Friday, September 06, 2013

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Richard Seymour rightly calls out right-wing lobby groups in the UK for distorting the facts in order to attack social programs:
The report calls for benefits to fall in real terms, and refers to "the regrettable 5.2% blanket benefit increase put through in 2012". It doesn't mention that this was an inflation-linked rise. For a single recipient of employment support allowance, for example, the increase is a mere £2.80. The TaxPayers' Alliance can rest comfortably in the knowledge that things will get much worse for people on benefits for the next three years, as the government keeps rises below the rate of inflation.

And so on, and so on. To this extent, the report is a jumble of Tory tabloid thematics. The underlying case is that millions of people are on benefits because they are not habituated to work. For this reason, it proposes a compulsory work scheme for those who have been in receipt of benefits for a certain length of time. The aim is to force them to work for their poverty, giving them a total 30-hour working week (but not much time to seek paid employment).

Most of the report's claims are unsourced or only vaguely attributed. Taken altogether, the report is nothing that a half-competent undergraduate couldn't have put together using materials from the rightwing blogs. It is trivial, reactionary fluff.

But this has consistently been part of the Tory agenda, and that of its business backers. It will not significantly reduce their tax bill. It might offer some a pool of "free labour", just as workfare has done in the US. But its most salient effect would be to make people a lot more dependent on the market, and to increase the bargaining power of employers. Underpaid and badly treated? Too bad – try getting another job, or living on welfare.

The pseudo-populist right often tries to recruit "the working man", Joe-the-Plumber or whomever, in alliance against welfare recipients. But, whether or not they are in employment, it is workers who lose out from this.
- In a similar vein, David Doorey finds a perfect match between the textbook definition of "bullshit" and the corporate astroturf attack on unions.

- And Mary-Jane Bennett of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy provides another classic example of propaganda-tank nonsense - arguing in the wake of the Lac-M├ęgantic rail explosion that the Auditor General's recognition of a "serious lapse by regulators in ensuring safety compliance" is somehow an argument for further deregulation rather than evidence of the need for a stronger public role.

- Meanwhile, Tim Harper points out that the Cons' rhetoric about balancing the federal budget (which was, of course, already balanced before they started their slash-and-burn attack on tax revenues and public services alike) conspicuously omits any allowance for disaster relief.

- Finally, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found that generosity rather than stinginess tends to lead to the best outcomes from an evolutionary perspective:
In generous strategies, which are essentially the opposite of extortion strategies, players tend to cooperate with their opponents, but, if they don’t, they suffer more than their opponents do over the long term. “Forgiveness” is also a feature of these strategies. A player who encounters a defector may punish the defector a bit but after a time may cooperate with the defector again.

Stewart noticed the first of these generous approaches among the zero determinant strategies that Press and Dyson had defined. After simulating how some generous strategies would fare in an evolving population, he and Plotkin crafted a mathematical proof showing that, not only can generous strategies succeed in the evolutionary version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, in fact these are the only approaches that resist defectors over the long term.

“Our paper shows that no selfish strategies will succeed in evolution,” Plotkin said. “The only strategies that are evolutionarily robust are generous ones.”

No comments:

Post a Comment