Left Outside

Then versus Now: Or, why all the inequality?

Via, via, via. Click to embiggen, commentary below.

A few things are driving this.

  1. The entrance of South East Asia, then China, then India into the global division of labour and the global market for consumer goods and services. This pushed up returns for the wealthy who could hirer cheaper and sell more widely and pushed down returns to labour as workers had to compete with their ever poorer neighbours (although many goods were cheaper and inflation lower).
  2. A decline in innovation, a la Tyler Cowen. We became much better at doing things from the 1920s-1970s. Most of the modern world was created then and we haven’t created anything like a big a breakthrough as kidney dialysis, chemotherapy, the airplane, TV, refrigerators, air-conditioning, etc., in the last 30 years. The internet is nice, but not a huge boon to GDP.
  3. Some combination of declining returns in the real economy and rent-seeking in the financial sector has caused a shift from real production to finance. With attendant crises and diminished growth. As it became harder to profit from real production capital fled to finance. As finance became more dominant it became more difficult to profit from real production, a vicious cycle.
  4. The above graph looks at US incomes and so overstates the divergence. Policy may be set in the main at the national level but production occurs globally. Many people worse off than those living in the US have become significantly better off. The deceleration from the 1980s in the west is mirrored by an acceleration in the rest of the world. Little comfort to some, great comfort to others.
  5. Policy in the west erred in two ways:
    1. It sought to trade equality for more growth. Taxes were reduced on the wealthy to incentivise them to innovate more. Unfortunately the incentive effects of tax cuts on the wealthy are weak, especially compared to how much more difficult it became to innovate (see 2) or produce profitable non-financial firms (see 3).
    2. Secondly, the decline of trade unionism didn’t just make workers more “flexible”. It also caused a decline in worker “voice” in the workplace. Compensating for this, and I would argue provoked by this, there was an increase in occupational licensing (from baby-sitter to lawyers) and centralised directives to protect workers. Where workers could have once demanded whatever protection was deemed necessary with union backing, they now had a significantly weaker on site negotiating position. Workplaces became more intimidating for workers, and more regulated for employers.

UPDATE: Read Noahpinion (do it, it is excellent) for an expansion and deepening of the argument I make in point 1.

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An Open Letter to Libertarians and Socialists

A spectre is haunting the blogosphere – the spectre of Libertarianism.

Nothing would please me more than to give in to its haunting charms. Libertarianism is neat, it is consistent and it is beautiful. Its economics are marvellously simple; a tidy web of self-interested individuals reaching an equilibrium and prospering.

People can exchange what they have earned for what others have created, and through this voluntary exchange everyone ends up even more prosperous than before. Ad infinitum.

When pure, Libertarianism is consistent too; drugs are yours, as is sex and smoking indoors, so long as you don’t coerce anyone to get hold of them.

Those “without” go with what charity can provide. Those “with” keep it, because there are no grounds for removing it; you own yourself and what you produce. Because when people are free they produce fabulous wealth those without become less and less numerous, and the burden on charity becomes less and less burdensome.

However, like a rubber sheet loaded with a lead ball, Government distorts and tangles this beautiful web, drawing prosperity towards its own centres of gravity and will eventual tear a hole in it.

The only thing that’s warns me away from this beautiful web is the overwhelming body of evidence in favour of Socialism.

Libertarians

Now that I’ve set up the straw man, it is time to flesh him out so that I can explain what I really mean.

As mentioned at LibCon, some people really don’t get Libertarianism and I don’t want to talk about morons like Roger Helmer – Bella Gerens explains what a real Libertarian is to her. No, it is Charlotte Gore, our humble Devil, Mr Eugenides, Tim Worstall and The Economist that I need to challenge.

First things first

The economics of Libertarianism are not what got us here. The world is fabulously but it isn’t the free market that got us here, it was a hobbled, chained and unfree market.

England, Hong Kong, Singapore. I’ll admit that these are the places which got to where they were mostly by the free market, however each is unique in its own way and has little to teach us.

Germany, America, South Korea – in fact, the rest of the rich world – got to where it is today by ignoring Libertarian fantasies and by embracing some form of blatant non-market intervention. This is where there are lessons for those that really need them.

Germany didn’t lead the second industrial revolution when the state “got out the way.” It became an industrial leader when state created entrepreneurs set up businesses and state sanctioned banks created credit for strategic industries.

America is not a free trade nation and never has been, it is the home and bastion of protectionism. It built up its industries not in competition with Britain, but with intense protection from her output.

South Korea’s firms did not compete against each other under the careful eye of a night-watchman state. These firms were arranged into giant chaebols, they were infected with nepotism and were deep in the pockets of Government, yet it produced one of the great miracles of the 20th Century.

Property Rights

In an argument atypical, perhaps anathema, to some Libertarians Tim Worstall argues that…

…creators have rights over their creations because we want to encourage the next creator to create. Nobody gives a damn how much effort goes into creating something, the labour used or indeed any other resource used. All we actually care about is encouraging more people to create more things: and to do so we reward those who have created.

In essence, Tim’s argument is that intellectual property rights – and by extension, all property rights – need to be protected because they make us all better off. By working backwards from results to the system which yields them, Tim gives us the classic Libertarian argument that respect for property makes us richer.

This argument is well worn, although usually presented in a completely different. For most Libertarians property rights are sacred because what you produce is yours, and what you buy with that is as much yours as if you produced it yourself. Tim inserts the proviso that it is also the best way to get the results we all want.

However it is not nearly this simple, sometimes property rights can get in the way of wealth creation, no simple Libertarian rationale will cure what ails us.

Enclosure involved stealing land from those who owned it in common. Yet it helped kick start the greatest wealth creation in human history.

Ignoring or not granting patents on medication has helped increase the quality of life for millions of Indians, and others around the world. The research into treatments and cures continues.

Directing tax revenue towards strategic industries can be beneficial. When the tax revenue of South Koreans was directed towards the manufacture of Microwaves it was neither an area they specialised in nor one which returned a profit. However, they soon became market leaders and the welfare of all was increased.

Property rights don’t need to be treated as a sacrament, in fact it can be damaging to do so.

Beyond Economics…

… Libertarians are generally right.

  • Huffing on a crack pipe? Your choice, a drug’s illegality only makes it more harmful.
  • Girls Aloud murder porn? Your choice, banning it only drives it underground.
  • Smoking in a pub? Your choice, surely this one doesn’t need an explanation.
  • Want a divorce? I won’t force you into a “cooling down period.”
  • Fancy a pint or ten? Sod it, I’m heading to the bar myself, I’ll get them in.

So long as you don’t hurt anyone else, do as you like. But for not one second does the evidence suggest this is a good guiding principle when it comes to economics.

The evidence around us in  points to a system of economics and a vision of the good society that is markedly differnt from that presented to us by Mises or Hannan.

And the Socialist shall lie down with the Lambertarian

Socialism as I understand it, is the only way to a better material existence and a more free life for all of us. A smaller state can be compatible with Socialism, and social liberalism has long gone hand in hand with the left, Socialism is not anathema to what Libertarians want. So join us.

This is our rallying cry. Bloggers have nothing to lose but the chains of an ideologically consistent viewpoint. They have evidence based policy to win!

EMPIRICALLY MINDED SOCIALISTS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

Socialists

Mr Eugenides, Devil’s Kitchen, Tim Worstall (you’re a classical liberal, I know, but sadly there’s no CLPUK), Charlotte Gore, Thomas Byrne, Dave Semple, Chris Dillow, Paul Sagar, Paul Cotterill, A Very Public Sociologist, Will Straw, Paul Krugman and Steven Levitt you are my favourite Socialists and Libertarians and this letter is directed towards you. Discuss.

Further Reading: A Memorandum to Libertarians and Socialists: Part One

Even Further Reading: A Memorandum to Libertarians and Socialists: Part Two

Filed under: Blogging, Economics, Politics, The Media, , , , , , , , , ,

A belated reply to Giles Wilkes on China

I wrote a piece shortly following the publication of the Tory’s One World Conservatism on how it was full of crap.

The recommendations of this paper were not particularly different from the policies of our current Administration. Of course it continued within the dreadful framework of the post-Washington Consensus (and therein lies the problem).

I divided my discussion into several subtopics for easy navigation, as it ran to some 3,000 words.

Contradictions, Choosing Winners and Losers, Gimmicks: “Bhutan’s got Talent”, Turing up in pair of flip-flops offering to build a school, Vouchers, Microfinance, Rejecting Universal Education, Rejecting Universal Healthcare, Fixation on Private Sector Wealth Creation, The Sanctity of Property Rights, Fighting the Wrong Battles, Some good points made it though

One topic provoked particular criticism from Giles Wilkes of freethinkingeconomist and CentreForum fame.

China-60.svgUnder the heading “Choosing Winners and Losers” I criticised the Conservatives for withdrawing aid from China despite it still being particularly poverty stricken. The offending paragraphs follow below.

China and the Chinese are often treated as a political football. Those wishing to vacillate on Climate Change can use China’s pollution as an excuse to do nothing.

It appears that the suffering of the Chinese people in sweatshops, mines and factories is now to be rewarded with a banner which reads “Mission Accomplished.”

Please allow me to put this move into perspective, in 1750 England’s GDP per capita (likewise measured in 1990 dollars) stood at $1,328. In 2006 China’s per capita GDP stood $128 below this.

Today, on the brink of the worst global recession in a generation, China’s GDP pet capita is still only half of what the UK had achieved by the end of the 19th Century. The Tories announce that “Every life is precious” but when those live are collectively labelled “the People’s Republic of China” their well-being becomes a necessary sacrifice.

Giles contends that he “smells a rat.” He argues that I am ignoring the clear differences in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) that exist between modern China and Victorian Britain.

I start with Angus Madison’s data.  In “1990 International Geary-Khamis dollars“, he has China’s GDP in 1800 at about $600.  Two centuries of woe, caused by both internal and external factors, as well as the disasters of totalitarianism, mean that it is still around $600 in 1960.

There is SOME growth to 1980, bringing us to $1000, but then the new freedoms growth starts motoring from a change in ideology. By Madison’s data, this puts Chinese GDP in terms of 1990 dollars at over $4000 in 2003 – in line with IMF figures. In terms of Purchasing Power Parity, it has grown even faster, to $8500 – reflecting, no doubt, the strengthening currency – from $248 in 1980.

Purchasing Power Parity probably explains much of what Left Outside has Left Outside his analysis.  It is what counts in this sort of discussion: what matters is how much you can get for your buck, not the state of international markets in tradeable items.

I have to accept that I was playing a little fast and loose with the facts in my last post. Giles excellently underlines what was “Left Outside” of my post, however the point I was trying to briefly outline remains valid. (Hopefully only slightly wounded by my slapdash short hand argument.)

Left Wing Imperialism

However, Giles oversteps the mark when he accuses me of “Left wing Imperialism.” He is wrong to do so on a number of counts, however for brevity I will try to limit to discussion on China’s relative wealth and poverty. More general discussions on aid and global justice along Marxist, Rawlsian and Humanitarian lines will have to wait for another time.

No one is going to argue that China’s per capita GDP is not still very low. Using the IMF’s Data Mapper China’s 2009 per capita PPP GDP at current international dollars is $6,546. As Giles argues this is significantly more than our Victorian forbears, however the structure of China’s society makes this simple fact increasingly difficult to map onto concrete reality.

Firstly, I would like to turn to Dave Osler’s recent post on Soft Sinophilia, mainly because it caught my eye recently, but specifically because it addresses an important element of Chinese society.

The sycophancy of many on the left to China’s dictatorial, murderous, exploitative, repressive and capitalist rulers is peculiarly disturbing. While China’s GDP has soared since 1978 the results have clearly not led to as widespread a rise in living standards as could be expected. Speaking about a contemporary calculation on the rate of exploitation Dave says…

…perhaps the closest equivalent metric in mainstream economics is the overall wages bill for a given country, expressed as a proportion of gross domestic product. This is, crudely, the workers’ share of the social product. Even despite the onslaught of neoliberalism, it typically amounts to around 55% throughout western Europe.

But a recent study by Chang Xiuze, an economist with a National Development and Reform Commission think tank, revealed that the salary component of China’s GDP dropped from 17% in 1980 to just 11% in 2007. In other words, the bosses are taking a dramatically greater cut.

It appears that the Chinese are getting a smaller cut of a bigger pie. Some would argue that this is a good thing if the pie is big enough, I would argue that this is a sign of the failure’s of China’s economic model and this sort of imbalance will lead to massive problems soon.

Furthermore, Giles argues that the health of the Chinese is one of the most obvious ways in which modern China is a better place to live than Victorian Britain. However,  as always in China it is far more complicated than that.

It is mostly agreed that “wealthier is  healthier.” However, evidence from China is doing a great deal to prove that the form of society and social institutions matter a great deal for how much healthier a society gets for its wealth.

In this paper form the New Left Review (gated) evidence is provided that shows that China is getting healthier far more slowly than other comparable countries as they got wealthier. Again, it appears that the Chinese are getting a smaller cut of a bigger pie. I don’t think this is good enough, because evidence exists from other countries that it can be done better.

According to this report from the UN Development Programme 15.9%  of China’s population live on less than $1.25 a day and 36.3% live on less than $2, my preferred metric. This is the sort of Dickensian poverty which can be missed if you insist on looking at the number of skyscrapers going up in Shanghai.

When you insist on looking at the number of skyscrapers you can be so awestruck by the shear scale of the things that you fail to notice that up to half of the commercial property in the city sits empty.

This dislocate is what interests me. China is no nut, but the sledge hammer that is being used to crack this society is massive.

Football

While I concede that Giles makes some excellent points I find his casual dismissal of my argument that “China and the Chinese are often treated as a political football” somewhat bemusing.

First of all, there is the historical context. In 1949 Mao’s forces declared the foundation of the People’s Republic of China. In the West this was not treated as a mere violent change of government. Repeated, again and again, was the idea that “we have lost China.” We was the West and implicit in that statement is that China was ours to lose in the first place. The fall of China became a central plank of anti-Red hysteria throughout the 1950s and onwards.

China’s many economic successes are used to underline how powerful the development consensus of free-markets and free-trade is.  It is responsible for the majority of those lifted out of poverty in the last few decades. Dani Rodrik argues that China’s development path could hardly be further from the consensus of the last 30 years, and he is right. However, when some argue that it is bogus to include China’s growth and poverty reduction when discussing global poverty reduction strategies they are described as trying to stage “Hamlet without the Prince.”

And the Tories. They want to act tough on aid by cutting help to China. Despite  the dubious ground on which they stand for cutting aid to a country with such manifest problems they were applauded by the right of their party. 60 years ago, 6 years ago and 6 months ago, China is used again and again as a political football.

It is only in the minutiae of real life that the suffering of the Chinese working classes can really be assessed. Per Capita Purchasing Power Parity Gross Domestic Product can’t illustrate the 72.5% of workers who have had their wages paid late or not at all; although perhaps it does include the 6%-12% of GDP estimated to be contributed by the sex industry (page 20 of the preview). I’m no prude, but nobody can fail but to be taken aback by the prevalence of sexual exploitation in China.

The fact is that China is still poor, that there are those in desperate need in China and that the CCP will not provide the assistance necessary to help them.

Further posts will explain exactly why I think that the institutions that helped China to succeed so far as a country of cheap, healthy, educated and disciplined workers are being undermined. I will argue further that the very process of marketising their economy and opening up to the world economy that initiated its tremendous growth, is also undermining it.

My preference is for those involved in multitude of protests, strikes and industrial actions that take place in China on a daily basis to wrest power and control back from those exploiting them. But until then I don’t feel supporting a transfer of wealth, institutions and knowledge from the rich world to the poor as left wing imperialism.

Filed under: Blogging, Economics, Foreign Affairs, History, Politics, , , , , , , , , ,

Harriet Harman: Pointless

Just heard Harriet Harman giving her speech from Brighton.

Clause one of our new Equality Bill will bring in a  legal duty on all public bodies to narrow the gap between rich and poor.  It will be a law that binds all government ministers, and all government departments as well as local government.

Calling such a clause pointless in generous. Totally unworkable, counterproductive and hypocritical would be another.

Harriet HarmanFirst of all it is unenforceable. Are policies to be judged before they are implemented and if so how will unintended side affects be accounted for? Or if they are assessed after the fact, what reprimand would be suitable or fair if the policy was embarked upon in good faith?

Not only that but it is totally out of step with past New Labour form, what about repealing anti-trade union laws or engaging in grassroots democracy instead of inefficient managerialism? Either of these would decrease inequality far more efficiently than this clumsy piece of legislation.

It may sound odd coming from a Socialist, but there are some things which may increase inequality that may actually increase everyone’s wellbeing too. For example, a more flexible and experimental NHS could leave people with unequal access to healthcare, but if it allows experimentation it may help increase everyone’s lot. Such a clause would censure this policy.

Creating a more equal society is not a pointless endeavour but I cannot see the point in this legislation. When we have Conservative MPs attempting to ban unicorns, and Lib Dems grandstanding with calls for savage cuts, I foolishly still like to expect more from Labour. But this is New Labour, rhetoric without substance or a route to realise it.

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Honduran Coup: Zelaya under siege in Brazilian Embassy

Earlier today forces commanded by interim leader Roberto Micheletti surrounded the Brazilian Embassy (H/T Calvin via Socialist Unity).

At some point in the previous 24 hours the democratically elected leader of Honduras Manuel Zelaya returned and took shelter in the Brazilian Embassy.

Following this reports have become increasingly confused, and little is known for certain. For one thing it is claimed that Zelaya’s arrival was a surprise to those working in the embassy, although he was welcomed.

Nonetheless it is clear where the sympathies of the Brazilian authorities lie. They regard Mr Zelaya as the legitimate president of Honduras and say there is no question of either handing him over to the military forces outside or asking him to leave.

One official told me “he is welcome to stay for as long as he wants”

Hondurans in civil resistance surrounded the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa yesterday to greet their returning president. This morning, coup regime troops attacked them violently, sending 24 wounded to hospitals. D.R. 2009 Mariachiloko, Chiapas Indymedia.

In the short term, the overnight curfew due to last from 4pm to 6am has been extended to 6pm and is expected to last into the night. As pictured, many appear to be in open revolt.

Supplies, power and water have been cut off from the Brazilian Embassy and there is something of a siege situation emerging.

Brazil’s President Lula has called for a cessation of hostilities and the immeidate withdrawl of troops from near the embassy. He has also called for Obama to voice his support for Brazil and Zelaya.

The only anti-coup TV station Channel 36 has gone off the air. Radio Globo’s Internet site is down too. There are also efforts to scramble mobile phone usage.

From Al Giodarno

3:18 p.m.: Micheletti blinks:

Honduras’ de facto leader, Roberto Micheletti, said on Tuesday he has no intention of confronting Brazil or entering its embassy where ousted President Manuel Zelaya has taken refuge to avoid arrest.

“We will do absolutely nothing to confront another brotherly nation. We we want them to understand that they should give him political asylum (in Brazil) or turn him over to Honduran authorities to be tried,” Micheletti told Reuters.

Meanwhile, at least two popular barrios in and around Tegucigalpa have defied, en masse, the curfew order and chased National Police out of their communities: El Pedregal and Colonia Kennedy. They’ve erected barricades and declared the coup regime and its security forces non grata.

More information as it comes in. Narco News will carry more up to date information than I possibly could, subscribe.

Filed under: Economics, Foreign Affairs, Politics, , , , ,

Lawsuits from the ’20s/Jackboots from the ’30s

So what do we call these Scum? Anton Vowl asks, what indeed.

The English Defence League claim to have been declared a “proscribed organisation” by the self-proclaimed “anti-establishment” BNP. Yet, their propaganda uses headlines garnered from the mainstream media.EDL

Set up following protests in Luton organised to abuse returning British Soldiers, they are a gang of overwhelmingly (possibly exclusively) white, poor, disaffected football hooligans with a fanatical hatered of Islam.

However rather than being ideological firebrands, the rank and file are apolitical and “their main motivation is actually the beer, camaraderie and chance of a fight.”

Better than Islamists, “brown people” or “foreigners” might be a more apt description for their targets – or it might not – it is quite hard to tell whether their propaganda about targeting “islamification” is genuine or a smokescreen.

Although keen to present themselves as only opposing extremists like Anjem Choudhry, Carl Packman highlights the hostility of the EDL towards all Muslims.

Ray, during the interview conducted by The Stirrer’s editor Adrian Goldberg on Talksport, revealed, however, that it is not just Islamic extremism that he takes a disliking too. The entry explains;

During the course of the interview, it became apparent that Ray’s own view of Islamic extremism isn’t limited to suicide bombers and hook handed preachers of hate.

He argued that the Qu’ran teaches all its advocates to wage jihad or holy war in non-Muslim countries, and acknowledged that on this basis, all devout or practising Muslims in Britain, are – in his words – “at war with our country.”

When pressed, he said:  “They’re ultimately engaged in converting our country to an Islamic state…that is the religious mandate of the Qu’ran that all Muslims must adhere too.”

The organisation, along with another similar Stop the Islamisation of Europe, with divisions all across Europe, has tried its hardest to appear simply against “Islamofascism”, and the apparently slow descent into a totally Islamic state.

A Very 1930s Wardrobe.

Battle of Cable StreetUAF (United Against Fascism) undoubtedly see the EDL as a modern British Union of Fascists, contemporary footsoldiers for the BNP.

In 1936 Oswald Moseley tried to lead his Blackshirts through the Jewish East End of London and was repelled by Jews, Socialists, Irishmen, Anarchists and Londoners. This is the scene UAF and SWP envisage, probably hope for.

This is an unlikely but realistic development from the EDL’s current position. Although the BNP have disowned the EDL – even admonishing them for “marching with negroes” – it seems their mutual disrespect does not extend to Facebook where senior figures remain friends (H/T Eric the Fish).

A modern Battle of Cable Street would not be pretty but it may be on the way. Despite their cowardly exploits so far, it seems the EDL are spoiling for a fight and various Muslim groups are only too keen to give them one.

There is something particularly un-British about Jackboots on cobbled street and it would be hard not to join Lenny’s triumphalism if Cable Street repeated itself. I agree that they must be challenged, but no arguments would be won and it may play directly into the EDL’s arms.

It seems the EDL have struck a chord with some. Their arguments questioning the loyalty of Muslims come not only from their own paranoia and the pages of the Daily Mail, they come from the pages of history too.

A Very 1820s Argument

Anyone who knows anything about the Tudors knows that a lot of Catholics got burnt to death.

Burn Them!

Whether this is entirely accurate or not, it illustrates the difficulties which Catholics have had to endure living in Britain. Since the establishment of the Church of England by Henry VIII Roman Catholicism has been viewed as an existential threat to Britain, and until relatively recently Catholic have been pictured as inferior, feckless and treacherous.

The reasons for this pariah status are many, but the arguments provided then bare a striking symmetry with those deployed by the EDL against Muslims today.

To provide some historical background you have to understand that following the Act of Union between Scotland and England in 1707 the positions of Catholics was enshrined in law as second class citizens. In fact, our constitution still bars them from becoming the Head of State.

Life only began to slowly improve for these poor souls with various Catholic Relief Acts in the 18th Century. While these only allowed them to own property, inherit land and join the army they still provoked riots. While progress had been made since the bonfire-happy 1500s the nineteenth century was still fairly unpleasant place for Catholics.

The slow expansion of the franchise had entirely bypassed Catholics, it was only in the 1829 that the vast majority of the various laws penalising them were repealed. For example, only in the 1830s could they become MPs or senior civil servants.

Catholics and Muslims

First of all, there is the simple pre-existing prejudice that existed and exists against Catholic Irish and Muslim South Asian and Arab immigrants.

It is easy to rationalise hostility to the competing Catholic Irish labour force during the nascent Industrial Revolution, but it is more difficult to explain the brazen Sieg Heils at recent EDL rallies without reaching fairly daming conclusions.

But there are further reasons both groups have faced hostility. These are more complex than simple racism, but can prove just as stubborn to overcome.

Arguments for repressive action against Catholics and Muslims have been couched in terms that portrayed them as a physical threat to the UK. The EDL are quite plain that they consider the recent appearance of Muslims and Mosques an invasion.

The Catholics in early modern Britain were seen as such a threat that Test Acts were introduced in 1672, 1673 and 1678 to “test” those who wished to become public officials. The Long Title of this act was “An act for preventing dangers which may happen from popish recusants.”

The idea of an external Catholic threat to Britain was quite valid at the time, although the threat from actually existing Catholic subjects was negligible.

The King of France had taken in Catholic James II following his overthrow in the Glorious Revolution, and a Catholic invasion was attempted via Ireland soon after. Moreover, the Pope was no mere public figure head in the 17th Century, he was the head of an army and his own Papal states with a penchant for interfering in the affairs of Sovereign nations.

The same challenged is levelled at Muslims today. Under the pretence of helping to avoid another 9/11 or 7/7 Muslims are stigmatised as part of a larger conspiracy just as Catholics were accused of being a part of a “Popish Plot.”

While it probably true that some Catholics were plotting to bomb parliament, just as some Muslims have planned terrorist attacks, it was ludicrous to treat them as second class citizens for the criminal actions of a minority. The threat from a certain tiny number of Muslims has been used and abused to stigmatise the majority. This is as futile now as it was then.

The external threat from Muslims rests on the idea of a unified body politic. Failing this it is argued that Muslims owe a loyalty to the Ummah first, and not their fellow citizens.

The diversity of Shia, Sunni, Sufi and other Muslim sects should be a poweful argument against the idea of any unified force existing, but is seems theology is not be the EDL’s forte.

In retrospect we can see that the contemporary arguments against Catholics seem to hold little more water than their modern equivalents. However, at the time we must remember that there really was a united head of the religion who demanded ultimate loyalty, the Pope.

Of course, for all the theoretical devotion which is demanded by the Ummah – or Pope – the actually existing situation differs greatly from the one proposed by the EDL.

Just as it has proved easy to be Catholics and British, it is equally possible to be Muslims and British.

The arguments that Muslims or Catholics are a threat because they owe a loyalty to something other than the motherland, or fellow citizens, is based on a fundamental misunderstanding. This won’t stop the EDL using it but,  bearing in mind these historical parallels, the majority of the population will not be taken in.

Demographics are Destiny

Ironically, the one thing which made the Catholic’s triumph inevitable has also proved the hardest hurdle for Muslims to overcome: Demographics.

The 1800s saw the Catholic population grow in size, power and influence, while demographic changes did not make the extension of suffrage inevitable it made it possible. Direct action from Daniel O’Connell met broader societal change and helped to smash the old system and bring Catholics into the mainstream.

The paranoia which helped spark the riots which followed the earlier Catholic Relief acts had been disproved by simple experience. The expanding numbers and influence of Catholics was no longer used as reason to mistreat them but as a reason to allow them full rights and respect.

The contemporary account of demographic change is less pleasant. The relative fecundity of Muslims has become a major rallying cry for the EDL. Despite the dodgy figures and sums being debunked the EDL still claim a Muslim takeover is inevitable.

The ideas of a Muslim Majority Europe relies on a series of assumptions so colossal that no demographer worth their salt would back them. Muslim birth rates rarely seen outside rabbit warrens would have to be combined with a lack of integration unheard of outside of southern Spain.

As has been shown time and again, familiarity breeds tolerance and even acceptance.  Today the EDL should be openly challenged, and broader changes in society will do the rest. The numbers of Muslims will increase but not dramatically and the world will not end (personally I hope they see the light and join me in blissful atheism, but that’s for another post).

The changing composition of society proved that Catholics were not bent on world domination and could be trusted. In the following years Catholics made ever greater contribution to society.

Hopefully the same will be said when people look back at this period and the EDL will be relegated to an aside in a footnote on some protests in Luton.

More information on the EDL available from ByrneTofferings and Liberal(Democrat). Pickled Politics, Lenny and Socialist Unity also all carry stories on the EDL. Visit your Pastor for more information on Catholics or email god@heaven.com.

during the interview conducted by The Stirrer’s editor Adrian Goldberg on Talksport, revealed, however, that it is not just Islamic extremism that he takes a disliking too. The entry explains;

During the course of the interview, it became apparent that Ray’s own view of Islamic extremism isn’t limited to suicide bombers and hook handed preachers of hate.

He argued that the Qu’ran teaches all its advocates to wage jihad or holy war in non-Muslim countries, and acknowledged that on this basis, all devout or practising Muslims in Britain, are – in his words – “at war with our country.”

When pressed, he said:  “They’re ultimately engaged in converting our country to an Islamic state…that is the religious mandate of the Qu’ran that all Muslims must adhere too.”

Filed under: History, Politics, Society, The Media, , , , , , , , , ,

High Heels, Low Politics

The TUC has recently put forward a motion attacking the inclusion of high heels as part of any mandatory dress code.

When announced, this provoked a minor furore when Nadine Dorries attacked the TUC and instructed them “to get real, stop using overtly sexist tactics by discussing women’s stilettos in order to divert attention away from Labour chaos and debate something meaningful: like where has all the money gone?”

Reading this motion in the context of Dave’s post it is easy to ask; what is the point of Trade Unions? Like Paul Sagar I’m not a member of a Union, and as much as I joke about it loudly in front of my bosses, I have no intention of joining or forming one soon. I don’t consider my job permanent enough and I’m quite content at the moment blogging (although that’s another blog altogether).

This motion surely proves that the TUC has lost its way. Surely the TUC should be concentrating on things like this, not shoes.

Maybe, on this occasion *gag* Nadine Dorries is right.

Oh wait… Now there’s a surprise! Turns out Nadine Dorries is either intentionally misrepresenting the TUC or has the reading comprehension of a child.

Out of the 85 motions in this TUC document the motion discussing footwear is 81st. This has been explained here by Sunny and here by Nicola Smith, not to mention being plain as day on page 40 of the original proposition that no one is banning high heels. There Dorries, look! a third attempt to explain it to you.

I appreciate that Nadine Dorries is an MP and quite busy, but I do like it when my MPs have a slight inkling what they’re talking about, especially on issue where all the relevent information is 5 minutes of googling away.

In short, The Society of Chiropodists & Podiatrists has recommended that high heels should never be compulsory, as they exert unnatural and dangerous force on the legs and body (please click on insert picture for a more detailed version).

Moreover, compensation for damage done to the employee would not be easy to claim from employers, as it would be near impossible to prove causation for long term foot problems. Where gains are privatised and the losses socialised we should seek correct this imbalance.

In this context this motion is not a “waste of time” or “controversial,” it is dull, dull, dull, bread and butter trade unionism.

The TUC examined the evidence and put forward a modest proposal to stop employers forcing staff to do things which were unsafe. As with most the health and safety recommendation these are dull. It’s silly season, its been fisked (H/T ByrneTofferings) but it has poisoned the public view of unions.

Even lefties now see this basic, boring incremental increase in the well being of working people as the machinations of the loony left. It’s not important, it’s not major, but it will make some people’s lives better without any sacrifice from anyone else.

In a bizarre twist, today’s story in The Sun which Nadine Dorries claims to have written, may not even have been written by her.

Just to provide some context, I challenged Thomas Byrne to write about high heels last night as he was stuck on what to write about (it appears we’re in broad agreement here, yippee!). While I was having a quick look around I noticed that Nadine had a new post in which she writes [my emphasis]:

In the first attack, the article I wrote with Karen Brady in the Sun was referred to. I have been told that apparently, the motion mover said that Karen and I and the Sun newspaper in which we wrote, should be collectively ashamed.

If that wasn’t enough; the seconder (sic) linked me with the Daily Mail and said she doubted that I had ever worked a ten hour shift in heels. Wrong. I frequently work 16.

I applaud the society of Chiropodists for pointing out to me the dangers of this; however, having done so I now respectfully ask them to leave it me and every other high heel wearing woman in the land to decide whether or not we wear high heels in the workplace.

Aside from the strange way in which she manages to agree with the TUC position at the end of her piece there is something else odd about this. Last night the article to which she links, and which she claims credit for, was credited to her and Karen Brady. This is how the byline looks now:

By David Wooding, not Nadine DorriesIf anyone can help me get hold of a cached version of that page from last night or a scan of the original paper, it would be much appreciated. I would also quite enjoy some idle speculation as to why the authorship of this article was originally wrongly attributed, or altered after publishing.

Normally I would suggest the appalling writing style, but I’ve read Nadine Dorries’ blog, and this is Solzhenitsyn in comparison.

Filed under: Blogging, Politics, , , , ,

Burned Deeply into the National Consciousness

While I have been away there has been some discussion on instituting a high pay commission.

Some people on the left have backed this, like Sunny from LibCon. Citing a New Yorker article Sunny argues that “you can blame [this recession] on the sub-prime crisis, confusing government regulation and increasingly complicated derivatives… but actually it comes down to two things: excessive, unchecked greed and disregard for shareholder returns.” A high pay commission would seek to counteract this dangerous and unsustainable greed.

Of course some like Chris Dillow think that a commission will be a big statist bureaucracy and will fail to target the right people. Ultimately Chris argues “high pay should be curbed (or not) not by the state but by workers themselves.” And I feel I have to agree with Chris that a high pay commission would be nothing but a waste of resources.

In my view a high pay commission will be unnecessary, at least in the short term. As John Kenneth Galbraith said when writing on the Wall Street Crash in the 1954, a repetition was unlikely as long as people were chastened by past events.

A good knowledge of what happened in 1929 remains our best safeguard against the recurrence of the more unhappy events of those days… The wonder indeed is that since 1929 we have been spared so long. One reason, without doubt is that the experience of 1929 burned itself so deeply into the national consciousness.

In a way tackling the “bonus culture” may not be necessary. It is patently obvious to the big banks that concentrating on intense short term profits is not a long term plan, and that bonuses contributed to this short sightedness.

The bonuses recently awarded and profits earned are unfair; perhaps even perverse, when you consider that banks would not be trading without Government help. But, without assessing if the investments made are the same kind of short term speculation that crashed the system, a blanket criticism of these bonuses is unhelpful.

The excessive profits of the Financial Services industries and the excessive pay of the top traders is damaging in itself. But, although definitely not a vote loser, a high pay commission is not going to be particularly effective either. The real economy is now being wagged by the financial tail. As Keynes argued, a financial system should be embedded in a real economy; a “bonus culture” was only ever a small part of much larger problem.

In other news: I’m back from Thailand and I feel great! Although the 13 hours layover in Mumbai airport was less than ideal… I’ve been tagged by Dave Semple over at TCF in a holiday reading meme but I’ll be coming to that later. First of all I need to deal with the fallout from my evisceration of the Tory’s Green paper on international development.

Filed under: Blogging, Economics, History, Politics, , , , , , ,

There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning

A big thanks to Jim over at the Daily (Maybe) for pointing this out to me. I hope he doesn’t mind me posting him verbatim, but I couldn’t put it better myself.

Incredible. A court has found that an illegal database was used by more than 40 construction firms to vet 3,213 workers. The list, which was used to blacklist workers involved in trade union activity, has been responsible for ruining the livelihoods of goodness knows how many construction workers.

The company, known as the Consulting Association, was set up by a number of construction companies and Ian Kerr, 66, of Avoncroft Road, Stoke Heath, Worcestershire had run the list for around fifteen years, making half a million pounds in the last five years alone.

Kerr was fined five thousand pounds for ruining people’s lives over fifteen years. Just over three hundred pounds a year then. Laughable.

The BBC tells us that “Mike Abbott, 77, from Wigan, Greater Manchester, was named on the list in the late 1970s and said he was only offered two jobs in one five-year period.

“I couldn’t feed my children because of that list and all Kerr gets is a £5,000 fine,” he said. “I am very angry about what he did to me and many others. But he was just a front for all this.”

After the hearing Kerr’s car was surrounded by construction workers as he tried to drive away and one of whom screamed “Are you proud of yourself are you?”

More to the point is the law proud of itself? It may as well come out and say it approves of union busting – five thousand pounds is just an insult.

This story couldn’t be a more obvious example of employers banding together to shaft the working class. It’s not so much the poor these people dislike – dislike enough to bankrupt and ruin – it’s just the uppity poor, who want health and safety regulations applied, a living wage or those arrogant enough to form a Union.

The left is often accused of screaming “Class War” and of engaging in the “politics of envy.” However, as Warren Buffet himself has made clear: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Filed under: Blogging, Economics, Politics, , , , , ,

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