Saturday, July 19, 2003
"When I hear a speech like Blair’s, I have to check the calendar. And the calendar is usually wrong. It may say 2/23, or
7/16, or 4/30. But I know what the date is, and the date is 9/12. It’s going to be 9/12 for a long time to come. "
PS - the words about history being the judge remind me of one of my favourite Churchill quotes - "History will be my judge, and I will write that history" (approx - if the original was even better, thanks Winston...)
"There is undoubtedly something cringingly self-satisfied and self-conscious about the term. The website urging Brights to stand up and be counted even offers handy tips on revealing your inner brightness. For example, it advises: “If someone inquires about your own religion, you can pop up with, ‘Well, actually, I am a Bright’. The other person’s curiosity will probably take hold: ‘A Bright? What is that?’ ” In fact, of course, the conversation would probably go: “What’s your religion?” “Well, actually, I’m a Bright.” The other person will immediately suspect they are in the presence of a prat. “A Bright, eh? Well, good for you ... must get on.” "
Unfortunately, he does spoil things by somehow thinking that a theistic litmus test for office in the US is something to do with George Bush, rather than a long-standing phenomenon.
But I can see how being fatter would lead to less "active" kids in all kinds of ways....
Worryingly, I do too...
Sounds to me like US firms are, in general, substantially less operationally geared (i.e. have fewer fixed costs) than in the past. The level of staffing, etc, required can be rapidly adjusted depending on performance.
This arguably makes the economy much more resiliant (a "recessions are shorter, BECAUSE the recoveries are harder" thesis)
But it also suggests that the sustainable profit levels in firms should be lower than before (as a higher proportion of costs are short-term variables, and will rise with sales) - a more constant margin than before may be achievable, but the overall level of return could be reduced (depending on what you think the long-term profile of the economy looks like).
Sunday, July 13, 2003
"The premium on a top grade is now so great that the average working graduate with a first-class degree earns 12.5 per cent more than one with a 2:2 after three years’ employment, according to research by Gavan Conlon, of the London School of Economics.
Graduates with upper seconds will earn about 6 per cent more than those with 2:2s. This equates to a salary of £28,125 after three years for the first and £26,500 for the 2:1, compared with £25,000 for the 2:2. Graduate incomes are also higher among those who have studied one of a handful of “gold standard” subjects, particularly law, medicine, economics and mathematics, or at the Russell Group of elite universities, which includes Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Edinburgh. "
Now, first, I suspect we're not comparing like with like - after all, candidates with firsts may be likely to demonstrate superior performance over the course of the first couple of years of their career, and gain the increases on merit. And the jobs the people going into are probaly different from the off. I believe that a lot of firms don't hire candidates with less than a 2.1, and those are obviously the pickier careers.
However, the main impact is surely this - the education system has recently poured a lot of "sludge" (yes, v. bad thing to say...) in at the bottom of the system, people with minimal qualifications, going to bad universities to do bad courses and probably get bad results at the end of the process.
The candidates getting 2.2s from Oxford and Cambridge may be doing, relatively speaking, as well as they were before. But when you compare the performance of the Cambridge Maths and French First (n A's at A-level) to that of the University of North London Media Studies 2.2 candidate (n UCAS points), you're likely to get a reasonably large gap.
So - if you want to keep up the value of a degree, a) restrict supply on general principles, and b) maintain standards. Some good candidates (of a top 15% standard, say) have no doubt been to uni in recent years who wouldn't have before the expansion from, say, 25% of 18 year-olds. But, I suspect, not that many compared to the costs of expansion. Has the system expanded too far? Who can say. But the study reveals something entirely predictable...
"As Alice Mahon, the MP for Halifax, put it: “How can the Secretary of State stand there as a Scottish MP who is not going to have one of these divisive hospitals, and yet is voting to inflict them on the people of Halifax?”
It may have to be renamed the Halifax question. And it will be revisited in spades when MPs come to address the thorny matter of tuition fees where policy will once again be divided, north and south of the border. “As English MPs, we have to settle this question of Scots and Welsh MPs voting for things they’re not going to have,” proclaimed Ms Mahon.
But do we? First, we need to clear away the whiff of prejudice that hangs around the issue. Most of the complaints about undue Scottish influence in the Cabinet stem from that strand of Tory opinion that has always had a distinct antipathy to the Scots. It might be described as the Dr Johnson view, which holds that “seeing Scotland . . . is only seeing a worse England”. It argued against devolution because the Scots were judged incapable of running their own affairs. Once devolution came, it maintained that the uppity Scots should stay out of matters that no longer concern them. It has been given sharper emphasis by the Barnett formula, from which the Scots have benefited economically. Conflate the two and you have the caricature of a Scotland over-represented at Westminster and receiving a disproportionate amount of public money. "
Um, except if Scotland does have more than a population pro-rata number of MPs, receives more money per capita than the rest of the country, and has MPs voting on bills that only apply outside Scotland, that caricature comes rather easily. Note how Linklater fails to actually address the "caricature"...
"Looked at rationally, however, the complaint evaporates. We still have a Parliament that allows MPs to compete for the top jobs, regardless of nationality. We have a number of Scottish ministers at the moment who have presumably been chosen on merit. Unless someone wants to introduce a quota system based on ethnic origin — which would be intriguing — that is the way it should be. Instead of complaining, the English should just try harder. End of story. "
Um - this is gibberish.
1) assume voting was uniform nationally. In that case, each party would still be likely to have a disproportionate number of Scottish ministers, as there is, as ML admits, a disproportionate number of Scottish MPs (72 instead of the 59 that would otherwise be there - good for at least a couple of ministers).
2) Voting is not uniform nationally. Scotland (and Wales) are hugely anyone-but-the-Conservatives in their voting. Under Labour governments, a vastly disproportionate share of their MPs come from Scotland: conversely, the Conservatives are "English-heavy". Hence the pool of potential ministers under a Labour government is heavily biased towards the Scots, making it far more likely that they'll be picked as ministers (the converse is perhaps true under the Conservatives, though in practice the few Scots they had were given ministerial posts to cover the Scottish Office and for a "balanced" Cabinet (sounds like a quota to me....)).
3) Because Labour's Scottish seats are, generally, rather safer than their average English seat at the moment, the MPs have generally been longer serving, and hence more likely to be selected.
I.e. - having lots of Scots in ministerial posts may be a "fair" reflection of the pool available to pick ministers from in the current government. But it does not reflect the best candidates available within Parliament as a whole, inherently renders it more likely that a minister will be Scottish, and abjectly fails to address the issue that Scottish ministers are forcing through laws that won't apply in Scotland, using the backing of Scottish MPs as English MPs won't vote for the legislation.
How does Linklater attempt to deal with the problem?
"The Halifax question is slightly, but only slightly, harder to answer. A Westminster MP remains responsible for policy in all of Britain, not just part of it. The only way of circumventing the Halifax problem would be to devise a two-tier system whereby MPs would abstain on matters that did not directly concern their own constituencies. That, however, would not only be fiendishly complex to devise, but ultimately unjust: who would determine whether a piece of English legislation would have no impact, direct or indirect, on Scotland or Wales? Why should MPs, for the first time, be limited in what they speak or vote on? What about legislation that may apply to England today, but could be transferred to Scotland tomorrow? The only solution would be a federal one, with an English parliament as well, and I doubt if we are ready for that yet. "
I.e. he can't solve the problem, so declares there isn't one. This is a problem guarenteed to arise if you provide devolution in only part of a country, but that's not my fault - it's New Labour's. Perhaps they should have an answer...
"What is the logic behind a policy which gives around 70 times more subsidy to the production of sugar beet, on which some 20,000 jobs depend, than it does to capital investment in the textiles industry, which employs some 350,000? Of course, governments should not abandon struggling farmers, and there would have to be measures to avoid farmland turning into deserts. But you do not need production and export subsidies for that. Reform requires democratic pressure. Around the diplomatic table, politicians can only argue authoritatively for what their electorates want. Unless ministers are supported by strong expressions of popular will, vested interests always seem able to capture the diplomatic processes for their own ends.
So the first step must be to build a democratic mandate for ending the CAP throughout Europe and within a tight deadline. If popular opinion can be mobilised to support British ministers in driving change through the negotiating chamber, then the discussion can start about a new agricultural regime. It is time for Europe's dozing millions to wake up and scrap the CAP. "