish to be backward priest-ridden superstitious Papists. On the contrary, they would have liked the Irish to stop. But they went on having children they could not afford. And guess what happened next?

They chose personal profit over people’s lives because they sold the grain harvests of Ireland at a fractionally higher price elsewhere – even though those harvests were enough to avert death through starvation of a million people.

Ironically, Ireland is now part of the world economy. They sell their harvests overseas all the time. With no restriction – in fact the EU won’t allow them to restrict said sales. And what do you know – the Irish are never going to starve again. Because the market works and it protects the Irish people against famine. The British were right about the path the Irish had to take.

During the course of the potato famine those ‘merchants’ and ‘landowners’ – your favourite capitalists – bribed the government to make it a crime to help the starving (like in India, in another avoidable famine).

Two pathetic lies. Along with the claim that Nehru killed hundreds of millions.

Criminalising their victims in response to humanitarian catastrophe that they instigate, is a 1%er’s wet dream.

Well no, it is a Marxist’s wet dream. Which is why they invented that lie.

To this day, Ireland is still a partially depopulated runt of Europe with an economy to match.

Funny, it is richer than it ever has been.

You show clear evidence of another module of programming.

My opinions are not trite and predictable. Not my problem is it?

Auschwitz, Apartheid and ATOS were all made legal, through such explicitly corrupt behaviour.

You’re comparing ATOS with Auschwitz now? What a tosser. Nor was the Holocaust ever legal. Not that it matters.

If it wasn’t for capitalists, capitalism would have a good reputation.

If it wasn’t for capitalism you would still be in a mud hut, scratching a living with a sharpened stick.

Charlieman

What the fuck are you talking about?

You’re meaningless little ancedote is a waste of time.

David Hodd

You are automatically gainsaying yet again.

Show me anything in this thread worth agreeing with and I will agree with it. It is not automatic. It is inevitable.

May I remind you of this
http://liberalconspiracy.org/2013/07/01/edl-pc-gawn-mad-as-sainsburys-markets-to-muslims/#comment-451472

If it makes you feel happier.

It helps to reference factual claims.

It often does. This discussion is yet to rise to that level.

Like many people,I find life is more nuanced than you continually suggest.

I would agree but around here nuance is only used to excuse mass murderers and their apologists – like Ralph Miliband. So it is something to avoid.

There are, I believe, very few pro-capitalism historians who believe no one has died as a result of capitalism, which is what you have stated.

I am not sure I said no one. However even if everyone of the death claimed was true, that would still put capitalism behind the death toll of socialism – an ideology LC has no problems with, nor with the people who lies on its behalf.

96. Richard Carey

@ Bob B,

“If slavery is incompatible with laissez-faire, it took Parliament a long time to recognise this in legislation.”

The only way this sentence can be made to make sense, is if laissez-faire was all pervasive in the period prior to the abolition of slavery, which it was not.

The Free Trade movement rose against pre-existing and long-standing monopolies and protectionism. The victory over the Corn Laws was over a decade after the abolition of slavery in the colonies, so, as I said above, there is something strangely anachronistic in your statements.

@ SMFFS

I said:

“Opposing slavery is not in any way contrary to laissez-faire, any more than opposing laws against rape and murder. Indeed, slavery is the very antithesis of economic liberty as far as the slave is concerned.”

You responded:

“If you define liberty that way. Slavery is natural to the human condition.”

It doesn’t hinge on any definition I have put to liberty. On the contrary, it would take Humpty Dumpty himself to state the opposite. As for slavery being “natural to the human condition”, depending on how you define your terms, that is either false or irrelevant.

“The 20th century saw more slavery than any previous era … It is just that the State allowed itself to do what it no longer allows individuals to do.”

Right, I suppose you are making a point about the Bolsheviks etc., which has zero to do with discussion British politics in the 19th century. I will, however, note for future reference that you have offered a justification for the gulag by stating that Stalin’s policy was “natural to the human condition”.

Just in case it tries to ignore…

cretin ?kr?t?n/
noun
1. a stupid person (used as a general term of abuse).
2. MEDICINE dated, a person who is physically deformed and has learning difficulties because of congenital thyroid deficiency.

I’m sure you are not using the second definition…

gainsay, ge?n?se?/
verbformal
gerund or present participle: gainsaying
1. deny or contradict (a fact or statement).
“the impact of the railways cannot be gainsaid”
synonyms: deny, dispute, disagree with, argue with, dissent from, contradict, repudiate, declare untrue, challenge, oppose, contest, counter, fly in the face of etc…
antonyms: confirm
speak against or oppose (someone).
“none could gainsay her”
Origin Middle English: from obsolete gain- ‘against’ + say.

So it’s a cretinous gainsayer…

DHT @ 72:

“Real wages have not risen since the early 1970s so however you measure it living standards have not gone up since then as fast as they did before then.”

Do you have a source for that bizarre claim? See this from the Guardian (quoting ONS):

“In the seven years to 2009, earnings increased at a rate of 3.7% a year in nominal terms, and thanks to low price inflation by 1.6% in real terms, continuing a trend of positive growth in real earnings every year since the late 1970s.”
http://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/feb/13/real-wages-fall-back-2003-levels-uk-ons

“Protectionism is the only solution.”

No, it isn’t. Protectionism keeps cheap/superior imports out and substitutes expensive/inferior home-produced goods, thus disadvantaging the poorer consumer. Furthermore, it provokes retaliatory protectionism in export markets, leading to unemployment here. Eventually, we could end up with a siege economy – or socialism, as some call it.

Look up New World Army Ants. Note the soldier ant colonies that do not produce worker ants so they raid other ant nests and rob them of worker ant eggs. The eggs hatch and the worker ants set about their duties whilst totally oblivious of the fact that they don’t belong where they are.

Richard Carey

Slavery continued in America until the civil war of 1861-65 when popular political sentiment there was definitively pro-free markets even if it was equivocal about laissez-faire and free trade. Slavery in the southern states wasn’t regarded as in anyway incompatible with a market economy.

Charlieman: “It is why we need contrary thinkers.”

David Hodd: “So Much For Subtlety, You are automatically gainsaying yet again.”

Dissident @ 67:

“100 million in India, with the instigation of the ‘democratic capitalist experiment’ from 1947 to 1979, with tens of millions more after that date
17 million killed by the British Raj in India
18 million slaves killed during the Atlantic slave trade
5-10 million native peoples during the invasion of the Americas
8 million by King Leopold’s forces in the Congo
10 million in the Nazi slaughter of Jews, gypsies, communist and gays
15 million slaughtered in the First World War’s ‘reordering’
55 million killed in the invasion of Europe by Hitler and then the Second World War (of which 8 million Russian soldiers and 16 million communists killed behind the lines after the invasion of the USSR)
3 million killed by the US led forces in Korea
3.5 million killed by the USA in Vietnam
1 million killed in the US bombing of Cambodia and Laos
1 million slaughtered in Indonesia by proxy by Suharto (helped by the CIA and MI6)
1 million slaughtered by pro-US dictators throughout Latin America
1.3 million killed in sanctions on Iraq
1 million killed in current invasion of Iraq
… and on and on.”

SMFS @ 75 has shown why your numbers are risible, but there are two general point to be made.

1. You are assuming capitalism is the ’cause’ of the deaths you list, when the most you can claim is that capitalism and the deaths you list are merely correlated. How can you be sure that socialist states and their members would not have acted similarly? (steveb will pop up at this point to say that such things would not occur or be possible under socialism; but that is just to define socialism in such a way as to ignore any and all uncomfortable questions about its nature and content)

2. You are resolutely determined to focus on the negative consequences of capitalism and to ignore wholly the huge benefits it brings and has brought. As such, all you demonstrate is your inability to take a nuanced position – in a word, your irrationality.

2.

103. Richard Carey

@ Bob b,

I see you are now crossing the Atlantic in search of arguments, rather than concede a small point. Very well.

“Slavery continued in America until the civil war of 1861-65 when popular political sentiment there was definitively pro-free markets even if it was equivocal about laissez-faire and free trade. Slavery in the southern states wasn’t regarded as in anyway incompatible with a market economy.”

To speak generally, although not perhaps as generally as your phrase ‘popular political sentiment’, the South was against protectionism, because it favoured the industrialised North, and prevented the South from buying cheaper goods from abroad. Hence the labeling of 1828’s “Tariff of Abominations”.

I will remind you of what I am taking issue with you over, which is this statement: “an unqualified commitment to laissez-faire would have allowed the [slave] trade to continue”, which is false in two ways. Firstly as it suggests that laissez-faire was established as the status quo in 1807, and secondly because it sees prohibiting the slave trade as contrary to laissez-faire, which it is not. Laissez-faire means the government does not interfere with freely-contracting individuals. Slavery is by definition a violation of individual freedom, so the prohibition of slavery is no more contrary to laissez-faire than the prohibition of theft, fraud or assault.

In the USA, those southerners who supported slavery and opposed protectionism were arguing for their perceived economic interest in both cases. They wanted to keep their slaves and buy cheaper products from abroad. The protectionism in place did not protect them, but rather northern industrialists. However, the continuance of slavery undermined any moral claim they could make for economic liberty, and prevented the South from getting support from the free trade movement in England, with John Bright being especially supportive of the North. Had it not been for the deal-breaking slavery issue, it’s quite possible that England would have supported the South.

@99 Bob B

Slavery in the southern states was regarded as incompatible with free labour by the north.

As the southern economy was not in competition with the north the status quo was tolerable.

When the south exported slavery into the territories there was ‘Bleeding Kansas’.

105. Drapetomaniac

You are resolutely determined to focus on the negative consequences of capitalism and to ignore wholly the huge benefits it brings

As reported in the article.

The OP states:

“Three decades ago, the UK was one of the most equal countries in the world. Today it is one of the most unequal…”

This is simply not true. Consider the table here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_income_equality
Yes, plenty of room for nit-picking; but it is clear that the UK is not one of the “most unequal” societies.

Moreover, the basic premise of the OP is false, and Tim Worstall @ 6 nails it.

Yes, living standards have fallen in the last three years.

And it’s no fun graduating in a recession (as I did, in 1979) or being young in one (or over 50 in one, as I also was).

Certainly, young people today are faced with high house prices (though not everywhere in the UK) and the burden of university tuition fees (the expansion of the university sector was a huge con, but that’s another topic) is substantial…

BUT…let’s say the UK achieves a modest 1.5% pa GDP growth for the next quarter-century. This will increase our national wealth by 45% in 25 years. In leftist terms, this might be distributed “unfairly”; but that’s an intra- (not inter-) generational problem!

Today’s young people may have to get used to renting a home – as most people in Germany do. Yes, a major cultural change; but hardly a social disaster…

Meanwhile – “always look on the bright side of life” ;) – they could also count their good fortune…When I graduated, we did not have free music, free TV and free porn available on the internet, or cheap air travel, or cheap technology, or cheap decent wine, or free classic books on an e-reader, or simply so much free information….All of which make life cheaper and easier…

@ TONE, 3.07pm October 20

“SMFS @ 75 has shown why your numbers are risible, but there are two general point to be made.”

Care to provide proof they are risible? Defining ‘socialism’ as anything that isn’t somewhere to the right of Ghengis Khan doesn’t cut the mustard I’m afraid.

“You are assuming capitalism is the ’cause’ of the deaths you list, when the most you can claim is that capitalism and the deaths you list are merely correlated.”

It’s a very strong correlation isn’t it, so strong as to be indistinguishable from causation. All of those deaths resulted in profit for a few people that got very rich indeed. There was more profit to be made from letting people die of starvation, whether it was in Ireland’s potato famine, in the cotton weaving sweatshops of India or on a slaveboat to the Americas. Please note, letting people die of starvation because you pay starvation wages or price them out of being able to afford food has the same outcome as pointing a gun at them and shooting, or incarcerating them in a concentration camp (British invention BTW). Why is that acceptable to you? Why do you cherry pick only the most glowing accounts from those profiteers and ignore the consequences for the rest of the populations concerned?

If those glowing accounts of capitalist success stories were genuinely true for the majority, there would not be a huge and growing pile of corpses – up to and including within 21st century Britain. This is supposed to be the 4th largest economy on the planet, yet people die because they have been pushed further into poverty with each passing year. There are now people who don’t even know where their next meal is coming from, and have to decide between staying warm in winter or putting food in their belly. How is that a good outcome for the people of this glorious capitalist success story of a country?

But then hey, in your eyes, the guilt of capitalists profiting from such outcomes has to be twisted into some imaginary watermelon conspiracy, right?

“(steveb will pop up at this point to say that such things would not occur or be possible under socialism; but that is just to define socialism in such a way as to ignore any and all uncomfortable questions about its nature and content)”

Replace ‘steveb’ with TONE. Replace ‘socialism’ with capitalism. Your statement will still hold true. Prove you don’t place profits for the few over people. Why do you claim that it is somehow irrational to put people first?

@ Vimothy, 2.35pm October 20

There is a world of difference between contrary thinking and the cretinous gainsayer parroting the propaganda of the rich and powerful, which is all that commentator does. If he/she/it was in Stalin’s USSR or Mao’s China, all you would hear is Stalinist or Maoist platitudes, as he/she/it would be well and truly the property of those systems. There would even be claims that 150 million deaths at the hands of both power junkies were lies, once called out on that, there would be a repositioning to various forms of victim blaming, etc.

As Richard Carey states @ 11.56am October 20

“I will, however, note for future reference that you have offered a justification for the gulag by stating that Stalin’s policy was “natural to the human condition”.”

Interesting wouldn’t you say, how much doublethink the cretinous gainsayer indulges in, to defend the rich and powerful.

101

‘steveb will pop up at this point…)

Can’t really miss that cue can I?

‘You are resolutely determined to focus on the negative consequences of capitalism and to ignore wholly the huge benefits’.

It must be quite frustrating for you so, as I’ve got a day off and I’m feeling generous, here’s something positive to say.

‘The bourgeoise has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts and Gothic cathedrals.
The bourgeoisie draws all, even the most barbarian nations, into civilization…The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more productive forces than all the preceding generations together.’
Karl Marx & Fredriech Engels

You can be assured that the achievements of capitalism will be safe in the hands of socialism.

83

‘The “invisible hand” is only a metaphor’

I would suggest that the term ‘society’ is also a metaphor as we could be referring to 58 million people, their actions and interactions, beliefs and values.

‘markets do allocate scarce resources’

If liberals have problems acknowledging ‘society’, socialists find it a contradiction when ‘the market’ is then referred to as a conscious whole.

84

‘which is still your insane-r than usual claim that Nehru’s socialism managed to kill over 100 million people. Evidence please.’

I know you’re delusional but you now appear to be suffering from hallucinations, you are quoting something I have never written. Perhaps you are suffering from sleep depravation.

110. Drapetomaniac

Today’s young people may have to get used to renting a home – as most people in Germany do. Yes, a major cultural change; but hardly a social disaster…

Sick, sick, sick. Without adequate housing to rent, rent controls and a repeal of all the Tory anti-youth legislation regarding housing, your statement is Panglossian vomit. Also, try convincing the Daily Wail that those in social housing aren’t the cause of every problem in Britain.

BUT…let’s say…

Let’s not.
BLOCKQUOTE>Moreover, the basic premise of the OP is false, and Tim Worstall @ 6 nails it. #6 asks for proof.
“It is part of Britain’s DNA that everyone should have a fair chance in life. Yet compared to many other developed nations we have high levels of child poverty and low levels of social mobility. Over decades we have become a wealthier society but we have struggled to become a fairer one. Just as the UK government has focused on reducing the country’s financial deficit it now needs to redouble its efforts to reduce our country’s fairness deficit. If Britain is to avoid being a country where all too often birth determines fate we have to do far more to create more of a level playing field of opportunity. That has to become core business for our nation.” – Rt. Hon. Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission
Link to full report: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/state-of-the-nation-2013

Steveb: “If liberals have problems acknowledging ‘society’, socialists find it a contradiction when ‘the market’ is then referred to as a conscious whole.”

There are many interrelated markets, where transactions between buyers and sellers take place, in a modern national economy although the connections may not be transparent: the financial services markets do impact on the local fruit-and-veg street market and the market for housing but the connections are seldom obvious.

The trouble with “society” is that it is not at all clear what the term is intended to mean. I’ve not only no idea as to whether what you intended to mean by “society” is the same as what I might intend to mean, I’ve no idea how to find out. How many societies are there in Britain? If someone claims there are 13½ how can we test that claim to confirm or rebut it.

As for markets, there are countless many, some in physical locations, some through telephone connections, some over the internet and so on. The essential characteristic is transactions of goods, services and property rights between buyers and sellers.

The fact is that Britain pioneered industrialisation around 1800 without there being state planning, direction or control. Resources were allocated through market transactions.

110

I don’t think you have responded to my point which is ‘the market’ is spoken of in terms of it having a life of it’s own eg your comment about the allocation of resources. There are many societies as there are many markets and both the term ‘market’ and ‘society’ can be expanded to include the whole planet.

Societies (eg a group of people) do share common traits eg culture, economic activity and co-operation, and living in groups tends to be the norm for primates, markets still have not reached a global audience and neither have they endured for very long.

Dissident @ 106:

“Care to provide proof they are risible?”

SMFS already has.

“Defining ‘socialism’ as anything that isn’t somewhere to the right of Ghengis Khan doesn’t cut the mustard I’m afraid.”

But I never defined socialism in those terms. You, however, seem to be defining socialism (or your desired political end-state) as ‘not-capitalism’ – ie negatively, and without content, like that idiot, steveb.

“It’s a very strong correlation isn’t it, so strong as to be indistinguishable from causation”

But the correlation is only strong because your definition of capitalism is so vague and all-encompassing. And you don’t allow for all the good and positive things that have occurred in the same time-period, which could also be attributed vaguely to capitalism.

“Ireland’s potato famine, in the cotton weaving sweatshops of India or on a slaveboat to the Americas”

But, again,this is mere correlation. The potato famine certainly wasn’t the result of free-market capitalism, and in any event the technology for famine relief (rapid transport, air-drops,etc) wasn’t available until very recently. The sweatshops of India are better than starving in rural poverty resulting from socialist policies. And slavery’s connexion with capitalism is tenuous, as it pre-dates capitalism by millenia.

“This is supposed to be the 4th largest economy on the planet…”

7th now. Do keep up.

“How is that a good outcome for the people of this glorious capitalist success story of a country?”

As usual, you are exaggerating. But no-one – least of all me – has claimed that capitalism produces a perfect society. Just that the good it does outweighs the bad. You know, nuance – which you clearly can’t do!

“Replace ‘steveb’ with TONE. Replace ‘socialism’ with capitalism. Your statement will still hold true. Prove you don’t place profits for the few over people. Why do you claim that it is somehow irrational to put people first?”

Let’s make the substitution, so:

‘TONE will pop up at this point to say that such things would not occur or be possible under capitalism; but that is just to define capitalism in such a way as to ignore any and all uncomfortable questions about its nature and content)’

The asymmetry between the original and the above is surely obvious. I am not denying anything bad is impossible under capitalism: rather, I’m maintaining that the good outweighs the bad under capitalism. Also, I’m not defining ‘capitalism’ negatively as ‘not-socialism’, so as to rule out your criticisms of capitalism simply by the definition I use – indeed my criticisms of socialsim (however defined) are empirical!

steveb @ 107:

“You can be assured that the achievements of capitalism will be safe in the hands of socialism.”

How do you know this? What grounds have you for making this assertion, other than your bizarre faith in your socialist theory?

Whatever you may believe about ‘historical necessity’ (which is non-existent), the future is undetermined.

111 Steveb: “I don’t think you have responded to my point which is ‘the market’ is spoken of in terms of it having a life of it’s own eg your comment about the allocation of resources.”

That is just a short-cut. Markets – or transcations between buyers and sellers – do go on and on and resources do get allocated in consequence. Britain’s pioneering industrial revolution c. 1800 was the outcome of markets, not state direction.

The way markets behave and what motivates the behaviour have been the subject of thousands of books and academic papers. There is a substantial literature, going back centuries, on whether the outcomes of markets can be deemed “good” or “bad”, whether markets are prone to crises, and as to why business activity and unemployment tends to go up and down in cycles.

111: “Societies (eg a group of people) do share common traits eg culture, economic activity and co-operation, and living in groups tends to be the norm for primates, markets still have not reached a global audience and neither have they endured for very long.”

I really don’t believe that I and many here have much in common with Cameron, Osborne or Clegg. Does that mean we don’t belong to the same “society”? Other primates live in relatively small groups, not nation states. Btw Sebastian Sprott wrote a text: Human Groups (Penguin Books), because he believed distinctive human groups could be identified and their behaviour documented.

Markets have been going at least as far back as Hammurabi’s code of laws in ancient Babylon c. 1772BC — try the link @83.

There were markets for land, food produce and slaves in ancient Rome.

As for the global reach of markets, the financial markets of Tokyo, London and New York certainly interact.

116. Holy bird disease

114 and 83 Hammurabi’s code of laws
Number 6: ‘If any one steal the property of a temple or of the court, he shall be put to death, and also the one who receives the stolen thing from him shall be put to death.’
All very uninteresting and irrelevant. Mind you, be careful to read the terms and conditions of a software purchase as some of Hammurabi’s codes may be present therein.

As to whether Hammurabi’s code of laws is relevant to the question of whther there were markets at the time in ancient Babylon: these codes relate to price regulations in specific transactions:

121. If any one store corn in another man’s house he shall pay him storage at the rate of one gur for every five ka of corn per year.

242. If any one hire oxen for a year, he shall pay four gur of corn for plow-oxen.

275. If any one hire a ferryboat, he shall pay three gerahs in money per day.

Here is an early example in English law from medieval times of the statutory control of wages:

The Statute of Labourers was a law created by the English parliament under King Edward III in 1351 in response to a labour shortage, designed to suppress the labor force by prohibiting increases in wages and prohibiting the movement of workers from their home areas in search of improved conditions
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statute_of_Labourers_1351

As for ancient Rome:

The Roman economy was essentially a competitive market economy, capitalistic in nature, although with many imperfections, for example the cost of transport over land was so high as to imply that some foreign bulk products such as wine imported from Spain could be cheaper than similar product produced 100km/100miles away.
http://www.mariamilani.com/ancient_rome/Ancient%20Roman%20Trade.htm

119. Holy bird disease

116 Gerah of here. The article is about the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission report of 17 October 2013.

120. Richard Carey

@ steveb,

” There are many societies as there are many markets and both the term ‘market’ and ‘society’ can be expanded to include the whole planet.”

Both ‘society’ and ‘market’ are collective terms, which can be used specifically or generally. ‘Society’ denotes a group of individuals who are linked to each other in some way, whether that be through mutual interest (e.g. the RSPCA) or through shared geographic location (e.g. London society); ‘Market’ denotes a concatenation of transactions between multiple participants. The connection could be geographic, e.g. Greenwich Market, or of a particular commodity etc.

It is wrong in both cases to imagine that there is some kind of existence autonomous or external to the individuals involved, although the words are often used as if this is the case.

RC @102

In the USA, those southerners who supported slavery and opposed protectionism were arguing for their perceived economic interest in both cases.

Was the support for slavery based on economic interests though? Many modern day confederate flag wavers like to argue that despite the right to own slaves being guaranteed in the confederate constitution, that had the south won, slavery would have just gone away anyway because of economic pressures.

Secondly, leading up to the civil war influential figures such as John C. Calhoun were arguing that slavery itself provided a positive good, in that it bred responsibility and better character within white folk and forestalled the rise of money being the only measure of self worth, and that enslaved black folk lived in better conditions than free paupers in European poorhouses (not even going to venture as to how much truth there is in that argument of his, I expect there was plenty of variance at the time), and that in every wealthy and civilized society there had always been an elite that lived off of the labour of the people below it anyway. (An observation that has yet to be contradicted.)

I’d argue that the southerners supported slavery more for social reasons than economic.

122. So Much For Subtlety

95. Richard Carey

The Free Trade movement rose against pre-existing and long-standing monopolies and protectionism.

I am not sure you can make that claim. For most of human history, we have had free trade because governments could not do anything else. They may have tried to grant a monopoly here or a monopoly there, but I doubt it was enforcable and they were unlikely to apply to much of the economy. Certainly the Corn Laws were not all that ancient.

It doesn’t hinge on any definition I have put to liberty. On the contrary, it would take Humpty Dumpty himself to state the opposite. As for slavery being “natural to the human condition”, depending on how you define your terms, that is either false or irrelevant.

Yes it does. If someone is free, they ought to be free to sell themselves. But they are not in libertartian doctrine because they define freedom to exclude that possibility. It is neither false or irrelevant.

Right, I suppose you are making a point about the Bolsheviks etc., which has zero to do with discussion British politics in the 19th century.

Also the British in the 20th century. We conscripted young men and forced them down mines – in the UK too. Including Ernie Morecambe and Jimmy Savile oddly enough.

We also used German forced labour for years after the war. Got them to clear landmines. Easy to find pictures of them being marched over mine fields.

I will, however, note for future reference that you have offered a justification for the gulag by stating that Stalin’s policy was “natural to the human condition”.

Rape and murder are also natural to the human condition. I do not fall into the moronic leftist/feminist trap of assuming what is natural is right or justified. I am sorry to see you are too. But the comparison with murder is perhaps the closest parallel. The State likes to reserve all homicide to itself these days, but it is not shy of killing people. However it is a natural human instinct to want to kill people from time to time. We always have, we always will. It is a small next step to say that instead of killing someone, they can work for us for the rest of their lives.

123. So Much For Subtlety

106. Dissident

All of those deaths resulted in profit for a few people that got very rich indeed.

No they did not. Some of them probably made a profit, but many of them probably did not. No one profited from the Potato Famine for instance.

Please note, letting people die of starvation because you pay starvation wages or price them out of being able to afford food has the same outcome as pointing a gun at them and shooting, or incarcerating them in a concentration camp (British invention BTW).

Firstly, the British did not invent the concentration camp. The Spanish did before them. What is more what the term has come to mean is completely different to the British camps and so you should use another term – but that would require honesty wouldn’t it?

Second, wages are determined by the market, not by the employer. The employer does not choose to pay a starvation wage. The employer pays what he must. If he paid more, that does not mean no one would starve. It just means someone else would be unable to get or keep a job and so would starve. You cannot change the fact that wages are determined by the level of productivity – and that, as Malthus and La Salle said, before capitalism and industrialisation, population outstripped productivity and so the poorest died.

If those glowing accounts of capitalist success stories were genuinely true for the majority, there would not be a huge and growing pile of corpses – up to and including within 21st century Britain.

There isn’t and so your point is irrelevant. But it is worth noting that your preferred options have been tried and failed – and have only left massive piles of corpses. So you need to lie about capitalism to defend your lame apologetics for Stalinism.

This is supposed to be the 4th largest economy on the planet, yet people die because they have been pushed further into poverty with each passing year.

No they do not.

There are now people who don’t even know where their next meal is coming from, and have to decide between staying warm in winter or putting food in their belly.

No there aren’t. At least no one who has not chosen this as an alternative life style.

steveb

I know you’re delusional but you now appear to be suffering from hallucinations, you are quoting something I have never written. Perhaps you are suffering from sleep depravation.

I admit it, I got it wrong. It was the usually slightly more sane Dissy who said that. You are the one who has been contradicting himself this week, right?

You have to admit that Trots are hard to tell apart.

Drapetomaniac

Also, try convincing the Daily Wail that those in social housing aren’t the cause of every problem in Britain.

I thought you wanted more renting and less ownership? As a step towards socialism? Let us hope that we will only see an expansion of private renting and not social housing. Because social housing does breed evil.

If Britain is to avoid being a country where all too often birth determines fate we have to do far more to create more of a level playing field of opportunity. That has to become core business for our nation.” – Rt. Hon. Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission

A level playing field of opportunity. No one objects to that. What your little mates want is a level playing field of outcome. That is very different.

Cylux

Many modern day confederate flag wavers like to argue that despite the right to own slaves being guaranteed in the confederate constitution, that had the south won, slavery would have just gone away anyway because of economic pressures.

Marx would have agreed with them.

and that enslaved black folk lived in better conditions than free paupers in European poorhouses (not even going to venture as to how much truth there is in that argument of his, I expect there was plenty of variance at the time)

If you read Eugene Genovese or Time on the Cross, you can see calculations that show not only did American slaves eat better than many free Europeans, but as a direct result, American slaves were taller than southern Italians for instance or even newly arrived Africans.

I’d argue that the southerners supported slavery more for social reasons than economic.

So did Genovese. Such a shame he died recently.

124. Richard Carey

@ Cylux,

“I’d argue that the southerners supported slavery more for social reasons than economic.”

You may be right. There were various justifications offered.

“leading up to the civil war influential figures such as John C. Calhoun were arguing that slavery itself provided a positive good”

Indeed, but I think his arguments were quite original in actually justifying, rather than seeing it as wrong but very difficult to dismantle. From the very foundation of the Republic it had been a bone of contention. Jefferson’s first draft of the Declaration of Independence listed its introduction as one of the sins of the British – this was cut at committee stage.

“Many modern day confederate flag wavers like to argue that despite the right to own slaves being guaranteed in the confederate constitution, that had the south won, slavery would have just gone away anyway because of economic pressures.”

I think it was inevitable that it would end, as it did in every other comparable nation. It seems inconceivable (to me, at least) that it would have outlasted Brazil, which abolished slavery as late as 1888. It’s all alternate history, of course, but the British by this stage were very anti-slavery, and I doubt the South would have been able to recapture lost markets without freeing the slaves, given how much of an issue it had become – overshadowing a host of other issues on the causes and conduct of the war.

125. Richard Carey

@ SMFS,

I said:

“The Free Trade movement rose against pre-existing and long-standing monopolies and protectionism.”

You responded:

“I am not sure you can make that claim. For most of human history, we have had free trade because governments could not do anything else. ”

It’s not at all difficult to support my claim. You can go back to The Company of the Staple, the crown-appointed monopolist for wool exports, granted 1314, and all through subsequent centuries where the government granted monopolies and patents in return for money. Such practices were recurrent causes of discontent. Check Elizabeth I’s “golden speech” where she promises reform, or check the many petitions of the government during the 1640s.

Calls for free trade and an end to monopolies go back a long way. An organised mass movement first came together in the 19th century focused on the Corn Laws. I don’t doubt that free trade is the default position where state force does not intervene, nor that evasion of such controls will always take place. Nevertheless, I stand by my statement.

“If someone is free, they ought to be free to sell themselves. But they are not in libertartian doctrine because they define freedom to exclude that possibility.”

Voluntary slavery is a contradiction in terms. In as far as it is voluntary, it ain’t slavery. In as far as it is slavery, it ain’t voluntary. Yes that’s standard libertarian doctrine, and I maintain it to be correct. In any case, the slaves carted across the Atlantic from Africa or the slaves grabbed from their homes by the Barbary pirates did not go willingly, so the theoretical argument does not come into it. Take a look at some pictures of slaves – they’re not into chunky jewelry, them’s iron chains they’re wearing!

“Also the British in the 20th century. We conscripted young men and forced them down mines – in the UK too. Including Ernie Morecambe and Jimmy Savile oddly enough.”

True enough, but you’ll note that once the war was over they were free, not kept for life, nor were their children seized from them to be sold as property. You will know that libertarians have always opposed conscription. Even as far back as the English Civil War, the first English libertarians wrote a prohibition of conscription into the proposed written constitution (the “Agreement of the People”).

“Rape and murder are also natural to the human condition. I do not fall into the moronic leftist/feminist trap of assuming what is natural is right or justified. I am sorry to see you are too”

You are attempting to wriggle off the hook by misconstruing my remark. You earlier claimed slavery was natural to the human condition. I responded that this was either false or irrelevant, especially as you offered this view as some kind of refutation to my assertion that slavery was contrary to laissez-faire. Here you are clarifying that the point you are making is irrelevant rather than false, as “natural to the human condition” means, in the context you use it, nothing more than “it happens”. As for the “moronic leftists and feminists”, I suspect very few of them profess that rape, murder and slavery are right or justified, whether or not they see them as “natural”.

126. So Much For Subtlety

124. Richard Carey

It’s not at all difficult to support my claim. You can go back to The Company of the Staple, the crown-appointed monopolist for wool exports, granted 1314, and all through subsequent centuries where the government granted monopolies and patents in return for money.

A monopoly in wool presumably means other products were bought and sold freely. Granting a monopoly does not mean that they were able to enforce it. They were not able to stop peasants hunting deer in the Royal Forests after all.

Voluntary slavery is a contradiction in terms. In as far as it is voluntary, it ain’t slavery. In as far as it is slavery, it ain’t voluntary.

But someone can make a decision at one point in their life that they may regret later. And be stuck with. There is nothing contradictory about that. It is perfectly possible to imagine a free society where someone goes to Africa during a famine and offers people food in exchange for their labour.

In any case, the slaves carted across the Atlantic from Africa or the slaves grabbed from their homes by the Barbary pirates did not go willingly, so the theoretical argument does not come into it.

Someone came to their village and took them by force. They had a choice of sorts in that they could have opted for death. The traditional origin for slavery is, presumably, captives in war who surrendered rather than be executed. Now it is not much of a choice, but would that matter? Lots of people make contracts in less than ideal conditions. Of course they would regret it later, but would that matter?

True enough, but you’ll note that once the war was over they were free, not kept for life, nor were their children seized from them to be sold as property.

Except that the State took them, the State kept them, the State released them when they had no further use for them. Not when they wanted to go home. It is not much of a comfort really.

You are attempting to wriggle off the hook by misconstruing my remark. You earlier claimed slavery was natural to the human condition. I responded that this was either false or irrelevant, especially as you offered this view as some kind of refutation to my assertion that slavery was contrary to laissez-faire.

I am not wriggling. You asserted that saying it was natural to the human condition amounted to defending the Gulag. It does not. Describing something that is, is not defending it. Ought does not follow from is. Slavery is an inherent part of the human condition. We do it naturally. All the time. The past century has seen more slavery than any other period in human history – maybe more of them put all together. Of course everyone called it something else, but slavery it was.

And it was defended by the Great and Good as well as pretty much the entire Left.

Here you are clarifying that the point you are making is irrelevant rather than false, as “natural to the human condition” means, in the context you use it, nothing more than “it happens”.

It is neither irrelevant or false. Given the deep roots of such behaviour in human society, you can’t possibly hope to get rid of it. It always comes back. In fact it almost never leaves us.

As for the “moronic leftists and feminists”, I suspect very few of them profess that rape, murder and slavery are right or justified, whether or not they see them as “natural”.

Which is my point. They assume that people who say ducks rape each other are defending it. They are not. You are making the same mistake. We will be stuck with slavery forever. It will never go away. That is tragic, but it is unavoidable because slavery is inherently part of the human condition.

114

You have still not grasped my point, yes markets are ancient but not as ancient as societies, we can live without markets but not without societies. And I agree that the industrial revolution and the many advances in technology and science were brought about by a market economy, see my quote @107, even Marx would agree with you. However, @119 totally grasps the point.

113

I agree the future is undetermined, one of the many great achievements of capitalist societies has been the creation of hardware to blow-up the planet. But, providing we haven’t destroyed our ability to survive, there would be no reason to destroy anything within our environment and knowledge base which supports our continuing existence.

122

At least SMFS can admit s/he was wrong but I don’t contradict myself, well according to SMFS who stated in another post that lefties are boringly predictable,
you know what they are going to say. You need to look up the definition of ‘contradict’,

125

‘slavery is inherently part of the human condition’

Only in societies where there are polarized class positions.

112

‘The potato famine certainly wasn’t the result of free-market capitalism’ So what do you think the anti-corn law league was about?

126

“You have still not grasped my point, yes markets are ancient but not as ancient as societies”

You have not grasped my meaning: The trouble with “society” is that it is not at all clear what the term is intended to mean. I’ve not only no idea as to whether what you intended to mean by “society” is the same as what I might intend to mean, I’ve no idea how to find out. How many societies are there in Britain? If someone claims there are 13½ how can we test that claim to confirm or rebut it.

There is no agreed coherent, substantive meaning to the term “society”, nor any agreed route as to how we might find out whether there is but one “society” in Britain (or anywhere else) or umpteen “societies”.

This why Sprott wrote a book on: Human Groups (Penguin Books), which we can recognise and document.

As to whether “societies” go back to ancient times, how are we to know?

127

The trouble with the term ‘markets’ is that it is not clear either, a stall holder selling beans is totally different to the market in futures. There are common factors with markets and so there are with society, after all, without shared language (which is prevalent in all societies) we would be unable to have this debate, we can agree that your particular back-ground and geographical position is totally different to my own.

Markets may be a ‘short-cut’ term but then so is society. And how many different markets are there in the UK and how can we substantiate who belongs within particular market?

130. Richard Carey

@ SMFS,

we all know bad things happen all the time. You are not imparting something profound by pointing it out.

What some of us know, but you apparently don’t, is that there is a difference (in kind not merely degree) between a contract freely entered into and being forced to choose between slavery or being murdered.

As for your tragic view of the human condition, which seems to grow out of this inability to distinguish between co-operation and violent coercion, I don’t see how it refutes anything under discussion.

131. Richard Carey

@ Bob B,

“There is no agreed coherent, substantive meaning to the term “society”, nor any agreed route as to how we might find out whether there is but one “society” in Britain (or anywhere else) or umpteen “societies”.”

Rubbish. The term may be used vaguely, or even misused, but ‘society’ has an agreed definition. What kind of nihilist are you?!

@ steveb,

“without shared language (which is prevalent in all societies) we would be unable to have this debate”

Absolutely.

@ Cretinous gainsayer

“No one profited from the Potato Famine for instance.”

http://www.usbornefamilytree.com/irishfoodexports.htm

http://www.irishholocaust.org/officialbritishintent

http://www.fourwinds10.net/siterun_data/history/european/news.php?q=1237835786

http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2012/12/irish-famine

Presumably all of this was done in the name of charity then. How silly of me to see ‘landowners’ planted in Ireland, ‘middlemen’ employed to push the population of Ireland into peasantry and destitution (destroying their industries in the process), ‘economists’ in Queen Victoria’s court gloating about the number of deaths and ‘soldiers’ ordered to prevent Irish people from having access to food they produced as anything other than benevolent.

Worse, the British Government saw it as a golden opportunity to forcibly impose the parasitic ideology of the 1%er’s free market (the fig leaf covering a sociopath’s modesty). The kind of people you defend. Even though ‘free market’ ideology failed, just like today. Predictably, in the aftermath those sociopaths pleaded poverty. What do you expect them to do, tell the government exactly how much they made from their rape of Ireland?

133. Richard Carey

@ Dissident,

“the British Government saw it as a golden opportunity to forcibly impose the parasitic ideology of the 1%er’s free market”

this is a staggeringly confused statement. You might as well blame Richard Cobden for the Great Fire of London.

@ Richard Carey

That is what the economist article stated, ‘free market reforms’ were imposed on Ireland at the same time as the potato famine. Just like the British Government of today, it did the bidding of the 1%. ‘Free market reforms’ is a euphemism for the abuse sociopaths inflict upon the rest of us, even if some people think it’s acceptable or necessary just because they personally get crumbs from that blatantly overladen table…

131: “Rubbish. The term may be used vaguely, or even misused, but ‘society’ has an agreed definition. What kind of nihilist are you?!”

You have not answered any of the questions about how do we decide whether the term “society” has any substantive meaning. I’m simply applying the fairly standard proceedures of philosophical analysis.

How can I tell whether what you intend to mean by “society” is what I might think you could mean? What observations do I need to make? How can I tell how many “societies” there are and whether you, I, Cameron, Osborne and Clegg belong to the same “society” or not?

135

Presumably you can understand what Clegg and co are saying so you have a shared language but I doubt if you (I maybe wrong here) joined the Bully’s Club or the WI. Society does have a shared meaning, even if an individual’s membership is fluid and simultaneously belonging to many societies. Just like markets, I participate in the utilities market but not the stock market.

Just because one sociologist questioned our assumptions about society in the 1960s doesn’t mean that it carries any more weight than Raymond Williams in ‘Culture and Society’.

137. Richard Carey

@ 134 Dissident,

well, look at this Economist article on Richard Cobden

http://www.economist.com/node/2725022

and if you want to learn what the free-traders were saying on Ireland, search the word in Cobden’s speeches:

http://tinyurl.com/mokpm5e

You are lumping together people of the extreme opposites of political opinion. It’s not hard to find quotes from Victorian Englishmen (such as Trevelyan) expressing callous disregard for the suffering of the Irish, but you will not find them from liberals like Cobden, nor will you find anything but hostility towards the land-owners of England and Ireland who benefited from the exclusion of cheap food imports at the expense of everyone else. The “1%” (anachronistic term that it is) were the very people that the whole of the free trade movement were opposing. The history of England’s conquest and rule of Ireland, including during the period of the famine, should be a matter of shame to this country, but to blame it on free trade or on those who struggled for free trade, who were also the most strident critics of imperialism, is completely wrong.

138. Richard Carey

@ 135 Bob b,

If you are ever unsure of what I mean by a particular term, please feel free to ask me to clarify, and I advise you to do the same with others. This is the answer to your question:

How can I tell whether what you intend to mean by “society” is what I might think you could mean?

Hopefully with such strategies to aid communication we shall progress as a species and one day travel to distant galaxies,infinity and beyond!

139. Richard Carey

@ Bob b,

perhaps this example from Monty Python will aid you in developing the ultimate definition of ‘society':

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ixeRWrg0yg

136

“Presumably you can understand what Clegg and co are saying . . .”

You really are up the creek. I’m not a LibDem and am definitely not quoting or attributing anything to Clegg or the LibDems. The borough in which I live has been LibDem controlled for over 25 years. The council became an official “Vanguard” local authority when Cameron launched his “Big Society” notion as a cloak for cutting back spending on welfare with the claim that the Big Society would fill up the gap.

I think all the Big Society stuff is nonsense and have said so here several times but my local council and its LibDem followers take it all very seriously. However, this is what the local press reported on 8 October:

“With child immunisation rates among the lowest in the country the council has promised to make it one of their priorities for 2014. . .

“Recently a report revealed that Sutton had more underage drinkers being admitted to hospital than most other London boroughs as well as fitness rates lower than other parts of the country.”

So much for our local “society” – low immunisation rates and high on binge drinking.

I am simply applying regular procedures of philosophical analysis to show — as Sprott argued back in the 1960s: see quote @81 — that the term “society” has no substantive meaning.

I’ve no idea as to what you intend to mean by “society” nor whether what you intend to mean is the same as what Cameron meant when he said back in 2005: “There is such a thing as society, it is just not the same as the state.” And I’ve no means of knowing how to find out whether what you intend to mean is the same as what Cameron intends to mean.

Sprott believed we could focus on distinctive human groups — nurses, teachers, police, politicians etc — and document the behaviour of these groups. That makes sense. The term “society” doesn’t.

139

‘You really are up the creek. I’m not a LibDem’

Eh, just because I believe that you can understand Clegg’s language doesn’t mean that I think you’re a LibDem, I could understand Thatcher, do you think I was a Thatcherite?

The rest of your post is of no interest except, I’m quite happy to accept the name ‘group’ referring to a number of people but let’s be honest, concentrating on particular groups is problematic, nurses, teachers ect can vary widely regarding their politics, culture, gender, class and language.

140

“but let’s be honest, concentrating on particular groups is problematic, nurses, teachers ect can vary widely regarding their politics, culture, gender, class and language.”

Of course. The point of documenting the behaviour of human groups is to see whether there are recognisable patterns of behaviour and common values in a particular group. If groups are merely collections of individuals, surely that must be more so of “society”.

143. So Much For Subtlety

129. steveb

The trouble with the term ‘markets’ is that it is not clear either, a stall holder selling beans is totally different to the market in futures.

How so?

Richard Carey

we all know bad things happen all the time. You are not imparting something profound by pointing it out.

Good thing that is not the only thing I was doing.

What some of us know, but you apparently don’t, is that there is a difference (in kind not merely degree) between a contract freely entered into and being forced to choose between slavery or being murdered.

I am not so sure, but notice I said that was the origin of slavery. You do not comment on the more plausible famine victim. Who may well get a choice between slavery or a slow death. Is that a contract freely entered into?

As for your tragic view of the human condition, which seems to grow out of this inability to distinguish between co-operation and violent coercion, I don’t see how it refutes anything under discussion.

That may be the problem.

Dissident

Dissy, I am not going to wade through a bunch of link spam looking for the point you think you are making. If you have an example of anyone who profited from the famine, by all means, name that name. Otherwise you’re just wasting our time.

And the only credible link, to the Economist, does not make the point you claim it does.

Presumably all of this was done in the name of charity then.

Quite a lot of it, yes. It was also right. They may have carried out their policies poorly, but virtually everyone would agree the future of Ireland lay in connecting with the world economy, producing for the market – and getting rid of the influence of the Catholic Church. Which of those do you tihnk was wrong?

How silly of me to see ‘landowners’ planted in Ireland, ‘middlemen’ employed to push the population of Ireland into peasantry and destitution (destroying their industries in the process)

The Irish birth rate was doing a solid job of that on their own. They did not need any landowners to help.

‘economists’ in Queen Victoria’s court gloating about the number of deaths and ‘soldiers’ ordered to prevent Irish people from having access to food they produced as anything other than benevolent.

Name anyone in Victoria’s Court who was gloating about the numbers of deaths. Again you just make sh!t up.

Worse, the British Government saw it as a golden opportunity to forcibly impose the parasitic ideology of the 1%er’s free market (the fig leaf covering a sociopath’s modesty).

By hiring people to build roads? Oh. My. God. The humanity!

Even though ‘free market’ ideology failed, just like today.

Really? You are claiming Ireland is poorer now?

Predictably, in the aftermath those sociopaths pleaded poverty. What do you expect them to do, tell the government exactly how much they made from their rape of Ireland?

So you admit you have no evidence for your lies? And yes, I would think that is precisely what they did. They would have reported their income for tax purposes and being British gentlemen, they would have done so honestly.

142

‘The point of documenting the behaviour of human groups is to see whether there are recognisable patterns of behaviour and common values’

The problems with using the groups that you allude to are they are all particular social/professional roles, each will receive similar training, have the same code of conduct and work under a common philosophy. However, when any of the group are taken out of their roles, there behaviours will change and even their values. The fluidity of a person’s behaviours in differing social situations is also well known, this is the major difference between studying groups within a fixed social, and often geographical, situation and individuals acting within the wider society.

142

“The problems with using the groups that you allude to are they are all particular social/professional roles, each will receive similar training, have the same code of conduct and work under a common philosophy.”

So what? In principle, documentary studies of groups could extend to ethnic groups in particular localities, specific social groups such as pensioners or criminal gangs, teens, public school alumni, politicians of various hues, charity workers, feminine activists and so on, depending on how feasible it is to observe and gather data. There is a long history of participant observation of groups, such as Margaret Mead’s (controversial) studies of South Pacific and South-East Asian tradition cultures.

Whatever the practical problems of documenting particular human group, that must relatively minor as compared with documenting a “society”.

146. Richard Carey

@ 145 Bob b,

you write:

“specific social groups such as pensioners or criminal gangs”

You seem to reject the term “society” as meaningless or else useless, however you use “social”, the meaning of which derives from “society”. Therefore, you seem to be refuting yourself.

Richard Carey: “You seem to reject the term ‘society’ as meaningless or else useless, however you use ‘social’, the meaning of which derives from ‘society. Therefore, you seem to be refuting yourself.”

I write “social” groups of pensioners to relate to various identifiable pensioner associations and clubs which can be found in many localities and which are distinctively different from purely random collections of elderly people.

Beware of believing that just because there is a word or term for something or some notion that it must therefore necessarily exist. There used to be a “proof” of the existence of a deity on the supposed grounds that since I can envisage the concept of a “perfect being”, such a being must exist as non-existence would be an imperfection.

Thomas Hobbes wrote in the Leviathan (1660):

“For words are wise men’s counters; they do but reckon by them: but they are the money of fools, that value them by the authority of an Aristotle, a Cicero, or a Thomas, or any other doctor whatsoever”
Leviathan Bk.1 Chp.4
http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/h/hobbes/thomas/h68l/chapter4.html

You have not responded to Sprott’s analysis of “society” (see quote @81) nor to the questions I’ve put as to how am I to know that what you, or anyone else, intends to mean by “society” is what Cameron meant when he said: There is such a thing as society, it is just not the same as the state. How am I to tell how many “societies” there are in Britain? What observations do I make to decide?

148. Richard Carey

@ Bob b,

so, you reject the word ‘society’ based on something some posh twat friend of Keynes wrote in a moment of poppy-inspired profundity, but you reserve the right to use a derived term, ‘social’, but only in a specific manner, which is only made clear when you are questioned on it. You’re playing Humpty Dumpty, and still refuting your own argument.

“You have not responded to Sprott’s analysis of “society” (see quote @81) nor to the questions I’ve put as to how am I to know that what you, or anyone else, ”

Yes I have. See 120 and 138.

Richard Carey: “so, you reject the word ‘society’ based on something some posh twat friend of Keynes wrote in a moment of poppy-inspired profundity”

Sprott presented an argument — which I happen to agree with — as to why the term “society” lacked substantive content. Your message amounts to little more than abuse instead of a response the analytical questions I raised @147.

How do we tell whether there is but one “society” in Britain or many? How do we know that what you intend to mean by “society” is the same as what Cameron intended to mean? What observations do I make to clear that up?

This is not just a semantic issue. Cameron has pushed his notion of the Big Society as a flagship policy — as here:

“Big Society is my mission, says David Cameron”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12443396

IMO that is just a load of the proverbial cobblers intended to sweeten austerity policy cuts of welfare spending.

145

The thing is, everyone has an ethnicity, so how are you interpreting it? And surely class, age and gender will cut across all ethnic groups. This also applies to criminals, pensioners and so on. People in traditional societies will be less diverse due to their lack of social and geographical mobility and more enduring culture.

Sprott’s critique of the meaning of society is equally as relevant to questioning what the term ‘memory’ or ‘emotion’ means and what about consciousness?

150

“The thing is, everyone has an ethnicity, so how are you interpreting it?”

There is huge scope for studies of group behaviour. Gangs tend to be ethnic specific — and there are an increasing number of studies of gangs and gang behaviour in America and here.

Whenever I go for my “free” eye tests in pharmacies — which I’m urged to take up by the physicians I go to — the professional opticians have all been young South Asian women — at a guess, mostly ethnic Indian: only one wore a head scarf. Why is that?

Why is there a strong consensus among the local people I know of about the same age that Filipinos make the best nurses — there is also a consensus about which ethnicity makes for the worst nurses? Why was the NHS recently reported to be recruiting nurses in Spain, Portugal, the Philippines and India? Speaking a few days ago to a specialist nurse, she said the NHS can’t get sufficient nurses from recruiting in Britain. Why is that?

Why do white working class boys, eligible for free school meals, score more badly in the GCSE exams than ethnic Chinese and Indian boys, who are eligible for free school meals?

What brought about the reports in the news that the public have become more distrustful of the Police? In London, the senior ranks in the Met Police have been drastically thinned out and the number of police on the beat increased. Does this make sense when the last national crime survey reported a 27pc increase in fraud.

Why do polls turn up findings such as this?

“Estate agents and politicians among least trusted professions”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/5085369/Estate-agents-and-politicians-among-least-trusted-professions.html

Now, how am I to know whether what you intend to mean by “society” is the same as what Cameron means by “society”? What observations do I need to make?

152. Richard Carey

@ Bob b,

“Your message amounts to little more than abuse instead of a response the analytical questions I raised”

I freely concede to abusing Sprott, but I have dealt with your ‘analytical questions’ at various points above, and maintain that you are refuting your own argument by using a term derived from ‘society’ in order to refute the term ‘society’.

I think it is clear what Cameron meant by ‘Big Society’, and I suspect you understand it just as well. Whether or not his idea was politically feasible, or a cynical ploy or whatever else is immaterial. Political discourse is littered with terms which are used vaguely or deceitfully. As Orwell wrote in “Politics and the English Language”;

“The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’. The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. ”

To counter such forces, we must each try to be clear in our definitions and try to hold the statements of others up to scrutiny, at least if we wish to communicate rationally and meaningfully with one another.

It is a mystery to me why you have singled out the term “society” as unable to convey meaning or whatever your problem is with it.

Richard Carey: “I think it is clear what Cameron meant by ‘Big Society’, and I suspect you understand it just as well.”

You haven’t dealt with the analytical questions I’ve raised as to how am I to determine whether what you mean by “society” is the same as what Cameron means? What observations am I to make to find out? How many “societies” are there in Britain and how can we tell?

IMO Sprott was absolutely spot on in saying that “society” is just a figment of imagination. Mrs T paraphrased that when she said: Society doesn’t exist. She had a science degree.

I regard Cameron’s flagship policy of the Big Society as just cobblers. I’ve repeatedly asked – without getting any answers – as when ever did Britain have a “Big Society”? As to which other countries have Big Societies? And as to how can we tell? What observations do we need to make to decide?

I regard the Big Society as obfuscation deliberately intended to fool us about the austerity cuts being made in welfare spending.

154. Richard Carey

@ Bob b,

your question has been dealt with multiple times. For some reason, and I’m beginning to suspect the reason is neurological, you are having a selective failure to compute, but I’ll try again:

“how am I to determine whether what you mean by “society” is the same as what Cameron means?”

You use your brain. You think. You reflect. You ask questions of others. You listen to their answers. You explain your views. You listen to feedback. You think some more. If you still cannot determine the answer, then you slam your nuts in the fridge door and enlightenment will surely follow.

“I regard Cameron’s flagship policy of the Big Society as just cobblers.”

Fine. Many people did. But that has no bearing on the term ‘society’ any more than on the term ‘big’ or ‘cobblers’.

I regard Cameron’s flagship policy of the Big Society as just cobblers.

That’s probably because it wasn’t so much a policy as an expectation. That’s why there was never really anything all that substantive behind it other than sound bites.
Step 1: the State ‘gets out of the way’
Step 2: ????
Step 3: Big Society where people naturally indulge in altruistic behaviour which had been previously smothered by pernicious state interference like disability living allowance payments…

Richard Carey

You have not answered the fundamental questions as to how am I to know that what you intend to mean by “society” is the same as what Cameron intends to mean? What observations do I need to make to decide?

Also, how many societies are there in Britain and how can I tell?

You are repeatedly dodging these fundamental issues.

IMO Sprott was correct is saying “society” is just a figment of imagination. And so far we have no means of comparing your imagination of “society” with Cameron’s imagination. Perhaps we’ll get there one day with comparing MRI scans of brains but we haven’t got there yet.

Cylux

Welfare spending I can measure and there are ways of assessing the incidence of poverty but how are we to know if and when the Big Society has arrived or whenever there was a Big Society?

157. Richard Carey

@ bob b

“You have not answered the fundamental questions..”

I have. I suspect you are not properly applying the method I explained to you. Slam harder, man!

Richard Carey

Your prescribed method was: “You use your brain. You think. You reflect.”

There is no reason to suppose that my imagination of what “society” is or isn’t will be remotely similar to your’s or to Cameron’s. How can we test the similarities or differences between the contents of personal imaginations unless we can derive and test measurable indices? Documenting the behaviour of human groups makes sense. The notion of “society” doesn’t. I don’t know how many societies there are supposed to be in Britain. I certainly don’t feel as though I belong to the same society as Cameron, Osborne and Clegg.

Sprott wasn’t alone in saying what he did about “society” being a figment of imagination. Mrs T also said: “society does not exist.”

159. Richard Carey

@ bob b, (leaving aside your shamelessly dishonest edit of my “prescribed method”)

“There is no reason to suppose that my imagination of what “society” is or isn’t will be remotely similar to your’s or to Cameron’s”

It’s got nothing to do with imagination. It’s a word. It has a definition. Look it up in a dictionary, preferably the OED. If that’s not sufficient it’s because you are either an angst-ridden teenage existentialist, a philosopher who stopped reading at David Hume, or are suffering some kind of seizure, in which case you should put a bag of frozen peas on your head and call an ambulance. I hope this helps.

” It’s a word. It has a definition”

So what? “Satan” is a word and poltergeist is another word. Both have definitions in dictionaries but that doesn’t mean either exists. Most philosophers have rejected the ontological proof of the existence of god.

You still haven’t answered the fundamental questions about how many “societies” there are in Britain and how can we tell?

Sprott was correct: “society” is a figment of imagination. I’ve no idea whether what you imagine “society” to be is the same as what Cameron imagines “society” to be or as to how we can tell.

Human groups can be observed and documented.

@ Bob & Richard

Society:

1 [mass noun] the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community:
drugs, crime, and other dangers to society
the community of people living in a particular country or region and having shared customs, laws, and organizations:
the ethnic diversity of British society
[count noun]:
modern industrial societies
[with adjective] a specified section of society:
no one in polite society uttered the word
(also high society) the aggregate of people who are fashionable, wealthy, and influential, regarded as forming a distinct group in a community:
[as modifier]:
a society wedding
[count noun] a plant or animal community:
the analogy between insect society and human city is not new
2 an organization or club formed for a particular purpose or activity:
[in names]:
the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
3 [mass noun] the situation of being in the company of other people:
she shunned the society of others

Origin:
mid 16th century (in the sense ‘companionship, friendly association with others’): from French société, from Latin societas, from socius ‘companion’

My take, the word’s meaning is indeed different for everyone. Your discussion there can really fall into the category of ‘how many angels dance on a pin’ both of you are right. Maybe that gives a clue?

@ Richard Carey

I haven’t responded to your comment about Richard Cobden, I apologise for that, as a certain cretin was trolling. (And you shouldn’t really give food to that sort) It is indeed more nuanced than over simplistic statements. You are right about the ideals of libertarian free trade been polar opposite politically as say the corn laws. The biggest problem is how those ideals become leverage for abuse by those without a conscience, as with all political ideologies.

It is ironic the cretin glibly states ‘trot’ ;)

162. Richard Carey

@ Dissident,

thank you for trying to save me from Bob b, who has gone insane. I would take issue with your statement:

“the word’s meaning is indeed different for everyone.”

insofar as I think we need to agree what we are talking about if we are to converse meaningfully, and I’m happy to accept the dictionary definition of words, such as that which you have kindly provided, at least as the starting point of discussion. Your statement is true in an absolute sense, but I see it as a starting point, from which we attempt to understand each other and overcome the barriers of our subjective points of view, if you know what I mean. However, as I’m so relieved and grateful that someone has intervened in my dispute with Bob, I won’t push it.

As for the venerable Richard Cobden and free trade, I certainly think it worth going back and seeing what he meant by free trade, being the removal of government sanctioned monopolies and protections, which were to the benefit of the privileged few against the very many. The term has been abused no doubt, and one of the criticisms of the bankers in recent years has been how they were supposedly all for free trade in the good times, but held out their hands for a bail-out when the crunch came, which all true believers in free trade in its proper sense agree marks them as liars and hypocrits.

The problem we face is that our economy is festooned with protectism and monopoly, and whenever there’s talk of any of it being removed, it’s usually the protections that benefit the people at the bottom, whilst gross exploitations and privileges rest in place, which is why libertarians such as myself sometimes struggle to make the case for economic liberty, as it seems to threaten those who ask for nothing but a little security.

@ Richard Carey, 2.54am October 23

I am not sure whether Bob B ‘went insane’, more a case of a position becoming entrenched. As you saw from the ‘discussion’ I have had on repeated threads with the cretin, which from my side has felt like butting my head against a brick wall!

As for libertarian thinking. Have you tried the questionnnaire over on political compass, mine came back as strongly so – from an economically left wing side. The only stuff I truly respect is what is provable through scientific research! That is why, on this thread and others I have so much issue with glib generalisations that

1: Demonise anything to do with ‘social conscience’ – the ‘trot’ bulshit a cretin peddles.
2: Accept as sacrosanct ‘capitalist doctrine’ – such doctrine has proven itself to be just that, when in the real world there is too much injustice to trust it.

That is why I posted everything earlier.

Please note: On threads to do with AGW I will continue to disagree with any ‘fake skepticism’, vehemently if necessary.
Also, the inverted commas, I am using shorthand as an attempt to condense the concepts.

@ Richard Carey & Bob B

Regarding society, meaning of.

” Your statement is true in an absolute sense, but I see it as a starting point, from which we attempt to understand each other and overcome the barriers of our subjective points of view, if you know what I mean.”

This would take a dicussion stream containing thousands of comments, and nobody would get any closer, or worse yet talk past each other. Here is a possible way to understand it. The concepts of emergence, and synergy…

@ Richard Carey

“removal of government sanctioned monopolies and protections”

Personally, I see everybody, whether they are from grid reference 00,00,00 or the opposite as members of the same species. Countries, as postcodes etc. I have no more problem with interacting or trading with someone from Timbuktu, China or Tierra del Fuego as I would have with a neighbour! In that sense, I am in the global camp.

I might have a problem with doing so with Martians however, as there are currently none. We haven’t got there yet…

The only problem I would have is if the interaction disadvantaged either party. That is where capitalists fail capitalism*

*or any other ideology

If I post: “There is such a thing as Satan, it’s just not the same as strawberry jam”, does that mean Satan really exists?

After all, there are not only all those earthquakes, tornadoes , hurricanes, tsunamis and pandemics to account for which can hardly be attributed to an intelligent creator or the exercise of free will, there is a reference in the Bible to “the beast” so that must be true and Satan must really exist:
http://biblehub.com/kjv/revelation/13.htm

167. Richard Carey

@ Dissident, a few comments.

“This would take a dicussion stream containing thousands of comments”

No way. People can communicate easier than that, even when they disagree profoundly. The need to seek clarification is usually to make sure if someone is using definition A or definition B, to explain a subjective view of an important but difficult to define term, or to pin someone down who’s using language in a deliberately vague or ambiguous way.

“Demonise anything to do with ‘social conscience’”

the problem libertarians have is with the idea that ‘social conscience’ should be enforced through the state, rather than through voluntary action. Most people believe there is a moral responsibility to help those less fortunate, which is why so many people accept state action in this area, often thinking that voluntary action would not be enough, although I would point out that the widespread support for the state action indicates that the belief in helping others is itself widespread. As I alluded to above, there is state welfare to unemployed and there is state welfare to investment bankers, and it would certainly be wrong to cut the former and leave the latter.

“Accept as sacrosanct ‘capitalist doctrine’ – such doctrine has proven itself to be just that, when in the real world there is too much injustice to trust it.”

In Rothbard’s words:

“If we are to keep the term “capitalism” at all, then, we must distinguish between “free-market capitalism” on the one hand, and “state capitalism” on the other. The two are as different as day and night in their nature and consequences. Free-market capitalism is a network of free and voluntary exchanges in which producers work, produce, and exchange their products for the products of others through prices voluntarily arrived at. State capitalism consists of one or more groups making use of the coercive apparatus of the government — the State — to accumulate capital for themselves by expropriating the production of others by force and violence.”

http://mises.org/daily/3735

“The only problem I would have is if the interaction disadvantaged either party. That is where capitalists fail capitalism”

The presumption is that if an exchange is voluntary, then both parties must see it to their advantage, or else they wouldn’t undertake it. This doesn’t mean they won’t regret their decision, and it doesn’t apply where one party has been dishonest or fraudulent. As for capitalists failing capitalism, this is nothing new, as capitalists, like other mortals, often seek unjust advantages, such as pulling up the ladder behind them.

168. Richard Carey

@ bob b,

Even on your own sources, you are wrong. All Sprott said, according to your quote, was: “So I say that society is in some sense a figment of imagination.” which you keep misrepresenting, such as:

“Sprott was correct: “society” is a figment of imagination.” @160

“IMO Sprott was correct is saying “society” is just a figment of imagination.” @156

You have excised a key part of the sentence; “in some sense”. Had Sprott not used these words, or had he instead wrote “nothing more than”, then you would be able to appeal to his authority. As Sprott didn’t, then you can’t.

Richard Carey

I’m not arguing by authority. You have not been able to answer fundamental questions, such as how are we to tell whether what Cameron intends to mean by “society” is the same as what you or anyone else intends to mean? What observations can we make to decide. How many “societies” are there in Britain and how can we tell whether these “societies” are the same as in France or Europe? Is “society” in Scotland there same as “society” in England?

“Society” is a word without substance. What regular, verifiable predictions does supposing “society” enable us to make?

We cannot observe “gravity” but we can measure its influence. Objects weigh less at the top of high mountains than at sea level and even less on the moon. Theories based on gravitational pull enable us to make predictions about the movement of plants in the solar system. The same theories are used to put communications satellites into Earth orbit. But what predictions can we make by virtue of supposing there is such a thing as “society”?

IMO the term is being used by Cameron as propaganda. As Lenin put it: A lie told often enough becomes true.

Recap: Mrs T said there is no such thing as society. I was called insane for suggesting in online debates c.2000 that it was not a good idea for Britain to join the Eurozone.

169

‘Recap, Mrs. T said there was no such thing as society’

I’m not going to attempt another argument with reference to Sprott, Imo, as suggested above, you are entrenched in your belief and it is futile to continue. However, one Norman (have bike will travel) Tebbit, wrote an article in the mid-1990’s complaining that ‘ageism was rife in society’, clearly he had a concept of society which appeared to suggest that it (society) not only existed but consciously discriminated against the aged. I suppose the parallel is the notion that ‘markets will allocate resources’ or some such nonsense.

170

“Tebbit, wrote an article in the mid-1990?s complaining that ‘ageism was rife in society’, clearly he had a concept of society which appeared to suggest that it (society) not only existed but consciously discriminated against the aged.”

So? Politicians talk gibberish. In the 1980s, Tebbit made some reference to reducing unemployment by bike riding, which relates to the apparently preferred Conservative theory as to why the unemployment rate tends to move in cycles. The strange thing is that other European countries also have unemployment rates which tend to move in cycles, often more or less at about the same time. Apparently, the extent of bike riding is contagious. This theory attempts to disconnect unemployment from what is happening to aggregate demand with the implication that unemployment is nothing to do with the government’s fiscal policies or the interest rates set by monetary authorities.

The substantive issue here is whether evidence of widespread discrimination against the elderly can be found in Britain. That is an important issue. Any reference to “society” is superfluous. The quote of Tebbit certainly does not prove that there is such a thing as “society”. There is more point to discussing the extent of discrimination against the elderly and what, if anything, can be done about it than discussing whether there is such a thing as “society” when I’ve no means of knowing whether what you intend to mean by the term is the same as what Tebbit intended to mean.

Tebbit’s remark in the 1990s could have been intended to be nothing more than a tactic to get pensioners to remember to vote Conservative.

171

Tebbit’s remark related to the difficulty finding employment after 50. And I wasn’t suggesting that Tebbit was right or wrong about the existence of ‘society’ I was just saying that one of Thatcher’s closest allies obviously didn’t agree with everything she said.

172

“Tebbit’s remark related to the difficulty finding employment after 50.”

Given the worryingly high unemployment rates in the 16-24 age group, I’d like to see research on whether the post 50s have a harder time of it or not.

From personal observation, computer literacy rates are noticeably lower among the post 50s. A lot of older people are complete techno-phobes and employers must appreciate this. The consideration must surely affect recruitment along with employee health considerations.

Computer use stresses literacy and numeracy but a new factor affecting online use is the escalating increase in hacking and malware.

A few Sundays ago I went to look around the local PC World store which I’ve not visited for several years – this happens to have been the first computer superstore in Britain. I got talking about the computers there with one of the resident techies, a guy about half my age who had recently been on a job teach-in course. It was a quiet sales day and we had a long conversation.

The whole computer retail market has changed radically in the last few years. There was hardly a PC desktop tower in sight – the change has been the switch to Tablets and Laptops, which are mostly little better specified than Tablets with keyboards. Another interesting observation is that the techie and my son have both switched to using Apple laptops instead of PC machines. One reason is that fewer viruses and malware have been produced for Apple Mac machines.

Local public libraries where I live run short weekly courses in computer use for the over 50s – almost on a one-to-one basis, I’m told. This is great – by far the best way of teaching someone how to use a computer. It’s a great mistake to try to learn how to use a computer from a book. But I don’t know how to bring post 50s up to speed in dealing with hacking and the malware. I’m seeing regular adverts and getting scam phone calls all claiming to sort out my supposed computer problems – for a consideration, of course. None of it can be trusted.

@ Richard Carey, 1.05pm October 23

“the problem libertarians have is with the idea that ‘social conscience’ should be enforced through the state”

It depends on how to define Libertarian. Have you considered the possibility that both social and economic Libertarian thought depends upon a strong bedrock of Laws, and that the state as currently defined is what enables that. Is that the root meaning for this statement?

“As I alluded to above, there is state welfare to unemployed and there is state welfare to investment bankers, and it would certainly be wrong to cut the former and leave the latter.”

Precisely!

175. Richard Carey

@ Dissident,

“Have you considered the possibility that both social and economic Libertarian thought depends upon a strong bedrock of Laws…”

Certainly. Even anarchist libertarians, who would do away with the state entirely, uphold the importance of the law, and many people in the English tradition have great respect for what John Lilburne, amongst others, insisted upon as his rights under the ‘fundamental laws’ of this land, such as habeas corpus, the right not to be forced to bear witness against himself, the right to a jury trial and the right of a jury to judge the law as well as the facts (i.e. acquit in the face of the evidence if the law is unjust) etc.

“… and that the state as currently defined is what enables that.”

I’m glad you said ‘enables’ and not creates, because then I would have had to argue about natural rights preceding positive, state-bestowed protections. It is true that the state as currently defined is in charge of the legal system, and insofar as this functions to protect our rights and liberties, then it does its job, but the age-old political question remains; ‘quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

You can no doubt furnish your own examples, based on what offends you most, of the state (or rather those who work within it) doing things which if any one of us did the same would be crimes of the utmost seriousness, but apparently it’s all perfectly legal, according to the courts, which, as you note, are part of the state.

As to the root meaning of the statement you quote, it was really going back to an earlier point on the difficulties of arguing for economic liberty under what many libertarians would call a ‘state capitalist’ system, where the economy and society is riddled with interventions from top to bottom, (as Bastiat wrote: “The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else.”) and the only fat that ever seems to be considered for trimming is that which falls to those on the lowest rung of the social ladder.

I do believe we would be far better off if we forced the state back within very narrow confines, and got its corrupting influence out of social welfare, education, policing of morals etc. as much as possible. The same applies to a lot of other areas of state action, such as war, bugging our phones, printing money etc.

Richard Carey: “I do believe we would be far better off if we forced the state back within very narrow confines, and got its corrupting influence out of social welfare, education, policing of morals etc. as much as possible. The same applies to a lot of other areas of state action, such as war, bugging our phones, printing money etc.”

Which is how we got to the protracted depression of the 1930s when the unemployment rate in America reached a quarter of the workforce.

Many economic historians regard the Golden Age of Capitalism, in the so-called Liberal Democracies of Western Europe and North America, as the period from 1950s through to 1973, when GDP growth rates surpassed any previous period. But that Golden Age was hardly a time of receding state influence. In America, the Eisenhower administration launched the Interstate Highway System, via the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. That has been dubbed the largest public works programme since the building of the pyramids in ancient Egypt.

All credit to Count Von Bismarck, first Chancellor of the German empire, who was hardly a “leftist”, for laying the early foundations of the European social model in the 1880s by introducing a state pension scheme and a social insurance scheme to cover personal healthcare costs. Mind you, the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601 can also stake a claim to that credit. Factory Acts passed by Britain’s Parliament dating back 1809 show a recognition that legislation is necessary to limit exploitation of vulnerable participants in the labour market.

Have a care for poor Richard. He is only parading his ignorance.

While we dither about introducing a minimum price for alcohol in England, in San Francisco, a local sales tax on soda-pop drinks has been proposed:

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — A can of soda could eventually cost about a quarter more in San Francisco. A proposed measure would add a special tax to sugary beverages, but the proposal is different than a similar ballot measure that failed in Richmond last year.

The idea is simple — the bigger the drink, the more taxes you pay. It would be 2 cents per ounce for all sugar-sweetened beverages. That includes soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and bottled Frappuccinos.
http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/local/san_francisco&id=9304688

178. Richard Carey

@ Bob B,

“Have a care for poor Richard. He is only parading his ignorance.”

Thanks for that. It saves me the trouble of dealing with your foolish comments in a reasonable way, such as the ludicrous re-writing of the 1930s, in which FDR becomes an exponent of laissez-faire. Mind you, given your love of the Prussian state, maybe for you he was.

176

‘All credit to Count Von Bismarck ……for laying the early foundations of the European social model’.

As you note Bismarck was not a leftist, he was of the old conservative class more associated with ‘noblesse oblige’ than social democracy. The modern welfare states evolved to reflect the geographical mobility of the newly industrialized/industrializing population where the old poor laws were based on localities and subjective values of the ‘deserving poor’.

FWIW, my opinion of modern welfare states are that they are little more than a bureaucratic mutant of noblesse oblige.

Steveb

“As you note Bismarck was not a leftist, he was of the old conservative class”

Absolutely. He was also authoritarian and an imperialist. The instructive insight is that he regarded introducing a state pension scheme and social insurance for healthcare costs as ways of promoting the unification of the German states under Prussian hegemony. But post WW2, variations on the European social market model have been widely adopted across western Europe. Europeans don’t take prescriptions for laissez-faire seriously and after the recent financial crisis, the preceding calls for more and more deregulation look plain silly.

For the years (1994-96) during the Clinton administration, Alan Blinder was Greenspan’s deputy at the US Federal Reserve Bank. Recently, he has said:
Six Reasons Why Another Financial Crisis Is (Still) Inevitable

It’s worth reading this academic paper by Andre Sapir: Globalization and the Reform of European Social Models
http://www.ulb.ac.be/cours/delaet/econ076/docs/sapir.pdf

Sapir is especially interesting on the Nordic Social Models in Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands.

FDR knew nothing about Keynesian economics. He campaigned in the 1932 presidential elections on a “balance the budget” ticket – which, in the context, is hardly keynesian.

His New Deal measures, as developed by his team of advisers, were seen as pragmatic ways of responding to the problems of the Depression so as to save American capitalism.

His predecessor as president, Hoover had embarked on a public works programme to boost the economy with projects like the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Eventually, the Roosevelt administration did attempt to balance the Federal budget – and the US economy promptly went into recession:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recession_of_1937%E2%80%9338

182. Richard Carey

Bob bs,

“FDR knew nothing about Keynesian economics. ”

What, you mean he hadn’t read a book that wasn’t published yet?

“He campaigned in the 1932 presidential elections on a “balance the budget” ticket”

A politician lied to get elected? Well I never.

“His predecessor as president, Hoover had embarked on a public works programme to boost the economy ”

Yes, so clearly neither Hoover nor FDR were laissez-faire whilst in office (though Hoover saw the error of his ways later in life). Your idiot Keynesian policies turned a recession into the Great Depression, but you think it’s great because you love authoritarian regimes like Bismarck’s Prussia, and can cherry-pick some data to tell another story, and you’re too old to bother rethinking your core faith in Keynesian snake-oil.

Richard Carey: “What, you mean he hadn’t read a book that wasn’t published yet?”

No. Keynes had co-authored a pamphlet for the Liberal Party for the 1929 general election in Britain with the title: Can Lloyd George Do It? This advocated a public works programme to create jobs.

The British Treasury spent subsequent years repeatedly rejecting this policy on the claimed grounds that government borrowing to fund a public works programme would “crowd out” equivalent private investment so there would be no additional net jobs.

FDR met with Keynes after the publication of the General Theory but reportedly didn’t take in Keynes’s’ analysis of the causes of the Depression. The early promotion of keynesian theory in America is due to American academics, like Alvin Hansen at Harvard, with many later additions such as Seymour Harris, Paul Samuelson, Abba Lerner, and James Tobin.

“Your idiot Keynesian policies turned a recession into the Great Depression,”

That’s just nonsense. FDR inherited a problem of a collapsing banking system in America and managed to halt that with the Federal Deposit Insurance Scheme. With reviving business confidence, a public works programme and abandoning the Gold parity of the US Dollar, the US economy grew from 1931 through to 1937, when it went into recession again as the administration attempted to balance the Federal budget.

In Britain, the Pound was taken off the Gold Standard in September 1931. Relieved of the responsibility to maintain the Gold parity of the Pound, the Bank of England could cut the Bank Rate. By June 1932, Bank Rate was down to 2pc where it stayed until the outbreak of hostilities in 1939.

With low borrowing costs, a building boom ensued in the south of England and parts of the Midlands – as can be seem from the many roads of semi-detached houses built by speculative private investment in the 1930s. Wales, the North of England and Scotland stayed depressed.

West European countries have all adopted variations of the European Social Market model. Try the Sapir paper linked @180


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