Anglosphere attitudes towards work and a new economic model

The nature and impact of financial issues

Anglosphere attitudes towards work and a new economic model

Postby Charlie » 24 Aug 2013, 17:47

I would like to look at two things:

1. The way in which many parts of the Anglosphere (and beyond) seem to view higher education and work
2. Our present economic model

I feel that there is a link between both of them and I hope at least to give you something to ponder over and reflect upon.

Anglosphere attitudes towards education and work:

Having read a recent Telegraph article about skilled graduates who were unable to find work, as usual, I went to the comments at the bottom. The message from most readers seemed pretty unanimous:

Tough. Your qualifications are worthless (in this case, 'Classical Studies' and an MA in 'Classical Art and Archaeology') - you should have studied engineering or science.


It seems difficult to disagree. We know that too many people go to University, that there are not enough jobs for young people, that the debts do not seem to justify the courses and yes, that there are some subjects out there which most people would consider of little or no worth and which serve only to keep certain academics in well-paid work.

At the same time, the Telegraph comments reminded me of something Caleb said in another thread:

I think there's a certain anti-intellectual current that runs through the Anglosphere generally. I think, in a certain sense, the English people (I extend this to those of their former colonies) are fairly practical. Something is considered good and justifiable if it makes money or produces something tangible. I don't think it's accidental that so many scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs come from the English speaking world.


I think that's spot on - it certainly is no wonder that the English speaking world has produced "so many scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs", and there is of course a huge amount to admire about that; that much seems obvious. On the other hand, some of those Telegraph comments made me think:

What kind of society is it which thinks that 'Classical Studies' and 'Classical Art and Archaeology' (to name but two subjects) are completely worthless?


It's true that, at present, such disciplines will not get you a job, but those young people in the article were not part of the unemployable underclass. Au contraire, they seemed like people who, to my judgement at least, had worked hard and dedicated themselves to high culture and history. Are we then to say that the subjects they've studied are of no value whatsoever? And are we to say that such people don't deserve a job in their particular field? No one in his right mind would demand a top level role immediately and a fat wage packet to go with it, but have we not failed on some level as a society if we're unable to find room for those who are dedicated to at least preserving, divulging and celebrating (high) culture and history? To put it another way, I hate the thought of a society in which the arts and history - again, to name but two fields - are denigrated completely or isolated due to economics.

From a purely economic point of view, why should, say, a classical musician invest 10,000 hours of his time learning to play the violin or the piano to such a level that allows him to play some of the finest music ever composed, or even compose his own? Under the current economic system, he won’t make any money. Indeed, you can just imagine what the typical Anglosphere commentator would say: "He should have done a proper degree", "Just keep the music as a hobby", "That's what you get if you study an arty-farty degree of no worth" etc.

But really, should learning how to play Mozart or Chopin properly be of no (economic) value? Should such disciplines just be kept as a hobby? There's something about that which doesn't feel right to me…

We know all about the value of (high) culture and the importance of history; in short, we know that these things matter a lot. Yet Anglosphere thought at present - that's if The Telegraph's comments are anything to go by - only seems to value engineering and science; not just because those subjects are of great importance, but because they guarantee work under the present economic model. It seems to me, however, that they've lost sight of the fact that other disciplines do have their uses. But one can say that, under our current economic model, the businessman and the engineer are worth far more than the artist and historian. If, for example, the art world was summed up and defined by Damien Hirst, I'm sure that we'd all be happy to give it a good kicking, but that's not the case.

Let me just say that I do consider engineering and science to be extremely important, and I would indeed like to think that many people were employed in such areas here in the UK. Nevertheless, I feel that the commentators underneath The Telegraph article were only looking at the micro and failing completely to see the macro, which brings me to the next subject:

A new economic model:

Among all the comments underneath that article, one in particular caught my attention - let me quote it here:

If you are going to do a degree in something arty, like music or classical studies and your daddy doesn't have any connections, then train to be a teacher because there is nothing else for you these days.

That said, things are only going to get worse for everyone because 1) technology is replacing many jobs. Not only are manual tasks being automated, many jobs that require decision-making are going the same way. 2) anything that can be outsourced to a third world country will be and 3) there are many unscrupulous employers who only advertise their positions in third world countries.

Apprenticeships are constantly being promoted as an alternative to university. In the past, they were. You could learn trade and have a good, but not spectacular, income for life. Now all you'll be doing is learning something that doesn't pay any money because you will be competing for work with a vast amount of labour from overseas. You will be underemployed and live an itinerant life.

The truth is, thanks to crazed globalisation policies and technological advances, there will be less and less (sic) jobs to go round in the future. This is permanent. Mass employment will become a thing of the past, especially when the public sector is cut back as this absorbs people who are surplus to the private sector. We will have to design a new economic model that will allow the tens of millions of unemployed that will exist in the near future (10-20 years) to feed, clothe and house themselves without a job.


I don't know how true these remarks are when applied to the present and I don't think that anyone can say for certain how prescient or accurate they will turn out to be in the future, but to me, there seems to be at least a ring of truth to them. For example, as far as points 1) and 2) are concerned, in my own field - translation - there are those who seem determined to automate the whole process (yes, I know MT has plenty of uses) and thus do themselves and others out of a job. Thankfully, I don’t believe we’ll ever completely reach that point. Can you imagine a computer translating, say, a book by Mark Twain or Jorge Luis Borges (or even just a plain old David Beckham autobiography) into perfect French or Japanese? No, neither can I....¡Por suerte!

As for this commentator's vision of a future economy, I don’t like it at all (who would?), but it once again made me think about the baby-boomers' legacy, where we're heading as a society and what a new economic model could or would look like. It’s one thing having an unemployable underclass, but what about the shrinking middle class too? When they come unstuck that will surely be the moment when the current system comes apart...

But what about an alternative? Will a new set of ideas come along which even dare to consider an alternative to (crony) capitalism? And what would stop such ideas from descending into liberal lefty oblivion? All but the ideologically obstinate and the stupid know that communism failed, as did socialism, but who is confident enough to guarantee that our western (crony) capitalist system will not end up on the heap too? We know that what we think of as “western society”, which is of course largely Anglophone, is failing on so many levels.

If I think about the type of system I’d like to live under, would I be wrong for thinking that it would be decent and just for those who have dedicated themselves to noble arts, fields and disciplines across the board to be decently remunerated for their hard-work? Could we not live in a society which values the hard-working businessman and the diligent classical musician? Am I being naïve and idealistic? Certainly, but once the baby boomers are no longer with us, someone will have to take the reins. I just hope that any new ideas are better than those of the baby boomers and the soixante-huitards etc...

Because look how they screwed it up...

I'll leave it there. Ok, it would be nice to know what you think.
Charlie
 
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Re: Anglosphere attitudes towards work and a new economic model

Postby Paul » 24 Aug 2013, 19:34

A thoughtful post there.

There's a big dilemma, has been for some time and set to continue and increase.

There are too many people for the jobs available, even in our complex and modern society. Machines do most of the work, in ever-increasing amounts and have been doing for 150 years plus.

This was the idea all along, a utopian vision, that eventually Man would be free from back-breaking and then even monotonous toil and a machine would be available for almost everything that needed to be done. All that Man would need to do is pursue his hobbies and preferences - arts and music for example. The Man who first invented the wheel might have thought along these lines somewhat, if he was perceptive. And what's wrong with the vision anyway? It sounds great - very advanced and civilised.

By my time (childhood, in the now faraway 1960s) this seemed almost to have been achieved. I watched Neil Armstrong step on the moon on grainy TV at infant school. (If it happened today the graphics would be astounding). We were in the Space Age, having already conquered the airspace on Earth and we were beaming pictures and sounds around the world. We had electricity flowing out of sockets in the walls, a motor car outside the house - all things we knew were incomprehensible just 100 years previously. Imagine what a Roman Emperor would think of our lives - he would be dumbfounded. Surely now, it would just be a matter of time to utopia.......?

And this is before we envisoned any of the computer age. How remarkable has that been? If we had known that, I would have envisoned my life now as work-free (if i wanted it), hobby-full, clean and pleasant and everyone in a state of comfortable affluence. -at least in this country. The rest of the world would meanwhile be catching up and happy enough with their own remarkble progress. In fact this is what we were told at school, even at college as late as 1980. One day soon, machines (and now computers as the controllers) will do almost everything and we will be free to pursue higher ideals and enrich society that way.

What has gone wrong? We can argue about the unemployed and benefits and who bears the cost but it is unavoidable and set to increase. (I'm not talking about the underclass - that's a cultural thing (tragic because they do have the time) - but about the unemployed on an economic basis)

Why does it cause so much divide? Again, this was and is the goal of all Mankind - to reduce his burden on Earth and enjoy a more pleasant life, aside from a daily struggle for mere survival. We have done it collectively and for 100 centuries and this is now where we're at. It's not been achived at a uniform rate across society and is hardly likely to have been. But, if all the unemployed had been steered into cultural pursuits and denied low culture material, would not then the tax-paying employed be more amenable towards them, particularly if they culturally enriched the community?

An idealogical dream of course. Mankind isn't like that. For all our brilliance, we are fallen. We have achieved in most part what we set out to do, have followed our curious and inventive nature (have been unable to do otherwise) but still cannot behave towards each other and within our own lives.

I enjoyed reading this, which I threaded on here.

http://www.freecriticalthinking.org/cou ... ittee-1933
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Re: Anglosphere attitudes towards work and a new economic model

Postby Charlie » 25 Aug 2013, 10:02

Thanks for the reply Paul.

I'm not sure why no one had responded to your thread before...

Well, I'm working my way through the text now. Like you, I'll take it in bits, but so far I'm definitely getting that "nothing new under the sun" feeling.

An idealogical dream of course. For all our brilliance, we are fallen. We have achieved in most part what we set out to do, have followed our curious and inventive nature (have been unable to do otherwise) but still cannot behave towards each other and within our own lives.


Absolutely, and that is one of Theodore Dalrymple's main themes, isn't it?

In fact this is one thing I'd like to talk to Dalrymple about: the conservative can see the danger of ideological thinking and the utopian vision, but how far can you take that? We have to work within our limitations, obviously, but doesn't the conservative need a few idealistic ideas too?

It would be interesting to find out what he thought about that. It would be great to find out what people here think too.
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Re: Anglosphere attitudes towards work and a new economic model

Postby Caleb » 27 Aug 2013, 02:22

Charlie: Regarding higher education, it's diploma mills these days. I am of several minds about many degrees. On the one hand, I think that it is good that people get exposed to higher education, even if it isn't as good as it once was and they take little from it. Something is better than nothing, I suppose. That said, the solution to that would seem to be twofold. Firstly, improve the quality of university education generally. Secondly, many people wouldn't need to end up doing a degree (including a graduate degree) if high school education wasn't so absolutely shoddy. I went to a private school, but the only thing we ever read in English class that might be considered part of the Western Canon was Macbeth. That was absolutely it. I should not have had to go to university to learn of the existence of Homer or Aristotle. Maybe I, or anyone else, might have gone on to university anyway. However, on the whole, just having a decent secondary school system would probably eliminate the need for a lot of higher education. People could be well educated and cultured without having to spend half their twenties in further education and amassing an enormous amount of debt. My previous sentence is probably where I think we have got things completely wrong. The cost has been enormous and the outcomes have been absolutely dismal. We could perhaps justify low cost with low outcomes, or high cost with high outcomes. Ideally we'd get low cost with high outcomes. We seem to have got the worst of both.

There used to be value in what Americans call liberal arts degrees and people could get good white collar jobs afterwards because they acquired certain skills (that have been completely dumbed down and overproduced now). Not everyone could become an engineer even if they wanted to anyway. Twenty five percent of degrees awarded in Taiwan are engineering degrees. Yet the economy here has largely stagnated for the past decade, plenty of those people (let alone people with other degrees) can't get (well paying) jobs in their field, and many of those who do have to live in China to do so. Let's say that everyone in North America, the E.U., etc. did suddenly do a STEM degree. Would there be anywhere near enough work in STEM fields? I doubt there would be. They might be able to get work in other fields, but then that begs the question of why a STEM degree would be the be all and end all if someone with a STEM degree and someone with a humanities degree ended up doing the same job eventually. Many jobs don't require really technical knowledge, and many jobs involve massive amounts of on the job learning. A friend of mine from university was studying commerce and people in his course were told that what they learnt at university would get them six weeks into any job.

The way degrees and work relate to each other then are largely about gate keeping. People want to see that you've been able to play the game. They don't want to see that you've failed at it and left school at sixteen. They want to see that you've been jumping through ever more ridiculous hoops because they take that as a proxy for many things, a very important one of which is that someone can exist within an institution and play by someone else's rules. Because a lot of what kids learn in school or university is equally as pointless as what they will do in a company. That is entirely the point though.

This will have to sort itself out eventually because it's a completely unsustainable model. How it sorts itself out may not be good (e.g. collapse of the middle class, enormous levels of personal debt, massive wealth disparity and entrenchment thereof).

On the topic of the economic model, I think what you quoted is probably correct. We may even be at the point already where many people are simply engaging in make work projects. Mitt Romney famously got in trouble for comments about the 47% of Americans who do not pay taxes. The problem is probably far worse than that though. There are probably vast numbers of people who earn so little money but still draw benefits from the government (we might argue that the government is really inefficient at delivering services and so the cost of benefits is overstated, but that's a whole other discussion) that not only do the benefits they receive outweigh the tax they pay into the system, but the benefits they receive actually outweigh their contribution not just to the taxation system but to the private sector economy also.

To put it another way, there may be someone who is employable in a particular company who is so marginally competent and productive, that even if he or she does the job well enough and breaks even or a little better in terms of screw ups and so on, that may not be a true reflection of his or her worth to a company. Once everything from the cost of professional development, compliance with workplace safety laws, the value of the time of managers in constantly monitoring the employee, the cost of the office space the person occupies, even right down to the depreciation value of the desk, chair and computer that person uses get taken into account, it may actually be that many employees are a net drain on their companies without anyone but a hard-nosed accountant realising it. Scale that up to an entire economy. I would not be surprised at all if many in the middle class do not even produce enough of worth to justify the massive amount of hidden welfare they receive and they may be just marginally productive in the private sector. Are they net contributors or takers from the health or education parts of the taxes they pay, for instance?

This then leads in one of two directions. The first is that if it is unsustainable, for whatever reason, then it will collapse under its own weight and services will ultimately be cut to a sustainable level (and there are many definitions of sustainable, including the economy having enough money in theory, but rich people being willing to fund things only up to a point).

The second is that the reality may ultimately be a lot of make work as the real production is either mechanised or sent off shore. We may already be at that point in many ways. The future of this will probably be in the direction of massive production of goods and services simply for conspicuous consumption. I don't believe Japan is entirely sustainable anyway, but it points in that direction. I've never been there, but I've read a fair bit about it, and my sister in law has been there many times and brings back various gifts. It seems like a massive amount of their economy revolves around the handcrafting and packaging of the most absurdly decorative items. You don't just get a box of chocolates. It has about ten layers of packaging that could not have possibly been done by a machine. Then, the chocolates themselves are individually hand painted to resemble Beatrix Potter characters or something of the sort. Of course, I can't tell the difference in taste. They all taste like something I'd buy in the supermarket, but other people swear they can tell the difference, perhaps because they have to justify all the fuss and price to themselves somehow.

That's why there's an enormous cottage industry of gastronomic tours and products now. In the West it's winery tours or boutique beer. That's a big one in Australia. I figure that by your fifth glass of wine, you're probably three sheets to the wind anyway and your taste buds have been desensitised. They could be pouring ethanol mixed with grape juice down your throat and you wouldn't know the difference, but people swear it's not like that. It's because of the entire "experience" they lay on you and because their ethanol mixed with grape juice comes in a bottle with its own unique label.

Look at Facebook as another example. I cannot, for the life of me, see how that company is worth billions. Ninety-nine percent of what takes place there is not the transmission of knowledge, but pure status/in-group signalling. Even look at the absurd economies within those Zynga games there. Imagine I have a virtual farm with a virtual cow and you have a virtual farm with a virtual cow. If I milk my own virtual cow and you milk your own virtual cow, we each end up with a virtual bucket of milk that we sell. Yet if I visit your virtual farm and milk your virtual cow, one of us suddenly ends up with some sort of bonus gift. Where did that come from? That makes no economic sense at all! Presumably someone had to produce the virtual gift, and why would that person give it away for free to one of us? Anyway though, the real underlying model is social, not economic. The most "productive" or "richest" of us is the one with the largest posse we can call in to milk our virtual cows, though of course, we have to reciprocate. Running a virtual farm on Facebook, even keeping up to date with all of your friends' status updates and so on is a part time job!

Imagine though that many peoples real jobs are not much different. My job as an HR policy writer and yours as a workplace safety coordinator might just be entirely about status signalling, rather than anything productive. Those are obviously stupid jobs, but there may be others that are just as unproductive upon closer examination. Yet I just don't think we'll get anywhere more than 50% of the working populace (not to mention those who actually are completely unemployable) actually being productive.

When I look at my own workplace, there are an enormous number of people who seem to be of marginal value. We have seven classes in our school this year, yet we have twenty staff members or more. Just in the administration department there are three people. The counselling department has swollen from two when I first came here to four, plus dedicated special ed teachers. At any one time, only around a third to a half of people are actually teaching. There's going to be the absurd situation this coming semester where I will have three co-teachers who will not only not be English teachers, but won't even be the students' homeroom teachers. This is because everyone is struggling to get enough teaching hours (other than me, whose load was already higher than everyone else's and has still gone up). The obvious solution is to cut staff because there's huge make work going on when they're struggling just to give most teachers fifteen contact hours. Yet where would they go and what would they do? They might very well be unemployable or marginally employable elsewhere. The alternative is Australian schools where a much tighter ship is run, but where the teachers are really under the pump and there's massive job dissatisfaction, burn out and turnover of staff, plus the outcomes for the students are not necessarily better anyway. Most of my colleagues spend an enormous amount of each day socialising (I spend a lot of time reading and writing), and yet they seem to enjoy what they do and it keeps society relatively harmonious. There's one guy at my school who does something about aboriginal culture because this area has lots of aborigines. What he does -- playing bamboo drums and the like -- is of absolutely marginal value at best. Yet apparently he has five kids. I can't imagine what he'd be doing otherwise and how he would support his family. I'm really opposed to welfare, but perhaps make work gives him some form of self esteem and an income, and those things in turn mean his kids aren't going to grow up to be little hooligans and cost everyone else indirectly. There are lots of people around where we live who are probably unemployable and what little money they get from the government, odd jobs and family members they spend on being really antisocial and seemingly turning their kids into feral little monsters who disrupt my classes.

I am really opposed to socialism in one sense, but I think we've got there indirectly anyway, even for the middle class, and there's more to come. I can't see people, including the middle class, willingly lowering their standards of living. GDP in most developed countries has supposedly grown by a few percent for the past couple of decades. Yet aside from a handful of people at the top doing really clever things, and machines or people abroad improving things at the bottom (whilst also displacing people), productivity may have realistically peaked decades ago and flat lined ever since, masked by more hours of paper shuffling.
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Re: Anglosphere attitudes towards work and a new economic model

Postby Charlie » 29 Sep 2013, 12:44

Caleb, I just wanted to apologise for not having responded earlier and to thank you for your post. It was as spot on as ever. Cheers.
Charlie
 
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Re: Anglosphere attitudes towards work and a new economic model

Postby Caleb » 29 Sep 2013, 13:16

Charlie: Thanks.
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Re: Anglosphere attitudes towards work and a new economic model

Postby PeterE » 11 Feb 2014, 20:38

Hi all,
I think Charlie hit the nail on the head there are simply too many people for the jobs available. Not only have so many industrial/manufacturing jobs been offshored, to be replaced by lower-paying jobs if any (including call centres which in turn were...offshored), but we now face increasing competition even in the service sector. And it's not just offshoring - we face pressure even here. Between a quarter and a third of my colleagues are from abroad, and although they're almost to a man (and woman) great people, there is really no need for it.

Caleb, you're certainly right about STEM - not enough jobs available for those of us who have graduated in it. I know people with good scientific PhDs and postdoctoral experience who are either unemployed or who have left science altogether (baking, midwifery, etc) due to lack of opportunities. Meanwhile, our labs have Poles, Portuguese, Canadians, French, Chinese, Indian, Saudis, etc etc. Good scientists all, but not to my mind any better or worse than the British ones. A complete waste of talent and expensive education and training!

Having previously been an economic libertarian, I have come round to the seemingly never-mentioned idea of protectionism. The work of Ha Joon-Chang, a Korean economist at Cambridge sheds light on how countries such as Britain, America, Germany, France, Japan, Korea and others developed from agrarianism to wealthy, industrialised nations - basically through very strong protectionist barriers.
Although we in the West may enjoy material wealth, we have great social poverty and rely on ever-increasing levels of debt to sustain our standard of living. The obvious solution to the unemployment, underemployment and deficit to my mind at least is to erect barriers to protect jobs here, and provide new ones.

As for over-production of the university-educated, another obvious answer is surely to restrict the number of entry places on every course. This is the way it was done in the past, and was successful to the best of my knowledge.

For example, an Irish vet I know who is close to retirement told me that when he was young, the number of places available to study veterinary medicine in Ireland was heavily restricted despite the subject's popularity, not only to ensure high standards for those being taught but also to ensure that there wasn't a surplus of vets running around. Apparently, as a result of this, the average work-life of a vet in his subject was around 40 years. Today, at least in the UK, it is less than ten, owing to surprisingly low wages, high competition for jobs and a massively strong over-representation of females (many of whom go on to leave work to raise families, leave the sector or work part-time

Another example concerns humanities graduates - so many, but so few jobs! While at a small museum in England last year, I saw on the walls long plaques with the names of men and women, with subject such as "English", "French", "Geography" etc next to them, along with a year. When I looked further, I found that they were locals who had applied to the local Education Authority and had been successful in being selected to be sent to universities around the country to study these subjects - all fees paid for and with stipends - on the proviso that they returned to teach that subject at secondary schools for a certain number of years. It wouldn't have been a perfect system, I'm sure, but linking education to employment is eminently sensible. If you want to learn for pleasure, there's no need to go to university.
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Re: Anglosphere attitudes towards work and a new economic model

Postby Mike » 12 Feb 2014, 10:10

I'll have to check out Ha Joon-Chang. The contentious topic of protectionism is one that I've given a lot of thought to recently, partly due to some recent developments here in Oz; our "iconic" car manufacturer has closed down and the government was criticised in some quarters for not stepping in to help, ditto a well-known local fruit company, and in the last couple of days Toyota have announced that they'll be ceasing their operations in Australia in 2017. Recently, our Treasurer (= Chancellor of the Exchequer) made a widely-reported speech in which he proclaimed an end to "corporate welfare", and although this government hasn't been entirely consistent in applying that principle, it's generally a laudable one in my opinion.

I'm generally anti-protectionism, but I'd like to think that I'm not entirely doctrinaire about it. My father, who's a bit more ambivalent about it, regaled me recently with the tale of how New Zealand drove their economic development by protectionist policies in the wool industry (people make similar arguments about the Japanese car industry). I didn't entirely buy his version of events, but I'd have to look into it further.

The interesting thing about protectionism is that it takes so many forms. People tend to think only of tariffs, but of course government handouts, "tied" aid money and even the management of the distribution of foreign goods play a part. And when it comes to the crunch for unsustainable industries, the right will blame union intransigence, the left will blame executive greed, and it's very difficult to determine where the truth really lies.

I also think there's a great deal to the argument that one of the most important factors in third world poverty is first world protectionism.
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Re: Anglosphere attitudes towards work and a new economic model

Postby PeterE » 14 Feb 2014, 00:01

Hi Mike, great post. I'd heard about Holden coming to and end, and thought it's crazy that soon a whole continent could be without an auto industry. Is the value of the dollar still as high as it was? I read somewhere that the rate has been high for so long that Australia's domestic manufacturing was now being hollowed out big time. Bad not just for jobs but for the whole industrial base, I fear.

I'd like to know more about NZ development of wool - was this just the fleeces/wool or processing as well? I know agriculture's still a major sector for them, but don't know how far the value-added goes

Regarding the protectionist attitudes by the first world against the third, I'm sure it's the case in terms of agriculture, but the real problem according to Ha Joon Chang is the way that the first world has forces free trade and markets on the third world, thus "kicking away the ladder". The best book of his to read about this is Bad Samaritans - it puts together bits of our own history I was aware of but never put together to realise how much we depended on protectionism ourselves. His own country, South Korea, uses/used all sort of non-tariff means for protectionism too like you said: government preference for Korean goods, government-owned bank credit to industry, even propaganda to not buy foreign products! Well, it worked and now Korea has gone from exporting fish and tungsten in the 1950s to world-class electronics and cars today. Of course, now that they are dominant (or at least highly competitive) in many sectors today, they are beginning to advocate free trade themselves, as the Americans did before them, and we did before the Americans...

Both the left and right may be right and wrong at the same time, perhaps. Corporate greed on one hand and union militancy on the other manage between them to destroy whole industries, if the government lets them. The state has an important role to play in making sure that this doesn't happen, because we all suffer if it does: negative balance of trade, reduced tax revenues, increased welfare payments, increased spending on the indirect causes of unemployment (police, prisons, mental health etc), dead and dying communities, income inequality, and so on and on.
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Re: Anglosphere attitudes towards work and a new economic model

Postby Travis » 23 Feb 2014, 05:05

Not a single shred of classical literature or art is in danger of being lost so I'm not sure the liberal arts degree serves any cultural purpose. The whole project just seems incredibly decadent. Take literary criticism for example - that is an absolute labyrinth of language that most readers will never escape out of. We have an entire class of professors and academics that are engaged in nothing more than a mere language game. This lifestyle or "path" or whatever you want to call is not noble or praiseworthy in my book.

Sorry conservatives, you're not going to have a society that values courage, discipline and self-reliance when you're sending 20% of each generation off to sit-around and debate poetry for 4-to-6 years. Keep young folks as far away from that environment as possible.
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Re: Anglosphere attitudes towards work and a new economic model

Postby Mike » 23 Feb 2014, 12:21

Travis wrote:Not a single shred of classical literature or art is in danger of being lost.


Perfectly true, but that's never been what a true liberal education is all about. The point is that it is the tools to appreciate the great cultural achievements of the past, and the ability to discriminate the valuable from the mundane (in both the past and the present), that are constantly in danger of being lost.

What I suspect you really mean (given your comments about modern academic lit-crit, for instance) is that the sort of liberal arts degree currently being widely offered, with its obsessions with postmodernist theory and identity politics, is of no value. And there I agree.
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Re: Anglosphere attitudes towards work and a new economic model

Postby Travis » 23 Feb 2014, 17:46

Mine is probably a cynical attitude, but even if the classics/Western cannon were taught in a more rigorous way I'm not certain it would produce the intended results. Granted, this is all anecdotal, but I've known plenty of folks that were far, far more classically educated than I'll ever be that have pretty shallow tastes in my opinion. These folks all know either Greek and Latin (or French), can play at least one classical instrument, and so on, but at the end of the day they're still glueing soda cans to spent toilet paper rolls and calling it art. Its not uncommon at all.

I try to shield myself from pop culture but even without a television I'm still somewhat aware of what's going on. Even in light of my own experience I'm still somewhat amazed at how many of these celebrities pumping garbage into the airwaves have some kind of, what seems to me, rigorous classical training. Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Jamie Foxx - one could go on. Whatever we wanted to accomplish with a classical education wasn't able to penetrate their skulls.

For my part, I don't think education is going to do much to change our values.
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Re: Anglosphere attitudes towards work and a new economic model

Postby Mike » 23 Feb 2014, 21:31

Travis wrote:Granted, this is all anecdotal, but I've known plenty of folks that were far, far more classically educated than I'll ever be that have pretty shallow tastes in my opinion. These folks all know either Greek and Latin (or French), can play at least one classical instrument, and so on, but at the end of the day they're still glueing soda cans to spent toilet paper rolls and calling it art. Its not uncommon at all.


I think we must move in different circles. Most people I know who've had a proper education (not necessarily a "classical" one, by the way) are, at least, far more capable of discernment than those who haven't had the benefit of such an education, as a general rule.

Travis wrote:I try to shield myself from pop culture but even without a television I'm still somewhat aware of what's going on. Even in light of my own experience I'm still somewhat amazed at how many of these celebrities pumping garbage into the airwaves have some kind of, what seems to me, rigorous classical training. Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Jamie Foxx - one could go on. Whatever we wanted to accomplish with a classical education wasn't able to penetrate their skulls.


A few people who have deliberately set out to make themselves celebrities according to today's templates are hardly representative, though.

At the risk of taking this thread too far off topic, celebrity "culture" has always been around, more or less, but what has happened over the past fifty years is that the opinions of celebrities on matters political and social are given far more prominence than they deserve. And since the very nature of celebrity ensures that these people will occupy the crass and transient end of the culture spectrum, giving them undue credence is always likely to erode the cultural level of a society.

Another issue at the heart of this is the debasement of the word "culture" itself, which is one of my particular bugbears.
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Re: Anglosphere attitudes towards work and a new economic model

Postby Travis » 23 Feb 2014, 23:56

Mike wrote:I think we must move in different circles. Most people I know who've had a proper education (not necessarily a "classical" one, by the way) are, at least, far more capable of discernment than those who haven't had the benefit of such an education, as a general rule.


I used to believe so and, in much of my experience, I'd agree. I wouldn't say it's anything like a rule though. We tend to ignore the religious aspect leftism has always had - how far it's entrenched into every level of the culture - and sort of pretend as though everything will work itself out if folks get more art. I tend to doubt the power education has in fending off extremism. The educated people in Lebanon follow Hezbollah. The educated people of the old Soviet Bloc were mostly true believing Communists.

I don't think intellectual rigor is any guarantee you're going to get the nonsense out of people's heads. Years of reflective thought and complete detachment from the world does bad things to people.
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Re: Anglosphere attitudes towards work and a new economic model

Postby Charlie » 26 Jul 2014, 05:36

I enjoyed this Frank Furedi review: The Struggle To Moralise Capitalism, which takes a look at Angus Bergin's excellent book The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets Since The Depression.
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