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December 31, 2015



"With these words, Joe Stalin showed an understanding of one of the tricks of wielding power..."

Except Stalin never said that. Erich Maria Remarque said something close to that. As Abe Lincoln used to say, "you can't believe those quotes you read on the internet."


This is a completely unfair attack on Stalin. Which is a pity, because the rest of it is very sensible. I don't know if it is laziness or Trotskyism which leads you to this casual dragging in of Stalin, but it should be resisted as firmly as an instant invocation of Hitler.


And yet my son, no political neophyte, (he became the de facto Occupy organiser in the university city were he lives, has a social science degree, manages a charity shop, has a girlfriend with a politics degree who stood for the Green party at the GE and is still an activist) announced that they reckoned they were better off under the Tories when he was down for Christmas.

We didn't have time to explore it but something is wrong if he has reached that conclusion.

Don A in Pennsyltucky

While there are more than two kinds of people, it is convenient to note that those who are comfortable and privileged may consider parts of the modern oligopoly annoying, they really don't want to start tinkering with it. Then there are the others. You know, "them". The ones Mitt Romney called "takers". The ones that are demonized as slackers. They get government assistance directly rather than as subsidies to their enterprises. These are the powerless and yes, Stalinism does keep them that way.

Jim Harrison

I don't know if Stalinism is the right word for it. Conservatives have long been suspicious of statistics. It's a corollary to the you-lot-love-mankind-but-not-anybody meme. I draw a different inference. If everybody matters, if we should treat people as ends, not means, then counts and averages matter because every unit is in fact a somebody. Of course the whole essence of conservatism is to deny the principle, but one man's blood has as much salt in it as another's.


This is poor.

What you are really saying it seems to me is that there are stupid people and selfish people. Some of the people who vote Tory or the equivalent elsewhere are stupid and selfish as they are voting against their real interests; while some are smart and selfish and know what they are doing as they are in fact advancing their self interest by their actions, ignoring the social harm.
Neither group are admirable but you do not need any profound theory about it.

Stalin is a distraction surely? All politicians and indeed other people have a tendency to be hypocrites. Purporting yourself to believe in x set of values while doing y instead seem to be pretty universal faults. Stalin merely did so on a big scale as he ran a big empire disguised as a republic. The failure of other Governments to adhere to their professed standards cannot be laid at the door of one figure like Hitler or Stalin. It lets everyone else who is not quite as bad off the hook. Everyone needs to try harder at being moral and consistent and stop talking balls.


«how modern management:
"deals largely in symbols and abstractions" [ ... ] it's because managers are no longer judged by real effects.»

That's really not quite right: they are judged by the effects that matters, that is by the *popularity* of their actions.

In private sector popularity of managers is measured by the P/E ratio, and rising stock prices, and in the public sector it is measured by votes.

And lack of popularity with the relevant audience is often swiftly punished, consider the fates of E Miliband and N Clegg.

Now in a wonderful ideal world the audiences would decree popularity on the basis of wisely chosen judgements of «real effects» indeed, but this quite often does not happen, and popularity often depends on «symbols and abstractions».

This is my usual argument that the root problem is the voters (or investors).


«popularity often depends on «symbols and abstractions».»

Consider for example the current and past Conservative government: to me it seem that it is the G Osborne cabinet, as he makes essentially all decisions that matter politically and economically, and that D Cameron is the cabinet's PR frontman (his previous job in the private sector). However the PR frontman is prime minister and has real power too.

Why is that? Because G Osborne looks unopopular, while D Cameron's plummy smooth looks and talk are quite popular with the relevant audiences.

And also because voters attribute undue importance to the prime minister's role, the popular guy has to be the prime minister to attract the most votes.

This happened in smaller part before with G Brown and T Blair; in smaller part only because I think that T Blair had his own substance and politics and power based that I think D Cameron lacks.

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