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Fat cats and heart attacks?

October 29, 2011 1 comment

I don’t comment all that much on political and business matters, but here are two things that caught my eye in the last day or so.

First, a news report on the BBC, ‘Directors’ Pay Rose 50% in Last Year, Says IDS Report’. Key details: consumer price index inflation figures just published – 5.2%; average pay settlements – 2.6%; average rise in base salaries – 3.2%. So most of us are living with decreasing incomes based on pay increases lower than inflation. For company directors, however, pay increases last year were 43% and bonus payments up 23%, leading to the headline 50% figure for increases in income.

Frankly, my experience is that this is kind of behaviour most likely to be seen in places like developing (and failing) economies when businessmen realise everything’s going to hell and they want to grab as much as they can as fast as they can, and get it out of the country and into a more secure form of investment. So I’d read it as a vote of no confidence in the economy, from the people who are supposed to be involved in running it. To reference a lyric from the band Muse, the fat cats are already having heart attacks.

Secondly, I’m currently writing a training programme for a commercial client on the management of innovation. In that context I came across some stuff by Peter Drucker, who died in 2005 but was one of the best known business management gurus (yes, I know opinions about him differ!) and remains extraordinarily influential. There’s a Wikipedia entry on him, of course, and it directed me to a short piece in Business Week magazine for 2005 – an interview they did shortly before his death. The piece is ‘The Man Who Invented Management: Why Peter Drucker’s ideas still matter’. A key point it makes is worth quoting at length:

‘In the 1980s he began to have grave doubts about business and even capitalism itself. He no longer saw the corporation as an ideal space to create community. In fact, he saw nearly the opposite: a place where self-interest had triumphed over the egalitarian principles he long championed. In both his writings and speeches, Drucker emerged as one of Corporate America’s most important critics. When conglomerates were the rage, he preached against reckless mergers and acquisitions …  In a 1984 essay he persuasively argued that CEO pay had rocketed out of control and implored boards to hold CEO compensation to no more than 20 times what the rank and file made. What particularly enraged him was the tendency of corporate managers to reap massive earnings while firing thousands of their workers. “This is morally and socially unforgivable,” wrote Drucker, “and we will pay a heavy price for it.”‘

Currently everybody’s paying a heavy price for some financial screw-ups that started in 2007, and no one’s thinking it will blow over anytime soon. There are already models of post-capitalism being actively discussed, albeit some more fluffy and vague than others. Here’s a very quick and fairly random reading list:

‘Wages, Prices, and Money in a Post-Capitalist Economy’, Eric Patton, May 29th, 2007 in Dissident Voice.

‘Beyond capitalism?’, The Economist, 10 June 2004. This takes the open-source model of technology and considers how it could be applied to other aspects of the economy.

Ethan Miller and Michael Albert, ‘Post-Capitalist Alternatives: New Perspectives on Economic Democracy‘. Essays and thinkpieces published by the Socialist Renewal Publishing Project in Canada, 2009 (opens as PDF).

‘After Capitalism’, by Geoff Mulgan, Prospects magazine, 2009. This is a centrist (i.e. open to views and arguments from all political sides) magazine.

‘This is What the Post-Capitalist Economy Looks Like’, a blog post on Seldon’s Gate, a communal project by a bunch of engaging and witty radicals.

As an aside, I’m not seeing much at the moment from the right-wing thinktanks about an economic vision for the future…

I’m kind of thinking that some of these ideas are going to feature rather strongly in the next year or two. And if not – well, I’ll leave you with a lyric from the band Muse (the song is ‘Uprising’): ‘Rise up and take the power back / It’s time the fat cats had a heart attack’. Hmm…

Vampire fiction and training materials

October 11, 2011 2 comments

I’ve had a bit of word-collision going on.

Yesterday I was writing a short vampire story. A vampire, in some older literature, is described as a revenant – a term Wikipedia defines as ‘a visible ghost or animated corpse that was believed to return from the grave to terrorize the living’. So it was a word I used quite a few times.

Today I was writing something about economic regeneration in local contexts, and the roles of relevant government departments and other agencies.

And the spellcheck, of course, didn’t pick up that I’d managed to include quite a lot of references to revenant government departments.

Hmmm…

Random conversation

October 3, 2011 Leave a comment

I had a fairly surreal conversation earlier this evening in which we reached the slightly strange, if sensible, conclusion that it is almost certainly not possible to do line-dancing to Combichrist.

No, I don’t know how we ended up discussing that either. But now someone’s probably going to post a YouTube video and prove us wrong…

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