Friday 25 June 2010

Detroit and Glasgow

On my first ever visit to North America I flew from Gatwick (via Prestwick!) to JFK on Laker Airways. This was back in the days when New York was scarier than London and I remember being ever so slightly nervous when shortly after arrival I took an evening trip on the Subway. All was fine however and three days later I travelled on a Greyhound bus via Boston to Montreal. After visiting Toronto I headed back into the US with Chicago being the next port of call. But I had to change buses in Detroit...

Back in the nineteen seventies the Detroit bus station wasn't the most welcoming of places at 7am. I guess it would be slightly more worrying nowadays:

"neighborhoods literally falling apart"—through streets that look like "a hurricane has recently swept through, destroying nearly everything on its path." Thousands of houses have been abandoned—in many areas 50-60% of the houses are in foreclosure. Some blocks have only a few homes left standing. A thousand people a month are leaving what has been called " America ’s fastest dying city."
Reading this, I immediately thought of Glasgow. Not so bad as Detroit perhaps, but getting there.

Sadly the writer of the piece on Detroit gets it completely wrong:

The productive forces in society—natural resources, technology, the creativity and knowledge of the people—are all held back and constrained, by the private and exploitative nature of capitalism. They are fettered by the need of capital to constantly produce for profit—not to meet the needs of the people.

This basic rule of capitalism—that the whole point of production is to make profit—means that people are treated as things to be used or tossed aside. It means the system considers thousands of Black people, especially the youth, as just so much surplus that can’t be profitably employed. It means the system, through its armed enforcers, must come down with even more repression against this socially combustible and potentially rebellious section of society. And it means poisonous ideological assaults that justify such attacks and blame the people for the oppressive situation the system has put them in.

Detroit is a painful and clear example of how we need a whole new way, a whole new system, a whole new society. And we need revolution to bring this into being.

Doesn't that sound just like the politicians and pundits who have impoverished Glasgow? The writer doesn't seem to realise that it was capitalism that built Detroit into America's premier industrial city. And it was capitalism that led to Glasgow being world champion in shipbuilding and locomotive manufacturing. If the politicians of Detroit and Glasgow wish their cities to be world-beaters again it behoves them to create the necessary conditions. Not subsidies and socialism but low taxes and free markets. As that great fan of Adam Smith once said: "There is No Alternative."

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Deficit? What deficit?

You've got to admit that this is most interesting:
Scotland's public finances are in a healthy position, with the country generating more income than it spends even in a period of recession, official statistics published today show. This is the fourth year in a row that Scotland has generated a current budget surplus, compared to a UK-wide deficit over the same period.

The latest Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) report for 2008-09 includes a share of the UK Government's Financial Sector Interventions to support the banking sector.

Even with that spending factored in, Scotland's financial position in 2008-09 was a current budget surplus of £1.3 billion, or 0.9 per cent of GDP, including a geographical share of North Sea revenues. At the same time, the UK was in current budget deficit of £48.9 billion, or 3.4 per cent of GDP, including 100 per cent of North Sea revenues.

I'd like to have a closer look at the assumptions made here but I wouldn't be too surprised to find that the report is more-or-less correct. I've always believed that the Southeast of England gains tremendously from the jobs and money generated there by the UK's uniquely centralised state and once that's taken into account the finances of Scotland become considerably better than they are often portrayed.

That's not to say that Scotland doesn't need a smaller state. Of course it does. And as a libertarian I want to see at least 90% of government expenditure eliminated. High state spending is not a good thing in itself. And the main aim must be to eliminate the welfare dependency that's so harmful to places like Glasgow.

Sadly that's not exactly the SNP view:

This year’s general election showed up a serious ideological difference between the SNP and the other major parties. We were the only ones who went into it opposing the agenda of swingeing cuts in public spending.
The SNP lost my vote at the general election because of their love of high taxation and nanny-statism. An independent Scotland should aim to be richer than Switzerland. Big government won't deliver that.

Sunday 6 June 2010

Why do they always talk about cuts?

For example, here:
Scotland’s unemployment count will increase to 225,000 and more than 30,000 public sector jobs will go in the next parliament, according to a respected economic forecast.

The Ernst & Young Item Club predicts a double-whammy for the economy will flow from the banking crisis and the deep Government spending cuts needed to cure the hangover

And we Scots are supposedly most at risk:
As the Conservative-Liberal Democrats coalition reins in spending to tackle the UK’s £166bn deficit, cuts mean public sector job losses are inevitable, and Scotland’s large public sector makes it particularly vulnerable.
The real problem with the Scottish economy is the vast size of our public (sic) sector. High public sector wages and pensions make life very difficult for our wealth-creators. Why would any young person entering the job market join a private company with all the risks involved when big brother offers much better terms? And why even think of starting one's own business in these circumstances?

We need to decimate Scotland's public sector. And next week deal with the other 90% ...

Who's coming up the Clyde in a kebab boat?

Remember those claims that male life expectancy in the east end of Glasgow is worse than in the Gaza strip?

Can we expect some much-needed international aid?