In which Karel Williams shows himself to be an ignorant numptie

An interesting statement here:

There has been no sustained increase in British manufacturing output since the 1970s

And then the truth:


Oh, right. So there has been a sustained increase in UK manufacturing output since the 1970s then.

At which point we can ignore everything else that is being said here because he\’s obviously operating in an entirely alternative reality.

This is not an argument against industrial policy per se, but against the antidote fallacy which encourages the unreal expectation that an industrial policy focused on an aspirational economy can deliver the competitive success that has eluded British manufacturing since the war. This will end in disappointment and right now does not start the necessary debate in the UK about what kind of private sector we want and the policies that can get us there.

It would make much more sense to start with the foundational economy, which sustains the infrastructure of everyday life via utilities, food and supermarkets, health, education and welfare. The foundational economy currently employs nearly half the workforce distributed throughout the UK. For example, the foundational economy includes food processing: our largest manufacturing sector and a powerful lever for import substitution. And the foundational economy is all that\’s left across large areas of the north and west of the UK which need industrial policy in a way that the Thames Valley and the M11 corridor do not.

The UK needs a different kind of industrial policy. First, to stop the disorganisation of health and education provision in the name of competition which covers corporate looting of the contracting state. Second, to curb point-value calculations like those of the supermarkets who deliver shareholder value and low prices by capturing the margins of British food processors and producers. Out of this kind of industrial policy would come a learning which ensured we did more than vary Thatcher\’s mistakes.

Sigh. That desire for \”competitive success\”. \’S\’ funny how none of those desiring that or looking for it ever seem to note the one area of the economy in which the UK is in fact world beating. The City.

And absolutely everything they complain about about The City is exactly what you get if you have any economic sector at all which is world beating.

Increased inequality? Well, if any sector is indeed making money off the 7 billion around the world then yes, wages there will be higher than in the economy which serves the 60 million of us. This would be true if we had a globally competitive textiles industry.

That all the bright people go off to make their fortunes in this sector? Sure, same would be true if it were British car manufacturing exporting to the world.

The government in that sector\’s pocket? Why wouldn\’t that happen if it was farming, or pottery, that was the one bright spot in the UK\’s value added landscape?

For all of these things are just what happens when you\’ve got one sector which is indeed, head and shoulders above everyone else, globally competitive. That it happens to be finance now is just that, happenstance. The effects would be the same whatever sector it was.

Karel Williams is professor of accounting and political economy, Manchester Business School

Ah, yes. A follower of the Ritchiebollocks school of economics. Heavy on the accounting and politics and knowing little about the economics.


18 thoughts on “In which Karel Williams shows himself to be an ignorant numptie”

  1. You know perfectly well that making money by ‘making money’ is a business that no leftie would dream of dirtying his/her hands with. The whole process of conjuring a profit without breaking into an honest sweat is anathema to the whole tribe. The only ‘industry’ allowable is smoke stack related (shortly to be outlawed as CO2 producing) or at the back of a bothie on a foot turned lathe. Oh by the way, cerebral hot housing at university does not count as it is difficult to measure the benefit to human-kind, especially with drivel of this sort, so they can do that.

  2. S’ funny how none of those desiring that or looking for it ever seem to note the one area of the economy in which the UK is in fact world beating. The City.

    The one area? I’d say the Aberdeen oil and gas industry beats anywhere else in the world hands down.

  3. “It would make much more sense to start with the foundational economy, which sustains the infrastructure of everyday life via utilities, food and supermarkets, health, education and welfare. The foundational economy currently employs nearly half the workforce distributed throughout the UK. ”

    Karel Williams,

    Coached by noted ‘visionary’ and regular visitor from a the land of ‘progressive utopia’ on a far away planet, friend of recently departed Eric “Joe was misunderstood” Hobspam – Ed Miliband.

    Er…………………. burning question Karel – OK the City can carry on selling indulgences, plus consultancies advising on nouveau ponzi schemes and with all the legal eagle smoke and mirrors.
    But in the end – who pays for it, for it surely follows does it not, that, no manufacturing= no goods= no effin money= no effin taxes for the City to sponge off.

  4. I’m an MBA student at Manchester Business School so naturally I follow the MBS ‘News’ account in twitter.

    On the day of the Chancellor’s autumn statement I was stunned by what they were tweeting. It was like a Labour Party twitter account. I was do offended I pulled them up on it and was told the views they were tweeting were those of their Professors/academics.
    So why didn’t you put the tweets in quotes so we at least know you are quoting someone? Silence.

    It’s one thing for a school to be leftie but to do it in such disregard for their students is staggering.

    So I’m not surprised at this Professor’s views

  5. Tim, what’s the source (if raw data even better) for your graph. I would like to make it a note of it for future use.

    Tim adds: It’s the “index of manufacturing” from the ONS. Be slightly careful as there’s one with oil and gas in and one without. This is the one without.

  6. Don’t forget that producing 1000 tonnes of cheap consumer tat worth tuppence ha’penny is much better in Guardian land than one small piece of highly valuable engineering (a jet engine say). Its volume not value that they consider important.

  7. Is the financialisation of Britain’s economy just “happenstance” though?.. wasn’t it deliberately engineered by Mrs T (and Ronnie in the States) in the 80s?

  8. Edward,

    Yes, without manufacturing we would be somewhat short of goods. But we don’t have to make the goods ourselves. Worldwide there is no shortage of manufacturing and therefore no shortage of goods. And there is money to be made by acting as distributors of the goods manufactured both here and elsewhere. Oh, and that includes money in its various forms – which in the financial world is a good, really.

  9. “Industrial policy” is the problem. If government would just leave businesses alone, they would thrive. Government can only throttle business. It limits prosperity. It cannot create prosperity, it can only prevent it.

    “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.” – Ronald Reagan, 1981

  10. Williams’ “foundational economy” seems to be a mixed bag of manufacturing (food processing, maybe education), repair & maintenance functions (healthcare), and distribution (supermarkets). Given the eclectic nature of this mixture, I’m wondering what he considers to be NOT part of his “foundational economy”, and why. It isn’t even a Ritchie-style “public sector is the foundation” argument, since he includes shops and food processors. It appears to amount to his definition of what is needed for “everyday life” – and it doesn’t include things that many people would consider essential, like cars. It’s still foie gras, just a different variety of goose.

    Williams’ incorrect statistics I think are explained by the fact that he appears to think that manufacturing that uses imported goods as inputs isn’t really British, and neither is manufacturing by companies that are owned by foreigners. He goes on about broken supply chains and the “wrong ecology of ownership”. Anyone would think we were still in WWII, desperately trying to be self-sufficient in everything because of the risk of goods shipments being torpedoed, and scared of foreigners because they might be spies. The fact is that we can’t be self-sufficient in raw materials because we aren’t rich enough in natural resources, and FDI diversifies and enriches our economy.

  11. Even more significant that rate of increase in manufacturing output was highest under that evil Thatcher woman – you know, the one who destroyed manufacturing in Britain.

    Most of that increase just restored us to the situation that we had before the massive decline that happened under the dynamic ‘winner picking’ Labour governments that preceded it. Furthermore the period under St Tony and his ‘genius’ chancellor was at best anaemic in increase and even at it best less than that achieved under Thatcher’s ” bland” successor Major.

    It’s well past time that this sustained and wicked lie of the left about the Tories and manufacturing was refuted. I think every left wing commentator should be forcibly restrained in front of this graph, while these truths were repeated until they recant.

  12. …..I’d say the Aberdeen oil and gas industry beats anywhere else in the world hands down…..

    Problem is Tim, the plebs on the street and in the Guardian are completely unaware that manufacturing is mainly a business to business activity. If you can’t buy it on the high street, it doesn’t exist.

    I have lost count of the number of people who have said to me “the problem with Britain is we don’t make anything anymore”, a sentiment that is completely tied to the death of mass produced British owned car manufacturing. As if there is nothing else being manufactured anywhere.

  13. Yup the whole point of engineering is to reduce manual labour, increase productivity. The UKs been getting better and better since 79

  14. @ Frances #14
    Basically it’s consumer stuff that he notices consuming. After all, that is that matters to him. So he includes food processing but not food production (farming etc). A Business School professor doesn’t grow or even buy carrots, peas, or fruit, nor cook: that would conflict with leftie theories of behaviour: he is served a meal in a restaurant or by his wife/au pair when he gets home. It is usually only right-wing men who think they ought to grow their own vegetables and/or cook their own food [that was written as a “clever” remark but is actually true in my experience]
    For this lefty academic, export industries, farming, oil & gas: the things that ultimately pay for the rest don’t matter.

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