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..

Don’t Believe an ACPO Word On Modernisation

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/04/chance-to-modernise-police-force – a link to the Lesser Odious Blair – this one the dork who ran the Met.

I spent some time doing organisational restructuring.  It isn’t pleasant and the major “tool” is sacking people.  People are usually the major business cost.  If you can get rid of them you can buy more advanced machines and this usually lets you get – er – rid of more people.  Terms like rationalisation, modernisation, squeezing costs and all kinds of kwality initiatives cover the basic function.

The idea is supposed to be about producing an overall economy that is high productivity, low unit cost.  We all benefit because we end up in smarter jobs, earning more as UK plc vanquishes external competition.  Obvious bolloxs – but most people seem suckered by this drivel – it has a compelling logic but more or less no corroborating data.

Various countries have been stacked up as being better than this than the UK.  The USA, Germany, Japan have all been the lands of milk and honey in the myth.  They never were.  In other countries Thatcher is lauded for curing the British disease, but in fact “Thatcherism” pre-dates the Iron Lady by a couple of decades.

What smashed our working-class economy was international competition – largely a combination of cheap labour putting up with poor working conditions, huge improvements in logistics (particularly shipping), new production engineering requiring greenfield sites, the ability to embody skills in machines and greedy top managers and utterly hapless politicians.

Many sectors of our current economy are uncompetitive, but find ways to look as though they aren’t.  We seem OK with notions like textile workers having to compete with  South Asian sweat shops and child labour, but somehow OK with our cops being paid vast differentials over such distant counterparts – and judges, lawyers, professionals and managers.  There is no evidence they are more productive than their distant counterparts.

So now the cops are putting some of their work out to tender.  In any company doctoring I did, ‘modernisation’ largely involved finding out who was getting paid a lot and could be delayered.  This means cuts to the overall budget – and it does not mean, as Blair glibly states, that this saving will be spent on more vital activities.  It might mean this in a private company where redeploying the savings could increase productivity and sales; but it just will not mean this in the public sector where the spend is being cut.  It means jobs will go through ‘natural wastage’, redundancies and potentially a big axe on promoted jobs through promotion freezes, new forms of ‘area management’ (with fewer managers) and getting management done at lower levels without extra pay.  These are the rules of the game – Blair and other ACPOs hope to manage the process and keep their own fat pay.  If I was doing the job the outcome would be similar, except I’d delayer the lot of them too.

The obvious and rarely addressed problem with all this efficiency is that it only makes sense in an economy with employers hungry for labour and capital hungry to invest in productive economy.  In previous times it has taken the Black Death and world wars to bring this about.  Sent to Japan to see their miracle first-hand, I found low unemployment but also people doing all kinds of non-jobs in banks and government that made our Post Office look like it was running on a skeleton staff (1980s).  There were great conditions in key factories, but also many employed part-time (48 hours a week) on low pay.  It was clear even then they had no answer to maintaining full employment other than government spending.  Though their executives take more responsible pay, my liver is still recovering from expense account spending!

The essential analysis is called business process analysis.  In policing this reveals that much work done is clerical and can thus be done at a cheaper rate.  I would expect much of the management could also be driven down the ranks and senior jobs eliminated under a form of area management,  You don’t hire extra staff, but cheaper new  staff and although you want the management done, you want this to be part of the lower order jobs, not a LOMBARD class (lots of money but are right dicks).

I could knock out a spreadsheet on what changes produce what savings.  As a clue, you cost the average PC with her on costs (pension, redundancy entitlements etc.), get rid of 100 and cost the new staff (say 50 clerks) and their on costs.  You then cash-flow the savings to show break even points.  You bring in a new rank of ‘supervising constable’ (some are currently called area beat managers) and see how many sergeants and inspectors can go.  Keep doing this until you have rid the world of half of ACPO.

The upfront redundancy costs are laid off against future savings and reduced cash-flow.  You might create a new management level with all current ranks from chief inspector of chief super rolled into one and put out to interview.

Alongside this you would look to reduce the number of steps and any duplication in identified business processes – say getting some bastard to court.  Summons, for instance, beats arrest, custody and charge hands down in business terms.

I admit it is complex, but it always means fewer and less well paid jobs with lower pensions.  No one has ever worked out how to do any of this and produce new job opportunities with comparable pay and conditions.  Why would the private sector produce such when it can invest elsewhere at cheaper rates that bring it more profit?  The private sector cavalry is as mythical as Custer  is as a hero (basically he was a money-grubber who led his men on a cavalry charge into a volcano after an act of genocide).

Not only will the jobs that go never return, the ‘savings’ won’t help the economy either.  Wages have flat-lined since 1980 and cash in the hands of our bottom 50% (most cops) has shrunk from 14% to 1 %.  This is why our pubs, shops and so on have disappeared and why much small business can’t make its way – no one can spend unless they borrow and that bubble has burst,  The redundant cop with any sense will pay down her mortgage debt, not go on a spending rampage.  Most won’t get a sinecure in Bahrain to make sure nothing changes there!

I think most would agree our legal system needs modernisation and to be much cheaper.  We would like to see our economy more productive.  The way to do this is through full employment as a right and democratic-approved earnings caps in all sectors and a more equal society which retains (or improves) innovation motivation and getting the work we need done done.  I’ve always wondered why we are so scared of this and why, with chronic examples like the Soviet Union, we are so tamely on the road to serfdom under banking tyranny’s unseen politburo.

Any money saved in police modernisation (I think ACPO so dire it will end up as a cost) will just be sucked into the swamp of money making money a long way from our shores. And our cops will end up demoralised, just as the communities based around mines still are.  The shining economic miracle of the Rising Sun is now the dead donkey of leading government debt.  If they couldn’t do the jobs business why should we think we can using the ideology that failed them?  Sound, capitalist Japanese will tell you cutting government spending actually made their earlier collapse much worse.

Early Intervention – is already half-a-century late

The notion of ‘early intervention’ is raising its really ever-present head in British politics. The idea is that we can save £37K in on-costs by getting amongst crap families early.  In research terms this has been the bleedin’ obvious since I can remember – at least since teaching social policy because someone was off sick in the 80s.  The question is why so little has changed in 30 years – or since pre-Victorian times if you do some digging down at the history dump.  The answer is that our politicians and ‘professionals’ for a self-interested hunk of shit.  Polite criticism hasn’t worked and politicians and over paid bureaucratic clowns know what to say and how to do nothing except take the resources for themselves and their cronies.  It all may go down in history as the ‘Louise Casey’ syndrome’.  The basic idea is to do pilot schemes and publicise them as successes.  In the meantime disabled couples who can’t cope commit suicide and criminal turds have children in order to hide behind them – etc.

To make an early intervention you really need a time machine and go back to that time before the research told us about the situation.  What’s needed is knowledge on why we don’t do what is needed, even when we know what to do.  In this, a standard ‘professional’ answer is “resources” – i.e. the lack of same.  The people saying this have resourced lives and know enough about the problem to ensure they never live anywhere near it.  In the meantime we have an economy that facilitates the creation of poverty for many and vast , unusable riches for one percent.  It’s not rocket science, though the banksters pretend it is.

Those of us who care – and frankly you can’t care too much without being driven crazy by the squalor and intransigent attitudes in and around it – end up working in highly malfunctioning bureaucracies, cutting corners to get anything done.  Our bosses are increasingly not once decent pracitioners promoted to incompetence, but a vile, obscenely overpaid class of jerks running devolved budgets involving a smidgen of arithmertic and attendance at dubious management development events at which they learn to form a clique of performance managers around them – and what a performance that is.  It’s image management in much the same manner as guest tours of the Soviet Union (without the excellent, drunken brewery tour).  Whistle-blowing is acted on as an act of terrorism, and scapegoats are occasionally thrown into the public gaze in pretense of any real evaluation and accountability.

There are many ways we could deal with the problems and the only ones I know will work involve a different attitude towards what an economy is and the dissolution of centralised power and secrecy.  The most massive change needed is in the way we currently earn our way out of the problems, leaving them behind to fester.  In short, we don’t give a shit (forget bleeding heart liberalism or personal polite manners) if it’s not affecting us – the criminal mind-set of the upper-class in ‘An Inspector Calls’.

It’s time to rise up

I suppose I;m too old not to remember better protest songs; yet we have seen peoples in the old Soviet Block run towards the bullets.  There is no talking economics to the current lot who have seized our democracies.  They are religious in protecting their own interests and treat all criticism as from the rabble as surely as any despot.

Tune in and protest.  With current productivity people’s lives can be assured in comfort through around 5 years work,  We choose instead to let people live in poverty in order to oppress.  Our morality has been bought off with trinkets.  Wise up – we only need banks as utilities.  Rise up and stop your involvement in criminality and crimes against humanity through apathy and mortgage serfdom.  Pity the music ain’t spot on, but maybe a New Orleans’ jazz band will lead the march?

The problem for ‘dissident economics’

I have no problems with arguments made over a long period against capitalism.  I find much of my own reasoning in this area moral.  I believe in freedom, so I find allowing individuals to amass wealth that defies equality of opportunity and equality  under law wrong.  This, of course, is not the end of the argument, as in most civilized attempts at ‘communism’, vile parties arise screwing freedom even better than ‘money’.  We write off the vile Sino-Soviet ‘experiments’ at our peril.  Plato’s communism was to be based on slavery.

Freedom is a very difficult concept.  We want it for our children, but do not leave them free to test out fire or strangers.  Argument on human rights do not ‘ground’ – they tend to deconstruction.  We cannot, even in argument, create a perfect society.  Even Plato admitted his elaborate training and precaution would eventually fall to corruption.

Dissident economics really only point to how ignorant we are and how consumed we are in false consciousness.  We are perhaps sophisticated enough now to recognise that transforming consciousness is a danger.  One can teach the management speak of this, in which leaders are key players in creating reality for others.  Hardly democratic stuff. Dissident arguments often seek to establish a new consensus, but consensus is not what we think.  It’s an animal system, not one of free thought.  The dissident economist has as much chance as the dissident cockroach wiped out by its fellows in the hygiene of consensus.

What we might offer is genuinely different, practical operating systems that evade banks and traditional leadership costs, in order to expose the extent of the parasite, and see if we can form another capital and people who understand what this is (this is happening to some extent).  Yet hierarchy and other biologically built-in patterns emerge.  What we are trying to deal with is both animal and mad.  I suspect any real change can only come by getting rid of the ballot box and extending voting to matters that matter on a world basis.  Dialogue on this is almost impossible, challenging real power.

Currently, we can’r keep Rooney at Manchester United or bwankers in Britain without allowing massive salaries and bonuses.  The answer is a genuinely international competition, that can enforce salary caps.  The economic question is how they keep us from such a society.  Technology and knowledge have changed and I see little on how we might change our arguments as as result.  Instead, we are on the march to war.