Archive

Posts Tagged ‘economics’

More Red Tape

June 19, 2017 Leave a comment

Controversial commentator, George Monbiot, thinks the disastrous fire in the London tower block serves as a warning about removing “red tape” from society. He sees this as a consequence of the neo-liberal agenda followed by successive governments – which would traditionally have been from both the right and left – in the UK. And there is no doubt that a very similar situation has arisen in many western countries, such as here in New Zealand.

On the other hand many other political pundits have suggested that we need a lot less regulation. They say that worthwhile commercial and social programs are being held up by excessive regulation and laws which stifle all forms of innovation.

So who is correct?

Well, in many blog posts I have commented on how I think there are too many rules and regulations, but in others I have said that large corporations and other organisations get away with too much as well. So, which is it? Do I want more or less regulation?

Well, I want both. Both the opinions above are correct. It is not so much the number of rules we have (although I still think there are far too many), but the type.

To take an example in New Zealand: one of the biggest disasters here in recent times was the Pike River mine explosion and fire. There is little doubt that it occurred because of incompetent and irresponsible management, something I should note has not really been addressed in the years since the original tragedy began.

On the other hand we have ridiculous health and safety rules in workplaces with no real hazards which have no reasonable chance of preventing any deaths or injuries in any event which could realistically occur.

So there is both stupid, stifling bureaucracy (and a whole class of bureaucrats to enforce it) and a lack of regulation and enforcement where it is actually needed. We seem to have chosen the worst of all possible worlds!

Now I should discuss how this relates to the recent London fire. Before I do I should admit that the exact direct and incidental causes of the Grenfell Tower disaster have not been established yet. However I think there is sufficient evidence on what happened to make my following commentary (AKA rant) relevant. If it turns out that the causes aren’t what currently seems obvious then I will retract this post.

For a start, the facts…

First, a massive fire in an accommodation block in London has resulted in the loss of many lives (about 60 at this point) along with many injuries and missing persons.

Second, the block had recently been renovated by applying panels to the outside, and these panels were primarily decorative and contained a highly flammable material.

Third, the building was not protected by sprinklers and had no (or only defective or inferior) fire alarms and smoke detectors, and the residents were told to stay in their apartments in the case of a fire.

Finally, the residents (who were poorer people even though it was in a rich suburb) had warned the owners that the building was dangerous but had been basically ignored.

So putting the facts together, and reading between the lines a bit, here’s what I think really happened…

The building was in an affluent area and didn’t look up to standard to the rich people living there, so the building owner was pressured to improve its appearance.

The owner, or the contractor doing the work, tried to save a few pounds (in other words make more profit) by using a cheaper building material even though it was a major fire hazard (the cladding used cost 90,000 pounds less than a fire resistant alternative, and was part of a multi-million pound contract). This could happen because building regulations had been loosened by recent governments.

Warnings that the building was dangerous were ignored because the owner simply didn’t care. There was probably nothing illegal about the building itself (although some reports suggest the material was banned). In many ways bad regulations are worse than no regulations at all, because the owner can claim that the building follows the standards.

When the fire started it spread rapidly because of the material used and the fact that the money was spent on superficial cosmetic improvements instead of real safety features like sprinklers or modern alarms. In addition the residents were told to stay in their apartments during a fire – I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m not making this stuff up!

The following might not have made a lot of difference, but because of austerity measures the number of fire fighters serving the area was less than it had been in the past.

The government has made insincere, totally inadequate, and late efforts at helping. Of course an investigation is under way, but we all know how biased those usually are.

Now there are protests over this issue. But who should be the target and what, specifically, went wrong? I don’t think one person or one action can be blamed. This is a systemic thing which might be able to be improved to a limited extent but will never really be OK under the current system.

So, again I get back to the theme that we need revolution and not evolution. If one good thing comes out of this tragedy it might be to wake people from their apathy and have them finally realise that the ruling elite are both incompetent and grossly immoral.

To get back to the original issue about regulations. Do we need more? Well the best option would be to get rid of capitalism so that most decisions weren’t driven entirely by greed. Any decent building owner (assuming people were allowed to own housing at all, and I don’t think they should be) would want to provide safe accommodation, not to make some superficial changes to a squalid death-trap. But until we put decent people in charge we need regulations to control those who currently have all the power.

In summary, until the revolution comes we (regrettably) probably have little choice: we need more red tape to control the worst excesses of a system which is rotten to its very core.

Let’s Vote on It!

June 15, 2017 Leave a comment

There’s an awful lot I don’t like about the way our society works. If you follow this blog you probably have realised this by now, based on the endless diatribe of negativity contained here. I think my fundamental disagreements can be summarised in just a few statements though, so I thought I might list them here, along with some suggested ways to fix them, of course.

1. I reject the need for politics, leadership and management. Why should one person be able to control another? We need to rid ourselves of politicians by moving to a direct democracy and leveraging the wisdom of crowds. And on a smaller scale we need to do the same thing in the workplace. All managers, CEOs, etc must be eliminated.

2. I reject capitalism. The pursuit of financial gain just encourages people to gain financially, not to make a useful contribution to society. The tragedy of the commons shows us that the pursuit of individual wealth will eventually lead to disaster. And no, greed is not good, except for the tiny fraction of people who are greedy, and even they will suffer in the long term.

3. I reject rules and regulations. It is utterly ridiculous how our lives are controlled by so many pointless and inane rules and laws. No one can possibly know them all, yet if we transgress against them we are punished. This includes laws set by politicians and policies and regulations set by companies and other organisations.

4. I reject special privileges given to both individuals and institutions. I am totally against the automatic right to rule given to royalty, and I can’t see why churches should not have to pay taxes like everyone else.

So, now I need to get on with the ways these issues might be fixed. Each one deserves an entire blog post to cover properly so I will just give a quick summary of the sort of solution I would suggest here. No doubt, in future admonishments of the status quo I will expound on these basic principles.

For leadership I suggest we institute a system of management by the people most affected. So every major decision could go to a vote and could be decided that way. Would that mean that every person would be constantly involved with the pros and cons of every potential change? No, because each person would be given a quota of votes they could use during the year and it would be up to them to choose the issues they wanted to use the votes on.

Everyone would have the same number of votes and voting would be easy because it would all work through the internet. What about people who don’t have a computer or don’t like technology? No problem, they would be given a dedicated device which does all the technical stuff for them and connects through the cell network. Anyone who didn’t have the ability or initiative to do even that probably shouldn’t be voting anyway.

We all know that bad decisions are often made by voters in democratic systems, but I say “so what?” Bad decisions are made by politicians and managers all the time. At least, using my method, the people would have “ownership” of the error and would be likely to fix it since no individual blame would be possible.

So what about a replacement for capitalism? Well we need to have a system which rewards behaviour which leads to the best outcomes for the majority rather than capitalism which does the exact opposite. I would be the first to admit that attempts at traditional extreme socialism (USSR, etc) have not worked well, so that isn’t a good substitute. I would suggest a system based on the internet voting I described above might be better. Individuals, companies, etc could be rewarded based on how much the majority of people think they are worth rather than how much they can extract from the existing corrupt system.

I suspect we would find that people working as cancer researchers would be paid more than those who chose to be currency traders under a system like this. Who would possibly argue with that? – apart from currency traders, of course!

Regarding rules and regulations. I don’t suggest we completely remove those, of course. For a start, we would need some of them to make the decisions arrived at by the systems I have already described binding on society.

But let’s think about the rules and laws we have now. As I said above, no one knows them all, yet we are expected to obey them. The reason this works is that the important rules (against murder, theft, etc) are understood by all moral, rational people so it doesn’t really matter whether they are laws or not, and the the more trivial rules (for example, the blasphemy laws I have discussed in the past) tend to be ignored anyway.

So why not have general guidelines instead, and use the voting system again to decide the guilt or innocence of offenders. Anyone could ask for an opinion on how they have been disadvantaged by another person. If one person stole from another they would probably be found guilty, but there might be special situations where society found the theft was acceptable. For example, if someone steals a small amount from another person who is really rich and uses it to buy some medicine a member of their family needs I would say that is no crime. Of course, if the voting system works as expected there won’t be huge discrepancies between the rich and poor any more so this situation might not even arise!

Finally, the special privileges. I’m fairly confident that a vote would quickly eliminate these odd deviations from what is fair. Churches would not be allowed to operate tax free, corporations would not be people, and tax havens would not be allowed. We all know these things aren’t fair and we all know the sophistry used to justify them doesn’t stand up to any fair appraisal. In my system they I think they would be gone.

So there it is: the new utopia! A world where decisions are made by the people, for the people. Lincoln’s dream might finally really happen. In the end it all seems to be about taking control from the self-serving elite and giving it to the people. I’m not naive enough to think that it will happen in any realistic time frame, but hey, it’s just an idea I’m tossing out there. Let’s vote on it!

Neoliberalism has Failed

April 30, 2017 Leave a comment

Sometimes it takes our leaders years to figure out what we already know, and other times they never figure it out at all. Take neoliberalism for example (by this I mean free markets, globalisation, open borders, laissez faire economics, flexible labour, privatisation, austerity, small government). Most of us could see from the start that it wouldn’t work, and we certainly figured it out after a few years of miserable failure. Now, almost 35 years since the experiment began in New Zealand, that should be obvious to everyone, except those most ideologically wed to the idea.

Former New Zealand prime minister, Jim Bolger, has certainly got the idea by now. He put it pretty plainly when he said that “Neoliberalism has failed New Zealand”. Of course, he was only a moderately strong advocate when he was PM. He actually got rid of the vile Ruth Richardson (a strong supporter of neoliberalism and creator of “Ruthanasia”) and put Bill Birch in as minister of finance.

Just to show how mad Richardson really was, even the relatively moderate Birch who replaced her is still clinging to the dream. He still spouts the old lines about people having “more choice” under neoliberalism. More choice for what? To get ripped off by an employer or suffer through degrading unemployment, I guess. Or maybe the choice is whether to live in your car, stay in your friend’s garage, or to share a room with 10 other people. Gee thanks, Bill. Those are great choices.

Bolger clearly gets it now. He even thinks that unions need more power. He can see that the changes in the labour market his government forced through have been bad for the majority. And I think that most of our current politicians can see that too.

Even the center-right National Party (the same party Bolger was the leader of back in the 90s) has backed away from extreme neoliberalism. They haven’t gone far enough, of course, because most of the damaging policies are still there, but at least they haven’t taken it any further. There hasn’t been another major privatisation (which almost inevitably end in disaster) for many years, for example.

It will probably be many decades before we again repeat the mistakes of neoliberalism. After all, before the current cycle the last one was just prior to the Great Depression (coincidence? I think not), so we might have up to 50 years of relative sanity.

That hasn’t stopped those who have gained most from neoliberalism from trying to defend it. The chief executive of Business New Zealand claims everyone is now better off. This is obviously untrue (you just need to look at the real, inflation adjusted, wealth figures to see this) but these people follow Joseph Goebbels’ philosophy and think that if they repeat a lie often enough it will become the truth – unfortunately, it often does.

I often use the idea of the “zeitgeist” when I discuss world trends in this blog. I think there is a clear global mood now to reject neoliberalism. Regrettably this seems to have been replaced with nationalism and conservatism, which has its own problems – again, people never seem to learn from history.

Another interesting thing I have noticed recently is for people to laugh at Any Rand, one of the spiritual founders of neoliberalism. I have heard comments like “yeah that person has about as much credibility as Ayn Rand!”. And, now that I’m thinking about it, a lot of people weren’t exactly upset when Margaret Thatcher died a few years back. In fact, it’s interesting how many women were strong supporters of the ideology. If you ever needed any proof that more women in politics is not automatically a good thing, then surely this should convince you of that idea.

So, yes, neoliberalism has failed… or has it? All of the stated aims: smaller government, more open markets, a more flexible work force, etc have been achieved. But there is one more thing we were promised which hasn’t happened: the benefits trickling down. Undoubtedly the “trickle down” part of neoliberalism has been conspicuously absent. I guess that was always the intention. But you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. And the people aren’t being fooled by this pernicious ideology any more.

Next

April 21, 2017 Leave a comment

I recently finished reading (actually listening to the audiobook version of) the Michael Crichton novel, Next, which I found both compelling and interesting, and hard to “put down”.

I know that his work gets a certain amount of criticism because of his failure to follow what many deem to be the standard mechanisms writers should use to produce the best results (clear leading characters, strong single plot lines, full and complex character development) but I find his books quite engrossing because of the complex plots and interesting treatment of ideas and controversies.

Next was the last book Crichton wrote before his death from cancer in 2008 at age 66. I have read or listened to most of his other books and liked them for the same reasons I liked this one: he includes a lot of credible scientific and technical details; he often has several plots and sub-plots running simultaneously and interacting in complex ways; and he always has a greater philosophical, political, or scientific point to make.

I should emphasise that this is fiction based on science. In the introduction to the book the author says “this novel is fiction, except for the parts that aren’t.” and in a New York Times Book Review they described the book as “a barrage of truths, half-truths and untruths”.

Maybe the best example of this is in another of his novels, Jurassic Park (the one the movies were based on) where the dinosaur DNA is sourced from amber. This is a genuine technique but not one which is likely to allow recovery of material more than 65 million years old.

But the real point of Jurassic Park is not about *how* dinosaurs might be brought back to life but *if* they should. In the book the dinosaurs get out of control – as predicted by the expert in chaos theory (also a real thing and basically well portrayed) – despite the best efforts of the people in charge.

And this is a common theme in other Crichton books. They usually involve failures to allow for all possible problems, greed and unrealistic optimism leading to bad decisions, and incompetent and corrupt people causing systems to break down.

I found it interesting, as the book proceded, to try to guess which parts were true and, if they were based on fact, how much fact. So all of the following are parts of the book which sound odd but are essentially true: cells taken in medical procedures are used for profit by universities without the donors’ consent; body parts are harvested by morgues and funeral directors and sold; transgenic species, including monkeys, have already been created; modern human blonde genes probably originated in Neanderthals; and an artist has used his own fat (obtained through liposuction) to make a meatball served at a dinner party!

Actually, the only “fact” I checked which I couldn’t verify was the existence of a group mentioned in the book called the “society for libertarian biology” which doesn’t appear to exist. No doubt there are many other fictional elements too, that was just the only one I checked.

So here are some of the themes/ideas presented in the book which I agreed with, or at least found interesting…

We need to stop patenting genes. This is totally absurd from a logical perspective, it is intolerable from any reasonable moral viewpoint, and it doesn’t even make much sense from a business or economic angle, except for the company who has the patent for something they have no right to. There are many examples already of gene patents causing great harm to both individuals and society. The processes of science and discovery in general have been warped by business.

We need better rules for tissue storage and we need to enforce them. Again there are many examples of where companies have acted in very morally doubtful ways to profit from cells they “own”. The pursuit of profit has warped basic moral standards.

The real outcomes of research and development must be made public. Research and trials of new drugs and treatments sometimes leads to bad outcomes for the subjects, including death, and this should not be hidden behind commercial sensitivity and trade secrets. In fact (this is just my opinion), commercial sensitivity should always be rejected: all information relating to large organisations (companies, universities, etc) should be public. The pursuit of profit has destroyed basic fairness.

Studies of commercial products need to be transparent and performed by neutral scientists. Under the current system 90% of drug trials give positive results for the person funding the trial. It seems a clear case of where science has been corrupted by business.

We should avoid bans on research. All research is useful although some caution needs to be used in potentially dangerous or morally ambiguous situations. Again we need a scientific approach rather than a commercial one

Universities have become too commercial and their original function as unbiased commentators on society and originators of pure knowledge have largely gone. In public universities the taxpayers pay, the universities profit by selling their new discoveries to corporations who sell them back (with extreme profits) back to the taxpayers who paid for them to start with. Again, science has been corrupted by commerce

Look at the last sentence of each of those points and it is pretty obvious where the problem lies. The problem is the same one responsible for most of our modern problems: uncontrolled capitalism. It’s a point I have made many times and it is interesting that the same point is apparent in Crichton’s work, even though he is often considered a libertarian.

Finally, I liked this book. it was thoughtful but also fast paced, serious but also humorous in parts, based on fact but those were portrayed through fiction. The ultimate recommendation: I started another Crichton novel as soon as I finished this one!

The Politics of Envy

January 19, 2017 Leave a comment

I recently read a report which highlighted the difference between rich and poor in New Zealand. While the situation here is nowhere near as bad as in some other countries, it is still maybe the biggest challenge facing our modern society. Most people accept that there will always be some individuals or groups who will do better financially than others (and some would say the rich deserve their extra wealth), but it is the magnitude of the difference which is of concern.

So how much is this difference? Well, the wealthiest 1% of New Zealand own 20% of the wealth and that is the same as the bottom 30%. Also, the top 10% own over half the wealth, leaving the other 90% with the remainder (obviously).

This is bad enough but it’s nothing compared with the US. There, the top 0.1% have as much as the bottom 90%. By the way, these stats are all from published research and surveys and I can provide links if required. Also some numbers might be a few years out of date and the situation is likely to be even worse now.

As I said, most people accept there should be different levels of wealth depending on the contribution the person makes to the economy. When asked what the difference between the pay for a CEO and a worker should be a US study found that the “average” American estimated that the ratio was 30 to 1, and that ideally it would be 7 to 1. But the reality is that it is 354 to 1. Fifty years ago, it was just 20 to 1.

Note that the numbers above are just for pay and the rich tend to make the majority of their money in other ways, so this is just the tip of the iceberg.

An argument often used to justify these mismatches is to say that anyone could succeed if they really wanted to, simply by working hard enough and learning the required skills.

This point has a certain amount of truth, but only to a very limited extent. I have a cartoon which I think makes the point well. It says “Remember, always follow your passion. And if your passion doesn’t fit into global capitalism, well, then you are a failure at life.”

A survey of work hours reveals two things. First, the top earners don’t work significantly longer hours than anyone else, in fact the top earners aren’t even the hardest working category; and second, working hours have been going up over the last few decades (while real income for most has come down).

So both of the defences of wealth disparities are nonsense. Sure, you can get rich but only if you know how to, or are willing to play the game which leads to wealth (after possibly abandoning your moral standards). And working hard makes no difference. You can work hard and make very little money, or you could do almost nothing and make a lot.

So what does lead to greater wealth, then? Well, as I said above, it is the ability to “play the game”. The game involves being self-centered, ruthless, and sometimes being a border-line sociopath. So pay your workers a s little as you can get away with, stab both your competitors and your colleagues in the back (just metaphorically in most cases) if you get the chance, and dont worry too much about big picture issues which affect others (climate change, pollution, etc).

More positive attributes, like hard work, dedication, and ability can help, of course, but there are far more people with these attributes and very little money than there are with a lot.

Another factor which appears quite often in the history of people who have become rich is luck. Specifically this often involves being in the right place at the right time. For example, a product or service might be ready to be accepted at a particular time when earlier (and often better) ones were rejected because the world wasn’t ready.

Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are two examples of people who were more lucky than anything else. Many people rely on their company’s products now, but that is more a matter of history than superiority. There have always been better alternatives, but they just didn’t get the lucky breaks.

There is a modern trend for the extremely wealthy to engage in philanthropy and I fully support this. Bill Gates is doing some great work here, Larry Ellison contribues to some good causes, Tim Cook (Apple CEO) says he will give away all of his wealth, and many other make some effort to contribute to good (and some not so good) causes.

But there are two problems with this. First, many rich people don’t make much of a philanthropic contribution; and second, they get to choose where the money goes (which is fair enough, because under the current system, it is their money).

So maybe it would be better if they didn’t get that money in the first place. Then it could be distributed in more efficient ways to where it is needed (and yes, I fully realise that the government making that decision is often not much of an improvement).

So let’s summarise what I have said. We have a system which gives certain people lots of money because they are good at making lots of money. They aren’t any more hard-working, and they usually aren’t the most innovative, intelligent, creative, or anything else. They are just people who are good at accumulating money, and are probably also lucky.

Am I envious of them? Well in some ways I am, especially of those who deserve little or no admiration for their actions. But it is really not just simple envy. Along with wealth comes power, so the rich have great influence over the direction society takes, and guess what: they are unlikely to want to change it in a way to make it better for the majority. If they had generous, moral personalities they wouldn’t have become part of the 1% to start with.

A New Zeitgeist

December 22, 2016 Leave a comment

I have often mentioned the concept of the zeitgeist in my blog posts. It is one of my favourite concepts and one of my favourite words too (German words are often very useful because they have specific meanings). I you need a reminder of it’s meaning, it is (according to the Oxford Dictionary): the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.

For the period from the 1970s to the early 2010s there has been a clear belief (well, I thought it was clear, anyway) in commercialism, political and economic elites, and free markets. There have been great promises made that following these will bring great benefits to everyone, primarily through the famous “trickle down” effect where greater wealth held by corporate leaders is somehow distributed to the lower echelons too.

But that doesn’t seem to have worked, because the gap between rich and poor is now utterly obscene.

It might be argued that although the gap has widened greatly, in absolute terms everyone is better off, but that is far from clear, apart from in emerging economies like China. And it is a well known psychological effect that people measure their wealth (and well-being in general) in a comparative way.

Clearly there is significant dissatisfaction at the way the world is being run today. The most obvious “protest vote” against the political establishment is Donald Trump’s win in the US presidential election, but there are many other indicators across the globe.

As I have said in the past, I welcome revolt against the establishment (being a fairly anti-establishment person myself) but the danger here is what alternatives will people choose?

I have said in the past that I am not as anti-Trump as many other people are. I am very concerned about some of his opinions and some of the people he has appointed to positions of power, but I am also prepared to give him a chance. But he is an example where potentially an anti-establishment (Clinton clearly represented the existing political elite) vote might have resulted in the unleashing of something even worse!

Whatever the outcomes of this change might be, the fact is there is an appetite for change and it seems to be a global phenomenon. There clearly is a new zeitgeist emerging. At the moment it is just the thought that we don’t want what we have now, and protectionism, localism, and conservatism seem to be preferred, but it will hopefully (but not necessarily) lead to something more positive.

And there is another factor on the horizon which will force an even greater degree of change than the social, economic, and political factors I have bene considering so far. That is the true computer revolution.

What has happened so far has been significant but it will look minor compared with what is soon to come. Robots and intelligent machines will take over many jobs, virtual and augmented reality will blur the line between the real and virtual world, super-fast and reliable internet will make distance irrelevant, 3D printing will make manufacturing complex items easy, and (most importantly) artificial intelligence will finally fullfil its promise.

Already companies are saying that many professions will be taken over by AI (for example, accounting will become almost obsolete according to some), that many less skilled jobs will also disappear thanks to automated machines (self-driving vehicles, for example), and that abundant energy and goods will make existing economics obsolete.

Whatever small changes people imagine today will seem trivial compared with what is coming. We need a total change in thinking. We need a new zeitgeist.

Embarrassing Liberals

November 11, 2016 2 comments

I have always been a bit of an iconoclast, and a devil’s advocate, and I often like to contribute to discussions – especially in on-line fora like Facebook and Youtube – by pointing out weaknesses in other people’s arguments, even if that person is ostensibly “on my side”.

And I expect the same back again. I don’t feel personally attacked or diminished if someone wants to argue with me and possibly look for problems with my own arguments. And I have changed my perspective when these have turned out to be genuine. If anything, it’s when I don’t get any feedback – positive or negative – that I feel most aggrieved.

In the past I have mainly debated against conservatives, although I do point out BS everywhere I see it, and there are certain beliefs of the liberal left which I feel just as offended by, especially those to do with unthinking political correctness.

As you might have guessed by now, this is leading up to a rant about the utter disdain I feel towards my erstwhile allies on the left in regard to their reaction to Donald Trump’s win in the recent US presidential election.

I must have seen a thousand comments so far and the vast majority of them boil down to this: they think Donald Trump does not react in the way they expect towards women, Muslims, and foreginers (especially Mexicans). Of course this sounds so much better when it is expressed as a convenient sound bite like “he’s misogynistic, racist, and xenophobic”.

I totally agree that there is a tendency towards these attributes in Trump’s character but just applying those labels instead of debating the finer points of the situation is just cowardly and anti-intellectual.

And the anti-Trump protests (some of which have been labelled riots) don’t show the Clinton supporters – who presumably would have been my allies in the past – in a very good light. When Trump said he might not accept the outcome of the election (because he thought it might be rigged) he was ridiculed and disparaged by the left. Is it not the ultimate in hypocrisy that they are now doing exactly the same thing themselves?

And what is the point if these protests? Do they expect the outcome of the election to be reversed? Do they think that the democratic process should be negated because they are acting like a bunch of spoiled kids? I really have no idea.

There is one main reason Trump won the election and it has nothing to do with misogyny, racism, or xenophobia. He won because he represented a change from the existing political establishment. An establishment that Clinton represented strongly. Trump didn’t really win, Clinton lost. Look at the voter turn-out and it’s clear that Democrats just didn’t turn up. Why? Because Clinton didn’t represent what they wanted.

I have never belonged to a political party, but I would generally self-identify with the liberal left. Well not any more. From now on I am not identifying with anything. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t identify with the conservative right, or with Libertarianism, or even with the Green agenda. I find all of these ideologies partly good and partly bad to varying degrees. But after the mindless nonsense I have heard from the left recently I certainly feel a lot less attraction towards that side of politics than I ever have before.

The left is losing ground in many parts of the world and the main reason seems to be its total detachment from reality. Surely the Democrats must have realised that Clinton was the wrong person for this job. And they had the perfect alternative available: Bernie Sanders, whose efforts were sabotaged by the party machine.

So they deserved to fail. Unfortunately, that meant that Trump got success, but that’s what happened and it was not misogynistic, racist, xenophobic voters who are to blame, it’s the Democratic party who thought it was business as usual. Well it isn’t, and I hope they realise that for the next election, because they had better offer a better candidate at that one or they will just fail again.

Many commentators agree with me regarding the election being a reaction against the establishment, and a smaller number agree with me on my next point: that the problem goes back to the neo-liberal revolution of the 1970s and 1980s. That was when all sides of politics jumped on the bandwagon and abandoned their traditional principles.

In the UK Tony Blair’s Labour government were so far right that they were unrecognisable. The same happened in New Zealand where the 1984 Labour government started it all in this country. And it’s happened in the US too, where the Democrats took up many of the same ideas that traditionally belonged on the right. Well the zeitgeist ahs changed. Finally we are realising that neo-liberalism doesn’t work. The left needs to get back where it belongs: on the left.

Abraham Lincoln promised “Government of the people, by the people, for the people” but that last piece has been forgotten. Liberals need to forget about their meaningless slogans and their mindless rhetoric and get on with solving the real problems. Until then they are just an embarrassment to be associated with.