Saturday salon 25/6

1. Brexit happened

The Brits went to bed on Thursday thinking they would stay in the EU, but woke up a 6am to find that they had decided to leave, by a clear margin. The simple version is that immigration was a bigger factor than economics, where many decided they didn’t believe the economists and capitalists anyway.

On another count it was an anti-establishment vote. People just want change. But in effect the Brits decided they would rather be screwed by their own one per cent, rather than the EU’s one per cent.

There is masses of coverage at the BBC, which gives eight reasons. The last is that Britain was always somewhat alien towards Europe. My school history teacher reckoned that England’s main reason historically to intervene on the Continent was to ensure that they were divided equally enough to keep fighting each other. They weren’t natural candidates to cooperate in a zone of peace.

Here’s how they voted:

Brexit_cropped

It was London, Scotland and Northern Island that wanted to stay.

For our election, Brexit works in favour of the Coalition and Malcolm Turnbull. For us it’s a safe pair of hands, ignoring that Labor have been shown to be the better economic managers, and got us through the GFC.

I heard tonight that roughly half our services trade with the EU goes through Britain. We may have to find different pathways in the future.

Anyway Professor Anand Menon gave Tony Eastley a good run down on what it might mean on Thursday night.

2. Global displacement at record high: UNHCR

One in every 113 people on the planet has been the subject of “forced displacement”. That’s over 65 million, and 51 per cent of refugees are children, according to the UNHCR’s Global Trends report. That’s on average 24 people forced to flee each minute in 2015, four times more than a decade earlier. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi:

    “At sea, a frightening number of refugees and migrants are dying each year. On land, people fleeing war are finding their way blocked by closed borders.”

3. Unhackable credit cards are here

New Scientist has an article about credit and debit cards that can’t be hacked (paywalled):

    At least one US bank has started supplying its customers with cards that contain what is known as a physically unclonable function – or, more snappily, a PUF. Every silicon-based chip gets this unique fingerprint from the way it is manufactured, and it is almost impossible to replicate.

    “It’s a biometric in a way,” says Boris Kennes at Intrinsic-ID in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. “Each chip is born with unique characteristics that are completely uncontrollable and different, just like a fingerprint.”

4. The internet will grind to a standstill

Sorry, that’s New Scientist paywalled again.

In 1858 a cable was strung across the Atlantic and people on different continents could talk to each other at the rate of a few words per hour, if they didn’t fall asleep.

In 1992 the internet was shifting a gargantuan mass of 100 gigabytes of data per day. By 2014 that amount was shifted every 60 microseconds.

Problem is, there are limits to the current optical fibre cables, thought to be about 10 times the current traffic. But guess what, we might get there by 2020.

The article then goes into new technologies, for example optical conjugators, or hollow-core fibres where 99.99 per cent of the signal journey is done in air. Better still in a vacuum, where speeds can go near the speed of light. But as far as I can see it’s all still in the lab.

At present you’ve got everything from the conspicuous consumption of movies and games to share trades in microseconds.

    The … surge in data could lead to big downloaders paying hefty charges for clogging up the system, leaving the rest of us sharing an expensive, throttled service. This could, in turn, spell the end of the idyllic era of net neutrality, in which no user has priority in how their internet traffic is handled. If we want to avoid the capacity crunch in a way that is fair to everybody, we’re going to need an upgrade.

So by the time our NBN is finished the golden age of the interwebs might be over.

Introduction to Saturday salon

Because of the way the blog currently presents posts on the home page I think it’s better to remove the introductory material to a different place. For new readers, here’s the rationale for this space.

voltaire_230

An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

    The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

38 thoughts on “Saturday salon 25/6”

  1. How did I guess Brexit would be on this morning’s menu?

    That map seems to say it all: Whose living standards have risen, In England, and whose have crashed. The young grizzling about the oldies robbing them of their future ignores the stark reality that it is mainly the young who have the money.

    Unexpected consequences: United Ireland – who’d a thunk it? Independent Scotland. The end of that great statesman, Angela Merkel (she can join Misha Gorbachev in being a tragic figure of our times). Will Scotland become a nuclear power as the British armed forces are divvied up? Spain, Portugal, Netherlands and Denmark out of the EU – but will they join EW (England-Wales) in a new partnership? A massive too-late reform of the remaining EU that will leave Brussels as a quaint historical tourist attraction. Finland, Poland and Hungary to the fore in running the EU (so the Germans and the French had better behave themselves).

    It was sad that one of Britain’s best Prime Ministers, David Cameron, will leave office. His party may have been a load of rubbish but he himself was a true statesman.

  2. The UK joined the EU in 1973 which means that anyone under 43 would not have been born when the UK joined. So does this mean the 75% of the 18 to 24 age group who voted to remain were simply scared of the unknown or mislead by EU propaganda?
    Does it mean that the oldies did know how much was lost by joining the EU? Or…?
    Both Trump and Brexit are about all the people who are much worse off because of free markets.

  3. Both Trump and Brexit are about all the people who are much worse off because of free markets.

    I think they certainly wanted their lives to change for the better and wanted to be in charge of their own destiny. However, it’s unlikely that their lives will be better, and may in fact be worse.

    Meanwhile the young feel their future has been taken away.

  4. Today on the BBC I heard a German Brit, Alan Posner, who said that Boris Johnson’s enthusiasm for Brexit was confected when he saw the chance to knock over David Cameron. Certainly he always looks like a chancer and a con-artist, so it’s hard to know.

    Another said that if Scotland and Northern Island go you’ll be left with conservative England dominating the cosmopolitan city of London, the financial centre of the world. He saw a flight of capital to Edinburgh.

  5. EU leaders want Britain out of the EU ASAP. They see a whole continent being held to ransom by a brawl in the Conservative Party. David Cameron wants a new leader to do the business, presumably someone who knows where they are going.

    The Conservatives are bitterly divided, and there is no unity in the Leave camp. Fintan O’Toole’s look at the divided polities created by the vote is worth a read.

    It’s a mess.

    There is division and ructions in Labour also.

  6. Both Trump and Brexit are about all the people who are much worse off because of free markets.

    Oh yes, Venezuela and North Korea have had no end of trouble turning back all the boats full of economic refugees.

  7. Not only London.
    I believe that little yellow blob in the South West is centred on Exeter in South Devon. Gentle University town, prosperous provincial centre of good agricultural land, supported by summer tourism.

  8. Brian:

    I think they certainly wanted their lives to change for the better and wanted to be in charge of their own destiny. However, it’s unlikely that their lives will be better, and may in fact be worse.

    All I can say about Aus is that between the end of the war and the mid 1970’s, the economy was growing, unemployment above 2% was enough to put a government at risk of losing an election and equality was growing. It was a period when Australia was led by men who had lived through the depression and WWll and understood that part of the reason for the rise of the likes of Hitler was the failure of economies to look after people. It was also a period when governments were scared about the rise of communism and scared that a dissatisfied workforce would support communism.
    More to the point it was a period when protectionism was the norm and governments had control of what flowed over the period.
    In this context my recollection was that free markets were pushed initially by US companies which believed that free markets would expand their markets.
    It doesn’t surprise me that Brexit was supported by people who were old enough to remember the UK before it joined the EU.

  9. John, after WWII for 25-30 years he had expansion, and basically hope in all the OECD countries. Immanuel Wallerstein, the sociologist who devoted his life to the tracing the trajectory of capitalism, puts 1968-70 as the time things got harder and capitalists sought new ways of exploiting their power to make money.

    I think you are right, it was US multinationals who got organised and lobbied for free trade, followed by their European mates.

    I’m not against freeing up trade, but I don’t see it as a leading part of economic development unless there is genuine complementarity, and it needs to be done with a lot more care.

  10. Who would people here name the wisest woman in history ?

    Who would you?

    Definitely not Maggie Thatcher. I’d start with Queen Elizabeth I as the benchmark and go from there. Have a listen to Jane Caro’s interview with Richard Fidler.

    Caro thinks that the liberation of women was made possible by the example of Queen Bess and it’s no accident it started in earnest in England.

    But there may be others I haven’t thought about.

  11. Who would you?

    I really don’t know.
    It just popped into my head the other day and was bugging me that I couldn’t rattle off a few names.
    This is one persons list and reasons why that might be so.

    Just one of those brain worms that is irritating me.

    ( for some strange reason I can’t play Fidler podcasts on my macbook, no matter the route I choose. Also irritating. )

  12. Indeed, a major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it… gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.

    Milton Friedman

  13. Ambigulous: The shift to Remain in rural shires near London are the very shires in which farmers have been displaced by very rich Londoners buying up rural properties as weekenders or as retirement dwellings; very little farming for money going on there.

    Brian: as I have said before, the bad effects of Margaret Thather’s will last for a century. INMHO, Dead or not, Thatcher caused Brexit.

  14. Jumpy, the list you link to gives 10 female philosophers. If you are looking for wisdom, I wouldn’t look first at philosophers.

    Shame you can’t download Fidler’s interviews. I can’t really give the essence of what Caro said about Elizabeth I in a blog comment, but I was impressed.

    The quote from Milton Friedman and freedom doesn’t cut it IMHO.

    Markets are socially constructed human artefacts, and “free” markets are no exception. As such they need to incorporate responsibility and mutual caring if they are to be ‘human’.

  15. If a small country like Australia combines free markets with a floating currency it is a disaster for the manufacturing industries that need profits over a number of years to pay off their capital costs.
    Think about it. The Australian currency has ranged from below $0.5 per $US to over parity in recent years. It makes competing in the global economy very difficult.

  16. Speaking of Milton Friedman, this must be the epitome of childlike naivete:

    “So long as effective freedom of exchange is maintained, the central feature of the market organization of economic activity is that it prevents one person from interfering with another in respect of most of his activities. The consumer is protected from coercion by the seller because of the presence of other sellers with whom he can deal. The seller is protected from coercion by the consumer because of other consumers to whom he can sell The employee is protected from coercion by the employer because of other employers for whom he can work, and so on. And the market does this impersonally and without centralized authority.
    Indeed, a major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it does this task so well. It gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”

    (Capitalism and Freedom, p. 14 according to my source)

  17. Believe it or not, Jumpy, people (in general) really don’t want endless freedom. People want a comfortable level of freedom balanced by an operative level of confinement.

    Start with marriage. Then follow the stream of consequences, and you will see just how destructive boundless freedom is.

    Normal rational people can see and understand this.

    Looking at the European news, Europe has cast Britain of already. It is basically “good riddance”.

  18. Believe it or not, Jumpy, people (in general) really don’t want endless freedom. People want a comfortable level of freedom balanced by an operative level of confinement.

    With freedom to choose this ” operative level of confinement ” themselves, and self enforce.

    I don’t know what marriage has to do with this, are you condoning the Governments regulating of marriage to exclude certain couples ?

  19. Thanks for the link to that excellent Politico article, Jumpy. I liked Kwasi Kwateg’s comment in it, “This is not only the rejection of the EU. This is the rejection of an elite that has lost the people’s trust with its failures.“; he was right too about this being revolutionary.

  20. Bilbi: It goes beyond just a comfortable level of freedom – to a comfortable level of choices in almost everything. Too few choices and you have the current and increasing hatred of Australia’s two part system. Too many choices and you find another rising level of annoyance or confusion – such as has happened since free-to-air TV went from 7 or 8 reasonable channels to the dozens of Z grade channels that now waste electrons – look around you, who in your circle now watches much less TV nowadays?

    Like your analogy with marriage – where choices are somewhat limited but where there is (or should be) mutual respect and advantage to counterbalance that . There may well be unlimited choices in “free(??)” markets but no mutual respect and almost all advantage is with merchant or dealer.

  21. almost all advantage is with merchant or dealer.

    Only with monopolies generally due to Government interference limiting competition, think taxis licences or ” or when crony corporates and unions cronies join up.

    The consumer is both the biggest group and the smallest minority ( ei 1 individual )Given free choice in an open market, the winners are the consumer ( everyone ) and the best products. Think of every purchase as a vote based on individual circumstances, without any Government coercion.

  22. Jumpey: In an ideal world, the consumer would reign supreme and the best products would always make it to the top.

    However, in this imperfect world, the best products are usually nobbled before they can take customers away from the ruling product or brand, or from the third or fourth best. As for customers, the supreme commands are Never Give A Sucker An Even Break, and , Rob The Customer, He May Never Pass This Way Again.

    Don’t feel too bad about it, Jumpey: Communism was just as bad with its Progress and its Workers’ Solidarity and its Brotherhood Of Man frauds. Now, if you really want to find huge gulfs between lofty ideology and cruel reality, check out some of the religions.

    It’s just that when you have any contact at all with enthusiasts for “free markets” you should count your fingers afterwards, then make sure your wallet is still in your pocket and also that your house has not been sold without your say-so whilst you were engaged in such contact.

  23. Jumpy, the Libertarian belief that a free market means that every person gas access to the best and cheapest products is totally false, and easily demonstrated to be so. Top of the list of ths failures of the idea is time. People simply do not have sufficient life time to filter through the multiplicity of options and must settle on a limited set of near choices. The next is that retailers tend to buy to maximise their profit (exercising their freedom of choice) and that means the lowest cost product which gives the impression of having some quality. That means that the manufacturer buys the lowest cost materials and utilises the lowest cost labour (least skilled) to produce products. It is a race to the bottom in which the only winners are the best resourced traders.

    Milton Friedman’s world is a fog of fallacies equally deluded as is the Marxist Utopia.

  24. BilB: Thanks for that. I had forgotten the importance of time in deceiving the customer. Overwhelmed by a multitude of “choices(??)”, the poor customer or citizen has only 24 hours in a day and a lifetime of only 70 or 80 years in which to sort out what is useful and needed from what is shoddy, useless, false, unwanted, toxic, overpriced and wasteful.

  25. The next is that retailers tend to buy to maximise their profit (exercising their freedom of choice) and that means the lowest cost product which gives the impression of having some quality. That means that the manufacturer buys the lowest cost materials and utilises the lowest cost labour (least skilled) to produce products. It is a race to the bottom in which the only winners are the best resourced traders.

    Not at all. It’s about value. I rarely buy the cheapest item on the shelf, do you ? And rarely do I have a customer that wants the cheapest materials or poor quality workmanship.
    All of my business is through tender and the lowest quote doesn’t guarantee a winning bid.

    As for time, folks seem to have enough of it to fill up blogs and social media.
    And personally I’m not keen for that choice to be regulated either.

  26. On the EU referendum.

    I just saw a comment on a British newspaper blog, along these lines:

    This is most entertaining. Absorb as much as you can, history buffs. It’s not often you witness a whole nation’s politics unravelling in the space of a few days.

    As someone with many ties of friendship and family in Britain, I can’t take such a detached view as that poster.

  27. Now your are confusing realities. At the present you live in a regulated economy with many standards. For starters there is a minimum wage which guarantees an acceptable standard of living for those who work (not you of course because you are self employed). This in turn determines that there is a healthy economy for you to perform in. The tools you buy, not at the lowest cost, are made to performance standards and guarantees that ensure that they will work as advertised for an acceptable period of time. The materials you buy are, I can prove quantitatively, largely manufactured with the minimum acceptable amount of material, though you do have choices largely determined by your customers who give you the opportunity to perform due to their living standard, buttressed by minimum income levels, but confine you by their income supportable budget.

    In the Libertarian “freedom” world there are no certainties. you cannot expect tools to work beyond the period it took to pay for it and get it to your workshop. You cannot expect the batteries to fit, hold a charge for any useful period or even have a compatible voltage. There is no certainty that you will even have electricity. Your customer base is likely to be small as most people will make their own dwellings as there are no building standards. Etc.

    Freedom is not all it is cracked up to be.

    Regulation may be confining but it does offer predictability and a high level of certainty. The Friedman Economy is a cherry picked fantasy world imagineered for only one group of people, the richest, the strongest, and the most agressive.

  28. Now your are confusing realities. At the present you live in a regulated economy with many standards.

    No, the Australian Standards are drawn up by a private Company, SAI Global. They have zero standing in Law unless in a Contract or mentioned in legislation.
    You may view them by paying for access.
    See here also.

    Standards Australia is not part of government; we do not make laws or regulations.

    Australian Standards are not legal documents. However, when a government references a standard in legislation, it becomes mandatory.
    This is a decision made by elected governments, not Standards Australia.

    Standards are also often incorporated into legal contracts.

    The rest is bases on what I crossed out at the beginning.

  29. Just in the Minimum wage nonsense, if someone wants to work for nothing ( volunteer ) to learn skills, that’s OK by you right?
    But a dollar less than the minimum wage is criminal.
    In your view are volunteer organisations ruining the economy ?

  30. Jumpy, without being philosophical, just a few examples.

    You don’t have freedom and choice about which side of the road you drive on for good reasons.

    We have standards about the time of the day, referenced to Greenwich Mean Time, so that we can have trains and buses that run on time, put on an event or meet people.

    The EU has regulations that facilitate the flow of commerce and culture across countries that we can’t manage between states.

    My favourite, good for a laugh, is that they have a regulation on the size and positioning of the opening on the front of men’s pyjamas. Apparently customs were very different, so they negotiated a compromise that more or less suited everyone. The reason was that PJ makers could sell a product across the continent that was acceptable to consumers. Of course now those PJs are probably made in China or Bangladesh, no doubt to the EU standard.

    The Brits have now escaped this tyranny of the bedroom, but if they want different PJs they are unlikely to be cheaper.

  31. Jumpy, consumer protections are enshrined in law.

    Yes, a dollar less than the minimum wage is actionable. If a dollar less were OK then why not five dollars less, or a dollar more than nothing. In a Libertarian Utopia why give a two year guarantee on the performance of power tools, regardless of the quality, when there is no requirement to do so, and to do so would increase the cost.

  32. When I was studying education back in the 1970s we were challenged with the thought, if you can call it that, of Ivan Illich, who wanted to liberate everyone from schooling and free up the professions so that anyone could hang up their shingle as a doctor, a dentist or a brain surgeon.

    There were insights to be gained from that stuff, but it doesn’t take more than five seconds to reach the conclusion that it’s basically a silly idea.

  33. Jeremy Corbyn, update.
    Partial text of motion in House of Commons, 2003; after reports that MI5 had planned to use pigeons as flying bombs.

    This House believes that humans represent the most obscene, perverted, cruel, uncivilised and lethal species ever to inhabit the planet and looks forward to the day when the inevitable asteroid slams into the earth and wipes them out thus giving nature the opportunity to start again.”

    ah…. some years ago Brian used to post scare stories about asteroids, I recall…

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