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Nov. 29th, 2015 05:29 pm
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Teaming the barely-in-control of his powers blaster with a dream-girl who wants to help humanity get back in touch with their primal fears seems to be veering towards super-villainy faster than I expected.
[syndicated profile] skepchick_feed

Posted by Olivia

“How do you know that question isn’t hard for him? He has autism. He might not understand racism.”

“People with BPD can’t help being manipulative. That’s why I’d never date one.”

“Cut her some slack, she doesn’t understand what she’s doing wrong.”

Some people might think that these statements are someone compassionate or good for people who are neurodiverse. Benny wrote just a few days ago about the Skepticon incident and the subsequent use of Mark Schierbecker’s autism to excuse his racism. He was spot on, but I want to expand slightly on what he said about the ways in which ableism is used to excuse other types of bias and oppression.

In this particular instance, Schierbecker said something racist, people called him out, and others said that because he is autistic he may not understand that it was racist or that we should respond to him differently than we would other people.

This doesn’t just happen with autism, although I have most often seen it used to excuse the actions of white, cis, male autistics who violate the boundaries of people with less privilege than they have. But variations on this theme are what gets used to explain and excuse everything from abusive relationships to mass shootings, and no matter what your neurodivergence, there is still no excuse for treating other people poorly.

The vast, vast majority of people are capable of understanding when they’re hurting someone if you tell them. Sometimes people who are neurodivergent might need help to do things differently, or might need adjustments that a neurotypical wouldn’t, but those adjustments are never just a pass to treat others poorly.

While people who are neurotypical might have to adjust their response styles depending on the person who has done something damaging, it is ableist to assume that people who are neurodivergent can’t exist without being harmful, a burden, or mean. It’s true, sometimes people with autism say things that are mean because they aren’t great at social boundaries or tact. It’s true, sometimes people with borderline can get manipulative because they are afraid of losing people. It’s true that people with depression can be self-absorbed because the rest of the world is more than they can handle sometimes.

If you’re interacting with those people, it doesn’t do them any favors to treat them as too delicate to handle criticism. Assume competence until they tell you otherwise. But even worse than this is that it plays into the idea that having a mental illness makes you a bad person. If we assume that people who are neurodivergent can’t tell or don’t care when they’re hurting someone, we’re basically assuming that they’ll never be decent people. We’re making them the worst kinds of people: people who will necessarily always hurt others.

That’s really and truly fucked up.

It also hurts people who are neurodivergent because it paints them as monsters. Why wouldn’t we be able to treat them as less than or be afraid of them or avoid them if it turns out that they actually can’t help but hurt other people? The stereotype that people with mental illnesses just can’t help but be awful or manipulative or lacking in empathy means that neurotypicals don’t have to do the work to understand and nurture the most likely perfectly fine person underneath.

Not only that, but there’s this thing called intersectionality. If someone doesn’t understand social rules as well as other people, you know who’s most likely to get the short end of that stick? People who are already oppressed and discriminated against, because those are the people that everyone gets taught to hate but most people have the social werewithal not to mention it to.

Other people don’t get to use me and my neurodivergent peers as their pawns to continue shitting on other oppressed groups. And if someone IS neurodivergent and racist, they don’t get a get out of jail free card for it. Disabled people aren’t perfect, innocent angels. They screw up sometimes. I’ve seen too many friends in abusive relationships that were blamed on mental illness. That’s not mental illness. That’s a choice. Being sick isn’t.

Not only is it an insult to neurodivergent people to say that we’re probably racist because we don’t know better, it also lets assholes and bigots off the hook. It says that there are some people who just can’t understand those things because it’s so hard. It’s not.

Sometimes my mental illness means that I am controlling or demanding. But I can still learn to be better. It’s good for the people around me to know why I might be acting differently, but the explanation does not function as an excuse. All it does is give more information about how to help me change. That’s true of all neurodivergences, and all damaging behaviors. No excuses.

Photo by Light Brigading.

Brief California Dreaming Update

Nov. 29th, 2015 10:10 pm
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Posted by Andrew Hickey

Copies of the book have now been sent out to all Kickstarter backers except:
Two people who haven’t yet given their addresses and who I’ve messaged
One person who hadn’t selected his additional reward, and who I’ve messaged
One person who I see in real life on a semi regular basis so I’ll give him his copy next time we meet up to save Lulu’s exorbitant postage charges.

Those people will get their copies sent out as soon as they get back to me.

I’ve also sent them out to any Patreon backers at the appropriate level who’ve said they want them. If you’re a Patreon backer and want a copy, do let me know (all Patreon backers have access to the ebooks).

Lulu’s shipping times for hardbacks are frankly ludicrous (which is why it’s taken so long to get these out — I had to wait until the hardback proof arrived, which took ages), so I’ll give it another week before putting the book on public sale, so that as many backers as possible get their books before the public.

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Caron Lindsay

imageThe new LDV members’ survey is now live. So if you are one of the 2100+ registered members of the Liberal Democrat Voice forum, and any paid-up party member is welcome to join, then you now have the opportunity to make your views known.

The survey asks a series of questions related to the situation in Syria and the forthcoming parliamentary vote on whether the UK should be involved in airstrikes against Daesh.

It should take no longer than 5 minutes minutes to fill in. All registered members of the Forum should have been e-mailed with a unique link to take you to the survey. If you haven’t received yours drop me a line at ryan@libdemvoice.org, but please do check your spam folder first, though, in case it’s ended up there! Also, if your email address has changed in the last few months, email ryan@libdemvoice.org so that he can ensure you get your survey.

The survey will be open until 5pm tomorrow.

We’ll publish the results over the next few days. You can access the results from our previous LDV members surveys by clicking here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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Posted by Caron Lindsay

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 441st weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the seven most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (22-28 November, 2015), together with a hand-picked quintet, you might otherwise have missed.

Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

1. ALDC By-Eletion Report 26 November 2016 by ALDC on ALDC.
Not the best lot of Lib Dem by-election results you’ve ever seen, sadly.

2. Jeremy Corbyn alone on the opposition front bench by Jonathan Calder on Liberal England.
Ooh, perhaps there might be something wrong in the Labour Party, do you think?

3. Why did the Conservatives tolerate Mark Clarke for so long? by Jonathan Calder on Liberal England.
The answer is quite shocking and very reckless if true.

4. A tale of two by-elections by Neil Fawcett on ALDC.
Ace campaigner Neil writes about two very different campaigns.

5. Corbyn isolated on Labour’s front bench by Peter Black on Peter Black.
It’s just crying out for a “Why Jeremy is sad” meme, isn’t it?

6. Phil Woolas’s disgraced agent now UKIP chairman in Oldham by Mark Pack on Mark Pack.
Really strange that they allowed that to happen..

7. The 56, er the 55, er the 54 by Dawud Islam on LibDemHame.
The SNP’s diminishing band….

And now to the five blog-posts that come highly recommended, regardless of the number of Aggregator click-throughs they attracted. To nominate a Lib Dem blog article published in the past seven days – your own, or someone else’s, all you have to do is drop a line to voice@libdemvoice.org. You can also contact us via Twitter, where we’re @libdemvoice

8. Lib Dem misconceptions: The Alliance Parties by Andrew Hickey on Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!
Worth reading for the  brilliant description of the Orange Book as well as everything else!  (Submitted by Holly via Twitter.)

9. How to survive without Twitter (SPOILER: Pretty easily by Louise Ankers on From one of the jilted generation.
Louise goes Twitter cold turkey and likes it.

10.  When you are counting the older generation and are counting the years till you turn into them by Jennie Rigg on The Entire Lunatic Fringe.
This made me laugh so hard. If only because I sit on a committee with one of the people she mentions (who is a legend), but it’s worth a read because it highlights how we sometimes treat each other, not in a good way.

11. Can accountability bridge devolution’s gap between identity and practicality? by Nick Barlow on What you can get away with.
Now this might be interesting applied to Scotland, too.

12. Trans elected officials report released  by Zoe O’Connell on Complicity.
Comes with a statistic that is worth memorising cos you might need it sometime to encourage someone to stand.

And that’s it for another week. Happy blogging ‘n’ reading ‘n’ nominating.

Featured? Add this to your blog post!
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
<a href="http://www.libdemvoice.org/top-of-the-blogs-the-lib-dem-golden-dozen-441-48448.html"><img src="http://www.libdemvoice.org/images/golden-dozen.png" width="200" height="57" alt="Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice" title="Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice" /></a>

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

[syndicated profile] skepchick_feed

Posted by Mindy

Sunday Funny: UV Flowers (via SMBC)

Teen Skepchick

Christianity and the Worth of People
It’s that time of year when Elizabeth is reminded that she’s worthless without God.

Mad Art Lab

Materials Science for Cosplay 4 – Thermosets
Ryan explains what thermosets are and how they can up your cosplay game.

EL Wire for Beginners
Robin explains how to make your outfit literally shine.

Mad Art Cast: Blood Brain and Chick Tracts
The Gang discusses the blood brain barrier and Chick Tracks.


Guarding My Mind While Doing Online Activism
Trav on the importance of taking care of your mental well-being as an online activist.

School of Doubt

On Activism
Jay on how to balance activism and teaching responsibilities.

Grounded Parents

Round Table: Handling Stressful Moments Without Prayer
GP contributors weigh in on how they deal with tough moments instead of turning to prayer.

Taking Stock, Giving Thanks, And Making A Change
Erich writes a sweet post about how thankful he is for his wife. Aww!

Weekend Reads: Road Trips with Kids, Coming Out, Etc
Bethany’s weekly links include how to take better photographs of babies and how parents can help (and hurt) the coming out process for their children.


On Neuro-Accessibility and Skepticon
Benny explains what Skepticon did right and wrong when it comes to accessibility.

Featured image credit: Jason Howie via Flickr

Espousing libertarianism

Nov. 29th, 2015 04:30 pm
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Posted by Devil's Kitchen

Over at the Libertarian Alliance blog, Keir Martland has written of what he views as a failure of the LA to advance the Libertarian cause in a significant way, and an analysis of the various other ways that might be tried—ending with the rather depressing idea that we should just carry on with more of the same.

I left the following comment...
As someone who has tried to push libertarianism in a number of channels—through a widely-read and deeply offensive blog (which I know converted a few tens of people); through pushing libertarianism in, and writing policies for, UKIP; to helping start the UK Libertarian Party—I can say that the main problem is that the majority of UK people do not take to the philosophy.

The blog became hard work to continue writing (and started threatening my real life work); UKIP has edged back to more statist policies in order to win votes (especially in the north); and the LPUK has never really gained traction (partly because it is under-funded, and run by part-time amateurs who, like most libertarians, rather despise the political process that they are nominally part of).

So, what is it that the British people do not like about our philosophy? The answer is rather interesting—and gleaned from my (admittedly random and anecdotal) surveys of people in pubs.

People are worried about the effects of a smaller state on other people.

I have spoken to people that are pretty poor, and many who are in receipt of benefits. Some have been aggressive, some dense—but most not. Most people would prefer that the state would leave them alone: most proudly (and perhaps unrealistically) opine that they could make a living without benefits, because they are capable people.

But what (they say) about the really poor people? What will happen to them—how will they cope? Today, these "poor people" are as mythical as the rich, top hat-wearing, cigar-chomping capitalists of Victorian yore: but it these people that ordinary British people become concerned about when one discusses the shrinking of the state, and the curbing of Welfare.

As such, two things need to be done:
  • there needs to be a comprehensive libertarian philosophy of welfare. For me, this is based on voluntary contributions, along the lines of the successful Friendly Societies of the late 19th century (and which were destroyed by the introduction of state National Insurance in 1911). A development of this policy enables libertarians to answer the worries of the "man in the pub";
  • libertarians need to find a way to communicate to the "man in the pub"—because there are vastly more of them than there are libertarians (currently), and hugely more than there are academics. And the man in the pub most certainly does not read academic treatises.
The way into the discussion of libertarianism should be based on the ideas that the state interferes too much in our day-to-day lives (the man in the pub often likes a smoke, and he certainly likes a drink), and that the promises that the state makes cannot be counted on. If the state promises you welfare, what guarantee do you have that it will deliver? As Lando Calrissian said, "this deal just gets worse."

People are surprisingly libertarian for themselves, but they are also surprisingly worried about these mythical poor people—an underclass whose existence the media and the government have an interest in perpetuating.

Anyway, that's my take on it. For what it's worth.
I also left out one rather crucial element, which those who have read The Kitchen or heard me speak will remember: we need to have a credible transition plan. You cannot simply convert to a system of voluntary Welfare overnight:
  • first, the institutions to support it do not exist;
  • second, the culture of voluntarily saving for problems does not exist in most people.
Both of these need to be addressed, and both will take time.

Luckily for us, the Tories are trying (with only moderate success) to address the second part: however, and perhaps through necessity, they are using—forced withdrawal of benefits, forcing people to do their own budgeting through Universal Credit—rather than cultural change. It may be, however, that this force is a necessary first step to start this transition—time will tell if this shock therapy works (if the electorate allows it to continue, of course).

Whatever happens, I am pretty sure that speaking to academics (most of whom are on the Left) is going to change very little.

UPDATE: a follow-up comment in response to someone else...
I would generally, these days, call myself a "minarchist libertarian" or "classical liberal".

Either way, I don't really think that a libertarian government should have any policy on whether mutuals or businesses are best for making money—after all, even our very statist governments don't bother getting into that debate.

And, yes, the state shouldn't dictate what marriage looks like. But it does because it bases some state benefits on defining what marriage is: remove those benefits, and then the state has no business defining marriage.

As I have frequently outlined, the Welfare State puts us all in hock to the state—which gives it licence to define our actions. Remove state welfare, and you remove any moral or economic justification for the state to dictate how we live our private lives (as long as we do not initiate force or fraud against someone else's life, liberty or property).

How many times have you heard some draconian policy justified because "it costs the NHS money"? The Welfare State is the crux of statism—and thus dealing with it *must* be the priority of those who are anywhere on the libertarian spectrum.

Removing it should be a uniting force for our movement: to do that, we need to describe how we would avoid people starving on the streets, etc. All of these are more important to the general people (and voters) of this country than abstract wibblings about esoteric policies that no one understands or cares about.
By the way, I added the links to previous posts here, for reference, but not in the original comments that I left.

UPDATE 2: links to my major essays on Friendly Societies can be found below.
Both deal with what a voluntary Welfare State might look like, and lean heavily on Friendly Societies to achieve that aim.

The Stamos Connection

Nov. 29th, 2015 03:44 pm
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Posted by John Scalzi

For years I’ve been told that a certain picture of me as a teenager (on the left) suggested that I was (and suppose am) an unauthorized clone of actor John Stamos. I have never really seen it, personally, but then over Thanksgiving John Stamos released his prom picture (on the right; he’s in white), and… well. I think this calls for a poll. Be honest, now.

Take Our Poll
[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Nick Thornsby

In the early hours of 21 August 2013, rockets began to land in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. The civilian population of Syria had now become used to this, since Bashar al-Assad had decided over 2 years earlier that in response to a peaceful uprising against his totalitarian rule he would prosecute the most brutal military campaign by a ruler against his people that this century has seen. But this attack was different: the rockets were filled with sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent.

When the images of the hundreds of people killed and thousands injured began to circulate, there was international outrage of a level not so far seen in the Syrian Civil War. Momentum gathered for a military response. Obama’s red line had been crossed. Enough was enough.

Only it wasn’t. Obama dithered. Miliband played politics. Assad survived to kill another day.

And the war rumbled on. Assad continued brutalising. Barrel bombs continued to fall on schools and hospitals. And, of course, a new force took hold in the vacuum that northern Syria had become: jihadis from around the region, and later the world, gathered and declared the creation of their caliphate.

The use of chemical weapons by a state, not against enemy combatants but directed deliberately against civilians, is the sort of clear and unimpeachable example of a war crime as it is possible to imagine, and overwhelmingly justified (and indeed necessitated) a military response. The lack of such a response has not only prolonged the war in Syria, it has turned the use of chemical weapons from an action likely to be met by overwhelming force from the international community to a risk-free tactic for every megalomaniac with the capacity to inflict such a sin.

The case for UK airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria is not such an overwhelming one. Not that IS has not committed war crimes of unspeakable horror: it has, and is. And IS is more of a direct threat to the citizens of Europe and the US than Assad, so the proximity of its barbarism is a factor.

Nobody, though, expects airstrikes, and specifically Britain’s participation in them in Syria, to ultimately defeat IS. Unlike Assad, the coalition of forces (with the exception of Russia) engaged in air strikes will always, inevitably, seek to minimise civilian casualties. In those circumstances, airstrikes can only ever be part of a solution to take out militants where they are living amongst civilian communities.

And whilst there are regional ground troops with whom airstrikes are coordinated, they have not proved themselves capable of resounding victory over IS (though there has been some success in Iraq).

The case for UK airstrikes

There seems to be a consensus among Liberal Democrats that Islamic State needs to be destroyed, and that the UK should play some role in that given the direct threat if nothing else. The primary question therefore is what that action should be.

Hopefully there is also a recognition too that IS will only be defeated militarily. They cannot be negotiated with; they are ultimately a military organisation and will only be defeated militarily. It seems to me that the logic from that point may not have been followed through, though.

Once one has accepted that IS needs to be defeated, that we should play a role in that defeat, and that force is needed, there a few choices available, and none of them is particularly palatable.

One would be a broad a coalition as possible putting troops on the ground, including British forces. That would almost certainly lead to a defeat for IS in a relatively short period of time. But if is also politically impossible.

Broadly the other option is for local actors to do the ground fighting and those nations who can to support that from the air and in other ways (with intelligence and equipment) – essentially the current proposal.

That is less likely to guarantee ultimate success, though there are signs that it is a strategy that is working in Iraq, where IS has lost territory.

The other question, which the prime minister has referred to, is whether any action we propose should only take place after a wider negotiated solution is reached to end the Syrian civil war, or whether we should act against IS now.

Despite some progress in the Vienna talks, the Russians and Iranians still seem to be strongly protecting Assad, whose departure is a pre-requisite to any negotiated solution, both because of the impossibility of him fronting a peaceful settlement in a united Syria (given the tens of thousands of civilians he has killed) and because of his responsibility, direct and indirect, for the rise of IS in the first place, and for its continued success.

Given the remoteness of a negotiated solution at present, therefore, the case to delay action is essentially a case for no action, and IS will continue to maintain its strength in Syria at least, inflicting horrific brutality on people in the regions under its control, recruiting more and more jihadis from around the world, and exporting its terror to Paris and elsewhere.

So whilst a negotiated settlement to the wider conflict is fundamental to guaranteeing IS’s ultimate destruction, the action in Iraq has shown that they can at least be significantly degraded without western troops on the ground, through coordination between western air forces and local troops. Weakening IS in preparation for an ultimate defeat as part of a wider settlement is not the ideal scenario, but it is certainly better than nothing.

The final argument is that given the US and France (and, when they are not assisting Assad, Russia) are already all bombing IS in Syria, UK assistance would add little. However, that ignores completely the advice of the military figures who ultimately know whether or not that is true, and they say that whilst British involvement will not be significant in terms of the number of sorties, the RAF has technical abilities that are not shared by the US and France and can therefore make a valuable contribution, particularly in ensuring strikes are as targeted and precise as possible.

Decisions on whether to take military action are rarely clear-cut. The case for UK airstrikes against IS in Syria is not an overwhelming one. There are some good arguments against. There is no guarantee of success, even on the limited terms we set. But the case is sufficiently strong that Liberal Democrat MPs should back the government’s motion when it comes up for a vote.

* Nick Thornsby is Thursday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs here.

Adam Savage, Still Untitled

Nov. 29th, 2015 02:30 pm
[syndicated profile] badastronomy_feed

Posted by Phil Plait

My Close Personal Friend Adam Savage™ does a lot of fun stuff with the folks at Tested.com, including a podcast with Tested founders Will Smith and Norman Chan called “Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project”. The three of them ostensibly have a topic to cover, but they always seem to wind up all over the place in the discussion, which is pretty much how all my conversations with Adam go.

It’s pretty entertaining, as you’d expect; getting three smart, interesting people together to talk about stuff is generally a good listen. But their episode from Nov. 24, titled “So About That UFO”, is especially good, for two reasons. One is that they talk about the Trident missile launch from early November that freaked so many people out in California.

The other reason is that they spend a full minute talking about what a great guy I am. Modesty prevents me from agreeing with them whole-heartedly and praising their obvious excellent taste, so instead why don’t you just give it a watch?

The good part starts at 4:07. Seriously, it was very kind of them to say such wonderful things, and honestly, back atcha, gents. I got a chance to hang with all three of them for a while at San Diego Comic Con this past summer, and it was a lot of fun. 

“Untitled” is great, and you can find it on the Tested site linked above, or the audio-only version is on iTunes. Subscribe! Enjoy!

strangecharm: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)


Nov. 29th, 2015 02:51 pm
[personal profile] strangecharm
Right now I'm sending love to the Portuguese woman on the bus who got accosted by an old guy who wanted to talk to her about Nando's.

I recognized how difficult those polite shrugs and vaguely bemused smiles can be. I recognized something in her face and her body language as she had to keep giving answers "yes, piri means hot...piri piri doesn't mean anything, we'd never say that" and "I think it's owned by a South African...it's a South African thing...SOUTH AFRICA" answers are to give, when someone's grabbed onto one thing they think they know about your country and just will not stop.

They ask questions that have no answers -- the questions make all kinds of incorrect assumptions -- but you still have to answer anyway.

I wasn't able to intervene on the crowded bus, but I wanted to. I hope somehow psychically she knew I was sympathizing and it did her some good.
supergee: (bucky)

Are they trying to tell us something?

Nov. 29th, 2015 09:00 am
[personal profile] supergee
Planned Parenthood shooting suspect made comment about “no more baby parts.” Police and media experts continue to wonder about his motivation.
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Posted by TSE

Someone in the Parliamentary Labour Party is going to have to take one for the team if they want Corbyn gone.

In today’s Independent on Sunday, Jane Merrick writes

I understand that [Dan] Jarvis now wants to be Labour leader – and when a vacancy arises he will go for it. He is not perfect, and he will not be the only candidate. Yet Jarvis can count on more support than he would have had earlier this summer. The question is, in what form will that vacancy arise – in a bloody coup or when Corbyn decides to stand down? For Jarvis’s prospects to survive, he cannot be part of any plot.

Rightly or wrongly the current Labour leadership are seen as unpatriotic, the easiest way to undo that perception is to elect as leader someone who has served in the armed forces. Step forward Major Dan Jarvis, the Member of Parliament for Barnsley Central, this gives him an advantage over most of the other contenders to replace Corbyn. Labour does have form for replacing a pacifist leader with an ex major, when Major Clement Attlee replaced George Lansbury whose pacifism was rejected at the 1935 Labour party conference.

But I think the lesson of the 1990 Tory leadership of “he who wields the knife never wears the crown” is influencing those who want Corbyn gone, personal ambitions of many may stop Corbyn being toppled as it was clear from Corbyn’s interview with Andrew Marr this morning where Corbyn said “I’m not going anywhere” that he won’t be going voluntarily.


PS – Though it would be remiss of me not to mention that a lot of Labour’s current travails stem from a former Army Major, Eric Joyce whose problems caused him to stand down as an MP and the process to choose his replacement in Falkirk became so troublesome that Ed Miliband changed the way Labour leaders are elected, if Ed Miliband hadn’t it would be very unlikely Jeremy Corbyn would have become Labour Leader.

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Posted by John Quiggin

In my last post on private infrastructure finance and secular stagnation, I suggested a bigger argument that

The financialization of the global economy has produced a hugely costly financial sector, extracting returns that must, in the end, be taken out of the returns to investment of all kinds. The costs were hidden during the pre-crisis bubble era, but are now evident to everyone, including potential investors. So, even massively expansionary monetary policy doesn’t produce much in the way of new private investment.
This isn’t an original idea. The Bank of International Settlements put out a paper earlier this year arguing that financial sector growth crowds out real growth. But how does this work and what can be done about it? I’m still organizing my thoughts on this, so what I have are some ideas rather than a fully formed argument.

First, if the financial sector is unproductive, how can it be so large and profitable in a market economy?

There are a few possible explanations
(a) As in the official theory of efficient markets, the financial sector is actually earning its keep by allocating capital to the most productive investments, and by spreading and managing risk. I don’t see how anyone can argue this with a straight face in the light of the last 20 years of bubbles and busts.
(b) Tax evasion: the global financial sector allows corporations to greatly reduce their tax liabilities. Most of the savings in tax is captured in the financial sector itself, but the amount flowing to corporations is sufficient to offset the high costs of the modern financial sector, relative to (for example) old-style bank finance and simple corporate structures financed by debt and equity
(c) Volatility: the financialisation of the economy has produced greatly increased volatility (in exchange rates, asset prices and so on). The financial sector amplifies and profits from this volatility, partly through regulatory arbitrage, and partly through entrenched and systematic fraud as in the LIBOR and Forex scandals.
(d) Political capture: The financial sector controls political outcomes in both traditional ways (political donations, highly revolving door jobs for future and former politicians) and through the ideology of market liberalism, which is perfectly designed to support policies supporting the financial sector, while discrediting policies traditionally sought by other parts of the corporate sector, such as protection for manufacturing industry. The shift to private finance for infrastructure, discussed in the previous post is part of this. The construction part of the infrastructure sector (which was always private) has suffered from the reduced flow of projects, but the finance part (previously managed through government bonds) has benefited massively.

The result of all this is that the financial sector benefits from an evolutionary strategy similar to that of an Australian eucalypt forest. Eucalypts are both highly flammable (they generate lots of combustible oil) and highly fire resistant. So eucalypt forests are subject to frequent fires which kill competing species, and allow the eucalypts to extend their range.

[personal profile] andrewducker
I don't think we've ever seen an episode anything like that before, and Capaldi was simply brilliant in it.

And clearly, when Moffat puts the effort into it he can still write amazingly well.

(And put together intricate patterns that all feed into each other.)

I am now dreading him screwing up the finale.
matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)

British Liberal, house husband, school play leader and stepdad. Campaigner, atheistic feminist, amateur baker. Male.

Known to post items of interest on occasions. More likely to link to interesting stuff. Sometimes talks about stuff he's done. Occasionally posts recipes for good food. Planning to get married, at some point. Enjoying life in Yorkshire.

Likes comments. Especially likes links. Loves to know where people came from and what they were looking for. Mostly posts everything publicly. Sometimes doesn't. Hi.

Mat Bowles

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October 2015


Stuff and nonsense

I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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