A most strange argument

Imagine a watershed turn of events: a couple of the big unions discovered ballot-rigging, a respected left-leaning pressure group charged with embezzlement, one or two Labour councils found guilty of corruption. Picture the scandals arriving one after the other, and being matched by similar news from abroad. The right would have a field day, making its usual claims about the mendacity and corruption that always infect the left\’s delusions: it would be time, they would say, to finally drive out the last of the Red Menace.

Now, consider the headlines of the last few weeks, and what they say about some of the pillars of the order ushered in during the Thatcher-Reagan years, and left largely untroubled by every government since. The Libor scandal has enmeshed Barclays, and more than a dozen banks are also being investigated, including Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase, and UBS – all suspected of actions that may look like the stuff of financial arcana, but which have had disastrous consequences for millions of homeowners, small businesses and public institutions across the planet. Some financial insiders are talking about nothing less than \”the banking industry\’s tobacco moment\”, referencing the litigation in the late 1990s that cost cigarette manufacturers over $200bn.

Set one is (hypothetical) actual Labour politicians being thieves and knaves.

Set two is (not hypothetical) not politicians at all being thieves and knaves.

Somehow I can\’t quite see the point of comparing the two. We should be comparing either the amount of knavery and thievery which is being done by the politicians of either side or the amount of knavery and thievery that happens among the non-politicians on each others\’ watch, under their respective political policies.

And as to this:

Three or four years ago, I read a brilliant short text by the academic Colin Crouch, then chairman of the department of social and political sciences at the European University Institute in Florence. Published in 2004, it was titled Post-democracy, and was among the most penetrating analyses of the modern condition I have read, not least when it came to the failings of politics.

Its essential point was simple enough: that after the brief postwar interlude of \”maximal democracy\”, the decline of the labour movement and the growth of global corporate power had led to developments that now define too many societies: rising inequality, the demise of redistributive taxation,

Does nobody bother to look at the actual numbers these days? Even by the TUC\’s calculations of the effects of the tax and benefit systems income inequality falls from the market level of 29.something as a multiple of top to bottom incomes to 6.9 times.

What the fuck do you mean there\’s been a demise of redistributive taxation?

10 thoughts on “A most strange argument”

  1. One might add-as you have implicitly done- that nearly all the troughing and knavery happened on Labour’s watch when most of them seemd remarkably pally with the troughers and gougers.

    I suppose it was the Opposition’s fault for letting them.

  2. > The Libor scandal … have had disastrous consequences for millions of homeowners, small businesses and public institutions across the planet

    That bit is weird, too. So far as I’m aware, no-one has demonstrated *any* consequences of the Libor “fixing” at all (other than the effect on the head of Barclays, of course, but I doubt that’s what he means). Or have I been asleep?

  3. “Or have I been asleep?”
    No William, I think you are right. A detailed analysis of the actual effect would be valuable. If anyone can point me at one, I’d be grateful.

  4. But in every case except HSBC, the state was involved, either directly, or by turning a blind eye.

    I don’t care if G4S screw up. I have no relationship to G4s. I don’t want to hear the head of G4S apologising. I want the people who hired them and failed to monitor them (May, Coe, Hunt, Jowell, whoever) to apologise. They’re the people that take my money, and they screwed up.

    You know, Legoland and Swindon Town Football Club don’t have a problem with this. Somehow, they get enough stewards/police together for their entertainment.

    (and while mistakes can occur, to get to the point of being 20% off with 2 weeks to go in a 7 year project means that you simply weren’t keeping a good enough eye on things).

  5. @ Tim Almond
    G4S screwed up but not nearly as badly as the tabloids suggest. They were originally asked, several years ago, to provide 2,500 security guards then, with a few months to go, that changed to more than 10,000. Something to do with a group of American terrorists assassinating a Saudi Arabian billionaire in a third country (Pakistan).

  6. john77 (I hope 77’s your birth year and not your IQ – the cheapest insults hold some currency on this ‘blog’)

    G4S weren’t ‘asked’ to do anything. They entered a tender process that would have included possible contractual alterations. G4S signed a deal ensuring that they would deliver a service as communicated within agreed parameters.

    They ‘won’ the contract because they assured the necessary public sector bods that their private sector efficiency and cost effective management would outstrip anyone else.

    The failure of the public sector is precisely the same as the banking bollocks. Too many public suits listening to a bunch of twats who reckon they can rule the world providing they are given free reign.

    Believe it or not, I worked for CSC. Blaming whatever Government, or the NHS itself, for the utter calamity of the IT infrastructure, is a juvenile fairy tale.

    The private sector screws more things up, more expensively, and with a complete lack of accountability, more often than you can shake your shitty fishing rod at.

    Oh hang on, Mrs Gates thinks condoms are ok. Fuck me, I’m so re-educated.

  7. @ Arnald
    Sometime you might want to go to school and learn some English.
    As part of the terms of their contract G4S were asked to provide 2,500 security guards.
    Years later their client changed its mind and asked for 10,000. So they were not 20% off after 7 years, they were 20% off after a few months.
    Changing the number from 2,500 to 10,000 is not comparable to saying you want an extra coffee machine – it is the sort of radical change that in the private sector would involve a new or revised contract. G4S should have weighed up whether they could recruit 4 times as many in six months as they had in six years before saying yes so they screwed up AS I SAID.

  8. I don’t care if G4S screw up. I have no relationship to G4s. I don’t want to hear the head of G4S apologising. I want the people who hired them and failed to monitor them (May, Coe, Hunt, Jowell, whoever) to apologise. They’re the people that take my money, and they screwed up.

    See, this is the bit I don’t get.

    The people who hired G4S got a good deal. G4S is making a loss in the tens of millions on its contracts, because LOCOG made G4S sign contracts under which it not only got money knocked off its fee for failing to provide staff, but also is responsible for paying the bill for alternative staff.

    The cops and the army aren’t working for free – they’re being billed at the daily chargeout rate (for the cops that’ll be what they charge festival organisers, which is quite rightly a more than decent margin on a PC’s wage; for the squaddies I imagine it’s the same) directly to G4S, separately from their screwing-up penalty.

    The folks at LOCOG who drew up that contract should get, if not a medal, then certainly a pint from the British taxpayer for turning private hubris about easy-contract-wins into a net gain for the public purse.

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