PFI, outsourcing, and privatisation have all been strategies to shift money from the public sector and the taxpayer to the financial sector. But they are now running up againsy political limits.
I think we’ve got to the point where we have to name British politics for what it has become: a wholesale looting of the state and the public, with the complicity of the political class, to reward the financial sector. I’ve tried all of the other explanations, and none of them work better. It is the only explanation that fits the facts. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but what finally triggered me to write was a relatively minor tweet from the Cabinet Office:
While it’s sensible to make sure that public assets aren’t standing idle, the Property Finder is related to the Government’s “Right to Contest”, explained this way in a story in The Guardian:
Under a right to contest introduced in January, anyone can force the government to explain why a building or plot is not being used fully. If the department that owns it cannot justify its current use, it will be forced to release it for sale.
Hashtag GovSavings. It will be forced to release it for sale. And in turn this made me wonder if I could identify a single decision made by George Osborne or the Coalition that didn’t benefit the financial classes – and the 1% – rather than the rest of us. I came up with one, the raising of the minimum wage, where the Chancellor was outmanouevred by Ed Miliband. (In case you’re wondering about the raising of the income tax threshold to £10,000, just no.)
It is the week of clearing, when silly-season news is briefly full of stories of would-be university students who didn’t get the grades they needed for their offered places scrambling to get a place somewhere else. Looking at it close-up, the only credible conclusion, now that university education is so expensive, is that the system is designed to benefit the universities far more than the students.
In turn, this represents a whole privileging of the universities and their trade associations, that also promotes the wholesale financialisation of the higher education system. Which is odd, because the previous non-financialised system delivered world-class outcomes at less than world-class costs, and there’s little guarantee that that the financialised system will do the same. Indeed, the evidence so far is that giving universities too much financial autonomy turns them into rogue institutions, if the record of London University is anything to go by, here, here, and here.
Over at The Futures Company blog I have a short post on Tesco’s problems, prompted by the abrupt dismissal of its Chief Executive Philip Clarke in the face of the continuing pressure on the company’s market share and profitability.
For non-British readers,Tesco is (still) Britain’s largest supermarket, but having been utterly dominant in the 1990s, has been struggling for much of the past decade.
The first thing I said in the post was that the food market had become more complex since the financial crisis, and Tesco hadn’t been able to follow. This normally translates into a story about being “assailed by discounters”, but the discount proposition isn’t just about price. People who advise Tesco to turn its attention to fighting with discounters on price show they don’t really understand how the market has changed.
The start of the Tour de France seems a good moment to write a post on management technique from one of the influential moments in last year’s Tour. It’s been in my mind since I read David Walsh’s book Inside Team Sky. The moment is during the rest day, after the Sky team had disintegrated on the Stage 9 to Bagneres de Bigorre. The passage in the book, about the Team Sky manager David Brailsford, says a lot about his management style. (more…)
“The most annoying thing about most of the commentary on the European elections is that it is dominated (as usual) by people who are only interested in elections, and entirely uninterested in what is actually going on”, John Naughton observed in an excellent post this week. Actually, that splits into two, reinforcing problems. Politicians are too interested in people who vote, and not those who don’t, and the media is too interested in events, and not sufficiently interested in causes. As a result, you get lots of heat and precious little light.
And it’s pretty clear that what we saw last week was one of the continuing shock waves rolling out from the financial crisis, a crisis that almost certainly has another decade or so to go.
Regular readers of the next wave will know that I am a fan of the work of the economic and technology historian Carlota Perez, who developed a model that explains the processes by which new technology platforms first emerge, then become dominant, and then become superseded. There have been five of these “technology surges” since 1771; the present ICT surge is the fifth.
Her model is a historical one. This isn’t a complaint: she is a historian, and she did the analysis of the historical data to propose the pattern she describes in her book. But when I was asked to contribute to an Association of Professional Futurists workshop that used the Three Horizons method to explore candidates for the Sixth surge, I wondered if it was possible to identify future-facing characteristics in her model.
There’s a moment in this interview with Paul Krugman about Thomas Piketty’s book Capital In The 21st Century where Bill Moyers asks Krugman this question:
Moyers: Do you agree with [Piketty] that we’re drifting towards oligarchy?
And Krugman gives him this reply:
Krugman: Oh yes. There’s no question of that.
And watching it I realised that the next political phase of the campaign started by Occupy is now starting to emerge.
As is often the case, I have a whole lot of half-finished posts waiting for some writing time to finish them.
So this short post is just to note that I have an essay [opens pdf] in the latest edition of the Journal of Futures Studies, co-written with Victoria Ward, on using postcards in workshops as a facilitation technique. One of the inspirations for the paper was Alex Pang’s essay on ‘paper spaces‘, which made complete sense to me but was, he once told me, surprisingly controversial.
Here’s an extract:
There is no precise workshop method: in practice it adapted to the specific requirements of the workshop. The approach has also shown itself to be fairly robust. Typically in the context of a futures workshop one would lay out 150 or so cards on a table, invite participants to form themselves into pairs or threes, then ask each group to select two, sometimes three, cards that express a story or a view about the particular future under scrutiny, and be willing, shortly afterwards, to tell that story to the other participants.
There are variations, but essentially this is it: a dialogue process that uses visual cues to open up different ways of seeing, of witnessing and conveying our own experience, and perhaps different types of insights, about the present and future. And more: a way of sharing fragments in such a way that small moments sometimes build to a larger and sometimes surprising narrative. In doing so, in our experience, they also create different types of narratives, different types of conversations, and a vivid body of language, image and material that can be incorporated directly into the next stages.
Anthony Jenkins, the retail banker who succeeded Bob Diamond as the Chief Executive of Barclays Bank, has rightly been criticised this week after the bank announced that it had increased its bonus pool when profits were falling and the bank is pushing through large cuts – 7,000 people – in retail banking. You judge a system by what it does, not what it says it does, and this decision spoke volumes – yelled it from the rooftops, really – about who benefits from the Barclays’ banking system.