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Pathfinders

Pathfinders: Subscription-based Capitalism

Everyone knows that cutting costs means boosting or at least safeguarding profits, and some elements in the capitalist class are now figuring out that they can cut their administration costs by doing away with individual purchase transactions and moving towards a subscription-based business model.

We’re familiar with subscriptions with things like unions, clubs, political parties, rail travel, telephone lines and mobiles and newspapers. You could add the BBC TV licence fee, the NHS and any kind of insurance policy too. One can think of a subscription as another form of rent for something you use but don’t own. The advantage to you is simplicity. The advantage to the provider is low admin costs, locked-in customers or ‘members’, and reliable, predictable income, an especially bankable asset for any business.

Pathfinders: The Activism Gap

Given that women are not especially rare in the general UK population, why are there not more of them in the Socialist Party? Is this a specific failing on our part, or more of a general trend? If it’s a trend, what other trends are there, and what changes are taking place?

There are, to be sure, various ‘activism gaps’. Young people are in general less politically engaged than older people, black and minority ethnic (BME) groups less than whites, and indeed the party spectrum itself divides somewhat along income and education lines, from high-end active association with the Tories, Lib Dems and Greens to low-end activity (or former activity) in Ukip, with Labour pertly straddling the higher and middle strata.

Pathfinders: Global Warning Fatigue

Professor Stephen Hawking, darling of the physics community, seems of late determined to tell us that we’re heading to hell in a handcart: ‘(Space travel) may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves. I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth’ (phys.org/news/2017-07). In recent years the professor has repeatedly offered Cassandra-like prophecies of impending global destruction, as if he’s auditioning for the part of Private Frazer in Dad’s Army: ‘We’re doomed, I tell ye, DOOMED’.

No doubt Prof Hawking assumes, as does every reasonable teacher, parent and political activist, that dire warnings are what make us act to change things. But what is the evidence for this assumption? If the people who elected Donald Trump are anything to go by, dire warnings may have precisely the opposite effect.

Pathfinders: Farron, Fossils and Fire Ice

One claim that raised eyebrows during the recent general election was Tim Farron's assertion that the UK could be completely self-sufficient in renewable energy, this despite the Lib Dems' own manifesto pledge of reaching just 60 percent renewable by 2030 (bbc.co.uk/news/election-2017-40120184). Team Tim promptly issued a qualifying statement (aka rebuttal) describing his claim as 'visionary as opposed to completely literal'.

Yet Farron has not completely fallen out of his chimney. The UK recently passed an important milestone with its first coal-free day since the 1880s (bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39675418) and just last month the National Grid tweeted news of a further milestone, that on one particularly sunny and windy day in June just over half of UK energy was supplied by renewables for the first time (bbc.co.uk/news/business-40198567).

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