Future concepts, risks and rewards.

Arguments about the future are often the most heated.  Take Brexit for example, there are those who predict mayhem and those who predict a brave new world with boundless opportunity.  There are those of course like H.M.’s Opposition who have no discernible view at all and for once they maybe right.  There is an Arabic proverb; “He who tells the future tells lies.” – so beware!

It is interesting that so far the great and the good number crunchers have been seriously wrong at every turn.  The establishment, the Treasury, the Bank of England, the great accounting houses of KPMG etc all prophesied great gloom when article 50 was passed, and before that, immediately after the referendum.  So far, there are problems of course but nothing catastrophic has happened either to the U.K. or the E.U.

If we analysed the foes in this conflict of interpreting the future you could broadly claim that the more conservative (small c) then the more detailed the paradigms, reams of forecasts and much gnashing of teeth.  i.e. The Chancellor and his cohorts on the one side.

Whilst on the wilder less conservative more radical side we see few figures just lots of hope and glory. Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson et al.  It might be unkind to bracket Farage with the afore-mentioned.

The difference in the protagonists is a question and definition of risk.  Some are more risk averse some are less. Neither side would argue that there is no risk, but one side will emphasise the rewards whilst the other will concentrate almost entirely on risk.

By and large the man in the street, (it’s him again), doesn’t give a fig for detailed forecasts but they do grasp the idea of nationalism and democracy. Some call it Sovereignty. Some call it isolationism, some yet to decide what it means, but at least it means we can look after ourselves and not have unelected busybodies calling the shots from over there.

Few are interested in the history of peaceful cooperation in Europe, collective trade values, freedom of movement, world influence, technical cooperation  etc. etc.  Some even see Brexit as adventure against stagnation.  There are as many arguments and nuances as there are voters.  The fact remains that the future is unknown.  It may be an economic shock, it may even be a great new era, no one really knows.

If the conservative risk averse crew have been wrong so far, have the adventurers said anything that’s been any more accurate.  I find that hard to discern. Neither side can tell the future.

If the risk averse win the UK will turn back and have a fudged Brexit or even another referendum.  If the adventurers win then the Europeans will lose and that is not at all in their interest.

If I were a betting man I think a great fudge would be the best bet but who knows if that is the best outcome?

1918 – Mandela and Bernstein – send out the clowns.

1918 is most commonly remembered as the year which saw the end of the first world war, perhaps rightly so.  However, 1918 was a year when on different sides of the world great men were born who changed the world.  One, Nelson Mandela, the other Lenny Bernstein.  One the son of humble African Xhosa family the other a son of a Russian Jewish family born of humble and unmusical beginnings.

What do these colossuses of the century have in common?  Greatness , yes, but in such different ways.  But there are common traits in both men.  They both believed in themselves and they both emerged from very unpromising starts to become leaders and teachers of unparalleled ideas and achievements.

Where the sources of their genius sprang from no one knows but what is sure is that they both changed the world in their different ways.  Both in their own way were uncompromising. Mandela in his intolerance of intolerance, his foresight and generosity of spirit and Bernstein in his absolute faith in the very idea of music, whatever its origin whatever its  development.

Both men were mesmerising as characters, both handsome, both courageous, both blessed with outstanding intellects, and both driven by a different dream. Mandela some say was a child of his time, whereas Bernstein created wondrous music and recreated our view of music past,  present and future.

Mandela, once classed as a terrorist, now universally known as a saviour of South Africa and a true messenger of peace, is still very much revered but the practice of his very high ideals is hard to follow.  His successors have failed to come up to Mandela’s standards because in part those ideals are impossibly high.

The world is changing, populism is on the march, the easy way seems to be where most people want to follow.  What Mandela and Bernstein proved beyond reasonable doubt is that the right way is not easy, it is impossibly difficult.  Populist clowns may have their day but the likes of Mandela and Bernstein will be remembered and followed long after the clowns have gone.

 

 

 

Truth, half truth and nothing but my truth.

Watching the stream of calamities that follow POTUS Trump it is hard to believe that his coterie of followers seem more convinced than ever that he’s the leader they want.  He is by any measure a philanderer, racist and liar, yet his followers line up to defend him because they say the USA is doing well under his leadership which is a dubious claim by any  standard excepting the very shortest of term views.

Why? I ask myself. Maybe it’s because the elite liberals have ignored the courser idioms of the majority.  Yes, Obama was an outstanding orator, the first black President, the great hope for equality and progress.  Yet Obama achieved remarkably little  particularly for the miners of West Virginia and their like.  Obama may have been a great thinker but he wasn’t a great doer either at home or abroad.  His red line on Syrian chemical weapons was easy to erase, his economic policy was balanced and considered but that did not yield the short term fix that the redundancy threatened unskilled worker was looking for.

So enter Trump, a man’s man, a guy like any ordinary Joe.  Sure he talks a bit crudely for the POTUS but so what?  He’s had a few affairs, what a lucky guy – so what?  He sometimes tells porkies – don’t we all? – so what?  Trump speaks in a way the ordinary Joe understands, despite the fact that what he says is largely nonsense.  It is speaking commonly to common folk – populism at its plainest. Let’s start trade wars, lets put America first, screw the Chinese and all the other folk who manufacture goods cheaper than we do.  Sure this argument has grains of truth, but in aggregate its nonsense complete nonsense which will cost America hundreds of thousands of jobs, if it continues unabated.

When will both sides wake up.  The liberals must not abandon the common man, the bloke on the street.  Populists must stop telling lies. The situation seems hopeless and the answer so vary far away.

In Europe the idealist Jacques Delors saw the great federal Europe as the future, Boris Johnson sees that the ordinary man in the street doesn’t care to be ruled by foreign unelected bureaucrats and so appeals to the lowest common denominator, just like Trump.  Just like Trump, Johnson has gone for the oversimplified often distorted and exaggerated to appeal to the ‘man in the street’, in so doing he has undermined the real issues of the EU federalism,  fiscal unity and the Euro arguments.

You may argue that the ‘common man’ ought to wake up and examine these half truths and sophisticated arguments more precisely.  You can certainly argue there is no room for downright lies, but in the last analysis politics has to manage the truth in a direct way that every one understands.  Is there hope or are we condemned to hopelessness?

Ignorance, they say, is bliss, and populism is certainly on the rise. What we must avoid is further migration of two versions of fact, one interpreted by sophisticated elite and seldom understood by the electorate, and the oversimplified half truth of the populist.

Mr Trump believes he knows which will win, I hope his excesses catch up with him and that even the most plain follower will move toward a more reasoned view and politic. The same goes for Europe as it battles with its many demons.  Let us hope that we, one day soon, vote in an informed way that takes us where we want to go.

Are you lonely?-Don’t be afraid to talk.

Loneliness seems to be an epidemic of the modern age.  Many say it is made worse by social media and perhaps this is so.  The other reasons for this sad state of affairs are well-known; the dispersal of families, the mobility of practically everything.  The competition of ‘oh so lovely’ options instead of visiting relations and friends, even the traffic jams all contribute to the concentration of a self centred society.

Yet, we are aware of loneliness, it has even been featured in broadcasts and press articles, but as individuals we either suffer from it or put it out of our minds. There are degrees of loneliness, there are people who don’t speak to another human being for days on end, there are those who grieve, those who are cast out, those who are ashamed because they have done wrong, those who are afraid, those who do not value themselves, those who are running away from things real and imaginary. All are lonely and loneliness is both depressing and excruciatingly sad.

If you have never grieved for someone really close, a child, a partner or a very close parent, if you have never spent a day on your own, gone to bed without a ‘good night’ or woken to the stillness of an empty place, then you will have little idea of what loneliness is.  I am happy for you.  I urge you, though, to look at those who are without friends or company. I want you to talk to the beggar, the man selling magazines on the street corner, the old lady next door, the friend whose dropped out.  These are just a few of the people we all can help.

Don’t be afraid, I’m not asking you to give money, even shake their hands, all I’m asking you/us to do is to look and see loneliness and speak to it, to him or her.  To start “Good day”  is a start.  Maybe then perhaps another word of the weather or the time of day or this and that.  That’s all I ask of you and you and me.

If you are lonely I ask something else of you as well.  Don’t be afraid to look into the eyes of others, strangers they may be but they could be, and maybe, friends if you let them. Don’t be afraid of greeting the Lord or the labourer, you never know who will smile back and start to help you live another brighter day.  One day at a time and if you see us the ‘un-lonely’ don’t forget we’d like you to be amongst us.

 

The National Health Service – onward!

In the UK we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service.  This has become an iconic institution, a symbol of British middle way fairness and social consciousness. Free health service for all, free at the point of delivery for all citizens no matter what their social status or medical condition.   A truly wonderful edifice.  We see on our TV’s any number of documentaries showing the best of the system whether it be heroic ambulance crews or dedicated surgeons performing the most delicate and life saving operations.  The whole concept is wonderful.

Most of us are moved by the professionalism and dedication of all those who deliver these great services.  We are moved to tears as we watch the battles for life for old and young alike, and we marvel at the genuine generosity of spirit which runs through the organisation.

Yet, we are aware that with the advances of medical science, the consequent increase in the elderly population, we find it impossible to sustain and improve the service.  Everyone understands the issues here, it is the one thing that is not disputed by either political party, and yet there is a great reluctance to increase or re-dedicate the National Health Insurance stamp/levy to the sustenance of the N.H.S. and social services.

It is clear that the problems are gargantuan, but the longer the UK government of whatever hue leave it, the worse the situation will become.  There surely must be a three tier effort to improve the situation;

1 Amalgamation of Elderly care and the N.H.S. budgets and systems.

2 To have a cross party standing organisation to drive through efficiencies.

3 Re-calibrate the N.H.I. levy for all citizens according to their means and ring-fencing this indirect tax specifically for the N.H.S. and elderly services.

This is difficult but not rocket science, please politicians, whatever side you’re on face the dilemma and do something.  Interestingly anyone who moves first I think will win a great deal of support at the voting booth.

Borrow now, pay back never?

The world is lurching toward another financial meltdown.  Debt is spiralling out of control with all the superpowers going the same way as Japan.  The USA, China and the Eurozone, are piling up debt which is unsustainable.  Add to that the Trump proposition of turning inward  and starting trade wars and the recipe becomes more poisonous.

There seems a disconnect between the macro economic planners and the ordinary citizen, the man in the street who is still blithely encouraged to max out his credit cards and gamble as wildly as he can.  The idea of responsibility and restraint seem to have vanished from our psyche.  Even the memory of the recent bankers crash seems to have faded with astonishing alacrity.

Low interest rates have been seen as the cure to stimulate damaged economies but of course these measures have encouraged more borrowing and less saving thus exacerbating the debt spiral.

Debt equals hardship, if not now, then certainly when the debt is called in.  This is true for  national as well as personal debt.  When are we going to wake up?  Already we see slow or no growth and productivity stuck in a rut.  Going backwards and digging filthy coal is surely not the answer.

Hence the mass return to populism, the easy buck promise is in the ascendancy.  Trump, Farage, Barron et al, shout for the easy way out, namely, screw your neighbour.

Meanwhile the poor get relatively poorer and the rich richer as the manipulative money engineers continue to hedge and make money out of distressed high streets and edgy currency markets.  For example Bitcoins may be an abstract to most of us but it is yet again a method to help those who have the financial muscle to make hideous amounts of money.  At whose expense?  Somebody like you and me.

Left, Right or Centre, it’s a new day.

Many countries including the UK, maybe especially the UK, are running out of money.  From Local Authorities to all the great departments of state.  Whether it is the National Health Service, Education, Justice, even the Ministry of Defence.

The UK exemplifies the mature western democracy where capitalism is approaching the zenith of its life.  The rich are getting richer, the middle classes managing (just) and everyone below struggling in a low growth economy.

The key, the economists tell us is a lack of real growth and stagnant productivity, we have got to a stage where we find it hard to get even more bang for our bucks. So what to do?

Maybe, just maybe, crashing out of the EU will create such short-term distress that there will be a surge in enterprise to make up for the change of circumstances.  I don’t mean simply selling to non-EU countries, I mean a resurgence of creativity particularly, as seems likely, if the UK is cast adrift from Galileo and other scientific projects of pan European nature.

The future might see the UK, at last, recognizing that it is no longer a world leader either economically or militarily.  Consequently, the powers, at last, abandon wild armament programs such as Trident.  That does not mean shutting up the shop, all these fantastic skills and knowledge can be applied to so many applications from nuclear power to electric cars or hydrogen combustion engines.

Perhaps too, we could see the UK pick up and run with its education system which is currently squeezed so that many educational standards are losing ground and education itself, in all its form, is being devalued.

Most of all The UK could take a leaf out of The Donald’s book, put Britain first, not by protectionism but by creative power. By concentrating on making the UK a better and richer place where the riches are built on a vibrant education system, a competitive industrial base of a highly skilled workforce, and transport and infrastructure at least equal to our European competitors.

In Justice, we need a court that stands for freedom of anyone who makes their home in the UK and respects the rights of all men.  We need to care for all our folk, old and young alike.

To accomplish these things we need a centrist philosophy that balances the meritocracy and the social responsibilities.   Taxation needs to reflect the realities of the British aspiration, a good or bad Brexit, is still a new start for British values to stand and to be built upon.