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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

About economic parasites

A couple of weeks ago I referred to a series of strategic reports written by Tim Morgan which adopted, for me, some much better yardsticks of national economic performance than we have been stuck with for the past few decades – trying to measure sustainable value rather than dubious short-term financial measures. The great blog A Diary of Deception and Distortion has a Saturday essay which yesterday had the same spirit to it -
In 1978,  there were 6.9 million people employed in UK manufacturing; at the start of 2011, the figure had fallen to 2.5 million.  Unlike our EU contribution, it is still falling. By the summer of 2012, just 18% of us were employed largely or solely in exports….under one in five. Britain probably has the smallest and least marketing-savvy export sector in the developed world.
Today, however, I want to focus not on this blindingly obvious structural problem in our economy. Rather, I want to examine another trend that has run alongside the truly suicidal policy of deserting our manufacturing base:
the rise and rise of the economically useless and ethically bereft professions.
One of the biggest single flaws of media business reportage in recent years has been the loss of a hard-nosed commercial perspective. This has been largely dumped in favour of ‘good news’ amplification, and statistics that look good but are rarely interrogated. Both here and in the US, for example, we read regularly of rising supermarket profits and ‘a retail recovery’. But for Anglo-Saxon countries already hugely invaded with foreign produce as a result of trade wars, that’s the worst possible recovery they could have; all it will do is increase the deficit, and make the fiscal budget-balancing harder still.
In Britain, supermarkets destroy local community business, import enormous quantities of foreign goods to cater for increasingly cosmopolitan and price-driven customer needs, corrupt local authority planning decisions, and weaken our already minute agricultural sector by screwing them on price. Growing supermarket profits are most decidedly not a ‘good thing’ for Britain: their contribution to the Exchequer is massively outweighed by consequently reduced export output and rising import costs.
Even without these factors, retailing is often the process of distributing and selling stuff made and grown elsewhere. It has no specific contribution to make to export income at all. One or two UK retail giants have thriving foreign businesses, but none are significant. The distributive profession in Britain is a massive employer of course, but overall it has a neutral to negative effect on our balance of payments.
Since 1970, the number of lawyers has grown by nearly 250%. In the last decade alone, the total of lawyers ‘employed’ has gone from 105,000 to 150,000. Almost none of it exports for Britain. Almost all of it increases the complexity of doing business, and the cost of employing people. Personal injury services are now routinely advertised on television. Lawyers are 1800% over-represented in Parliament. All of these facts are connected.
And it’s best not to get me started on Mandarins (senior civil servants). I refer to them in the narrow sense of a professional group of administrators based in Whitehall and local government: other professions like teaching and social work cause their own unique problems, but neither of those are either overpaid or obesely pensioned. Mandarins and local officers are. Together, their pension liabilities comprise a quite unbelievable £1.2 trillion of national debt liability.
A lot of food for thought there!! He might have mentioned banker who were a decade ago considered to be nice earners not only for themselves but for the country. How that has changed!!

The drawing is a Daumier - "we lost but you were lucky to hear my brilliant pleading!"

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