March for an Alternative, dream on, guys

So about half a million souls and a small bunch of black bloc anarchist turds rolled up to London last weekend. The half a million I’m all for their right to protest, the anarchists are scum and I wouldn’t be that troubled if a few of them had got brained. Maybe the Daily Mail commenter John Sanderson had a point, we need a remote uninhabited Scottish island to dump these jerks on so they can have anarchy, and fight it out between themselves.

So what about the main event then. The trouble is we seem to have become collectively infantilised, let’s take a look at the nature of the so called Tory cuts. The points the marchers for the alternative are making are three-fold.

  • The spending that is being cut is doing all sorts of good works in the country.
  • Even if we are spending more than we earn, you can’t run a national economy like a household personal finance operation, so you have to spend more than you earn to grow out of a recession.
  • The Tories are rich scum that are unaffected by the cuts so they don’t care.

Individually the first charge is fair enough, a lot of good stuff was done under Labour using borrowed money and it won’t be done any more, from the local libraries that are going to be closed to the music therapy for the disadvantaged. Let’s not deny it, Britain is going to be a harsher, meaner place than it was under Labour, anybody who remembers the 1980s (and to some extent the early 1990s) will know that.

The second point is also good. However, what the proponents of the “alternative” fail to get is that to have the alternative, you must have saved the money in the good times! Labour didn’t – they spent like drunken sailors, so this is just like screwing up your personal finances! So we are SOL on that option, what we have got is about as good as it gets.

The problem is that overspending when times are good makes the retrenchment doubly hard when you try and rein it in. I can see I am not going to be earning as much in future as I do now. Rather than spending all I earn “because I am worth it”, I save most of it towards being able to spend more than I earn in my own personal recession. I can do that because the only votes I have to buy is me.

Unfortunately it’s not so easy for politicians, who want to spend up to the max and more to give people a feel-good factor so they vote for them again. Hello Gordon Brown, here’s looking at you, kid. So unfortunately all the people that benefited from his largesse are not only having to do without it, they may even lose out in the retrenchment to fill in the hole. I, presumably being rich Tory scum in their eyes, didn’t enjoy the largesse. Although I will lose by having to get on my bike to go to the library and will get to feel the general fear and loathing and shabbiness of five years of Tory rule, I haven’t benefited from the largesse in having a nice middle class job created for me as diversity champion, so I will only experience half the pain.

That’s in a similar way to the way I didn’t experience all the foreign holidays and restaurant meals from treating my house as an ATM, which is undoubtedly my loss, but I also don’t get to experience the gut-wrenching sucking feeling of paying all that money back at 14% interest rates (yes, it happened to me in the early 1990s). You pays your money and you takes your choice.

There is an awful lot to be said for having the government as the swing consumer of last resort, but it needs the government to spend less in times of plenty (2000-2007, Gordon Brown, here’s looking at you, kid, once more) so that it can spend more in times of recession. That way construction is funded by house-building and commercial premises in booms, and making bridges and high-speed rail and flyovers in recessions. Unfortunately, that demands the government to spend less than it takes in during booms, and that sort of thing is hard to do when it would make it easy to buy votes, and the sheeple are so infantilised that they scream “but I want it NOW” without trying to work out how to pay for it.

Britain has been living above its means, and living standards are going to have to fall, I estimate by about half. Note that living standards are not the same thing as quality of life, but it takes some doing to make the mental switch so you don’t see everything in terms of money. For instance few people in Britain are too poor to buy food. Many people, however, could spend less on food if they learned how to cook some of it from basic materials rather than using ready meals. We used to do that in the 1970s! As a benefit our food might taste of something other than monosodium glutamate, sugar, salt and artifical flavourings but that’s a rant for another day.


Samantha Cameron at London Fashion week. More attractive than Dave or Gideon, n'est'ce pas, but she'll probably not feel the Tory cuts either ๐Ÿ™‚

As to the last point, “The Tories are rich scum that are unaffected by the cuts so they don’t care”, well, you only have to look at Dave and the fragrant Samantha, and Gideon, and it’s hard to come to anything other than the conclusion that it’s a fair cop. They aren’t going to be affected by the cuts.

However, our need at the moment is to extract Britain from the ordure, and that means stopping spending money that we don’t have. The timetable to do that, by the way, for all the bile that has been poured on the Tories, is pretty relaxed. We aim to eliminate the deficit (ie stop spending more than we earn) by 2015.

Now if that were you, going to the CAB for advice and you said you had a massive credit card debt and were spending 10% more than you earned they would probably advise you to nut that 10% overpending now, pronto, without delay, rather than in four years’ time. To those that say you can’t run a country like a household I’d say you may well be right, but there are prerequisites to that. And you guys lost the right to make that claim when your government of the day failed to save the money in the good times, preferring to believe that this was the non-inflationary constant expansion decade, rather than a one-off gift of the encapsulated work of industrious Chinese billions combined with the stored energy of ancient sunlight. That’s all gone, finished, away like summer rain.

So material living standards are going to fall. Perhaps to the 1970s if we’re lucky, perhaps to pre WW1 Britain if we are less lucky, to some other point if we screw up royally.

The problem is that we don’t make what we use, and we don’t make enough of what other people use to allow us to buy what we use. So we’ll have to use less. The upside is that there is absolutely no evidence that rushing around around flushing away our lives on crappy jobs to be able to buy our two weeks in the sun and our iFads is making us any happier, if anything the evidence is to the contrary. So after what will undoubtedly be a grisly time of re-adjustment, we might find that we are happier if we focus less on what is in our lives and more on who is in our life.

This crap is coming our way, for most of us. Hollering “I don’t want CUTS” isn’t going to help – unless you want your children to pay for your jam today. It’s time to rediscover personal responsibility and grow a pair.

Talking of which, another bunch of whingers who screwed up on Saturday are the Oxford Street shops. Apparently the coppers let them down in not telling them there was going to be some bad crap going down and they might want to board up.

Well, colour me naive, but what part ofย  “there’s a shedload of pissed off people coming to town that are feeling short of money” and “anarchists have been pitching for a fight at the last few London demos” do they not understand? London is the capital city. It attracts tourist money and vast wealth like moths to a flame, just like it attracts the protesting Great Unwashed. If you’re going to flaunt all those glittery baubles in the face of a load of people grizzling about having no money and also dischuffed about your tax evasion, then having your shop trashed once in a blue moon is the price of doing business. Either treat it as such or board up, or relocate to Surrey and accept a vastly lower footfall.

It is the job of society to lock up or otherwise deal with the anarchist violence. But the others causing a peaceful public protest, well, maybe they have a case.


12 thoughts on “March for an Alternative, dream on, guys”

  1. Paperback back-cover style blurb ๐Ÿ˜‰

    thigh-slappingly funny stuff……
    stoatmaster ermine shows why his site is THE go-to place for curmudgeons across the globe.

    — Surio


  2. @matt the classic quality of life vs living standards differentiator is having good health, but things like the interaction with friends and human relationships also come into it. Often maximising one’s money income comes at the expense of some human relationships because of time or competitive pressures.

    Living standard is a function of how much money you have after non-negotiable taxes and work-related costs. Quality of life is about your enjoyment of both material and non-material assets. There’s no point in having a great living standard if you are so stressed you can’t enjoy your relationships.

    As an example, chopping wood for heating is definitely a loss of living standard – it is harder work and takes time. However, quality of life is improved because I need fear rising fuel prices less. Similarly biking to work is a loss of living standards – I lose an hour and a half a day rather than half an hour a day. But I gain quality of life – I can listen to the birdsong at this time of year, the price at the Shell garage I pass is informative rather than threatening, and there are probably some health benefits.

    In general, I am trying to improve my quality of life by eliminating or reducing non-negotiable fixed costs, particularly energy and food, and gaining time. That inherently means accepting a lower living standard, because I will be earning less, and I am not prepared to go into debt, which is a common way of preserving living standards in the face of less income.


  3. Interesting piece, again. I’m wondering when it was I turned from the sort of person who would have been on the march to the sort of person who sits back saying ‘They just don’t GET IT, do they?’ I’m sure that’s a longer post than I have time for now, but I shall be back later, but I think it might be related to ‘anarchists’ who are entirely dependent on the State for their income.

    Oh, and thanks for the citation re pre-WW1 comment ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Now, I must run, I’m off to do some gardening at a fraction of my previous wage, but the hours are good, the activity interesting, and I get to spend time with one of my mates from the pub. Standard of living nil; quality of life one. Best thing I ever did leaving that job – less is more.

    Oh and finally, if you haven’t yet read it, I’d recommend a book I just borrowed from the library: ‘The case for working with your hands’ by Matthew Crawford (was published in the USA as ‘Shopcraft as soulcraft’). The subtitle says it all … ‘or why office work is bad for us and fixing things feels good.’

    A one-phrase review: ‘Where “Zen and the Art” meets ERE’.


  4. @Macs, hehe – our library was hot off the mark there, and it was a great read. The ‘why office work is bad for you’ caused this rant ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Enjoy the gardening. If the rain stops I’ll get on with rigging the secondhand polytunnel frame we’ve bought – it makes it easier to pound in the anchor posts!


  5. Aha, yes, I had a vague memory of *someone* having mentioned it in the past, but wasn’t sure if it was you or Monevator on a ‘digital Taylorism’ riff.

    Back from the garden job a bit early as we had a call from my mate’s home, saying his polytunnel was taking off, so we rushed back to deal with that… so make sure yours is well pinned down ๐Ÿ˜‰

    It’s an ill wind, but at least it means I’m home in time to post off today’s Amazon sales. Darn it, I just love the flexibility of self-employment and multiple income streams.


  6. The first rule in the handbook of elected government is “Synchronise the economic and political cycles”. Gordon Brown fell victim to his own propaganda, believing he had abolished downturns. George Osborne realises this and, by front loading the cuts, is already nurturing a few electoral bribes for 2015, but if, somehow, he gets back into power, I would not be surprised to see him making the same mistake.


  7. @ermine,
    Nice explanation of quality of life and living standard.

    Sometimes Gandhi, Thoreau, M.L. King, etc… are all branded anarchists… Then this Haymarket affair….. So, the term confuses me more than it enlightens sometimes. ๐Ÿ˜

    I had read Mathew Crawford’s essay before it became a book. Does it mean there’s special points for me? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I know what you mean about the transition point in us from support to bemusement. What exactly do you sell on Amazon, if you don’t mind me asking? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Did you happen see the link on the BBC documentary on the Penan people on the other post?


  8. “the definition of a โ€˜goodโ€™ anarchist” is one that isn’t actually an undercover cop or a representative of some other organisation with too many numbers in its name ๐Ÿ˜‰ Yeah, I’ll send a postcard from the gulag…

    @surio – books; and no, but I shall check the link ๐Ÿ™‚


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