Living in real gangster times

Uplifted from without permission – I’m sure our friend Toad won’t mind:

Much of it was thoroughly predictable. Thatcher’s policies, followed by her neo-lib cohorts Major, Blair, and Brown, were bound to cause the sort of social dysfunction now happening in the UK.

The freaky bit is the first couple of lines of the lyrics:

Why do you record my phone calls; Are you planning a bootleg LP?

Who the hell could have predicted the Murdoch/NewsCorp phone-hacking scandal 30 years ago?

34 Comments Posted

  1. Now you’re just being a communist.

    We (as in both “us” and the government) have no shortage of money, but not to spend on stuff like people’s salaries that have to be paid every year. But funding things and stuff, thats always possible.

  2. Seperate point, separate post

    There is no business model I can imagine that actually does what you think can be done here DB. … and I do not see the “global opportunities” you do. We subsidize in several ways, our film industry.

    Yes, we do in several ways subsidise our film industry. And that lubrication (for that is what it is) gives us something like 0.1% of the global film business. Thats getting on for $2b sloshing through the coffers. We get a great return on our investment. Many countries are trying this, essentially giving money to film-makers to bring their work to their country. Heck, even states in the USA have massive tax breaks to try and move the productions out of Hollywood. Its a competitive global business.

    So that is a (somewhat odd, I grant ye) example of our government influencing business globally to our benefit.

    But the point is this: the government can make a difference, and has so in the case of the film industry.

    We have some great high tech companies that compete on the global stage without any subsidisation, but we need more, and thats where the goivernment can help. It has to create the conditions where mobile, high tech business chooses to locate to New Zealand, and to persuade our locals to set up shop here. The government has limited tools at its disposal, mostly money, and how it uses and extracts it. Previous governments of all persuasions have done nothing to attract this kind of business.

    So what is needed is not that hard, and it is not without precedent.

    John Key could do it. Phil Goff could do it. But neither will; they are both too busy ideologically masturbating, John to flog off more of our stuff, and Phil to take a few bucks off the wealthy.

  3. The decision to buy train set parts from offshore was scandalous, and is illustrative not of the problems of globalisation, but of a problem right here in New Zealand. The Train Set is (rightfully and righteously) ours, but it’s not run like it’s ours, its run as a pseudo-private-ish-sector company.

    As I ranted about in the post about ripple control and electricity, there are things (many, many things) that the private sector does well, and there are things that are better as being “ours”.

    This is another area where left and right are both without answers because their brains are clouded with ideology, particularly from the right wing.

    If something is “ours”, then it should be run with our big picture benefit as the goal, not some smaller goal of the sort needed by private sector companies.

    Anyone with more than 0.2 functioning brain cells in the economic department “gets” that the basic rules for operating in the global economy are (a) you want as much of other peoples money coming in based on sustainable business practices as possible, (b) you keep as much money in the country as possible, (c) you have said money sloshing as many times as possible, and (d) you spend as little money externally as possible.

    So its clear to see that even though local production wouldn’t be as quick as importing from China, or as cheap, the benefits to New Zealand – thats the “us” I’ve been talking about – of using local production vastly outweign any of the other benefits that buying from offshore offered. Simply because its better to (as some right wingers would have it) waste the money here in NZ than it is to send it offshore.

    Is that protectionism? Maybe, but I’d call it joined up thinking. But that doesn’t mean that globalisation in general is wrong. And it’s the sort of thing that New Zealand can get away with because we are so tiny.

    Aside: Before the quakes, there was a bus company in Christchrch that painted its busses whit, sayin this bus due to be replaced by a new bus, and that they had 32 new busses on order from China. It took ages for these new busses to arrive.

    When they did, they were from the Zhongtong Bus company, who you can read about here.

    This company can turn Christchurch’s 32 new busses off its production lines in a day. Enormous capacity.

    And that blogger is right; skills are disappearing left, right and centre. But turning back the clok, even if it were possible, will not bring them back.

  4. A quote from another blogger in another place –

    My buddy China Bob flew into Baltimore last night on his way to a family vaction. We got to go out for a few brews before I dropped him off where is wife is visiting with a family friend who is going with them.

    Bob, who I mentioned in a long ago post was selling machine tools in China. But a couple of years ago the company folded up and he got a job as a quality control engineer with the Department of Defense. ( I don’t want to mention the branch). In his current capacity he inspects assemblies going into wheeled and tracked vehicles. If they wanted a ‘go along to get along to get along’ person they shouldn’t have hired Bob. Bob is rejecting assemblies left and right for failure to meet specs. This causes great consternation among suppliers who then try to use their political connections in DC to pressure my old pal. Good luck with that.

    So I was asking him what the problem is all about. He said the parts that go into the assemblies aren’t being made right. Said we just don’t have enough skilled machinists to do this kind of work anymore.

    When the talking heads are ranting about infrastructure they are always going on about bridges and roads. The infrastructure breakdown that terrifies me is SKILLED MACHINISTS. China Bob says no one wants to learn these trades anymore because they don’t want dirt under their finger nails jobs. Plus there is not enough people goming out of the schhools with enough math aptitude to train them for skilled machining.

    Just passing it on.


    It isn’t about our schools, they’re good, or our graduates, they’re good too…

    The cost of transportation is not properly factored in (it is higher than its current carbon subsidized price)… but it is not just that.

    The size of our market means that we have to protect manufacturing jobs , forever, or abandon high value manufacturing, forever.

    This in turn means that we will pay more for manufactured things than people in China might… and is that wrong? We pay more than anyone else does anyway. The difference is that right now we’re bleeding talent, intelligence, education out our veins into the economies of other larger nations. That’s what “free trade” gives us.

    There is no business model I can imagine that actually does what you think can be done here DB. I appreciate that we almost agree on stuff, but I look at the world through older and more jaundiced eyes and I do not see the “global opportunities” you do. We subsidize in several ways, our film industry. The USA and Eurozone protect their agriculture, Japan has always protected its industry in various ways. We can go to India or China to sell our stuff but their cost to produce will eat our lunch every time, except in agriculture.

    I don’t see us getting off our knees until we see the people responsible for things like the decision to buy rail cars from China or Korea or wherever dragged through the streets, tarred and feathered. This is called protectionism and it goes against globalization, but it is NECESSARY for us.


  5. It’s funny (as in funny peculiar rather than funny ha ha) – we are violently agreeing on some things, things that certainly some others fail to see, yet we have entirely different perspectives on others.

    If you look at globalisation from a national perspective, there are winners and losers. If you look at it from a planetary perspective, then its clear that globalisation works. However, there is no planetary level organisation, so you only generally get to see globalisation at the national level, and then in terms of is it better or worse for a country. Globalisation doesn’t need to scale any further; not until we have outposts on other worlds.

    To extend what you said: “Specialization works for individuals, it DOES NOT apply so well for nations”, but it works for the world.

    The bit “it DOES NOT apply so well for nations” is not an absolute statement and from a national perspective, I would guess it would depend on whether the nation of interest is a beneficiary of globalisation, or a victim of globalisation.

    As a (still, according to the OECD) first world country, we get to choose what our values are, and where we choose to be in the global society. We can choose to be a winner or a victim.

    So taking your (in my opinion) most important point:

    “So, the false gods of “competitive advantage” and “free trade” dictate that this nation become a nation of low-paid farmers? ”

    Thats absolutely the problem, we’ve allowed this to happen, and it’s happened on our watch.

    New Zealand stuck out in the middle of nowhere, so that provides certain (and increasing) constraints on what it is sensible for us to do.

    If you look at that perspective, then the only stuff we should be transporting out is high value stuff with a long shelf life, and stuff we can do that doesn’t need transport at all, ie intellectual stuff that can travel at internet speed.

    In summary, we should be leveraging globalisation for our good, rather than accepting that it is bad for us. In another extension of what you said, the problem is we can’t get out of our own way. As long as we continue to believe that we can only be “a nation of low-paid farmers” then thats exactly where we deserve to be in the world.

    We need to want to choose to change our place in the world (kudos Otago uni) and forge a path to get there.

    This then leads on to all the themes you’ll hear me banging on about, innovation, hi-tech, and higher value businesses (including significantly raising the minimum wage on the way), grabbing more of the international business we want (eg film), all of which leads to more country turnover (and more money sloshing around within the country), which leads to more tax revenues (without having to raise tax rates or increase tax coverage), and this increase in revenues enables more and better social programmes to then enable us to make a life for the citizens we dont want working, and provide improved health and education. And it leads to a bunch of people getting rich beyond their wildest dreams, and acting as role models for others who didn’t know they were prepared to make a difference (thanks Uni of Canty)

    All the bits need to fit together, but for the prosperity of new Zealand to rise and to arrest the multi-decade decline in our standard of living, we need to make use of the global opportunities presented in a globalised world, and we need to want to change.

    Or we’re fucked.

  6. In the real world DB, the protectionism practiced to put Japan in a position to innovate was brutal. Singapore is a single city located on a strategic goods route. Had it managed to NOT become what it has become it would have been a miracle.

    Globalization may be a logical extension of the specialization of individuals, but the concept neither scales up nor migrates to the future. Skills like hunting and farming in primitive times were not differentiated greatly in their compensation per unit time of the people in those occupations. Nor was there a large amount of education and ability to learn demanded of either.

    Individuals have technical ability or not and there is desperately little one can do to educate a person who is in the lower quintile of ability. We’ve got a world in which that education and ability to learn is demanded for entry into the better paying jobs…. and nations are made up of individuals, some of whom are statistically inevitably going to have the ability to be educated and work in the better paying jobs.

    So, the false gods of “competitive advantage” and “free trade” dictate that this nation become a nation of low-paid farmers? That is the RESULT in the real world, of applying the rules that work well for individuals, to nations. It is not a matter of “division of labour” DB, that applies well enough among individuals and locally. It is a matter of national well being and dependence and independence.

    IF we could do things so that the theoretical goal of efficient free trade could be fair, we would already HAVE world peace, global government and environmental regulations that prevent global warming. It would be a very good thing.

    I notice however, that we humans cannot do ANY of those things, can’t manage any of them at all and that a substantial group of us resist the notion of even TRYING to do any of them. The underlying reasons for our failures at these things are also the reasons we are not capable of proper “free trade”.

    The question has to be what is good for the economy of a nation. The answers may differ somewhat depending on how closely bound nations may be… but what is clear historically and in terms of the people who make up each nation, is that EACH nation needs to have its spread of job types, abilities demanded and compensation. Specialization works for individuals, it DOES NOT apply so well for nations.

    For New Zealand, as far as it is from everything, this is more clearly true than for Denmark which is at the center of the Eurozone. The notion of free travel from here to there and back is belied by the many thousands of dollars it costs to get there and back, the visas required, the restrictions on educational resources which are taxpayer funded.

    In other words, it is a nice idea but it doesn’t scale, and the illusion that it CAN has led us down a false road. We have to end the illusion.


  7. Fair enough SPC… I am calling “Free Trade” what it is now. There is a theoretical “Free Trade” which is a lot like the theories of pure Communism and pure Libertarianism, in that it is impossible of actual implementation by humans.

    The thing of it is, that with money being as free as IT is to traverse the globe in microseconds, unfettered by any notions of reality, this is one of the inevitable results.

    I see too, that the free-trade zombies are meandering about the place. Clearly unwilling to defend their results in the real world. This is an idea whose time has gone. It needs to be put in the context of the results it achieves. I can accept the theoretical basis on which it gives better results to all who participate, but I do not in any place in history, see those results in the real world for whole nations. Some individuals may profit, but we lose too much in the bargain.

  8. I suppose people debate free trade and globalisation and call it good or bad based on their definitions of those terms.

    The free trade we have is not fair as the rules are set by the powerful and the less powerful are unable to change the rules to make them fair, because the powerful set conditions for any move to fairness that compromise the intent of the proposal. For example it was free trade in industrial goods that excluded agriculture (European and American subsidy), then moves to include agriculture were conditional on allowing foreign investment in local infrastructure and services (so that profit from third world growth could be extracted).

    And a flaw in globalisation is that it does not include rules regulating exploitation of either labour or the environment, even though capital (investment) is always featured in “free trade talks”.

    Unsurprisingly financial services grow as a share of the economy (and yet with this comes growing economic instability) and relative labour poverty (to profits on capital) occurs with this and the world environment is increasingly degraded as both a natural habitat and as an economic resource.

  9. To change this horrible situation we need to have jobs available that value degrees and are prepared to pay for them. That’s a long way from where we are today.

    We are at the mercy of the free-trade zombies. We are at the mercy of the debt based money. We will NOT get this fixed until belief in those two fallacies has been shattered.


  10. BJ, and globalisation.

    Globalisation isn’t special, it is merely a continuance of what mankind first did to divide up the workload. Instead of everyone going out to hunt for meat, some villagers specialised in meat hunting, whereas other specialised in weaving.

    With increasing citizen mobility the division of labour intially went from village to national levels, and then at some point it became international. Certain countries specialised in doing certain things. So New Zealand ended up a milk producer.

    In exactly the same way that governments were not involved in (in most places anyway) deciding how the necessary workloads would be divided amongst the citizenery, they were not directly involved in deciding how the workload would be divided globally.

    Once some governments woke up to this new world organisation, they determined that they could influence their country’s lot by taking government action. So Singapore and Japan went from bottom-of-the-pile assemblers to global innovators. New Zealand didn’t change, and our global position declines year on year.

    So globalisation is not bad per se, unless you consider the idea of division of labour bad, and if so, then we’ve been doing it wrong for 50K years or something of that order. And the ants and the bees must have it wrong too.

    Truly free trade is a good thing; it removes barriers to trading errected as protectionist measures. However most “free trade agreements” are very lacking in that freedom and transparency.

    The clock is not going to be willingly turned back, and even Peak Oil will not have as big as impact as some may think on this, as containerised mass shipping is already quite fuel effiient, and could be made vastly more so, at a loss of speed.

    So the big questions are when will New Zealand get its head out of its arse and decide that our global position is not good and we need to improve it?

    Thats the challenge facing us and our government, and so far, no government of any colour has got anywhere near addressing the issues, they’re just rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

  11. I still haven’t got around to answering BJs interestiung question cos that will take time and I’m about to go out.

    But to the latter question: In New Zealand we have the lowest premium for a university education of any country in the OECD and many others. McDonalds and milk farms dont pay premiums for degrees. To change this horrible situation we need to have jobs available that value degrees and are prepared to pay for them. That’s a long way from where we are today.

    And yes, theres my other meme (you stole my word!), we have too many people who we will never have jobs for. We need to figure out how to build a society that accomodates those that, frankly, we dont want to work. All without going bankrupt.

  12. Interesting strawman Liberty. The questions left, are whether you, who are really a pretty smart guy, really believe all that mischaracterization of the poor AND the Greens, by right wing nut jobs?

    … and what actual solution to the question of what everyone who is NOT able to learn enough to get the Uni degree that is basically the entry level ticket to get punched in order to earn a more or less decent wage.

    Efficiency is a laudable goal. At its end everything is produced without human labour.. and in that case WHAT do we pay WHO?

    We’re already moving perceptibly towards that position. The entrenched unemployed are not in the smartest quintile… (though the argument that they’re smart enough to leech off everyone else has been forwarded and found wanting before). Work hard to get ahead… it is the underlying assumption of our civilization. We’re breaking it with our drive to efficiency. What new meme is available to us?



  13. Agree totally.

    Public Support for bankers and others who stole most of the UK’s wealth and the politicians who are helping them should be withdrawn immediately.

    Is it surprising that after decades of selfishness, meanness, unpunished theft and blatant tax dodging from the top, that those at the bottom follow the example.

    You ruin, destroy and steal everything from people, including any hope for a better future. Then you are surprised they turn as mean and self centred as you.

  14. The thing almost all NZers are missing are the increasingly long list of examples NOT of theft or anything to do with poverty, but of sadistic, parasitical and destructive attacks directly on innocent people. Yes most of the activity went on in deprived areas (quite why they mostly didn’t go to far wealthier areas is a curious mystery because they were largely sans much police presence), but then why drive on a pavement to mow pedestrians down? Why set fire to rubbish bins in residential areas then beat to death the elderly resident who came out asking you to stop? Why rob an injured and bleeding young man? Why set fire to a bus? Why burn down homes they don’t live in, in depressed areas, without the slightest concern for the people inside?

    Indeed, taxpayers and the victims might ask why they should pay for people who are out to destroy them. Why force peaceful people to pay parents benefits for kids they raise to be thieves, vandals and muggers?

    The only “reason” being “it will be worse”. So either you’re robbed by thugs, or you’re robbed by the state which then pays the thugs money to not rob you, except of course, they still might, and after they get out of prison, they’ll STILL be paid.

    At what point do people on the left think enough is enough and people need to be accountable for their actions and no longer get given money taken by force from people they are happy to ruin and destroy?

    Not of course that anyone would stop anyone CHOOSING to pay to support such people, but if you are a repeat violent or property offender, everyone else should not be forced to support you.

  15. Dbuckley I have to ask… why not? The US grew at first by protecting its industry, as did Japan, as did China, as did… most of the countries of the world. The “globalization” meme is nothing but a license for the corporations to run the world. I apologize for being this frank but those fucking bastards do not deserve that license. The idea that free trade is the best way to run things for a nation has been shown false at every juncture. Good for some, not for others. More “efficient” at the expense of the environment and worker’s rights.


    It hasn’t EVER worked to my knowledge. The degradation of conditions and working compensation is an inevitable and absolutely predictable result. It might be a bit better if the countries and corporations were forced to use real money to do things… but I am not sure that the problems with this religion are so simply addressed.


  16. Until we realize it, we’re at the mercy of the zombies.

    Yes, but turning the clock back is not the answer, nor is trying to do so practicable, or even desirable.

    We need to move forward and work with the current reality.

    Which is, I guess, yet another way of saying neither the left nor the right have any answers.

  17. Indeed, but I’ve already said that neither of the big parties have a plan.

    Well, actually, National do, but its a piss poor plan.

  18. Frog and jarius are both suffering from historic wingedness. It matters not a jot how we got here.

    It matters a lot how we got here when all the big parties continue to offer is more of what got us here.

  19. The “Free Trade” religion has pauperized and progressively hobbled and castrated the economy of New Zealand for 20 years now. You’d think we’d have learned, but no. the army of “free trade” ideologues march on like the zombified corpses in a Romero flick. We’re down and we’re going to stay down until the common folks recognize that the internationalization that results is only good for multinational corporations who can effectively arbitrage wage and environmental issues… defeating both the social and the environmental goals of the green party AND the green movement. Stimulating a corpse isn’t going to work, and that is more clear the more we watch the shenanigans of the US. The economy isn’t coming back the way it was by following their lead, or linking our fortunes to theirs.

    Once we realize that, we can start making some progress with employing people, building things and paying proper wages within this country.

    Until we realize it, we’re at the mercy of the zombies.


  20. There’s plenty of money for social services without increasing tax – start with the Trident replacement. Twenty-five billion pounds ought to cover a few social programmes.

    “children out of wedlock” – that’s a good one – an admission that the only source of morality for the right (since, like Thatcher, they don’t believe in society) is the church and fear of god.

  21. Frog and jarius are both suffering from historic wingedness. It matters not a jot how we got here. No wing or party comes up smelling of roses for the last several decades. The real problem is how we move forward.

    More than ever before, society (in many countries) are splitting into the “haves” and “have nots”, with the “have nots” increasing in number, as they are essentially surplus to the requirements of society. I’ve argued elsewhere on the Blog (here) that they underlying causes for this are actually good, but, the aftermath is bad because society is not set up to accept this situation.


    a) A whole chunk of society just have to accept that they are the “have nots”, have no future, will always be the have nots, and just better get on with it, or

    b) We find a way to reintegrate the surplus people back into society.

    It doesn’t matter which way we choose, there will be a cost. We can either spend taxpayers money wisely by building a better society, or spend it wastefully by paying for jails when society becomes comes unglued.

    We have choices we can make. This isn’t an argument about whether money will be spent or not, not spending money is not an option – the Curmudgeon and others do not get that choice. Its about *how* we choose to spend the money.

  22. @Misanthropic Curmudgeon 10:11 AM

    Toad’s answer to linking ‘deprevation’ with violence appears to be to be more tax, more handouts,…

    Actually, it is not. It is about economic policy settings that create jobs so that these young people have some hope in their lives. Initially, that may mean more tax, but if benefit recipients become productive taxpayers who feel included in society it pays off in the longer term.

  23. Toad’s answer to linking ‘deprevation’ with violence appears to be to be more tax, more handouts, and more pandering to the threat of ‘give it to us or we’ll steal it’.

    Are you suggesting that more deprivation will help?

  24. It’s not because of a left agenda that greed and materialism have become the new religion- it is the pervasive cultural notion that material goods are what life is about that influences many people whose lives are bereft of other meaning or purpose. I hold absolutely no brief for any of these actions at all, but to pretend the rioting is nothing to do with the kind of society we have been building over these last decades is disingenuous to say the least.
    Some years ago, Ken Loach made a movie called “mean Time” set in one of these impoverished (in a spiritual sense) areas – it showed the tedium of lives where no-one has a job, where there are few amenities or community places – you could feel the boredom and restlessness building. This is the tinder that had a match laid to it the other night.
    While corporations rule and politics is seen to be about money and growth and not community or environment, then it is not surprising that the undereducated, the greedy and those with little stake in their communities go on the rampage.
    It has also pulled together those who do care about their communities and understand there is more to life than stuff. Once more, the ordinary decent ones are the heroes, not the complacent leaders who are the mouthpieces of the corporate thieves.

  25. Toad’s answer to linking ‘deprevation’ with violence appears to be to be more tax, more handouts, and more pandering to the threat of ‘give it to us or we’ll steal it’.

    Quite how that ios expected to be work, or is considered to be fair, is beyond me

  26. @Libertyscott, Jarius

    This may interest you. It is a map of the London riots superimposed on deprivation deciles. While you may be able to cite the odd example of rich kids getting involved in the rioting for the hell of it, the rioting is almost exclusively in the suburbs of high deprivation. Are you seriously suggesting that’s just a coincidence?

    The right’s “solutions” like withdrawing benefits or kicking them out of public housing are only going to exacerbate the problems.

  27. Really explains this darling of a wealthy family going out to pillage with her mates

    or the mowing down of three young men on a footpath by a car laden with loot

    or robbing in broad daylight a young man bleeding in agony and staggering with a broken jaw, whilst pretending to help him

    or people sending their kids in to loot, putting the kids in danger so they can get some free stuff, or the people looting and then just trashing what they loot, having a laugh the whole time

    so what would you lot all do? Tax the business owners a bit more, the middle classes a bit more (you know there aren’t enough rich to pillage for what you want), so you can pay the looters and wreckers more money without consequences? How much more do you want the state to take from people who work hard to pay for those who are morally bankrupt?

    What do you do about the malignant culture that pervades these people that is feral and says I can hurt whoever I want and it’s funny, and bring up kids at taxpayer expense to believe the same?

    Would you withdraw benefits from people who act like this, would you evict them from public housing, or would you want to pay them more, and hold out hope that they might change behaviour as they continue to live off the back of the efforts of others?

  28. Are the left seriously this ignorant? Nevermind the real problems that have occurred thanks to leftwing social politics which have resulted in increased family breakdown, children out of wedlock, weaker discipline and justice systems which make everyone but criminals themselves actually responsible.

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