Thursday, 15 August 2013

Bandits vs aliens

For me the working papers churned out by the Karel Williams crew based at the Manchester University Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change, setting aside the pointless sociologese chat, constitute the most significant critical analysis of modern Britain available today. I mean for one thing they figure large amongst the teeny minority of lefties, liberals and sociologists who actually have a reaonable grasp of finance.

More importantly they use that to generate a whole slew of insights into practical political and economic matters. So its easy to say I enjoyed their latest paper on elites in modern Britain. One wee thing I reckon is they could have done with articulating how these elites position themselves with regards to the state and for political purposes come up with some justifiable, but deliberately pejorative titles for said elites (hence the title of this post).

They talk about finance, I reckon we should talk about aliens. Helpfully, they chart how over time manufacturing’s importance, in terms of Britain’s biggest companies, has reduced. I think this matters a lot because of what it means about how elites relate to specific locations.

Here, a hypothetical example to illustrate what I mean; in the past a big Coventry based car maker was bothered about the quantity and quality of local supply chain companies to be sure, but also had a vested interest in the associated infrastructure, like the schools, roads, sanitation and so on, basically all the things it needed to ensure a continuous, 9 to 5 supply of adequately skilled labour.

By contrast a London based financial elite don’t give a shit. As we’re continually told they recruit labour from a global market, so if London schools are crap, who cares, they’ll just ship in some Frenchmen (and of course there’s the rarely mentioned importance of British private schools and elite universities when it comes to churning out the raw materials investment banks need to get by).

So for the financial elite, state welfare, state education and so on is an irrelevance not least because the wages are so high their staff simply buys in private provision of whatever it is they need. Also, unlike the Coventry carmaker, investment banking is primarily about banks trading with other banks i.e. they don’t give a damn about actual consumers. Like, median wages rise or fall? Who cares, it don’t mean shit in terms of derivative contract sales.

In these kind of ways investment banking is at a remove from i.e. is alien to and has alienated itself from the rest of Britain. Basically, as long as London continues to attract enough migrant labour willing to serve investment bankers coffee for hee haw an hour, then they’re OK and the rest of the UK can go raffle.

That’s the aliens, what about the bandits? Well, that’s the outsourced from the puiblic sector companies that is. Now, you could call them parasites I guess, however, the criminality associated with them makes bandits more appropriate as a name I reckon given stuff like G4S and its tagging shenanigans and her who advised the government on getting people back into work and all the shenanigans her business got/gets up to.

Now this lot do care about the state because it i.e. us, is what pays for their holiday homes, tasteless executive villas, range rovers and what not. And their big thang is as follows – cheap, cheap, cheap-ity cheap labour. There, that’s it, that’s all they want (or what they and politicians call “private sector efficiencies”). Like is your prison staffed by trained and competent staff? Feck, that, lets get in some casual labour on the cheap and cut costs (oops, suicide and violence rates go up). What about your granny, is she in a home being looked after by well trained and competent staff? Again feck that, lets get in a Polish teenager and some local who has difficulty counting to ten even with her fingers cos they're cheap and means the company can undercut the public sector alternative and still make a fat profit. And oh dear, did we just fail that last inspection? Who cares because the politicians have such a vested interest in it all they’ll gloss it over.  

And yeah the aliens and bandits do go together. The aliens like the notion of outsourcing because it might create some new opportunities for financial engineering (as in we’re tip toeing to a place where private companies eventually run the school system), while the associated spending cuts lessen the pressure to actually tax them fairly. Similarly, the bandits like the sales pitches the aliens give them about how this or that bit of fancy financing could make them millionaires and also their hurrumphs of support for more outsourcing.

So yeah, rather than an elites or executives, or financiers or what not I reckon we should talk about bandits and aliens.

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