Worst Performing Ministers 45


It is today announced that the 200 “worst performing” primary schools are to be handed over to the private sector to run.

We recall from his second-home flipping expenses dodges that Gove is a man very keen on private gain. But this ideologically driven lunacy must stop. The subjective notion of “worse performing schools” will, more than any other factor, be found to depend on the home environment and, bluntly, family income, housing conditions and level of education from which the children come. Handing over 100,000 of our most disadvantaged schoolchildren to be practised upon by rich individuals with nutty religious backgrounds, is an abomination.

This will also deliver a great deal of cash from the Lib Dems trumpeted “Pupil premium” for schools with disadvantaged children, into the private sector.

This is an utter disgrace. If she has any honour at all, Sarah Teather must resign immediately (she is one of my Facebook friends. I shall send her a message saying that).


45 thoughts on “Worst Performing Ministers

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  • mary

    Ha!

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  • technicolour

    jon, great posts, thanks.

    it is nice to have the occasional 5 mins to switch on my mind in between work.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Yes, the exchange b/w jon, angrysoba and Duncan was superb. Technicolour, you have a brilliant, questioning and humorous mind, so it’s lovely to ‘see’ you whenever you are able to drop in.

  • Jon

    Thanks, Technicolour and Suhayl; trust you’re both well.
    .
    One of the things that popped into my head since writing my last post is how the media inadvertently generally treats anti-capitalist views. A really good example is a BBC interview programme called “Hardtalk”, broadcast in August 2010. In it, political journalist Sarah Montague for the Beeb talks to David Harvey, a Marxist professor based in New York, about why he believes capitalism must be overthrown. She is attentive, and asks good questions, but there is a feint air of embarrassment in her questions, as if it is quite plain her interviewee is mad, or that she regards his radicalism as childish. It’s not an obvious bias, but I contend it is there.
    .
    It’s still available on iPlayer (and YouTube) if anyone wants to take a look:
    .
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00scbd2/HARDtalk_David_Harvey_Marxist_Academic/

  • ingo

    We have tried most political ideas, not all to their manifested intent, what we seem to have a problem with, due to the undue influence of powerfull palyers and vested interests, is pragmatism.
    I’d like to see politicians dare to work with previous administrations and carry on the work already done. To forever kick over the bucket because it was filled by someone with righ/leftwing views, costing us much wasted effort, energy and time, not to speak of money, is a futile and backward undertaking. Confrontational politics, as much as we love a good ding dong, is detrimental to the nations pockets and interests in the long term.

    So at election time we should be looking at those with cross party solutions who can work with each other, not become another parties breakfast. Ideally for that to happen a rapport should exist before an election, voters should be presented with a detailed agreed policy plan, not subjected to false promises and ideas nobody can be held to afterwards.

    Thanks Angry, Jon and Duncan, good debate.

    My most heartfelt condolences to Brian Haws unduly demise today. I knew for some time that he was ill and the authorities actions over the last few years did not help to limit his stress one little bit.
    We all owe him respect for his determination and his principles, showing spineless politicians on a daily basis that thousands of innocent Iraqi’s could not possibly agree with the expediency and arselicking by UK politicians of US war dogs.
    He held up a Mirror to Blair every time he left for home. I hope that no politician will be allowed at his funeral, not one of them should sully or use his memory for their political point scoring, because they all have used him when he was alive, left right and center. RIP Brian. I shall light a candle tonight in your memory.

    19th. of June should be remembered as ‘Iraq’s innocent death day’, it would please him no end. A plaque in the right place, or a statue of him in memorial are all options I would support, the man was a mountain.

  • angrysoba

    Thanks Jon, I’ll look into those people and their ideas that you mentioned. Sounds interesting. I must admit that it will be something of an effort to watch Michael Moore with an open mind though. I went into both Bowling for Columbine and Farhenheit 9/11 expecting all my anti-Bush and anti-Republican prejudices confirmed and came away from both films wondering what on Earth was Moore’s point.

    • Jon

      No problem. The basis of anti-capitalism of course does not rest on whether Michael Moore is any good, or whether one likes him; but in general I think he presents politics in the necessary populist form to get “ordinary” and “apolitical” people involved, and to encourage them to feel less disenfranchised.

    • Jon

      One other point that surfaces for me, which I think is relevant and interesting. Chomsky has much to say about how involved ordinary people are in politics, and how a country should be run. If you listen to some of his teach-ins (widely available on the internet) he likes to make the point that the capitalist and political classes like to assume that “ordinary” people do not have the mental abilities to run an economy, or to understand how the machinery of Capitol Hill works in practice.
      .
      In reality, this widely-held societal assumption is what holds ordinary people back in the first place. Chomsky cites as evidence the swathes of blue collar workers who telephone into US sports radio talk shows whose knowledge about, say, baseball, is nothing short of encyclopaedic, and yet of course these people are sneered at by the elite classes and regarded as stupid. Interestingly, they will tear strips off a team owner who kept the best batsman on the bench, but they’d never lay into a politician the same way. There is nothing stopping them doing the latter, of course, except for a powerful propaganda that encourages them to believe they can’t understand politics, or that it should be left to the experts.

  • evgueni

    Ah, capitalism versus socialism – I think I have got this figured out. I’ve had a taste of both which prompted me to question the idea that a choice between the two must be made. This is a false dichotomy I believe, but we humans like to reduce everything to such simple choices. Perhaps proponents of both capitalism and socialism have grasped and choose to focus on parts of the truth – respectively that perfect markets do work very well for the benefit of all, and that markets are rarely perfect and this leads to unfair outcomes.

    Perfect markets can establish themselves spontaneously – e.g. from personal experience the central food market in Odessa. The reason it is ‘perfect’ is that for any type of item on sale there are numerous competing sellers with reputations to maintain, no realistic prospect of seller collusion or a monopoly situation emerging, and also because there is no information gap between sellers and buyers – after all everyone understands food and the produce is on display and can be sampled before it is bought. In such a market, Adam Smith rules. John Kay explains this well in his “Truth About Markets..” He also explains and gives examples of imperfect and therefore unfair markets, e.g. used car market where the information asymmetry – seller knows everything about the car, buyer very little – makes it a very imperfect market indeed. Other examples of severely imperfect markets include the private medical insurance market – it suffers from ‘adverse selection’, a positive feedback mechanism that tends to price out all but the most wealthy. Monopoly markets are the most obviously imperfect markets, and lead to the most unfair outcomes. But once the imperfection is understood, remedies can in principle be implemented. Sellers can be legally bound to disclose information to buyers, health insurance can be made affordable by making it compulsory (e.g. NI in UK and private med ins in CH), natural monopolies can be regulated etc. The reasons that imperfect markets remain unremedied are not to do with capitalism. They are to do with who is in control, i.e. with how democratic the society is (bear with me)..
    .
    Superficially, it may seem conclusive that markets generally tend to fail the fairness test and hence capitalism is inherently flawed. The simplistic false dichotomy thinking may then lead to abandonment of all fundamentals of capitalism and we arrive at the ideas of socialism – at denying private ownership of the means of production, at wealth redistribution through taxation, at central provision and planning by the state etc. The baby that is thrown out with the bath water is competition – that which brings prices down and/or quality up, that drives innovation, that dynamically allocates resources – the original meaning of ‘the invisible hand’.
    .
    So what is the third way that neither abandons what is good in capitalism, nor gives up the principle of fairness that is central to socialist thinking? I am convinced that the key is democracy, of the true kind that everyone can figure out for themselves from first principles – i.e. “people rule”. I am afraid that what we are indoctrinated from childhood to think of as democracy, scores in reality only about 1 on the scale from despotism (0) to true democracy (say 10). True democracy is about individual sovereignty, it is about individuals being able to come together in communities at every level including at state level and decide on any aspect of how they govern themselves, if they so wish. In a true democracy, the entire electorate is able to participate directly in a decision on any issue, including re-writing the basic laws (note ‘able, if they so wish’ and not ‘obliged’). How far are we from that in our ‘democracies’? For the most part we are lucky to be asked once in a blue moon to legitimise a decision such as joining the EU or some such, in a plebiscite – meaning we do not choose the question nor control the timing (it is almost the opposite of a referendum). Switzerland, the most advanced democracy to date, scores perhaps a 5 on such a democracy scale. Why only 5, despite the rights of Initiative & Referendum at every level of Swiss society? That is my next point, but here are two texts on democracy that I can recommend highly:
    By John F. Knutsen http://www.basiclaw.net/WorkingPapers/Blueprint1992.pdf
    by Verhulst/Nijeboer http://www.democracy-international.org/book-direct-democracy.html
    .
    It is plainly meaningless to speak of functioning democracy of even the most advanced kind without information being freely available to its people. With zero information any choices at the ballot box are mere random guesses. Clearly information is key and this is where true power lies. Those in control of information are able in perpetuity to maintain blind spots in the public imagination. There is no censorship as insidious as censorship by omission, obfuscation, confusion. Chomsky & Herman describe lucidly how this works in their Propaganda Model (Manufacturing Consent). The grim beauty of the Propaganda Model is that it correctly predicts its own complete exclusion from the spectrum of permissible discussion in the media.. The result is that we are prevented by our media from understanding just how flawed our media are – neat! The Swiss therefore have the power to remedy the problem – in principle, but in practice lack the awareness that the problem exists. They have fixed the problem of overt bias by obliging their media to provide equal space/time to all sides of an existing political debate. But they do not know, and are prevented from knowing of the potential for bias by omission. They are not aware therefore of what political debates could be taking place if the excluded ideas were allowed to be aired.
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    So what are the blind spots, these dangerous ideas? Here is my take.
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    The most important of all – as mentioned above, a critical discussion of the serious flaws in our ‘democracy’ and the serious flaws in the news media as they exist today. Forget ‘PR vs FPTP’ or Lords reform – these are no more than tweaks to a system that is otherwise fundamentally stacked against us. Forget diversity of ownership of the media, it is a distraction – private ownership and profit motive are the problems.
    .
    The idea that private ownership of land and the natural resources therein is unjust and unjustifiable. Land is fundamentally different from any other type of property. Really this is crucial to understand – private land ownership is the fundamental means by which most of the wealth is redistributed from the wealth-producing majority to the rentier class. If you haven’t yet read Henry George’s Progress and Poverty then you must (available on the web in PDF format as well as in paperback).
    .
    The idea that our means of exchange, the money supply, the legal tender – is our property in common and should not be privatised instead for the benefit of the private banking sector as is currently the case. The stakes are also very high here because the privilege to create the money supply is a way of siphoning off enormous amounts of wealth from the productive economy. Just google Monetary Reform, or Money As Debt, or Fractional Reserve Banking. E.g. see here http://www.jamesrobertson.com/index.htm
    .
    The idea that the workplace should be democratic.
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    I think that once true democracy is established and the media are restructured to serve the interests of the people, society will converge toward something that looks remarkably socialist in its outcomes and yet very capitalist in the way it makes use of the market mechanisms – enforcing perfect markets where appropriate for the benefit of the majority. When I first arrived in Switzerland, this was already apparent to me and I was struck by the thought that here was a good approximation to the kind of affluent socialism that had eluded us in the USSR!

    • Jon

      @evgueni – totally agree that it isn’t “one or the other” and I tried to reflect that in my post. Plenty of experimentation is required, as I say, though I fear capitalism (or capitalism’s actors, if you like) will oppose it.
      .
      Yes to more democracy, and that will certainly help – I mentioned the parlous state of the media specifically, of course. But the reason why I am disinclined to think the new system ought have a competitive element is for the reasons I’ve previously given – this is the element that overthrows effective regulation over the long term, and so encourages the system to eat itself.
      .
      I expect I will post more on this, but it is late and my ‘net connection is presently quite unreliable!

      • evgueni

        Jon,
        thanks for engaging, and I will apologise now for being intermittent – my genes have just recently successfully replicated for the second time. Child number two has a good pair of lungs on her and a good appetite 🙂 Between her demands and those of our 3 year old, there is not much time left for leisure!
        .
        I happen to think that a competitive element in business is strictly necessary to counter complacency and drive standards and innovation. I mean this in the context of fair competition, on a ‘level playing field’ which must of course be enforced if necessary. For such enforcement of fair competition to be maintained indefinitely, I think two things are necessary. One is a widespread public understanding of the dangers of not having fair competition – this I reckon everybody knows instinctively anyway. The other is the ability of the electorate to act on this understanding, and this is what is lacking in any system of governance that is short on direct democracy. Even if we vote a party into office on the single promise of eradicating unfair business practices – this intention will get subverted once the new representatives are in office. The stakes are so high! Such is human nature, Adam Smith was at pains to point it out when he wrote about people ‘of the same trade’ meeting together and the conversation inevitably turning to ‘a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices’. I can think of no effective counter-measure to this tendency to (what economists term) ‘rent-seeking behaviour’, other than to ensure that the majority is always empowered to constrain any minority from gaining an unfair advantage – this means maximum democracy.
        .
        But, this is just what I think, personally. Under a direct democratic system of governance I would be surrendering my personal preferences and accepting the collective preferences of the community to which I belong – on all levels from local to national. This is crucial to understand – once popular sovereignty is assured in practice instead of only in rhetoric, all ideologies become irrelevant. Every decision arrived at in parliament can be reversed by the electorate, every decision arrived at in a referendum can be reversed via an initiative – if the decision proves unpopular in the end. This is only untrue for one possible decision – if the electorate voluntarily surrenders popular sovereignty in favour of reverting back to some less democratic form of government. I do not believe we are collectively that daft. But also there is plenty of evidence already from places where direct democracy is practiced. I personally find the book by Jos Verhulst and Arjen Nijeboer eye-opening and inspiring, precisely because they give real-life examples that destroy the counter-arguments to direct democracy.

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