Wealth Perception and Reality

Video

This is a good video on the state of wealth in the USA, comparing people’s perceptions with reality and what they think would be ideal.
I would expect the situation in Britain and Europe to be a bit different, but the broad result to apply. We would like a more equal situation to pertain and not realise how chronically elitist the situation really is.

My own view has long been that we should sequester the rich and use this ‘money’ to pay down household debt and abolish most of financial services beyond ‘boring banking’.
Instead of sensible discussion of wealth, incentive and using the planet’s resources reasonably, the big new option available to us in the UK is UKIP – a little Englander party that plays on immigration and our myopic hatred of the European Union. UKIP are less revolting than any of our standard politicians, but the EU costs each of us about £74 a year – buttons compared with the rich and probable liabilities of the financial sector. A question of ‘its the economy stupid’ – with the proviso we’re too dumb to understand any economics!
I don’t care whether we are in the EU or not – though we should want to be in the trading block. What we’ve needed since I can remember is a decent industrial policy, near full-employment, decent policing and much great equality (though there is no point in expecting a few slogans in this area to lead to anything worthwhile – and the dangers of Soviet Paradise lurk).
The telling point of this video is that argument is pretty hopeless because most of us live in cloud cuckoo land. I’m off down the pub for a drink with Farage. He got my vote as the least of all evils on display.

The Social Contract

John Locke is among writers who have said we have a duty to act when the social contract is broken.  One can no doubt pick up a definition at Wiki.  I contend the social contract is now so broken we don’t have one and need a revolution to establish a new, modern one.  We need to think of revolution in modern terms too.  There is little point inflicting the Russian curse of living in interesting times on ourselves and the track record of street rebellion leading to substantial change and bringing genuinely benevolent government is poor.  In the animal world changes in leadership generally bring more of the same, the issues so built-in to the genetic-environmental flux that a new leader may change sex and grow to take on the role.  In social mice one can ‘train’ a weak member of the masses to take on the despot running the show and keeping all others under the thumb, but the new king is just as despotic as the old king.  We humans may pride ourselves on our difference from animals as rational beings, but this is often little more than a mask for our ignorance of biology and ourselves as social animals.  Our behaviour and evolution is influenced even by the bacteria we carry about in and on our bodies.  What we are and are becoming is viewed in terms of the hologenome.

There is little room for doubt that we are now ‘burning the rock we cling to’.  In respect of this we are not listening directly to climate scientists – a matter typical of mass involvement in argument through indirect social-technology designed to prevent any modern fellowship of rationality.  We have a financial system that clearly tips most of our money down steep hills to a tiny number of rich.  The world in which economies can ‘grow’ is dominated by trivia and Soviet-style control of performance management achieved almost literally by giving sugar to our sweet tooth.  I would say a paradigm case of this was David Cameron’s speech at Davos.  How could an ex-Etonian, bastion of priviledge man, son of a lineage using tax havens, from the very country containing the City of London that is hub to off shore looting, with banks laundering criminal and tax evading mega-billiions being bailed-out of its gambling debts from ordinary hard work, be taken seriously by a rational audience on claims the very banksters involved have been asking him to put things right and bring the light of transparency?  Such promises have been made time and again during the 40 years in which the majority have been dumped into debt peonage.

That the social contract is broken is barely in doubt.  Whether people have the facts on which to decide is much less certain.  My own position is that we should try the kind of intelligent private debt jubilee Steve Keen talks and writes about.  My reasoning in this is not directly economic, though Keen makes a good case and the arguments against are largely ideological postures in favour of more of the same mess.  In essence we need to try something that doesn’t involve clown-Utopian outcomes like Soviet Paradise or ‘Great Leap Forward’.  We are social animals not socialists by nature.  There is something directly democratic about giving money to the majority of people to pay down debt or invest and plenty of historical precedent (see David Graber’s ‘Debt: the first 5000 years’) – though as Keen points out we’d need something systemic and more sophisticated.

The issues are not merely ones of economics.  I have long felt, in teaching the subject, that the whole scheme of it is a control fraud relying on the Unsaid in its arguments.  The big Unsaid concerns non-democratic foreign policy and unspoken attitudes that the world is a dirty place, human nature rotten, and we need our leaders free of ethical constraints to combat the inevitably immoral enemy.

At the personal level I’m sure the social contract is broken because I no longer vote.  There is generally no one standing on policies I could vote for – I do vote Green if the chance comes by and would turn out to actively support any modern equivalent of E D Morel (who unseated Churchill in Dundee).  This system effectively disenfranchises people like me and I now think our main political parties are either infiltrated or subject to iron laws of the Weberian type that prevent any modern discussion.  In the UK we are now promised a ‘yes/no’ vote on membership of the EU (irrelevant as other than a vote appealing dodge) but nothing on a coordinated private debt-relief plan to re-schedule a sensible, modern investment in production and capacity to make lives and the planet as safe as we can.

My real escape is to the day job and protecting myself and my own.  There is no politics to engage.  Key economic issues like leadership and its control are barely discussed.  The employment relationship is now HRM dogma, much of which smells of roses whilst the real issues are global wage arbitrage for profit and loss accounting that conceals massive unemployment and under-employment.  Wages and liquid assets held by the many plummet and we educate people into debt without any thought on how to generate the ‘work smarter’ jobs, other than in parasitic financial services.

Financial services as we have them are a contradiction.  Just as the State was supposed to wither away in socialism, so it was hoped would the rentier-class.  I now rely on RT and Al Jazeera as friends behind the Iron Curtain once did BBC World Service (I do spot the propaganda line).  The rentier-class are like the kids who threatened to take their ball home so the rest of us would be stuck with nothing to play with.  The contradiction is they set the rules and yet we are supposed to be free, democratic citizens who can make our own.  We can’t set decent wages because various far-eastern and south Asian workers will take them and render us non-competitive.  My grand metaphor on this is a police force formed with the cheapest foreign labour – but in effect this is wage freeze, pay and numbers cuts.

As a kid I believed British men were good at soccer!  Now the Premier League has only a third of its players home grown.  I live two doors from a guy who played Test cricket and remembers a time when sports heroes weren’t a separate financial class.  Some sports have wage caps and an ethos of the competition itself rather than mere personal and team success.  In the end I’m not concerned that sports success is now business success, the best businesses buying the best players – because I really have no interest at all.  Money has destroyed what used to interest me.

Other models of finance and competition are available to us.  They are ruled out before any teaching or analysis begins.  This is essentially why economics is a control fraud and not a science.  I doubt we can plan an equal society – how can I ‘equalise’ my friend’s blindness (he does a fair job)?  But we can plan competitions – anyone who does the background work to allow me to play in a cricket league can vouch for this.  We could have candidates standing for election on the basis of a private debt jubilee and a financial competition with transparent regulation and a politics not infiltrated with private money.  This would entail democratic control of foreign policy – and this is the stumbling block.  In the West we think we are ahead in the dirty game and would be fools to give up this lead through naive honesty.

The scientist achieves naive honesty by blocking out the Idols of normal ‘reasoning’ at the laboratory door (we all carry some inside – we are human) and constructing carefully constructed special languages with others to discuss and plan experiments.  In some sciences mass is just what we weigh – this approximation is good enough.  In some aspects of physics we are concerned that mass has measurable inertia or gravity – the latter an illusion in general relativity – and some root away for a better explanation than the coincidence.  The central assumptions of various research programmes can be abandoned once enough evidence makes other assumptions more likely to help.

We could be offered a vote now on a debt jubilee and a transparent investment system (etc.).  One could write the plan as a spreadsheet.  I don’t even see this around as a thought experiment to allow discussion of what would work, to allow us to see there are alternatives and so on.  The current mess makes no more sense to me than ritual slashing at my private parts in menstrual imitation and it does look like the crass debt peonage of the Lele.  Almost no anthropology or serious history makes it into ADMASS and precious little biology.  We seem to have ‘forgotten’ there have been other ways to live and that a diet of sweet syrup is not good for the body or soul.

The positive way forward is revolution – but this can’t really be done by the mob. Transparency is the route and I believe this because technology is changing – though currently subsumed into the rich plot as ‘competitive advantage’ (much perhaps as performance enhancing drugs in sport – high frequency trading is a classic front-running scam).  It is now possible to design systems that report in such a manner that having a few seconds advanced tip-off would be irrelevant in financial trading.  The game of chess isn’t much if you can’t see your opponents pieces and moves.

Against the products and services we buy and use, financial services is a cost and we would normally expect such costs to be minimised by competition to a fair level.  The alleged ‘contribution’ of financial services is dubious, both in terms of how it is accounted for and whether it could ever be a contributor at all.  It’s hard to think, say, in war time, that we would be combing our populations for financial services people rather than soldiers (though the role of financial services in creating and in wars is another matter).  The bank and insurance clerk and manager would be unlikely ‘essential occupations’.

I believe most financial services are routine and could be subject to knowledge embodiment in machines – this is already in part true, the problem being access to the technology, a common problem with management information systems.  We have done this with many artisan skills and only “union” resistance prevents a lot more in professional areas.  My guess is the biggest barrier to the embodiment of financial skills in machine driven utilities is this removes the opportunities for control fraud and theft.

If we could level the playing field (but remember even dry, level playing fields favour those who play on them regularly and the mud heap at Hartlepool in the rain is a great leveller), we are left without the cheating competitive advantage that currently allows 10% ‘defence’ spending by the US umbrella – we have to address these matters globally – yet we must address them without this being an excuse to give up.

My way forward would be a mix of systemic private debt relief (if you don’t have any you’d get something to invest) and international public service to replace some of further and higher education and unemployment.  In the detail of the plan we would be looking to return any public investment to the private and social enterprise sector.  As a planner I believe the effort involved would be similar to war planning and my guess is we will have war instead.  A missed element in everything I have read concerns equipping people for the jobs they do and ability to grow in them, and to grow more essential, productive, green capital through this involvement.

The current farce in higher education produces graduate kids who have had three more years of child minding.  Employers claim (rightly) they still don’t have needed skills, but have generally been useless at really identifying what these are, or whether we can knock them into sows’ ears.  These kids are also saddled with debts the size of my mortgage.

I don’t believe this is Utopian thinking – I’m more concerned that we are reduced to impotence and hopelessness.  I have lied and cheated to obtain and spend research funding, banged a few villains up and know the world is a dirty place.  any plan we put in place would have to be managed and that gives the performance managers the chance to ruin all with ‘soviet-statistical’ lying.  This is just one element we can’t get rid of through bureaucratic rules and only by forming a system that doesn’t favour the bureaucratic toadies..

Another financial wangle

Just a few minutes to spare before I go and kill my lawyer.  He is now claiming to have lost several forms I signed last week.  I’ll let him off if he buys lunch.  Hapless dork foisted on me for a probate transaction.  His general tack is to promise to sort things by next Monday.  This has now slipped to Tuesday.

Re-hypothecation is a word that Robert Peston will be wuckfitting your way soon.  What it means is pawning customers’ assets several times until no one knows where the original bauble or cash is.  The general rule is you can only do this to 140% of the original value, but in the City of London you can do it until the cows come home – and at this point someone turns up claiming the cows are theirs.  It’s all a bit like lending your lawn-mower to a nextdoor neighbour who rents it out to the rest of the street.  It has a long history going back to the times when goldsmiths lent money on gold you deposited with them for safe-keeping.

So watch out for comingled re-hypothecation and get ready to shout ‘Bingo’.  Whenever you hear nonsense like these terms you should ask ‘who pays the bill’?  Which is precisely the question we should ask about the City in general.

Thoughts on the loss of police numbers

I always wonder what waste is – at least in terms of company and national financing.  My diabetic foot and retinal screening were combined today – mutually good for me and the NHS.  Killing me off would be a greater saving, but we don’t go there,  If we think about making 30,000 or so police officers and staff redundant we may feel there will be a benefit in paying less for policing.  The claim any of this can be done simply by cutting numbers from ‘admin’ is proven false over and again in research – there has to be a ‘re-engineering’ and we seem short of information on what this is to be, so I suspect ‘suck it and see’.

What we also hear nothing about in respect of police numbers is what will happen to those who lose their jobs and those who would have entered the work had the chance been there.  There is plenty we could look at.  What do miners, shipyard, mill machinists and steel workers and those who once would have been do now?  There are at least 7.6 million of working age not working.  Wales, NI, and the North generally still have high rates of unemployment and high rates of public employment.  There was no private sector cavalry.  There is a lot of evidence that investment fled abroad and that a housing bubble kept us afloat on debt spending, public and private.  I believe this was an intentional gerrymandering of our demographic, along with immigration.

Police officers and staff are likely to have transferable skills and the ones I taught in HE were ahead of the pack if not generally outstanding.  I think most will fare well – but this isn’t the end of the matter as they displace others who won’t get jobs.  In research done in the US, 3 million jobs that could have been kept if workers had more power would still be there if it had not become so easy for employers to control costs through sacking workers and exporting work.  My rule of thumb estimate of the same in the UK is proportionately higher at over 1 million.

People in the now high unemployment blackspots were not notoriously lazy before the unemployment came.  I’ve worked all over the world, but seen no opportunities for general employees and its hard to move even in this country for those without skills in demand = employers were once prepared to fund the movement of employees.  Police and public sector workers put out of work are likely to displace others rather than end up on the scrap heap, but I think they will be surprised at what’s (not) on offer in northern and Welsh job centres when they first look.

It makes no sense to lose the resource that the officers and staff represent, but of course economics makes no sense and probably isn’t meant to.  These cruel to be kind austerity tricks are just cruel tricks.  The money to invest in our own people is still there – and probably off to a dirty deal in Chinese ‘high yield’ bonds as I write – a repeat by the banksters of their previous securitized fraud that leaves favoured few with the good stuff and us lumbered with the toxic.  Now there’s something that should gainfully employ 30,000 police officers and staff!  They don’t put it to us in such terms now do they?  The Chinese bonds are a way of selling us out from under, and yet issued on the basis of “capital” no country ever issues.  It’s stuff like this that creates the need to slash our public services.

There are times when our normal industries have to give up labour – war times.  Productivity increases is another – but why have we found so satisfactory way to redeploy ourselves, even if only to leisure?  And it’s much worse if we look to Chinese working conditions.  Work is not a blessing – that’s what earnings are.  We should be on a four day week by now and employing more people to do what needs doing.  And it should be around rules like this that the world competes.  For the last 30 years there have been enough people unemployed to double some public services, including policing.  The question should be why we can’t do this and continue to believe in a system that makes a few so rich they are the de facto government.

I often despair at the workings of our public sector and we might consider private sector additions to it. If management is as creative as it claims when setting its own pay, it should be able to sort things out.  The current situation is immoral and based on feudal notions of labour. Every job I’ve had in this country since 1980 has been subject to down-sizing and the rotten feelings this brings,  Down-sizing became right-sizing and is now all to do with accounting that rivals that of the Enclosures.  Wages would have risen substantially in line with productivity since 1982 if they were linked to it.  The truth is the opposite.  Those police left in post can expect to work harder for less.

Broken Windows

http://pse.som.yale.edu/sites/pse.som.yale.edu/files/Case_Bratton%202nd%20ed%20Final%20and%20Complete.pdf

This pdf is more or less the story of the Bratton management style.  It touches on some of the criticism of ‘Broken Windows’ – but frankly only the easiest to dismiss.

First Bratton needed a leadership staff that was committed to crime control. Before he arrived in New York in January 1994, he asked for resignations of all senior staff. Next he put together a new team of “deep selects” that included Jack Maple as deputy chief, John Timoney as chief of department, Louis Anemone as chief of patrol, John Miller as deputy commissioner of public information, and Michael Julian as chief of personnel.
Then Bratton created a crisis. He hired a consultant, John Lindner, to perform a “cultural diagnostic” of the NYPD, describing its strengths and its obstacles to change. He appointed more than 300 employees from every rank of the NYPD to “re-engineering teams” that studied everything from uniforms and equipment to discipline and training.

The failure was the organization’s leadership over the previous 20 to 25 years. They wasted your most valuable resource: your human beings; that’s what they wasted—by micromanaging, by setting systems in place that stifled creativity…. With the best of intentions, they set up a structure that was meant to fail as a crime-fighting mechanism. It was built for failure.

I’ve heard all this stuff – it’s standard management teaching and there’s more to understand.  What if our police forces are a combination of staff unwilling to deal with the real problems as ‘underneath them’ and what I term ‘Screwtape bureaucracies’ – I see see plenty of sign of both.

I’ve met plenty of cops who have heard about broken windows policing – few who knew it’s about massive attitudinal and organisational change.  The riots may show just how much harder our police could clamp down.  Many of the claims about this kind of management are false and 70% of attempts fail across all industry sectors.

But what if our cops are so ‘bad’ that they are as dysfunctional as Bratton claimed NYPD was?  I have seen companies that were this bad and even worse.  Most non-science and technology higher education is.  And I’ve seen all these management claims made falsely.  The classic examples are when our governments change and it’s all the fault of the last lot.

A recent, free academic paper on broken windows at:

ftp://repec.iza.org/RePEc/Discussionpaper/dp5484.pdf

has a good, relevant bibliography.  The standard liberal critique ideas can be started at:

http://www.csub.edu/~danderson_facile/docs/Week8_1.pdf

A recent MA can be found at:

http://drum.lib.umd.edu/bitstream/1903/11735/1/Distler_umd_0117N_12199.pdf

My own opinion is that the glaringly obvious factor is the crooked rich and our failure in democracy.  We cannot demand the solutions from our politicians other than through skewed systems that are as disgusting as the riots themselves and actually far more damaging.

Lying, Bliaring

Why do  we think it’s a good idea to allow massive differences in wealth?  Do we really believe some people really work so much harder, smarter and so on than the rest of us? Do we really think people should be allowed not to work just because they have plenty of money and that scum should have to work because they have none?

I hear all kinds of rubbish about hard work, work ethic, bonuses, talent and other stuff that makes no sense in terms of what work is really about.  It’s better explained in Family Guy as a teacher’s fine words on educating children turn to rushing off calling them brats as she wins the lottery.  If we all loved work so much none of us would even enter a lottery.  And given we’d all give up work on winning, much of what we say about work just isn’t true.

We lie about our religions of peace too.  Finally, like Blair, we turn Catholic and ask for absolution for war crimes.  I wonder what the CIA had on Nulabour’s finest?  Robert Frost’s book had Mrs. Blair as the CIA mole – mine would have him in trouble in his Elvis leather days doing charity work with young girls and an incident in that he was helped through.  A  young boy would fit the Catholic profile better!

 

There was and is a cover-up and conspiracy at the Met

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/interactive/2011/jul/15/letter-from-the-guardian-to-dick-fedorcio

Senior Met figures have a long history of wining and dining with News International.  There’s a spreadsheet at the Grauniad.  When the same figures meet Guardian staff it’s at the office.  It’s clear from the letter published (link above) in the Groan that the Met tried to put the arm on Nick Davis and stop the truth coming out.  Now they won’t answer fair questions from the Guardian using standard PR damage limitation techniques to give them time to get a story together.  They should be read the PACE guidance on what they may rely on in the future.

The IPCC should already not be giving the Met hierarchy time to collude.  Taped interviews should have been taken instead of half-assed stuff led by the dubious Vaz.  Police officers lie and some of this is justified.  A reasonable account can be found here:

http://deadlyforce.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Lies-and-Deception-PQ.pdf

That matters are out of hand can be seen in George Monbiot’s referenced piece here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/apr/12/police-truth-blair-peach-tomlinson

I doubt Gadget subscribers would do the required reading, but the complex lying behaviour cops enter into is fairly standard across organisations now.  What’s needed isn’t sackings, but an opportunity to come clean and identify the real bad guys.  This clearly doesn’t happen in our public enquiries – even the WMD farce was not admitted.  In the absence of coming clean I would sack a random few Admiral Bings to encourage the others.

Police officers tend to get hard-boiled and think no one understands the complexity of their situation.  There are many explanations of their behaviour that are complex and do explain much of what I knew to go on as a cop.  I found a dozen academic papers on police lying and a hundred more on administrative lying in the space of a couple of hours.  Some are pretty good and public argument should shift to their more intelligent focus.  The following snippet gets to some of the enigma at the heart of being a cop.  There’s more actually, but I’m reserving my paper for publication.

This is standard material on police lying from ‘academic cops’:

Police officers often tell lies; they act in ways that are deceptive, they manipulative
people and situations, they coerce citizens, and are dishonest. They are taught,
encouraged, and often rewarded for their deceptive practices. Officers often lie to
suspects about witnesses and evidence, and they are deceitful when attempting to learn
about criminal activity. Most of these actions are sanctioned, legal, and expected.
Although they are allowed to be dishonest in certain circumstances, they are also
required to be trustworthy, honest, and maintain the highest level of integrity. The
purpose of this article is to explore situations when officers can be dishonest, some
reasons that help us understand the dishonesty, and circumstances where lies may lead
to unintended consequences such as false confessions. The authors conclude with a
discussion of how police agencies can manage the lies that officers tell and the
consequences for the officers, organizations, and the criminal justice system.'
However complex the situation we can't have cops trying to prevent the publication 
of stuff they don't like and must know is true when they try to can it.