Freesteel Blog » New Seagrass New Danger

New Seagrass New Danger

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009 at 2:07 pm Written by:

I kept an eye on Francis last night till four in the morning as he moved all the files from old seagrass server to new improved server with bigger disk space, lower power consumption, and no added fish. Electricity prices are now so high in relation to the cost of a new server (not including the hassle of moving everything from the old one to the new one when you haven’t done it before) that the pay-back is less than one year.

Seagrass has also been moved to Cambridge for cheapness. There’s some inconvenience due to changes in ip-numbers which I don’t understand. I hope to take delivery of the old hunk of historical iron in due course.

While waiting for millions of files to copy, I tested the functioning of Public Whip by motion text editing the utterly ill-considered vote on reducing the VAT rate from 17.5% to 15% that was all over the news recently.
According to the Chancellor, who made the order on 24 November, this will put £12.5billion into the economy for the purposes of encouraging more shopping.

One of the very few MPs to know anything about economics, Vince Cable MP, held a Parliamentary debate and the vote (linked to above) to annul this order because it’ll be a wasted, ineffective fiscal stimulus that will have too little an effect on prices to affect consumer behaviour, was predicated on rosy forecasts of economic recovery, and the money will be consumed by higher margins in major retailers, not to mention the administrative costs of conversion for numerous small businesses.

This is not America, where the sales tax is added on at the till to the cover price of a book so it’s like paying a tip in a restaurant, we don’t see it. We don’t actually feel the tax rate. We, the public, are even more ignorant than most of the MPs about economics — if that’s possible. That means there’s lots of space for lying about it during an election campaign and imposing major misunderstandings about who’s paying, how much, and what the effects are.

To Francis, I sounded off about the irrationality and ignorance embodied in the party election leaflets for the Crewe and Nantwich byelection and how it was all hitting on the 10p tax rate — which is one of the least relevant issues you could choose out of all those that an MP has jurisdiction over.

It’s that, or the home family values of the candidates.

Sometimes personal characteristics matter. Like being right in their predictions and judgments about what would happen in economics over the years.

Unfortunately, “Vote for me, I foresaw a house price crash and the wholesale corruption in the banking industry, unlike my opponents,” doesn’t seem to get any votes. Consequently, we elect people who don’t know anything about economics, they get into Government not knowing anything about economics, and they hire consultants to help them run the economy. Unfortunately the consultants are experts at money, which is not the same thing, and are usually working as Economic Hit Men, whose measure of success is making more money, not saving the economy from ruin or misallocating precious resources towards inappropriate projects.

So, the consultants know about money, but not about economics, just as our successful politicians know about elections, but not about democracy.

You can make a lot more money as an economic consultant by lying to government ministers and getting them to buy into bogus economic theories (eg that the economy is all about shopping and share prices, and is fundamentally self-correcting and is up to the challenge of long-term planning), than you can by working out the truth of what matters and attempting to implement it fairly.

You can get a lot more votes by lying to the public about the facts of democratic representation (eg that elections are all about the price of petrol and the cost of out-of-town hospital car-parking charges), than you can by connecting people to the policy choices available.

I’m concerned that the very worst policies are like that on purpose.

New Labour’s launching of numerous Terrorism policies way over beyond the looniest wing of the opposition Conservative Party, like the 90-day detention of suspects without telling them of their crime, or the later 42 day detention proposal, caused chaos. Had they got these through, all the election campaigns would have been:

The Conservative Party: Soft on terrorists, hoodies and knife crime

We may be getting astonishingly bored with this terrorism shite from the politicians, but they can’t predict that. They knew that there was a good chance of an incident that would have an effect among the British electorate, so these political insults were being planted in the ground so they could be harvested in the event that we passed through that landscape again.

That is the story of how elections are won. Accidents and bloody-minded opportunism.

This VAT rate change looks to me like this story all over again. The Crewe and Nantwich byelection suggested that confusing tax changes flogged like a dead horse can win votes. Nobody really knows why, but it’s like marketing, or battery chicken farming — it’s an experimental science. You can’t predict how far it can be pushed. Those who win in the business world have absolutely no scruples and will simply pack as many chickens as they can into the box until the production of eggs per square metre of cage starts to go down. What do they care what it feels like on the inside?

What any cynical and desperate politician who intends to play the game of dumbing down beyond all comprehension a tax issue for the next election campaign needs is a tax cut which their party can be instructed to vote for, but is so bad and ignorant that not even the opposition Conservative Party can support.

I’m seeing it now:

The Conservative Party: Against cutting taxes for hard-working families to help them afford their weekly shopping bills.

Millions of these leaflets will be designed and ready for shipping for the next election, which is on the Prime Minister’s mind all the time.

It probably doesn’t occur to the political elite to have any interest in the actual economic circumstances or long-term outlook of things. All they need to know is that this wheeze converts into votes, no matter how irrational.

It’s just things gut feelings that are often wrong, and can be used.

For example, no one says: “Who put the damn hospital outside the town so everyone has to drive to it?”

A human attention span is literally seconds, and the effort — mostly not taken — to make logical connections, means we experience a little friction of anger at being ripped off by those car parking charges, and it gets added into a feeling in the gut — without that anger transferring to those who created the policy in the first place which moved the hospital outside of town, and replaced it with shops that were easier to get to and go shopping at.

Because shopping is what our purpose in life is now.

There is a systematic inbuilt political miscalculation; as there are regarding our systematic miscalculations of probability that give rise to the existence of the gambling industry; as there are regarding the addictions of certain substances that give rise to the existence of the tobacco industry — which this political structure relies upon.

If tobacco, or bad politics, didn’t actually kill, they would merely be an irritation.

What we need is a science that discovers the intellectually toxic substances which allow the wrong people with the wrong ideas to continually win elections and be in power.

This has to come first. Unless we know (and want to know) what these toxic substances are, there’s almost no point in attempting to design treatments for the affliction, because they will almost certainly be attacking the wrong symptoms, and it will be predictable that projects like those coming out of mysociety will be counter-productive, like alternative medicine which, if you believe it works, can dangerously delay the application of effective treatment.

1 Comment

  • 1. Freesteel&hellip replies at 11th February 2009, 9:36 pm :

    […] economy, which was quite controversial. I blogged about editing the Parliamentary vote description here, speculating that the Government politicians didn’t care about whether it was going to make a […]

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