327 - Looking ahead | Scoins.net | DJS

327 - Looking ahead


In the spirit in which we tend to look back at a year about now and especially over the so-called Christmas break, so I thought I'd collect together my thoughts that apply this month and see just how much proves to occur in 2021. 

I am assuming that we make progress with the vaccination ¹ programme that deals with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. I expect to report on that as the numbers drop, continuing with a monthly page as I have done since March '20, Essay 291. I am not at all banking on the Pfizer vaccine alone and I have a much better feeling about the Astra-Zeneca one. At the time of writing we have three approved or about to be approved. We recognise that the UK has different methods and different criteria for approval to those of other nations, such that it is quite likely that our approval would often come earlier than other nations. As yet we do not have a fourth vaccine on the horizon, but I am sure there will be more. Essay 328 looks at that position and will be updated. That situation will steadily improve as we gain experience and, among other things, discover better combinations of vaccines for optimal effects. Great strides have been made in virology and we might look for further leaps, provided of course that there is funding.

I expect to also continue to report on the Brexit disaster. Or its consequences, since at the end of 2020 we appear to have some sort of agreement, subject to ratification by all sorts of bodies, any of which have some form of veto. One generally assumes that because the bigwigs have agreed, everyone will fall into line. If that is what happens, then the moaning will rumble on for ever, but the pragmatic people will look to see what they can do to mitigate whatever they feel is 'bad', really meaning with additional expense. How the other political parties make sure that the Brexit deal is owned by the Conservatives is up to them. How nations across Europe make peace with what their politicians agree I do not understand; it must be very tempting to not ratify any such agreements, especially when just one veto invalidates the whole thing; "all is agreed or nothing is agreed". The consequences of this will be a significant depletion of the UK's GDP but whether that has any visible direct effect to Joe Public, I doubt. I do expect there to be a leap in the price of food, followed rapidly by adjustments as we adapt to those changes. I snorted at the evening BBC news (Dec 8th, I think) that told us that Brie will rise in price by 40%, causing us to switch to home-grown cheeses. Well, exactly; so why then would cheddar also go up in price? In my view we will simply adapt; some of us will view the reduction in choice as a return to the 1950s—but pick a decade early in your own life to compare the future with.

The consequences include unrest in the provinces, where the principal bother will be in Scotland and in Ireland. We could so easily return to the days of the Troubles. Look here for some input on that score. I see a need for another page on the devolution possibilities and while I can see what I'd like to happen, I can also see the (many) reasons for others to argue away from what I see as solution. Balances of power, or perceptions of same is the name of the game of thrones, here. Just at a time when we need statesmanship, what we get is a ship of fools.

The EU has a history of both leaving the reconciliation to the very last moment and for kicking any metaphorical can down the road. This suggests that either Boris will indeed get Brexit done (no deal) or that he will agree to fail in that we will continue to (pretend to) negotiate, which will continue until there is sufficient divergence for consequences to have occurred. Which of these happens is unknown, and might well reduce to what Boris Johnson can cope with personally: what an awful situation. This also might be resolved in the tiny gap between writing this and the end of the year. One wonders whether 'sovereignty' and whatever it is that we—or any group within a nation—might mean by such a term, is itself immune from any agreement with one's neighbours; one wonders whether what is meant by the term is only that one is allowed to make bad decisions, on the assumption that one's bigger neighbours will only make good ones. There is an unvoiced assumption that sovereignty is indivisible and absolute, a position I think patently not true. ²  'Taking back control' has merit as a slogan, but one has to ask what control it is that we really want (borders, movement, fishing, law decisions) and quite what we have been prepared to surrender so as to have that. I'm afraid that the magnitude of this disaster is yet to be realised, because every dire warning is treated as coming from a vested interest and such is the way our media accept any bad news with glee, the result is that all bad news is treated with equal acceptance or disdain – there is no scale with shades of acceptance. So, in a world of fake news, all news is treated with equal doubt, simply because the distinction between actuality and prediction is so unclear. 'Do this and this will happen' is a prediction; 'do this and this may happen' is so much weaker that none of our media will express that. The insertion of 'may' weakens everything. Which might be a politically historical statement too, the insertion of May...  Yet I think history will show that she was no less right that BoJo, and that in some ways Cameron is the one who, though vilified, did in truth act honourably; he campaigned ineffectively for Remain and, when the vote went the wrong way, stuck to (and struck) his colours and accepted defeat. There is no way, in my mind, that he could have continued. I think parliament let us all down at several points; voting for Article 50, refusing to have a second referendum at any point between 2016 and 2019, generally failing to grasp the several nettles available. In effect what they did was demonstrate that the FPTP ³ system itself has failed us. What has proved effective is that we are very susceptible to manipulation and that we will vote emotively very easily. But then I'd argue that our representatives are found from biased sources (the fault of the party system) and that our media need to be far more independent. Perhaps it is up to us as individuals to support such independence.

I expect that the addition of tariffs to all sorts of imported goods will stimulate us into a return to manufacturing, but whether that is at a large scale or not will be the stuff of politics. I expect that UK.gov will invent a load of stimulus packages, largely equivalent to the funds we used to get from the EU and, politicking being what it is, these new developments will go to preferred constituencies and further widen the gap between North and South. It need not be so and I'm expecting a load of hot air to be expended over this, as one of the issues brought up in the last election and still not addressed.

The aftermath of 2020, the Covid year, could generate a lot of economic consequences and Universal Basic Income needs more discussion but will not, in a typically conservative Britain, occur. Actually, that assumes that Covid comes to some sort of end in 2021 and it may instead drag on well into the year, perhaps even to the extent of the summer. I am expecting that the annual 'flu jab will have the addition of the annual covid jab. We need to move a lot of resource into health care and particularly that which occurs outside hospital, such as community care, caring for the disadvantaged and, as an example, removing the homeless from our streets. Poverty is an appalling thing for a rich nation to exhibit and we need this fixed. I can see ways—but not acceptable ways—for this to occur.  It is too easy to declare this to be someone else's problem. Not least, for a rich country we have very little evidence of the riches reaching the bottom of the pile. We need a left-of-centre government with a large majority to make these changes, but we would be dramatically better off with government resulting from proportional representation, which would represent more of us and run on consensus. We can only make progress in these regards if we can solve the financial supply conundrum, one which I must continue to nibble away at understanding.

If I were in Scotland I'd already be looking for another referendum on disunification and I might hope that the English response is to—rapidly—devolve England so that we have some sort of federated Britain that makes Scotland want to remain within the fold. If such a carrot is not offered, Scotland will separate and rejoin the EU just as quick as it is able–and many English will move north, too. If we could guarantee work for the missus, that would include us. Ireland remains far more of a problem and what England wants is for Ireland to unite. The Irish are not so definite, but it has been thus since before Cromwell. Thus the political landscape turns inward and we are going to be stuck for funding. This has to come from government and I expect there to be a lot of criticism of the spending we have gone through in 2020 and that which we see we need to spend in 2021 as a consequence of Brexit. I think we need to embrace modern monetary policy (basically, ceasing to care about gov't borrowing), because continuing to care will cause the purse-strings to be tight and that takes all of us downhill. This is in fundamental conflict with the Tory ideal of small government and I see (more) significant tussle ahead. Significant, because this really does affect everyone. I want devolution to occur in ways that leave parliament in a position to adequately serve our large-scale needs and move a good deal of (what we have in the past thought of as) national government to a regional basis. This will dilute the capital effect, but probably largely move that to a regionalised capital effect. Imagine Manchester as the centre for the NorthWest, even though one could very well argue that somewhere more central and currently disadvantaged would be a far better choice - Blackburn or Oldham, for example.

A bad result in the next few days (this mostly written in mid-December) with respect to Europe will have many looking again at moving away from the problem. In our (me and the missus) position we are tied to waiting for citizenship so we can only look at moving to the peripheral nations – but the issue, as it is for everyone not retired, is how to maintain any significant income. Coupled with that is a new view as to what it is that makes a reliable income, since many Brits have discovered in 2020 that self-employment is a lot less secure than they had thought. If I were self-employed I'd be wanting a fund (as if I hadn't already built one) for the next such panic, the building of which has consequences; a lot less risk-taking, higher prices in that self-employment, money removed from the economy, perhaps a general move to lower borrowing (but perhaps realistically to somehow more secure borrowing). I'm expecting a general move to larger houses so that one can more easily work from home, which may mean city centres emptying (again, more), but might instead encourage some more inventive thinking about what one needs in terms of housing.

The general move to reduction of carbon footprint, already well muddled with 'climate change' action, means we will be encouraged to: 

• do less travelling, so that travel becomes (is allowed to become) more expensive; we work from home where we can, we don't have holidays abroad, we meet via video, we use human power more by walking and cycling; 

• to eat less, even less meat, locally produced foods, a lot more greens and roughage; this of course would fit well with an improved attitude to health, by which I mean wellness, physical and mental;

• to move away from fossil fuels, which includes a mammoth effort to switch away from gas in the home to electrical heat pumps and another push to hybrid and entirely electric transport, which of course we're simultaneously encouraged to use less and less so the cost per mile will likely rise alarmingly; 

• to reduce waste and make recycling possible, aiming for zero waste; to reduce our water consumption; to solve our flooding problems which are closely allied to many of our housing problems; and more of this, much of which I have already devoted space to on these pages.

DJS 20201210-31

top pic from Jasonsmovieblog

Small edits through January, 2021 not affecting intent or content, only confirming meaning.

1   Inoculation is a better word than vaccination, since this jab has not been anywhere near a cow (vacca, cow, from the use of cow pox to develop the vaccination against small pox, Edward Jenner, 1796-9).     Suitable link.  I think the use of the words will move such that a vaccine is the content of the syringe and hence vaccination is the use of the syringe (or equivalent delivery method). Inoculation (two ens but not three) is still a better word for the process of jab delivery, but I expect we will use 'jab' for oral convenience. Inoculate doesn't have the same ring to it and, indeed, doesn't exist as a noun in the dictionaries I viewed. Also vaccine as noun and vaccinate as associated verb (but not noun) have a far higher usage.

2  Absolute sovereignty implies little or no traffic across borders. Or, that anything and everything, anyone and everyone crossing the border complies with the internal rules, those applying in the direction one is moving. It is perhaps inherent in such a situation that non-compliance implies rejection, which might mean ejection rather than confinement/imprisonment.  Absolute sovereignty has, I think, a consequence of real or assumed friction with the neighbours, a posture that can only lead to problems simply because there is no accommodation to be reached. Inevitably, then, a policy which demands that sovereignty be absolute leads towards isolation. I'm not saying it automatically or immediately reaches isolation, I'm saying it trends in that direction.

3  FPTP = First Past The Post, the way the British electoral system works for parliament. It's not the same in the devolved nations for their regional parliaments, which is a form of proportional representation. In theory, FPTP gives us ready swings for a leading party but it also works to prevent the rise of any and every minor party.

[1] not used consciously, but I'd read it when new, https://theconversation.com/what-will-the-world-be-like-after-coronavirus-four-possible-futures-134085?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The%20Conversation%20-%201818917681&utm_content=The%20Conversation%20-%201818917681+CID_6678d02b8d6b378c19cab5b3f6c8a022&utm_source=campaign_monitor_uk&utm_term=four%20possible%20futures

I discarded a notion that migration would change post-pandemic, yet I do see there being a recognition of value in moving out of crowded cities, so I expect internal migration. The relatively rich have often done this. I'd like to see wholesale change in housing, but I don't think it will occur – if there are any moves, they won't have any quick effects as this is a multi-decade change we need. Imagine changing the regulations for housing and making them apply to all existing housing; not going to happen, even if it is what we need to do in Britain.

I expect covid to become endemic. 

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