Ah, bless. Remember July, when we were all camping and heating up the barbie and it was all going to be over by Christmas?
Hostage to fortune, mate, and you lot can’t plan your way out of a paper bag, it’s been firefighting all the way. Do or do not, do not try.The usual wingnuts from the torygraph and unHerd are fulminating, they may as well hold their breath.
We have long argued that the country needs to live with this virus. […]
The alternative is to protect the vulnerable while letting normal life continue for most people. Older people who do not wish to be locked away can make their own choices knowing the risks.
Don’t sweat it, guys, it’s what’s going to happen anyway. After Cominic Dummings’ little escapade because he is such a sociopathic Billy No Mates he couldn’t find anyone to do his childcare in London, you can’t tell any bugger what to do. We’ll be battle testing herd immunity by default. We got there in the end, 40 years after I played this track at university.
Weed out the weaklings…
And WTF is it with all the over-acting emphasis Bozza? Don’t they have decent drama school and elocution in Eton? Less of the lunging into the damn camera, and perhaps engage brain before opening trap? Nah, it’ll never catch on, and anyway, we’ve had enough of experts. Funny how Boz is so uniquely unsuited to wrangling something with the potential to kill people. I’m not convinced that it’s the end of the beginning yet. Boz really did need to pay attention at drama school. This, dear boy, is how you deliver that sort of news:
BoJo’s emphasis is all wrong and his cadence sucks, he’s trying too hard. If you want to know who to take people with you, listen to Donald Trump – he gets that right. He can talk absolute bullshit but make it sound right.
Socrates called out the problem of the unwilling leader being better qualified than those who really, really want the job, though he didn’t crack the implementation problem. Bozza is proof positive, he’s a good-time guy who wanted to get Brexit done, not fight bugs. Be careful what you wish for…
Capitalism gears up to ream the poor at Christmas
Anyway, it was clearly bollocks that it’ll be over by Christmas. What’s more, capitalism red in tooth and claw is tooling up to ream the poor, and the recently unemployed anyone else.
The Bank of England fondly believed that shitting on savers would give borrowers a break.While they did shit on savers they gifted ‘investors1‘ a doozy, which is how after a near death experience in Spring your equity portfolio is worth more, though about 10% of the UK economy has been burned.
Dunno what the heck they are smoking in Threadneedle Street, but it is strong. For starters lending money to people who have just lost their jobs is a risky biz in the first place, it’s about return of capital as well as the return on capital. Personally I’d also charge people more around Christmas anyway, because parents who are unable to tell their kids that Christmas is cancelled this year are unlikely to have the fortitude to do what it takes to pay this borrowing back under adverse conditions. Ten years ago in the midst of the GFC I suggested Charlotte tell her precious ankle-biter that Christmas is off, and the problem remains the same. Different perps, different kids, but Christmas is an elective spend, and it’s likely to be a tough time this year. Elect not to spend, rent and power before pressies. Tragically, there will be many who won’t have the option of either. If you have no assets, there is an argument to hit the old CC hard and fast, knowing you will never pay it off, but the IVA/bankruptcy option does rob you of some options in future. Given this hit is hopefully a one-off, then it’s a hard call. Going IVA/bankrupt may make it harder to rent a place or get some jobs…
Maybe we should have a guest appearance from Shona Sibary, she of the too many kids and the unawareness2 that you’re actually supposed to pay off a mortgage, plus if you use a string of fixes to borrow more than you can afford you make yourself a hostage to fortune in market crashes.
Lenders gonna lend, and you have to make money. They’re more Chuck Colson than FDR on this,
“If you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow”.
If the Bank of England was really that troubled about hard-working families getting a dreary Christmas then they could always lob money out of helicopters themselves, rather than getting credit card companies to do the dirty work for them. I guess Rishi might disapprove, but hey, whatever works, my friend.
As living proof of this incipient reaming of the newly unemployed, I received the following mealy-mouthed missive from a bank:
We want to help you manage your borrowing and ensure your overdraft limit is right for you. As you haven’t used your overdraft for a while, we’re planning to reduce this from £3,150 to £1,300 on 27 November 2020. Your new overdraft limit is still above the most you have used on your account in the last six months.
Well, thanks a bunch. I’ll have you know that I haven’t used my overdraft for the last fricking ten years, I can’t remember ever using it and it will have been cock-up anyway. However, you cynical punks are clearly expecting me to lose my job by Christmas and don’t want to be left holding the baby, eh? Well, you can f*ck right off and stick your overdraft where the sun don’t shine, busters.
Help me manage my borrowing? WTAF?
We’re in the chest-beating and mutual hollering abuse stage on Brexit
It was always going to get to this. Personally I’m of the view that too many Tories want a no-deal Brexit and there’s another four years to spin it as all t’other side’s fault. But perhaps all the chest-beating is just a phase we are going to have to go through.
In this crossfire, the Ermine needs to work out to preserve capital across the Brexit interregnum. I grouped together the bits from shorting earlier this year, reserves and I have enough for next year’s ISA before becoming a net decumulator.
I have ‘invested3‘ in SGLP, I will tolerate some cash in NS&I ILSCs, and some more in premium bonds. Now that does expose me a bit to Government cash grabs in the troubled fiscal future, as well as the lessening of the greatness of British Pounds to buy stuff, but the combined amount is less than the FSCS limit. Not that that pertains to NS&I anyway. I need to work out what I am going to hold the value of next year’s ISA contribution in. Gold via SGLP is one option, but I start getting seriously exposed to the gold price.
There’s still time before Brexit once October is gone, with it’s nasty tendency to downside violence in the markets, and perhaps if we know whether Trump will finish the job of Making America Great Again. Although my shares ISA is rammed, I could start to deploy the next year’s allowance into a trading account, and then bed and ISA the shares into the ISA after March. I am unlikely to be hammered for capital gains on £20k worth of say VWRL, although I suppose it depends on how well Bojo and his mates respond to the FXmarket singing ‘how low can you go’ about the GBP in the background.
There aren’t any good options here. Just less bad ones…
- That’s you and me trying to make sense of what will hold value into the storm. assuming you have capital. God knows, but I suspect valuations are not representative of value. This too will pass. That’s better for you if you have 30 years of investment horizon rather than two, but hey ho, I have had a good run since the GFC. If I buy VWRL, I am not under the impression I an ‘investing’ in productive assets at good value these days. More I am disinvesting in great British pounds. It’s a race to the bottom. ↩
- Some of it is she’s having a larf and needs column-inches, her story about running away from Devon and how to fix the First World problem of puppies turning into dogs were designed to get a rise, along with the power of phenergan elixir to quieten your rugrats on flights ;) ↩
- Ah, the i-word again. Nobody invests in gold – it’s noted for not adding value, unlike farms and companies. It’s a pure fear play, trying to hold value against a storm. ↩
33 thoughts on “This won’t be over by Christmas in Brexitland”
I’ve been reading a bit on the history of new diseases and pandemics and I can’t help concluding this won’t actually be over until it’s passed through most of the population one way or another. You did yourself write back in March in your ‘plague is coming’ article that “You’re going to get covid-19. So am I. Most likely in months, not years”. This is a pattern that has been repeated since the start of human history right up to living memory – my mother remembers catching Asian Flu in 1957. I’m pretty sure the only reason that we don’t think of that pandemic as being particularly deadly is that most of the seriously ill over 80s had already died of something else in those days.
I realise that doesn’t come across as terribly sympathetic, and I hope that view doesn’t put me in the nutcase camp, but surely that’s actually just “the science” from a big picture perspective? As opposed to “the science” that answers the very narrow question of how to minimise Coronavirus deaths without considering any other aspect of public health or tax revenues that fund the NHS…
Back in March I felt like an idiot for wearing a mask when nobody else was, but in the last few weeks I’ve noticed more and more people wearing them even outside. In fact I just had a conversation with a masked parent on the school run who told me there is “no alternative” but for a vaccine to be found and we need to carry on being careful until then. I did point out humans have only managed to eradicate one disease from the world so far, and that developing a working vaccine wasn’t necessarily within our control – so there’s a another win for faith in technology as the solution to all of our problems, eh?
I completely agree with the need to prevent everyone getting it at once – after all, it’s been clear for years that the NHS can barely cope with a severe winter flu season, let alone Covid-19. It’s all very well to have all those Nightingale Hospitals ready, but who’s going to staff them after the immigration rules change on 1st January – out of work actors and bar staff perhaps?!
However, all talk of “losing control” or “beating the virus” strikes me as pure politics. Why was Sadiq Khan pushing for stricter lockdown across the whole of London while Andy Burnham was resisting Tier 3 rules for Manchester? Does DC’s trip to that castle on his wife’s birthday make it more likely that a bunch of teenagers in Liverpool are going to hold a house party? I doubt it very much. And I also doubt things would be going any better if Labour were in charge – we’d still be trying to run Track & Trace using a pre-2007 spreadsheet limited to 65,000 rows, lol.
Actually that last paragraph I just wrote seems a bit one sided as I’m in no way a supporter for the current band of Tory politicans. I just think it’s pointlessly opportunistic to keep having a go at them when we’re up against something that’s completely impossible to control and is clearly going to run its natural course, lockdown or no lockdown.
I guess the whole “over by Christmas” narrative is just a way of placating the masses with an ever vanishing deadline that’s never so far away that people start rioting. A bit like kicking the can down the road with many other “too hard” problems in the world which can’t be solved within a single electoral cycle.
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> Does DC’s trip to that castle on his wife’s birthday make it more likely that a bunch of teenagers in Liverpool are going to hold a house party?
Although I have no idea really how to fight the virus, I do think that DC damaged very seriously the prospects of any sort of collective action. It may be that no effective response is possible, in which case that doesn’t matter. And some groups aren’t going to give a toss. But it’s pretty much every man for himself now, and yes, I do think DC was part of that.
But hey. What I think doesn’t matter, largely because I don’t influence public policy and I personally don’t have to use public transport or work with others IRL in a physical place of work
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You’re probably right, and putting that line in my comment is probably going to make people ignore the rest of what I wrote, so my bad. His behaviour didn’t influence me but it may have influenced other people. The problem is it’s very easy to get sucked into blaming specific politicians for what has gone wrong and lose sight of the reality we are dealing with. A new human disease which has spread to almost the entire world, and one which is so often asymptomatic but also highly contagious that it cannot be stopped. I’m just grateful it doesn’t generally harm children or their parents, because then we really would be in the shit. However, everything I’ve read suggests something worse will come along sooner or later – perhaps a hemorrhagic disease like Ebola, Lassa fever, yellow fever, etc.
> blaming specific politicians for what has gone wrong
Hehe, probably important to note for the record that our Dom’s a SPAD rather than a politician. The case can be made that many people voted for his policies in 2016, but his name wasn’t on anybody’s ballot paper
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In some ways it might be better if Boris fails to get a deal. If Labour win the next election then I’m pretty sure Keir Starmer would have a more pragmatic approach to the whole thing.
It is annoying though, after all that nonsense about them needing us more than we need them. It’s already had a detrimental affect on my business. People working in automotive must be pulling their hair out now.
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> It’s already had a detrimental affect on my business.
Sorry to hear that 😦
Your bank letter re your O/D facility made me smile.
IMO, banks are amongst the very worst spin merchants – and that is being polite!
All their recent adverts are aimed at seemingly re-assuring everybody that the banks are there to help you. While at the same time they close more and more branches because their data shows that nobody apparently uses them – forgetting that this is because for months on end they were all but closed!
FWIW, IMO Bozo is, and always has been, an utter twxt.
However, in the interests of balance, can you even begin to imagine where we might have been if the other eejit had won?
As I said at the time, what a choice!
> where we might have been if the other eejit had won?
OMG, don’t. Bit like the old saw about how good it feels when you stop banging your head against a brick wall, eh, it’s all relative 😉
That bank stuff is bizarre. They haven’t troubled me for many years and then all of a sudden they have this tremendous urge to save me from my profligate self, as not demonstrated over the last decade. Berks. These guys are in deep doo-doo if I am a threat to their Basel framework tickbox!
Feel really upset for those already on minimum wage being told they will have to live on 66% of their income. My region has gone into Tier 3, just been for a meal tonight and the Town was deserted, really worrying as so many hospitality jobs etc will go.
Personally I don’t think the extremely current low number of deaths warrant a lockdown and we should just practice social distancing and guarding elderly and vulnerable, if they want it. My dad was 80 last week and fed up with it all, rightly or wrongly he is going out, as what quality of life is there stuck in house all day.
Do think they are using Covid as a distraction for a No Deal Brexit.
As if our kids haven’t got it bad enough. They are going to be paying for Covid and Brexit for generations.
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American stock markets won’t care whether Trump is re-elected or not as the pandemic started the printing presses, so that’s what is currently stoking the fire.
Meanwhile, in everyday life, people stuck in miserable indoor agriculture jobs (food processing & packing) continue to be the sites of workplace COVID-19 infections. The American heartland, the flyover territory, is now reaping the policy of non-caring Republicans and death rates are going to soar in a couple weeks. Hopefully by now anybody in the hospitality & travel industry have already figured out that they need to re-invent their business to work in a changed environment because Trump lied to them early & often regarding COVID-19.
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“lessening of the greatness of British Pounds”…. I love that line! Good piece – thanks.
It looks like what will be over by Xmas is the economy what with the punitive, chaotic, nonsensical lockdowns here. (so we are to believe viruses behave differently once the cross an invisible line between here and Sweden where there are barely any restrictions, yet almost no deaths now) Surges in this current casedemic are irrelevant if almost nobody sickens from that, let alone dies, it just provides a poor excuse for disaster capitalism. Lockdowns are supposedly justified to slow transmission, yet simultaneously air travel where people are as close as it gets is being taxpayer subsidised by newly printed money. (from those miraculously discovered magic money trees, but paid back by the non-voting unborn) The too big to fail entities will emerge the big winners from the ashes after this economic reset is done, with the smaller, family-owned players wiped out, it’s just another ratchet to cartelisation of the big boys.
On a more optimistic note, I never thought in my lifetime I’d see a government voted to power in large part due to its pursuit of humane policies, so at least openly dedicating itself to putting its people before the profits of a minority, I hope it works out in New Zealand so the rest of us see autocracy for what it is, i.e not the best system to live under.
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Totally agree. Would never normally dream of listening to it as too right wing for me but TalkRadio is the only broadcaster who seems to be asking questions and criticising lockdown policies.
Intrigued by your feeling that the largest near term hazard to the UK economy is lockdown 😉 Have you ever been to Sweden, BTW? Much more space, and while I didn’t cover much of the country at all, not so much fo the the sort of poverty and packed-in-ness that we have in some areas over here. Some things might work over there than may not over here IMO.
> Surges in this current casedemic are irrelevant if almost nobody sickens from that, let alone dies
I recently heard of the first relative of someone I know who has died of it. It does happen, y’know. The typical Dunbar number is about 150 and at the mortality rate of about 0.5% it will take a while before it’ll take out someone you know, which is usually where people seem to wake up and think oh shit, this does actually finish some people off…
Hi, no, I haven’t been to Sweden, but I can still learn from their approach with fascination as it enables us to see what actually happens with a different methodology as opposed to just doing what the rest are, to avoid criticism. I have a biological sciences background, with over a decade of vaccine research involvement and most of my peers are still directly involved. A vaccine is years off, because flu-type ones are amongst the hardest to generate due to the specific complexities involved with those viruses and vaccines in general take years to develop anyway. As such herd immunity is the only realistic option in the medium-term, it’s just not socio-politically palatable to say this in public because the knee-jerk response is that you have no empathy for those affected.
Neverending lockdowns will kill any economy, I don’t think that’s a contentious point, so no country can afford to lock up the entire population for years even though the death rate for almost everyone under the life-expectancy mark is not medically significant. (that’s why schoolchildren are largely exempted in most places) Logically, if most people were asked if they’d accept losing their job, home and freedom to avoid a <1% risk of death for most of those comfortably under life expectancy age with no underlying serious medical conditions, they'd probably decline the offer. This is not to say that intelligent humane compromises can't be found, the Swedish experience showed that clusters of the vulnerable like nursing homes should be isolated instead as well as vulnerable individuals elsewhere, (hospitals for example) which would also be more practical than measures affecting the general population.
The more extreme policies in some places around the globe are equivalent to burning down your home to save you from the risk of being killed by a collapse from woodworm. Credible sources are more vocal now on the numbers dying from lockdown being at least as significant, such as those going undiagnosed with potentially fatal diseases (cancer being the biggest) due to a fear of hospitals currently or cancelled appointments and operations. Shutting down anyone who simply asks questions by labeling them mad (conspiracy theorist) or evil (you don't care if people die) is not an indicator of a healthy, civilised democracy.
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@Ermine, just to clarify, the finishing statement on freedom of speech in my last comment wasn’t a reference to your preceding comment, I understood you were merely curious and actually your site is one of few that don’t sensor opinions they don’t like or ones they get nervous might attract the wrong kind of attention. I meant vilification of non-groupthink ideology on the ongoing covid saga generally, whether in mainstream media proclaimations or unprocessed regurgitations of those by people in everyday life.
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That’s fair enough, I know I’m not clever enough to know the solution. And deeply thankful that it isn’t my call. Though it is a peculiarly just twist of fate that our good-time boy Boris wanted an easy ride to get Brexit done, and clearly looks most unhappy actually having to take some complicated decisions/tradeoffs rather than do soundbites. Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving fellow, be careful what you wish for…
The incompetence grates, however. The South-West isn’t particularly hard hit. I went to get a test a while back because I had some possible symptoms. In fairness, I got an OK to get the test in half a day, that part of the response was the dog’s bollocks. What was a lot less cool is that it took ’em five days to say it was negative. Now as it was, that didn’t give me an operational problem, but imagine I were not a retiree or working anywhere but at home? I would have lost five days money or ended up a potential roving public health hazard. That sort of delay is too long. It was OK for me because of my relatively privileged circumstances, but definitely falls into the ‘could do better’ camp.
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I don’t think Sweden can be held up as the poster child for correct pandemic solution (if there is one) – it’s a country whose entire population is only about a million more than the population of London and having worked in Stockholm in the past, not only do you notice that there’s not a lot of people around, but the people themselves are quite reserved and like to keep to themselves, so naturally maintain social distance.
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@ Ermine, re: your test of the Uk’s general preparedness for whatever may come from the disaster catalog, this thoughtful article gives some insight into our behaviours:
This guy’s website can be quite philosophical, it often reminds me of yours, though it lacks your helpful humour
Surely a 4-year reprieve from the greatest narcissist alive today is worth an article, is Sir too relieved to comment?
What of the implications for our very own pound shop populist, The Boris, vis-a-vis the efficacy of this ruling style?
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> a 4-year reprieve from the greatest narcissist alive today is worth an article
I have not yet enough confidence that the fat lady has sung. But yes, it will weaken Boris’s power base, which is only a Good Thing IMO
A larger concern is that it is a reprieve, not resolution. Hopefully the result will be conclusive and unambiguous once all the legal shit has gone down. But for all that, there was no blue wave. More a ripple. Trump enabled the evil that has pervaded the Republican party to abandon what used to be western values, and indeed parts of the US constitution.
He is the outrider of a future, more effective dictator in waiting. Trump was incompetent, because his narcissism wasted much effort which could have gone into consolidating the power base. The problem is the disaffection due to a larger scale decline in the West, we don’t know what we stand for any more. Many people have no faith that politics will solve their problems. Biden was wrong in saying Trump is not who we are. Trumpism will be back. Not as the Donald, hopefully he will be behind bars in the not to distant future. But his legacy will grow – he showed what works, and how the right can get support from the disaffected poor by othering groups. Divide and conquer is as old as war itself.
That disaffected poor has no hope of a better world, and people without hope tend to favour strong leaders with a strong story. Trump is/was a talented speaker IMO, far better at using pitch, cadence and delivery that BoJo’s overacting witterings. Trump could speak to a wider audience, not just people who did PPE at Oxford, which seems the extent of BoJo’s talent in tough times. Two parts of your mind process speech, one parses it for the logical meaning, most of the intelligibility is in the consonants. Another part prises it for feeling and emotion, more in timing and the vowel sounds. Trump was master of the latter. I could listen to him and mind would say that is arrant bullshit, but how he said it would feel convincing. It’s a bit like listening to some of Hitler’s speeches – my German is not good enough to follow exactly what he is saying, but it feels warm and speaks to the listener 😉
This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. It we are lucky it is the end of the beginning. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad if the sociopath gets the bum’s rush. But the modest gap shows that the poison courses deep within the Republican party, and some of the foreign influence and conspiracy theories speaks easily to the disaffected. Four years is nowhere near enough to draw the venom.
Very well put, and I’m looking forward to the article. The liberal left is celebrating a bit too soon following Jacinda’s and now Biden’s win. They need to solve the underlying problems, not just try and take down the messenger each time, no matter how abhorrent he is.
On another subject: 17 million mustelids being culled in Denmark to protect the Covid vaccine programme!
> 17 million mustelids being culled in Denmark to protect the Covid vaccine programme!
I had a real WTF moment when I read about that. Along the lines of “Eh? I thought that fight had been won in the 1970s!” Holland also has this problem
Sadly I can only agree with you, Trump is only the symptom of a terrible problem not the cause, as such his absence solves nothing really and new outbreaks of extremism are inevitable. He won in 2016 effectively on a coin toss because it was so close and similarly Biden won now on the 50/50 odds going the other way as per probability, the only meaning we get from that is the US is broken and hopelessly divided. Additionally there is nothing on the horizon to give hope, like great leaders of the past, or a compromise resulting in renewing the social compact.
I see this only as half the people wresting the spade out of the hands of the guy still digging the hole the country is in, a pause if you like, as opposed to a ladder to get out. Bidden was Obama’s assistant during 2 terms where they had no answers and the Democrats were like New Labour, they lost the working classes when they just adopted neoliberalism ‘but with a human face’ to get elected. To be fair, I don’t know with the American mindset if Sanders could win with a Scandinavian-system humane balance, like the English the US has become ever-more rightwing.
As to trying to read the runes to survive the immediate future, this article on what history reminds us is thought-provoking: https://consciousnessofsheep.co.uk/2020/11/06/the-narrative-problem-after-peak-oil/
Trump may be gone but Trumpism is here to stay. The problem is that many people in the US (and the UK for that matter) have totally bought into the idea they are ‘exceptional’. They really believe that they are worth 5x the wage of the same person in Poland, Brazil, India, China etc. Problem is they simply aren’t.
Over the last two thousand years, China and India accounted for over 50% of global GDP. The last two hundred years, where the West had the prime share of global GDP, was an anomaly. The cake will be shared out more evenly between East and West and most in the US and UK will see standards of living fall. These people don’t want to accept it, so they will vote for demagogues who promise them that they are still special. They will vote against their own economic interests, instead taking comfort from protectionism, racism, xenophobia and misogyny, and accelerate their own downfall.
The game from now on is not to stop this. It’s just not to go down with their sinking ship.
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> Holland also has this problem
and US, Spain, Italy and Sweden.
And, NL outbreak dates from April.
> have totally bought into the idea they are ‘exceptional’
yup, and IMO it starts from a very early age, see e.g. https://simplelivingsomerset.wordpress.com/2020/08/20/winter-is-coming/
and ensuing chatter about grade inflation
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> ensuing chatter about grade inflation
Every time I bat on grade inflation (and comprehensives) I seem to lose in the whole, so perhaps I an just an unreconstructed old git. It doesn’t matter, I do not have influence in anything education. Having said that I’ll still do the Galilean mutter ‘and yet it moves’.
In many things in life the light must have its counterpoint in the dark. You cannot succeed academically unless others fail. They may be better [anything other than academic] practitioners, but not everyone can be a winner. There is a secondary argument that in the UK we overvalue academic chops over other kinds of ability, but we ain’t going to change now.
Mind you, the West seems to be surrendering its grasp of the scientific method, perhaps the time of magical thinking is yet to come. Just with the wrong sort of magic…
“The problem is that many people in the US (and the UK for that matter) have totally bought into the idea they are ‘exceptional’. They really believe that they are worth 5x the wage of the same person in Poland, Brazil, India, China etc. Problem is they simply aren’t. ”
I don’t know how much you have travelled to less developed countries but my experiences in those places would suggest that there is in fact a very significant difference in productivity between those places and western countries. That difference is declining over time, at least between the west and those countries that are investing in modernisation such as China, but still seems to be significant. And anyway I don’t think that is the real issue. Why should people accept a fall in living standards when they can clearly see that their economy has grown? The US economy has expanded greatly since the 70s yet real earnings for the bottom 50% have not. That 50% have seen a lot of changes – globalisation, offshoring, automation, immigration etc and have paid the bill for all that but haven’t seen much of a benefit. It has got nothing to do with some sort of moral failing and delusions of being “exceptional” and everything to do with a broken social contract. That break in the social contract was a deliberate political decision. Economic growth in not an end but a means to an end and that end should be to increase the happiness and well-being of the population of the country in question.
My area of specialization is Emerging markets fixed income and FX, so I’ve travelled hundreds of time to many of these countries. By definition since these are EM countries, GDP/capita is lower, so labour productivity (as GDP/hour worked) will be lower. The rate of change of productivity is superior, however. Moreover, it only requires a small proportion of their population to have similar skill levels to those in the West to create huge aggregate labour supply without generating offsetting aggregate demand.
Technology lowers barriers to information transfer and that propels a convergence trade between EM and G10. The assumption that convergence happens from below is not guaranteed. It requires the top to fall whilst the bottom rises. We cannot grow the global economy fast enough to propel the West forward whilst also raising the standards of living of the other 6bn+ in EM. The cake isn’t that big and what it does to the environment, well that may sink us all.
There may be a broken social contract in many Western countries. Nonetheless, I don’t see why I should favour a UK person over someone from Poland or India that has the same skills. Both Homo Sapiens. The UK worker is somewhat delusional if they think they are ‘worth more’. The clamour for higher wages is unsustainable for the vast majority in the UK who do not actually deliver ‘high productivity’. What they should be angry about is not what they get paid, but the the high cost of living. Yet they vote consistently for higher house prices. They vote for the owners of capital and rentier economics. That suits me (but probably only short term) but I think they are their own worst enemies.
I don’t see that the issue of international comparisons of productivity/wages and national social contracts are that closely related. By definition a social contract is something largely contained within national borders. It is a political construct within a particular society. Prices for things are determined partially by market forces and partially by politics and power. What people are getting paid and the cost of living are two sides of the same coin. People’s purchasing power can be affected by actors with pricing power such as oligopolist suppliers and oligopsonist employers. Offshoring, trade and immigration may play a role. Credit and planning policies can restrict or expand the supply of housing. The convergence trade is a political decision too. Whether a British person is favoured over a Pole or Indian is going to be influenced by the social contract and the policies that flow from that not solely by what is convenient for an individual or organisation unless they are determined to operate outside the law or try their hardest to subvert it. I think that the political turmoil we see in the west is because a lot of people have lost confidence in the process of globalisation as being something beneficial to them because they see it as a weapon being used to undermine their wellbeing for the benefit of other people. They will keep pushing one way or another for a new social contract that is more to their taste. How this process will play out I am not sure! Possibly a universal basic income, restriction of free trade and immigration, a more redistributive tax system to rebuild the social housing sector………..I don’t see this as people voting against their own interests or trying to accelerate their own downfall unless they go batshit crazy and vote to start WW3 or something similar.
As for productivity, as far as I can see it is a notoriously slippery concept and very difficult to measure or compare. Only anecdotal I admit but my observations while travelling to less developed countries give me the impression that productivity even in relatively straightforward roles is light years behind the the UK and Australia still. I have seen this first hand in my own industry when we get experienced guys from Africa, PNG, the Philippines etc. They are often hopeless and have to be given remedial training to reach Australian standards. It is easy enough to do so but it begs the question – what the hell was going on in their workplaces back home? Those places must have been an absolute shitfight! Speaking to people who work in my industry in LDCs as trainers and supervisors confirms this to usually be the case.
Apologies for the ramble. I was thinking out loud.
American here. Long time listener, first time caller. Reading through y’all’s comments, I’d say it’s true that we thought we were exceptional. And as a liberal I’d say it’s true that the social contract has broken. Problem is, the folks that it’s broken *for* don’t see it that way. There is a lot of a “F you I got mine” attitude at all socioeconomic levels. Also a huge lack of empathy or even understanding of the K economy and why it’s happening.
I’m hopeful that in the next 4 years, the majority of the US pop realizes that helping others helps themselves. We’ll do the right thing after exhausting all other alternatives etc etc. But this win? We needed it. We’ll have someone at the top that won’t be undermining us and fomenting hate. That’s huge, regardless of the size of the task ahead. Some breathing room. Some hope.
Now, onto the GA runoff.
Ermine, I’ve been following you for years and your perspective on ER has been super valuable. I appreciate it.
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