Monday, 25 July 2011

Beer and Politics 3

Dave the Puma’s contribution ran like this:-

There was a brief period when the greatest disparities in income and ownership of wealth were reduced.   It ran from the end of the 40’s to the 70’s.. Remember that?   For most of us, that was your childhood , youth and early adulthood, that was.  It was based on hard lessons learned in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, and in two world wars.  Basically, these were: we are all in this together, certain goods should be provided collectively, e.g. health and education, and progressive taxation is good. Oh yeah, and that did not stop people having material progress, and quite a few getting fairly rich in the 50’s and 60’s: Lord Rayne (Max Rayne) made stupid amounts of money re-developing central London, for example; so you can’t complain that it was all Stalinist and there was only one kind of knickers available, see? Of course, the improvement in household economic equality wasn’t quite enough; I (we?) wanted personal liberation and other kinds of equality as well, so it wasn’t the desired end state, either..

During that magic time, in the words of one commentator, the bottom three quarters of society ganged up on the top quarter and made them behave themselves, for once. More equal societies are, on the whole, happier (see “The Spirit Level”, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Picket, pub. Allen Lane, 2009, if you want an argument). Of course, the Tories hated it, and will do anything to get rid of the vestiges.  Blair/Brown didn’t do enough (much?) to reverse what That Woman started. However, Cameron will try to finish the job.  Currently, the distribution of wealth is back to what it was in 1937, I believe. 

(That was addressed to members of Slim’s List, most of whom met each other at the end of the 60’s/early 70’s, and now look on the current situation in mild horror.  A fair number lived in, or knew of University College London’s Max Rayne House, funded all or in part by Rayne; hence the reference to him)

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Beer, Taxation and Politics: more

Another friend, Dick Scarborough, added the following healthy little rant about the state of the world, and our American Professor’s ideas on taxation:-

The problem of course is that this only refers to direct taxes. Most tax in Britain is charged through things like VAT. Assume rich man number 10 has an income of ... ooh, say £50,000 a week (far less than many premiership footballers earn) and eats and drinks much better than numbers 1-4 on an income of £100 a week (and that is being generous to those on unemployment). Numbers 1-4 spend maybe £20 a week in Tesco on crap food full of sugar and salt, because that's what is cheapest. They don't own a car because they can't afford it, or they drive around with no tax and insurance or MOT, waiting to have a lethal accident that will put them in jail and someone else (probably also poor) also ends up on Benefits as there is no insurance money. The rich guy spends maybe £5,000 a week on food of the highest quality and lives in a comfortable house rather than the over-priced and draughty slum the bottom 4 live in. He is rich because his forebears did something to please the king and were given loads of (untaxed) free land and stuff (including control over the poor). He will live years longer, and the taxes on his bought goods, although far more than what the poor pay, come out at a fraction in terms of the percentage of his income, even though he drives round in a Rolls Royce that does about 10 miles to the gallon, thus trashing the world for the next generation. That's when he isn't doing even worse by travelling in his own jet. If he were to leave the country a left wing government (has there ever been one here?) might nationalise his land or whack enormous taxes on it that he can't avoid, thus leaving him abroad - but poor. The way round this is what has been happening for ages. The rich transfer a lot of their assets to other countries to cover against such an event - but they can't take the land out, or the property. First move the Tories did when they came in? Tried to take the woods away from us (and I don't mean Graham and Heather). They were defeated by lots of people, including some of us, raising a stink, but they have already nicked most of the country, at least since 1066, and the most the majority of us will ever have is a house and maybe an acre or two, and for many that isn't going to happen.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Snappy Responses to Beer, Taxation and Politics

Quick as a flash, we received the following:-

Is this is the sort of Tory crap you hear in the leafy suburbs? 

No; the Tories would have turned the bar into a private club, open only to men numbers 7 - 10.

The threat of drinking elsewhere is one the wealthy have been using for decades to browbeat the gullible.  There is no evidence of any of them doing any such thing.  Despite this, they still make a habit of sneaking round the back of the pub and collecting a refund from the landlord, who appears to be utterly terrified that he might lose their custom,  or he just likes having toffs in his pub.  

(Thanks to Mary, Len and Iain Mac)

Friday, 10 June 2011

Beer, Taxation and Politics

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted this on our group site.  I am not certain why; he probably thought it was funny (OK, it is a bit); he might have thought it made some sort of sensible point.  It certainly provoked righteous rage.  Have a look. 

The UK tax system in beer.

Suppose that once a week, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to £100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this.. The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing. The fifth would pay £1. The sixth would pay £3. The seventh would pay £7.The eighth would pay £12.The ninth would pay £18.And the tenth man (the richest) would pay £59. So, that´s what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every week and seemed quite happy with the arrangement until, one day, the owner caused them a little problem. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I´m going to reduce the cost of your weekly beer by £20". Drinks for the ten men would now cost just £80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So, the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free but what about the other six men? The paying customers? How could they divide the £20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share? They realized that £20 divided by six is £3.33 but if they subtracted that from everybody´s share then not only would the first four men still be drinking for free but the fifth and sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fairer to reduce each man´s bill by a higher percentage. They decided to follow the principle of the tax system they had been using and he proceeded to work out the amounts he suggested that each should now pay. And so, the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (a100% saving).The sixth man now paid £2 instead of £3 (a 33% saving).he seventh man now paid £5 instead of £7 (a 28% saving).The eighth man now paid £9 instead of £12 (a 25% saving).The ninth man now paid £14 instead of £18 (a 22% saving).And the tenth man now paid £49 instead of £59 (a 16% saving).Each of the last six was better off than before with the first four continuing to drink for free. But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings. "I only got £1 out of the £20 saving," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, "but he got £10!" "Yeah, that´s right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a £1 too. It´s unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me!". "That´s true!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get £10 back, when I only got £2? The wealthy get all the breaks!""Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison, "we didn´t get anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor!" The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next week the tenth man didn´t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important - they didn´t have enough money between all of them to pay for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and government ministers, is how our tax system works. The people who already pay the highest taxes will naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy and they just might not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.Professor of Economics.

For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.

(who’s a clever boy then……. .  We shall see what the rest of us said -   Dave the Puma)


Thursday, 24 February 2011

Clegg! This is about more than just fees, you PATRONISING GIT!

(Wording of a poster photographed at a student protest march in Edinburgh, Guardian, 7th December, 2010).  You’re right; it’s not.  I hope he didn’t mean Clegg simply failing to keep his promises either.  Bank makes £11 bn profit and pays only 1% tax; public sector workers laid off, Middle East erupts in protest at ghastly old regimes; draw it all together and go beyond the single issues. 

Perhaps they will.  I hope that, with a bit of luck, people sense that there is a change of mood; not just opposing this policy or that, but starting to talk about the moral basis of society, and by protest, gain the upper hand in the morals and values debate.  They don’t want to get tied down in tedious debate over abstruse political theory in the way the Sixties radicals did, but they do need to start pulling it all together and talking about changing society.

In the pub, a friend of mine objected to comments about bankers’ bonuses.  After a few ravings about fairness from me, he muttered something about the world having changed since Margaret Thatcher; that’s the way the economy works now.  The terms under which we work have changed.  Well, people, go and change them again or put up with more patronising gits.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Modern Language is Rubbish

I read an article by Aditya Chakrabortty (Guardian, 31st August, 2010): “There’s a good reason why so many of us no longer like our jobs.  There’s not much call for thinking these days”.  In it, he set out a few sociologists’ insights: briefly, workers have come to exercise ever less control over their jobs.   Every aspect of work, for every employee, is set out, standardised and, occasionally, scripted by the experts at head office; technology allows this.  A labour market academic, Phil Brown, coined the term “Digital Taylorism” , named after the American time-and-motion  expert’s ideas, which themselves followed Fordism (I think that’s right).  These were ways to extract more production from employees through increased control of the process of manufacture.  This has been extended to the professional sphere;  the point is that you don’t write the script any more.

It is more than that.  The evidence?  Another journalist, Mary Dejevsky, writes on a coroner’s pronouncement on  police procedures before a fatal shooting (Independent, 12th October, 2010).  She praises him for demanding less long-winded jargon in police  training and (written) procedure.  “Of the few examples of these documents I managed to find in the public domain, the language and presentation veered from the puerile to the impenetrable”.  Now think about one of the standing criticisms of the Blair governments: that is, the one which railed against “micro-management” of the public services.  Add to that, say, the prescriptiveness of the curriculum and teaching styles imposed over the years, and then think about the style of language used in all these, from Government policy statements, to OFSTED reports, to the imposed scripts used by call centre workers.  It’s the original ban on thinking; it’s Linguistic Taylorism,  and the partner of the Digital kind. 

Language is the essential tool for thinking.  We have retreated from teaching it as a set of bright, sharp tools which should be given to all.  Perhaps prescriptive language teaching was too limiting; set it free a little, and we shall be less oppressed by class-bound English.   However, nature abhors a vacuum, or rather they won’t let us get away with  that.  Managerialists (I’ll call them that for the moment, but there are more than them) rushed in to fill the gap, seeing an opportunity; but you’ve lost the magic set of tools you need to stop them running everything: tight language, tight verbal logic.

George Orwell knew this.  Finely honed skills in English are the main weapon against management consultants, marketers, advertisers and duff politicians.  This bunch of apparatchiks cannot write and very likely cannot think either.  How could we tell?  Politicians, advisers, senior civil servants all frame policies and practices in Newspeak drivel.  I imagine that they mean well; again, how could we tell?

Incidentally, teaching language as a set of rules imposed on our spontaneous chatter did help the boys at school; they might well be good at science and “techie stuff”, but have trouble with the language-based subjects.  Teaching English as a rule-based set of skills (grammar, syntax, how to phrase an argument and so on) gave them language in a boy-friendly, absorbable form.  It is no wonder that they retreat into business studies and web-site design.  The rule-based method also made teaching foreign languages easier: boys!  This is a sentence; it must have subject and a verb  related to it; this is the direct object of the verb; it must go next to the verb, etc.,  etc.  Now go to German and see how it is done in that language.  Do it that way………..

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Modern Life is rubbish, part 2

It is of course oppressive and stupid. Stupidity number one is because you have a load of half-cut idiots strolling around towns carrying an extremely important and sought-after document.  The alternative is to pay yet more money for other expensive ID documents.

Oppressiveness: the civil rights stuff. Establishments display material which states blithely that you will be checked if you look as if you are under 25.   At that age, I was a social worker with responsibility for children and families, mental health and adult welfare, and there are plenty more of that age now doing the same. Why should anyone aged 18-25 be subjected to this?  (n.b. we had two German exchange students here who were mildly horrified that the age was not sixteen, as in Germany.    Now, they know a bit about drinking in Germany..........)

Why pick this as an argument, rather than something more sober, such as ID cards in general, or “Mosquitoes”?   Because it is clear that someone simply does not like it. There is a suspicion that they simply do not like the inherent hedonism in drinking: I want fun, and I want it now.  I suppose that this is to be set against a vision of a risk-free society, where school students are enjoined to embrace the work ethic as soon as possible and behave like a bunch of responsible, goal-orientated merchant bankers. Pint of Lehman Brothers’ Special, anyone?

Concurrently, you have what appears to be a campaign against both drinking in general, and against young people (ghastly phrase; I would have ripped my own head off, rather than be called that), and specifically against young people drinking.

Stupidity number two is the perverse effect of the whole policy.   They have made it more difficult for people to get into the pub (or where ever) under age.   This has had a perverse effect. Not so long ago, you went to a suitable pub aged 16-17, and bought a few drinks.  Above all else, you tried not to draw attention to yourself; you were obliged to behave like one of the older drinkers.  In effect, you learned how to sit around drinking and talking without looking overtly wrecked. In short, you were socialised into behaving like a more grown-up drinker.   As long as you caused no trouble (and yes, there were some places where that happened, but it would have happened anyway) you were OK.

What of now?   They get hold of cheap alcohol and neck it as fast as possible, in order to get off on it, in the park or where they can; crude generalisation, but drinking to auto-destruct is learned early, rather than being socialised into pub-going.

The figures on binge-drinking are probably debatable.   There was a sheepish admission that the 21 unit per week (it was 28 at some stage, I thought) figure was really only a result of there being seven days in the week.   In 1995 or thereabouts, when this figure was produced, mate Rick, then a senior consultant at St Georges in Tooting, South London (and one partial to a few drinks) asked his colleagues from various departments where the hell had this come from, and what was the evidence............scratching of senior medical heads, and mumbling “dunno....there isn’t any”.   A little later, I went to look over a project promoting volunteering with the Scottish Council on Alcohol on behalf of the funder, the Home Office.  Waiting to interview various staff members, I read in their newsletter that they had asked the Scottish Medical Officer of Health the same question, and received the honest, and identical reply: there is no hard evidence for 21 or even 28 units. Yet this is now the benchmark by which excess is measured.

This does not mean that drinking a bottle of whisky a day would be fine (it never was), nor does it mean that alcohol-fuelled violence is fine; but there are laws against violence already, are there not?    Drunkenness in the streets on a Friday night has been around for a very long time. “Young people” did not invent it; to repeat, the campaign against them is oppressive and stupid.  There are more arguments and evidence (George Monbiot took this up in the Guardian) but let’s just stick to one for now:-

modern life is rubbish.........................