Threat to our Rights as we slip into the Post-Democratic Era

Quote

Whilst we argue over semantics, we miss the erosion of our Rights

In the worst cases, governors can be rather like the jury that was dismissed from a high-profile trial last week: ill-informed and not able to make good decisions”; this is what BBC News quote Sir Michael Wilshaw Ofsted Chief Inspector of having said to support his call for some school governors to be paid.  Apparently Sir Wilshaw, who is also Michael Gove, the education secretary’s  ”hero”, in a speech today will cite “ weaknesses in leadership, including governing bodies, were a common problem among the 6,000 schools rated less than good“.

This comes hot on the heels of Sir Michael Wilshaw the judge presiding over the Vicky Price Trial, describing the jury as having “absolutely fundamental deficits in understanding“; because 10 of the 12 members couldn’t agree upon a verdict and that they asked questions seeking advice.

I’m not attempting here to debate the abilities of everyone to be an effective school governor, nor even jury member; my concern is that within a week there are two knights of the realm in the news claiming the general public are effectively not able, to carry out civic duties.

The notion that people in general are not capable is not only offensive but I believe untrue, I can’t help but think this is nothing more than posturing in an attempt to justify the ongoing erosion of the civic & political rights of the general populace

For me, this is an attempt to further undermine the confidence of the people, in, the people. It coming at the time, when most people are becoming poorer via the struggling National economy and therefore in need of a greater amount of State Support, is I believe, another example of the Elite playing divide and conquer. While we argue on the abilities, or lack of, in each other we fail to recognise the reality; we are losing another right every week; the loss of legal aid will result in little or no access to natural justice, fewer employment rights leaves us at the mercy of Company owners, the effective removal of living space via the commonly known bedroom tax means a depletion in our right to privacy , increased powers for the Police to ‘kettle’ demonstrators disallows our right to assemble, etc.

The loss of these Rights might appear as unimportant as we struggle to make ends meet but this is exactly what the Government and the wealth holders want, they continue to profit in both finance and power believing the people too bemused to understand the bigger picture.

And I’m truly worried that they may be correct??

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-21593576

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/oct/14/michael-wilshaw-new-ofsted-chief

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/feb/20/vicky-pryce-retrial-jury

http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2013/feb/20/vicky-pryce-trial-10-questions

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/feb/20/vicky-pryce-jury-can-reach-majority-verdict

Related Think Left posts:

Cameron attacks our hard-won ‘Right to Challenge’

What does Leveson tell us about the Tories and their plan to wipe out state services?

Labour Should Be The Party of Civil Liberties

Are we already in the post-democratic era?

The NHS and TINA – Mrs. Thatcher’s ideological, anti-democratic, political legacy

Straight-Talking Labour

Would collapse in LD vote help Labour in GE 2015?

Quote

Really, I want the Lib Dems to do well in Eastleigh…

First posted on February 26, 2013 by garryk99

On Thursday the most interesting by-election of this Parliament takes place.

Eastleigh, recently vacated by the disgraced Chris Huhne, sees the two Coalition parties fight it out. It is a Liberal Democrat stronghold, held since 1994. Even Labour’s 1997 landslide resulted in only a third place with 26.8 % of the vote.

Here is the 2010 result:

General Election 2010: Eastleigh
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne 24,966 46.5 +8.2
Conservative Maria Hutchings 21,102 39.3 +2.1
Labour Leo Barraclough 5,153 9.6 −11.5
UKIP Ray Finch 1,933 3.6 +0.2
English Democrats Tony Pewsey 249 0.5 N/A
Independent Dave Stone 154 0.3 N/A
National Liberal Party – Third Way Keith Low 93 0.2 N/A
Majority 3,864 7.2
Turnout 53,650 69.3 +4.9
Liberal Democrat hold Swing 3

This by-election raises issues for left-leaning voters. Who do you vote for when the only real contenders are in Government delivering policies that are diametrically opposed to your principles?

This is the dilemma that  First-Past-The Post poses across the country. It turns the decisions made in elections from working out the best choice to calculating the least worst. Framed in this fashion then, what is a Labour and Green supporters least worst option, assuming your priority to to remove this Government?

The answer is quite clear – vote Liberal Democrat. That’s right – vote Liberal Democrat.

In 2015 the Liberal Democrats will be fighting 57 seats. Of these, in 38 the Conservatives are the second place party and Labour are runners-up in 19.

Below is a table with the effect of different swings from the Liberal Democrats to the Conservatives and Labour on the seats that Liberal Democrats would lose.

  1. Liberal Democrat
  2. Conservative
  3. Labour
Swing Achieved Gain for Conservative Gain for Labour
5 % 15 0
10 % 30 2
15 % 37 5
20 % 38 18
25 % 38 34
30 % 38 38

For example, should the Conservatives get a swing of 5% from the Liberal Democrats in these seats, they would take 15 seats. Should Labour get the same swing in the same seats, even a static Conservative vote would result in no gains whatsoever.

Next, seats where Labour are second:

  1. Liberal Democrat
  2. Labour
  3. Conservative
Swing Achieved Gain for Labour Gain for Conservative
 5 % 7 2
 10 % 13 4
 15 % 17 9
 20 % 18 16
25% 18 18
 30 % 19 19

Here a 10 % swing from Liberal Democrat to Labour would gain Labour 13 seats, and the same swing the Conservatives with a static Labour vote would win 4 seats,

The end goal of removing the Conservatives in 2015 is hampered seriously if the Liberal Democrats lose ground in the south, south east and south west where Labour are not contenders. Every seat the Conservatives win makes the job of Labour harder.

By-elections since 2010 strongly suggest that the Liberal Democrats have suffered serious swings to Labour, enough to virtually eliminate them from most urban areas, the north and the regions. Labour have also gained on the Conservatives.

The pincer movement of Labour gains in the north and urban areas and Liberal Democrat holds in the south would be fatal to David Cameron’s attempt to even be the largest party. UKIP making taking Conservatives votes would simply compounds the Conservatives in a triple squeeze

So if you live in a seat Labour are a poor third, allowing the Conservatives win by not voting Liberal Democrat really is cutting of your nose to spite your face.

Perhaps you should try one of Polly Toynbee’s nose pegs?

 

Economics in crisis – it needs a ‘Reformation’

Quote

With great insight, Chris Waller draws the parallels between the state of the Church in the 16th century and the state of contemporary economics (1):

Economics needs its Reformation, not only a new theoretical basis, if one can be found, but more importantly, the financial economy needs to be taken out of the hands of a small and overly powerful clique – a clique which, like the Church of Luther’s day, has been shown to be not only corrupt but criminally incompetent in the very matters in which it claimed to have special insight and expertise. Economics in the twenty-first century is in the grip of the very same mind-set that impeded any possibility of intellectual progress in the 16th century and now stands in need of its Nicholas Copernicus, its Giordano Bruno, its Galileo and its Johannes Kepler.

There are voices out there raised against the current economic orthodoxy but, if history is any guide, those who wield power will do their utmost to stifle anything which they regard as heresy and they will not relinquish that power without a struggle: things will get worse before they get better and the Greek people may well be the actors in what is only the first act of a very modern tragedy. (1)

 

Furthemore… asks Chris Waller … Even if economics were solidly founded in theory, we are still left with the bigger question: what is the purpose of the application of this theory?’

A point also made by Neil Wilson when he writes ‘Let’s stop chopping people’s feet off to fit the New Procrustean bed.  Let’s make the bed big enough for all of us.’ (2) He also draws a parallel between mainstream economics and a religion:

Under a New-Keynesian economic system there must be suffering so that the purity of the model is maintained. And since this religion fits with the views of those with the money and power, it is funded and propagated. (2)

 

‘And when the real world throws up endless evidence that the model is utterly wrong, the mainstream economists scream that, no, the world must be forced back into the model. (2)

 

In the same vein,  Professor Richard Wolff  told Bill Moyers (in the excellent video interview below) that he had to go to a Business school to learn how real world economics works because it wasn’t what was being taught in the elegant equilibrium models of the Economics Department at Harvard or other prestigious Universities.  Professor Steve Keen goes further by saying that there is ‘a paradoxical but transcendental truth’ – Neoclassical economists don’t understand neoclassical economics.

 

The problems outlined are pretty damning.  We are told that ‘there is no alternative’ (Mrs Thatcher’s TINA) .. and yet it is an economic system which doesn’t predict real world events like the financial crisis in 2008; that the real world throws up endless evidence that the model is utterly wrong; that economics in the twenty-first century is in the grip of the very same mind-set that impeded any possibility of intellectual progress in the 16th century; and that since this theory fits with the views of those with the money and power, it is funded and propagated.  Moreover, a system which doesn’t serve society, is justifying ‘austerity’ policies and leaves ‘Greece effectively stretched on the rack, we have unemployed living in pipes, and the Spanish youth left to wander the streets scratching a living and their heads’.

How is this dire state of affairs possible?

Professor Bill Mitchell writes (3):

Some of the body of mainstream theory was applicable to the convertible, fixed exchange rate currency systems that were defined under the Bretton Woods system. Under that system, the government was revenue constrained as a result of the link between currency on issue and the stock of gold held by the central bank. As a consequence, the government had to raise taxes and/or borrow from the non-government sector in order to spend…. By the 1960s, a series of what were called “competitive devaluations”…  were made and set up a series of leapfrogging actions among trading rivals. The system collapsed soon afterwards when it became obvious that the US government could not longer support it.

So, at present, the overwhelming perception that the wider society has of economic affairs, options available to government, causalities between economic variables etc is based on a myth. There is mass deception which is propogated by my profession for various reasons.’ (3)

The system is ‘a complex web of inter-related myths’.

But is there only one strand of economic thought or are there different schools?

This useful but far from complete tree was published in (I think) the Washington post:

w-mmt2

For the mainstream, the disputes are solely between the Neo-Classical economists and the Neo-Keynesians.   But there are also the ignored Post-Keynesians.  Professor Bill Mitchell is a notable omission from the Post-Keynesian list above but that may be because he is Australian.  Professor Steve Kean is also missing from the line under Minsky (but that may be because he is also Australian).

In explaining some of the origins of these approaches, Professor Bill Mitchell writes (3):

‘I have noted in the past that the body of theory we call neo-classical (characterised by marginal analysis) emerged in the fourth quarter of the C19th as a counter to the growing popularity of Marxist thinking and the threat it was posing for the wealthy capitalist class. Industrialists provided funding to economists of the day to develop a theory that would show capitalism to be “fair”. This was the basis of marginal productivity theory, which claims that all rewards taken from the system are in strict proportion to the contribution the recipient makes to the production process.

So wages and profits are alike – each goes to the recipient (worker and capitalist) as a reward for their respective contributions.

Mainstream macroeconomics was built on this microeconomic theory which “proved” that free markets were optimal and self-regulating and that most of society’s ills were the result of government distortions of the market.

The theory has survived despite being internally inconsistent… and lacking predictive capacity.

There are vested interests therefore in preserving a body of theory that promotes, for example, damaging deregulation which has allowed national income to be redistributed to profits and undermines the security of worker entitlements (including their jobs). It is thus not a battle with ignorance but a hegemonic struggle.

However, the elites exploit the ignorance of the majority to maintain these myths.’

Neo –Keynesianism arose out of a synthesis of Neo-classical economics and Keynesianism.  A leading architect is Professor Gregor Mankiw, Professor of Economics at Harvard University, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush and in 2006, an economic adviser to Mitt Romney and continued during Romney’s 2012 presidential bid.  I think it is pretty safe to say that Mankiw is not a Democrat.  He is also author of the mainstream undergraduate textbook Principles of Economics.

In November 2011, some of the students in his Economics 10 class caused a storm by walking out of his lecture. Their criticism of his course speaks volumes as to the current lack of plurality in economic approaches taught in Universities:

“..we found a course that espouses a specific—and limited—view of economics that we believe perpetuates problematic and inefficient systems of economic inequality in our society today … Economics 10 makes it difficult for subsequent economics courses to teach effectively as it offers only one heavily skewed perspective rather than a solid grounding on which other courses can expand. … Harvard graduates play major roles in the financial institutions and in shaping public policy around the world. If Harvard fails to equip its students with a broad and critical understanding of economics, their actions are likely to harm the global financial system. The last five years of economic turmoil have been proof enough of this.”

As Chris Waller writes, in economics just as in the 16th century church, ‘those who wield power will do their utmost to stifle anything which they regard as heresy’.

However, it is clear that not knowing which economic school, politicians and economic analyses are ‘coming from’ contributes to TINA and the confusing ‘smoke and mirrors’ reported in the MSM.  People are ‘turned off’ by the impenetrable jargon and arcane language…

Professor Stephanie Kelton, another advocate of MMT, has created a shorthand  (as explained by Alittleecon).  There are deficit hawks, deficit doves and deficit owls (4):

The hawks are the austerians who argue government deficits are too high, so we must cut expenditure fast. Government should get out of the way and let the private sector do what it does best. George Osborne and chums are definitely in this category.

The doves argue that the private sector is very weak at the moment, unemployment is high and so we must temporarily increase spending to stimulate the economy. They would agree with the hawks however, that generally, large deficits are bad and so we need a medium term strategy to get the deficit down. Paul Krugman is probably the most famous deficit dove, but over here, economists like Jonathan Portes fall into this category, and also maybe Ed Balls (although he often sounds like a hawk).

The problem for the doves is that their argument is easy to tear down with scaremongering about burdening our grandchildren and Greek-style bankruptcy. Because the doves agree these are medium to long term risks, the hawks win the day because they just use the analogy of government being like a household and having to spend within its means. Most people can relate to this, so while people don’t like austerity, many think there is no other way. (4)

But what about the Modern Monetary Theorists and Post-Keynesians?

They are the deficit owls.  They reject the idea that the government is like a household!  Hence, they argue that we do not need a medium term strategy for getting the deficit down because there is never a risk of the UK government being ‘broke’ and unable to pay its bills. (4)

Richard Wolff (and many others) emphasise that mainstream economics is not working, and does not reflect the real economy.  Furthermore, as Chris Waller (and many others) say ‘the financial economy needs to be taken out of the hands of a small and overly powerful clique’.  These are pretty huge indictments.

In addition, the heretics or the alternative, heterodox economists are ignored or pilloried by the mainstream (although, no burnings at the stake to date) but as Neil Wilson, another deficit owl, says:

We can have jobs for all and sufficient income for all. There is no need for poverty. And very likely without having to ‘tax the rich’ either. So we all win.

Let’s harness the output we’re leaving on the table. Let’s stop chopping people’s feet off to fit the New Procrustean bed.

Let’s make the bed big enough for all of us. (2)

If the ‘alternative economics’ was good enough for Roosevelt, Keynes and Lincoln, it makes sense to start listening to the heretics.  Can’t quite picture Ed Miliband as Henry VIII though…

(1)  http://www.economania.co.uk/new-reformation-chris-waller.htm

(2)  http://www.3spoken.co.uk/2013/02/new-keynesian-more-like-new-procrustean.html

(3)  http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=19265

(4)  https://think-left.org/2012/10/15/how-to-be-a-deficit-owl/

Full Show: Taming Capitalism Run Wild

February 22, 2013

Economist Richard Wolff and Restaurant Worker Advocate Saru Jayaraman talk about battling rampant capitalism, and fighting for economic justice.

Even as President Obama’s talking points champion the middle class and condemn how our economy caters to the very rich, modern American capitalism is a story of continued inequality and hardship. Even a modest increase in the minimum wage — as suggested by the president — faces opposition from those who seem to show allegiance first and foremost to America’s wealthy and powerful.

Yet some aren’t just wringing their hands about our economic crisis; they’re fighting back. Economist Richard Wolff joins Bill to shine light on the disaster left behind in capitalism’s wake, and to discuss the fight for economic justice, including a fair minimum wage. A Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, and currently Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School, Wolff has written many books on the effects of rampant capitalism, including Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It.

The economy will doom the Tories if Labour can come up with a plan

Quote

The economy will doom the Tories if Labour can come up with a plan

First posted February 24, 2013 by garryk99

The recent downgrading of the UK by Moodys from it’s AAA credit rating will certainly create problems for the Government.

It will make little difference to the UK financially. The UK’s financial position is well known and money markets will have been building this into prices for some time. Similar downgrades in the US and France have not made a real difference to their borrowing costs.

However, the Chancellor and the Government have had their credibility damaged. The perception of lost credibility is very dangerous, and once lost is hard to get back. In September 1992, just months after a remarkable election victory, Black Wednesday damaged the Major Government permanently.

George Osborne was already looking in a poor position, with his Austerity programme being stretch way beyond the period promised in 2010. Growth has stalled badly.

‘It’s the economy stupid’ is the political reality. It sums the fact that a Government need not be that popular, if the public feel that their jobs and economic future looks secure with them. Analysis of YouGov data since 2010 on this very issue paints the Government in a poor position. YouGov run a tracking poll that asks respondents which party is best for the economy in general. In June 2010 the Conservatives topped the poll with 37% vs Labour’s 26%. However, the poll in February 2013 showed a fall down to 27%. The data is plotted below:

Best Party

The same data has been plotted on a CUSUM chart. This essentially shows the trends beneath the noise:

Best Party Cusum

What is clear is that the Conservatives have been in free fall since around March 2012. This is a reference to the ‘omnishambles’ budget, and they have not recovered since. What is also noticeable is the fact the Labour has not felt any benefit, merely moving from 26% in June 2010 to 28% in February 2013.

The notable beneficiary of this has been ‘None’, moving from  7% to 13%. Quite simply increasing numbers of people feel that no party offers any prospect of improving the economy. They have lost faith in the Conservatives, but don’t feel Labour offers anything better. This finding is demonstrated by the correlation between the Conservative figure and the none figure (-0.75). The correlation of the Conservative to the Labour figure is a much worse -0.29.

The outlook for the UK economy is currently poor for the next few years. There looks to be no prospect of a change in economic fortune that would restore credibility back to the Conservatives. Our main trading partners in Europe are suffering very badly, and the overall picture is one of bouncing along the bottom of a long period of low or no growth.

Labour does have a open goal here, if they can have faith in plan not based on Austerity, but one of serious and sustained investment. The last few months has seen some speeches where Ed Miliband has begun to articulate an alternative, yet this embryonic economic plan needs much more flesh and bone. This plan cannot be Austerity-lite, but something different. The price of not creating and articulating this vision could be to enter the next election giving the Conservatives a chance it simply does not deserve.

Labour failing to beat the Conservatives in 2015 would be unforgivable.