Elsewhere

The alternative to this is that, as Toynbee suggests, we must all be re-educated in order to hate inequality. Then we would ask for, and would get, greater action to reduce it. Democracy would indeed produce what we want but only after we’ve elected another electorate to accord with a Guardian columnist’s ideal society. That seems rather against the spirit of democracy, even it was Brecht’s solution to the same problem.

Attitudes toward inequality do differ across societies, it’s no great surprise that their levels of inequality differ as well.

Timmy elsewhere

Brexit is about to give us a problem with this, though. Karl Marx was right: wages won’t rise when there’s spare labour available, his “reserve army” of the unemployed. The capitalist doesn’t have to increase pay to gain more workers if there’s a squad of the starving eager to labour for a crust. But if there are no unemployed, labour must be tempted away from other employers, and one’s own workers have to be pampered so they do not leave. When capitalists compete for the labour they profit from, wages rise.

Britain’s reserve army of workers now resides in Wroclaw, Vilnius, Brno, the cities of eastern Europe. The Polish plumbers of lore did flood in and when the work dried up they ebbed away again. The net effect of Brexit will be that British wages rise as the labour force shrinks and employers have to compete for the sweat of hand and brow.

Back in The Times.

On the subject of stagnant wages, the rate for these sorts of things hasn’t changed in 15 years. No wonder we hear so much about earnings – it’s journalists who are affected.

Brexit elsewhere

Back to opinion: I’m such an extremist that I insist the very existence of the European Union is a bad idea and that our leaving might be the first tumbling brick which brings the whole edifice down. Yet it is still factually true that the Brexit process is in a bit of a bind. Among those who have to decide, those parliamentarians, there is no majority in favor of any action or deal. And yet the default, without such positive decision making, is that Britain leaves without a deal at all, and reverts to WTO terms.

Myself, I’m shivering with anticipation even as I note that rather a lot of my countrymen disagree.

 

Glad they did put the link in there.

Elsewhere

All of which presumably is why Keynes himself was converted to the idea by 1942. Thus this is what we should do next recession. Forget all those grand spending plans which won’t come to fruition in time to do any good. Cut national insurance so as to leave more cash to fructify in the pockets of the populace. It’s effective, timely, possible and works. The only people who will complain being those politicians who have far too healthy an interest in spending more of ours rather than less. To whom the correct answer is “Diddums”.

Rather fun

To be able to make this point again.

It is true that I don’t – as you may well have realised – share Owen Jones’s vision of what the good society would be. But if he wants us to be more Nordic, it really does mean we should become entirely the opposite of everything Jones urges — radically free market, capitalist and near entirely fiscally devolved societies. I’d still object to the tax rates but bring on the rest, quite frankly.

The value of gradually acquiring new places to write, leaving old ones behind perhaps, is that the few greatest hits as logical or propaganda points can be rolled out again in new clothes and guises. They also develop a little. It is, for example, only recently that I found out this:

However that misses the point that underneath those taxes, the Scandinavians are more free market, even more capitalist, than we are or even the US is. Their corporations are indeed more efficient – because they are deliberately structured to not just emphasise but exalt the shareholder interest.

Isn’t it odd that the literature does indeed state that the Nordic corporate board system is “most efficient” while no one at all recommends that we should all be using it?

This is one way economists describe value

All of these are technologies and all obey the same rules as to who benefits. We have innovators, entrepreneurs, consumers, and some split of the gains between them. Nordhaus’ finding is that it’s us out here, the consumers, who gain some 97% of the value created. Sure, Ford made a fortune out of the Model T, but who gained the value of being able to court in the back seat?

And yes, at least one estimate insists that the rate of virginity upon marriage declined markedly after the car became populist.

Letters in The Times

I make something of a prediction. One that is obviously true, also one that everyone is going to ignore:

EMPLOYERS AND THE ETHNIC PAY GAP
Sir, Further to your report “Employers must reveal ethnic pay gap of staff” (Oct 12), Sir John Parker’s independent review into the ethnic diversity of UK boards found that just 1 per cent of the directors of our top companies are black Britons. The leadership of our professions and government looks little better. Not only are we ignoring the potential of many of our people, the face that we show the world is lamentably redolent of a bygone era for which many of our hoped-for post-Brexit markets in Asia, Africa and the Americas feel no nostalgia.

The government’s proposal for ethnic pay reporting stands a good chance of illuminating this waste of talent and of nudging organisations, both private and public, in the right direction. But it is vital that such reporting is mandatory, otherwise the prime minister’s words will amount to nothing more than a pointless wish list. Worse, it would be a travesty if companies that voluntarily published their data were to find themselves pilloried while other, less scrupulous organisations skulked in the shadows.

Transparency works, but only if everyone is required to be equally open.
Trevor Phillips
Chairman, Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2006–12

Sir, Theresa May’s idea that all employers should publish their ethnic pay gap is going to be expensive and misleading. Expensive because such statistics cost to collect and collate, misleading because the age structure of the population differs by formally defined race. From the 2011 census, the whole population median age was 39, that of the white population 41, Asian, black and other, 30, 30 and 29 respectively, and mixed 18. Pay rises with age, as promotions to better-paid positions are earned through experience.

Populations with higher median ages have higher median wages therefore. No one will pay attention to this simple truth when the figures are announced — thus misleading us all. Given the age structure of the varied populations, ethnic minorities should have lower median pay than whites. This won’t be the reaction to the finding of an ethnic pay gap, though, will it?
Tim Worstall
Senior fellow, Adam Smith Institute

And a decade really is quite a long time in a career and pay structure, isn’t it?

Elsewhere

So it is with fascism, which is rather more than spiffy uniforms and being beastly to everyone not of the Volk. There’s a specific set of economic policies which go along with it, followed by all who themselves claimed to be fascist. From Mussolini through Salazar and Franco to, yes, Hitler and on to such people as Stroessner in Paraguay. Uniforms and beastliness, certainly, but also an insistence that it is the national that matters, the point that an economy should, as far as is possible, be entirely self-supporting. What can be made at home should be so, and trade across borders should be kept to a minimum.

Further, government shouldn’t take over private sector business (that’s state socialism) but should most certainly direct, in detail — define what wages should be, profit margins, who makes what and even how.

An important point that people seem to be missing

So it will be with larger applications. The very point is that they note and act upon patterns – ones that we can’t see, that we don’t know why are happening. Just as with markets – we might not know why the price of apples has risen, but we’re all getting the information that they have and are acting according to that incentive. The desire to audit all algorithms is missing the very point of having them at all.

AI has to be based on real-world information flowing in. For any result to be useful, the system must operate on the same rules as the real world, imperfections and all, and the very point of our doing all of this is to do what we ourselves cannot.

Any attempts to insist on full audits, moral compliance and preferred data aren’t just going to fail – they’re missing the entire point of the exercise.

Maduro’s latest mistake

They’ve seized a printing plant. Something we might even – if we thought like fools that is – think might be useful in a country with a 1,000,000 percent inflation rate. But then there’s the mistake, isn’t it?

Someone really needs to tell Nicolas Maduro that a paper bag printing plant is different from a bank note printing plant. On such misunderstandings is the ruination of a nation built.

Not very politically correct these days

There is also one more point about South Africa, one that’s terribly impolite to mention these days, and someone can even be accused of racism for even thinking about it. The Bantu (that’s a technical term applying to the culture) didn’t actually reach the area south and west of the Fish River in South Africa before the Dutch and English (i.e., the whites) arrived. The area simply didn’t work for the Bantu agricultural basket of technologies. It needed wheat and other European crops before it could be farmed. The inhabitants before that were the Khoi San and the like, just the same people who were displaced by the Bantu Expansion out of West Africa in the previous millennium.

To put it crudely and politically incorrectly, within recorded history everyone there other than the Bushmen is a recent colonialist, white and black together. Quite why we should destroy an economy to benefit one group of such incomers over another isn’t well explained by anybody.

Quite obviously nuts

Yes, yes, of course this is paranoia. The British left could never be that organised, could they? And yet, and yet, there does seem to be an awful lot of thrashing around in search of a justification for The Elect to be bringing up all the children in the country from the very earliest age that it’s possible to influence their beliefs.

Who knows, perhaps the nursery songs to teach them interesting words will feature Pavel Morozov? Pavlika, Pavlika, ya ya could go along nicely to that Kate Bush tune, no?

Elsewhere

On Swiss bank accounts:

Another way to put this is that in an economy not really going anywhere, those who do make something from it have a very strong temptation to extract their gains. But when we’ve got an economy transforming and growing as fast as any has ever done the desire runs the other way.

Not to take money out but to invest and reinvest in that great opportunity. That is, the greatest disincentive to offshoring money out of Bangladesh is the economic growth rate inside Bangladesh.

As ever in matters economic we’ve more than one thing going on. We can state with absolute certainty that all of them are. Our difficulty is in knowing quite how much of each. My preference, prejudice if your prefer, would be to say that it’s the money to be made at home lowering the amount being sent offshore as the greater influence. Feel free to disagree with that as you wish. I do though insist that this is part of it.

Elsewhere

If you or I find ourselves a bit short of money this month then we might skip a utility bill to make it up next month, perhaps dine out a little less, move to a cheaper brand of whatever. The absolutely poor will, if they have less or no money as a result of some calamity, not eat this month. They need that ability to smooth income over time, so as to smooth consumption, even more than we do.

And such smoothing requires being able to save in the relative good times — say at harvest when there is plenty of daily paid work to be had — to cover the hungry weeks.

We can argue about whether the saving ability is more important than the borrowing. But our experience of the use to which people put M-Pesa and the various banking functions within it tells us that saving is considered more important by the poor themselves.

Not for pensions, not for the long term, but just to be able to move money, thus consumption, around in time a few weeks or months and to do so safely. In a manner where putting banknotes underneath the sleeping mat doesn’t manage because thieves and husbands thinking about a drink.

Thus that’s the other thing that we want to add into out anti-beggary campaign. We need the right scale, the right cost, and methods of being able to save. It might just be a few hundred taka that are put aside to cover the food bill if the work dries up, something which a banking system with head offices in Dhaka — glass atriums and air conditioning and all — is never going to efficiently provide.

But that’s what we see the poor want, they knowing best what they need. So, presumably, we should make sure they get it. A system which allows the poor to save is even more important than one which allows them to borrow to invest.