Tag Archives: neoliberal logic

Life on Hannan World (Part 9)

The occasion of Milton Friedman’s 101st birthday…no, he’s still dead, I just checked… has moved the Lyin’ King to pen this gushing tribute to the man whose economic theories have quite literally turned the world into a toilet. Dan opines:

Today would have been Milton Friedman’s hundred-and-first birthday. The Chicago economist, who died in 2006, is already acquiring that almost Homeric status that normally comes only decades after a man’s life.  Perhaps social media have speeded up the process, or perhaps it’s the fact that Friedman’s strongest enthusiasts are often students with no direct memory of their hero.

Friedman, darling of neoliberals everywhere and supporter of Pinochet’s Chile, where his theories were rammed down people’s throats, is given the airbrush treatment… well, that’s not quite true. Friedman’s supporters refuse to see any flaws in the man. In their eyes, he was the very model of economic perfection. So no need for the airbrush.

Yet for someone who talked so movingly about ‘freedom’, Friedman was capable of turning a blind eye to political repression. For him, all that mattered was the functioning of the free market with its insistence that social relations be reduced to financial transactions between actors. Friedman was also fervently against any form of regulation, so in a pure Friedmanite dystopia, surgeons can practice without proper qualifications and driving licenses would be banned. Can you see the dangers? Yes? Well, Dan can’t.

Here, Hannan tells us:

Friedman did not limit himself to academic theories; he had a keen sense of how to translate ideas into action. He understood politics very well, and used to say that his aim was not to get the right people elected, but to create a climate where even the wrong people would do the right thing. Every year I spend in politics I find that insight more brilliant.

Yes, Friedman understood politics so well that in his perfect world, certain kinds of political activity would have been outlawed because they didn’t fit into his perfect model of a rampant capitalist society.

Here we get to the core of the blog:

What mattered to him most of all? Oddly enough, it was nothing to do with monetary policy, or indeed with economics at all. He believed that the single measure that would do most to ameliorate society was school vouchers.

School vouchers, loved by Pinochet’s Chicago Boys and loathed by those who have had to put up with a substandard education, have become a sort of gold standard in the eyes of the Right.  Higher education, too, has moved backwards. For the last few years, students have been protesting over the inequalities of the education system. Dan simply ignores this.

He had first suggested the idea as early as 1955 – in an intellectual climate so unfriendly that he might as well have been proposing that children be cooked and eaten.

You can see where this is heading and predictably enough, Dan tells us:

But the climate shifted, not least through Friedman’s own interventions and, by the end of his life, a few places were prepared to give his idea a go. Chile had led the way in the 1980s, followed by Sweden in the early 1990s. Milwaukee became the first city in the US to adopt vouchers 23 years ago, and around a quarter of a million American pupils are now benefiting.

“Chile had led the way in the 1980s” he says. No mention of the oppressive weight of the Chilean ‘small state’ crushing those below. No mention of the thousands rounded up, tortured and executed. No mention of the oligarchical free-for-all ushered in by Pinochet’s ‘hands off’ approach to the economy and its disastrous consequences for ordinary Chileans. He continues:

Though Britain has stopped short of full-blown vouchers, Michael Gove has plainly embraced the idea that governments can fund schools without running them, and the free schools programme is one of the greatest of the Coalition’s achievements.

The truth of the matter is that the Tories have been historically opposed to the state school system and have spent the better part of 60 years talking it down when they’re out of power and running it into the ground when they’re in government.  The unspoken dictum here is “some state schools are bad, therefore the state education system is bad”.

The Cat believes that the Tories would prefer it if everyone paid for their schooling and if you can’t find the money, that’s tough. You will die illiterate and ignorant. Why? Because it’s God’s will. That’s why.

Finally Dan tells us:

With his wife, he established the Milton Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, which has helped thousands of students, especially poor students, to get a decent education.

“Choice” has been used as a battering ram since the 1980s. But choice is neither here nor there. You can only have what is available. The Tories believe that if you don’t live in the catchment area of a school that you’ve fetishised, then you should be able to bypass the rules and send your kid there anyway. Better still, set up your own free school where you can be free to inculcate children in any superstitious tosh that occupies your thoughts.

While 75% of free schools were found to be “good” or “outstanding” by OFSTED inspectors, 25% were not. This article from The Guardian says:

One of the first free schools to open has been placed on special measures and given an inadequate rating by Ofsted inspectors, in an untimely blow to the government’s flagship education policy.

Adding:

Inspectors were severe on the primary school’s leadership, saying its governors failed to grasp the school’s “serious shortcomings”, while school leaders “believe the school is far better than it is”.

The inspection team gave the school the lowest grade, of “inadequate”, in three of four categories, for pupil achievement, quality of teaching, leadership and management. “Too many pupils are in danger of leaving the school without being able to read and write properly,” inspectors concluded. “Unless this is put right quickly, pupils are unlikely to flourish in their secondary schools and future lives.”

To borrow from the Tories’ lexicon of smears, I could say that “some free schools are poor, therefore all free schools are poor”. But unlike Dan,  I’m not that petty.

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Filed under Conservative Party, Education, Government & politics, Neoliberalism, Society & culture

Ex-offenders given tents to live in

I found this article in Inside Housing. It’s a scandal that homeless ex-offenders are, in effect, told to remain homeless and are handed tents to live in. Of course there are loads of Torygraph readers who would agree with this sort of thing but, as far as Nowhere Towers is concerned,  they’re not human.

Ex-offenders handed tents to live in

Homeless ex-offenders in Nottinghamshire are being issued with tents by the region’s probation service.

The service confirmed it gave tents to five people last year when hostel accommodation could not be found.

Peter Anthony, accommodation, benefits and advice officer with Nottinghamshire Probation Service, said it would prefer stable accommodation for ex-offenders. But he added: ‘When there simply is no other option we will, if it is appropriate, provide a tent and sleeping bag.

‘If you send someone away from the office into the night and they have literally got nowhere to go, the chances are that they will commit offences.’
Mr Anthony added that bed spaces in the region were reducing due to the closure of a number of hostels. ‘This year we expect it [the use of tents] to increase exponentially,’ he added.

You can read the rest here.

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Filed under Big Society, Conservative Party, Cuts, Government & politics

UEL – under occupation

I received the following press release on Facebook

We the students of the University of East London have gone into occupation on UEL’s main campus at Docklands in response to senior management’s decision to savagely tear apart the Humanities and Social Sciences department of our university. The occupation was commenced after a symbolic ‘funeral’ for the department on the 22nd of March which was attended by more than 200 students. The procession left the central university square to deliver a wreath to John Joughin, UEL Deputy Vice Chancellor, who was not available to see us at the time. The group then sat down to discuss the situation and, after about an hour and a half over thirty people voted to occupy EB.G.14, a ground floor room in the Atrium, Docklands’ main building.

Officially, Friday is the end of the three week consultancy process, a timeframe which we feel amounts to little more than a slap in the face to students and staff concerned about the damage these changes could bring upon our university. This is why our highest priority demand is the extension of the consultation period to allow for us to effectively organise a resistance to the cuts as they have manifested in the attack on HSS. Ultimately our demands are that the HSS remain one cohesive school located entirely on Docklands campus, that students receive the degrees that they signed up for and that there be no lecturer or staff job losses now or in future. It is our fervent belief that education is the keystone upon which a free society is built and that the attacks on the sector represent nothing less than an attack on the very fabric of society itself.We will use our time in occupation to build support both for the national lecturer’s strike on the 24th, when we plan to be supporting our lecturers all day on their picket lines, and also the TUC demonstration on the 26th, which we feel could be a turning point not only in the struggle for education but also in the fight to resist austerity across all levels of society and present a clear and defiant challenge to the ConDem coalition

Today I also received the results of the pointless student survey. Here’s a taster.

When I had a meeting with the representative of the UEL in Lagos Nigeria in 2008, I was told about the facilities at the Dockland
campus, and how they will be most accessible because that was where my course of study is situated. Based on that, i decided to
study at this university. The offer of admission also stated that my course of study was going to be at this campus. I think it is a
breach of contract and quite unfair to suddenly toss me around and away from where I had built my time and comfort as it relates to
my study.

I really hope this student sues UEL if…what am I saying? When it goes ahead.

My comment was far too scathing and they don’t appear to have included it. I was offered an appointment to discuss the changes with the hatchet man. I declined, saying,

Dear Liz,
I don't see what good it will do. The closure of SHSS is a forgone conclusion. I also receive a bursary from HSS and if the school is closed, what happens to that? Prof Joughin said nothing about that. There is another issue, I don't have the money to keep traipsing back and forth to UEL from Hammersmith (it costs £7 a time). I am also forced to take work as a cycling instructor and I cannot afford to take time off work. I'm not sure that I have either the time or the patience to chat with Prof Joughin. He's made up his mind and SHSS is going to close. You can make an appointment by all means but, given his presentation on Monday, he won't want to hear what I have to say.
All the best,

Buddy

Two words spring to mind about this consultation: railroaded and shafted. The consultation was sneaked through under the cover of darkness. Students were only given three weeks to comment. The survey was an exercise in pointless number-crunching. Of course, no one was going to be happy with the changes. We could have told you that. So why bother? This is typical management behaviour.

Education is not a commodity.

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Filed under Cuts, Education, Government & politics, Higher Education, London, Society & culture

Libya – here we go again

While protesters were being shot at by Bahrain’s security forces, the West ignored this in a rush to enforce what it described a “no fly zone” in Libya. When I saw the news footage from BBC News (to my shame), I was struck with a sense of deja vu.

In 2002, we were told by our political leaders that Saddam was a “tyrant” and that he “killed his own people”. Fast forward to 2011 and we see the same things and hear the same half-truths, only this time, the names have changed. This time Gaddafi is a “Mad Dog” who “kills his own people”.

Unlike Yemen and Djibouti, Libya has oil. Bahrain has oil too, but the pro-Western dictatorship remains intact, so the oppression can carry on. There has been much talk about the “rule of law” and how we must “protect innocent civilians”. It seems to me that the UK, US, France and the other warmongering nations are somewhat selective in their use of military assistance to ‘protect’ people from tyranny.

The situation in Libya began with a rebellion, which then morphed into a civil war, now the West has taken it upon itself to take sides in the conflict. There have also been rebellions and uprising throughout Africa and the Middle East yet, there was no talk of military intervention – even when civilians were being killed. The West has been watching events nervously since the first protesters took to the streets in Tunis and then Cairo. There had been much hand-wringing and mealy-mouthed words of support for the protesters but little else.

There is a very good blog from Socialist Unity here

Al Jazeera has a good article about Western overzealousness here.

In yesterday’s Telegraph, warmongering Moonie, Nile Gardiner, whose headline screams “David Cameron’s War: the Empire Strikes back at ‘Mad Dog Gaddafi” said,

There is no doubt that David Cameron’s stock as a world leader has soared since the start of the Libya crisis, in marked contrast to that of the American president. But his decision to invest military resources in a Libyan campaign carries with it significant risks, and must only be undertaken as part of a broader strategy to rebuild British military power. The British lion has roared, but must also be strong enough to go in for the kill.

Notice how he manages to praise Cameron and have a pop at Obama at the same time. Cheap stuff. So this is Cameron’s ‘good war’? There is no such thing as a good war. Like Blair, Cameron is looking for his place in history but if, like Iraq, this goes badly for him, he will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

I saw Hon Gideon on the Andrew Marr Show this morning and while he is cutting public services, he talked how he was going to spend more on Britain’s military. So they can find the money for killing people abroad but not on things that improve people’s lives in this country? Typical topsy turvy neoliberal nonsense.

Last month, Cameron was hawking weapons around Egypt and the Middle East. Those weapons, like those supplied to Libya, will be used to kill protesters. Oh, the irony.

Meanwhile in Bahrain

Meanwhile in Yemen

Meanwhile in Senegal

Good article by Robert Fisk here

I am not a fan of the Colonel but I know hypocrisy and double standards when I see them.

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The Big Society? It’s not The Great Society

When President Lyndon Johnson proposed his Great Society, he had a vision and a coherent plan. Contrast this to David Cameron’s “Big Society” which has been largely incoherent and possesses no real vision. It seems to me – as well as many others – that it is nothing more than a cover for the slashing and burning of the public sector.

The Conservatives haven’t been big on the idea of society or anything inherently social for some time. Thatcher once infamously asserted that there was

no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations.

I thought that I would include more of the quote than is actually remembered. I have done this to illustrate the Hayekian thread that ultimately runs through this speech and the policies of the Thatcher government.  The individual in the Hayekian sense is one that has been emptied of all humanity and then re-filled with greed and alienation. Your role in this world – if you aren’t rich and wield governmental or judiciary power – is to consume and be happy. This is an update of the old maxim “know your place”.

Cameron’s Big Society takes this idea forward by imposing something he calls “localism”. But what this localism amounts to is a further atomization of society.

So here is a reminder of the big priorities of the Big Society

  1. Give communities more powers (localism etc)
  2. Encourage people to take an active role in their communities (volunteerism)
  3. Transfer power from central to local government
  4. Support co-ops, mutuals, charities and social enterprises
  5. Publish government data (open/transparent government)

The key points of Johnson’s Great Society were:

  1. Civil rights
  2. War on Poverty
  3. Education
  4. Health (Medicare/Medicaid)
  5. Arts and cultural institutions (National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, public broadcasting, etc.)
  6. Transportation
  7. Consumer protection
  8. Environment

There is no grand vision in Cameron’s Big Society brand. There is no mention of poverty, arts and culture (currently being slashed) or education. On the latter, university funding is being cut and free schools – far from being the saviour of the English educational system seem likely to create further division. Admittedly much of the Great Society was rolled back in Reagan’s Gold Rush of the 1980’s. In this country the welfare state was similarly shrunk though, ironically, a quasi-welfare state continues to exist for private enterprise.

The National Health Service, seen by many free-market Tories as a beast that has been fattened for slaughter, is to face the effects of the Tories social experiment. The GP fund-holding scheme will be resurrected, dusted down and given a new name: patient choice. Those who propose these ‘reforms’ are well aware that they do not use public services of any kind, so it doesn’t matter to them if a few libraries in their constituency are closed or the NHS is privatized because they don’t use the NHS either.

There is no aim to improve anything except the channels that deliver wealth to the already wealthy. Public transport will become more expensive as this government reduces the amount of subsidy that it gives to the Train Operating Companies.

When Blair appropriated FDR’s phrase “New Deal”, he divested it of meaning. Instead the New Deal was used to massage unemployment statistics. If someone was on the New Deal, they weren’t claiming Jobseekers Allowance and were thus excluded from the figures. The New Deal was as superficial as the man who dreamt up the ‘idea’.

The Tories may think that by coupling the word “big” with society this will convince people into thinking that what the government is doing is for the benefit of all. This line of thinking is delusional but then thinking isn’t what these people do best.

UPDATE @ 1632

Edited out sentence that made no sense.

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Filed under Big Society, Conservative Party, Government & politics

BBC Bias? It’s all in the Tory mind.

We know how much some Tories want to control discourse.  Anything that opposes their cosy wee world view is seen as ‘dangerous’. Opponents will be smeared and smeared again. Canards, narratives and strawmen arguments will be substituted for real arguments and proper ideas.

There is a sizeable number of Tory MPs and MEPs who believe that the BBC is biased against them. But this is nonsense: the BBC is the state broadcaster and, as such, disseminates the state’s views which are by their very nature conservative. Therefore the views of the state are concurrent with the views of the present Tory-led government. Thus any accusations of  anti-Tory ‘bias’ are entirely baseless.

So upset are they with not being able to fully control discourse and the flow of information, they have set up Biased BBC to air their somewhat twisted interpretations of so-called bias. This site appears to have been set up by a disgruntled Tory, though it is not clear which one. To be sure, this site was not created by an ordinary man-in-the-street. Perhaps the most revealing this about the Biased BBC site is its link to Sky News.

They seem to have an issue with Question Time.

… the grim horror of Question Time returns tomorrow Thursday the 13th for the first show of 2011. It’s BBC bias in the raw; at its most blatant and visceral.

“BBC bias in the raw”? How so? They offer no explanation for this ejaculation. it’s simply presented as a universalism. A fait accompli.

Recently the Tucosn shootings have got them foaming at the mouth. When it was suggested that the tone of political discourse in the US had to be mollified, the Right immediately swung into defensive mode. Here BBC Bias says,

The tragedy in Tuscon has given BBC North America editor Mark Mardell the opportunity to bang on and on and on about the “harsh rhetoric” of the American Right.

It’s denial. Funny how they never comment on the blatant anti-worker and pro-cuts bias, isn’t it?

The rest of the site is simply barking with their house contributors churning out story after story of imagined slights. Pitoyable!

Randist Douglas Carswell claims to know the [exact] nature of BBC bias

While refreshing to hear Mr T say what the rest of us have known for years, to fix the problem, it is important to grasp the nature of the BBC’s inbuilt prejudices.

Oh? And what are those?

The BBC does not tilt to the left in a partisan sense. It’s coverage of political parties tends to be pretty fair and balanced.

So what’s the problem, Dougie?

Rather, it is the BBC’s outlook – the unconscious presumptions of their producers and reporters – that often makes them seem so leftist.

So now you’re claiming to be a psychic? You know exactly what people are thinking now? The blog focuses on an interview with Director General Mark Thompson  the Daily Mail, a paper not known for its love of the BBC. Thompson has apparently admitted to the paper that the BBC has been “guilty of left wing bias in the past”. Remember Thompson is the one who refused to air DEC appeals for the Gazan victims of Operation Cast Lead on the BBC. That sounds like a particular form of bias to me.  Again, not a peep from the BBC-haters.

Here Carswell shows his bias,

Have you heard a BBC journalist challenge officials on the basis that it might be morally wrong to restrict an individual’s freedom to earn a living?  No, but I bet you’ve heard lots about government action to protect jobs. Fair and balanced reporting would point out how the later very often has consequences for the former.

It isn’t clear what Carswell means when he says “it might be morally wrong to restrict an individual’s freedom to earn a living”? I’m willing to bet that there is a hidden discourse here that involves an attack on the right of workers to join trade unions and to resort to industrial action. This Randist position is fleshed out in the following paragraph,

When a private company makes a whopping profit by providing willing customers with a product they want, far from greedy, the company is likely to have done something extraordinarily good. Yet how often does BBC coverage reflect the virtues of the free market?

What “virtues” might these be, Dougie? The virtue of selfishness? The virtue of economic slavery? Persisting with his laissez-faire line of argument he says,

Free markets provide sixty million Britons with food each day – without which we would starve.

Yes and free markets produce billions of tons of food waste every year. Free markets mean that millions of people starve to death in what are often called Third World countries.

Here is an example of real bias. When did the BBC become the unofficial ministry of information for the Israeli government?

As I pointed out in an earlier blog, the BBC was also more than happy to present the government line during the General Strike of 1929.

This blog highlights the BBC’s anti-union bias.

With regards to the public spending cuts, the BBC has been compliant and presented the government’s line without question. I challenge anyone to find evidence that suggests otherwise.

The Tories want a compliant and supine media that only presents their side of the story. Their claims of bias do not stand up to scrutiny. The Telegraph, together with the Daily Mail has waged a near-constant battle to undermine the BBC and call for its break up. More recently, the Guardian published this story that claims that Culture Secretary (and millionaire) Jeremy Hunt is “knee deep in News Corp”. Indeed, Hunt has had secret meetings with News Corp and even met with James Murdoch. Even The Torygraph has reported this story.

Contrary to popular opinion, this country does not have a free press. Much of it is biased towards the Conservative Party. Out of all the newspapers printed in Britain, only three are free from any Tory connection. In the case of The Independent, its claims to objectivity and impartiality are questionable.

This article from Seumas Milne is rather interesting,

Even the BBC’s John Humphrys could be heard this morning charging a bemused Barber on the Today programme with “effectively” threatening to “make the country ungovernable”, raising the question of “who runs Britain?” It bizarrely fell to the government minister Francis Maude to point out that the seven-million strong trade unions had a “legitimate stake” in the controversy around its plans to cut the deficit.

Really? Francis Maude said that? I’m sure it was an anomaly.

 

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Filed under allegations of bias, Media

Big Society or social engineering Tory style?

Interesting blog from Adam Curtis (admittedly published in November of last year). Here’s an excerpt.

I am fascinated by the group David Cameron has set up in No.10, called The Behavioural Insights Unit. I think it is evidence of a massive shift that is just beginning in British politics which will change the way politicians govern and manage the rest of us.

Tony Blair believed in a consumerist idea of democracy. He used focus groups to try and find out what people wanted as a way of shaping policy (except, of course, over Iraq). Like Mrs Thatcher, he believed that the people knew best. They expressed their desires and wants clearly through the market. And politics, he believed, should imitate this.

The Behavioural Insights Team believe the opposite. That in many cases you can’t trust the people. That if you let them just follow their desires they will often do things that are bad both for themselves and for society.

You can read the rest here. Thatcher’s idea that the people “know best” comes from Hayek.  But it is a flawed notion since it expects people to have an intimate knowledge with how markets operate. Most people have no idea nor are they particularly interested.

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