Abi (abigailb) wrote,

Some political/economical thoughts. I've been having a lot of these lately:

The private sector gets touted as if it had some kind of universal efficiency-increasing pixie dust that makes everything more efficient. It's true that there are some notable successes. Aren't a lot of these mostly due to the political ability of the private sector to adapt new technology quicker (and lay off or deskill large portions its workforce) - because it doesn't have to answer to an electorate, rather than being actually a result of it being private sector per se. There are no productivity-enhancing devices that the nurses and teachers unions are stopping us from adopting. There's no mass overemployment of unproductive workers in the NHS or at schools! Best practice in healthcare and teaching can be observed by looking at staffing at the facilities the elite use. Teacher:student ratio at Eton is 8. EIGHT!
I see lots of talk about how they need to be able to sack bad teachers, and very little about how to attract good teachers who have left teaching. This will involve making the job more attractive, either through more money or other means, or both.
There are 8 million people in the UK between the ages of 5 and 16. If we take the teacher:student ratio at Eton as the target, we would need a million teachers. There are apparently 438,000. That's probably unachievable without starving some other socially necessary area of resources. I can buy healthcare becoming more automated - due to expert systems - a few decades down the line, but there are several factors blocking it (the insistence of the state in keeping a human in the loop for controlled substances is a big one). But teaching is going to remain a labour-intensive job for pretty much forever, isn't it? Unless we by some miracle get full AI.

Second thought:

What would a capitalist economy look like if you banned public advertising (billboards, and television)? I target these two things as they are already regulated by the state - you need planning permission to put up a billboard, and the content of broadcasting is controlled pretty closely.
Banning advertising in these realms, for things considered harmful (i.e. cigarettes) is already considered to be a legitimate use of state power. It wouldn't be that much of a stretch to expand this to stuff like unhealthy food.
In a protectionist economy you could then make the argument that advertising stuff that needs to be imported is bad for the balance of payments. Due to the single market you couldn't discriminate by producer, but you could certainly target specific industry sectors.
What effects does this actually has? (ignoring the effects on people who own billboard space and television channels!)
Presumably people will buy less stuff? They'll buy stuff they need still. Greater emphasis on word of mouth for finding out about new products? Word of mouth is fantastic, especially today.
If we assume that consumption goes down, that leads to job losses in the private sector making stuff that people didn't need. Isn't making things that people only buy because of adverts unproductive labour anyway? So, there's an efficiency saving! Those are good, right?
And if consumption doesn't go down, well, we've just stopped consumer products subsidising commercial television. I don't think that's a bad idea in itself.

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