Tag Archives: Capitalism

On Merit

During ‘The Unbelievable Truth’, on BBC Radio 4 yesterday, the definition of ‘Aristocracy’ was given: “Rule by the best”. Compare that with ‘Meritocracy’: “Rule by those most able & talented”.

Built into our current model of capitalism is an assumption that ability and talent is almost entirely inherited. Inherited wealth must be protected. The rich are the best so their children have an automatic right to better education, food and healthcare.

As I have toured the stately homes of Greater Midland, which fell into the hands of the National Trust, in earlier, more socialist times, I’ve noted the walls lined with centuries of family portraits, illustrating the past owners’ pedigrees.

Along with evidence of their line and their obsession with animal husbandry, documented by walls full of champion bulls, hunting hounds and stallions there is an occasional beautiful mistress from the mongrel classes. They are fully aware of their own weaknesses.

I was asleep when the Eton Rifles started to lead the fightback against a Conservative Party appointed on merit. So were New Labour. “Let them eat organic sour-dough loaves with Tuscan olives”, said Tony. “Get out of the way if you can’t lend a hand”, sang Bob Dylan, back when Jeremy Corbyn was a lad. He listened. He kept his head down when New Labour led, voting against them when he felt he must but staying mostly quiet until the wind changed. It is now time for New Labour’s Bitterites to shut up and let someone else have a go. You lost and are FAR MORE unelectable than Corbyn right now. Give the guy a chance because it’s the only chance your side has.

And you know John McDonell’s little red book stunt? It was very funny! The Conservatives ARE selling Britain to Communist China. They work for the new international aristocracy, not the British people. That’s a far bigger danger to ‘the rest of us’ than one-world socialism.

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A Compromise Solution?

I’ve been thinking about how human values of fairness lie behind political beliefs again:

‘The Left’ – Everyone is equal. Difference is due to upbringing. We must take money off the rich and give it to the poor until every one has the same. Capitalism is flawed but what else is there?

‘The Right’ – Some people are better than others and deserve to be rewarded. Competitive winners are born not made. Winning is generally handed down the bloodline, though exceptional individuals should be allowed to rise from the ranks. Capitalism is a natural mechanism: survival of the fittest. The poor should be encouraged to try harder. Charity should help the completely hopeless.

‘The Centre’ – A compromise between Left and Right, in my opinion between 2 wrongs.

I’d like to make a radical proposal that is not Left, Right or Centre. It cherry picks the bits of ‘fair’ I think are true:

‘A New Fair’ – People are all different but should have equal opportunities to succeed. Everyone has the right to an adequate life and to find where they can best add value to society. Our culture should adequately reward those who add most and we should encourage the most able (at anything we value, including compassion or athleticism) to be the ones who have most children. We must do that without punishing children. Inheritance rights need to be severely reduced.

If we want equal work opportunities for women then genders must share childcare i.e. it must be equally likely that a male parent will take a career break and ‘do the school run’.

I’d welcome feedback, preferably here – WordPress registration isn’t bothersome but Twitter: @wootube would be fine too.

Socialism or Capitalism? Option 3 Please

A while ago, I was considering how people, who’s thinking I respect could be SO WRONG about politics. I concluded that politics is a cultural argument over our shared definition of fairness and that flows from our personal values. The Ancient Greeks were able to believe concurrently in democracy and slavery. We appear able to believe that refugees need to be helped but they can’t come here.

‘Left’ thinking says that all people are born equal, so if some fall behind then those that do well have a duty to support them. The further left you go, the less likely nationhood seems important. We are all the same, sharing a single fragile planet.

‘Right’ thinking says that some people are genetically superior to others and deserve to be rewarded for their greater ability. The further right you go, the more likely bloodlines and national pride are to seem important. All of us are better than all of them. ‘We’ own our island and are free to exploit it’s national resources.

I think both of those beliefs, devoid of any balance, lead to horrible societies in which a particular set of bullies run rough-shod over the interests of the general population.

I have been very supportive of the idea of the Labour party electing Jeremy Corbyn as Leader, to disrupt the gradual drift right by all parties (except The Greens) and start intelligent debate instead of statistical lying, sound-bites and obscene inequality. I think Capitalism is overdue for replacement but I’ve seen no evidence yet that the far Left have any plan that will achieve that without violent revolution.

My first alarm rang when both Tom Watson and Jeremy Corbyn referred back to the Miner’s Strike in their acceptance speeches, as though it was a proud time for the Labour Party. Listen to what Barbara Castle said about that: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b068w44x

Any attempt to align the TUC with a single political party could be a final death-blow for unions in the workplace, where they belong and are desperately needed, when a Conservative government is next elected.

IF socialist THEN IF democratic AND distributed_power THEN Green_Party

I always like ‘crossing the streams’ of my apparently disparate obsessions. Last night my long term fascination in whether the Free Software movement can survive a war with software capitalists, collided with my recent interest in the Green Party.

I have struggled for years to find any political party in the UK that comes close to my political ideals. I am economically Left, Right in terms of Liberty and think the environment is sending us very strong signals that capitalism has been a more destructive failure than communism. I believe in equality of opportunity rather than equality and in distributed rather than centralised power. I prefer incremental change to the unpredictability of revolution. I see little difference between nationalism and racial or religious hatred. No party quite fits my shopping list but at the recent General Election, I decided that the current Green Party comes closest, so far.

Richard M. Stallman, instigator of the GNU Project, who kicked off the the GNU GPL (General Public Licence) and indirectly, the CopyLeft movement has turned his attention to politics in recent years. Arguably, his life’s work, Free Software, is the practical application of ‘social ownership of the means of production’ but RMS is the ‘Marmite’ of the Free Software community. His almost total lack of pragmatism and slightly abrasive personality towards anyone who disagrees with him divides opinions but I have learned over the years to never question his basic logic. He has a habit of being right, even when it is inconvenient.

I have become increasingly suspicious of large corporations and hierarchical power structures. RMS’s idea on ‘too big to fail’ is the best economic solution to monopolies I’ve ever seen: http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2013/02/04/fixing-too-big-to-fail/

In his ‘political notes’, at (https://www.stallman.org) on the day of the UK election, RMS wrote this:

“18 May 2015 (Revitalizing the Labour Party)

Making the Labour Party good for something depends on bottom-up community organizing. Acting like a right-wing party produces a right-wing party.

Perhaps instead of revitalizing the Labour Party, Britons should go Green.”

I also noticed that his preferred US presidential candidate is an independent who describes himself as a ‘Democratic Socialist’. This is surprisingly different to the ‘Social Democrat’ “…view of reform through state intervention within capitalism” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_socialism

“Decentralised socialism”. “…seeing capitalism as incompatible with the democratic values of freedom, equality and solidarity.” Maybe I’m a Democratic Socialist now. Are you?

If RMS thinks the British Labour Party has lost touch with socialism, then I’m a little more comfortable about having thought the same for the last few years too. I was unhappy with the LibDems prioritising economic growth over environmental danger and perhaps I understand better now where my intuitive reaction to that came from.

New Rules to Make Free Markets Fairer

If you believe in free markets then as well as allowing people to work hard to become wealthy, you believe they are good for consumers, because competition encourages innovtation, increases quality, reduces price and ultimately improves value. This is particularly important to the poor.

People will choose a range of different ‘best-value points’ on the quality/price graph, usually according to their income. The wealthy get better quality. This incentivises the poor to strive to become rich. You see, I DO understand ‘the idea’ behind Capitalism.

The danger is a supplier that comes to dominate a market to such an extent that it can control that market and disrupt competition. It is a duty of government to prevent such monopolies, even if MPs are shareholders or provide consultancy services.

I want to outline some legislative changes that I think would make to free markets work better for consumers and the environment.

  • Bundling
    It should be illegal to offer discounts for buying more units than you want, unless there is a genuine cost saving to the supplier for supplying in bulk.
    Our planet is running out of resources. We don’t want to rush that.
    Buying food to throw away raises prices for people who can’t afford to eat enough to stay healthy. That is immoral.
    Buying 2 or more completely unrelated products together, at a discount, gives an unfair advantage to large companies.
  • Stop loyalty cards
    Yes, it’s just ‘virtual’ or ‘time-lapse’ bundling.
    People are ‘loyal’ to organisations that give them consistently good value
    A ‘bribe’ is a different thing
  • ‘Walled gardens’
    If 2 different products work together via an interface then that interface should be made public, so that competitors can compete fairly.
    When third-party products, parts or services are used, a supplier should not be able to withdraw warranty for unrelated parts.
    Purchase of Services e.g. an iPhone should be able to buy music easily from a site other than iPlayer and that option should be made as obvious by Apple as its own service. Microsoft were forced to make other browsers available to compete with Internet Explorer.
    A new phone manufacturer should be able to buy music from Google Play by developing its own software, making calls from their software via the same published interface libraries Google use, so it is not put at a competitive disadvantage by another product/service.
    If the original supplier claims that development costs were high and need to be recouped, then fair licensing costs should be charged, in exchange for full exposure of those costs.
    Such competition causes original manufacturers to provide the value their customers require.
    Manufacturers should not be allowed to keep purchase price low by subsidising from the sale of over-priced consumable items later, such as ink cartridges, vacuum cleaner bags or coffee machine capsules, or by suppying devices such as laser-printers with cartridges that are only half full with toner.
    Devices should not be sold at less than manufacturing cost.
    Total running costs should be made clear at point of purchase, in a standard format, to allow comparison with competitors.
    The ‘cost per standard unit’ of consumable items should be clearly marked. e.g. cost per cup of coffee.
    It is best for consumers if open interfaces are used, so offer tax breaks for companies on products that use industry-wide open standards for interfaces, developed in co-operation with all competitors, as that reduces overall costs to citizens.
  • Stop allowing patenting of non-innovative ideas
    Stop all software patents. They are destroying the software industry. Writing software is hard enough without having to constantly check if the idea you just thought of has ever been thought of before, via your legal department, if you have one.
    Small, innovative companies do not have legal departments, allowing large companies to put competitors out of business.
    Stop patents of any ideas, once the development costs + x% have been recouped. x might be different for industries with varying rates of R&D success. Being first to market already has a significant market advantage in fast-moving industries.

Competitiveness – a strange game

[ a slightly different version of a post I made on LinkedIn ]

“A strange game. The only winning move is not to play” – the computer in ‘Wargames’

Also see: market capitalism, Westminster politics, privatisation, corporate performance reviews.

Changing Socialism

I’ve been trying to get my head around politics, hierarchy and evolution.
I don’t believe in “growth” and since growth is the  fuel of Capitalism I can’t believe in market capitalism, or in the establishment hierarchy which supports it but I can see markets with my own eyes. They are real, so I have to believe in them.

I’ve also seen that neither the USSR or China were able to make their versions of Socialism work, and closer to home, I found Arthur Scargill at least as terrifying as Maggie Thatcher.

We have talked of “The Collider”. Perhaps it could help? An early, Leanly Manufactured prototype has been built and I have installed it, with my bed as the focus point, so I can start my research every morning before The Street is thoroughly aired.

The information feeds at this point are:

  • BBC Radio 4 – delivered by the medium of DAB alarm-clock radio. I like to think that the delay softens the impact. I listen for an hour through the filter of semi-conciousness that precedes my first coffee. The  filter throws the idea-stream into soft-focus, which I hope will model biological mutation.

Caffeine consumption is best achieved in an at least semi-upright posture which then enables my Internet feeds. They normally consist of

  • Facebook – but it is rarely fun in the morning. I seem to befriend more owls than worms, so my first call is often
  • LinkedIn – but I’d already thrown some bait out there yesterday. I’d posted a quotation I found, about ‘The Lean Mindset’ at http://www.poppendieck.com
    “Great companies are not in business to make money, they make money to stay in business and accomplish an important purpose.”
    I also responded to a link to an article about hierarchy on Forbes.com, called:
    ‘No Managers? No Hierarchy? No Way!’
    It had 5 ‘thumbs up’ and one comment in agreement when I arrived (well “kind of”. He may have been disagreeing politely). I said, “I disagree that nature is inherently hierarchical…” then everything went quiet. Top-level LinkedIn appears to be frequented by few people willing to take the chance of being on the Wrong side of an argument. I asked questions but had received no reply. I must assume that the author took them to be rhetorical or wished me to go away.

This seems to be what hierarchies do to protect themselves. (The next stages are social exclusion of the critic and finally expulsion, should anyone wish to plot their own position on a handy graph.) It was too early for fighting or having a perfectly sound argument ignored, so on to

  • Twitter -A few days ago, I realised most of my favourite tweeters are young, female, introverted, hopeful misanthropes who are interested in EVERYTHING but, like me, take an outsider’s view on Real Life. This probably says something about me but who cares what anyone else thinks, right?

I find Nat Guest, @unfortunatalie particularly good to wake up to.

  1. She gets up at a sensible time. There won’t be a backlog to catch up on. Let’s face it, Twitter, I’m only ever going to see a sunrise if I stay up particularly late.
  2. With Nat, there is rarely any need for further randomisation in pre-processing. She comes ready-muxed.
  3. I totally relate to her pseudo-parallel, chaotic changes in thought direction, constant “over” analysis and bemused observation of life’s absurdities.

This morning, in between her dislike of Calvin & Hobbes, increased bean varieties, the modern face of racism and a brief adventure into self-parody she told a sad story of Socialism failing. Failing again. “My favourite socialist-run stationery shop is closing. He has suffragette printing presses in his basement. Another woman & I are staring in through the window & commiserating”, she tweeted.
UpClose
This place has history. It seems the sort of place London Communists might have gathered before marching to protect the Jewish commuity from the Blackshirts, when the police weren’t going to – one of England’s finest moments.
ShopClosing
But look at that window display. It could be Soviet Russia. It’s main competitor is probably Amazon. How ironic.

There was a newsagent opposite my house that had remained unchanged since at least the mid-nineteen-sixties. It closed a few years ago, when the matriarch of the family, back minding the shop, was threatened with a gun. As far as I know, it was run along market-capitalist lines, as a family business. It just wasn’t making enough to be worth fighting for any more. Two car parking spaces were plenty. The environment had changed. I only ever went in there a few times, as a child and with my children. They didn’t sell much I wanted. I liked knowing it was there though and I miss it. It was a sign that things didn’t always have to change.

If you’re worried about the old lady, she told the robber, “bugger off, you’ll have to shoot me first” and he ran away. I wonder if that’s worth trying with Tower Hamlets Council. She didn’t live much longer though. I guess the shop was her life.

Maybe evolution has pre-disposed us to be selfish and grow because it is too dangerous to stay still, and contraction also causes resource depletion. We should find bigger purposes that we can all believe in.

If you’d like to know more about the Spitalfields shop, @unfortunatelie sent me this
spitalfieldslife.com > 2010 > 02 > 03 > Gary-arber-printer <http://spitalfieldslife.com/2010/02/03/gary-arber-printer/>  I was wrong about Communist Russia.
Natalie Guest owns the Copyleft to the photographs but has given permission to use them under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial Licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/