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The Bleak Choice

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The Bleak Choice

Postby Londonrake » Sun Nov 17, 2019 9:30 pm

I post this in its entirety - it's paywalled - to perhaps illustrate the bleak choice that people in the UK face on 12 December.

"From a business perspective, the choice between Corbyn and Johnson is one of the most dismal of the post-war age. We deserve better"

What a miserable choice awaits voters on Dec 12. On the one hand we have the unrealistic flag-waving optimism of Boris Johnson, determined to take us out of Europe on a wing and a prayer, and on the other the reckless socialism of Comrade Corbyn. Hovering in the middle is the ineffectual liberalism of what’s her name; other than revoking article 50, nobody’s got a clue what she stands for.

From a business perspective, the choice is one of the most dismal of the post-war age. The Conservatives pass muster in some regards, though given the record of the past 10 years, and in particular the failure to address long-standing sores, such as business rates and the apprenticeship levy, even the Tories do not obviously qualify as an overtly pro-enterprise party.

But to be running up the debt at the rate now contemplated at the same time as ditching the world’s biggest free trade zone in favour of an unknown blue yonder is not a guaranteed recipe for economic success. The great bulk of internationally exposed businesses believe that the sort of hard Brexit envisaged under Boris Johnson’s deal will be economically harmful.

On the other side of the ledger we have Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, which appears to want to abolish the market economy altogether and replace it with some kind of impoverished, Cuban-style, command and control dystopia, where all are equal but much poorer.

One can only assume that the crowning glory of this policy agenda – free ultra-high speed broadband for all via nationalisation of the bulk of British Telecom – is an act of desperation. Trailing badly in the polls, and routinely ridiculed on the doorstep, Labour badly needs a quick fix to revive its electoral fortunes. I doubt this is it, since even a one eyed octopus could see that nationalisation is a complete waste of money.

There was admittedly a problem with full-fibre roll-out, exacerbated by a mistaken regulatory approach that failed to provide the private sector with the incentives it needed, but it is now largely fixed and recent Tory pledges to subsidise the required investment should resolve it completely. Inadequate broadband is yesterday’s story.

But no matter. Interest rates are low, and the bond markets, in John McDonnell’s judgment, are desperate to lend, even for such a madcap purpose as this one. What in any case is another £100bn against spending pledges which according to internal Treasury estimates already top more than a trillion?

Never mind that when British Telecommunications, as it then was, actually was in public ownership, you had to wait in queue for a telephone line, and quality of service was one of the worst in Europe. The reason for this was simple. As nationalised industries, the public utilities had no interest in efficiency or value for money, would have to compete alongside everything else for scarce government resource, and would therefore skimp on investment.

Provide a service for free, and all competitors are immediately rendered commercially unviable. The big driver of innovation and improvement is thereby removed, leaving the service hostage to the technological cul de sacs of Government decision making. Even that great communist utopia China (not) charges for broadband.

But if planning for free broadband, why stop there? What about free public transport and prescriptions – actually free medication may already be on Labour’s list, it’s hard to keep up – or TV licences and mobile telephony, anything that might be regarded in the indulgence of our times as a universal “right”.

The concept of a free service is only an extension, it might be said, of free healthcare, as indeed is the idea of a Universal Basic Income, where everyone is guaranteed a minimum wage regardless of whether they work or not.

So what happens when something is provided free? As we have seen with the National Health Service, it creates an insatiable demand, which because state resource is always bound to be limited by ability to tax, can never be satisfied and therefore results in a sense of permanent crisis.

“We economists don’t know much,” said Milton Friedman, the monetarist, “but we do know how to create a shortage. If you want to create a shortage of tomatoes, for example, just pass a law that retailers can’t sell tomatoes for more than two cents per pound. Instantly you’ll have a tomato shortage. It’s the same with oil or gas.” And it is the same with broadband.

Set against such lunacy, Boris Johnson looks a paragon of common sense. And that indeed is fast becoming his major selling point. Never mind getting Brexit done, it is fear of Corbyn which is driving the voters in his direction.

Those who cannot forgive the Tories for Brexit, are so terrified of Corbyn that they have nowhere else to go, worried as they are that a vote for the Lib Dems is effectively a vote for Marxism via the backdoor. In the choice between disaster on the one hand, and catastrophe on the other, it’s disaster that wins.

The same logic drives potential Brexit Party supporters. A vote for Farage is potentially a vote for Labour. Johnson could scarcely have been luckier with the electoral dynamics.


There is no comparison between Tory spending pledges and the wild promises being made by Labour, but some of the same criticisms apply. The national debt is at a peacetime record of 85 percent of GDP, and the deficit so far this year is already 28 percent higher than last. Yet still the spending commitments keep coming, apparently oblivious to the extreme and unavoidable long-term fiscal challenges already hurtling down the line at us from an ageing population.

While the politicians play games with the voters, preying on their prejudices and fears, the burning issues of our times from deficiencies in healthcare and infrastructure, to education and defence go unaddressed. All these things require long-term, bipartisan planning lasting way beyond the horizon of a five year electoral cycle.

Yet we have a Labour Party intent on re-engineering the entire economy in pursuit of some kind of delusional, egalitarian paradise, and a Tory Party so obsessed with the comparative irrelevance of Brexit, and the electoral advantage it might bring, that it has forgotten how to rule.

Leaving the European Union will not of itself solve any of these problems, nor unless it results in extreme economic hardship will it even act as a catalyst for change.

Those who see Brexit as a means to an end delude themselves if they think it will automatically cure Britain’s long-standing weaknesses in productivity and investment. The challenge will be to stop it from making them even worse.

There can be only one choice at this election, yet we really did deserve better.
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Re: The Bleak Choice

Postby Maximus » Sun Nov 17, 2019 10:06 pm

The situation sounds negative and dire.
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Re: The Bleak Choice

Postby Londonrake » Sun Nov 17, 2019 10:09 pm

Maximus wrote:The situation sounds negative and dire.


I'm thinking of emigrating.

Ohh...................... wait a minute!! :lol:
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Re: The Bleak Choice

Postby repulsewarrior » Mon Nov 18, 2019 2:38 am

Indeed Nationalising the Communication sector is a big step. It is at this point where all Brits would have to take stock of its essential nature in their lives, like water and power, and its importance to the world, other countries, generally. Nationalisation does not necessarily stifle competition, because while the infrastructure (the actual machinery) is built to the Nation's satisfaction, accordingly the provision of its service will be the same to all. Providers of service will still seek to differentiate themselves, as a service, so that their clients enjoy a product that suits their needs.

If this is the only radical proposal that Corbyn has, it is not entirely unacceptable as an idea, and perhaps worthwhile pursuing. Japan's infrastructure for example is the best because the service providers are obliged to work from one single system which they modernise and maintain together (to be the best possible system for Japan's needs). It is not entirely far fetched to imagine that the security of this important part of a country's infrastructure is better managed if everyone naturally works together to begin with. What is Huawei today, was Northern Telecom just two decades ago, Canada while still a very important player, is not the leader it once was, Hauwei is; it is something to think about, the same issue in Britain, (going its own way,) spend a lot on research being the innovator, lead in a competitive market world-wide, or (avoid this risk and) allow the service providers individually to buy their own systems, and to regulate a "fair" price, relative to the price they can charge, with what the market will bear.

I can't help but think that Britons will be more torn apart by this election; it is not about Brexit. Even if it is, the choice after all this time is as unclear. And in having to make a choice, it may be that Parliament will demonstrate it is even more fractured by its numbers. In the end, voters in such circumstances, vote strategically (so that a Leader will lose), by destroying their ballots (so that no Leader wins), not vote (so that the Government does not win (read: suffers)), or voting for the candidate that would be best at serving their Constituency directly, beyond their Party affiliation, or the other issues. It is still a matter of, who has the best candidates in the ridings themselves, these are the numbers that count because the Leaders it seems, as candidates, are not popular, or respected.

It is possible for a Leader, in such a case, to have a majority in Parliament without a majority of the popular vote for, their mandate. For a Leader i would think that this is the worst position to be in; a pyrrhic victory in affect, because despite the majority they may have it is without the confidence of the People.

There is no doubt that this election is Historic; interesting times ahead.
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Re: The Bleak Choice

Postby miltiades » Mon Nov 18, 2019 3:35 am

Never in the history of British politics has there been such an election. The devil and the deep blue sea. I can't help thinking that a better choice would have been ...Dell boy and Basil !! At least they are talented comedians !! Glad I'm out of it !!
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Re: The Bleak Choice

Postby erolz66 » Mon Nov 18, 2019 11:11 am

This man knows nothing about the economics of network provision. We do not build roads based on private companies meeting perceived demand. We did not build the M1 based on such nonsense. We socialise the cost of such infrastructure and then over this infrastructure competing services are offered by the market.
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Re: The Bleak Choice

Postby cyprusgrump » Mon Nov 18, 2019 9:57 pm

erolz66 wrote:This man knows nothing about the economics of network provision. We do not build roads based on private companies meeting perceived demand. We did not build the M1 based on such nonsense. We socialise the cost of such infrastructure and then over this infrastructure competing services are offered by the market.


Thank goodness the government built all the railways eh...? :lol:

...and the private hospitals that the NHS nationalised obviously.. :lol:
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