Saturday, December 11, 2010

Other people's stuff

Time is pressing so just a wee pointer to a couple of excellent posts, in case you missed them.

There was a time when opposition to the inflated salaries of CEOs was anger at what it represented. You could take it off them and redistribute but you might end up with only enough to buy all the workers in the company a couple of pints. Emotionally satisfying but essentially symbolic.

With the bankers and their bonuses this is no longer the case. That they have fiscal implications is one of the points made here:
"The government currently under-writes one industry, which is about to pay £7bn in bonuses to individuals. Meanwhile, it is withdrawing less than half that sum from another 'industry' (on which our 'competitiveness' is, by the government's own estimation, no less important), and is prepared to endure the worst civil disorder in 60 years to do this. It's hard not to conclude that political excess, ultimately manifest in violence, is now a normal part of our governing logic, and not an exception."
The 'other industry' is of course higher education. The merits or otherwise of increasing fees is, I'm afraid to say, something I haven't paid a great deal of attention to but it increasingly looks to me like another example of how successfully this government has shifted, as Samuel Brittan put it in June this year, the debate from 'whether' to 'how'. The problem isn't an £850bn bailout that nationalises risk but privatizes profit, it's people cheating on social security; it's students expecting everyone else to pay for their education? Hang on. There may be debates to be had on any of these sort of issues but a little fiscal context is surely called for?

One implication of this that I really need to return to is that the issue of student fees has shown the devolutionary settlement in Scotland to be unsustainable. Having a lump of money and just moving it around - taking the credit when the Treasury is feeling flush and then blaming London when it isn't - is not a recipe for political accountability. The fees issue will bring this into sharp focus because Barnett means a corresponding reduction in funding for Scottish education. It is an overstatement to describe the present devolution settlement a dead-duck? Hmmmm...

On the issue of the student protests, you could do worse than have a look at Paul Sagar's space. The latest is here. Read it and tell me it doesn't feel like someone's opened a window in a really fusty room. That young man will go far, I tell you...

Blog Archive