1990s >> 1999 >> no-1141-september-1999

Voice from the Back

Plus ça change . . .
“. . . we are no less communists, but modern communists, who change with society.” Robert Hue in l’ Humanité, 18 March. Hue’s statement on page 2 of the new l’ Humanité does not bode well. To be modern is not of itself a virtue, especially not when one speaks of changing with society. It was once thought that the communists were there to change society. Now they accompany those who simply ride along. If true hitherto in their actions anyway, this is now also their objective.” Claud Sicre, La Linha Imaginôt, May.

Whose treasure?
IF YOU CAN TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOLD AND PAPER, TELL GORDON BROWN BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE. On 6 July the Chancellor of the Exchequer starts selling off your gold. More than two billion pounds worth. He plans to auction the UK’s gold reserves and, in return buy lots of paper. Dollars, Yen, and Euros. Do you want him to sell our nation’s treasure, which it has taken over three hundred years to accumulate? And do you want this most precious metal replaced by piles of other people’s bank notes? If not, now is the time to make your voice heard . . . Advert “sponsored by the World Gold Council”.

It’s the way I tell ’em
Coal and other novel sources of heat encouraged people to rise from their beds—and work. Even plentiful food, once so scarce, proved a mixed blessing, for the better fed are capable of more sustained labour. As the opportunities for work accelerated, so we embraced them. Not only have we lost most of the 150 holidays but even Sunday has gone the way of the secular six. We do not have to work every available hour—we choose to. In his Mighty Micro Evans supposed that people could be satisfied through wealth, but people never are. They always want more. Terence Kealey, New Scientist, 10 July.

Wielding the inflation stick
City analysts said Britain’s unusual combination of low earnings growth and falling unemployment could be symptomatic of a new era in which low inflation expectations had disciplined wage bargainers into accepting less generous pay settlements, creating a cycle of falling prices and unemployment . . . David Walton, of US investment bank Goldman Sachs, said the key question was: can wage growth continue to ease in the face of a tightening labour market? “With headline inflation at 1.3 percent, there is a reasonable prospect that it can, which in turn will help to keep inflation below the government’s 2.5 percent target. But the labour market will need to be monitored carefully for any signs of renewed upward pressure on pay.” Guardian, 15 July.

More than a third of British families cannot afford a week’s annual holiday away from home, according to a EU survey on European lifestyles which also reveals that Britain’s poverty is “relatively high” at 24 percent. Evening Mail, 25 June.

Power play
I have just been sent a review copy of Shakespeare on Management by Paul Corrigan, to be published by Kogan Page later this year. And it’s as riveting a read as I had hoped. For Richard III, Shakespeare’s grisliest villain, is held up as a key example to managers. “This is the most straightforward lesson Shakespeare teaches,” writes Mr Corrigan, a former management consultant. “You know that if you have lied and cheated your way to the top, others can lie and cheat their way to the top and there is nothing you can do or say about it.” An ideal stocking filler for your more successful friends. John Willcock, Independent, 21 July.

Boomtime (1)
More than four million children in Britain are living in poverty, according to new research that highlights the task the Prime Minister has set himself with his pledge to end such poverty within a generation. The number of children in households with incomes below half the national average climbed from 1.4 million, or one in ten children, in 1968 to 4.3 million, or one in three in 1995-96, research published by the Institute of Fiscal Studies reports today. Half of today’s poor children live in households where nobody works, and the UK has the highest level of joblessness among families with children on an international comparison. The research, by Paul Gregg, a Treasury adviser, Susan Harkness and Stephen Machin, also shows that poor households with children have enjoyed no improvement in their living standards since the late 1970s, falling further and further behind the average. Independent, 20 July.

Boomtime (2)
In 1995, about 49 million [American] people about 1 in 5 lived in a household whose members had difficulty satisfying basic needs, according to a report released today by the Commerce Department’s Census Bureau. The report, Extended Measures of Well-Being: Meeting Basic Needs, 1995, takes a look at households who didn’t make mortgage or rent payments, failed to pay utility bills and/or had service shut off, didn’t get enough to eat, needed to see a doctor or dentist but didn’t or otherwise could not meet essential expenses. Public Information Office [USA], 9 July.

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