A moral economics?

When given a budget as a chief constable or a department head across all services we know that is pretty much what we have to manage – sure we may be able to press for our own corner over exigencies or make cases that other departments should cough up if they can be shown to be using ‘our’ resources.  We might even float a body across a river to leave those on the other side with the expenses of the enquiry,  We sometimes end up in dumb situations like keeping old people in hospital to ‘save’ the care budget.

We understand in doing the above that we are controlling costs and we know the system isn’t perfect.  We generally know that the money left in the month before year end needs spending or we’ll lose it – or else some central authority will steal it twice – the money itself and by reduction of next year’s allocation.  We know the dodges.

Economics is really not much more than the stuff we do routinely in work places, yet it’s largely a disaster,  What we’re being told is that our policing, hospitals and education systems all rely on very clever people with amazing skills making the money that allow us to enjoy such expenses,  I no longer believe a word of this.  We have the priorities wrong.  All we need is to be free (something structured under law and as much to do with decent police and army people as anything else) to organise work and make sure it gets done.  We are good, if imperfect, at this, it ain’t rocket science and can be done with reasonably equitable rewards,  The rest is pathological fiction and white collar crime.

What’s gone wrong is broadly moral in form.  The moralities we’ve learned are ancient in form and don’t suit a modern world.  This is obvious when we look at religious stuff that allows discrimination against women and non/other believers – indeed encourages the rot. What we need is some basic dialogue on what our own morality should now be and how we can get that embedded in our economic practices.  With modern levels of technology and productivity, the first place to look is our attitudes towards work.

In short, I would not want to be the sort of prat motivated so much by money that I spent my time developing a career portfolio or spinning the invisible cloth of financial mega-riches for me.  And I don’t want to live in a world dominated by such sick people.  I’m sure we can do without their ‘creativity’ and make a better fist of things with our own.

What we have to realise is not a ‘general relativity of economics’ but the value of the work we all do in a new way,  Our pensions aren’t disappearing because we didn’t put the work in or because there is a need to do so much more work.  The ‘cake’ is vastly bigger than it was and there is a planet of plenty – what’s wrong is our organisation of it.  This is a moral issue, held back by economics and a lack of faith in our abilities to live decently and police this.

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Sensible Secular Politics

The world religions will land somewhere near astrology, witchcraft and Greek mythology on the scrapheap. In their place we will have a thoroughgoing understanding of human flourishing, which will include even the most rarified and traditionally “spiritual” states of human consciousness.  The scientific study of morality is the lever that, when pulled, will completely dislodge religion. Once we accept the idea that right and wrong relate to questions of well-being, and that such questions have answers that will be best illuminated by honest observation and careful reasoning, then we can decide, once and for all, that certain people are not worth listening to on the subject of morality.

Consider the Catholic church. This is an institution that excommunicates women who attempt to become priests, but does not excommunicate priests who rape children. This church is more concerned about stopping contraception than stopping genocide. It is more worried about gay marriage than about nuclear proliferation. When we realise that morality relates to questions of human and animal well-being, we can see that the Catholic church is as confused about morality as it is about cosmology. It is not offering an alternative moral framework; it is offering a false one.

The above is from Sam Harris, and I have long  believed the world would be a better place if we moved to a more rational feeling for evidence. Essentially, I dislike rationalist fantasies that one can decide on questions as to whether god exists or find one method suits all solutions to what life is about and should be about.  What we should be looking for are more sensible ways to structure societies that are not based on myths of origin and investment in continuing the lying about them.

I’m afraid this leads me to some pretty desperate feelings about democracy.  Only tiny proportions of our people are capable (given current education) of critical reasoning, and we all live under regimes of false history.  Hardly anyone seems to be able to come to argument for mutual understanding and to flourish with others.  Even those who once fled to escape persecution soon turned to their own persecutions of others.  Even science (the real thing rather than Frankenstein versions) is too difficult to learn to provide much hope, as if we try to base decisions on it we rely on people having its world-view, or trusting to those who do or claim to.

Much the same is true of politics.  A great deal of information and history we need to make sound decisions is either hidden from us, or too difficult to learn.  We teach about thinking problems like stereotyping, halo and horn effects and so on, yet even people taught generally continue to fail to recognise their own failings and incompetence.  My guess is that much political correctness is just a sublimation of needing to maintain one’s own false notions of competence by being superior to the projections made on others.  Religion, of course, is full of such ‘chosen people‘.

Sociology has explanations of why we keep ‘sump people’ to despise.  The evil poor are just one example.  No doubt, as a vague atheist (I’m a believer really, just not prepared to eat dross), I am sump to some.  Bwankers are another sump people.

These days, the ConDem have us all in it together.  Yet some of them are banking overseas, and they don’t seem to take action against those who threaten to take their ball overseas at the drop of a levy threat.

In all that we are doing, we seem to assume we are somehow worth our salt.  Where is the evidence for this?  What is fair about the relative ‘worth’ of our bloated rich and favoured middle class, and someone keeping a hospital clean?  Why is a police inspector or senior lecturer worth seven times a cleaner, and so many senior managers worthy of millionaire status?  Why are the idle rich so much more worthy than the idle poor?

Newsnight does not discuss pension age with guys with backs broken in construction, women with arthritis still cleaning for a living – it brings in rich prats to speak for them.  One woman in a wheelchair with MS gets more said than all the clown reporters.  I don’t believe in uniformity, but we need a levelling.  When I look around, I see mainly docile bodies, scared through religion or social myths of other kinds, scared they cannot survive without their sinecures.

We are so scared, we think we cannot live without the priests.  In ancient Peru, one tribe used its ability with water preservation to control many others.  They had a special relationship with the gods.  I see nothing different in the claims of ACPOs to know about policing, or bankers to be the only special people who can communicate with the gods of money.  The Peruvian tribe died slowly when found out.

We need to get back to hard work building capital, not myriad Ponzi transactions.  I suspect, internationally, the West and its money-lenders have been found out.  Our politics is incapable of helping us.  The Pound, Euro or USD in your pocket is being devalued as you breathe.  Rents are going up as property prices fall.  We can’t get on with all kinds of new projects, despite massive unemployment and under-employment, and have to cut jobs.  What totems are we worshipping in all this?

We could no doubt all work until we are 75 or just die.  I’m quite badly disabled now, but could manage call-centre drudgery or even teaching as an on-line tutor (I catch bugs too easily now to face actual contact) for another 15 years, depriving some 20 or 30 something of the job.  Cops could go on in similar vein in offices and evidence-taking and so on.  Obesity may threaten, but you can jog on a treadmill as you type on the PC, perhaps cutting the public sector electric bill.

This is a world of plenty and half-way to Robot Heaven, yet we can’t organise population size, quality of life and even fairly sharing out the work needed to be done.  In the UK, we voted for change and got the same lying, spinning, misrepresenting jerks we ‘got rid of’.  I caught Clegg admitting his own lying just after the splendid wheel-chair woman had revealed some of the truth – his facial language after his own response was utter guilt, before his politically corrected savvy kicked back in.

The ACPOs who so slavishly lied for NuLabour have now corrected their rhetoric.  Town Hall clowns will do the same.  Tins of soup are up from around 30 pence to 55 pence.  We are looking at freezes and cut-backs as such prices rise – and they tell us all this is not focused on the poor?  The rich, who cannot possibly use much of the money they “earn”, suffer along with those about to go hungry?  Rooney wants to leave MUFC for even more money he cannot spend, and no doubt more cops are being turned out to protect him than the next Fiona Pilkington.

Just as no one can really produce evidence for the existence of god (or absence), we have no evidence about the existence of super-heroes in business and finance (sure some make loads-a-money, but their explanations make no sense and money-managers generally may as well throw darts at shares).  Rooney is a better striker than I was on my odd amateur ventures in the position, but not a better player than Alec Murphy was in my preferred code.  He is not an excuse for the financial madness of today, just an exemplar of it.  Better forwards than him were greengrocers two years after being laid-off.  Bobby Fulton, the best Australian at the time, came to play for a crappy Warrington side, to say thanks to his foster parents.  Geoff Pimblett, a St. Helens’ fullback, asked the umpire to reverse his decision to give me out (he was a really quick bowler too) when I was 13 and somehow keeping him out.  Ray French was umpiring at the other end.

We now despise people who don’t earn their corn?  Yet elevate utter clowns on fortunes and think our new system is fair?  Now we must work forever, when Rooney can earn enough in a week to retire?  The evidence here is that our system doesn’t work, and that it holds us as much to ransom in terms of soccer players as bankers.  It’s time we took our ball home!

The pay of ACPOs and their ilk across the public and commercial sectors is based on the Rooney model.  These great people are supposed to be as scarce a supply as other stars.  Rooney can go to Real Madrid (please), bankers to Bahrain (even me); we could, of course, have a different kind of competition with globally agreed salary caps and find a different sense of communion and fellowship.  This would entail us being less religious about money and less stupid on leadership and history.