Society

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The Green & Pyloned Land of East Anglia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/06/2024 - 8:45pm in

Mike Parr (after a seven year gap!) has been kind enough to contribute this piece on the problems of getting windfarm electricity from the coast to inland users, which turns out to be yet another problem that is made much worse by the failure to understand the government’s power of money creation…. If LINO (The... Read more

The Truth About Immigration That Sunak and Starmer Aren’t Willing to Tell you About

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/06/2024 - 7:10pm in

Like some grisly ghost of Brexit past, Nigel Farage’s net-zero immigration pledge hovered all over last night’s election debate between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer.

Like the Reform Party leader, both major parties have promised to reduce net immigration, but unlike him, neither have tried to pluck out a number for exactly by how much. They’re choosing to keep their targets vague, not only because of their terrible record of hitting them, or even because the other party could simply gazump them by immediately setting their number 10% lower, but because if they put a number on how much you’re going to cut immigration by, they'd then be forced to put a price on it, too.

The great unspoken truth, which neither leader wants to talk about in this election, is that there is a real cost, in lost tax revenue and skills, to cutting immigration numbers. We may decide it’s a cost we’re willing to take over the long term, but we need to be honest about what that means and approach it within a system that puts the viability of our public services first, above populist slogans about migrant numbers. 

The truth is that it will be impossible in the short to medium term to keep health and care costs low and provide the workforce our aging population needs, while significantly cutting immigration. Moving towards a model that better funds social care and the NHS, including increasing pay for workers, is a longer-term necessity, but it isn’t one the politicians touting migrant scapegoats seem willing to properly take on.

The public’s priorities on the cost of living and protecting the NHS far outstrip concerns about immigration, so the failure to reckon with the impacts of cutting numbers may come back to bite the government that has to deal with the fall-out of falling migrant numbers.

Few people will trust Sunak’s latest pledge of a cap on numbers, even as he points to the demonstrable fact that numbers are at last falling somewhat from their record highs. The most recent statistics told of a modest reduction, but the trend points to a much more significant drop over the coming years. So it’s true the Conservatives have belatedly made moves to reduce migrant numbers – a cynic might suggest they’ve done so just in time for the workforce and economic impacts of the drop to be felt under a Labour administration, that will then be forced into some unpalatable political choices on how to respond if it refuses to make the case now for the value of immigration.

What’s really remarkable is how comparatively little public backlash the exceptional increase in net migration has really provoked. We appear to simply have other priorities, and while we want immigration to be managed well, the numbers, high as they are, seem to concern most us less than ever. 

That’s why Starmer failed to land a blow when he accused Sunak of being the most “liberal” Prime Minister we’ve ever had on immigration based on numbers alone. It is a serious mistake to conflate a system that brings a lot of immigrants into the country with a “liberal” immigration system. In fact, while numbers have certainly increased, most people who come here have more restricted rights than ever, which has led directly to soaring rates of poverty and exploitation. The system is not working well for anyone, and that’s really where objections should lie.

Despite the debate on the right being dominated by an insistence on bringing numbers down, I don’t know anyone on the ‘liberal’ side of the question who sees numbers going up as the aim. What matters is how this country treats the people we do offer visas to, and how we manage and plan for the economic and social outcomes from the numbers of visas we give out. Relatively fewer migrants working alongside locals in a system that is flexible, provides for everyone’s needs, and protects everyones rights is not an illiberal aim, but driving all other policy behind the agenda to reduce the number of foreigners whatever the costs certainly is.

When workers come to do essential jobs in our country, the public welcomes it. But all workers deserve the protections of well-enforced labour standards, a fair and level playing field in the job market, and basic rights like living with our families and the possibility to settle here after a few years. We need to overhaul the work visa system not because it brings in too many workers, but because it traps those workers with the employer who sponsors their visa, preventing them from leaving if conditions are poor to find work elsewhere.

Ultimately what the two leaders failed to grapple with that in a good immigration debate, the system, not the numbers would be the focus. But this debate format doesn’t lend itself to that conversation, because it has to start with planning for and investing in public services, staffed by locals and by newcomers, that serve all the population’s needs, rather than sowing division.

Misunderstanding both climate heating and money creation…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 04/06/2024 - 6:55am in

More from the FT – this time from Stephen Bush: What has changed is that British politicians face greater limits on what they can do than in the past. Like all countries in the rich world, we have an ageing population and, with it, higher healthcare costs, that have to be met, whether by the... Read more

The public is gradually beginning to beware of Ultra Processed Food…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 04/06/2024 - 5:48am in

And so they should. This is (for the UK and US at least) a most damning chart from a recent FT piece on Ultra Processed Food: And the FT points out that medical research into ultra-processed food (UPF) has almost tripled since 2020 – so the medics are trying to look after us.. Indeed it... Read more

Fluke: Chance, Chaos, and Why Everything We Do Matters – review

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/05/2024 - 6:52pm in

In Fluke, Brian Klaas explores the phenomenon of chance, examining how seemingly random happenings and actions can profoundly shape our lives. Klaas skilfully interweaves different perspectives – from physics, neuroscience and philosophy to real-life stories – to persuade readers that we live within a complex, interconnected system rather than a predictable one driven by cause and effect, writes Ulviyya Khalilova.

Brian Klaas spoke about the book at a public LSE event earlier this year – watch it back on YouTube.

Fluke: Chance, Chaos, and Why Everything We Do Matters. Brian Klaas. John Murray. 2024.

“We control nothing, but influence everything”, writes Brian Klaas in his new book, Fluke: Chance, Chaos, and Why Everything We Do Matters (30). What distinguishes this book from others on the same or related subjects is its skilful integration of real-life experiences, paradigms, and insights gleaned from research across different disciplines. By seamlessly interweaving these narratives, the book fosters a deeper connection between the ideas and thoughts it presents, thereby rendering it more relatable and impactful for readers.

The author critiques individualism, asserting that every minute detail in the world, from atoms and cells to more intricate systems, is interconnected.

The book comprises 13 chapters which explore how different elements such as time, geography, environment, culture, society, and individuals influence the course of events in the world.  Klaas starts with the discourse on contingency (contingent changes can stem from randomness) and convergence (convergent changes occur in respect to the relatively ordered and stable occurrences, producing same or similar outcomes), delving into the complexities of interconnectedness in the modern world. He critiques individualism, asserting that every minute detail in the world, from atoms and cells to more intricate systems, is interconnected. This interconnectedness reveals the potential causes affecting us and our surroundings, highlighting the importance of taking a relational view. While reality remains beyond human control, humans exert influence in numerous ways, leading to uncertainty and ambiguity regarding the future.

Klaas also examines the gap between human perception and actual reality, highlighting how our evolved brains selectively process information and seek causality, sometimes leading to teleological bias in complex environments.

Klaas also examines the gap between human perception and actual reality, highlighting how our evolved brains selectively process information and seek causality, sometimes leading to teleological bias in complex environments. Teleological bias results form a propensity to incorrectly assume the causal relationships between the unrelated events, such as children’s belief that mountains are made of people climbing them. Education is essential to overcome biases such as teleological ones. The author advocates that not everything occurs for a specific reason, and even the smallest random or arbitrary alterations in the course of events could result in numerous potential outcomes. Contingent changes can stem from randomness, potentially leading to significant alterations in the world. Even in the presence of order and structure, minor decisions and changes can still exert significant effects on individuals’ lives and societies. Klaas, however, does not view convergence as redundant.

Klaas introduces ‘self-organised criticality’ to elucidate the complex interconnectedness and diverse factors shaping reality, challenging the notion of singular causality.

He contrasts pre-modern and modern societies, noting how in the former, local instability coexisted with global stability, whereas the latter exhibit local stability alongside global instability due to intricate interrelations across fields. Despite our tendency to confirm cause-effect relations, effects can arise from multiple causes. Klaas introduces “self-organised criticality” to elucidate the complex interconnectedness and diverse factors shaping reality, challenging the notion of singular causality. While probabilities are often linked to cause-and-effect relationships to mitigate future uncertainty and anxiety, the complexities of the world render this approach insufficient. Klaas justifies this by noting that past events do not always provide reliable information about future possibilities.

Due to diverse personalities shaped by various factors such as environment, culture, and society the outcomes of events can vary. The book also emphasises that the individual matters, meaning actions and thoughts, are likely to yield diverse outcomes depending on who thinks and acts. What is equally important is how the recipient of information perceives and responds to it. As an individual, we, our body, and mind are constantly changing and evolving. In light of this, interpersonal dynamics can influence individual actions, leading to diverse outcomes. Hence, the individual and the specific moment hold significance, influencing and shaping the future.

Time, among the influential factors, plays a pivotal role in our lives and alters the outcomes of events. Klaas delineates the impact of time by using COVID-19 as an example. He contrasts productivity in the 1990s, where remote work was less feasible due to limited technology, with the present, where modern information and communication technology enables it. Similarly, had COVID-19 emerged in 1950, its spread might have been slower compared to today’s hyperconnected world. He underscores the significance of human mobility within these time scenarios. Time emerges as a crucial factor shaping actions, events, and outcomes.

According to determinists, everything happens as a result of past or initial conditions or forces of physics. A deterministic view asserts that nothing happens randomly and everything that happens stems from a cause-effect relationship. The indeterminist paradigm rejects the deterministic view of reality, and instead holds that small or tiny changes in the trajectory of things might engender various results. Opponents of determinist philosophy, or indeterminists, argue that some events lack deterministic causes and occur randomly, arguing that the future is unpredictable. Klaas discusses the concept of free will within this context, which contradicts the laws of physics, alongside the compatibility thesis, suggesting that free will and determinism can coexist. According to this thesis, human actions are formed by both first and second-order desires.

First-order desires entail wanting something or acting in a particular way, while second-order desires are not based on desiring something or acting in a particular way. Second-order desires result from human interactions with others, their surroundings, or their social and cultural environment, shaping perceptions and influencing decisions. Klaas, challenging the concept of free will, reiterates his argument from previous chapters that outcomes are not solely determined by our behaviour and actions, but are open to other influences.

The book highlights the world’s inherent disorder and uncertainty, which makes it fascinating. This uncertainty fuels our excitement for exploration.

We are often so immersed in virtual reality that we overlook the real world, limiting our exploration. The book highlights the world’s inherent disorder and uncertainty, which makes it fascinating. This uncertainty fuels our excitement for exploration. The world is inherently complex and chaotic, and not everything operates according to precise calculations. Every small step or decision we take has significance and helps to shape our lives. Uncertainty sparks curiosity, prompting us to explore the world and contemplate numerous potential outcomes.

Technical rationality often directs us towards exploitation rather than exploration. However, exploration is the foundation of creativity, allowing things to unfold naturally and revealing the world’s complexity. Seeking to control everything restricts our ability to perceive alternative realities. Klaas highlights the importance of prioritising exploration over exploitation. He notes our tendency to oversimplify the world into a predictable system driven by cause and effect. Yet, it is the world’s immense complexity and inherent unpredictability that keep us enthralled.

In our fast-paced world, it is easy to miss what truly unfolds around us. This book is invaluable for a wide audience, offering insights into how the world operates and prompting reflection on our own personal experiences. It encourages readers to recognise moments of flukes, chance encounters or unexpected events that can profoundly shape our lives.

Acknowledgement: I would like to express my gratitude to Anna D’Alton, Managing Editor, LSE Review of Books for editing the draft of this book review and providing invaluable feedback for improving its readability.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Image creditMarco Martins on Shutterstock.

Growth or bust

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/05/2024 - 8:28am in

I’ve just listened to someone suggesting that we are going through crazy times now and we’ve got to learn to do it all ourselves, because government cannot… Why have the state? Why elect governments? Why have government at all? Stokholm syndrome seems to rule… Of course it is not that governments cannot – it is... Read more

Conservative Conscription is the next con

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 27/05/2024 - 9:08pm in

I post this litany of corruption for context: No wonder the Tories now want us to forget their past and concentrate on their future ‘visions’. Whilst enriching themselves during their time in power, they have impoverished the rest of us and driven most of us into debt servitude, and they now want to – oh... Read more

Which potential party of government knows that it owns a bank?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/05/2024 - 1:06am in

I heard Labour Party election strategy supremo Pat Mcfadden say that Labour had to “generate the funds” to do all the things it wanted to do, so not much would be possible immediately. ‘Generate the funds’ is a trope closely related to ‘finding the money’ and straight out of the Thatcher playbook that government has... Read more

The rottenness of private equity

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/05/2024 - 6:16am in

The scourge of private equity has apparently reached Bloomberg and the Bank of England – but seemingly not the Labour Party who seem still to be cosying up to this inward investment – mostly from abroad. Most thinking people think that buying a company and then loading it up with debt so that the purchaser... Read more

This is American… but the UK is not so far off…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/05/2024 - 5:07am in

And in some ways is not not such a bad idea – what with UK billionaires growing their wealth in a similar manner to their US counterparts and out of all proportion to the wealth of the rest of us… It might be problematic in controlling current billionaires but surely they’d gradually have to wind... Read more

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