Brexit and fuck-you politics.

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Ha-Joon Chang, The Little Blue Book:  ‘Economics is politics.’

Charles Darwin urged the ‘weak in mind and body’ to refrain from marriage. That’s why I never married. Contemporary disciples of Francis Galton’s scientific racism now favour that dismal science of pseudo-economics. Economic racism doesn’t discriminate against the rich. It is premised on it. The poor are feedstock for those that have accumulated land and wealth. A propaganda war, which we used to call ideology, or even Marxism, has been running against those without both for the last thirty years. It’s based on trickle-down economics. That means rich folk saying fuck you, I’m doing alright, whilst continuing to take an increasing share of the national income from the poor. Thomas Piketty, Capital shows with extensive research and an analysis of national figures the feebleness of this approach.  To paraphrase the US giant, General Motors.  What’s good for the economy is good for the rich, or so they keep telling us –ad nauseum.

The demonization of the poor is highly popular entertainment, cartoon demons that can be traced to the loss of the idea of social security. All being in it together. Remember that old David Cameron whopper, from our soon to be, Brexited, Prime Minister. Look at our glorious history. This was epitomised by the idea of homes fit for heroes after the First World War. After the Second World War, Britain led the way with the Beveridge Report and the welfare state and modern states followed our lead.  The American term welfare was exported back to us at great social cost, a  catch-all term and negative imagery carried by association. Prostitutes, junkies, alkies and council-house scum. (See for, example, ripostes from Owen Jones’ Chavs or Lynn Hanley, Estates.) Proof that welfare wasn’t working and dragging the nation down. Poor people,  whipping boys for the private sector and the top five-percent of  Eton educated and Oxbridge sponsored prevailing government ideology. Indeed, like Happy Gilmore with one golf club, they continued to beat all before them, slaughtering the poor, the public sector, and those on welfare while sweeping those before them in election after election with one idea. Rip up the social fabric. Trust us.  Give them less and us more. Nicholas Timmins, The Five Giants. A Biography of the Welfare State joked about the Tories mimicking the George Bush, Texas model, and meeting in a closed room and allocating public resources to their chums to run as part of their personal fiefdom. Who’s laughing now? Look no further than the recent debacle of those rich citizens paid rent to build and maintain local-authority schools, and even though bits were falling off, structural damage some cynics may call it, but moving sideways, with a neat trick economists call vertical integration and running the schools they build. This wasn’t called profit, but economic rent. Getting what they were due.  A quick fix was the idea of calling local-authority schools, Academies. In any language this is called monopoly. For all its faults the European Economic Union wasn’t that keen on these ideas, hence their challenge of Google’s monopoly powers to shape choices on the internet. The European Economic Unions determination that companies such as Microsoft, Apple and Facebook that have hundreds of billions in revenue pay some tax. But, of course, London is the greatest money laundering system in the world.   In comparison, try counting on one hand the number of media posts and television programmes depicting the lives of those on benefits, receiving government money. The latest ruse was to show that some of them had the gall to live in houses with more than one bedroom. Smokers. Drinkers. Obese. Round up the usual suspects. If there was such a thing as the Anglo-Saxon English race they were losing was the subtext and war cry.

Enoch Powell’s ‘river of blood’ speech in the late sixties tapped into popular zeitgeist. If they’re black send them back. A group of white working-class men were shown chanting, ‘niggers go home’ on a recent More4 programme, ‘Born on the Same Day,’ which showed the experience of a Jamaican immigrant, Ewart, growing up in multicultural Great Britain.

Remember the signs on private-let housing:

No blacks

No Irish

No dogs.

Add to that list: No DSS. NO WELFARE. NO REFUGEES HERE.

Brexit  tapped into a popular state-sponsored hate campaign.  Racism has long roots. Rudyard Kipling summed it up. ‘All the people like us are, We, and everyone else is They.’ It’s no coincidence that Robert A Douglas in That Line of Darkness, The Shadow of Dracula and the Great War has consecutive chapters on ‘Fear and Loathing of the Underclass’ (the working class) followed by ‘Xenophobia, Anti-Judaism and Anti-Semitism’ (replace with anti-Muslim rhetoric). It’s worth quoting Douglas below on those nineteenth-century patterns when Britain had an Empire to fleece, patterns which are recognisable today, with spokesmen such as Nigel Farage echoing the same sentiments, playing on xenophobic fears of the other, and being taken up by the Conservative Party and possibly the next Prime Minister, Boris Johnson:

Several commentators worried about Britain’s capacity for assimilating such large numbers and potential economic difficulties; however the more virulent spokespersons fed on the fears of crime, disease and tribalism to lobby for immigration restrictions…

A Conservative Prime Minister, Edward Heath took Great Britain into the EEC. Another, David Cameron, has taken us out. Britain no longer has an Empire. It no longer has the protection of a market to which we export most of our goods and services. We currently import around seven percent more than we export. That’s one deficit we really should worry about. When trading blocs such as the US and China, and now the EEC, play hard ball with small nations that have little or no leverage who can blame them? For we’ve voted to become a third-world nation. Fear of the other has made us a pariah nation. But the biggest fear is other nations will follow. Then with most countries resorting to protectionism there will be no common market. No market at all. What brought the world wide and general depression of the 1930s to an end was the Second World War. What brought the ideology of xenophobia and the pseudoscience of eugenics to an end was the Nazi death camps. Little England has never looked or felt so small. Fuck you, I’m alright Jack the triumphant calling card. For opportunist politicians such as Boris Johnson (and Donald Trump) that’s the only invitation they need. Fear of the other. I fear these ghoul-like creatures we have voted for most of all.

 

 

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Dominic Frisby, Life After the State.

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I prefer books but I’ve got a Kindle. I’ve downloaded Katy Brand’s Brenda Monk is Funny and read about 16% of it (Kindle doesn’t do page numbers). Brenda Monk isn’t funny, but the novel does give an interesting and readable account of the British comedy circuit. Dominic Frisby claims to be a comedian. I’ve got to about 11% of Frisby’s book and I’m sure he is.  It’s Social Darwinism in its purest form, laissez-faire capitalism doesn’t work because it is being constrained by interference—primarily by the state.  Reagan and Thatcher didn’t work because it was the wrong kind of capitalism, interfering ‘crony capitalism’.

‘Centrally planned economies are always outperformed by disorganized, apparently chaotic market systems. South Korea, for example, is example, is some 15 times more prosperous per head than its neighbour in the north. In the Soviet Union…’

Standing on the shoulders of pygmies you can always pick on the smallest guy in the room. My corner shop outperforms North Korea, but I’m sure quite a lot of planning goes into it. Citizens of South Korea also tend to be taller than those in the North. They are simply better fed and as a result have taller kids. The post- Second World War Japanese economy like most in the Western World experience GDP growth of 2% or less per annum. China with almost half of the world’s population experience GDP grow of over 10% in recent years but this has slowed.  Their citizens are not prosperous enough to be tall. But whisper it, China is buying up most of free-market Africa, owns large chunks of America in safe government bonds and is preparing to feed that population when global drought kicks in with global warming. But the cruel irony is China would already own South Korea where most of the Nationalist Chinese army had fled, but for government interference. Vice-versa had not Marshall (of the Marshall Plan) not dictated a ceasefire in 1946, the Nationalist Army, which outnumbered Mao’s by three to one, and where better organised and equipped, and China would not be Communist. Let’s put it crudely. South Korea is better than North Korea because the government doesn’t interfere (don’t mention the Korean War) and we are better than them. Discuss.

Toss a Frisby back to the start of his book. ‘Why Every Cuban Father Wanted His Daughter To Be a Hooker’ is the prologue. Frisby is in his twenties. He’s rich enough to be able to visit Latin American countries. Havana, he tells us, ‘was an amazing place’.  He had went there with preconceived notions. Cuba had the best health service in the world and the best education (hey, and I’ll fling in the best boxers). But he was quickly put right by Luis a doctor he lodges with ‘What is the point of a great hospital, if there is no medicine…What is the point of great schools when you have no paper?’ To make ends meet he estimated 50% of Cuban woman under 40 sell sex for US dollars.  In Havana he has a Damascus moment when he realised any kind of interference leads to the law of unintended consequences. (shown satirically here http://www.abctales.com/story/terrence-oblong/true-tales-austere-kingdom-%E2%80%93-disability-work-act)  What is more government Frisby believes interferes with a delicate ecosystem called capitalism and that causes untold misery and…well, you know the end of the story and the solution. ‘The central tenet of this book is the one big change the government need to make, apart from money reform, is that they do less’.   Privatisation is the way to god’s kingdom on earth.

Chapter 1 is a case study.  I’m in luck because Frisby is talking about my city. ‘How the Most Entrepreneurial City in Europe Became it’s Sickest’.  He tells us how in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Glasgow became ‘enormously, stupendously rich’. And it happened quite ‘organically’. Skip to the twentieth century and these entrepreneurial people became something else. ‘Heroin capital of the UK… murder capital.’ No Mean City.

But let’s start with the fairy tales.   Glasgow’s economic fortunes began and ended with the Clyde. ‘100 nautical miles closer to America’s east coast that any other British ports’. And during the time of sailing ships this offered a significant advantage. ‘The journey to Virginia’ for example, ‘was some two weeks shorter than the same journey from London’. Tobacco was a lucrative crop. This is his model of good capitalism at work. Tobacco lords creating a trading hub distributing the seed corn of capitalism in which everyone prospers.

Let’s take a step back and look at this in a different way. Geographical advantage is a given, but Scottish merchants were frozen out from transatlantic trading by the English government and the Darien Scheme in the seventeen century had almost bankrupted its government.  The English monopoly was replaced by a duopoly the English and largely Glasgow based tobacco barons. Trade was protected by the Royal Navy.  The goal of the tobacco lords in Glasgow was to capture the whole market. Monopoly capitalism works in that way and they did this successfully by bribing custom’s official, or in other words, theft. They paid up to 50% less than their competitors in tax. Of course if nobody paid tax the Royal Navy would not have been able to protect their boats or cargos. Every capitalist is a pirate and it’s not just trade winds that help.

By the turn of the twentieth century, Glasgow is Britain’s Second City.   ‘Between 1870 and 1914 it produced as much of one-fifth of the world’s ships and half of Britain’s tonnage.’  The turning point he suggests was the First World War.  Here’s a thought.  Too many of the ‘the entrepreneurs, the ideas men, [sic] too many of them were dead or incapacitated’.  There’s a problem of logic here, who or what is he talking about?  Would, for example, Lord Kelvin have come back from the war with shrapnel wounds and say that’s it I can no longer postulate a theory of thermodynamics? Who are these missing men and what are their ideas? If we don’t know how can we rationally discuss it?’ But if the reader moves onto the next qualifying line a clue is offered. ‘There was insufficient money and no appetite to invest’. ‘Insufficient’ for whom? And to ‘invest’ in what? In other words the landed gentry had made an aggregate loss during the war and they weren’t happy about it. They demanded a refund.  The answer of course was liberalisation. If you study newspapers of that era you’ll see the fuss about the lower classes coming back from the war and not being content with becoming servants.

Frisby shows how Glasgow’s endemic problems of poverty, ill health and lower-life expectancy was because they took the wrong path, because of ‘Red Clydeside’. For example, in ‘1911, 11 000 workers in the Singer sewing-machine factory went on strike to support twelve women workers who were protesting about a new work practice’. Glasgow housing was overcrowded, had bad sanitation and was ‘dirty and noxious’. Landlords were attacked for being unpatriotic and the government intervened to peg rents during a rent strike. In ‘Bloody Friday’ the prime minister deployed 10 000 tanks and troops onto the city’s streets.’  Worse was to come during the 1930s Glasgow became the main base of the Independent Labour Party. These are event which I can look back on with pride, but for Frisby a straight line runs from them to junkie city and serves you right. Do as you’re told and die then you’ll be happier. I could make the same request, fling him away and hope Mr Frisby and his ilk don’t return. If you want to read an adult account of economics read Piketty.

http://unbound.co.uk/books/lily-poole