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Showing posts with label Professor John Kay. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Professor John Kay. Show all posts

Sunday, 29 May 2011

The BBC, the Sunday papers and Professor John Kay


BBC News at 1.00 p.m. led with the FIFA story, moved briefly to the deaths of two young marines in Afghanistan, the deaths of two Afghan civilians and twelve children in a Coalition strike, then moved swiftly back to what really mattered - football and the FIFA story.

The burden of the four minute Afghan story was the usual quick, token skate over the deaths of two young marines, cut down in the flower of their youth, and a report on the deaths of twelve innocent children in a Coalition strike, the burden of which was that, well, these things happen, to be regretted, etc. but don’t forget that the Taleban are as bad, or worse!

This is the UK, client state of US foreign policy - the junior partner - and the BRITISH  Broadcasting Company at its callous, jingoistic worse, serving the propaganda of war as the operating principle of the state.

I am often a defender of the BBC on this blog and on YouTube - on balance, I think it is an effective and reasonably balanced public service broadcaster, especially in Scotland, perhaps the best in the world, but when it occasionally becomes the tool of the British Establishment and the formidable American and British Zionist lobby, it is something to be deeply ashamed of, and is a threat to democracy and world peace.


Scotland on Sunday leads with that old independence thing again - SNP expert says split will hit economy.

Here we have our old friend, bias by headline - an editorial device that has become familiar in both the Herald and SoS in the last few years. Professor John Kay is a member of the Council of Economic Advisers to the Government of Scotland, and has been since 2007, that is, he is a government adviser.

He was chosen, together with others, because he is a distinguished academic, and has been a director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. What he says - most of it, anyway (see below) - should be listened to with respect, and weighed in the context of what other advisers and relevant bodies have to say about Scotland’s economy.

But in the hands of Scotland on Sunday, he is transformed into an SNP expert and a member of Alex Salmond’s council of economic advisers - a not too subtle shift, the sub-text of which could be taken to be that he was selected to serve a party line on independence, and has now broken ranks. (The picture of Professor Kay carries the caption John Kay: hired by Salmond.) That contrives to be an insult to both Professor Kay and to the First Minister, one that deserves the contempt which I offer, and I hope others.

Are you editing a tabloid newspaper, Kenny Farquarson, or one of Scotland’s two quality newspapers?

I read Professor Kay’s piece, Fate of independence, carefully. I am not an economist, and therefore qualified to comment only as a lay voter who wants Scotland to be independent. But it is voters like me  who will determine in the referendum whether or not Scotland gains its independence, and they will cast their votes at the ballot box based on a complex mix of reasons and emotions. Some will have listened to the economic arguments and weighed them carefully: some will ignore the economic arguments because their minds are already made up, for other reasons.

Before commenting on John Kay’s views - the views of one informed man, one expert - let me say that my mind is already made up, and here’s why -

Firstly, I want my nation - which I define as Scotland - to be free to determine its own priorities, its own future and its own destiny. That transcends any economic consequences that may initially result from escaping from the dead, stultifying effects of a moribund Union that was entered into under the pressures of bribery and intimidation from a larger, more powerful neighbouring country over 300 years ago.

Secondly, I want to be free of a political entity, the UK, that is now wholly committed to war as the operating principal of the state and the economy, is committed to a subservient client relationship with the United States of America’s foreign policy, a nation also committed to war and the military/industrial complex as the operating principal of the state, and is committed to the pernicious doctrine of the nuclear deterrent and to the possession and use if required of weapons of mass destruction. That second reason also transcends, for me, any economic penalties or benefits that might result from independence.

The above two freedom alone are sufficient to make me vote for Scotland’s independence. But I also believe that, free from the war and weapons obsessions of the UK, free from the obsession with the principle of defence-as-a-job creation scheme, free from the delusion (or the self-serving excuse) that the US and the UK are the world’s policemen and the guarantors of the spread and dominance of their particular militaristic, exploitative capitalistic version of democracy, that Scotland will be economically, culturally and morally transformed.

Professor Kay wisely confines himself to commenting on the economic implications as he sees them of Scotland’s independence. He is not a professor of international relations, nor a defence expert and he is not a professor of international ethics or moral philosophy.

An economics expert, indeed any kind of expert, however eminent, does not reach conclusions in an intellectual vacuum. They are human beings, with a range of experiences and beliefs that extend far beyond their field, and these beliefs and experiences influence them, consciously and unconsciously, in the conclusions they reach. Perhaps pure scientists - for example in the field of quantum physics - come closest to the kind of objectivity that we might hope from them when they offer their views to us lesser mortals on matters that will profoundly affect our lives. But even this exalted group perceive reality through the prism of their human experiences, hopes, beliefs and prejudices.

So when Professor Kay says “There is very little possible autonomy for Scotland which is not potentially available for it as part of the United Kingdom”, he is referring to economic autonomy, not to defence or foreign policy, or language, or culture, or the most fundamental autonomy of all - to choose, and to accept the consequences of our own choices, something that lies in the heart of every human being.

In the rest of his article, Professor Kay sees only problems, not solutions, other than - by implication, don’t do it, and choose the middle option - devolution max. Throughout the article, I get the feel of a man who doesn’t like the prospect of independence for reasons other than the purely economic.  Since I have no idea where Professor Kay stands - nor have I the right to know - on the monarchy, on defence, on the nuclear deterrent, on foreign policy, or indeed where he is positioned in the great left to right political thought spectrum, I have no basis for knowing whether or not these matters influence his conclusions on economic matters. He is, in this article at least, silent on defence and foreign policy matters and their economic implications.

But one comment of Professor Kay’s may be significant by what it doesn’t say, rather than what it says -

In the long run, the issue is whether independence would promote economic dynamism in Scotland - or lead it into the petty, partisan corruption that, for so long, characterised Scottish politics.”

Here’s what he didn’t say - that the petty, partisan corruption that for so long characterised Scottish politics was a manifestation, since the end of World War Two, of either Labour or Tory dominance in Scottish politics, i.e under the Union and two unionist parties. This petty, partisan corruption has only begun to diminish since the Scottish National Party, committed to Scotland’s independence, took power in 2007.

The egregious corruption that has characterised Westminster politics over the last few years has happened under the Union, and has been anything but petty, including as it did widespread corruption and criminal behaviour in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, leading to criminal prosecution and imprisonment of both elected and non-elected representatives, and the unprecedented forced resignation of the Speaker.

In marked contrast, the Scottish National Party has been entirely free of such corruption, both petty and partisan, and no MSP or Scottish minister has been prosecuted for criminal actions nor been imprisoned. The Scottish National Party is committed to Scotland’s independence, something I’m sure Professor Kay is aware of.

The behaviour of the Ministry of Defence has been characterised at best by utter incompetence, leading to the squandering of huge sums amounts of tax revenue, incompetence that somehow has always managed to result in the enrichment of many former MOD senior official and government ministers through revolving door lucrative appointments, directorships and consultancies. During this period, our armed forces have been placed in harm’s way with inadequate equipment and support, and many have lost their lives.

Professor Kay is silent on all of this because he must regard it as beyond his economic expertise, although it manifestly has a major economic, fiscal and social impact. Why then did he choose to speculate as to whether “independence would … lead it” [Scotland] “to sink into the partisan, petty corruption, that, for so long, characterised Scottish politics.”

What I know, Professor Kay, is that under an independent Scotland, it is highly unlikely that two young servicemen would die in one day in a foreign occupation that has lasted a decade, serving a US President’s need for vengeance following the appalling terrorist crime of 9/11, and that twelve innocent children would be blown apart in one day by a Coalition that includes the UK’s ‘defence’ forces. It is also unlikely that an independent, non-British,  Scottish public service broadcaster would offer such an unfeeling, cynical and unbalanced report on this enormity.

But these matters are properly beyond the scope of an economic adviser, however eminent and well-qualified.