Sunday, 7 August 2016

Interesting stuff I found down the back of the sofa (plus a comment on grammar schools)

Trade is good.
Clearing out my pockets - here's a few things (other than lint and misformed paperclips) I found:

Big cities are bad for health (this sort of reminds us what public health really is about):

Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of the vaccine alliance Gavi, points to the recent increase in the scale of densely populated urban areas, many without adequate sanitation, as turning containable illnesses like Zika and Ebola into pandemics. Dense urbanization may not have created Zika, which causes newborns to have unusually small heads, he notes, but it has accelerated its spread from a mere handful to a current tally of 1.5 million cases this year.

Tokyo doesn't have a housing crisis - because it has sensible (aka laissez faire) planning rules:

Here is a startling fact: in 2014 there were 142,417 housing starts in the city of Tokyo (population 13.3m, no empty land), more than the 83,657 housing permits issued in the state of California (population 38.7m), or the 137,010 houses started in the entire country of England (population 54.3m).

Ideology presented as fact - the curse of economics (here's a good example of the genre):

Is there a good economic reason why Brexit in particular should require abandoning austerity economics? I would argue that the Tory obsession with the budget deficit has had very little to do with economics for the past four or five years. Instead, it has been a political ruse with two intentions: to help win elections and to reduce the size of the state. That Britain’s macroeconomic policy was dictated by politics rather than economics was a precursor for the Brexit vote. However, austerity had already begun to reach its political sell-by date, and Brexit marks its end.

And globalisation (meaning free trade and immigration since you asked) is good for the working class:

There isn't an economy in the world — now or ever — that could have endured such massive blows without a major hit to its people. But the worst that has happened in America is stagnant wages. Remarkably, our quality of life has continued to improve.

They never tell you how fast Africa is growing (or that it's down to capitalism - also socialism was what made Africa poor):

Some of Africa’s growth was driven by high commodity prices, but much of it, a McKinsey study found in 2010, was driven by economic reforms. To appreciate the latter, it is important to recall that for much of their post-colonial history, African governments have imposed central control over their economies. Inflationary monetary policies, price, wage and exchange rate controls, marketing boards that kept the prices of agricultural products artificially low and impoverished African farmers, and state-owned enterprises and monopolies were commonplace.

The rise of the far-right is down to the EU (prize for spotting the huge factual error in the article):

All “civilised” politicians in the founding EEC nations agreed nationalism must be overcome. Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, Socialists, Euro communists, all the mainstream Continental political groups agreed that old-style patriotism was at best embarrassing, at worst dangerous and wicked. This meant that ordinary Frenchmen, Germans, Dutchmen, Belgians who wanted to stay French, German, etc had no-one else to vote for but extreme nationalists. Anyone wishing to oppose ever-closer union had no other home than among the xenophobic fringe parties.

It's not just technology but finance that's changing car ownership:

With the rise of companies like Uber and Lyft, it’s clear that we will need to see advances in new ownership models to support tomorrow’s transportation landscape. In fact, Uber recently received a $1 billion credit facility led by Goldman Sachs to fund new car leases. Uber (and Wall Street) are also recognizing the need for more flexibility with this deal — especially at a time when Americans are making larger monthly payments than ever on their cars and taking out record-size auto loans.

The impact of Brexit on projections for housing requirements (sexy stuff I know):

In summary, the current basis for UK estimates of housing need are already predicated on a 45% drop to total net-in-migration by 2021, so for Brexit to have any downward pressure on planned housing targets in Local Plans, it would need to be assumed that Brexit resulted in European net-migration to the UK falling to virtually zero over the medium to long term. This seems unlikely.

A brilliant article - essentially a film review - on small town poverty and decline in the US mid-west (and a glimpse of why Trump):

In Medora we see not only poverty, but nearly complete social breakdown. I don’t recall a single player on the team raised in an intact family. Many of them lived in trailer parks. One kid had never even met his father. Others had mothers who themselves were alcoholics or barely functional individuals. They sometimes bounced around from home to home (grandmother, etc.) or dropped out of school to take care of a problematic mother.

Finally I can't resist a comment on grammar schools. They really aren't the answer to educational challenges but at least the Conservatives are looking at system reform rather than saying the solution is putting more money into institutions - big urban comprehensives - that are failing children.



asquith said...

Anonymous said...

I agree that 'grammar schools' are not the solution, but they may be one key element of a set of co-ordinated changes which eventually deliver a feasible solution.

Because there is a problem, a big problem. Over the past 40 years we have all noted a progressive decline in the quality of output from the education system, particularly in relation to the key employability skills. And that's despite all the fanciful PFI school-building programmes, gerrymandering the grades to make exam results look better, vast numbers of extra teaching/support staff and driving into universities untold swathes of kids who should never even have qualified for the 6th Form. And all the while, we need to import Polish plumbers, Lithuanian builders and Spanish waiters. It's not working and something drastic needs to be done, and quickly because any result takes a generation to have its effect.

So if Mrs May has a master-plan, of which the expansion of the grammar school model is but one component, the other parts of which will address the wider picture and return the profligate education system to producing the sort of output our economy needs, then she will have my support and probably that of most other observant folk in the land.