In a world where walls were supposed to be a threatened species of building, it seems at first sight amazing how they’re proliferating now the European Union and globalist free-trade fantasies are last being outed. But it’s not amazing at all: the growing trend away from Big Free Trade to regional self-sufficiency has been under way for some time. Seeking protection from badly made robot crap is not protectionism: rather, it represents the entirely natural desire to be free of neo-colonial mass markets in favour of higher margin niches that offer decent wages and healthy product durability.
I’m not a fan of walls. I spent three months in 1965 going to and fro through the Berlin Wall, and it didn’t endear such structures to me. Apart from being appalling badly made (Hönneker’s DDR did after all build the thing in just over 15 hours) it was obviously put up to keep in the citizens Comrade Erich was desperate to keep down.
It is said that walls have ears, and under the Hönneker régime, they certainly did. The movie The Lives of Others (set in the DDR of 1980) won the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2007: had I been the one person on the voting panel, it would’ve won Best Film full stop. It is far and away the best performing arts portrayal of how innocent (but fearful) citizens become collaborating State snoopers
I quite like Walls ice cream, but to the best of my knowledge this Unilever company’s product line has never been used as a means to constrain human liberty. It does, I’ll grant you, ensure that its heavy users have no chance becoming any less heavy, but at least it gives pleasure to millions. The same could be said of walls that hold up roofs and tie in floors to make homes, but even on that dimension I’m equivocal in the good v bad debate. On the one hand, homes produce families, and families produce metaphorical walls of heart-breaking dysfunction; but on the other, 90% of Jewish humour simply wouldn’t exist without them.
The EEC was supposed to tear down walls, and in 1975 I voted enthusiastically for it. I love Greece, France, Portugal and all things positively cosmopolitan, so why not?
Forty years on when afar and asunder, the only person left who thinks walls are incontrovertibly bad is Jean-Claude Juncker. You have to make allowances for the Managing Director of Radio Luxembourg, because he utters most of his thoughts under the affluence of incahol: it can be hard to construct a persuasive argument while enduring the distraction of chronic hiccups.
JCJ (that should really be JCB, because nobody else of whom I’m aware digs such deep holes for himself) does seem, however, to have missed a horribly giggle-inducing irony: that is, while Soviet walls were designed to keep people in, Chinese, Roman, Calais and Trump Walls are designed to keep people out.
There’s a very good reason for Jean-Claude’s blindness re this one: he is still thinking in terms of a Federal Wall to keep people in, alongside an absence of walls inside the Federal Wall to keep people moving about inside the wall that keeps them in in, when on the whole they’d rather be out.
The reality is – sadly for him, but joyously for most of us – the other way round: more and more EU captives want to exit the Federal Wall, and then get gainful employment constructing their own walls to keep terrorists, pillocks and idle buggers out.
So now we have the prospect of a Trump Wall, and there is already the Calais Wall. We’re getting closer to having an Austrian Wall. After October 2nd, there is a 90% probability there will be a Hungarian Wall to go with the Macedonian Wall. It won’t be too long, I suspect, before we get a Polish Wall and a Dutch Wall. The KeepUsInners, meanwhile, are working hard on a Brexit Wall…but the tide of history is against them.
Why have we wound up with all these walls? For me, it’s almost entirely about denialism on three levels:
- That Globalism is a workable system – and barriers-down free trade is the answer to all planetary and human woes. I’m not even going to honour that duck-brained platitude beyond saying that globalism has achieved nothing beyond enslaving Asian workers, pauperising Western Workers, and turning mercantilism into a diaphanously veiled attempt to disguise War by Other Means.
- That Multiculturalism can work even if one or more elements in the society concerned refuse to sign up to a single constitutional rule of law. In the UK we have a successful multi-ethnic culture because Jewish, Chinese, Indian, Celtic, West Indian and African-Asian immigrants are happy to celebrate their traditions without forcing them upon the host nation as the only way to live. Intolerant Islamic culture refuses to do this. That refusal is driving the boom in European Walls.
- That Homo sapiens is unique among pack species in being happy to accept having its way of life overwhelmed by a deadly combination of hegemonous colonialism and antithetical religious mania.
The scientific disciplines missing in this troika of fancy are economic trade studies, egalitarian Law as the basis of social stability, and social anthropology. As I persist in banging on about, contemporary governance on Earth represents the triumph of mind-narrowing ideology over receptive scientific philosophy.
Big, global and corporate (I keep on being told) are the future: get over it.
Go in to meet any Futurology consultancy, and the one thing missing from their track record is the knack of being right about que sera sera.
The future is never an extrapolated straight line: usually, it is a series of concentric circles representing action and reaction….that’s to say, a series that goes laissez faire >> communism >> Fabian socialism >> socio-political consensus >> Left activism >> Right Friedmanism >>Deregulation >> socio-political consensus >> lost confidence in the consensus >> confrontationalism.
Throughout the West, this latest deregulated supra-national consensus is rapidly breaking down – but being dominated by a bitter row between the Old and Very Old ideologists. The new beginning is being led by the forces of devolution, regionalism, mutual entrepreneurship, and communitarian self-rule. The Jury is no so much out as utterly confused about what their verdict should be on the way forward.
Coupled with the coming Crash, I think these movements suggest that the intermediate future will at first be siege economies…not exactly suited to what the Blairites and Camerlot have left us with. But from these (I hope and suspect) will come a return to worker job fulfilment, higher margins for UK exports, and regional independence.
The fact that this isn’t going to be resolved overnight is best demonstrated by a warts and all Slogpost that wrestled with the future five and a half years ago….and has remained unedited since then. The post – from January 20th 2011 – is reproduced below as an example not just of how the future makes fools of us all, but equally how a failure to study the past is conducive to such foolishness.
I don’t apologise for any of it.
UNEMPLOYMENT: Look at the back numbers to see the real problem we face.
The current UK economic model can never work
I suppose there will have been much oohing, aahing and shaming during PMQs yesterday, although I don’t know because I never watch it any more. The hear-hears, cheers, brickbats and bouquets (if any) probably concerned the new set of unemployment figures.
“Dire” would be most people’s one-word judgement: fewer jobs, fewer full time jobs, and fewer young people’s jobs.
“And fewer claimants!” the more loony young Tories will exclaim. Except that the figures show more movement towards part-time work ‘because I can’t find full-time work’; and with the mid 1940s baby boom coming heavily on stream now, many are simply passing from working to retired – or ‘given up bothering’.
“We told you so!” the more loony old Labourites will exclaim. But what’s happening started long, long before they left office. The latest figures merely confirm the big story behind the short-term changes: too many people chasing too few jobs on a small island – and a capitalist form which isn’t generating enough new businesses.
“On yer bike” may have made sense as advice thirty years ago, but it doesn’t today. Forget the ‘unemployment’ figures and vacancies nationally: only 76% of men and 65% of women of working age are ‘eonomically active’. This is Whitehall politesse for ‘they don’t do a job’. No job of any kind. They’re not even Long Term Unemployed. They just don’t work.
The (rounded) figures from the ONS are these: 21 million people work full-time, 8 million work part-time, 8.7 million do nothing, and around 6 million are retired.
But from other ONS reports, we can see that there are just 475,000 UK job vacancies. That isn’t going to make much of a dent in 2.5 million.
As you’d expect, this figure has been dropping since 2007; but the total fall since 2002 has been 22%. Almost a quarter of all job vacancies have gone.
Arcane as this may seem, I would ask you to take a brief trip with me through the highlights of the last 160 years. There is a point to this, so be patient.
A history of squeezing more from less
In 1850 – even though Britain’s industrial revolution was miles ahead of the rest of the world – 20% of total GDP consisted of agricultural produce. By 2009, this had fallen to 0.6% – itself a drop of a quarter on the 2000 statistic.
It is estimated that some 8 million people were directly or indirectly employed in agriculture in 1850, and that virtually no everyday food was imported (by definition).
The 1871 census shows ‘a large majority of working class girls in service‘. Even twenty years later, the census shows over two million people working as servants.
All those jobs farm and household occupations have disappeared. And most of the girls in service now have ‘economic’ jobs – a trend that has impacted dramatically on employment over the last 40 years.
In 1908, under 4% of the workforce was employed by the Government. Today, estimates vary depending on agenda, but the median figure is around 40%. Only 3 in 10 UK citizens of working age today do an economically productive job.
The total UK population increase since 1911 has been around 20 million. Some 1.7 million were killed in the world wars. At 2 kids per family and average longevity, they would’ve added circa 6.4 million.
Immigration into the UK was counterbalanced by indigenous emigration until 1983, since when it has been in the region of 1.3 million net. There are around 3 million people less than there would’ve been without those wars.
In 1935, a majority of children left school at 14. Today, 44% don’t look for work until they are 21.
But capitalism as currently structured still employs a lower precentage than it did 90 years ago.
In the 1950s middle years, we had full employment. Today we have 9 million people doing nothing. Without the two massacres, the figure would be 12 million.
The bottom line is that our current economic structure cannot satisfy the employment needs of our people. So the Government pays quite a lot of people to be reasonably happy about doing nothing.
Why there are fewer jobs
1. There are more of us. 4 million people not born in the UK are employed in our economy today.
2. Mechanisation and a shift away from manual jobs. Since 1948, productivity per head of employee has risen by just over 200%. That is 6 times the figure from 1900-1948. (Put another way, far fewer employees are required to get things done today).
3. Since 1960, 4.5 million manufacturing jobs have disappeared. In 1960, 36% of us made or sold manufactured stuff. Today just 14% of us do. The killer fact here is that the fall curve becomes a steep cliff after 1980. The shift from manufacturing to financial and marketing services has killed millions of semi-skilled vacancies
4. An appalling physical exports performance which has seen our share fall in every single major world market with the exception of some hitech and financial service niches.
5. Working women. 13.5 million women work full or part-time in the British economy.
Why we are not economically viable any more
1. A vast increase in work-related welfare and HS&E requirements: paid-for maternity and paternity leave, job seekers allowance, holiday entitlements, special equipment and other ‘must haves’ dictated by quangos with no proper commercial perspective.
2. An ageing population requiring State pensions, and living longer to require care home help.
3. A massive bailout of the banking system which replaced much of lost manufacturing, added to which was the acceptance of bank debt as a taxpayer liability. This has added roughly 40% to the National Debt since 2007.
3. A huge (and unlegislated) rise in the Civil Service pension liabilities since 2006 – estimated last year at £1.1 trillion.
4. For several decades now, a growing proportion of the population below 65 contributing nothing.
5. Latterly, rising unemployment benefits.
6. Latterly, rising import costs – thanks to a falling Pound…thanks to the bank bailout. And also, it has to be said, the rise of multiple supermarkets supplying a rising desire for overseas food…..and the gradual neglect of our agricultural base.
7. Latterly, rising borrowing costs – thanks to the size of our debt rising….thanks to the bank bailout.
8. Since the mid-1970s, the increasing cost of EU membership. All up this totalled £118 billion in 2010, and yet we have a trade gap with our European partners.
We aren’t exactly helping ourselves
Fewer jobs and rising expenses might seem to be the story of the last few months, but the truth is it’s been the recurrent theme of the last five decades. However, the pace of change in an entirely negative direction started accelerating after 1980, and coincided with the mass hypnotic delusion otherwise known as Thatcherite free-market Josephism.
Under this entirely crazy view of economics, social care is eroded and education neglected. Infrastructure is sold off into private hands, or contracted out. Shareholders and machines come before citizens. And inequities of wealth soar…although the very poor are technically wealthier than they were before – which must be a great comfort to them, given that 0 x 2 equals 0.
By 2009, everyone and everything were being supported economically by about a sixth of the population….and as the real economy shrank and a world recession loomed, it seemed obvious that the only recourse was to:
reduce dependence rapidly upon financial services,
stop all immigration immediately,
get out of the EU,
force the banks to lend to smaller businesses,
stop paying bankers preposterous bonuses,
stop selling land to community-destroying multiple supermarkets,
invest more in agriculture and increase the acreage used for it.
But the Government is doing none of these things. And that’s the first point of significance to take out of today’s ONS unemployment statistics.
The second point is much bigger: given the physical living space we have, the role afforded to government, the potential cost and doubtful returns of risk banking, and the falling Pound, only a manufacturing and agriculture led drive to pay our way out of this stands even the ghost of a chance of success.
If we reduced the role of government, of course, things would get a lot easier. But the Coalition isn’t doing that either (at least, not with any success) and if they tried to, the Mandarins would have them shot by MI6.
Anyone with the energy and ambition to do something about this thus has a colossal job on their hands; and bear in mind, this analysis only looks at the economic and demographic problems. To achieve the goal of national regeneration, events have to re-educate a massive number of hopelessly dependent people, and a whole new political Establishment has to emerge from somewhere. This new elite would then have to devolve power, break up the banks, reform the economy and pay off the debt.
If one is realistic about this, nothing short of a massive econo-fiscal crash – which winds up questioning every polemic and most of our values – is going to create the environment in which it can happen. I remain firmly convinced that Crash 2 is coming, chiefly because there is not the urgency, intelligence or motivation to stop it: the financial and governmental oligarchies are now so out of touch, intertwined and mutually dependent, they have become an ancien regime which sees the rest of us as irritating sans culottes getting in the way.
It is this sort of outlook which makes me, to say the least, equivocal about the Coalition. I’d like to see them succeed, because I have a learned fear of anything that involves Year Zero. But the complacency of the Government (and the uncaring amorality of financiers) have created a highly combustible catalyst. It’s hard to see a way in which it can be rendered safe.