Anatomy of the Lewisham riots

Shaun sent us six extraordinary eyewitness videos that show how rapidly the Lewisham riots grew up on Monday night, beginning with a sudden surge of people on to the streets and ending with smoke and fire. He writes:

I am a resident of Lewisham, right near to Albion Way where some of the clashes with police occurred on Monday night.

I was present, it happened around me as I was trying to navigate a friend around the high street when it was cut off and filmed what I could. I've got these videos online, I thought they wouldn't be much help as you were putting things out live as they were happening, but they might be insightful if you are building up a complete picture.

Here is one of the videos, that gives you a sense of being right in the midst of the chaos. You can watch the story unfold in video 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

The causes and meaning of the riots will be debated for months and weeks to come. If Transpontine is still blogging in 20 years time, we'd be very surprised if he isn't writing retrospectives on the topic. The nature of the riots may be new, but the nature of the people doing the rioting wasn't. Watching the interviews with young people involved, we were reminded of some of the people we went to school with and people we read about in English history.

England's underclass pre-dates spending cuts under Cameron, spending rises under Blair, Thatcher, the big bang in the City, the dismantling of the grammar school system, the neutering of the police, the de-industrialisation of the economy, or any other single cause that gets thrown around. Blaming any particular government policy is unhelpful. As the Economist argued, the narratives offered by the left and the right by way of explanation are (as ever) equally useless.

Just attacking the rioters, doesn't get us very far either. As Russell Brand wrote in his excellent blog:

However “unacceptable” and “unjustifiable” it might be, it has happened so we better accept it and whilst we can’t justify it we should kick around a few neurons and work out why so many people feel utterly disconnected from the cities they live in...

I should here admit that I have been arrested for criminal damage for my part in anti capitalist protest earlier in this decade. I often attended protests and then, in my early twenties, and on drugs, I enjoyed it when the protests lost direction and became chaotic, hostile even...

I found those protests exciting, yes because I was young and a bit of a twerp but also, I suppose, because there was a void in me. A lack of direction, a sense that I was not invested in the dominant culture, that Government existed not to look after the interests of the people it was elected to represent but the big businesses that they were in bed with.

Ironically, given that this sense of hopelessness was undoubtedly amongst the root causes, the riots themselves appear to have been fuelled by a sense of possibility. The rioters weren't a demographic, they were a psychographic, mobilising and self-reinforcing through networks - they knew their collective power as a mob and felt the collective weakness of society.

But as the flash mobs bearing brooms the next day showed, London society isn't weak. It's strong. We just have to work harder to demonstrate it, to reinforce it and to show people their positive place in it.

Some of that work involves stronger policing and enforcement of laws and regulations to show that society does have standards. It also means massive and unapologetic intervention in broken communities, through education, social work and funding for community projects. It means taxpayers having to spend lots of money on people whose personalities and behaviours scarcely merit it. It also means - god help us - listening to the likes of Iain Duncan Smith when he points the finger at family breakdown. It means a more Reithian (and sometimes tediously worthy) cultural agenda. In other words, it means doing lots of things that will stick in the craw of just about everyone of every political persuasion. The alternative is to live with this underclass for the next couple of centuries, as we have the last.

The challenge is not without some precedent.

In the wake of EURO 2000, Brockley Central's day job involved working with England supporters trying to purge the national team's following of hooligans. In a typical crowd a small proportion were really, really nasty people, without the intelligence or empathy to function normally. Most were just muppets, who took vicarious pleasure from being around danger. The sort of guys who would run forwards a few yards, then back a few yards - if they felt safe, they might chuck a plastic chair from distance. And then there were the apologists. A much larger group, not involved themselves in trouble, but always on hand to offer an excuse to legitimise the action - 'the police were looking for trouble', 'the other fans started it' and on, and on. Often, there was truth in what they said, but how they said it stoked tensions and energised the trouble makers. You can see a lot of same behaviours in the riots as you can in football violence.

The approach taken to change behaviour at England games required a whole range of measures. Primarily, these were:

- tougher policing and bans on travelling
- social engineering through a ticketing policy that encouraged new people including more women and children to follow England - and if you had the wrong type of criminal record, you didn't get a ticket. Tough.
- celebrating, rewarding and facilitating positive behaviour, whether that was through contributing towards positive fan initiatives or helping the media to find and interview fans who had something to offer other than nihilism
- it even meant building an online community forum, where fans could bitch about the moderator (us) in much the same way as they do on Brockley Central today - we told you the precedents were uncanny

To pay for all this, people's membership costs went up, as did the subsidy from The FA. Everyone paid and no-one liked it very much.

But the result was that - while things are still far from perfect - we went from riots in Belgium to congas in Japan within a decade.

180 comments:

Anonymous said...

Whilst a lot can be learned from the FA et al - a good job was done - there is one big difference. The FA resolved to a large degree the problem of hooliganism amongst travelling England supporters, but in large part through excluding the hardcore from matches. It's difficult to do the same with equivalent elements of society based on their likelihood to commit a future crime.

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, that's true and if the article sounds like it's suggesting that that work is a directly applicable template, I apologise, it wasn't meant to.

However the "excluded hardcore" was very small. Get rid of the excluded hardcore and the catalyst for a lot of trouble goes. I'd say the parallel would be tough sentences and heavy-handed intervention of the sort that Louise Casey advocates - for the tiny hardcore.

Anonymous said...

No need to apologise, the article wasn't that prescriptive. I agree that heavy sentences etc can be equivalent, but only to a point, but I can't see a way to introduce preemptive exclusion from society without infringing fundamental liberties. Accentuating the positive, education etc are sensible parts of a complex solution to a nearly intractable problem, one that no society in history has ever solved.

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, possibly not. The exclusion of football hooligans did involve extraordinary measures that arguably infringed their rights to travel (they had to hand in their passports before a game).

Anonymous said...

Still, well worth learning from the FA. On a more constructive note, what about introducing a fourth school term? Evidence from the US (caveat: I've not read the original study) suggested that the long summer holiday exarcebated the divide between children of rich and poor families. There was no great difference between the two groups over a term, but the former were able to afford summer camps, etc, and so their level of learning didn't drop officer the summer, unlike the latter.

A fourth term would alleviate this, offer a chance for an expanded curriculum with lots more outdoor activity, also helping with the obesity challenge, social activity and work experience opportunities. It'd also be a huge boon to working parents, who'd save a great deal of money in childcare, so there's possible sources of extra funds to pay for it. The main losers would be teachers who'd be expected to work longer hours over a year.

The long summer break allegedly stems from the days when kids were needed for fruit picking. I've not come across any educational rationale for it; interested if anyone has (I think a few schools have trialled four terms).

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the exclusion of football hooligans from football matches has simply allowed the aggression to be built up and then let off in the streets as the more general rioting we saw this week. Maybe it would have been better to allow them to continue to let off their aggression inside the football stadia.

Indeed, perhaps their banning from football matches (and the general massive hike in football match prices beyond the reach of many) has been one of (but a minor one of) their feeling of exclusion from society.

The Romans might have had it right with the bread and circuses method of keeping tension down.

Anonymous said...

I remember when acid was the craze and a lot of thugs were loving rather than fighting.

Monkeyboy said...

Yup, when it was kickingoff proper and i could smell the smoke in my garden i was up for water cannon and even troops helping out. Thats all well and good but for our leaders to think thats a solution longterm rather than dealing with at source is feeble. Look at the demographic going through the courts, a tidy solution that fits on a front page is not possible. It's a bit galling may require resources and effort being allocated on the very people doing this.

Also entirely agree that this is actually nothing new our parents generation have run around in brainless mobs themselves http://bbc.in/rpkJNX

Transpontine said...

I do tend to bang on about history mainly because it interests me, but I also find a historical perspective can put current events into context.

Knowing that there have periodically been riots for hundreds of years makes a mockery of suggestions that current day events are caused by superficial contemporary features like twitter, trainers, or indeed changing family patterns.

Sure it's usually the poorest section of the population at the forefront of rioting even if not everyone taking part is from that part of society. But equally as a historian you have to ask why do riots happen in some periods rather than others? The period now is uncannily like the early 1980s when riots on this scale last occurred. The relationship between recession and disorder is complex, but it is obviously true that when the economy catches a cold, the 'underclass' (though I'm not keen on that term), catches something worse... Whether these 'structural factors' translates into riots depends on lots of other things. There usually has to be a 'flashpoint' to trigger it off - like somebody being shot by police (see also US experience). There's a whole literature on this 'flashpoints model', associated with David Waddington if anyone wants to follow it up.

I really don't think though that parenting is a major factor. You can explain some individual pathology by early childhood experiences, but not I think large scale social phenomena. I am sure that there are many people on here (me included) who either grew up in or are now involved in complex but loving family relationships other than two parents together living together for life with their biological children. Equally people who did and are totally f*cked up as a result! So let's all be careful about casting the first stone at the 'broken' families.

Anonymous said...

Trans, thats the first sensible comment I've heard from anybody here on the subject, well said!

Brockley Nick said...

@Transpontine

Anyone who knows my personal circumstances would know that I am not talking about non-nuclear families when I mention family breakdown. Successful families come in all shapes and sizes, as do broken ones.

But there are most certainly broken families and I'd say they're the most important contributing factor - families that have no desire or ability to equip their kids for life, that have been out of work for generations, that are abusive and violent to one another, that pass on criminal and anti-social attitudes from one generation to another. That allow their kids to disappear from the school system or roam free on a night when the city is in chaos. If it's not these families then what is it? How can the education system help kids who won't go to school or who arrive at school with a complete disregard for authority and structure? How can the labour market be designed to do anything other than fail for people so poorly equipped for life?

It begins, with parenting. That's not a moral position or an attempt to absolve society of any blame. I think it's an argument for more early intervention
All the other stuff - recession, police action, etc is circumstance - the catalyst, but not the fuel. And since recession will always be with us from time to time, we need to work out how we can prevent it from acting as a trigger.

If it sounded like I was teasing about the retrospective, again I apologise. Historical perspective is important and I think that's where I started off?

Lou Baker said...

I agree. It's all about parenting.

Not just mums and dads - but grandparents, siblings, aunties, friends, guardians, even teachers.

Children need to learn right from wrong. And that comes from the adults that surround them.

We need to encourage good parenting. More parenting classes. More help and opportunities for single mums. But we need to crackdown on bad parenting. Feckless fathers who take no responsibility for their kids etc.

And we need better schools. It's woeful that so many kids leave school unable to read and write. Pay good teachers more, fire bad ones.

There needs to be much more done for kids in care. They should all go to the best private schools and we need to make adoption easier and more attractive.

We need a clampdown on antisocial behaviour. As soon as kids think they can get away with stuff, they do. It all too often starts as a minor thing and leads to exclusion from school and crime.

For those who do offend, prison mostly doesn't work. Harsh community sentences instead. Build things, fix things. If a sentence behind bars is required it should not be subject to a time limit: ie) 3 years but to achievements. ie) You will stay in prison until you've passed 3 GCSEs or until you've trained to be an electrician. Make prison productive.

We should legalise drugs - all drugs - to rip the heart out of gang culture. And we must tackle corruption and indifference in the police.

Finally, we must target the super rich and wealthy who avoid tax - and we should do this by tightening tax laws. Tax avoidance is legal and understandable. Why pay more tax than you need to? The point is making tax avoidance harder - to raise more money to spend on fixing society's problems.

Anonymous said...

The rioters and the bankers. Who's been raised "correctly"? Who's had the "opportunities"? Who, in the long term, has cost us more?

it´s just the next step said...

Rioters and bankers - what happens when the younger generation takes over - the banks got rid of anyone with experience and there were huge redundancies to get cheaper younger staff.

Not enough men in primary teaching and probably many secondaries too, all too mumsy and pleading with children to behave without any substance to it.

Local schools being called outstanding - but writing up - underachieving when the children begin school and underachieving when they leave school. But all value added. That is an outstanding disgrace.

Shocked by programmes about close neighbours in europe - where you cannot leave school without a qualification in something - especially a trade - why do we expect everyone to be an academic.

Address the reality in this country of children not reading at 11 - it´s a national tragedy.

This is also the generation who have been growing up since Stephen Lawrence´s death and the subsequent policing which involves the police being called institutionally racist and just standing by watching looters in london and croydon.

I suppose it could be worse, they could have been on a summer camp in Norway.

Anonymous said...

"Madness is rare in individuals, but in groups, parties, nations and ages, it is the rule." - Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil.

Mob mentality is terrifying- This is why 'gang culture' is having such an awful effect on London. Weak-minded, silly lads, thinking they are 'big men' when they are in fact nob-ends who look and sound uncannily Ali G.

It's a shame Starkey embarrassed himself on Newsnight- if he'd said 'gang culture' instead of 'black culture' he would have sounded far less like a frumpy old racist, and more like someone with good points to make about glorification of guns/drugs/bling and speaking with a Jamaican accent when your parents were both white folks from Dagenham...

Transpontine said...

@BrockleyNick - I didn't take the history reference as a dig, anyway I don't mind people having a dig.

I do think early intervention can make a difference, there is strong evidence of the impact of child/parent failing to attach in first year of life on child's later mental well-being including capacity for empathy with others. So in recent events, and in some everyday violent crime, there are some young people who seem unable to be moved by other people's suffering. Maybe they're the ones who do things like beat up passers-by.

But personally I think this probably only applies to a minority even of rioters, when you see some of the footage and look at circumstances of arrests there is a mixture of intensely violent people, over-excited kids and people dipping between being passers by and getting tangentially involved (e.g. helping themselves to something from a broken shop window).

How people behave in groups in particular circumstances is more useful an explanation I find than looking for some common individual mental dysfunction. I think the Bullingdon Club vandalism/Nick Clegg was a teenage arsonist angle can be overplayed, but when other groups of young people do stupid things people don't generally rush to blame the parents.

water cannon said...

I was up for the use of water cannon and or baton rounds. I think the majority of looters and rioters are essentially a bit stupid but not nasty hooligan types - they're chancers who see it as a laugh because there are little or no consequences. The presence of baton rounds and water cannon would have thinned out the part timers and spectators (who made the police's job much more difficult by getting in the way) and allowed the police to be much more pro-active, and able to focus on those who are a danger to property/life.

Anonymous said...

People from 'broken families' come from every section of society, and they act in every section of society, from top to bottom - look at the royal family of you want a picture of a 'broken family', and thats not a glib swipe either. Trying to rationalise, or apportion blame, to family environment, for the activities that have taken place in the last week is short-sightedness of the highest order - david cameron is a complete idiot, that can only be perfectly clear in his handling of this situation (and virtually every other situation), but nobody is claiming that he's come from a 'broken family' (although I'm sure he has a few hefty skeletons in his cupboard).

Chips on shoulders for a 'broken family' cast a long shadow.

Trying to sectionalise society by parental input, or not, is the fools gold of silly people - it's not right on any level, and bad parenting happens at any level.

Monkeyboy said...

@watercannon, my liberal instincts were stretched but even so it would only have been an immediate sticking plaster to deal with the problem as it was happening. We shouldn't walk away now and assume that giving the police more latitude in the future is the answer. Now that the posturing has stopped some of our more sensible politicians and policy makers are beginning to have some ideas, but how much is within the control of institutions?

It's been a very surreal week.

Anonymous said...

Sure but I think during a riot an immediate 'sticking plaster' that deals with the problem is exactly what you need. You can leave the theories about the hows and whys for another day. The underlying issues matter little during the actual act of violence - I think four people died last week? If my shop is about to be torched I'd rather immediate action from the police rather than the stand back and see what happens approach.

Monkeyboy said...

Well it is another day now, that's the point. Personally I'd rather we had some smart thinking about how to create a society where this doesn't happen.

Anonymous said...

Monkeyboy:

It's been a very surreal week because people thought that liberal ideas and ten years of labour/socialist culture were a good thing - they are now face with waking up to quite how bad both of them have been for society.

water cannon said...

Monkeyboy - so would I. But that's not realistic in in the short term and doesn't address the pressing issue. The reasons - whatever they are - should be addressed to to prevent this happening again. I doubt anyone would dispute that. But that is a separate issue to how the police should deal with rioters should they occur. In the same way that car theft or burglary has it's own social economic reasons, they become irrelevant to the person whose car has just been stolen.

A question I'm asking you is - should the riots kick off in your street tonight - how would you like the police to deal with it?

max said...

Anon 21:15
"It's been a very surreal week because people thought that liberal ideas and ten years of labour/socialist culture were a good thing - they are now face with waking up to quite how bad both of them have been for society."

It's actually a very complex phenomenon that cannot be simplified like this at all.
There was rioting in Baghdad when Saddam fell, was it because of his liberal attitudes?

To say that it was because of "liberal ideas and ten years of labour/socialist" (i.e. social democratic policies, what have made the whole of Europe a pretty good place to live after the second world war) is like reducing the cause of the riots to the cuts, or because the MPs fiddle their expenses, or because people don't go to church or any other soundbite that people say because it satisfies their prejudice.

Sometimes prejudices are correct, but you need to check them against a proper analysis ow what you debate, otherwise you sound like the Queen of Hearts, "sentence first, verdict afterwards". As Alice rightly said "stuff and nonsense".

Monkeyboy said...

not arguing about what is appropriate once it kicks off. There were situations where it would have been useful.

Put it another way, if i was confronted by a gunman, wearing body armour and shooting him may save my skin and would actually be appropriate force. I'd rather live in a world where it never occured to said gunman from ever picking up the gun in the first place.

Education, policing, culture, parenting...etc can all help preventing that personality from developing. Much better than simply waiting for the problem to arise.

mb said...

and NO idea what the bloke banging on about socialism was getting at. As Transpontine and nick have said, read a history book or three. Mobs do stuff for a variety of reasons.

mb said...

...should have proof read that post but you get my drift.

max said...

Exacly, rioting is a British tradition, just like poor parenthood and urban deprivation (see Dickens, Hogarth...).

Progress has been made, still lots of work left.

Anonymous said...

I believe this basically comes down to a part of the black sub culture which tolerates/glorifies criminal activities while having no respectable role models to look up to.

also a lot of these people lack ways to vent frustration and anger related to teenage hormones.

Anonymous said...

If Mark Duggan turns out NOT to have had a gun, or been a member of a gang, then I will apologize for this... but at the moment evidence suggests he was in possession of an illegal handgun.
It is sad that someone got shot, but our police make split-second decisions in a job where they are at risk. I'm glad I don't have to do that.
I'm afraid the black community are doing themselves NO favours in claiming this is a racist killing. 70% of gun crime in London is committed by black men. Usually shooting other black men. While this is the case the police will stop-and-search more black men, as this fits the demographic. And to be honest, if they stop 50 innocent black men, but get ONE gun off the streets, I think that's a good trade-off. And if we carry on thinking about race, it is likely this is saving BLACK lives in the end, not just white ones.
Gang culture must stop for all our sakes. When black men stop carrying guns and knives stop-and-search will stop. Black communities need to stop defending anyone who possesses a gun. I've been 'stopped-and-searched' and really didn't give a toss. That's cos I don't have a huge chip on my shoulder and would rather they did this to make us all safer.

Monkeyboy said...

And so it begins.....

max said...

You don't need to apologize as it wouldn't make any difference (besides, an anonymous apology is a rather funny thing isn't it?).

That the gangsta culture has quite a lot to do with what has happened is without doubt, but if you want to go scratch a bit the surface it's just another form of working class youth rebellion.
As MB pointed at there once were Mods and Rockers fighting each otehr and rioting.
Another thing to say is that it is a fact that the people taking part to these riots were of all colours, ages and background.

Also to say that those that choose to follow gangsta culture do so because there aren't positive role models to follow for them means ignoring the fact that there are positive role models, those that choose negative role models instead do exactly that, choose.
The problem is why they choose that.

I think that people that are content don't loot and riot and quite a lot of today's general unhappyness of the working class youths (black, white, whatever) goes down to a lack an expectation to achieve and by a rather sweeping materialism, something that notoriously brings unhappyness (to the havenots as to the haves).

Anonymous said...

'it's just another form of working class youth rebellion.'

Really?

I think it's a pretty rank form of culture, sexist, homophobic, and championing the worst sort of materialist showing off and gratuitous violence. The use of the word 'bitch' and 'hoe' to refer to women didn't feature in punk. It completely affirms the worst values of authoritarian power structures, and is completely into the notion of hierarchy.

max said...

Do all cultural trends have to as politically correct as punk?

Anonymous said...

Punk questioned power, and the structures of power, and rejected hierarchy. But if by politically correct you mean demanding equality for people from all races and treating women as equals, then guilty as charged your honour. I didn't think you had a downer on PC, but I suppose if you're on the side of a culture that extoles getting rich or dying trying, and who glory in beating women, (not that they would dignify a 'hoe' by using such a word) your values are going to have to go into twister mode.

max said...

Are you sure you're not lumping a lot of people into a stereotype that may be true only for a small minority of those you have in mind?

max said...

By the way, same goes for punk, I bet that a lot of people back then were in it to get high and get laid, hardly high principles.

bumbags said...

having witnessed gang culture outside my house this week, I can agree with quite a lot here.
Yes, there will always be fighting between young men, but when I was growing up that meant a bit of a punch-up, not chucking rocks and bashing them around the head with fence posts.
Guns and knives are part of gang culture, and that's very scary if more kids think carrying a knife- and then eventually a gun- is acceptable, desirable or cool.
There are so many things you can blame for all this- mob mentality is a big part- some very silly kids watching then joining in. The fact these kids would all talk about 'respect' without knowing that you earn it. Young men from very poor backgrounds (black and white) are lowest achievers in school- this HAS to be related to family and culture, as young men from equally poor Chinese and Indian families are among the best performers.
I would like to see more help for parents from these backgrounds (who often are VERY young) to help them to help their kids do better academically and realise that if they work HARD they can achieve.
I teach as a peri music teacher and in the staff room I hear many interesting stories. General thought seems to be that 20 years ago if a school phoned home the parent would always back the school up, and now the opposite happens and the parent will defend the child.

Brockley Dogging Society - Anti-Bollocks Department said...

"but I suppose if you're on the side of a culture that extoles getting rich or dying trying, and who glory in beating women"


Straight out of the Daily Heil, this! Have you listened to much of this music? Don't remember beating women being a theme (sure it gets mentioned but there isn't a scene - rap by it's nature tends to take on more verbose ideas rather than the abstracts found in traditional song lyrics).

As for getting rich or dying trying - either a reference to the 50 Cent album or perhaps gleaned from the Di'ly Express - the message behind that title was one of non-literal inspiration - "I'm going to get rich, or I'll die trying" rather than "I'm going to make some money but I might get killed".

max said...

I just re-read this and realized that I was accused of being "on the side of a culture that extoles getting rich or dying trying, and who glory in beating women" for trying to frame gangsta culture into a wider youth rebellion dimension.

I wonder what David Starkey would say of this, that the British have become Mccarthyists?

Anonymous said...

'sure it gets mentioned but there isn't a scene'

That's all right then. As a 'bitch' the fact that the misogyny is only casual and in passing should mean I should ignore it. It's fine to talk about half the human race as if they were dependent and inferior you seem to think. But I've taken up too of your time, better go and fix my man a snack before he turns nasty.

Anonymous said...

It's not the underclass, it's a criminal element who want to ply their trade unhindered by the police.

2 weeks ago thye police were being praised for the work done by Trident to break the code of silence.

Listen to those videos, screaming smallminded schoolgirls enjoying themselves.

Like hacking no one gave a toss till the public were involved.

How many people have been murdered or seriously assaulted in and around Brockley over the past 5 years and there have been no riots.

The educated leaders of this country have screwed up time and again.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZ574GAdMNI

yeah. all rap is charming and in no way influences young white kids.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQxf4odCz9A

and charming about ladies too

Anonymous said...

The general attitude of British is disgusting and only have themselves to blame for the outcome.

Go to Ibizia get totally blotter and shag anything and everything, then bring the attitude home with associated music and drugs.

Government of the day decides to free up the licensing laws, and the british public can't cope with the freedom and city town centres become awful places to be at night.

They find it perfectly acceptable to have bouncers on the door of a local pub.

The government of the day for some unexplained reason decide the country needed casinos and more access to betting.

It changed the planning rules meaning more betting shops could open.

Drugs, they pithed around so much the drug of choice is now cocaine and the users need to ask themselves what criminal networks have been set up to satisfy their needs.

Tamsin said...

Been off-line for a while - very good original post, thank you Shaun, Nick, Russel Brand (and Transpontine for the historical context).

Like what Lou said about fixing the prison sentences for anti-social crimes to some achievement. Should be explored further by the powers that be. I can see some problems with intelligently deliberate under-achievers playing the system - make yourself out to be really thick and you get released when you can tie your shoelaces - and unfortunately it would need human resources (with dedicated teachers) that the country probably just doesn't have at present. Anyone see the recent BBC 3 (I think) progammes about the secure children's home for seriously dysfunctional young - and one girl who buckled down to doing some exams?

Also agree with the criticism of the myopic emphasis our society places on "academic" qualifications. Bring back Secondary Moderns, but call them Modern Secondaries. Again,though, huge need for human and financial resources. It costs much more in money and man-hours to put someone through a worth-while apprenticeship than deliver a series of social studies lectures.

And very deep-seated social attitudes would have to change for proper value to be placed on non-academic skills.

George Hallam said...

Some of that work[to reinforce a strong society] involves stronger policing and enforcement of laws and regulations to show that society does have standards. It also means massive and unapologetic intervention in broken communities, through education, social work and funding for community projects.

But not jobs.
“massive and unapologetic intervention” everywhere - except the economy.
Stronger policing enforcement of laws and regulations but not for the banks.
Allow big business to bankrupt local businesses and do nothing to stop the haemorrhaging of jobs abroad.

Young people will get more course, more social workers and community projects while the police watch over them. This will go on as the prospects of getting a decent job disappear over the horizon.

Your policy sounds like dependency culture backed up by repression while doing nothing to address the underlying issues of inequality created by underinvestment, unemployment and low pay.

O would some Power the gift to give us
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion:
What airs in dress and gait would leave us,
And even devotion!

Theopolis P Widebeast said...

I don't mean to chuck around lazy stereotypes but its always the whites kicking off, how many black faces on here? 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uF5-enWLYGU&feature=youtube_gdata_player

I blame the bland food, and the aggressive so called "punk" music although even Duran Duran makes me want to beat up a police man. 


By the way George, has nicks article said anything about not reining in the banks? It says nothing about lots of stuff. It's proposing somethings that may help, it's a brief piece, it's not trying to be a complete political philosophy.

Hows the ethical muffin going down? The one subsidised by a rapacious private estate agent, the one who is skimming a percentage of stretched tenants?

Up the revolution and all that.

George Hallam said...

Theopolis P Widebeast asked
Has nicks article said anything about not reining in the banks?

No. The post said a lot of things but it failed to say anything about not reining in the banks or about reining them in.

Nothing about banks, the economy or jobs.

TBW said...

No George, it didn't. Does that mean that nick is up for hyper deregulation? Nick is offering a partial solution. You're posturing.

Now about the Marxist muffins.....

George Hallam said...

Theopolis P Widebeast asserted that:

Nick is offering a partial solution.

I think it would be fair to say that Nick’s approach is so partial that it offers no solution at all.

George Hallam said...

That should have been

TBW asserted that:

Nick is offering a partial solution.

I think it would be fair to say that Nick’s approach is so partial that it offers no solution at all.

Transpontine said...

Sorry just got up and haven't read through thread in detail but is somebody offering Marxist muffins? Feeling quite hungry and could manage a historical materialist breakfast.

Brockley Nick said...

@Transpontine - I pretty much agree with all of that. I think crowd dynamics and the role played by technology are really important parts of the explanation, which is why I think there are parallels with football violence. People have tried to apply all sorts of labels to those involved, to blame de-industrialisation, feminism, loss of national identity and a whole range of other theories to why they behave as they do. Mostly, they are just twats and rubberneckers, whose actions are facilitated by the unique "networking" possibilities created by a foreign trip with thousands of other people like them.

The question is, why do we produce so many people whose idea fun is participation in or proximity to some pointless violence? And why were there not family constraints keeping kids indoors (when rioting was widely anticipated) to prevent them from being sucked in to the street violence?

@George - "dependency culture" - where do I mention benefits?

I don't buy that the riots were about job prospects - many had jobs, many were too young to apply and certainly too young to have been ground down by years of failure in the jobs market.

As it happens, investment in education, social service and leisure and capital projects would create jobs that could be filled locally, but London does not struggle to create jobs, it struggles to create people who can fill them.

The challenge is a supply-side one - education and positive attitude are what's needed. How many of the kids on the street on Monday do you think would accept a job in one of your match factories?

Keep banging the drum for your ludicrous policies if you must, but don't drag me in to it.

Brockley Nick said...

The bit I agree with was your previous post, not the one about muffins. I'm not a big muffin man. And Marxist ones would be centrally planned, so they wouldn't arrive for another few years in to our five year plan and they'd be allocated by bureaucrats, so that the shelves of Pontefract were overflowing and there were chronic shortages in Deptford.

Anonymous said...

"Keep banging the drum for your ludicrous policies"


you're the one with the blog Nick . . .

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, but I don't keep dragging George into my articles ;)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lou Baker said...

What Nick says about dependency culture is spot on.

But part of that stems from a broken benefits system which too often keeps people stuck in a cycle of dependency. I absolutely support a benefits system which helps people while they need help and which helps them to help themselves.

One which encourages them to set up on a crappy council estate for life, not to train, not to try to improve themselves, not to try to stand on their own two feet - that's a system which is broken and which needs fixing.

One of the anons made an interesting point about the black community too. It is a very sad fact but among young black men in particular gun and knife crime and gang culture is endemic. The vast majority of the teenagers who are murdered in London are black. The vast majority of the teenagers convicted of murder are also black. You can ignore these harsh statistics and cry racism or you can recognise that there is a specific problem here and try to address it. I have no idea what the answer to this problem is but it is a specific one and the black community, in particular, needs to help work out how to address it.

Then there's George who whines on about the banks. We can all agree there have been major issues with the banks over the years. And, certainly, bankers' bonuses are an issue. But, George, remember - most people who work for the banks are not bad and are not excessively paid. Most work in branches - earning not much more than the average salary. They are no more responsible for the credit crunch than you are. Indeed - your socialist nonsense and constant demands for state funded guff are the ultimate cause of the current debt crisis. As a country we simply don't have enough money to pay for all the things people like you want.

Thousands of innocent bankers lost their jobs when the recession hit. Most didn't earn huge sums. Many had families. Did you shed any tears for those innocent people? Or were you too busy making your placards for your latest inane campaign against common sense?

Profit profits People said...

More left authoritarianism from GH. I'm sure if we submitted to the PBP dream of 'requisitioning' flats, and a 'Lewisham Bank', funded no doubt by more 'requisitioning', and high inflation, then everyone could have a job. But we would be condemned to lowering living standards, and increasing authoritarianism. These policies have failed everywhere they have been tried. GH is indulging in a species of nostalgia, a sort of hyper ahistorical theorising that leads to nothing but the equality of poverty for all.
Fortunately his Authoritarian Popular Front has been treated by the electorate with the contempt they deserve.

kolp said...

Dependency culture is a function of there not being enough reasonably paid jobs. It is rational to live off benefits if the only jobs you can get end with you be worse off.

I state this obvious point because if it is a rational act it means that you as rational people would do the thing placed in the same circumstances.

So let's drop contempt and calling of names of people who find themselves in this position.

Brockley Nick said...

@Kolp - assuming everyone is perfectly rational is what monetarists do. Their solution is to cut benefits to encourage people in to employment - is that what you're advocating?

I'm not sure who you're talking about when you urge people not to call anyone names, but I'm most certainly not doing that and I'm not the one blaming jobs or welfare for the riots. George brought "dependency culture" in to this.

kolp said...

More reasonably paid jobs Nick is what I'm arguing for this requires more growth in the economy.

Another idead i've think may be useful is from a thinktank whose name currently escapes me who suggested that everyone who could go part-time as this would solve the work life balance issues that many go through; more time for family and a wider range of people could enter the workforce as jobs would be effectively shared.

George Hallam said...

Brockley Nick says:
London does not struggle to create jobs, it struggles to create people who can fill them.
The ONS says:
“Looking at the overall period from Jan-Mar 2005 to the latest quarter Mar-May 2011, the increase (difference between peaks and lows) in unemployment rates varied across regions:
• The increase was largest in West Midlands (6.1 percentage points) and Yorkshire and The Humber (5.3 percentage points)
• The increase was lowest in the South East (2.7 percentage points), East of England (3.0 percentage points), London (3.2 percentage points) and the South West (3.5 percentage points)

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=397

Nationally there are less than half a million notified vacancies. That makes over five people seeking work for every vacancy.

Brockley Nick says:
The challenge is a supply-side one - education and positive attitude are what's needed.
The ONS says:

Those with their usual occupation needing high skill (eg, teachers, doctors) showed a rise of 1.1 percentage points in the claimant proportion, from 0.6 per cent to 1.7 per cent in Jul-Sep 2009

If you look in the classified advertisements rather than a job centre then things don’t look any better.

As Brockley Nick said not so very long ago:

Southwark obviously covers much of the south bank, which offers a far greater concentration of jobs, than either Greenwich or Lewisham and had more job vacancies available on the day the snapshot was taken (June 29th, 2011) than the other two. The fact that Adzuna only tracks jobs advertised in the classifieds means that it’s not the complete picture, but as an indicator of the availability of casual job opportunities, it’s quite striking that there was only one Greenwich-based job advertised.

http://brockleycentral.blogspot.com/2011/08/jobs-and-unemployment-in-lewisham.html

Brockley Nick said...

@Kolp

"More reasonably paid jobs Nick is what I'm arguing for"

In the rationalist model you started off with, the market should pay the wages required to achieve zero unemployment, so long as government welfare gets out of the way. Since it's rational for employers to create jobs at some price and it's rational for employees to take them at some price - the market should fix the price to clear, just like it does for tins of beans. Welfare is a distortion to the free market and therefore, creates unemployment by fixing wages too high.

Now, in my view, this is nonsense. But that's the implication of assuming that the labour market is based on rational decisions always. In the rational model, the minimum wage should create unemployment. In the real world, it appears not to as long as it's set at a reasonable level.

"this requires more growth in the economy."

It's quite possible for growth not to deliver more or better paid jobs for the lowest paid, as the last 20 years or so of US growth has shown.

"Another idead i've think may be useful is from a thinktank whose name currently escapes me who suggested that everyone who could go part-time as this would solve the work life balance issues that many go through; more time for family and a wider range of people could enter the workforce as jobs would be effectively shared."

This is the exact opposite of assuming people act rationally in the jobs market. If this is a good idea, then the rationalist model says it should already be happening, because people doing job shares would be happier with their work/life balance and employers would have better-motivated staff.

So why hasn't it happened? Well, three probable reasons: firstly, people aren't rational. Secondly, people are rational but actually prefer the money to the increased leisure time, in spite of what people say about work life balance. Thirdly, there are big practical problems with job share in reality. It might work if you're doing an unskilled job which requires no investment in training or administrative costs in managing the extra employees and complicated timetables, but these aren't the jobs which would offer people the "reasonably paid jobs" you're looking for. For most other jobs, it would add massively to costs of doing business and therefore fewer work-hours would be created (less employment in total).

I think this is an occasion where people are pretty rational and where it is practically possible for employers to offer these kinds of jobs and where employees actually prefer that kind of work, you see quite a lot of it already, eg: temping / freelance work, shift work, seasonal work, portfolio careers, etc. Where this doesn't happen, it's probably fair to assume that there are good reasons why not. And if you're going to force people out of their 5-days-a-week jobs, even when they enjoy working like that, then how are you going to compensate them when they have to default on their mortgages, etc?

I personally don't subscribe to the idea that people are all rational economic agents. I think the rioters and the markets are ample proof of this. But even so, back to your original point, there are very good rational reasons for accepting a job below what you could get on welfare - whether that be because having a job is one of the best drivers of self-esteem or because the best way of getting a better paid job is to start by taking a job of any kind.

Anyway, this isn't my argument. I don't think the labour market is the primary issue here.

Welcome to 2011 said...

George, why don't you start the kind of business you want and create some jobs, then I might start listening to you. What is it you do?

kolp said...

More reasonably paid jobs, it really is that simple.

Anonymous said...

"more reasonably paid jobs, it really is that simple"

Has as much merit as "why can't we all just get along" it's obvious but how do we get there?

kolp said...

I have some ideas but think of some answers yourself, and post them here.

Anonymous said...

Is everyone going part time one of your better ones? The kind of jobs that already have "gone part time" or rather had their hours and wages cut are the lower paid ones. The professional jobs are unlikely to follow suit as they tend to require specific skills and some continuity. Few employers will go with that and will actually cost more I'm sure.

Jobs, the economy are important but I suspect there are other reasons, perhaps the same reasons why some people are unemployable are the same reasons that lead them to loot without guilt. Tackle that maybe.

kolp said...

The thinktank idea is one that I have put into this discussion, but come up with ideas yourself, post them here. Don't sit there expecting others to provide answers.

Gent Badger said...

Lewisham's a dreadful place. We've just been down there to shop.
I can't bear it. Everyone is so thick.
What a toilet.

Gent Badger said...

The riots don't surprise me at all.
Casual criminality is routine for people around here.
A mob taking over is exactly what the doctor ordered as far as these people are concerned.

max said...

I actually have a personal experience of freelancing for a very big company where quite a lot of people work part time.
I cannot in any way know if this is indicative of a trend but this is the case indeed.

Anonymous said...

Gent, you're a bit stupid aren't you?

George Hallam said...

Welcome to 2011 said...
George, why don't you start the kind of business you want and create some jobs, then I might start listening to you.

But you are listening to me.

George Hallam said...

Brockley Nick says:
I personally don't subscribe to the idea that people are all rational economic agents.

Fine. However, by doing so you have junked the basis of mainstream economic. I suggest that you think through the implications.

Take your time. You may wish to change your mind about quite a lot of what you have been saying about economic policy. I will not make fun of you if you do. It takes big events to get people to reconsider their fundamental ideas, especially about economics. You will be in very good company if you do, for example, Irving Fisher or J. M. Keynes.

Anonymous said...

Is everyone going part time one of your better ones?

The Government could help here (but none ever have). There is a huge fixed costs with employing somebody in terms of administration cost, legislative compliance and, specifically, NI. Companies therefore have an incentive to accept longer working hours from a smaller number of employees rather than accepting part time workers.

Even if those costs were eliminated, there are the costs of training two people rather than one and the sheer inconvenience of having two people rather than one dealing with individual issues.

Many people would, according to some surveys, like job-sharing but not only do does the Government need to chop out the legislative and tax dis-incentives it also needs to gave employers a positive tax incentive as compensation. That is not wholly impractical given that it would remove people from the benefits system. But nothing will happen on that front unless these issues are addressed.

The other anon said...

I should qualify, Its not entirely daft but many people struggle on a full time salary. Would putting them on part time help? Perhaps with extra benefits to compensate? I stand by my point, the people who would be compelled to do fewer hours (hence less money) would more likely to be those with low skill work where having a different person doing it from day to day would have less impact. The architects, engineers, lawyers, accountants etc... would be less likely to be put on part time. It would be regressive and unfair in practice.

max said...

I think it's entirely possible to work on your consumption and earn less and be happier.

I have a friend that's a scaffholder that did this for years and years, he didn't want to work more than he had to and thanks to a shortage of experienced scaffholder he could only work when he needed to and say no when he didn't want to.
He lived on carrots and potatos, kept fit running and cycling, read lots of books and basically only did things that don't cost much. Genious. He had the happiest life.

Then one day his girlfriend remained pregnant and he had to earn more, so he started his own scaffholding company and now he employs quite a lot of people.

Not sure what one can learn from this but this is the story of my friend Paolo.

Anonymous said...

Is calling someone a chump regarded as offensive but if they are called stupid is acceptable?

Monkeyboy said...

I'm watching something about desert ants. Not sure if it's a Stalinist nightmare or the ultimate in capitalist exploitation.

George, we need your analysis.

Monkeyboy said...

Uh oh, some kind or predatory beetle has got in and is eating the larvae. That'll be Eric Pickles.

Brockley Nick said...

George, where did you study economics? Since you mention Keynes, what do you think he meant by animal spirits? And what do think bounded rationality is?

George Hallam said...

George, where did you study economics?

The University of Life, School of Hard Knocks under Professor George Ade himself.

Brockley Nick said...

Figures. And your answers to the other two questions?

John said...

"But the result was that - while things are still far from perfect - we went from riots in Belgium to congas in Japan within a decade."

Sorry to burst your bubble but you aren't responsible for any reduction in hooliganism at England games. There has been a general reduction owing to the fact that convicted hooligans are unable travel abroad. Most of those that do wouldn't be part of a travel club because they're generally for dick heads with trombones. The fact that Japan is on the other side of the world and therefore much more expensive to travel to than Belgium means that many unconvicted fans without tickets probably wouldn't go. This applied to Mexico 86 where there was little trouble with the exception of a few minor scuffles with Argentinians who were instigators.

kolp said...

Because we live in an advanced society with so much diversity easy, one-size-fits-all solutions to social problems are not going to come easily.

But the first step to coming anywhere near reasonable solutions requires good will; the desire to solve the problems which in turn requires open mindedness, to foster useful national discussion which in turn requires listening (or in the case of blogs- carefully reading of what people have written).

John said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brockley Nick said...

"There has been a general reduction owing to the fact that convicted hooligans are unable travel abroad."

Yes, see the first point on my list.

"Most of those that do wouldn't be part of a travel club because they're generally for dick heads with trombones."

Yes, see point 2. The thugs used to be part of the club by the way, and the band was there in the bad old days too. Now the thugs aren't, which means their tickets go to decent people. Which means more nice people to drown out the thugs. A culture change.

"The fact that Japan is on the other side of the world and therefore much more expensive to travel to than Belgium means that many unconvicted fans without tickets probably wouldn't go."

Partly true, yes. But there have been lots of away games since. Overall, much better - as you say yourself, a general reduction in hooliganism.

"This applied to Mexico 86 where there was little trouble with the exception of a few minor scuffles with Argentinians who were instigators."

Ah yes, as I was saying:

"A much larger group, not involved themselves in trouble, but always on hand to offer an excuse to legitimise the action - 'the police were looking for trouble', 'the other fans started it' and on, and on. Often, there was truth in what they said, but how they said it stoked tensions and energised the trouble makers."

Anonymous said...

But the first step to coming anywhere near reasonable solutions requires good will; the desire to solve the problems which in turn requires open mindedness

Unfortunately I don't think that the majority of those involved in the riots are likely to show good will or show open mindedness to solutions.

kolp said...

Well i don't know, maybe they will maybe they won't. But in the spirit of openmindedness, it's worth trying to get a dialogue going. If part of the problem is that people felt rage at society or disenfranchised in someway, then offering an listening ear could be fruitful.

Anonymous said...

An erection led to scaffolding company.

Anonymous said...

3 or 4 looters who didn't want their names given or their identity known, so were well hooded and scraved appeared on TV programme.

They were identified as coming from Lewisham, from what they said it may not have committed a crime.

Having looted Lewisham they, went to Catford and Bromley. They also went to Clapham Junction and Camden.

They attempted to present them selves as Robin Hood's rather than Robbers In Hoods.

So what reason did they have for looting.....revenge.

Revenge, for shop owners refusing to let them pay less than the asking price.

Revenge, for a store turning down his job application.

This mob got a van and drove round collecting items and when it was full they stored the items and went back for more.

Asked about the owners or shop staff, they dissed them for being owners or for choosing to work in the shops.

No doubt these boys demand respect but don't show it for others.

At every avenue they were attempting to make us feel no action would be any use...too many involved, prisons full etc.

They reminded me of criminals who claim prison is easy, but inside prison say it's like being like an animal and is awful.

These are people who will sday anything that lets them get away with crime.

All the twaddle from George and Nick is irrelevant.

George Hallam said...

The term “animal spirits" has an antique feel to it that seems out of place in modern economics. That is because it is out of place.

When I started to study economic in the mid-1960 the standard textbook was Paul Samuelson’s ‘Economic’. Inside the front cover was a diagram showing the development of economics which showed how classical political economy from Ricardo fed into the neo-classical economics of Marshall el al. This was joined with Keynes, with roots going back to Malthus. The result was the “Neoclassical synthesis”. This was generally accepted as what Economics was about: it defined the mainstream. (I say generally accepted – there were some who didn’t accept this such as W. S. Andrews – but let’s not get diverted.)

These days economics is far less cohesive. There a number of different, and conflicting, versions of the mainstream: most importantly ‘New Classical’ economics.

The difference is in the source of the microeconomics used by the rival versions. The Neoclassical synthesis’s blend of, from the Marshall, with macroeconomics from Keynes, was not entirely successful. The problem was that the macro couldn’t be derived from the micro. The ‘New Classical’ economics has sought to overcome this defect by rejecting Keynes and basing its version of macro on a General Equilibrium model. Since the latter is derived directly, and formally, from neo-classical macroeconomics the ‘gap’ between the two branches of economics is closed – or so it is claimed.

By the early seventies some very real economic problems made it apparent that the Keynesian account of macroeconomics vulnerable to criticism. For some economists this was enough for them to cut the link with Keynes. For others it was a reason to re-examine Samuelson’s account of Keynes. When people started to read what Keynes himself had written it became clear the man was far more of a radical innovator than had been generally realise. What Samuelson described as ‘Keynesianism’ was actually a “convenient summary” that left out some things.

These ‘things’ were ‘uncertainty’ and ‘expectations'. As Minsky said: “Keynes without uncertainty is something like Hamlet without the Prince.”

Anonymous said...

"in the spirit of openmindedness"

It is possible to be so openminded that one's brains fall out.

Brockley Nick said...

@George - let me put it more simply. You said that by suggesting people weren't always rational agents, I was undermining all mainstream economic theory. That is utter rubbish.

Lou Baker said...

@kolp

You can spout on all you like about 'more reasonably paid jobs' but you miss the key point.

Most of the people who are unemployed are under skilled and under qualified. They do not get 'reasonably paid jobs' because they are not good enough for them.

These are the million and a half (or slightly more) people who are not just out of work because there's a severe recession. They were out of work during the boom times too. They have been out of work for a long time.

More skilled workers who lost their jobs in the recession will find new opportunities as things pick up. But the unskilled and un-qualified won't.

That's what you need to address. The economy will create more 'reasonably paid jobs' on its own as the number of reasonably skilled workers increases. If you are reasonably skilled you earn more money, you have more to spend, that in turn means other companies can take on more reasonably skilled people. A virtuous circle.

But no one is going to take on someone who's got no skills, no qualifications, no motivation just for the sake of it. Fix the education system, make benefits conditional on undertaking proper training courses and you'll start to fix the problem.

@max and george
Oh dear. You two should go drinking together. Just make sure it's not beer brewed by some imperialist capitalist who profits from your desire to drown your sorrows. Perhaps you can encourage Lewisham Council to brew its own beer. People's Beer. Made by a bearded man named Barry with hops grown on his allotment in Honor Oak. That's what society's all about. Right?

George Hallam said...

Brockley Nick said...
@George - let me put it more simply. You said that by suggesting people weren't always rational agents, I was undermining all mainstream economic theory. That is utter rubbish.

Allow me to explain.

Let’s start with John Stuart Mill who, as I am sure you know, was one of the last great thinkers of classical political economy and a precursor of modern economics. He was unequivocal that in the study of political economy “we not concerned with human beings in all their complexity but solely with “an arbitrary definition of man, as a being who inevitably does that by which he may obtain the greatest amount of necessaries, conveniences, and luxuries, with the smallest quantity of labour and physical self-denial with which they can be obtained.”

Mill is quite explicit on two points
1. He is not interested in “the whole of man’s nature as modified by the social state, nor of the whole conduct of man in society. [my italics]
2. His arbitrary man is “capable of judging the comparative efficacy of means for obtaining” his ends i.e. he was completely rational.
(Quotes from ‘On the Definition of Political Economy, and on the Method of Investigation Proper to It,’ 1836)

This approach was central to the so-called marginalist revolution of the 1870’s that produced the microeconomics we know today. The abstract, selfish nature and rational individual is absolutely fundamental to mainstream economics. It is indispensible assumption for building the mathematical models that constitute economics as a profession.


Over the last forty years mainstream economics has become more and more ‘formal’, this is more mathematical. It is now completely insulated from the real world. This is all based on what one might call an obsession with rationality.

Of course it is possible to be an economist and reject this assumption of the total rationality of economic actors but it is not a very wise career choice. For example, you will find it difficult to get published in one of the ‘diamond’ journals that define the profession. Minsky, who did some very fine work that is very relevant to understanding financial instability, managed to survive, but he was completely ignored by the profession. Until the current financial crisis most economists had never even heard of him, let alone knew anything about his ideas.

mb said...

Lou, are you turning into a beardy lefty, pinko etc?? So one of the fundamental issues is lack of jobs and appropriate training, i.e. social issues, and not just venal criminality?

Who'd have thunk it?

Anonymous said...

Let's say it again. From the current crop of prosecutions it would look as if the great majority of those looting were not unemployed. They were either too young or actually in work.

Anonymous said...

Complex isn't it? Another reason why the political positioning is so distasteful.

Anonymous said...

...and the 'great majority' are actually the ones reported because it's a surprising statistic and yes appears to debunk some theories. Don't actually know what the split is overall, that may take a while to determine.

Calm heads are needed, that means you MPs (left, center and right). Enough with the law/initiative making on the fly, you didn't see this comming what makes you think you can come up with an instant solution?

max said...

"@max and george
Oh dear. You two should go drinking together. Just make sure it's not beer brewed by some imperialist capitalist who profits from your desire to drown your sorrows. Perhaps you can encourage Lewisham Council to brew its own beer. People's Beer. Made by a bearded man named Barry with hops grown on his allotment in Honor Oak. That's what society's all about. Right?"

Have people called Barry joined the ranks of the Pinkos now in your collection of pet hates.

By the way Lou, I am a cog of the industrial-capitalist system just as you are, only that you receive an enviable fulfillment from your rank in the cogs order. I am just happy with the money.

Brockley Nick said...

@George - thank you for your own secret history of economics.

I know how much maths is involved in Economics, I did a degree in it and at times it felt like doing a maths degree. But just because maths is involved, doesn't mean economists think everyone is rational - the ones that assume perfect rationality are only for abstract (rather than predictive) purposes or used by very hard line monetarists. Maths can be used to model all sorts of things, including irrationality.

Still, if you think there's a great global conspiracy in economics, knock yourself out.

Tamsin said...

I hope the judge in Wandsworth has the gumption to stick up for the principles of natural justice - you don't annouce punishments retrospectively.

Likewise current rioters should not be punished through withdrawal of benefits.

Announce such retribution for future offences - but don't impose it now.

mb said...

I understand Eric Pickles is looking at this with interest...



"Order of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State

"On the basis of Article 48 paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the German Reich, the following is ordered in defense against Communist state-endangering acts of violence:

Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. It is therefore permissible to restrict the rights of personal freedom [habeas corpus], freedom of opinion, including the freedom of the press, the freedom to organize and assemble, the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications. Warrants for House searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed."


Yes, yes... I know we're not close to that kind of regime but "so called" human rights are fundamental.

[I'm actually not sure what point I'm trying to make, I'm reading a book about how power was cemented in Germany by the bad guys...but whatevs]

max said...

Lou, I'm going for a swim now, just thought it may be intersting for you to know that my work/life balance is ok, I've been working on it for 20 years now so if you need a tip feel free to ask.

George Hallam said...

Brockley Nick said...
But just because maths is involved, doesn't mean economists think everyone is rational - the ones that assume perfect rationality are only for abstract (rather than predictive) purposes or used by very hard line monetarists.


Of course all economists don't think everyone is rational . For everyday purposes they have a much more common sense attitude. However, when they are thinking as economists they do make that assumption.

Economist who do otherwise are not part of the mainstream.

Calling this a ‘great global conspiracy in economics’ is a poor substitute for an argument.

Brockley Nick said...

"However, when they are thinking as economists they do make that assumption."

No George, they don't. Not all the time, not even most of the time. It suits you to believe this because you think you are the only sane one in this mad world. But it is bollocks. I asked you if you knew what bounded rationality is and you ignored it - it's a common assumption in economic modelling that rationality is limited by a range of factors.

"Economist who do otherwise are not part of the mainstream."

Yes George, they are. They are called most economists. Keynes was the most "mainstream" economist of all time. You suggested that the "animal spirits" phrase he coined was out of place in modern economics. That is also bollocks, as a simple google news search for the phrase's use in economics reporting will show you.

"Calling this a ‘great global conspiracy in economics’ is a poor substitute for an argument."

No George, making stuff up to suit your worldview is a poor substitute for an argument.

Lou Baker said...

@mb

I have never argued that we should spend less on education or training. Education - particularly primary education - needs much more spent on it, to help stop this sort of rubbish. But I don't have a problem with students paying more to go to university because, actually, one of the things we get wrong right now is we send far to many kids to uni who don't understand how valuable their education is. A £30k bill might just solve that.

Incidentally, I have also always argued for much more money to go on 'good government spending.'. Infrastructure, railways, roads, renewable power - schemes that create jobs and leave a legacy. And would keep you in work.

It's the failed and worthless spending I object to. Most defence spending - for example - almost the entire criminal justice budget, permanent benefit payments, endless 'social projects'. Waste on this stuff is huge.

@max

Never trust anyone called Barry. They almost all have beards and sandals. For those who escape their almost inevitable Barry fate, there is always deed poll.

I have a fine work life balance too. But I don't - and never have - objected to going to work. I like my job. Always have. I don't find it a chore. I get paid for doing something I like. I have plenty of time off too, so I have no qualms.

I trust you're going swimming in a private gym. State run pools are superfluous.

@George
It really sounds like you own Economics for Dummies. You just clearly haven't read it yet.

bumbags said...

inspired by Lord Tebbit interview today (who spoke a lot of sense about gangs giving lads a sense of status and family that can also be found in the Army), I DID go back to the Beveridge Report about setting up the welfare state and found this interesting quote-
"The third principle is that social security must be achieved by co-operation between the State and the individual. The State should offer security for service and contribution. The State in organising security should not stifle incentive, opportunity, responsibility; in establishing a national minimum, it should leave room and encouragement for voluntary action by each individual to provide more than that minimum for himself and his family."
I think we lost this a long time ago, and when anyone can be 'better off' on benefits than working for a living we're in trouble. Personally, I think that if you claim benefit you should have to work for it- something like three days a week, with obvious flexibility if you need to attend job interviews etc. Getting money for nothing is a bad thing. If you turn up to help out at a small business or community project it will give you experience, and a sense of being involved in society. It may also provide you with references to help you get a permanent job.

max said...

Private pools are for fools.

Brockley Nick said...

@bumbags - very interesting, thank you.

max said...

By the way Lou, I'm from Trieste that's in Italy on the Slovenian border, but Slovenia once was Yugoslavia and in my early 20s I used to cross the border just to go swimming in the proper socialist pools because they were better than the Italians.

mb said...

@ Lou, thanks I knew I could rely on you. You old socialist.

@bumbags, yep. We have rights but we ALSO have obligations – the Social Contract that people talk about and has been argued people are loosing faith in. National Insurance is supposed to mean that unemployment Benefit is just that, insurance not a handout. In Germany (and I may be corrected) the amount of benefit you receive has a much stronger link to what you have contributed, massively so. That way you can feel the benefit of living in a mutually supportive society, there is a floor though. No one benefits from leaving people on barley subsistence level of money even if no doubt some don’t ‘deserve’ it. How you persuade some trainer thief that they should be a contributing part of society I don’t know. Calling them the “underclass” or “chavs” all the time may not help. I suspect that professional politicians, like Ed M and Dave C, have as much relevance to most of the rioters as the pope. I even found myself almost agreeing with Henry Porter when he argued that Local Politics needs to be reformed, REAL devolution of powers down – including local tax raising and spending powers. Not more tax overall but the ability to use it better locally. I voted Joan Ruddock but where has she been this last week? I’ve not heard a peep, she doesn’t deserve her majority based on recent events. She’s a Whitehall beast more comfy in an oak panelled committee room it would appear. Lammy (like him or not) has been out and about in Tottenham and seems genuinely interested in his constituents lives.

Tamsin said...

Good to go back to see what Beveridge's actual vision was - and interesting. Thanks.

However unless one reverts to the mindless tasks of picking oakum (except that is no longer needed as we don't have wooden battle ships) or stiching mail-bags (but they use those little trolleys now) there is not much for unskilled reluctant labour to do. It it time-consuming enough to engage and supervise willing volunteers - unwilling ones would be a burden rather than a benefit to those they are working for.

On the other hand, maybe we should have a look at what the US do with their prison population - I understand there are workshops making everything.

Anonymous said...

"maybe we should have a look at what the US do with their prison population"

Please tell me you're joking. Not many are turning out skilled artisans. Most are warehousing violent criminals and releasing them more damaged than when they went in. Another un paletable truth, effective prisons that ACTUALLY reform cost money.... mind you so does re-offending so hopefully it makes economic sense. It's a very easy, populist, argument to say "why spend £x on a prisoner when it would pay for x nurses/teachers/etc, etc..."

max said...

There are jobs to do, in the caring profession for example, even unskilled people can do something to free up time of properly caring professionals.
And how much training do you need to push a wheelchair?

Richtofen said...

@Max None ostensibly (though I wouldn't bet on it). but you'll probably need to clear an enhanced CRB check and not be on eitherof the ISA's Barred Lists.

Lou Baker said...

@tamsin

The point is that you need to improve education and parenting so there are far fewer unskilled reluctant labourers.

Encourage people to do something they like, teach them how to do it well - and they'll happily do it as a living.

And prison does not work. Get the looters back to work fixing up the community. Replacing glass, sweeping streets, painting over graffiti. And - yes - working (for free) in the shops they looted alongside the workers whose livelihoods they threatened. Put the thugs face to face with their victims - and watch them squirm.

PS: Cameron's 'National Service' is potentially a great idea. 16 year olds being made to undertake a few months 'non military' charitable work could be just the eye-opener many need to transform their lives. Particularly if they're sent far away from home to do it. Rebuilding coastal paths - clearing beaches, cutting hedgerows. Get them out of the cities to experience something completely different in life.

bumbags said...

@Tamsin- I'm not suggesting chain gangs (yet!). But having to turn up to ANYTHING is good discipline, lets you know that you are contributing to your community, that you haven't been side-lined by society, and takes away the notion that it is an option to sit on benefits getting bored and stuck in a rut. If that is helping a park-keeper to pick up litter, weeding community garden flower beds, helping with tea and sandwiches at an elderly drop-in centre, maintaining old people's gardens, helping in an office. OR people could attend a training course for bricklaying/plumbing/hairdressing in order to qualify.
Maybe I'm back to good old-fashioned apprenticeships, and yes, any business would need good incentives to take part. But incentives for the unemployed too- every month you attend and get a good report you earn extra weekly benefit- £10 for every month for example, eventually taking you up to £50 a week more than the starting point. A potential employer would view this as a good reference for your character.
But however it works, the important part is 'not getting something for nothing', developing a work ethic, and feeling valued for your contribution. It has the added benefit of keeping the little buggers busy...

Tamsin said...

I agree there is an awful lot wrong with the US penal system - and a quite terrifying proportion of the adult mail population are in prison. Just curious how the workshops work.

Also it seemed to need saying that wishing those who need to make reparation onto small business and charity as volunteers may be excellent for the potential criminal and society but is rather an imposition on the business or the charity.

So - back to adquate investment in remedial work and, if you like, properly funded, properly supervised, properly interesting "National Service". Not something that I suspect the government will take kindly to when they realise what it costs.

Tamsin said...

That's more like it, bumbags. Adequately supervised by a public body and the business or charity incentivised (to use your word) to participate. Apprenticeships, after all, used to be something that was paid for.

And the concept of a sliding scale of increasing basic benefit should work on the other side.

George Hallam said...

Brockley Nick said...

Keynes was the most "mainstream" economist of all time .

I’m afraid that is not the case.

‘Keynesianism’ was mainstream, though it is less so today. This is to say the IS/LM model was mainstream. But this derives from John Hicks’ “Mr Keynes and the Classics”,. not Keynes himself.

There is a story that during the war when visiting America he had a meeting with economists after which he remarked “I was the only non-Keynesian in the room.”

The gap between Keynes own views and those popularly attributed to him was discusses in the early 1970’s (goodness me that’s nearly forty years ago). For example, “Was Keynes a 'Keynesian'?” (Herschel Grossman 1972).

bumbags said...

ps @mb I don't think we DO have obligations, that's the point, or a notion of 'social contract'. Don't think people are losing faith in it. I just don't think it's there! The obligations for claiming unemployment benefit are minimal. Yes, a tiered system if you've paid more in may work, but if you're a school-leaver there needs to be an immediate 'obligation' to earn your benefit through working/training.
I'm not sure what I'd put in place for those not willing to do this. It is a difficult question.
Tebbit was saying today that a girl who left school and worked hard to be a hairdresser would be far worse off than one who went and had 3 kids and becomes a single parent on benefits. That's very sad and very wrong and produces no incentive to work. I think Beveridge's 'national minimum' should be just that. Anyone working should be considerably better off than someone on benefits, and under this system that is REALLY not happening.

Tamsin said...

Indeed - it is crazy that so many people working part-time cannot take on extra hours when asked to do so because it has a severe effect on their benefits.

George Hallam said...

Brockley Nick said...
I asked you if you knew what bounded rationality is and you ignored it - it's a common assumption in economic modelling that rationality is limited by a range of factors.

"Economist who do otherwise are not part of the mainstream."

Yes George, they are. They are called most economists.


‘bounded rationality’ theory has been around since the 1950s.

Apart from Herbert Simon (1916-2001)- the originator of BRT - the big names are:

Gerd Gigerenzer
Daniel Kahneman
Ariel Rubinstein
Edward Tsang

Of these the only successful professional economist amongst them is Ariel Rubinstein. He applied BRT to game theory.

Of the others:

Simon: was a polymath and made contributions in a number of disciplines He studied political science and later became the chairman of the Department of Industrial Management at Carnegie Mellon University. He also taught other psychology and computer science.

Kahneman and Gigerenzer are both psychologists. Although Kahneman Was awarded the The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (AKA Nobel Prize in Economics) he claims never to have taken an economics course in his life.

Edward Tsang is the professor Computer Science at the University of Essex.

Mb said...

@bumbags, you don't think you have an obligation to obey the law? Or to be polite to your neighbours? Or to behave to others as you would expect others to behave toward you? That's the social contract and it's a concept as old as the hills. It's how functioning societies work.

bumbags said...

@mb Maybe you've misunderstood me- I mean that some people that we are discussing here feel no obligation/responsibility to society- there are not legal obligations in place, and that state benefits are often handed out without any obligation on the recipient to do anything.
Maybe what I should have said was 'we don't have ENOUGH obligations when we receive benefits'. In the UK if you are a school-leaver unemployment benefit IS a hand-out, not an insurance, as you've never paid anything in.
No, I didn't mean I have no sense personally of a social contract, moral or legal obligations or that I'm not nice to my neighbours!

Mb said...

We kind of agree then. Bit how do we get those who are essentially out for themselves to feel that they do have that obligation?

Beverage said that we had a right to be free from want, ignorance, disease etc... In return we all had an obligation (not a choice) to contribute. Also a central tennant was that the benefit was not means tested, whether that's sustainable now is arguable.

Tebbit was probably being mischievous. If you put him on the left right spectrum with ed and Dave in the centre, you'd have to walk past Ian Duncan smith, past (well around) Eric pickles keep walking over the horizon and stop just short of Enoch Powell. Beverage would be in the other direction past Gordon bown, beyond Jon cruddas, settling on or about Tony benn. They're not even on the same continent let alone the same page.

George Hallam said...

If you put him [Tebbit] on the left right spectrum with ed and Dave in the centre, ...

Beverage would be in the other direction past Gordon bown, beyond Jon cruddas, settling on or about Tony benn.


Perhaps this is a reason for abandoning the left/right spectrum.

NAT said...

I'm a bit concened about all this 'learn em a trade' (or whatever it is all those other people do). Since the entry of the Eastern Europeans to the market, rates have come down even if skills levels have improved.

I have no idea what educational process these relative newcomers have been through but it seems to have consisted of more than a six month heads up on the issue of plumbing or carpentry.

What is the attention span of the average rioter?

Perhaps the financial sector would be a more appropriate arena for their rapacity.

Mb said...

George, by centre I mean they are both arguing about shillings and pence over the same bit of turf. Historically both parties have moved away from beverage

George Hallam said...

Mb said...
Historically both parties have moved away from beverage

Of course you are right, I couldn't agree more.

My point was that the right/left distinction is inadequate as a way describing political positions.

It is a single dimension, but there are several, many, dimensions in politics.

Sometimes it happens that one dimension overshadows all the others. Most of the time it isn’t like that.

This means that two parties/politicians can be very close on one dimension and be miles apart on another.

Another point worth thinking about: back in 1942 all the main parties signed up to the Beveridge Report.

kolp said...

"They do not get 'reasonably paid jobs' because they are not good enough for them."

There maybe an element of that, but there simply aren't enough jobs. Unless a person has some mental impairment, they can learn 'on-the-job' with loads of roles, as most of us already do; we grow into the jobs we do.

Danja said...

George,

Hyperlinks are great and can save a lot of re-typing:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bounded_rationality

George Hallam said...

Danja said...
George,

Hyperlinks are great and can save a lot of re-typing:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bounded_rationality


You mean like this?
http://www.bleeding-obvious.co.uk/kickng/obvious/index.php

Danja said...

Yes, funny enough I believe I was stating the obvious in a roundabout manner.

Gobsmacked said...

George argues Keynes, the man whose ideas influenced the G20 bailout of 2009, "not a mainstream economist".

Next week, marvel as George argues that up is in fact down.

Lou Baker said...

@bumbags

But the problem is largely not with people on benefits. It's mainly with the benefits system. As a country we've created this ridiculous system which provides major disincentives to work. It puts in place major barriers to self improvement and requires negligible effort on the part of recipients.

Council housing, for instance. I have no doubt that people who need help with housing should get help while they need help. I also I think it's scandalous that people can expect to move in to a council house and live in it for life. It should be a temporary thing while you need help.

Incapacity benefit is another. It should be paid only while you're sick and no longer. And, if you're never getting better, you should still be required to contribute whatever you can. Obviously someone with no arms is limited by what they can do - but they can contribute in their own way. And they should be expected to.

Tackling this monster system takes guts. Not least because the lefties line up to accuse you of this that and the other. But that should not stop the attempts to make it fair. A benefits system which helps you while you need help, which gives you a hand up, not a hand out, which helps you to help yourself, which encourages work and self betterment, which penalises bad behaviour, which ensures no-one falls through the net AND which is affordable.

That should be our aim.

George Hallam said...

Gobsmacked said...
George argues Keynes, the man whose ideas influenced the G20 bailout of 2009, "not a mainstream economist".

Try thinking about what I might mean by the term "mainstream economist".

Keynes hasn’t been taken seriously by the mainstream since the 1970s.

Witness evidence
Call Paul Krugman
Question: Name?
Krugman: Paul Krugman
Question: Age:
Krugman: 58
Question: Occupation?:
Krugman: Academic economist
Question: Would you say you are successful in your profession?
Krugman: As an American I am not constrained by your British false modesty. Yes, I am successful, very successful. I have written 20 books and 200 articles. I am the the 15th most widely cited economist in the world today. I am in great demand as a speaker all over the world. I will even come and give a lecture Lewisham if you can afford my fee, [softly] which I doubt.
Question: Mr. Krugman, you are obviously a very busy man and yet you have been known to find time to teach first year students at MIT. Is that true?
Krugman: Yes, I certainly did that about eleven or twelve years ago.
Question: Would you please explain in your own words how this came about?
Krugman: I wrote about it at the time. Let me quote:
This spring I have a new assignment: to teach Macroeconomics I for graduate students. Ordinarily this course is taught by someone who specializes in macroeconomics; and whatever topics my popular writings may cover, my professional specialties are international trade and finance, not general macroeconomic theory. However, MIT has a temporary staffing problem, which is itself revealing of the current state of macro, and I have been called in to fill the gap.
Here's the problem: Macro I (that's 14.451 in MIT lingo) is a quarter course, which is supposed to cover the "workhorse" models of the field - the standard approaches that everyone is supposed to know, the models that underlie discussion at, say, the Fed, Treasury, and the IMF. In particular, it is supposed to provide an overview of such items as the IS-LM model of monetary and fiscal policy, the AS-AD approach to short-run versus long-run analysis, and so on. By the standards of modern macro theory, this is crude and simplistic stuff, so you might think that any trained macroeconomist could teach it. But it turns out that that isn't true.
You see, younger macroeconomists - say, those under 40 or so - by and large don't know this stuff. Their teachers regarded such constructs as the IS-LM model as too ad hoc, too simplistic, even to be worth teaching - after all, they could not serve as the basis for a dissertation. Now our younger macro people are certainly very smart, and could learn the material in order to teach it - but they would find it strange, even repugnant. So in order to teach this course MIT has relied, for as long as I can remember, on economists who learned old-fashioned macro before it came to be regarded with contempt. For a variety of reasons, however, we can't turn to the usual suspects this year: Stan Fischer has left to run the world, Rudi Dornbusch is otherwise occupied, Olivier Blanchard is department head, Ricardo Caballero - who is a bit young for the role, but can swallow his distaste if necessary - is on leave. All of which leaves me.


http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/islm.html

End of witness evidence
As you can see from the above the “old-fashioned” macro derived from Keynes was regarded with “contempt” in the late 1990s and had been for at least two decades before that
That takes us back to the 1970s.

Finally, some people on this blog can we quite rude. However it is nothing to the treatment that Keynes to which is subjected.

Try reading this:
http://mises.org/etexts/keynestheman.pdf

Brockley Nick said...

George, this is desperate stuff. You may as well say that, since physics has moved on a bit from Newton's time, that Newtonian ideas are no longer part of the mainstream of science.

You've pulled out one quote from one economist as your evidence for a whole profession and the quote doesn't even back up your case. Show me where he says that all agents are perfectly rational at all times.

Nice glossing over Gobsmacked's point about the 2009 global Keynesian intervention.

mb said...

Lou, there isn't much I'd disagree with that last post. What I object to is the feeling (much loved by the more stoopid tabloids) that most if not all those on benefits are there because they want to, are living high on the hog and are loaded. Those genuinly on sickness benefits may well want work compatible with their disability, the DDA act is just that. It compells public infastructure and bussinesses to make 'resonable adjustments' (the key is reasonable, forget the myth that a small cafe will have the same obligations as a major bank) to enable the disabeled to contribute. An accountant in a wheelchair may find many workplaces unavailable to him because there is no ramp for example. Of course some would see that as government medling, i see that as governments promoting equality of opportunity.

Some will no doubt abuse the system and should be penalised but lets not demonise millions of people as being feckless. When a car factory closes down or a bank folds and thousands more start claiming, it's not because they have suddenly decided to live on £65 a week for a laugh.

Winston Smith said...

I hope George isn't in charge of the chocolate ration at the new Ministry of Plenty.

Tom said...

Agree with Nick about the lack of people to fill the jobs.

The small company I work for has 2-3 jobs going and however much we advertise we don't even get applications. And we work in the media!

I wonder what it'd be like if we were trying to recruit someone with actual specific skills.

Tom said...

As a non-professional economist but a finance professional, I'd say that George's views were accurate about 30 years ago and have been steadily becoming less accurate ever since.

For one thing: Freakonomics and the all the other popularisers of behavioural economics. If there is a mainstream in the UK today I'd put the (very smart and readable) John Kay in the middle of it.

bumbags said...

@Lou- I could have written most of that myself! I absolutely agree that while the system allows people to (in my view) over-benefit, people will do that, and it has to be made more fair. Yes, of course, if someone is genuinely needing help they should get it. And if someone has a disability they should be supported.
The problem is that people behave very differently when dealing with 'the system' than if they were dealing with an individual. Many people I know (who I really like and are really decent people) feel 'allowed' to live on benefits because the law allows it, or 'entitled' to take as much as possible from the system, without connecting that this is paid for by other people in the community. When we've talked about it, they connect 'rich people's taxes' with subsidizing them, rather than 'everyone's taxes', and see their benefits as a TINY drop in the very big ocean of the welfare state.
It is outrageous that people are living in council accommodation on high salaries- this article quotes 6000 tenants on six-figure salaries. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/propertymarket/8581588/Council-tenants-with-six-figure-salaries.html
This means that a nurse's taxes (and mine!) are subsidizing someone like Bob Crowe (earning 150k) to live in a council property.
If we can remove people who don't NEED help from the system, there will be better help there for those who need it.

George Hallam said...

Tom said...
As a non-professional economist but a finance professional, I'd say that George's views were accurate about 30 years ago and have been steadily becoming less accurate ever since.

Steadily less accurate?

As a finance professional you will have come across the 'efficient markets' hypothysis?

It requires that agents have rational expectations.

This theory was quite popular up until about 2007. Since then it has come in for some criticism.

Anonymous said...

@Tom,

I think you are being overly kind to George. Theories about Asymmetric Information and Transaction Cost Economics were already making impacts on the discipline well over 30 years ago, with Game Theory having a longer lineage.

All three address criticisms of earlier micro-economic models that imagine human beings are always rational entities with costless access to complete information.

Tom said...

By "30 years ago" I meant "before my time"; something the previous generation (or two) would have worked on.

It was Stiglitz et al that got a Nobel for information asymmetry wasn't it?

And it was 1997 when the Nobel for Scholes rather blew up in everyone's faces.

The Guardian (Larry Elliott) have been trying to bring Keynes back in backed by Robert Skidelsky but I think with the sovereign debt crisis not everyone's heart is in it. Their reading of Keynes seems to emphasise growing the state; I suspect George would agree.

George Hallam said...

Brockley Nick said...
George, this is desperate stuff. You may as well say that, since physics has moved on a bit from Newton's time, that Newtonian ideas are no longer part of the mainstream of science.

I beg to differ. It is your analogy that is desperate.

Newton has been subsumed into modern physics. In some respects Newtonian ideas have been refuted. However for many practical purposes they are accurate enough. This is not comparable with what has happened to Keynes. As far as the mainstream of economics is concerned Keynes was wrong and has been refuted comprehensively. They have not practical relevance.

In so far as there is a comparison it works against you. Consider how far a career physicist would get if he or she they insisted on defending Newtonian ideas all the time. I think the answer is: “About as far as a career economist who defended Keynes”

Neither of them would get their papers published in the key journals.

Anonymous said...

@George

That'd be why it was called the Efficient Markets Hypothesis.

Believe you me, it was coming in for significant criticism on campus well before 2007 (certainly at the universities I have studied at).

Beating a straw man to death is unlikely to impress anyone, even over a cheap crumpet subsidised by a communisant estate agent with an addiction to brown corduroy.

George Hallam said...

All three address criticisms of earlier micro-economic models that imagine human beings are always rational entities with costless access to complete information.

How does this show that Keyes is the cutting edge of the mainstream.

All this is getting away from the real issue which is that we are in a serious mess. To get out of it we need jobs, millions of decent jobs.

And current policies will do nothing to create those jobs.

Education course and social workers may have a role to play by they can't solve it.

You are in a hole and you don't have a clue how to get out.

Snipping at me is just a way of avioding thinking about the problem.

George Hallam said...

Anonymous said...
@George

That'd be why it was called the Efficient Markets Hypothesis.

Believe you me, it was coming in for significant criticism on campus well before 2007 (certainly at the universities I have studied at).


What a pity nobody thought to tell the FSA, or Greenspan. It might have save us all a lot of trouble.

Remember Greenspan?

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: You found a flaw in the reality...

ALAN GREENSPAN: Flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works, so to speak.

Tom said...

"How does this show that Keyes is the cutting edge of the mainstream ..."

Hmmm. As someone that keeps an eye on the Guardian, I note that:

"What would Keynes do? That is a question asked by Vince Cable in the current issue of the New Statesman ..."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/17/john-maynard-keynes-vince-cable?INTCMP=SRCH

George Hallam said...

Tom said...
The Guardian (Larry Elliott) have been trying to bring Keynes back in backed by Robert Skidelsky but I think with the sovereign debt crisis not everyone's heart is in it. Their reading of Keynes seems to emphasise growing the state

This is not a mere ‘reading’ that is as valid as any other: it is central to Keynes’s whole account of economics.

• Money is not neutral. Having exchange based on money changes the way markets operate.
• Say’s Law is false: supply does not create its own demand. Every sale does not necessarily lead to a purchase (money allows this to happen).
• Markets are not self-regulating (or at least in a good way).
• There is no guarantee that, even if an equilibrium is finally reached, it will be the optimum one (more than likely it will be sub-optimal).
• Only intervention from outside the market can rectify these defects.
• In lieu of anything else, this means state intervention.

Over the last thirty years just about every one of these ideas have been anathematised as the economic equivalence of heresy.

George Hallam said...

Tom said...
"How does this show that Keyes is the cutting edge of the mainstream ..."

Hmmm. As someone that keeps an eye on the Guardian, I note that:

"What would Keynes do? That is a question asked by Vince Cable in the current issue of the New Statesman ..."

The current crisis, that was supposed to be impossible given the efficiency of the market mechanism, has led to hurried resurrection of Keynes.

He’s being used in the same way the bones of saints and other holy relics were use in the Middle Ages in time of plague.

As Skidelsky and others have said: "We're all Keynesians in the Foxhole" (by which I think he means a slit trench).
Except that all of us are not become Keynesians, or at least professional economists have not. They are not changing the way they think, or teach or the textbooks they use.

So it’s all very superficial. Yes, we will invoke the name of Keynes. But we really adopt his ideas and policies. Not really.

Thinking through the implications of abandoning our faith in markets is just too scary. We prefer to eclectic. We’ll keep our free markets and add a little bit is stimulus here and a bit of regulation there…and hope it will be alright.

Except that it won’t.

I think this fear goes someway to explain the furious reaction to what I’ve said.

George Hallam said...

Tom said...
"How does this show that Keyes is the cutting edge of the mainstream ..."

Hmmm. As someone that keeps an eye on the Guardian, I note that:

"What would Keynes do? That is a question asked by Vince Cable in the current issue of the New Statesman ..."

The current crisis was supposed to be impossible given the efficiency of the market mechanism. But it did happen. This has led to a hurried resurrection of Keynes.

He’s being used in the same way the bones of saints and other holy relics were use in the Middle Ages in time of plague.

Skidelsky and others have used another analogy: "We're all Keynesians in the Foxhole" (by which I think he means a slit trench).
Except that all of us have not become Keynesians, or at least the professional economists have not. They are not changing the way they think, or teach or the textbooks they use.

So it’s all very superficial. Yes, we will invoke the name of Keynes. But we really adopt his ideas and policies? Not really.

Thinking through the implications of abandoning our faith in markets is just too scary. We prefer to eclectic. We’ll keep our free markets and add a little bit is stimulus here and a bit of regulation there…and hope it will be alright.

Except that it won’t.

I think this fear goes someway to explain the furious reaction to what I’ve said.

George Hallam said...

Taking of Newton

Have you read his "Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John"?

http://www.amazon.com/Observations-upon-Prophecies-Daniel-Apocalypse/dp/0942487028

Want to know when the antichrist will appear?

You won't find that in Principia Mathematica

Gobsmacked said...

"All this is getting away from the real issue"

Says George, before posting 6 messages of absolute random drivel.

Nice try anon16:41, I nearly thought you'd forced George to admit defeat. Ah well.

George Hallam said...

Gobsmacked said...

nothing

no facts, no arguments, no policies.

nothing

Anonymous said...

@Gobsmacked (from anon16:41),

Ta. One tries.

I'm trying and failing to determine if there is a coherent point that George is trying to make.

If it is that some sort of Keynesian (really Hicksian) quantitative easing Mark 3 (or is it 4, or 5 by now?) is a GOOD THING, then I have my doubts. Cue 1970s Redux, stagflation and the erosion of people's savings and pension income. Not great...

Moving on...

My grim take is that whatever we do next, it will be pretty bloody awful for us over the next few years. There is a huge bolus of public and private debt that needs to work its way through the system. The least worse solution will be to address the deficit and not dig ourselves in any deeper.

Anyone that has seen how things work, or rather don't, in our glorious borough, will have spotted that state mediated solutions to social problems are not always flawless. Nor are they always well managed, neither do they make the best uses of limited resources at times.

So, the first thing I would ask everyone reading this to do is to get involved. Pick something you care about, or that you want to see happen, then back it with time and if needs be money. Hold the council / local development quango / whatever to account, because there are precious few that do. Capacity is often the key constraint for so many worthwhile local projects.

You know what, that really is apolitical as well. Once you scrape off the ideological rhetoric of the major parties, you will find all of them signed up to the idea of greater public involvement in the third sector, society, whatever you want to call it.

If you want to save your local library, volunteer. If you want your local school to be better, become a governor. If your councillors are crap, stand, or hold them to account, or support someone better. If you want to create local jobs and training, then yes, set up a local company.

The 'them' is us. Either we fix this or it is just not going to happen. (There is no cavalry about to ride in and save the day.)

That is the challenge for our generation, nothing less.

name said...

Hear hear, it's been before, mentor a kid, just do something for someone else that you won't necessarily directly benefit from. Don't be those types that bang on about artisan bread, house prices, interiors and that material stuff, people that do nothing for their community other than complain about it.

Brockley Nick said...

Nicely put Anon 19.40

If Monday showed the worst of Lewisham, Tuesday morning showed the best. Volunteers came forward to help with the clean up, but the Council clean-up team had finished the job before they got there and market traders were back on the streets very quickly. Private, public and voluntary spheres all showing that Lewisham isn't broken.

We've just got to get on with doing things - whether that be staging a film festival or reopening the restaurant formerly known as Masons.

George Hallam said...

@Anonymous 19:40

Thank you for this.

The bad news, for you, is that I regard this is a very positive post.

There is still time for you to retract before I start agreeing.

George Hallam said...

Too late.

If it is that some sort of Keynesian (really Hicksian) quantitative easing Mark 3 (or is it 4, or 5 by now?) is a GOOD THING, then I have my doubts. Cue 1970s Redux, stagflation and the erosion of people's savings and pension income. Not great...


Exactly, well almost exactly. The problem with QE is that the money goes straight into company coffers, bypassing the vast majority of households.

Share prices rally but lack of effective demand means that companies don't invest (i.e. real investment), they buy government bonds instead.

Result: government debt increases but the economy continues to stagnate.

George Hallam said...

My grim take is that whatever we do next, it will be pretty bloody awful for us over the next few years. There is a huge bolus of public and private debt that needs to work its way through the system.

Yes, agreed as George Osborne said only the other day “this is a balance sheet recession”.

George Hallam said...

@Anonymous 19:40

Anyone that has seen how things work, or rather don't, in our glorious borough, will have spotted that state mediated solutions to social problems are not always flawless. Nor are they always well managed, neither do they make the best uses of limited resources at times.

Agreed. Well spotted.


So, the first thing I would ask everyone reading this to do is to get involved. Pick something you care about, or that you want to see happen, then back it with time and if needs be money. Hold the council / local development quango / whatever to account, because there are precious few that do. Capacity is often the key constraint for so many worthwhile local projects.

Agreed. This is how LPBP came to be set in the first place.

George Hallam said...

@Anonymous 19:40

You know what, that really is apolitical as well. Once you scrape off the ideological rhetoric of the major parties, you will find all of them signed up to the idea of greater public involvement in the third sector, society, whatever you want to call it.

Ah, not quite.

Once you scrape off the ideological rhetoric of the major parties, you will find all of them signed up to saving the banks.

Not surprising really, when you count how much the parties are funded by the banks.

George Hallam said...

If you want to create local jobs and training, then yes, set up a local company.

Yes. I'm with you. Now where did I put that £150,000.

Sorry, can't find it. Perhaps I could borrow it from our friendly local investment bank? (that LPBP wants to set up).

Anonymous said...

There was something rather "mung" about the clean up effort - the smiling faces holding the brooms (whilst, of course, wearing knitted hats, presumably in an ironic fashion), the twee post-it notes, the constant cups of tea (because there's one thing the mung don't do and that's coffee... or indeed any other drink)... ugh. For a second it made you want to go and keep it real with the rioters.

George Hallam said...

The 'them' is us. Either we fix this or it is just not going to happen. (There is no cavalry about to ride in and save the day.)

Mostly agree.

Either we fix this or it is just not going to happen.

This is very nearly a direct quote from the LPBP manifesto issued last year.

Small quibble. We are not the only people in the country. There is a 'them', and they don't have our best interests at heart.

George Hallam said...

If your councillors are crap, stand, or hold them to account, or support someone better.

If? Which ward do you live in?

See you at the elections.

Anonymous said...

George Hallam said: "Yes. I'm with you. Now where did I put that £150,000.

Sorry, can't find it. Perhaps I could borbow iv from our friendly local investment bank? (that LPBP wants to set up).


If the LPBP doesn't have £150,000 it is really going to find it hard to set up a local investment bank.
Have they looked at the capital requirements of doing this and the sheer amount of administration involved?

George Hallam said...

If the LPBP doesn't have £150,000 it is really going to find it hard to set up a local investment bank.

No. LPBP's proposal is for the council to establish the Bank of Lewisham.

We need a real bank, not micro-finance.

Anonymous said...

All very interesting, but I don't see what this has to do with the Lewisham riots.

It was not exactly an uprising by the people in protest against social injustice rather than a lot of opportunistic theft by teenagers.

The fact that it is the school holidays and we get a regular spike in youth crime at this time of year as bored teenagers look for something to do.

You might also consider whether the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance by this government, which gave teenagers £30 a week if the continued education might have some bearing on the disaffection felt.

There seems to be rather less to all of this than meets the eye.

It seems to be quite ironic that people resort to the sort of pompous intellectualising in response to a problem that has its roots in the anti-intellectual culture of the least well off section of society.

Some around here seem to be on the verge of getting their diplomas out and waving them at each other.

That would not be a good look.

Give the kids their £30 a week back and they will be less likely to nick their Nikes during an evening of smash and grab.

Teenageconomics?

Tom said...

"All very interesting, but I don't see what this has to do with the Lewisham riots."

It started because George accused Nick of ignoring economics, specifically his own take on economics, comprising broadly a vast straw man of epic proportions that ultimately and inevitably led him to declare only an ever-increasing state would solve our economic problems.

@18.19 has a lot more truth in it than anything George has written. For one thing: there's no apparent pre-existing political agenda tacked on it.

The opportunism argument is regularly downplayed by politicos seeking to advance their own agenda. I got mugged in Brockley a couple of years ago on Halloween. Loads of people did that night because the local 'kids' realised it was an opportunity for them to hang out in large groups wearing masks.

George Hallam said...

Tom said...
@18.19 has a lot more truth in it than anything George has written. For one thing: there's no apparent pre-existing political agenda tacked on it.

The opportunism argument is regularly downplayed by politicos seeking to advance their own agenda.


Not to be confused with politicos who seek to advance their own agenda by playing up the opportunism argument.

It should be obvious that young people took part in looting because, as far as they are concerned, they have found a way of ‘getting away with it’. This was due, in part, to the current police doctrine on public order.

From my statement on the riots on the LPBP web site
http://www.lpbp.org.uk/home

George Hallam said...

@Anonymous 08:19

Give the kids their £30 a week back and they will be less likely to nick their Nikes during an evening of smash and grab.

Seen this?

Action
• Full compensation for riot damage to all small businesses to rebuild the local economy. Local police authorities must make emergency payment immediately to allow business to get working again.
• Reverse the cuts especially to youth services, libraries, EMA and education;


From my statement on the riots on the LPBP web site
http://www.lpbp.org.uk/home

I agree. Restore EMA to encourage young people to continue their education but make sure that there are going to be some decent jobs for them when the complete their courses.

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