Saturday, 13 October 2018

Is Britain a business park or a country?

I don't know how true it is that the UK has shaped the core EU economic policies of mass market liberalisation. I suspect this is a line deployed by remainers to flatter right wingers who say the UK doesn't manage to influence the EU. We often hear the "single market is Thatcher's achievement" shtick. It was ultimately a tool of political integration sold to Thatcher as liberalisation. Were I left wing I might describe this as the global neoliberal order now entrenched by the WTO.

The eurosceptic movement as it exists now, though, typically described as right wing has always had protectionist instincts and their anti-globalist stance has more in common with the left wing antiglobalisation movement of the 90's than they would care to admit. It is only their socially conservative politics that has them described as right wing and their alliance with the ultra right free traders is more an accident of politics than them being natural bedfellows.

This would typically be Daily Mail/Daily Express reader who would voice outrage that UK trains and British Army trucks would be outsourced to Germany at the expense of production in Leeds and Derby. Certainly this would have been the politics of Sir James Goldsmith who was very much anti-globalisation.

It is this hyper-liberalised approach that shapes Britain as we now know it. We actively seek foreign investment by allowing Chinese ownership of our utilities - electricity especially, stitching up guaranteed strike prices to guarantee a return on investment. This then leads to massive and highly questionable boondoggles like Hinkley Point which arguably puts the UK in a winning position by developing the very latest in nuclear technology but this at a time when we really ought to be looking at decentralised energy production and CHP.

The problem I see is that this dynamic is the sticking plaster to prop up a model that doesn't actually work. We are told that liberalisation is a universal good and that there are no losers from "free trade". On paper that is. We are told there is no discernible net loss off jobs. That though is not to say that it does not have seismic impacts on jobs and certainly it is responsible for many of the hammer blows to the regions over the decades.

This is where we see governments essentially running a command and control economy to compensate for the ravages of globalisation. On the one hand we see Keynesian splurges like HS2, the Swansea Lagoon and Hinkley point, along with generous interest free loans and hidden subsidies for anything from wind farms to car factories. This is to ensure the regions get their "crown jewels". Remainers get good mileage out of Nissan in Sunderland and Airbus in Bristol without which, these areas simply wouldn't have a middle class at all.

This is essentially what EU regional funding is propping up and it's one of the only things preventing even more acute London agglomeration. Agriculture is all but dead and wouldn't survive without subsidy and large services employers are moving either toward automation or outsource their customer services to India.

For all of this though, it is not doing enough for the public not to notice that the regions are dying. rural towns are shuttered off season and the former industrial towns are now welfare slums and festering jihad incubators. Dewsbury, Rotherham, Telford, Oldham, Halifax... the list is familiar to sociologists.

These are places which have long since lost their reason for being and their pride along with it. Places now more famous for feral Pakistani rape gangs than what they once produced. Places once described as chav towns before the term fell out of fashion. They are now more patronisingly described as the "left behind" and study subjects for journalistic poverty safaris.

With industry now fully bureacratised and even vending machine repair men now requiring degrees and licencing, the system serves to ensure that the economic exclusion that exists is baked into the system which creates a massive victim class to which well-to-do leftists see as subjects of their social welfare feudalism. This is essentially what underpins the poverty of ambition and destroys social mobility. Business won't invest in skills and training because it doesn't need to. It can simply lobby government to allow in more immigrants.

That is then what props up anaemic growth which disguises a collapsing economic order and further kicks the can down the road - all the while our creaking social entitlements are hollowed out. This is against a backdrop of feeble savings ratios, collapsing pension saving and a housing time bomb as each new generation is effectively prevented from acquiring capital.

This ultimately explains the sharp divisions in the country and to a point the generational divide. If the system works for you, you vote remain, if not, you take a punt because things are only going to get worse. There is little to be lost by gambling when the future signals only more of the same.

This is where I listen to remainers very carefully. I listen to what they say. The tell us we need to cancel Brexit and instead address the issues that caused the Brexit vote. Their solution is to firehose more money at the regions - to "end austerity" and to chuck more welfare at the serfs in t he regions. That'll do it. Let them eat subsidy while we wag our fingers at them for being racist. Get that Gary Lineker, Bob Geldof and Bono to tell them what's good for them. The plebs listen to celebs don't they?

Essentially the Western economic order, underpinned by the EU and the WTO, one which forces liberalisation of utilities and public services is one that primarily exists for the free move movement of capital. Free movement of people, though a liberty enjoyed mainly by the well off in the UK, is mainly there to ensure a continual supply of cheap labour which props up a massive consumer convenience market.

Insomuch as the current model robs the towns and even mid sized Northern cities of their vitality as the ambitious youth drains away to London, we also see the wider implications of this where Hungary, Poland and Romania are suffering a brain drain of the professional classes who gravitate to the UK to make a living. This is most telling in the health sector.

A little while back I needed a tooth extraction at Bristol dental hospital. What you immediately notice is that the the admin staff are British - women mainly and all of the practitioners are immigrants. Dentists seem to be Indian while dental nurses are Polish. It's easy to see why from a working class perspective that there is a feeling they are being replaced.

This is where we are told that immigration does not depress wages. On aggregate. Again this is a trick of the spreadsheet sociopath which has it that because there is negligible statistic impact that there is no wider social impact and the anecdotal lived experiences we hear from the regions can simply be written off as racist/xenophobic etc. This is how the working class ends up utterly ignored and patronised by the ruling class.

This is where we see the NHS weaponised against the working class. Not for nothing do we see leaders of the continuity remain campaign pushing the NHS is against Brexit routine. Without immigrants "our" NHS cannot function. Without immigrants there is nobody to look after granny or care for the disabled. What they mean by that is without immigration there is nobody willing to do it for peanuts when they have overheads that migrants living in HMOs do not.

In more ways than one the NHS serves as a bed blocker. As the object of a bizarre political cult the spectre of NHS privatisation or NHS cuts can be deployed to defeat just about any political initiative. It underpins the political deadlock thus preserves the political status quo to the point where nothing ever changes and nothing ever gets done. We are simply to keep feeding the beast and it can always serve as an excuse to rob us of yet more of our income. To even suggest that there may be alternative systems is a politics akin to holocaust denial.

I also think there is a greater harm to this "neoliberal" order. The perpetual supply of cheap consumer goods and convenience foods takes it so own toll. Certainly it feeds the market for cheap Chinese goods which is a form of economic warfare on the West but also I think that a society where social provision acts as not only a safety net, but also as a substitute for saving - creates a society of rootless consumers living in service of the machine - cash rich but asset poor - throwing money away on the frivolities provided for them. It makes for a more selfish, wasteful and transient culture.

At times I have elaborated on this particular dynamic which is not at all received well, particularly by those who see the core function of the state to act primarily as a provider of social welfare - who do not see themselves as defenders of the neoliberal order even though they are. They tend to be anti-free schools and generally anti-choice when it comes to healthcare and education and anti-cuts when it comes to welfarism. They are authoritarians who believe these things things should be monopoly run by the state largely because for them they are a means of social control.

My own view is that welfare is one of the pillars that subsidises structural poverty essentially paying people to stay poor - which is why the Blairites are welfare expansionists. It knocks out working class competition and provides a victim class for their bloated public sector to patronise which in turns keeps vast numbers voting for an ever ballooning social sector. This is why Blairism is corporate friendly. Taxing the City underpins their social spending thus maintains their arsenal of social control. It's why they love the EU.

This is why I love Brexit. Brexit trashes all of that. It's why, at the end of the day, if we have to leave without a deal then leaving is still better than remaining. As much as it forces a massive rationalisation of state provision, forcing families once again to take responsibility for one another, it also forces people to save, invest in their own health and participate in the education instead of treating schools as day-safe lockers for their offspring.

For all that the "progressives" will whine about cuts to education, I can see how it will force us to rethink how we do schooling. I for one love the idea of free schools, not least making use of redundant buildings such as former call centres and police stations. Why shouldn't kids be educated in interesting places? Why should schools be depressing cultural concentration camps surrounded by high cage fencing? Why should there be a universal model? It's not like it's working out better for the working class when there are mud shack schools in central Ghana with better literacy rates than comparatively well funded schools in Sheffield.

What I would love to see is a public liberated from state dependence and freed of the lazy assumption that if the state does not do something for them then it doesn't get done at all. As much as anything I think the UK need cultural renewal as well as political and economic. I certainly have no stake in preserving the status quo. I think individuals and communities are at their best when they take their own initiative. We've just had that instinct beaten out of us by progressives and led to believe our interests are best served by the state - which is why the left actively promote NHS worship.

For me, the fig-leaves of Nissan and Airbus are a poor substitute for a functioning economy and continuation of the current economic paradigm will lead to increasing economic exclusion as the protected (but shrinking) progressive middle class uses the instruments of the state to lock in their own privilege. Eventually, though, that creeping economic tide will come for them too.

The society I envisage is one radially different from the micromanaged centrally planned one we now live in where quality of life is measured solely by GDP and material conveniences. Community happens through necessity and as the state has gradually removed the necessity it has also destroyed the very fabric of community and with it any sense of local politics and consequently local democracy - not least since the essential power to do anything locally is constrained by embedded and unreformable EU directives and half of the local utilities are owned by a Shanghai based hedge fund.

For all that Brexit negotiations may be going the hell in a handcart I am somewhat sanguine about it all. The political dysfunction needs resolution and that cannot happen until the fever burns itself out. I even start to wonder if an orderly departure was ever possible even though theoretically it could be delivered. I don't know. Something had to give though - and it is now crystal clear that our political system simply cannot cope with something as challenging as Brexit. This is like the winter storm which brings down the tree that has rotted from the inside.

The current order is dying and politics as we know it is on life support. The fate remainers sought to delay or defer was always coming and they are fighting against the tide of history. Personally I am glad to have played my part in bringing the old order down and I want to be around to be part of the rebuilding. For the first time in my life the future is a a book yet to be written. And I find that more than just a little bit exciting.

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