Monday, 10 July 2017

Big Ideas Notebook

I have a notebook called "Big Ideas". I didn't actually mean to buy a notebook called Big Ideas - I was looking for something to write revision notes in for my Open University exam in June, and picked up a packet of three and one of them came with the front cover emblazoned with "Big Ideas".

But something quite interesting has happened.

I have a long commute and drive a lot as part of my job, and especially after the commute in the morning, I often have a few minutes before starting work and I just jot any ideas down.

In addition, I've started using PodBean to listen to my favourite podcasts including Radio 4's In Our Time, This American Life, HBR's Ideascast and Bloomberg's Odd Lots podcast, and this has led to loads more inspiration and ideas, and now  just quickly jot them down.

The interesting thing that has happened is my thoughts are beginning to coalesce under subjects and plans, and work together to play off each other.

So, in short, if you aren't already - buy or make your own "Big Ideas" notebook - it could be worth it's weight in gold one day!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

How to Kill a Brexit

I don’t want to make a prediction, because as we all know the volatility of our current political situation and the multi-level constitutional crises that last years Brexit vote brought on leads to a lot of egg on a lot of faces, however there are a few observations I’d like  to make...
So, after Mr Cummings “did a Ratner” and following on from Gisela Stuart also saying that Brexit was a mistake – they are not constrained by constituents or really parties anymore, so we can take this to be their honest opinion – if key architects of Brexit can see it’s a disaster then it could be (with the emphasis on could) that the thing will be abandoned. Parliament has a habit of kicking problems it doesn’t like to deal with into the long grass, and even now the debate is about safety standards because of Grenfell Tower, the public sector pay cap because of the election result and it feels, to be honest, like the debate has moved on. But we can’t just casually long grass it and move onto something else like Parliament seems to indicate it wants to. As  every month, there will be a week of negotiations, grinding us on to decision point after decision point, which seems to preclude our usual appetite for a good old-fashioned British fudge.
My anxiety is that an effective minister can often drive through reforms if the Prime Minister is either weak, like May or not particularly interested in the detail, like Cameron, then dramatic reforms such as Gove’s to education can take place.  I’m worried David Davis could lead us into disaster primarily because nobody else is paying attention. At this time, maybe our best bet for self-preservation is the spreadsheets of Phillip Hammond. Can he kill Brexit? I suppose it remains to be seen, however it's striking that some of it's architects seem to want to scupper it now.
I’ll leave you with the superb, and controversial words of Oscar Wilde from the Ballad of Reading Gaol vis-à-vis the recent comments regarding Brexit by Dominic Cummings
"Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard.
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word.
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!"

Monday, 24 April 2017

Snap General Election

I thought it best to write a short post about the snap General Election, given I won't be able to write that many posts throughout it. I've got some Open Uni work on the go plus working 4 days a week plus a toddler to bring up so I generally don't have that much time anymore for reading blog posts, let alone writing them!
Anyway, five things I would like to see from this election.
1. Jeremy Corbyn's removal as Labour leader post the loss of seats for Labour. I feel the single most important thing that could happen in the Brexit process is genuine opposition
2. A Lib Dem MP (Lisa Smart) in my home seat of Hazel Grove
3. Many more Lib Dem MPs to add to the excellent 9 we already have
4. More women MPs for the Lib Dems and in general
5. Good returns to vote levels for Lib Dems to pre-coalition levels at least
Good luck to all Lib Dem candidates on 8th June!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Brexit - Free Movement of People Extended - BINO?

I’m wary of putting too much hope in this government, but post Article 50 being triggered, the government seems to be executing a pivot towards policies which seem sensible.
Theresa May has indicated that for an “implementation period” the free movement of EU citizens could continue, and hasn’t said much recently about her immigration in the “tens of thousands” policy. Now, I obviously don’t want to Brexit, but this is sensible, whilst businesses and government turn around the tanker of the UK economy towards slower progress….. or of course, don’t do that.

As it seems to me a great deal of normal citizens who don’t pay that much attention to politics aren’t paying a great deal of attention to Brexit, if the trade deal that was struck looked a lot like being in the EU (Brexit In Name Only) but without the MEPs (sorry MEPs – it does appear nobody seems to have your interests in mind!) and included an “emergency brake” on immigration which is probably politically possible if we continue to pay into the EU budget, well, then things go on like before, mostly, only Liam Fox doesn’t have a job.
What’s not to like?

I realise this is very rose-tinted view, but it’s nice to have something positive to write about in this mess!

Monday, 3 April 2017

I pay for journalism. Here's what I want in return....

I don’t want to link to any of the stuff, but there was a kerfuffle over the weekend on Twitter about journalism and ethics. One senior journalist decided to lay into a political party’s press operation, and a more junior journalist criticised this in public, whereupon they were put down by a third (senior) journalist that they hadn’t had any scoops so weren’t worth listening to.
Now, I don’t really want to comment on that particular situation, but all these comments flying about reminded me of two things, and as I keep thinking about it, I’m getting it all down here so as to perhaps stop thinking about it for a while.
I don’t really interact with the big columnist’s Twitter accounts that much anymore because I’m not online when they are as I am at work, and if I do interact with them, in the past I seem to have annoyed them with comments that go against the angle of their article. I think what’s happened is I misunderstood who “should” really be replying to them. I’m not actually “supposed” to reply to these accounts, especially not with criticism, but I think the medium of Twitter lends itself to thinking one is equal with these accounts. I’ve fundamentally misunderstood who they are “talking” to, at some level.
This led me on to considering do I value “scoops” as much as journalists do themselves? I’m not sure I give as much weight to it as they do, perhaps because I’m not a journalist. I value new information of course, but at least on a level with forensic analysis of the subject at hand, plus being able to write and interview a subject well and with sensitivity and a sense of the most important things to discover. I would give equal weight to all of those. To illustrate this, Rachel Sylvester may have changed the course of history with her Andrea Leadsom interview, Janan Ganesh is a must-read about Brexit and Britain’s role in the world, Dan Hodges can get to the heart of a matter very quickly (even when I disagree with him) and Eddie Mair always asks exactly the right question at exactly the right time, elevating him head and shoulders above the rest.  Of course, Eddie Mair is a broadcast journalist rather than a print one, but the point still applies.
I do pay for my journalism, I subscribe to the Guardian and use Blendle to access a lot of content that will let me pay a proportionate amount to read one article, rather than pay for a  whole newspaper that I won’t have the chance to read properly (marginal utility matching marginal revenue). I don’t want to be advertised too unless it matches my preferences and I think we can achieve that – I think a large amount of advertising falls into an area of lifestyle policing (“Beach Body Ready”) that I am really not here  for – but you can advertise Kindle novels and non-fiction books about economics to me all day long…. this really shouldn’t be that hard to achieve.
So, in total, all this leads me to think there is a little bit of a bubble, and some of us who might count as filters between it and the wider population who aren’t on Twitter, might be turned off by a negative approach towards us.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

On Only Retweeting Women Of Colour in Black History Month

After seeing a tweet which I now cannot find urging me to only retweet Women of Colour for Black History Month, I tried it out.
I learnt:
  •  I do not follow enough Women of Colour, so I asked for recommendations and now follow some superb women, examples being Sunny Singh and Tressie Mc
  • Most people posting content on Twitter are white men. It was an active task to not RT white men when I saw something I agreed with and wanted people to know I supported.
  • White Men tend to tweet a lot
  • There's a lot of insight and interest that I was just missing out on.
Totally recommend doing this, for Black History month or at any other time.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Did a failure of social democracy cause Brexit?

I'm wary of criticising other strands of political thought, because generally they all interest me and have upsides and downsides. However, a number of people seem to have convinced themselves that either an over-reach of liberalism or "neo-liberalism" or woolly centrism is to blame for Brexit, I feel honour bound to mount a defence of liberalism, through the time honoured means of attacking something else.
As nativists and nationalists erect barriers to trade around the world, I am pondering why they achieved so much support from people who felt left behind. It's an interesting phenomenon, because as us globalists congratulated ourselves on the laudable aims of raising so much of the world out of poverty and bringing the benefits of commerce and trade to an ever wider audience, some people felt left behind.
Now leaving worries like how easily it is to focus on the outgroup and blame them, as one for sociologists and psychologists, I wonder if it isn't time for a new economic paradigm - that of every person being important and valuable, and long term productivity to be the most important goal. Having been studying economics as part of my Open Uni course, I feel better versed the last two movement, that of Keynes trying to banish unemployment, and monetary policy trying to restrain inflation to a manageable level like 2%.
How about a third leg to this stool - that of a high degree of focus on productivity? What helps make a society productive is education, focus on what works, and investment in research and development.
I would also add, as fricitionless as possible.
I'm very interested in the fact that early economic theory was lifted straight from physics, because not only does that explain the structure of a lot of the equations, it also makes me wonder how it was updated - Nash equilibrium and all.
Did economic thinking drift behind politics? Did social democrats rely too much on old theory and redistribution when perhaps the aims of mankind are less about distributing resources and more about (hippy alert) mechanisms to help everyone reach their full potential?
Many questions remain... answering them, or at least trying to, could lead to some exciting work in economic theory.