Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Oh, America [again]

Periodically I fret about America, that great nation under whose umbrella (or shadow, your choice) we all operate.  So: open thread:  what kind of a choice is Trump vs Clinton?

If you'd like to start with some stats, here's polling overload to fuel you up. 

Personally, the word I can't get out of my head is corruption.   These people are deeply, deeply suspect.  Now money has always spoken in American politics, but generally it's been 'into my campaign coffers, please', rather than 'in my back pocket, thanks, cash'll do nicely', third-world style. 

On another tack - not the weightiest of considerations, perhaps - it's interesting how western nations seem to be moving away from the 'skip-a-generation' kick.  (Some people, *ahem*, find this quite encouraging.)

Over to y'all ...


Monday, 25 July 2016

Towards global Marxism?

At the weekend I shared sparkling wine (English, as it happened) with some Marxists. OK, so I did not go drinking specifically with Marxists, they happened to be at the flat-warming I went to. But they are Marxists, and unashamedly so. Their basic premise is that a lot of people have had their living standards hollowed out by globalisation. Another guest - from more of a right-wing perspective - seemed to agree that while trade and migration within the EU and NAFTA had generated wealth overall it had produced some pretty worrying side-effects.

My main contention was that in the long term, say the next fifty to a hundred years, these imbalances will become less marked as developing countries catch up on living standards and so will be less able to undercut rich-world workers. Trade restrictions cannot be tough enough to undermine the cost advantages that China, India et al. have at the moment, and it would be thoroughly immoral (not to mention self-defeating) to try to stop poor countries from getting rich by selling us stuff. While the Marxists may pine for an era of an enthusiastic proletariat (yes, someone actually used the word) working in Utopian steel factories, we cannot turn back the clock even if we wanted to. 

So, can the people and governments of the world do anything to mitigate the most negative effects of rapid globalisation, whether they are exploitation of workers in poor countries or the undermining of traditional working class industries and skills in the rich world? Should we try to? Or should we try to get through this stage of the world's economic development as quickly as possible, by streamlining the whole process, with the hope that in a few decades' time many many more people can expect a comfortable living whichever part of the globe they are born in?

Friday, 22 July 2016

The Vision Thing

Do I detect the Beeb's post-referendum Continuity Project Fear beginning to run out of traction?  Maybe that's just my own optimism shading the landscape.  But relentlessly optimistic I remain, because there is just so much to play for, and the 'other side' is in such utter disarray.  Actually that should be 'sides' in the plural, but hey, Come the three corners of the world in arms / And we shall shock them. Nought shall make us rue / If England to itself do rest but true.

Not that the situation isn't fraught with peril.  In a situation like this one could wish for a Heseltine - an onside Heseltine, obviously - someone with tenacity, tactical nous and creativity: the chap who solved the Poll Tax in half an afternoon.  Is David Davis that man?  We shall find out.

I actually agree with whomever it was (can't find the link) who wrote recently that the government now needs to conduct itself as if we were at war.   Yes, it's big and serious!   Full attention and maximum effort required on all fronts.  Melt down some of the family silver.  Tighten the belt.  Grown-ups to the front.  Now is the hour.

Funnily enough, the early signs of exactly such an attitude that may be detected - everyone lauding the big cross-border investment deals that have been announced as proof we are open for business - make the wretched Hinkley all the more likely to "go ahead", however crass.  The French are obviously rushing to grab, quick, while stocks last.   So be it; a 'yes' in July 2016 means very little in practice, but has big symbolic importance and, given we really don't need the project & the French really, really do, confers some rather handy leverage.

(But isn't ND an implacable opponent of Hinkley?  Yup - which goes to show the priority I'm advocating for all things that tend towards advancing the main cause.)

I quite like the parallel Paul Goodman draws with the Stuart Restoration: a time for focus, creative politics and reconciliation.  Might draw this out a bit more on another occasion.  But an even more compelling analogy (and I hope I'm steering clear of the Godwin trap) is with Churchill taking the reins in 1940.  Phoney War coming to an end; focussed leadership drawing on eclectic resources; clear vision.  You ask what is our policy? .. what is our aim?..   

Just now the Vision thing is, maybe, a bit less black-and-white: a bit harder to articulate in detail what would constitute success.  But here's my attempt.

The settlement we reach - with Europe, and amongst the various parts of the UK - must be so good that the Irish (that is, the Southern Irish) should seriously start thinking about whether they want to join us.

I don't see why not.