Monday, 30 January 2012

Jobs, growth, doom!

This is a reply I made to John Redwood's Diary today. 12 or more hours later, it's not been passed by a moderator, though lots of others have. Given the crap spouted after the EU summit today, I think it's a debate we should be having.

I’m slowly becoming convinced that full or low unemployment is almost impossible to achieve in the post-automation age. There are very few labour-intensive industries any more, and those that do exist have moved to developing countries where labour costs are much lower.

All parties seem to focus on economic growth as the answer to provide jobs, but at the growth after the 80s recession showed, modern economic growth is achievable with low job growth – in fact is more likely to be employment light.

It only seems logical to me – think of all the industries that have either moved overseas or slimmed dramatically in respect of workforces – shipbuilding, car manufacturing for example. My career was largely in electronic engineering, and even that highly skilled occupation has changed dramatically with design automation and high levels of integration reducing the number of designers needed. Drawing offices have largely disappeared, secretarial and administrative roles have shrunk through the use of computers. Even IT work has been deskilled and wages contrained – and this was heralded as one of the new golden opportunities we should be training people for. The time that the shrinkage in good jobs started to show itself was masked by the rapid growth in public sector employment in the late 90s and early this century.

I simply can’t see where mass jobs are going to come from other than in low paid, low skilled service sector roles. It comes to something when the BBC heralds as good news that MacDonalds are planning to create thousands of new jobs!

Surely the only way to address the future is for a complete shift in our political models that plans for a society that will never have full employment, where business and growth is capital intensive rather than labour intensive?

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Economic growth - wishful thinking?

I've spoken before about being concerned that some of my thoughts are naive or ill-informed (ie "is it just me, or.....") but I'm a bit confused about all the talk of growth - and the reliance on it.

As I understand it, a country's economic growth can primarily only come from two sources - greater consumption by it's citizens and businesses (which surely can only come in any significant sustainable measure by an increase in population) or from exports. In fact, I'm sure Obama said in his G20 speech that for global growth, weaker economies should work to become more efficient and competitive so they can export, and stronger economies should be prepared to open their markets for others.

Problem is, it seems to me, the world is a closed system as a whole. If one country is exporting, another must be importing. The net sum of exports against imports must be zero. Therefore, economies that grow through exports must do so at the cost of other economies.

Looking at the state of our country's debt, and that of its citizens, surely much of the growth our own economy has had over the last couple of decades has been at the cost of running up personal and national debt?

All the plans both domestic and through the EU in particular that rely on growth really do seem to be so much wishful thinking to me - or worse, deceit, a fop to the people to delay the day of reckoning.

Greece, for example. It's said that the only hope for the Greek economy, and the very nation, is for their economy to grow. Even after the bailout and debt write-offs, they can't survive, reduce their defecit and manage their debt. How on earth are they going to grow their economy? The only hope I can see for them is to decouple from the Euro, devalue, and be able to exploit their greatest natural asset - tourism, by becoming a destination of choice again because of the value they can offer with a weaker currency.

Come on, put me straight. To my mind, all the strategies for economic recovery should assume no growth. Any growth there is would then be a bonus.

Waking from my slumber!

It's about a year and a half since I last blogged. I stopped because the things that really wound me up (Labour in power) had changed, and I was hopeful for change.

I'm beginning to feel as pissed off as I did when I blogged before. Not necessarily about things like the "cuts" the coalition are making, because I genuinely believe it is needed. In fact the cuts are not enough, and real dead wood in the public sector should be more vigorously pruned. Most of my ire now is directed towards the EU, and I want to say more about that among other things over coming days and weeks.

I'm tired of the lie that is Europe, and the concealment of the true aim of a federal Europe with the destruction of the sense of nationhood. It's so undemocratic that it's almost hard to believe they're getting away with it.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Brown spotting

I know I've been quiet lately - just had many other things to do, and I'm much less exercised politically right now.

I was lovvely to hear that nice Liam Byrne on the radio yesterday, smarming his oily scaremongering criticisms of the new government's cuts agenda.

What struck me, though, was his response when asked if he'd had any contact with Gordon Brown. He said that Gordon was having a well earned break. We haven't seen anything of him at all, have we?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but did he not decide to stay on as an MP? Has he not got a constituency to represent? And - I assume, he's being paid an MP's salary?

Is it just me, or does this seem just another sign of his contempt for us all? Nice to get paid for not doing anything, eh?

Thursday, 13 May 2010

A new dawn?

I thought I'd better not leave my blog with the last post still talking about the dark days!

So we have a new and rather unexpected government. While they were negotiating, and especially at the time when the prospect of that ridiculous "rainbow alliance" was not out of the question, I still felt very deflated and depressed at the failure of Cam to gain an overall majority.

Since the deal was sealed, and especially after the cabinet was named and after that extraordinary press conference in the no 10 garden, I feel a sense of real optimism. Look at the stark difference in the feel of that press conference and the spirit of the leaders with the last administration.

To see people with a real passion for their subject, who have worked with enthusiasm that almost fizzes, like Gove and IDS to get the opportunity at last to actually DO something is really exciting. Cameron was brave in some of his appointments, and he deserves credit. Clarke in Justice is a great idea too. It wouldn't have been surprising for Ken to decide to take an easy life, but for him to accept the job says so much about this new team.

Go for it, boys. Make us proud of you. We, in the blogosphere will be watching, though!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

The PR debate nonsense......

Recently, and especially in the aftermath of the election, there's been a great deal of discussion and righteous posturing about proportional representation.

I can't say I've ever been that much of a fan - sure, the FPTP system with the current make-up of the constituencies and distribution of voters creates a result that renders a population of MPs that doesn't match the proportion of votes. Maybe that isn't fair, but hey, life isn't fair. I'm not even really convinced that it's necessarily desirable to offer an elected postion to someone who represents beliefs shared by 0.15% of the electorate, which is the logical extension of the PR argument - unless it's not really about PR, but about pandering to the LibDems.

Theres a real issue about the link between voting and identifying your elected representative too, I think.

But the current manoeverings within the hung parliament has really got me thinking. The negotiations, held in private, with all the dealing and horse trading and brinksmanship - this isn't good, is it? This isn't really open democracy.

And under PR, we'd never have another majority government, so this would be the norm. Is that what we want?

So. Debating, holding a referendum on PR is missing the point by a huge margin. It's not the voting system that needs to be reviewed. It's the wider political system - how government is constituted, how it operates, the very values it seeks to stand for.

People point to other countries as proof that hung parliaments or coalitions can work. Well fine. But they aren't the UK government. I'm no expert on foreign parliamentary mechanics, but I bet there are fundamental cultural and structural differences that mean it's much more practical to work in those places.

Just focussing on FPTP vs STV or PR is dangerously missing the point, it seems to me. That should be the final, minor part of changing the political system.

If that's what we want of course.

To me, for all its flaws, it seems to me that the current system isn't that bad.

There are more important things that all that intellectual energy and time would be better employed at.

Like fixing the economy.

And working out why so many people have demonstrated how tribal, bigoted, closed-minded and generally stupid they are. By voting Labour.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

One observation on immigration/movement from the EU....

For what it's worth, prompted by Derbyshire's programme on R5L this morning, a thought about inward immigration from the EU.

The argument, reiterated by Brown to Gillian Duffy yesterday, is that there is equal opportunity for Brits to go to other EU coiuntries to work, and that therefore the economic effect is at least neutral, and probably beneficial.

A Polish woman was interviewed. She had a Masters degree, but admitted that she was financially better off coming here to work in a factory than to work in Poland. Later, when asked about the effect she thought that Poles coming to work here was, she said that British people could (and she asserted, did) go and work in Poland. However, clearly, from her evidence, they would be going to work for lower wages that they could get here. So why would they?

I have nothing intrinsically against movement of people around the world or within the EU, but I would like there to be more openness and truthfulness about the effect of it. It seems obvious to me that if there is a source of workers available who are prepared, even eager, to work for lower wages than would otherwise pertain, it will inevitably produce a downward pressure on wages. I suspect that is in some way an intentional effect of the EU.

Anecdotally, from my experience, it does seem that salaries available from jobs now are relatively much lower than perhaps ten years or so ago. Life is much harder, and was even before the recession.