Links and Things

I've added the baseline scenario website to the links. It is an economics website that I have enjoyed, along with Chris Dillow's page ,and Nouriel Roubini's RGE monitor, for some time. I often see their articles more or less passed off on national newspapers, but not their depth of knowledge or perspective, with which I do not always agree. It's interesting to me how many economists are revealing themselves to be fairly radical socialists, though possibly implicit in the whole idea of social science.

It's good to get out and about. I took four friends from my Berkeley alumni course out to the Churchill Museum in London today, and found it pleasantly changed since the last time I went three years ago. It's always a pleasure really. I like drunken and slightly disreputable contrarians with brains and hearts.

However, there were large sections on painting, on the social reforms and insurance policies Churchill promoted as a Liberal, and on the injustice of painting him as all anti-worker because of the police at Tonypandy or all anti-peace because of the way others were blamed for appeasement. I'll blog a little more about it soon, but it made me think. As is usual in these places, the wonderful electronic attractions for children--like a virtual painting palette--kept me occupied. It was almost as good as the animatronic (and naked) Lady Villiers I encountered near a hologram in Blenheim palace a couple of weeks ago.

Coming back to Oxford, before I succumbed to sleep beside a very pleasant radiographer (of whom more in a moment) I looked idly out of the bus window at all the cars on the highway. Three drivers were eating; two were holding at least one mobile telephone; one was driving with his elbows, and one was reading a map, two were dealing with children and one was smoking away.

No one was sitting in the passenger seat with their legs on the dashboard, as I saw the other day near Windsor, but it seems a healthy disrespect for risk-averse hectoring on the part of the police, lobbies and the law has taken hold. I wonder how long it will be before this spreads to over tax revolt or some sort of legitimation crisis. Revenues have already collapsed from self-employment as it is, and I wouldn't want to be an employee of Her Majesty's Customs and Revenue, or the IRS, next year.

As I woke, the pleasant woman beside me was writing on her laptop, and we fell into a chat without exchanging names, as you do. It turned out that we should both have been at the party I attended on Saturday, at which I met public procurement officers, doctors, and other historians. She was full of woe for what she saw as a clear attempt five years ago to destroy the NHS which was now reviving. It operated, as she saw it, by so overburdening and privatising radiographers and nurses, through agencies and differential fee agreements and the creation of private practices, that the argument for health service privatisation would become unstoppable.

I doubt this; socialising debt and privatising profit when the vehicles can conceal their losses and when markets are growing is a way of fending off the Market Ideologues in the financial industry. When they are on their knees, and likely to sink further; it makes no sense that they'd want hospitals, except to make some pointless statement of ownership.

Had we a government with any balls, of course, they would nationalise everything in sight and then rebalance the mix of public and private free of consolidated debt, derivatives, credit default swaps, and real estate investment trusts. Socialist governments couldn't be trusted to do it; conservatives wouldn't. Let's wait and see what Germany's Christian Democrats do to their banks when they realise they aren't lending and can't lend according to any prevailing corporate model in a couple of months' time.

We don't and they won't, but we chatted about interest rates on bonds as a tax, and then went onto other things as the green of southern England sped past us. I'd seen enough of her screen to know that she was having a hard time, and she was just back from some pointless interview or other, but her eyes were full of the passion of her life, and of her honourable profession.

I like doctors; they are so driven by their vocation, and most want simply to do good. Some are maimed by class and the peculiar psychopathology of their practice, of course, but I've met many good, kind ones. I feel sorry for them, since, of the three swine flu cases I've heard of in the past two days, two have been doctors or medical students. Whether I trust them as a herd or individuals on every matter is another point, but you have to respect them.

My mother is getting much better, incidentally, as a result of the ministrations of Doctors. My best friend's mum, however, has collapsed in Rome, and my Romana is very upset, as one would expect. She's an atheist, but if you have been kind enough to pray for my mum, please pray for my friend's mum, and for all those ill. It helps, at least, to remember that if you are reading this with money coming in and relative health, jewels have been granted to you.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Religious Romantic Ramblings
I consider myself to be a genuine, caring and considerate person; however sitting somewhere between an atheist and agnostic I feel that however sincerely, genuinely, enthusiastically or profusely I "give my prayers" to someone I always seem to feel a little guilty. Guilty for the main part that my prayers are not as worthy as those of the ‘true believer’ (whatever that is)…but oh they are I protest! I would match my sentiments with those of any Pontiff as I give them from the heart. But the guilt emanates from my perception of how my prayers are received. Can I really compete with the blessings of such a person of stature? After all I surely know where the recipient would rather have their blessing bestowed. Not that it should be a one or the other choice, there are no limits to prayers. I know it is my problem for imposing these restrictions. Maybe it’s the word ‘prayer’ that is the real issue? If I bestow my love, caring and general humanitarianism towards another does a lack of recognised religious faith diminish that sentiment? I know and can trace where this feeling originated, the hypocrisy, the ‘not belonging’, the alienation and segregation; this is regrettably all that religion has taught me. I do not lack faith and have much love in my life, and although I sometime wish a little more money was coming in; I am pleased for the relative health which I enjoy. Do I need help Reverend? Probably. However I am thankful of the jewels that I have been given, and although I have choice to hand a few out, I am safe in the knowledge that religion will not steal them from me.
Mary said…
Hi Martin,
I'm pleased to hear that your mother is progressing well. She'll be back up to speed in no time,I'm sure.

I couldn't let your remarks about doctors go unchallenged and to suggest that some are 'maimed by class' could apply to all the professions surely? That's if they are maimed. I wouldn't know about that because I don't really know what you mean.

On Monday my son came home from work early. He looked rather ill and within a few hours was almost delirious. He's an actuary and works in an office.

My youngest son is working on the infectious diseases ward. He laughed off any suggestion that he was at any great risk explaining that in the event of him catching it, his chance of dying is about 0.01%. In fact,he says that the evidence is more and more pointing to the overall mortality of this strain being lower than seasonal flu. He's more concerned by the TB patients that he has contact with.

I think a lot of us are going to come down with this flu and most of us will survive it. Cheers.
Martin Meenagh said…
Hi Anonymous

Sorry that you feel guilty. Too many people do; and no one living has any complete 'handle' on the divine, so I have no right to comment on the quality of prayers. I would suggest that the language of self, and of competition, and theft, aren't very helpful to you, and aren't the words I'd use, but each to their own. I'm happy for you to love, and to be caring and humanitarian and I wish you well.

By the way, I enjoy and believe in my catholicism, but religion has an awful effect on some people and has sometimes been a refined vehicle for the worst of human nature, as any social institution could be. I hope that you weren't mangled by it and I take the point if you were.

I didn't blog the point, but apparently upstairs on the bus yesterday on the way in, there was an irritated and uncharitable priest, a group of mormon visiting students, and some loudly declaiming evangelical. I got the best of the deal being downstairs, but I guess that there was a punchline in there somewhere. A nice English lady actually took refuge downstairs next to me
and used language about the atmosphere upstairs that would have suited a docker before they were all sacked.

Mary, thanks for your comment. Of course anyone in life can be 'maimed' by class. What I meant was something I've actually seen far more in lawyers than doctors--a preformed perception of what lives are worth, or of what being working-class is, or a vaulting ambition to use necessity to defend what is effectively the taking of life. I think people in all professions are also so battered by tests and lawsuits and so on these days that some become unresponsive to people, and lose sight of their vocation. Some--not all!

I do note the contrast in the breakfast papers between the New York Times--'Britain goes mad over swine flu'--and the British press ('mad hysteria over swine flu, pages 1-32, don't look at the depression, look at this swine flu, etc etc). Still, I like the contrast in the viral e-mail between piglet and pooh. Piglet, walking along a riverbank, says 'I'm so lucky to have a friend in Pooh', Pooh thinks 'if that effin pig sneezes, he's dead'.
Mary said…
I'm glad you clarified that because I genuinely didn't know what you meant. The English upper classes certainly do know their own importance and probably look down on others but that is surely their problem. I'm pleased that you conceded that lawyers are more likely to put a relative value on a life than doctors. By it's nature, the medical profession is more likely to see each life as equally precious. I have to remark though, that in every society some are more equal than others.

My father was a doctor. If you saw him speak to anyone you would never know whether that person was rich or poor, clever or stupid, important or not so important. This respect for all is, I think,an old -fashioned quality. Have we lost this today, in our superficial celebrity-driven world?
Martin Meenagh said…
You know, Mary--and I guess you do--the NHS and the American healthcare system run on the vocations and the unpaid work of medical staff in the face of nonsense. If they even remotely behaved as insurance managers, addministrators, or lawyers do--as a 'self maximising human resouce'--we'd all be in desperate trouble. It doesn't stop some being prone to badness, but, well, I am glad I am a barrister, but I am not so sure that I'm not just a displaced priest or politician--and I know they are dirty words these days.
Martin Meenagh said…
That said, I really don't like arguments about abortion, euthanasia, or 'gender reassignment'. They seem too much like surgical solutions and the professional elites of managers and otherwise unqualified people who run things today proposing 'solutions' to truncated lives rather than dealing with the basic problem that lives led in consumption and selfishness and according to other people's models aren't worth living....

I have more in common with religious romantic's ramblings than I think, I guess. Thank God for catholicism's logic--its a prop to me, sometimes, but I'm with Dante's traveller. Great as Virgil and his humanism are, you need a little faith to just take you beyond that last circle, in practically everything that you do. Faith in what--thats the question.

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