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July 19, 2015

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Matt Moore

Good post. I would add one further problem: institutional capture. Politics here is starting to look more and more US, in that concentrated interests of small groups are disproportionately powerful. Bankers, trade unions, the BBC, bloated corporations, QUANGOs. The UK's system is pretty good (relative to other nations) at solving the problems identified by public choice economics. But not near good enough. Solutions might involve MPs having blind trusts, longer periods of ineligibility for roles after leaving parliament, stricter rules on conflicts of interest, paying MPs more, far more visibility into lobbying and ministerial meetings, plus push-factors like more and better consumer representation.

Adrian Perry

I weep that this is the first sensible analysis I've seen for five years.

Metatone

@Matt Moore - while they may be bloated corporations, I think you have to include the "outsourcing-government complex" (from the consultancies (e.g. Deloitte, PwC) to the providers (e.g. ISS, Serco) as a serious concentrated interest.

@Adrian Perry - all the more so because these are problems the country has and there's no analysis on the other side of the political spectrum to Chris about them either.

e.g. David Smith, one of the old hands of Tory style economics from his post writing at The Sunday Times has a new book and it's long on history and very short on thoughts on trying to tackle these problems.

Phil

How far is Corbyn's platform from your analysis, really?

ben

I actually agree with Blair on his analysis. Trouble was he was a cynical b@stard who used this as cover for printing "growth" via land thereby increasing the burden on the young in the medium term.

We need to tackle land costs in the UK first and foremost. How do you manage a business better when your land costs have tripled?

rogerh

Labour is a political party not an economic miracle worker. Many of the problems you point out seem beyond the pay grade of politicians - they can't solve them. So trying to create a manifesto of hopeless policies seems doomed and phoney. Blair was in the right place at the right time - the Tories lost through sleaze/incompetence and Blair made Labour look an acceptable alternative. And that is all Labour has to do, ever, look like a credible alternative.

The unions are becoming a political burden, a privileged group isolated from the majority. The Tories seem to be eyeing the Chinese governmental model with a view to cutting back democracy and increasing the power of the state (via the consultants and outsourcers). This will become more visible and Labour could exploit the reaction. In reality a Labour alternative will make little difference but will at least look different for a while.

An Alien Visitor

"Politics here is starting to look more and more US, in that concentrated interests of small groups are disproportionately powerful. Bankers, trade unions, the BBC, bloated corporations, QUANGOs."

Maybe Matt Moore, that servile sycophant of the 'entrepreneur', can list the legislation and direct us to the policies that prove trade unions have disproportionate power?

"How do you manage a business better when your land costs have tripled?"

How do you manage a household when real wages are tumbling?

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/dec/04/british-workers-suffered-biggest-real-wage-fall-major-g20-countries

aragon

What can I say, I am a I am a sucker for Techno-Utopianism and not a Brailsfordism or Reformist.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reformism

I haven't read it, as I am too familiar with the issues but it was a bests seller in the States (nytimes booklist).

The Zero Marginal Cost Society
The Internet of Things, the collaborative commons, and the eclipse of capitalism.
Jeremy Rifkin

"The capitalist era is passing... not quickly, but inevitably. A new economic paradigm—the Collaborative Commons—is rising in its wake that will transform our way of life."

Other books address the future of capitalism, or it's collapse.

It is always interesting to read someone more extreme than yourself, on both sides of the issues. Intellectual curiosity.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/we_are_all_greeks_now_20150712

"The poor and the working class in the United States know what it is to be Greek. They know underemployment and unemployment. They know life without a pension. They know existence on a few dollars a day. They know gas and electricity being turned off because of unpaid bills. They know the crippling weight of debt. They know being sick and unable to afford medical care."

I don't agree with the totality of Chris Hedges positions, but he has a point... [Huston we have a problem...]

[...]

"It is the death of the civil society."

[...]

"It is a vicious form of class warfare. It is profoundly anti-democratic."

See! Jeremy Corbyn is a moderate, in the centre ground! I don't share his view on peace in our time.

But politics is the province of Snake Oil Salesmen and Knaves (Tony Blair et al). So no hope there...


Laban Tall

I never knew a man who was so good at identifying individual trees and so bad at working out what the trees collectively constituted!

Phil

The issue of public sector productivity stagnating raises it's head again here. As a former ONS staff member, who worked briefly in the UK Centre for the Measurement of Government Activity (UKCeMGA), it's important to remind people to take measures of government productivity with huge quantities of salt.

Ask yourself this, while measuring inputs to government services, while not without it's complications, is relatively straightforward, how do you measure the output for government services? For services that are largely given away for free? What is the output of the school system? The NHS? The Police? prisons? Probation? How do you measure it? Value it?

Conventional national accounting measures output for non market services like government as the sum of (certain) costs meaning no improvements in productivity are measurable. The UK Atkinson Report covered this in great depth, but ONS would probably admit that the approaches used were not perfect, if not seriously flawed hence why this whole area of work has been quietly shelved.

Yet the myth of no improvements in public sector productivity has become part of the accepted narrative, it would be good to see this blog take a deeper look at this received wisdom with the critical eye which is the reason I read this excellent blog.

John

Paul Bernal is living in a fantasy world. Why should free entrance to national museums be considered radical? It costs almost nothing. A national minimum wage means little by itself. Even hard right US Republicans favour a national minimum wage. The issue is the rate at which the minimum wage is set. The Human Rights Act and Freedom on Information were long standing Labour policies are mere crumbs.

If you're hell bent on passing reactionary Thatcherite legislation you'd better throw your base some trinkets to mesmerise the idiots. For example, fox hunting, free museum entrance or the Human Rights Act and Freedom of Information that you correctly assume will do nothing to constrain you in government.

In any case, Chris, given that Labour had thirteen years in power with effectively no opposition, it could have, if it had so wanted, done all of what you desire and more. Why didn't it? The answer is simple: because it didn't want to. And it didn't want to because it never even crossed its mind. Working people, poverty, a sound economy are alien concepts to the Labour Party. It is at home talking about "aspiration" (professions) and "entrepreneurship" (finance) and "wealth creators" (the rich) and telling lies so as to go to war and leave entire countries devastated.

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