Author Archives: keithlmelvin

Neo Liberalism Reaches Its’ Bitter End

In today’s western world, we see that the ideology and policies of Neo Liberalism are coming to a bitter, kicking and spluttering end.

In the same way as the unions became too powerful under the era of Keynsian democratic socialism, as the post war period was in most free western countries was in retrosepct, the system has become to powerful for its own good and there with, corrupt.

Regime Change Reveal Partial Political Vacuums

The danger for a system in its death throws, is collapse without replacement by something sensible and democratic. This is was originally in fact launched the individualistic, globalising ideology of Neo Liberalism into politics in 1979.  From being a far right model for a Darwinian society, where the individual is a competitive, existential entity with no benefit from organised society, into the main stream with Reagan and Thatcher.

We see also the same in Iran in its ‘cultural revolution’ and now Libya, that an unwanted regime is not replaced by a movement which represents the majority who wanted some freedom of speech, but rather it represents a large enough minority with a single socio-economic outlook to sieze and maintain power from the core of a smaller, fanatical minority who assume ruling positions.

Neo Liberalism replaced something that no longer worked in the west, just because it was a strong ideoligcal stand point, the same as the Ayatollah Khomeini did in Iran. People were exhausted by the economic and social turmoil of the 1970s and wanted to turn their backs on the organisations which had once offered freedoms, but not seemed to deny growth in the standard of living and quality of life.

The Rise of Corruption Topples Ideological Empires – Then and Now

In the late 70s going into the 1980s, neither Dennis Healy nor Jimmy Carter could have taken on the unions and won, any more than today Theresa May could take on the Billionaires and the Israeli Zionist Lobby. The Peri Menopausal Neo Liberal political establishment today are in the same position as governments held to ransom by their funders the unions and the uber liberals. In the three decades in which the unions rose from their righeousnous to become corrupt power mongerors, they payrolled the Left and the Right dare not go to war with them.

 

The demise of that era of democratic socialism (think about it! Yes in the USA too) was hastened by the inflation crisis which many economists present probably rightly so as being precipitated by the oil crisis. This was to some a kind of chain effect, a mere starting spark, while to other economists, the western thirst for petroleums was too much for their current political economic systems and policy of the time to bear. The unions could demand more money in the face of rising living costs, thus fuelling inflation.

Many Keynsian thinkers propose that inflation is not really such an issue, you print more money to ensure it circulates and short periods of high inflation are a sign of a vibrant economy. However in reality inflation up into double figures is a heavy form of taxation on ordinary worker’s take home pay. Also inflation driven by consumer price index influence on currency, decreases the value of assets and debt, which are bad for capital and investors.

The ‘Great Moderation’

In terms of getting capitalism working for the economy again and tackling the post 70s crisis, the Neo Liberals had with them some astute economists and some very cynical politicians and billionaires. Their main aims were to dergulate the movement of capital, castrate the unions and in so doing bring in an era of lower inflation.

Over time also, after a decade of much volatility of interest rates, their economists in their central banks and IMF were able to secure a low interest era, during which it can be argued that the costs of lending money and underpinning much of the credit liquidity in the economy by central banks, is a kind of crypto keynsian approach, because it is in reality a governmental subsidy to industry via the banking system. (More on the era of crypto keynsianism in another blog of mine).

These aims and methods in themselves may have been fortititous for the lower half of  earners and net personal wealth, had it lead to investment in productive, free market industries. In fact their could have been a new consumer products boom, coupled to the services and financial products boom. But that would have been inflationary. The other key tool in keeping inflation low over a longer time, was increasing competition on a global basis.

Globalistaion –  Slavery Is Reborn, and Exported

The Neo Liberals talked most about free trade, yet this meant in effect the race to the bottom of the labour cost ladder, where what slavery  and what being a paid worker is a grey area. Inevitably also it comes back to that old favourite of empires, disinfranchisement of land rights. Kicking the natives off their land and destroing their subsistance  lifestyles. It is age old, from the persecution of the Sons of David by the Egyptians, through the Highland Clearances, to today’s slash and burn of the equatorial rain forrests. Yesterday’s sheep grazing is today’s soyabean and palm oil plantation.

Neo Liberalism was going to hit the buffers because the world is not a single free market and will never be so. In the same way as communists viewed the human race as homogenous, the globe was viewed as a single opportunity which would obey the core ideological rules of Adam Smith and all the other free market economists down the ages who spoke of indeed, the Wealth of Nations, and not the well being of the world. Where Neo Liberalism hit the terminus station’s buffers was China, most of any other low cost production country (LCC). The race to China.

China – The Waterloo of Neo Liberalism

China as you may have seen and heard on the news very recently, is a country controlled by a large, non democratic ‘socialist’ government, They do all the bad, naughty economic tricks the Neo Lib’s have spent so much effort in eradicating from the public mind in the west through their control of the main media. China now has command capitalism and prints money, while controlling the value of Yuan on internaional markets. They also invest massively in state infrastructure, and plan entire cities before commanding capitalism to move in and do its very best to make a buck, sorry , yuan or two. In addition they are such a large manufacturing economy, that they can manipulate both the supply and demand for any key commodity or even some advanced componentry.  They allow people to become rich, but tax heavily.  China is so populous that their tourist demand abroad alone is powerful enough to give them political influence. They still only allow most couples a single child before there are punitive financial penalties. They do lots of bad stuff. Yet in Neo La La Land, they get away with and steal jobs from the west.

The promise was that China was opening up, and western companies could make a lot of cash there.  The reality was that western companies would make most cash closing profitable plant in their former indigenous countries, moving to China and then selling back to their old countries. The balance of trade is enormously biased towards China when considering both the EU and the USA, with many corporates no longer being geographically identifiable with the west. The Chinese too learned to compete with value added products as well as being cheap on bricks and electric kettles.

Capitulating to China

The west have capitulated because those who fund those in power, were able to tell this lie about ‘free trade’ creating jobs. AAmongst those are the great retail chain owners who wanted to extend choice and margin on products for ordinary, cash strapped workers.

It took a maverick Billionaire, one Donald Trump, to call the game, because he unlike his rival politicians, doesnt need funding or to get any richer, he just wanted power. This week he is in China, and it seems he genuinely will bring into force a new era of better balance mechanisms with China, such that the US can once again compete in manufacturing.

A Property Precipice?

Will Trump be too late, and any way does he not represent all that is wrong with Neo Liberalism in the first place? His own family’s fortune is based on property and laterly hotels, back to what his good ol’ grand daddy from Germany did in the Yukon over a century ago. But it was in property that the Trumps became archetypal neo liberalists. His father made a fortune in building flats sponsored by the state, as the peace dividend for GI’s returning from WWII. Although Donald has tried various other enterprises, often failing, it is property development he is king of, because, like in a game of monopoly, he has a lot of capital to lever to make new gains.

Now property we have mentioned of course. Its’ value is deflated by high enough inflation in currency,  over time in a typical slow post war ‘2.4’ kids demographic. Inflation running at the levels it did even before the oil crisis of the 70s, means that there was more risk in property. However the returns were still good for developers, landlords and home owners over time due to urbanisation and concentration of industrial centres in the 1940s to the 1970s.

Property and metropolisation became important to the funders of Neo Liberal political parties and they would go on to influence policy for several decades to favour growth, and often unsustainable growth, in ‘real estate’ values.

By the mid eighties, the Unions had been castrated in the key Neo Liberal economies of the UK and USA. So wage rises were arrested in industry, and the emerging modern consumer and business services industries were kept largely union-free there after. This meant that wages were paid to the ‘going market rate, and that is often taking advantage of the percieved bargaining position employers have vs prospective employees, especially with higher unemployment and underemployment as a result of Neo Liberal economics. So they needed to have metropolisation as a driving force, which could be influenced in public policy by centralisation of governmental departments and services. Also they wanted a tacit acceptance of higher immigration, be that legal or illegal in order to keep demand for property up, while also suppressing wages by importing poor, cash hungry workers.

As I blogged on before, another big change in the 1980s was access to credit and the amount of risk the entire credit banking system, and in turn central banks, could take. To extend material standard of living, or enter a better education than your parents, the western consumer borrowed and kept on borrowing, until the value of money leant and the handling of that credit, was more than the value-added-manufacturing industry nationally.

 

All Things, Good or Bad, Come to an End

The combined effects of Neo Liberalism are then to make the top third of society more wealthy and more powerful, and in particular to make the very top 1% mega rich and with the ability to buy out politicians, media houses and now troll the internet against consumer’s own generated media opinion. The lower third of society have stagnated and often become poorer in western countries, even relative to their predecessing generation. While the middle third were the battle ground for a long time for the Neo Libs in bribing them with often the highest relative tax reductions, allowing them to lever to three times income and beyond in a way which helped inflate property prices. The middle class and the house owning working class, became rather obsessed with getting on and moving up the property ladder, to tthe extent where many expected the capital gains on the way to be a major part of their pension when released in later life.

Now of course this latest period of recession and general western economic malaise for ordinary workers locked to one nation, was precipitated by the property scandal know as the Sub Prime Mis-selling fiasco.  Many see that the possibility for a wide bubble, because the level of debt to equity has developed over the last decade again because prices are not sustainable relative to longer term they would claim demand. Too many buyers are off the ladder, and rental prices are squeezing out workers who are not prepared to go into debt just to live in a metropolitan area without owning anything as a result.

Economy Not Working ? – Blame Immigrants and Any Other Scape Goats

After five years of the old cures not working and the republican congress and senate fighting Obama, then the stage was set for a shift out of the Neo Liberal period and into a new, Alt Right one, with immigrants, established minorities, and whom ever you want to call subversive or deviant being the blame for the ills of capitalism’s boundless power. THis is in effect what Hitler did to stir a nation on its economic knees to common, ethnically purified action. Brexit, Trump and some minor victories in Europe are the result, fuelled also by the migrant and refugee crises of the Middle East, Africa and South East / South Central Asia.

The trouble being here in part that immigration in the key Neo Lib’ economies was driving the economy because as above, it was keeping tabs on wage rises within national borders, while supplying the housing market with new renters and eventual first time buyers. Due to flattening growth in domestic populations, declining to as low as 1.4 babies per couple in some western countries, this means a declining population once the baby boomers die off. So it is immigrants who have been stoking the basement boiler of the housing market just by their turning up, and also because in many cases they tend to have larger families and stimulate consumer demand too.

The Paradise-Panama Paper Fly in the Ointment

These last weeks, the truth about the funders of the Alt Righ and Neo Liberalist Polticians has come out. In the same way as the unions were able to extract an unfairly large proportion of wealth from the economy relative to productivity gains, the super rich and global corporates are able to avoid taxation by exporting profits to tax havens. In western countries they are very often most heavily invested in rentier based enterprisesand the credit system which supports the housing bubble. Second to that they are involved in privatised public services and suppliers of materials to the public sector, in particular armaments and medical related products. Productive, value adding industry is now long down the list, and you just have to glance at the FTSE 100 to see that indigenous manufacturers operating in largely private free markets are largely absent. It is dominated by banks & financial institutions, pharma, munitions and rentier utilities.

Like Communism, Neo Liberalism is In Free Fall

Neo Liberalism like Marxist Leninism is based on a false set of utopian ideals, and both became highly authoritarian forms of government who chose in effect, which element in society they rewarded most. Free market ideology is fine and good until you enter into the equation slavery at the bottom end of the world’s supply chains, depletion of natural resources and destruction of the ecosystem, and most of all, political corruption, even though much of it in the USA and UK is legalised. All people are free to compete in the market, but some people are more free to compete than others.

Advertisements

NASty Malt Whisky? 

I read around some blogs tonight and was pleased to see that the Macallan 12 YO is relaunched now and reassuringly expensive. However many of these bloggers have also dismissed the No Age Statement whisky fiasco as a done argument, that there is value to be found in blending good whiskies and not being bound to an age. 

Such bloggers also either live by advertising or get samples to their heart’s content  from the industry and its’ outlets. Self  same bloggers, by google vox pops, hardly every review NAS’s any more oddly enough.

Gee Us a Wee Dram, mak’ it a Malt……

Me? The plebian punter, to whom paying three quid for a dram of Macallan 20 years ago was                         quite alright. Nothing fancier. Standard offerings are guid enough for me. Then why get upset about NASty Malts when I am a hum drum type of guy, a punter doon the pub?

Well at an age when I was thinking of buying more 15 and 18 yo’s and maybe a 25 at some point, I am confronted by three issues. Availability here in Norway, availability in duty free, hand baggage only flight tickets. 

Norway is infamous for high drink pricing, and restricitng availability of harder liqors via the state monopoly shops. Shut 3pm on a saturday to save us from our sins, open 10am monday to give the worse sinners their fix. However the differential between prices of good standard and some ok NAS malts is way down to only about ten or twenty quid max, when we are not in malt of the month territroty back home or Lidl. Duty free remains then a liter for the price of a 75 back home and sometimes better value still. However…..

NAS the Novelty Island

I remember the first NAS was actually an oaked Macallan I think, or the first major brand subversion. It was dry and characterless and just levering the brand over into cheaper seas if you ask me. It was saying Macallan can be done without sherry casks, the famous sherry finish is only one string to our bow. Then we had a spate of cask strength ten year olds,. which were fun and very good value if you had good water to dilute them with. Macallan’s was the better of many, I could take  it neat even. 

However over time we started to see more of this NASty stuff in duty free and on supermarket shelves, and in malt of the month for twenty quid to keep your throat from drying out of a winter friday night. It was fine, Jura did some nice examples, then Highland park did its vikings and so on. They were a bit hit or miss, and could vary bottle to bottle. Aye, but interesting. Now they are becoming the majority of stocks of malt in ‘Travel Retail’ it seems, and it is all beyond a joke.

Less is More, Younger can be Better!…..Apparently

The distillery industry’s marketing people at least say that a non age declared malt whisky frees the master blender to mix a wonderful blend of the best the distillery has to offer, without being tied to a minimum age. Well in fact they are tied to a minimum age. Three years old. I was once misinformed on a tour of the works, and it stuck, that MALT whisky from Scotland had to be 8 years old, maybe they meant they as a distillery did not pass off younger spirit as malt. However Malt is no different from the Lloyd George government’s minimum 3 years of ageing, an attempt at prohibition  and letting the angel have her greater share. Instead of the youngest whisky being 10 or 12 in the standard priced off the shelf bottle, it is now 3, remember that. 

So while we on the one hand are being told that a very old characterful cask could be blended into the NAS and thus enhance the creativity, we have to presume that any given NAS will have whisky which is only three years matured.  

Can we though not have a Beaujolais from our finer pagodaed wee factories of the Heelans? Why the panic from the punter? It will reach new markets, new consumers not aquainted with age-matured determing precieved quality? 

Economics, Economics and more Economics

Some say that  the NAS expansion was an issue with the popularity of Malt. It had become a victim of its’s own success and good product was harder to make for the price point it was ‘competitive’ at. Sherry barrels in particular had become an expensive item, and good oak had to be sourced from the USA.

 Some blenders started experiment and perhaps to reveal their wee secrets, back when age was still more or less mandatory on the label, by launching those ‘finishes’ in wine or bourbon casks.  I suspect that chardonnay, bourbon and maybe even cognac were being used for a long time before, in secret to give a wee extra note to the blender’s choice. Port and red wine I doubt were, they are a dead give away by colour and flavour. The Auchentoshan Burbon finish took things a wee bit too far, tasting like an aged Burbon more than its toffee magic mother spirit. 

The ‘finish’ barrel label became a kind of mantra for marketing mid priced Malts in the 90s and 00s. Some of them frankly were a little interesting, but not really that good, and probably needed more time being wedded in a neutral oak cask to develop subtlety and smoothness. But it was a quick fix to spread interest. 

Enter then NAS. Let us keep malt whisky at a price point, re-educate the consumer, reach new punters and sell them something which is mighty interesting and has a mighty fine interesting gross margin for us the seller. Time and time again we have seen then these NAS’s coming out and displacing their stale old age declared cousing,. and time and time again have they disappointed when compated to standard 12’s and good 15s. Highland Park vikings are interesting on the nose, but compared to their 12 (which can vary batch to batch imho a little too much) they lacked the full HP experience.Bowmore Black Rock was my latest excursion, enticing by colour and aroma, a little let down in the mooth. 

The Rich Get Richer, The Poor Get NAStier…..

What we see with cool Gaelic branded premium malts is that they are AGE DECLARED. Aha, so you cannot con the conniseur, monsieur? However you can punt malt whisky out at a non inflationary price point by fluffing it out with 3 year old spirit, and in effect selling your soul to the devil?

The bloggers say ‘who cares?’…. if a NAS is good then the distiller is doing a great job? They then go on to do very few reviews of these allegedly creative and exciting tastes, and instead find those 200 quid plus age declared specials much more interesting. 

Clever Chemistry ?

In blending what used to be a 12 year old minimum age (as malt whisky was declared before in time) product down to a 3 year old base spirit then  you have to be able to do a few clever things to get near the quality of the 10 or 12 you used to make. And they do get near, Glen Livet and Glen Grant have new fighting brand reserves, silly cheap in Denmark last I was there, and they are not that bad at all, especially for drinking a la Canna or Eriskay waddin’or wake, by the tumbler. What the distiller can do is some clever things then>

This is because in fact of course ethanol on its own has little character, and water has none. What we are talking about in ‘character’ is probably less % per weight or volume as the caramel colour they have allowed in Malt whisky for all too long! Now if you are selling a basic entry level at 37% or 40% with a duty free variant at even 43%, you need  only add a very small portion of very characterful old barrell or very high quality first fill barrell product. This will convey a good nose, with interesting notes from matured congener organic chemicals. There will be some taste too, but there will be some  issue with body because the usual spectrum of rather hum drum esters and polyphenols from a 12 /16 year old maturing priocess will be lost to some extent.

At the distilling end you do the reverse, you can distill basically a very good smooth vodka with very little congeners such that your young, carrier “whisky” which is maybe 30% by volume of the entire product, or  even more, is neutral. I have had some good Finlandia specials, and Smirnoff black was rather creamy almost,. You could then make some special runs with more congeners of a paricular faction of the destillation, a cut, or you could permit only those which suit and benefit from a 3 year maturation to go in. 

Being even more cynical, this type of very clean ethanol production means you get a  higher efficiency from a pot still set up, that is more ethanol per batch, and can perhaps run the first distillation quicker at an optimal temperature to get that 40/60% first distillate before it goes to the second still (or third in a few Scot’s distilleries like Springbank). You may as well run it as some punters have already commented, in a column still , you know the type they use on grain and north sea oil!

Lastly you have to be in any case very precise and skillful in how you blend higher value, big character aged barell malt to the three year old presumed ‘ young, plain, vehicular spirit Further to this set of skills, you then have to be careful with the spring water you blend this down from the usual 60% to the excise man’s liking of 37 or 40% ABV. Spring water varies sometimes from some sources or fathering reserviours,  through the year so you need to be careful on when you chooise it in order that it conveys body in the product and does not interfere with the flavours. 

Ranting Old Cynical Me?

 The cynic in me talks here, and no doubt both insults the experience of master distillers while also perhaps inviting a little ‘you should mind your own business’. All I say is that innovation is not just at the marketing end of things, it will be considering effectivisation right through the production process. 

However in effect what is wrong with this NAS innovation and blending to an interesting product? The average punter gets to experience those high character barrels in an airport brand wrapped up in a fancy box and bottle, at a fraction of the price of the product those barrels would go into. A democratisation of quality for the masses!!  Well you could as well say the punter could buy of a minuiture of 18 year old for under a tenner, and then blend it themselves with a good smooth vodka and some freshly drawn burn water! 

There is an argument here though, because of those ‘luxury’ brands from the devil’s own grain blenders and mass branders. Many good ‘scotches’ are very smooth indeed, and yet are of course NAS by default. They will have as much 3 year old maize and wheat spirit in them as possible. Some like Bells Islander were quite smokey and nice with a drop of water. However as many in the industry will remember, whisky had become a fighting brand internationally for the entire industry, with the value of malt low and none of the major brand owners willing to market malt. It fought itself into a low margin, low quality position and was reliant on marketing to make up for content. I can tell you that all the big standard brands of blended are a lot better now than they were in the mid eighties, when paint stripper doing an impression of whisky was par for the course. 

Alternative Fixes Than NAS

Unlike the late seventies, early eighties, the Malt whisky industry is not on a spiral to low profitabily, but it is threatened as some say, by its own success. Good maturing barrels are hard to come by relative to demand.. Some distilleries needed complete refurbishment while others need to expand to keep up with demand.

On the plus side, the rise of malt has meant that dozens of distilleries have been allowed to sell their delicious malt while once they were tied to only supply the fiends of grain blending. On the down side we have NAS and even nastier often, ‘pure malt’, which are often confections like ‘Monkey Shoulder’, which have lowered the threshold to malt whisky, and devalued it by in large. 

The answer to me, a simple idiotice business school master graduate, would have been to say ‘ our 12 year old is bloody magic’ and on the one hand charge more for it, while on the other cut supply to the grain blenders ill trade, and to hell with ‘pure malts’. 

However that is beyond the ken of the big groups who own nearly all the quality disilleries now. They want to sell their blended brands, and they understand volume and price point competition is where the majority of profit growth should come from when they look at growing their malt brands. 

NAS – From Novely to No More Please!

 In its’ beginning I thought NAS was kind of a niche marketing effort to non whisky drinkers such that they could understand the complexities of the offering, in a less ‘stuffy’ way than the 10,12,15,18,25 trad’label way. A kind of novelty corner and doing no real harm.Now,  the Malt Bloggitelli have their heads in the sand by in large, from my google vox pops, and are living in cloud grand-a -bottle land where nothing is less than 25 years old, thinking this malaise is going to blow over and won’t profoundly change the quality and values of the industry. The shelves of supermarkets and duty free outlets are being taken over by NAS, while the speciality shops have to exact an every higher price for age declared good whiskies. The Campbells are coming! 

Well to me as a cynic,  it looks like NAS could be the new blended whisky race to the bottom. Okay it will try to cover over the difficulties with mass producing a high quality, matured product with a facsimilie aimed at growth markets and younger consumers. I was once a young consumer, and it was the allure of maturity, McTerroir and tradition which made me attached to my once hidden national drink, rather than dismissing it as kalyard. 3 year old whisky with a funky label is tatt, lamb ironically dressed as mutton. Why not age declare or state a youngest age in the small print if it is any older than three year festered vodka? 

Macallan Trail Blazing Back to Age Declared “Standard” Bottles? 

I remember  many the time ordering a Macallan and getting its fine golden promise in an unpretentious cut crystal tumbler, a scotch glass Frank Sinarta would have recognised. How it rolled over  the tongue and despite not being a wild gipsy girl with smokey allure from the camp fire, it was a wonderful dram. which spoke to the soul of a Scotsman. You could rely on it, and once in a while it was back in the 90s, around fifty pence or a quid more than general spirits, or even Glen Morangie. It  had a kind of ‘brightness’ to the whole experience, light of colour and taste and uplifting without being pretentious. You could swig it or sip it gently, or let it caress ice cubes to release a caramelly cooler experience.  Then it all went wrong and then it went NAS, Now they have relaunched a 12, at a fairly hefty price tag for what once was standard. Yet that is the way it maybe should be, supply and demand determines price if the quality is upheld. I hope this is a good purchase, I need to order it specially, which takes us back to sqaure one, good whisky goes with age and price is not an issue within reason.

Buggy Whips and the Google Pixel 2…..

Will the Google Pixel 2 in phone camera whip the compact camera market and challenge DSLR’s in terms of image quality? 

Well if the first pictures Google have released in high-res are true to the real form of the OOC images, then it is very had indeed to see the difference between a crop sensor whip off lense camera (MILC or DSLR) and the compact camera had better learn fast or drop out of the race. I cannot see a single image that is notably inferior to a good qaulity amateur enthusiasts camera, and in fact the dynamic range and blurred  background effects  (bokeh) mimic some of the best unadulterated sensor images from those types of bigger cameras. 

What we are actually talking about now is very much this ” oh those internal combustion engines have their place, but they’ll never be as good as a horse and buggy. No sir, you can’t beat a living thing, does the work for you, smells and breathes quality and reliability” .

The first deriviative of this analogy, taking it further, is that we no longer drive on torturous rutted roads. Our photographic media has changed. 20 years ago when I worked in advertising and design, we sweated with photographers over details on colour transparencies and negatives, only to have our best efforts sabotaged by the CYMK process into print. We worked with 660 dpi scans and laser exposed colour separations. The road is different now, essentially 72 dpi at two feet from the face is all your eye can resolve anyway.

Secondly in stretching our analogy too far, they had better stop producing buggy whips. A few years ago all the local mommies turned up at every kid’s event with a DSLR dangling around their necks. It was often a gift from grandparents, hint hint take lots of baby shots, or an essential purchase. But those kit lenses did the cameras no favours, and most of the entry levle DSLRs became obsolete because mobiles caught up ENOUGH in image quality for the new medium. The internet. Suddenly images were no longer even needing to conform to 1080 pixels in terms of perfect resolution and sharpness, they were a little 300 odd pixel width image on Face’ or Insta’ or Snap ‘.  Everyone had iPhone, and soon the cost of the ubiquitous single buttoned accessory overtook that of an entry level DSLR kit. 

Like those buggy drivers with their whips, they dismiss the new technology as inferior and when you are talking about a 6,000 to 10,000 eurobucks investment in a Full Frame DSLR system with fast lenses, then yes you are darnable right. However the whole landscape has changed and the masses are consuming their media in a different, immediate, 24/7 up time. Also those peer groups and family we share photos are influenced by this, and the impact of an image surpasses the need for technical quality of the image.

We have then come a little full circle perhaps especially back to the long tradition of Leica, the original Olympus PEN and also the box brownie shots. It was more important what they captured in terms of its immediacy, its’ historical importance, its irony, its illustrative or illuminative capture of the blink of the eye period of time and history.  From the beaches of D-Day to the oval office, the small , take anywhere compact camera took many of the most impactful images of the 20th.

So we come to the latest offerings from Apple, Huwaie, HTC, Sony and Google Pixel 2. The images are frankly astounding for a mobile phone, and point I believe to what I said about in camera processing compensating for lack of sensor size and optical ability. A bit like sensible old hooves and wooden wagon wheels giving way to rubber on asphalt, we see a sea change in how images are created  in the few microsecond after the sensor is exposed. 

So now we can certainly start to count out the fixed lens compact camera from the mass market, and a good number of shortish focal range zoom compacts. For a lot of photography of family, landscapes, townscapes and so on, you really don’t need a zoom or telephoto lens. You can survive well with around a 32- 40 mm equivalent fixed lens, and crop when needs be. If you did a world wide EXIF analysis prior to mobile phones, and in the era of the 28-80 mm kit lens, you would probably find around 35 mm as the modal focal length due to the subjecy matter we as humans like best – us, where we are, who we are with.


The best camera possible, is the one you always have with you.

 Crypto Keynsianism and the Fall of Neo Liberal/ Conservative Economics

We are fast approaching a decade of what will be called in the annals of history a depression, and not a finance crisis or credit crunch. There has been economic growth in many western economies, if lack lustre, while others have faced virtual collapse due to the failure of the global credit system to self regulate by market mechanisms.

Neo Liberal/Conservative governments and central banks have responded with crypto keynsian policy and initiatives. ‘ Quantitative Easing’ and interest rates so low that it costs more to manage the credit than any meagre return. In this it subsidisation, it is the financial system which benefits most, or rather it benefits directly with a degree of stabiility and flow of credit then to productive industries and consumers.

However the crypto keynsian nature of Neo Liberal economic policy stretches far longer back in time, and continues today in the atittude to outsourcing manufacture in China.

A corner stone of Neo Liberal policy has been removal of employee rights to be replaced by the ‘natural law and justice’ of market mechanisms. This has meant that for many average and even skilled employees, the value of their wages has been stagnant and erroded over  time especially in relation to the cost of housing. They have lost negotiating power and are reduced to the old threat of unemployment and  a rapid route to homelessness. Wages have not kept line with productivity gains either in manufacturing and many service industries. Yet the economy grows and people find more money to pay for that expensive housing. How is this  possible?

Credit Fuels the Rentier Economy

The key area in which Neo Conservative policy behaves as a crypto keynsian model, with injection of huge sums of ‘printed’ money has been through credit. Credit and tax cuts are inexorably linked together. Reduction in taxes of one dollar means for many they can lever three dollars in credit.

In the first decade of this sea-change to Neo Conservative economic policy,   it was always that productive industry would recover with this availability of cheap credit and large scale flexibility in employment laws. Yet  in fact manufacturing industries have flattened off in the number of employees and hence the amount of relatively high wage monies which are recirculated within national economies.

Rather the massive growth in consumer credit and the financial industry around this, was a house of cards with the valuation of property at its base, being a weak and vulnerable foundation as the crash of 2008 revealed. We had moved from ‘ propping up’ production to supporting the rentier service economy with tax money and loose policy, something we the ordinary average people, have all paid for in the last decade.

China Does What is Economically ‘Incorrect’ in the West

Meanwhile China are fairly open about their economic policy which is printing money centrally for a private capitalistic market system to distribute and create investment and wealth with, while also protecting their markets, manipulating material supply and pricing of new high volume proiducts like solar panels. In addition to this of course, that the major economies invest in industry there or simply buy and outsource goods from Chinese companies, exacerbates the balance of trade situation rather than making for the often touted huge potential of selling into China. We have manufacturing keynsian policy through the back door in very much of what we buy as consumers or within industrial supply chains.

Western conservative economists point then to the natural succession of higher value added industries in the west as counter balancing this inexorable trend to developing countries gaining traction in industrialisation and modernisation. However when we look at the key Neo Liberal driven economies we actually see that very much of this ‘sunrise’ industry is dependent on the tax payer and government policy for its fundamental income. Pharma and biotech are two such ‘western intellectual success  industries’ but are both directly subsidised by payments for high price treatments and indirectly when those paying with their health care plans are by in large public employees with the state picking up the tab. The same is true of course of the defence industry, and to a lesser extent railway technology, national electricity grids and the new renewable generation sector.

What western economies are left with after imports from China and highly subsidised government supported industries like defence and health care,  and of course service industry and in particular consumer services, retail and those privatised public services. On the latter, we do see of course that the need for public sector borrowing should have declined over time, or evaded the potential inflation we saw int he 1970s. Yet some of these privatised monopolies set out to tender exhibit the highest inflation of anything consumers pay for, such as electricity and water utilites and rail transport in the UK.. We see on the one hand a credit system for such investment bolstered by ‘quantitative easing’, while on the other a new layer of beaurocracy of purchasing and policing on the public sector side and bidding, financial compliance and legal contract battling within the private  providers.

Market Mechanisms for the Poor, Socialism for the Rich

Despite lack lustre growth in the western economies since the mid ’00s’ there has been a large growth in one area  – capital wealth. This has not of course been spread evenly through the economy, because of course capitalism is by nature the accumulation of wealth  in few hands.

Capital value in metropolitan real estate, the key area of wealth, has recovered and grown in many of the cities and connurbations, despite low wage rises.

There has als  been the concentration of wealth within the higher paid employee sector who can afford to invest in buy-to-rent and second homes, and of course the richer, non employee. Te hbaby boomers have of course benefited hugely from the avialbility of good career paths and affordable housing in the 60s and 70s, and then the large increase in the value of their real estate and pension funds as they near retirement now.

Now we come back to the service economy. Consumer services such as restaurants, cafes and bars and of course retail and the logistics sector which supports this. These are areas of the private economy which should be able to look after themselves. However as in Wallmart Economics, we see that a large proportion of employees are part time, seasonal or otherwise temporary and eminently disposable if there is pressure for profits. They have no protection and few rights in the key Neo Liberal economies, yet this under-employment leads to a dependency for many on welfare payments and medicaid.

Also in these economies, very many are ‘proudly’ taken out of paying income taxes, thus they do not pay for the public services they recieve and they are not paying for today’s elderly people’s state pensions. Also very many are students, who are utilised only at peak times and employers can rely on their metropolitan availability because of their subsidised student loans, and eventually the low availability of graduate career paths in these areas. There is an over supply of graduates, engineered by the availability of subsidised credit.

The service economy has seen a very large amount of  growth, and in particular business to business services within computing and financial services in particular. However very much of the consumer service economy would exist and thrive without the need for hidden subsidies. Instead of these jobs paying a living wage to those without higher skills, and taking up those who want to work part time or seasonally, they are dominated by the ‘procariat’ and are sustainable only because of welfare support and tax credits or being under the tax threshold completely.

Liberal governments have been fooled into supporting this long term subsidy dependency by being neurotic about unemployment amongst unskilled workers, while also swallowing the Neo Liberal philosophy of disposability of the workforce , aka flexibility, creating more jobs – it certainly creates more wealth, but the subsidies in effect support marginal business ideas and artificially stifle prices for many basic shopping items.

So we see that via ownership of real estate (housing), welfare support for part time and temporary (disposable staff), public funding of some high profit private industries and the money supply via Central Banks the wealthiest in society have been able to enjoy a flow of tax money upwards to them. Instead of lifitng people out of poverty by their own efforts in a fairer society, we are actively subsidising poverty and a reduction in average personal wealth while being told that this is a free-market-economy.

The Rise of the Rentier

We understand then that services, real estate and the support financial system have enabled the upper third and in particular top 3% to  become very much better at rentier economics or ‘trickle up’. In other words extracting rent from people’s bare existence before we start to take higher value activities into account. A roof over your head, utility payments, public transport, a coffee on your way to the office, your daily food-shop.

Growth and inflation or margin in these areas was sustainable in the post war period up to the oil crisis of the early 70s when inflatory processes took grip. Following that time we have seen deregulation in these markets, which we should remember would exist anyway, in terms of everything from land redevelopment and  employment law to animal welfare laws. Those who own have been able to extract more money from those who work, and in housing in particular, created a run away inflation in real estate prices in areas where there is job creation,  which when combined with anarchy in the place of regulation in the credit system, precipitated the finance crisis and subsequent depression.

Oridnary workers now experience that they have far less discretionary income and they are far more in debt to cover housing and of course education, than their baby boomer parent & grand parents. That money is little realised in personal capital as it takes years to break the back of owning even 50% of your home due to the means in which interest works and the high ‘ticket price’ for housing in areas near employment. In essence you buy your house on newly developed land from the rich, and you pay the rich rent to live there via enormous interest payments over  25-30 years, all be that at a relatively low (%) APR,  they are on very much larger gearings relative to income, 4 to 5 times in many suburban areas and 6 to 9 times in metropolitan hot spots.

The post crisis ‘cure’ was to exclude the possibility for a credit via reserve ratio demands, and this vastly inbalances the market towards older established owners who can leverage into second properties to rent out or speculate with. This personal capital requirement laid down by the central bank, in the post crash cure,  means that young people must either save, depositing ‘dead money’ at marginal rates of return in the bank for the bank to make money on, risk-invest small savings, or rely on their baby boomer parents to cough up the cash or downsize to release the capital.  The average age of first house purchase in the Neo Liberal countries has increased steadily in the last 20 years, and there is now a proportion of even graduates who will never own their own property.

The Paradigm Shift in Subsidies

We begin to see then that the neo conservative  model is more about where government money goes. Rather than supporting productive  industry and basic living standards for the poor, subsidy goes to supporting the credit system and industries which are highly reliant on complex policy making in health, defence and utilities.  Hence lobbying and buying out politicians.

Neo Liberalists often quote the inflation – productivity fall off and inevitable demise of general production industry in the west. The super rich decided as long ago as the 60s that they could control more of the metropolitan housing markets, and encourage the trend to move to the major financial centres, which would present a better ROI at a lower risk than investing in productive industry.

However in fact the USA and UK still have a substantial primary and seconday economy, and it is this which underpins the real wealth creation to this day, while the credit mountain fuels a substantial amount of the economy above this like a pyramid selling scam. IN this way the economylevers the real productivity and wealth creation, with credit fuelled and government under written financial systems. The tax payers and corporate returns in these areas fuel the furnace and are a form of working capital for the whole credit system, which amplifies the availability of money many times over that which  productive industry generates.

In effect the super richest of the world demanded a regulation free credit casino game, and when it imploded, they blamed the sub prime loan scheme for precipitating it, and then could rely on socialist bail outs for their failed industry. ‘Qauntitative easing’ and central bank credit supply and bail outs are keynsian by nature, but instead of supporting jobs and distributiuon of wealth via productive activity through society, they support the flow of credit downwards and value upwards in soceity,  We still have the recipe for another credit crash and another malaise of austerity and the super elite demanding government bail out such that the whole system does not collapse.

“There has been a class war for the last 20 years, and it is my class that have won this war” – Warren Buffet, one of the world’s most successful investors.

Alternative Policy

The alternative is clear. Give workers back their rights to negotiate wages against productivity and inflation, and remove top up benefits from service industries. Instead flow tax money to production industries by supporting apprenticeships and true life long learning and re-skilling. The ‘flexibility’ in the labour laws means essentially no rights for any employees unless their skills are rare.

Another major area we need to address is removing the  disincentives for employing people full time, permanent by making employer contributions and personal taxatiion pro-rata per hour for all types of employment, thus removing the penalty employers experience in offering more working hours and a living take home pay cheque to workers. In turns of employer contributions to what is evenutally paid out as health, pensions and education and today’s workers have to pay for today’s pensioners unfortunetly in most western economies.

Part time / temporary marginalisation has been a key stumbling block for the left wing, who have accepted that job creation per se , no matter how many hours per week or how short a contract, is a necessary means to get the unemployed into work. In reality on the one hand, we make long estbalished existing business models more profitable, and marginal ‘hipster’ start ups possible, via tax money keeping people off the bread line, and the avoidance of higher on-costs and thus social responsibility on two fronts – living take home wages, and tax contributions to society.

Calling China Out

Also address as Donald Trump mooted in his policy, the balance of trade with China, a keynsian driven economy, and protect against imports from countries which have virtually slave labour conditions, disposession of land rights and environmental destruction.

A Universal Basic Income?

A universal basic income can be one means to combat the misuse of employees and this could be cheaper to administer than current welfare systems, but the difficulty lies in eligibility and weaning people off this.  With the threat of automation of many unskilled and semi skilled jobs in retail, logistics and many other consumer services, we can be faced with a sudden leap in unemployment. UBI allows for people to redefine their economic activity, from a game-play basis that they do not need to work to feed themselves, only to better themselves and make an active contribution to society and the economy.

New Wealth and Property Taxes

Apart of the cure is also taxation on property which is used speculatively and the freeing up of such land which is withheld from the market by the super rich or corrupt local authorities. Further to this, in the fully digital broad band age, the dissemination of government employees to smaller units outside the major metropolii and the removal of the ‘power meeting’ culture from layers of governance.  This feeds house prices and rents in metropolitan areas, and often centralisation has little cost saving effect.

Macro Economic Policy

Surely though you can as a centre right, reasonable jobbing economist, say that the banking system is the best means to deliver credit in terms of investment and loans, while the Central Banks are the best to police the supply of money, credit/asset holding ratio and behaviour of banks? The system then is self regulating to a large extent, with they whom recieve monies being worthy recipients in a market system? Well the asnwer depends on how much money you are making out of the whole financial pyramid. At the foot of the pyramid stands the broadest and largest step in terms of payments and interest rates – the consumer and the small business. Every layer above this makes money moving this credit around. For example in the top 100 companies on the london stock exchange, in 2017 the majority are banks and other financial institutions.

Through quantitative easing, printing money, bank bail outs and the requirement for the national reserve ratio, central banks in the UK and the USA in particular the whole system gets topped up, and a lot of that top up is tax payer’s money. The alternative post 2007/8 crash would be the collapse of the national and international credit system, or at least large portions would be whiped out. Neo Liberal economies live and breath by credit and in parcticular, home loans based  often on inflated real estate investment, and consumer credit cards and short/medium loans. Banks of course can borrow from other creditors such as international banks, but they are limited in how much they can borrow and lend out by the central bank anyway.

Now when it comes to paying for this it comes from tax income, and growth in the econonmy on the repayments side is an important factor. So to stimulate growth while there are financial restrictions such as reserve ratio loans/ capital holding, then you can lever 3 times each penny, pound, dollar or krone in new creditability from consumers when they release one in tax cuts. So the amount of demand for credit goes up, and the reserve ratio does too most likely, so more tax money has to be used for reserves, and that is substantial when like the USA, you have over 12 trillion dollars of consumer credit. Public services are then cut per political colour, which puts more people out into under-employed ‘precariat’ more reliant on short term loans and credit cards….which feeds the cycle. This is part of the reason for the overall economic cycle – promise to pay back, maxing out the national credit card limit, not being able to payback or borrow anymore, defaults on the rise.

The alternative is what China is doing, directing investment into productive industry and improved infrastructure and public provision. However it is more ‘economically correct’ in the west to fuel credit and call it the ‘free market’ and allow China to manufacture our trinkets, while we allow underemployment in the consumer services sector to grow, and fund it via welfare support to stop peoplke going hungry and rioting. Those who live of the richer shavings from the finance pyramid or real estate don’t want to change a thing, and will pay good money to keep it that way to political parties and politicians.

An End To the Madness of Crypto Keynsian Economics

In the longer term there are only two ways that these cycles of crypto keynsianism will be stopped in the neo “liberal” west. One is another credit crash, which could cause a bigger crisis in confidence that the last. The other is when natural resources become limiting for the USA and Uk – which in effect means mostly petroleum reserves or a crash in the prices for these. Primary extraction is a key factor underpinning the entire system, a kind of national reserve balancing the ratio of value by creating somethign from nothing but geographical and geological fortuity. This perspective is longer term, and we could as well talk about catastrophic climate changes or that infamous asteroid, but that would not be the system itself imploding.

Well paid jobs in mineral extraction, farming, fishing, forrestry and other primary production are important, but under threat as resources limit, and neo liberal anti union ‘flexibility’ forces wages relative to outgoings downwards. Manufacturing is allegedly stable at 15/20% of the work force and around 10-15% for GDP, but how much of that is not driven by public purchasing like defence and healthcare? We are left with those financial pyramid and real estate jobs payiing well but also being subsidised to a percentage by the central bank’s stimulus mechanisms. Below this we have declinging standards of living for service sector workers who are unable to negotiate their wage relative to their outgoings, and increasingly marginalised into part time work.

The BBC and the Economist Magazine pondered the UK’s ‘productivity conundrum’ – growth in the economy but not growth in productivity, and this is because so many service jobs have ‘peaked’ in efficientcy for a human, and they have bottomed out in return in total weekly wages. In terms of productitivty the next phase for employers is to robotise and automatise these many millions of menial jobs. However the procartiat only make up 20 – 30% of most political constituencies and have become easily swayed to the post neo liberal politics of anti immigration, rather than solutions for fair wages and considering paying people to be productive in society via taxation.

TBC Sailing hull speed learning etc

We have had a spell of dreadful weather, which is very unlike our usual serene Septembers here  on the South Coast of Norway. Yesterday though was one such day with light airs, blue skies and a sharp sunshine so typical here either end of the summer.

So we jumped at the chance of grabbing a practice sail and seeing pretty much literally, where the wind would take us, in the 12 sq meter classic design. 

Upon reflection the sail made me think of three things – hull and keel speed, spinnaker work and learning to re-learn.

On the Subject of Sailing Badly in Light Airs in Classic Boats

The 12 sq meter design is indeed a mini twelve mR designed as a training boat for youth of the wealthy on Oslo Fjord. It soon however became a favourite day boat of adults looking for an easily crewed regatta machine. King Olav had an early  ‘Fram’ 12 kvm indeed as a young man. On some of my previous outings in these elegant classics, much prettier it has to be said that most all of the UK’s one design day sailers, I have sailed very badly. Or been made to feel like my sailing skills were somehow thrown out of the window.

Coming back to the class after some spats and a very poor nationals in 2010 (the boat had mussels on the keel and when I first inspected her sails, GAFFER tape fixes on the spinnaker! ) I took these former failures as a challenge to learn the boat and prepare a decent example, and crew, for racing.

The burning light in the revitalisation of the class as a one-design with  our local centre of gravity, has been the boat builder and all round craftsman in wood, Petter Halvorsen. He like others before gave me a recent ‘heads up’ that the 12 kvm (kvadrat meter = sq. m) was so different that I  should throw out all I have learned in the Melges and a long line of boats, and rather learn the arts of keeping her moving.  

However there are certain principles of science at stake here, rather than leaving it all down to art. The boat may be very different in design from the modern regatta machines,  or the RORC tonne rule derived OD boats I sailed mostly before, but Scotty will tell you, a 12 kvm cannae defy the laws of physics, Jim.

Wave Goodbye to your Logs, and Say Hello to your Waves 

Universal Basic Income- The Craziest of all Ideas,  Which May Actually Work?

Universal Basic Income invokes shock and horror amongst the conservative chattering classes and skilled labour alike. Paying people to do “nothing”, it is crazy and lazy! Or is it? When billionaires, libertarian leaders and astute politicians start promoting the idea, then we have to inform ourselves!

From Luddites to Blairites

Society is changing in the way it relates to economic activity. This sea-change of new technology replacing human tasks,  is allegedly going to accelerate beyond the rate at which new human based jobs and livelihoods will be created. We are about to robotise menial and manual jobs such as shop service and public service /freight driving, while also  on the more skilled end of human mental activity,  let algorythms do the work of highly skilled accountants, scientists and even lawyers.

The great advance in computing is here, we can finally emulate the human brain in many activities, and in some, like motorway driving, outperform humans.

When transport workers and accountants get their redundancy notices, will there be a great cry of  ‘ crush the machines’ as the Luddites of the first industrial revolution demanded?

Will there be rather a slower transition, as the relatively expensive technology is rolled out in the larger firms first? Or will this be a rapid transition aided by the departure of the old school baby boomer management structures, who are largely reaching retirement age and taking their philosophies with them into senility (?).

Blairite- Wallmart economics – the UBI is already here anyway, yet complex and expensive to adminsiter ? ……………………………………………………………………..

Industrial Revolutions Revolve The Work Force

Why should this new industrial revolution reduce the number of workers when all other industrial revolutions and major innovations  have actually lead to new wealth-creation and more jobs ?

In truth some jobs and professions have died away – take the 1960s typing pool- a hand written letter or shorhand dictat was taken to the ( girls) of the typing pool and returned to the originator often some days later. These typing pool employees needed to read,  spell and type at 40 to 60 words a minute. They were whiped out within a ten year period, and even secretaries were removed from middle to upper management, just the reserve of VPs and the CEO. A cultural shift occured in the 1980s. The PC, spellchecker and there after the e-mail killed off these jobs.

The thing is that in that case women were emancipating themselves, and these menial jobs were no real loss to them. Computing also lead to new opportunities in data capture (punching in) and customer or supplier interaction. There were new needs for manual interpretation and interaction with databases and communication systems.  They were getting educated, trained and advancing their own careers. There was a counter current which neutralised much of the change.

I was sayinhg to a friend just today, when we were young would be ever believe that two small start up companies foom the 1970 Apple and Microsoft would be bigger than GE, GM and the tourist infustry? Or that a social platform, a replacement for mail and telephone, would become the highest value company listed on the NY stock exchange?

So we also see then possibilities here for this kind of redirection. Also that human activity in a technological society tends towards higher value per person- both monetary and by value to society.

The reason that previous industrial revolutions driven by technology have lead to growth in standard of living and wealth is that on the one hand there are new tools delivered, while on the other there are new opportunies in the end product or service. With new tools we increase worker productivity, enhance often quality and reliability in the product, and enable new possibilities, often not envisaged when the new tool or process was first developed.

So for example the steam engine lead to the internal combustion engine, while the combination of the steam turbine and the turbo charger lead to the jet engine, which in its’ end applicaton shrunk the world for us.

This ‘revolution’ is not the first time we have seen a quantum leap which displaces human labour. It is ironic yet illustrative that the terms ‘calculator’ and ‘computer’ both were used to describe professions in the 19 th Century. These tasks were done wholly by people. As tools, they allow us all access to accounting, engineering, drawing, image manipulatiin and communication. Yes they seem to just replace manual tasks, but they allow more people to access the skills and utilise the mathematics and technology.

Robots take over an entire human in a similar way as mechanical and then electronic calculators did. They displace a human from a menial task, or enhance the precision and repeatability of a skilled job. However the latter leads to even larger efficiency gains.ibduastrial welding and operational Robot and electronic guided machine tool manufacture became a major industry, and programming and maintaining them the new skill on the ground, while the companies engaging them could grow and offer higher value in the market. Which meant people could do new things, better things and often quality became more affordable.

Many highly informed pundits though, forsee a near future where millions of people will be economically displaced. In the USA they say that 3 million driving jobs will disappear. But in what time span? Do we need a UBI to smooth the transition and pick up those older or less literate workers who have difficulty in new professions? or does it happen slowly and natural wasteage  (retirement and career exits) balances the disruptor ?

Lowering Barriers to Micro Industrialisation?

There is another barrier which is being overcome here with the super robot and algorythmic decision maker. The barrier to entry for new competitors.

These new ‘super’ robots are going to be affordable in aqusition and service- that is the reason many pundits think  adoption is going to be so wide scale and hence displace so many human jobs. So although they add costs they take away human costs, and are in theory more productive than a single human.

Now if you imagine a robot or computing system able to do the job of ten people, yet the cost per unit is less than a single year for an employee, then small businesses can compete with bigger businesses in producting niche products or innovations in local markets.   SME’s can be close to their local customer or ‘pyscically proximal’ global customers. That is to say they can react rapidly to evolving needs and tailor products and services to that niche, or deliver a local product quickly. SME can offer that high degree of tailoring to customer, while also offering higher quality or perhaps even a cheaper version of a product than the main stream ‘value added’ offering.

We see this to some extent with the somewhat over hyped 3/D printing technologies. It can mean that a very cheap, local product can be made, or that a very high quality product can be made with high precision. New products not envisaged can be rapidly prototyped and come to the world as solid entities. Furthermore new service opportiunities, remembering the jet engine, can be rapidly created, tailored and disseminated. This means that new entrepreneurial activity is enabled with a focus on creativity and solving problems, two things humans still by in large out rank the CPU many fold.

What About the Trailer Park? 

On the other hand then, what jobs are left for the unskilled, non-entrpreneurial section of society? Already they are economically margunalised and often as active in the black economy than the taxed one. They wont be designing, fixing or reprogramming the robots which habe taken their joibs. Is the new robot and algorythm technology going to be too large a crash across too large a section of the economy, jobs market and social strata that we  will create destitution en masse fro, what is called the Precariat today – the precarious proletariat?  Will social-mobility halt up as young adults can no longer work their way into and through college and university?

 Ellon Musk and Mark Zuckenberg certainly do believe that we are on  the brink of a sea change which is inevitable,  but which will make human economic activity redundant in so many sectors and professions such that society will be profoundly disrupted by inequality and abject poverty. 

Further market mechanism critique tbc lost in draft crash DO NOT RESTORE next time

Also a new bit on the ‘hipster and home sale begging’  future, which is already here. Offering high price on products which are only of slight better quality, “begging” from friends and relying on trainsient styles and fashions.

 Where are the Social Democratic and Socialist Left on UBI ?

From the traditional left wing perspective, UBI is admitting defeat to market mechanisms over promoting living wages and engaging more of the workforce in useful jobs which better society.It is a simple sticking plaster over the ills of capitalism.

In effect we came to this capitulation in the UK with the Blairites and Gordon Brown’s policies of making work pay, a form of gauranteed minimum income with flexibility for working part-time, mediated via benefits and tax credits. This was a major economic blunder in light of allowing weak labour laws to continue from the Thatcher era, permittting a culture of the lowest common denominator in employment , the zero hours contract, and the precarious temporary nature of working in the consumer service sector in particular.  In turn these policies have reduced tax revenues from ordinary unskilled and semi skilled workers  while increasing benefit payments in the periods they find their temporary contracts end, or their hours cut. Even average income workers with families can find they recieve more in tax credits and benefits than they pay in income tax in the UK.

The hope as with all political policy, was that economic growth would eventurally take more of these people out of benefits and make them into net tax payers, an essential element in any modern economy with an ageing population.  The means of promoting economic growth are Neo Liberal, promoting flexibility in the labour market and deregulation. This is the biggest critique of the decade of Labour Blairite power- that they gave up fighting for workers rights, bar the minimum wage, and caved into the concepts which would eventually lower the standard of living for many of their own voters, plunging them into the part time/ temporary economy.

Even in the USA there is a form for UBI for part time workers which keeps Walmart supplied with cheap, disposable staff, and they can avoid all the ‘on costs’ associated to full time, permanent staff such as pensions or health care contributions. They found the lowest common denominator and kept policy in place via lobbying such that public money still supported their profits, while social un rest due to abject poverty were kept at bay due to welfare top ups and medicare for the poorest.

Neo-Liberals. The Weirdest Proponents of UBI

Neo Liberalism has some common sense in its often otherwise twisted philosophy. That of the existential individual. Really the modern labour movements and neo-socialists do not have much of the collectivist policy left when it comes to outdated concepts like the command economy. Here the two actually meet , full circle if you like, the extreme ends finally tieing in a bizarre consensus on UBI.

Neo Liberalists knew all along that they would need to have welfare in western economies in practice, because capitalism is inevitably a ‘trickle up’ affair which leads to social unrest. Policy makers under reagan and bush administrations made high profile cuts to social budgets, while in fact the budget for welfare increased and more employers started to use staff on a part time/ temporary basis. But in turn they have woken up in their key national economies, the US and the UK, to the huge structure in place to keep people sruviving – the “precariat” , the precarious position of the proletariat. The means of delivering and policing social welfare are hugely costly and labour intensive.

Also on the libertarian side, there is the element of personal freedom being constricted by government schemes which have rules and boundaries as to what economic or educational activities claimants can or cannot engage in before they lose their benefits or  have to apply for other types of benefit.  For willing participants, it is argued that it renders them under the wing of the nanny state, with an expectation that the government scheme will fix things for them. They will get personal improvement via the governments’ action, via the beaurocracy.

Here then UBI has ‘small government’ appeal to Libertarians

On the liberal, neo-socialist side, we have then support for a basic standard of living, and as mentioned for the Blairite position, a capitulation to the way the market has evolved. A light administered ‘living wage’ which would cover an elementary costs of survival without means testing, just via computer based tax and registration comparisons, has great appeal because on the one hand it feeds people, while on the other it denies employers access to what is tantamount to slave labour- there is no compulsion from government to take work and live precariously, in and out of those expensive welfare systems.

From the ‘socialist side’ UBI delivered via efficient computing systems can be viewed as the final step to liberating the workforce from slavery. This being in that jobs are no longer viable when they barely cover subsistance, from low pay to zero hours contracts,  and ‘maggies farm’ economics where by employment hot spots reduce wages to the same for skilled workers. Capital then has to develop more attractive packages for workers and allow them to work home office for example.

Social services ….

Cold Turkey for Welfare ?

Many arch neo liberalists and conservatives advocate the removal or all state welfare, for much the same reasons UBI is arguably flawed. Yet we have the reality here,not a possibility, that zero welfare leads to social unrest. Violence, crime, malnutrition, mafiaosa and emmigration. That is what happened before in history, and there is no difference today. There are no great charitable mechanisms, no mass food bank. There are guns, there are terrorist recruiters

Who then decides if you qualify for UBI? At what stage to you have to exit UBI or is there a transition, as a gauranteed minimum income which would potentially be more beaurocraticto administer. Do many actively choose to be UBI or is it something you have thrust upon you by default or culture? There is this element in the concept that it is a kind of default dialogue, that you would normally be unemployed or disabled or that your line of work makes you ill. Who says then you cannot qualify for UBI?

UBI is easier to administer than current systems because it is a simple payment. Opportunity for fraud are of course there, but with a stricter capture of identity electronically then it can be mediated automatically without any human staff. It is linked to income tax and declarations of sickness or unemployment, which can be fed into the system automatically. A field day for criminals? Well attempting to register a false identity becomes a bigger crime than it is today, as does identity theft.  police time is freed from petty crime conducted by subsistance marginalised peoples in order to feed or entertain themselves, to catching organised criminals and violent gangs.

Picking up on the last points from previous section then we see that a minimum gauranteed income would reduce beaurocracy and increase personal freedom. However what are the down sides of injecting this money at the lower end of the unskilled and semi skilled workforce ?

 

Lost draf critique of Neo Liberalism lord in the castle feudalism, barricaded utopia, bread line, violent social unrest and revolution

Economic Criticisms of UBI

The main argument against UBI from main stream centre right economists is that it renders people lazy. There is no compulsion to work for the basics of life, so many millions will choose this route and become state dependents. However this position is a fact of life in the two major Neo Liberal economies, the US and the UK already. Otherwise there would be social unrest when large numbers of people cannot put bread on their table and cover the cost of their rents.

There is a cultural counter agrument to conservative thinking of the ‘lazy bones society’- people want more than their basic subsistance, and strive for more. If you take away striving for basic survival then you find the large majority strive for more. It was always the intention of Blairite Brownite top up benefits to let people get more work experience and take up work, with the hope that many would be locked into the pay economy and not the benefits economy. This was not the case in reality over th elast two decades, as employers could reduce their costs by removing down time via zero hours contracts and seasonal employment, while still maintaining a willing (or often compelled) work force at this low cost.

Conservatives would then argue that this has to be paid for by taxes. Yes that is obvious. However how much does western society pay now and how inefficient are the state mechanisms for administering this? Proponents  also point to the drop in crime and the improvement to health because the poorest can come out of malnutirtion, those suffering back problems or stress from office jobs can choose a new lifestyle, prople can choose more time for sport and exercise.

It seems very utopian, unrealistic. Surely it would be overly tempting to turn on, tune in and sign up? The question the leaders of the new technological industries pose, is what are we going to do with all the people who do not have the ever higher level of skill and education required to run their businesses and utilise or service their technology?  Is the alternative not dystopian, where human life and effort is not valued in terms of say 20 / 30% of the working popuilation?

 

The Libertarian Rentier Economy Is the Reason UBI Could Fail

UBI also applies to handicapped people and when you are sick. So it sounds like a win win all round. Back up here though, we are like the Affordable Care Act, injecting large amounts of money into the economic system.

Here we come to the doyen concept of Neo Liberalism, the unfettered predominance and power of the rentier economy. The natural law for the powerful, the rich to extract more from our very existences rather than our productive output. Our housing, our transport, our water, our power, our basic staples and basic shopping. Trickle up, and when it concerns housing, often a torrent.

With no social housing policy or rent controls, UBI is an irresistable inflationary surge. In fact the rentiers themselves may libby for UBI as a means to flow more value in rent and asset worth up to them, in the way Walmart support welfare ‘rights’. Also it could lead to a new credit bubble if individuals lever their new secure income against consumer credit.
UBI becomes then self defeating it would seem, as its value is inevitably erroded by inflation, with no counter acting productivity gains?

Also would we see the spread of ‘internships’ where to gain skills ornexperience it is expected that you live on UBI?  Would we see a further displacement of labour in other sectors due to the availability of bored UBI’ers ? Would we see more work become part time and tenuous as employers learn to use those on UBI ?

 

more on the basics are covered and game theory

Market mechanistic theory would however also produce counter arguments to the erosion of the value of a UBI by inflation. Because a UBI is not tied to living in one place. Suddenly people in high rent areas can move to lower priced areas which they can afford. They also have time to build their own housing, and gain training to do so. People in work struggeling to make ends meett can vote with their feet and opt of UBI, reducing their income, but then also moving away from the over priced metropolitan and sunrise valley areas. So there are different countering market mechanisms to the possibilty for run away inflation. It gives a kind of ultimatum to capital – make employment pay or we will leave employment. Make jobs interesting and fulfilling or we will fulfill ourselves and find new economic activity from a base line of UBI.

Existentialism to the Rescue of UBI ?

To counter the inflation-anullation argument against UBI, we can see that people are no longer trapped in using their time to simply survive. They become more mobile. If rents go up in one area,they need not worry about moving to a cheap non metropolitan area. Or they may use their time to buildn their own house, and even lobby, organise and build housing in their communities. Free from beaurocratic demands to take low value work, they can take education and work practice in skilled trades while still feeding and housing themselves.

Today in most all western societies a black and white model of work and welfare has developed. You are either in work and trying to make ends meet, sometimes forced to accept what you can, or you are out of work on benefits.You are not allowed to keep benefits and work as you choose or as it becomes available.  Gordon Brown’s ‘make work always pay’ hss lead to more margjnalisation not less, it has locked millions into precarious personal economics and state dependency.

Here we also can consider what is happening with Face Book’s income and more specifically where it is coming from. By in large the corporates have not been hugely active on FB compared to Google and TV. When was the last time you saw a Coca Cola Advert on FB? Or had a ‘push post’ from General Electric without you Liking their profile?  Facebook have related to the media that much of their 8 billion dollar advertising spend comes from small enterprises. To them FB is cheap, less than ten dollars per thousand or more reach to views, and less than 20 dollars per conversion to sale,  or  per new  potentially loyal customer. The business is granular and below the radar of ‘anti corporate’ negaitve sentiment. If Fb are being candid, then we are not being spammed by the grey suits, we are being wooed by hipsters and spinster start ups on our FB newsfeeds.

 

Individual bargaining….lost in draft fail crash. Black mail, pay to play. game theory

 

Futurology on robots making robots automation removing capital control, excessive gross marhing for staff and profit removed,  Utopia behind the barricades

 

We have nboth utopian and dystopian visions, but the facts are in front of uis. Major western economies already have mechanisms of UBI for marginal workforce, disabled and chronically sick. Robotisation is going to replace thousands of unskilled/semiskilled and automation of more cranial operator tasks with software utilsing algorythms

Workfare policies becoming the norm for UBI and really getting back to slavery. Libertarian ppiint of view that it is then the govern,ment who are directing what people do at work, or perhaps employers as mentioned take up UBI instead of ordinary employees at minimal cost with an element of compulsion, and a lose lose for government tax returns as tax paying employees are displaced.

Market mechnisms or government could be replaced:  cost per service affordable vs tax and inefficient  or the need for major service management neo liberal compulsory compet tendering removed and competiton being for the mechatronics, the computer systems, which eventually enter dminishing returns

A

 

Armchair Virtual Cruising West Coast Scotland

Aye the nachts are faur drawin’ in like.

You can of course choose to pick you weather and have short days or dare I say, sail a little at night and really test your mettle, but the season for most is drawing to a close. 

If I were to pop in a boat in the Glesga Fair in 2018 then where would I go cruising? 

Torridon, Sheildaig of all Places …A Possible Destination en Virtual Route??

There is a long standing lust from racing days to actually spend time dropping hooks and sinking pints, or swinging on the chain with an anchor dram in hand in the wilderness along the coast lines and to the isles I have often hurtled past with eyes mostly fixed on spinnaker luff or genoa tell=tales. 

So on this little bucket list there are the places of family folklore I think I have blogged on before- the Treshnish, Tinker’s hole, Polldhorain. Then there is intertwined with this the Malt’s Cruise of course and the Ceilidh as a tie-date.

Which Hook Nooks Have I Raced Past ? (erm, literally…)

 But this all reeks of AWBs (average white bands, sorry boats!) queing to get into the anchorages and wobbling off the various new pontoons as if they just got off the bus at Anderston Terminal. In the Glesga Fair this all really doesnt appeal, and is far better accomplished in May and June, with an exemption say for a trip to Islay to do the distilleries there with the perty at the end, having raided Tallisker  along the way earlier.

Far better in the ‘Faur’ to get the heck out of these lower latitudes and sail north. 

In my mind’s eye there is a kind of blind spot for Harris, Benbecula, Barra. It is Terra Non Cognitosurrounded by Aqua Nova. There are the frightful Minches and the Mightly Atlantic beyond. Oh The Crinan Canal for me……those great ocean breakers would gie me the shakers. More than a blind spot, like a fog of fear out there. And completely unnecessarily. I once helmed an Impala out to Coll from Arisaig after being storm bound there for two days. The sea was NW and fairly monsterous at times, ‘specially on account of it being a beam reach. Nearing Coll they got steeper and a green mountain appeared I decided to take on the bow. That my friends was the Atlantic hitting shallower water and possibly adverse tide! So fright be taken! Been there and got the t-shirt.

The Fantastic Fantasy Cruise

So My cruise ? Clyde mooring or marina on the Friday afternoon before the fair saturday, provisioned well for four days with ‘hard-tack’ for five more. Ailsa Craig and Sanda to Port on an ebb tide I hope, and sailing through the night to breakfast and sleep at Gigha. A tootle around the island and a decision make it anouther night watch or two out past Dubh Artaig and Skerryvore weather permitting. 

This is some challenging sailing. Firstly the Sound of Jura on the right tide, then the course and caution with the weater and sea state out past all the ‘Bad Boghas’ – the rocks and skerries off Iona and Tiree. There after? Well perhaps Barra weather being clement, and a fine anchor spot in Castle Bay. Bound the be ahead of the Bavarians who are mostly trying to get into Caladh or Ardrishaig Sea Lock by now. No, this is not a floating caravan tour super market to super market. 

With good conditions and a flood tide in the Sea of the Hebrides and the Minches, then why not relax with less sail on a broad reach and eat and make merry on board. OFten when racing we do that of course, and when not racing it was usually delivering with hard tack and UHT milk before and after you came on watch. A cruise this as you see, for two experienced skippers and two good deck hands at least!

Now up to the filet of the tour. The Shiant Isles. I had no idea that the Minch between Skye and Harris was so nasty yet contains a major traffic lane for shipping taking a short cut, including the odd super tanker and oil rig! It is quite narrow compared to the Minch proper of course, but rocky too. And with the ‘charmed , blessed, enchanted’ islands of the Shiant archipeligo. A kind of poor man’s St. Kilda, and I admit to my ignorance, I had no idea such a pearl existed until a few days ago. A text would have sufficed and in fact I am somewhat bothered that images are already in my head from t’internet of this wonderful little world. 

From there in a NW or SW I would actually scoot over to another group of Charming Islands, the Summer Isles at Achiltibuie and enjoy a dinner at the famous hotel bar there, if not on the lawn kissed by sunshine.  In a Westerly, and lots of it, more tempting to head to the east coast of Harris and Lewis and explore there. 

From though the Summer Isles, a replenishment at Ullapool. Ole’s Pool has always been a land crab favourite of my, and featured along with the Five Sisters of Kintail in my fairwell to Caledonia. From the Viking’s bay, round then to Torridon, because that is where the photo above was taken. My dad, a whole lifetime ago, exploring and ‘staying ahead of the racing rabble’ 

There after Plockton was also a family kind of place on the map and then over to Talisker Destillery while we are here. The sound of sleet and then Arnisdale and maybe, maybe Hourn heid another spot on the 1970s tournerihng my dad did. 

The ‘small isles’ themselves and Loch Nevis are the matter of a different cruise than tonights, one which involves hill walking boots. So I am afradi now it all gets tawdry and failing the need to take in Arisaig – a difficult entrance that keeps many away from its eateries, PO, shop and walks to the sands of Morar., then it is on to Tob’ to share stories in the Mish’. 

I feel now civilisation would beckon, and small Isles with Iona is as said a nother tour altogether. No Mulling around this time, Terra Habilis, Oban beckons and a chance to change crew, milk the coo, shower and eat and be merry at a finer establishment, or budget dwindling, chippy and the North Pier. Poldohrain then for old times sake and an easy next day to then choose the tide well to Crinan. Canal for a day of ‘chust sublimeness’ before back to Caladh to gloat over the local small timers. An icecream at Roth’y and a bag of chips for the final afternoons tootle over to normality, humdrumness, land lubbing. 
Over Ambitious?

Well all this may seem a little over ambitious, but you have to put this in perspective of what my own father could achieve in the the two weeks of the Glasgow Fair, and what good lifers curcumnavigating get up to. Cruising in Scotland runs the risk on one hand, of getting too pussified with pontoons and close to shore sponsored moorings in every village. However it can be argued that this will take the hoi palloi away from the auld favourite wee hooks, expecially as inclement summer monsoon conditions seem to be the norm for late may through to mid august! 

Gigha to Shiants non stop will seem down right deranged to some readers who are used to the joys of island hopping and getting places before dark and before the tide changes. But in years of old, going back to the Vikings, sailors had to get where they were going before the storms of the equinox were upon them. 

No this trip needs planning, and it is not for the sea sick prone wife you may have, or kids under 9 years old. It is a challenge and full exposure to nature’s elements. Tides need to be taken into account with wind, motoring for battery charges and progress to tidal gates thought of, bolt holes and escape plans if the barometerr drops like a stone, a knowledge of shipping and fishing movements, a watch for whales and dropped cargo too.