Sir Paul Collier ‘reviews’ ten books at The Times Literary Supplement. Almost Marx comments, part II

I will continue my comment on Paul Collier’s TLS Book review. I will quote from his essay and those quotations will be underlined and colored to indicate quotation, and my comments will be in bold italics. I try to address Collier’s arguments, but in a more pointed and schematic way.

‘For social dem­ocracy, well-founded opposition to racism elided into the espousal of multiculturalism and global citizenship.’

Collier fails to understand that Cosmopolitanism prevails as fact not as speculative, he hasn’t read Ulrich Beck’s 20 Questions.

For example, as Rajan and Zingales propose, such an entitlement could finance mid-career re-education. Per capita, Britain has the finest higher education sector in the world, but to date its financial incentives have been to expand through foreign postgraduates rather than mature nationals.

Uber, airbnb (and Amazon) are tax scams.

Collier present a good idea appropriated from Rajan & Zingales. Uber is more likely Neo-Liberal, in the sense that it undermines the power of the states and municipalities, to subject transportation of persons to licensing in the public interest: The Market determines all things!  

As decency has eroded, their pay has risen 80 per cent in the past decade, with negligible evidence of enhanced performance.

Notice that argument as to CEO pay, is placed in the arena of wanting morality, a favorite ploy of Conservatism, although the register sifts quickly back to the question of performance, and the notion of ‘bonus-driven short-termism’. Robber Capital is ‘normalized’, yet doesn’t escape without a mild scolding!

The composition of corporate boards could reflect the range of society’s interests in such decisions, whether through the appointment of members to represent specific interests, or with legal mandates on all board members to give due weight to non-commercial interests. Either would force difficult trade-offs to be faced inside boards, internalizing them rather than relying on the external policing of regulation. The average duration of a shareholding in a company is less than two months: it is ridiculous that this is the only interest group represented on boards. Proper regulation could help to get companies to respect the wider interests of society, but the exclusive reliance on regulation repeatedly founders on the rocks of the superior knowledge of insiders.

Here is the latest of the many schemes to de-regulate, or at the least to check the government  controls on corporate governance, by including on these corporate boards: ‘whether through the appointment of members to represent specific interests, or with legal mandates on all board members to give due weight to non-commercial interests.’ Will this mechanism replace regulatory laws and sanctions or be an addition to the current laws? Could the reader speculate what  the ‘Hard Pragmatist’ Collier would choose?

For young working-class people, the lifting of social restraint has come at a high price: the discipline of “respectability”, for all its stultifying pressures, helped to reduce early mistakes that now trap people into long-term frustration. They suffer the twin tyrannies of social services and political correctness. Social service departments, run by tick-box decision-taking, remove thousands of “at-risk” children into a morass of foster care. A more viable alternative would be intensive and sustained mentoring and support for young parents. Political correctness has enforced the public narrative that all lifestyles are “equally valid”, confusing the necessary lifting of stigma with the damaging falsehood that the stability of a relationship is inconsequential for parenting. The huge financial costs of dysfunctional childrearing are currently borne by society: the responsible “just about managing” are right to be angry about single mothers on benefits (though not with them).

Collier enters the territory of the soft-core authoritarianism of Cass Sunstein’s ‘Nudge’. Read Jeremy Waldron’s review of ‘Why Nudge? The Politics Of Libertarian Paternalism’:

Or read Mr. Sunstein’s review of Sarah Conly’s ‘Against Autonomy, Justifying Coercive Paternalism’ :

This another aspect of Collier’s ‘Hard Pragmatism’?

 ‘Single mothers on benefits’ is uncomfortably close to Ronald Reagan’s 1976 rallying cry of ‘Welfare Queens driving Cadillacs’!

Liberal disdain has been driven by fears that nationalism would incite a return to majority violence against minorities, and by the hope that nation-based governance can be superseded by multiculturalism and global citizenship. Neither the fears nor the hopes are well founded.

The necessary and compelling idea of the shared destiny of the Commonwealth, and its being writ large, in the idea and practice of Cosmopolitanism, are not antithetical but complimentary. The Multicultural framing is self-serving, if not mendacious! This idea of Cosmopolitanism as inclusive of other forms of allegiance is outside the ken of Collier’s ‘Hard Pragmatism’? again he hasn’t read Ulrich Beck’s 20 Questions.

Almost Marx



About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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