Odds and sods

Sanity in politics?

Perhaps there is some sanity in parts of the Anglosphere. Well at least the beginning of it. Both parties in the UK, mainly Labour but also the Tories, have finally woken up to the fact that Germany might be a good source of information about how to run a successful economy.

For much of the past few decades the conventional wisdom in the US, the UK, Australia (and some places like Chile under Pinochet) was about the unparalleled benefits of de-regulation, encouraging the finance sector and generally behaving as if Hayek and Thatcher were not a theorist and politician respectively but the author of a sacred text and a messiah come to proclaim it. However, according to de Spiegel there is a growing interest in the UK about what they have got right in Germany. The following was published before the recent Queen’s Speech, which seems to have been concept tested in a few bars full of tweedy men and horsey women somewhere in the Home Counties, but it might be an indicator of a new approach.  http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/britain-increasingly-regarding-germany-as-an-economic-role-model-a-898399.html

Of course there are problems in Germany too – witness the following – http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/report-cites-rise-in-low-wage-workers-dependent-on-welfare-benefits-a-898693.html. although this is probably a minor problem compared to the UK’s youth unemployment catastrophe. And apparently it’s also considered a problem, in Germany at least, that Angela Merkel has been practising a bit of Anglosphere political campaigning.http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/merkel-employs-strategy-of-token-politics-in-german-election-campaign-a-898835.html.  Oh, if only that was the worst political problem we had?

The media again

Spiegel also has some insights into something the Anglosphere is getting good at – using modern image manipulation techniques to enhance or alter – media images. In Australia it is a specialisation of the tabloids when they want to ridicule or further undermine Julia Gillard although they frequently carefully stay on the borderline of accepted codes of conduct by mixing the images with some cartoonish elements. But elsewhere in the world people worry about these things as Spiegel shows again. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/growing-concern-that-news-photos-are-being-excessively-manipulated-a-898509.html

Apologies and the Right: part two

On April 28 the blog discussed the Right’s (and some of the Left’s) denigration of opponents and the difficulty the Right has in saying sorry. Historian Niall Ferguson demonstrated both this week with his comments about Keynes. He has sort of apologised for his sexist, historically inaccurate, offensive and derogatory comments but also took the opportunity to savage Keynes’ policies while doing so. Apparently, according to Ferguson, as well as being gay and childless Keynes’ theories and policies have caused the boom and busts the world has seen over the past 80 odd years. So much, apparently, for the business cycle; so much for any inherent contradictions in capitalism; and, so much for what the world is currently experiencing as a result of the 1980s and 1990s financial de-regulation.  But then Ferguson has form: while he denigrated Keynes he has also praised Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, as a highly intelligent near political genius who would save the US and ensure Romney won the last election.  Historians have the benefit of hindsight, even if they get the past wrong from to time as Ferguson did on this one, but it is very unfortunate when they also end up getting into the prediction business and being wrong as often as economists are. Others have also pointed out the slightly embarrassing situation Ferguson finds himself in talking about family values but, while you may well think that, the blog couldn’t possibly comment.

And speaking of historians, just imagine how happy Stalin’s historians would have been to have had the image shaping technology (see above) to help the photo doctoring that followed the Old Bolshevik purges.