Is Theresa May playing hardball?

Yesterday’s cancellation of the signing ceremony for the official start of the building of the mammoth Hinkley Point nuclear reactor is astonishing to say the least. Despite years of planning and negotiations between EDF (the pride of the French government), a Chinese multinational (supplying part of the investment) and the UK government, a great preliminary fanfare had already been made of the ceremony at which senior ministers of all three countries would have been attending and signing.

And suddenly it’s all off until the autumn while the government consider the matter again! Is this because the government now have technical doubts about the design of the reactor? It could be. Or is it because it’s a slap in the face of the French who’ve been altogether too jubilant recently about what a hard time some of their civil servants are going to give us when Brexit negotiations start?

Advanced governments’ desperation

The only thing I found remotely interesting about the latest G20 Financial Summit was the triple-ranked group photo. There were 17 Finance Ministers sitting on draped chairs in the front row. Evidently, 3 of them were indisposed or had some sort of financial emergency in their own country.

Standing behind them was a second row of 18 — central bank governors presumably. But who comprised the third row of 20 individuals standing on a raised ledge behind? They had to be senior civil servants — probably top people in their respective Treasury Departments.

In terms of formal political prestige, the three rows ranked downwards when proceeding from the politicians at the bottom to the individuals at the top. However, in terms of Realpolitik, then, if the governments of the 20 countries are anything like the US and the UK, you can be sure that pragmatic manipulative power in the first two rows is less than among those along the top row.

The original intention of the Summit was, in the words of one newspaper — “to stimulate a new era of innovative economic growth”. But what did the Summit decide? Certainly the date of the next Summit. Stimulating growth? Hardly.

Besides, if there were a method of getting hooked onto a growth path again you can be certain that the country that discovered it would not be sharing it at a meeting with potential competitors. It would get on with it as fast as it could in order to establish an advantage before the others catch on

The only possible reason for the G20 Summits to be held at all — and the inevitable group photos — is that governments of 20 countries are trying to convince their electorates that they are conscientiously trying to do their best. Individually, they all know that they are baffled.

More to the point, advanced governments are becoming pretty desperate, not yet able to face the possibility of having to explain to their electorates that the industrial revolution as we have known is largely over and done with and that a totally different era is gradually taking shape.

Reading and writing will still matter

The current fashion on news web sites is lashings of colour photos and little text. Websites are going through the same change that print went through 70 years ago. Just because colour photos have now become cheap and easy to display then we should have as many of them as possible — let words go hang.

The fashion will go, but only when the news media get a better hang of the wider market — that is, when, finally, sales of newspapers stop declining and stabilise. That is, when it is fully recognized that what is actually happening in the advanced countries is an increasingly deep division between the majority of dumbed down jobs — in which people have little need to read and write at all — certainly not to write — and a minority of increasingly specialised jobs for which precise reading and writing is more important than ever.

Money is horses for courses

Since my posting, “Pot calling the kettle black” (26 July), Lawry de Bivort sees the question “as one of a general existential struggle between governments/nations and globalized corporations.” He then asks three questions “Which will prove more valuable? Which more fair [to individuals]? Which more safe?

I thought much the same a couple of years ago when I first began to write about the increasing mutual wariness between government and big business (except when personal corruption of politicians is concerned !), but I’m less sure now. Yes, there is certainly fierce competition between businesses that make the same product and, Yes, there is even more fierce competition between governments from time to time.

The latter is fiercer because it involves the instinctive territorial protection of one’s own culture. It causes demonization of the enemy and ‘justifies’ all sorts of emotions and brutal behaviour. In the former case it is a purely rational contest — and there’s always a cool-headed objective observer who will decide the outcome — the customer.

But as to warfare between business and governments I am no longer so sure. I think there are going to be many spats between them. Because each side is powerful in its own way then they don’t last long. For example, we recently had a major spat between the proncipal smartphone manufacturers — Microsoft, Google and Apple — and the US and UK governments as to whether the latter should be able to dip into e-mails whenever they want and insist on them being de-encrypted.

Both governments lost early on in legal proceedings, America in the courts, the UK in its inability to draft exactly the right legislation that wouldn’t also damage individual privacy. I suspect, however, that some quiet compromise has been reached when it comes to the possible de-encryption of suspected terrorists’ e-mail — although terrorists can always add encryption of their own, thus evading both the makers of smartphones and governments and really making an ass of the latter.

There are, of course, all sorts of tax evasion spats between big business and governments but these are relatively minor compared with one major spat that’s on the cards and which I described in my previous posting today, “Business taking the decisive step — again!” This is something that’s definitely going to happen in my view. And big business will certainly win this one.

At the end of the day, money is about a device that is convenient for business and customers. Money can only be augmented when any particular economy gains a higher — more interesting — standard of living. Governments should simply not be involved with the production of money in any way and need only tax it for necessary purposes. It’s horses for courses really.

Business taking the decisive step — again!

Ask 1,000 people where do they think money comes from and 999 will reply “government”. This is an indication of just how how confused most politicians, economists and central bankers are about money and its origins.

The earliest two sorts of coins both arose independently at around 900BC, both invented by single-sail sea merchants on short hauls trade — during good weather! — along the coastline — the Mediterranean in the case of Greek merchants and the long single coastline of China.

In bartering goods-for-goods both of them had a need from time to time of leaving a balance of goods of highly-concentrated value — coins — with the counter-party after bartering goods that didn’t quite match up in value. The coins had high value because they could also be melted down and used for other purposes if necessary — gold for status ornaments, bronze for arrow-heads, etc.

Since the 2008 Crisis, many of the largest high street banks in the free world are a little safer than they were then but the total amount of debt is greater than ever and the whole world’s negative balance of trade — an impossibility in any sane monetary world — is greater than ever before. No wonder that four of the world most experienced central bankers believe that a far worse catastrophe than 2008 lies ahead of us.

Come the next catastrophe, the leading Western governments will not be able to print money as they did in 2008 because they’re already deeply in debt. If they printed any more. it would then be both a farce and mass hyperinflation in all countries in the free world.

This is when, I believe, business will re-invent money. Why should their business future and the world economy be subject to the unstable monetary world as devised by governments? Given the software talent and experience that already exists, a digital currency could be devised almost overnight.

So long as it was backed up by something of value — say, X grams of gold, or a kilowatt-hour, or the cost of a daily nutritious diet — and a totally transparent ledger maintained from day one — then we could have an entirely stable world currency radiating downwards to almost everywhere that presently uses money within a week or two.

The missing ingredients in creativity

Every year in this country we spend a day in self-abasement when the results of the OECD’s International Maths and Science Test of schoolchildren is published. We find that Britain is anything from 15th to 30th on the list. Surely, we say to ourselves — or our newspaper editorials do — we should be somewhere near the top! Instead, a bunch of Asian countries dominate the list. If, in one particular year, we happened to have slipped down the league table from the previous year, we chastise ourselves even more than usual.

But it’s as well to reflect on the whole list of the 76 countries that have taken part. And then to look at the marks obtained in the maximum score of 600. And then to work out some percentages to get a much more balanced view of the whole show. The latest results published in May this year show Singapore at the top of the list, closely followed by Hong Kong and China, with 95% of maximum marks. The highest European countries are Finland (7th), Estonia (8th) and Switzerland (9th) all with 90% of full marks.

But what about Britain and Germany? They happen to be the most prolific countries in the world regarding numbers of Nobel prizes in science and the Field medal in maths. On a population basis, they are more than five times more creative than America, number three in the prizes games. They are, respectively, 13th and 19th in the OECD list with 88% and 85% of full marks compared with America, 29th in the list with 82%.

The question is — Should rich British, German and American parents be sending their schoolchildren and college students to Singapore, Hong Kong and China? Or should those of the latter countries be sending their children to ours? It’s a no-brainer, of course. Creativity is something to do with lateral thinking, relaxation and all sorts of other cultural subtleties which are clearly missing in authoritarian regimes.

The lost opportunity for sport

So the International Olympic Committee, which had the chance of banning the whole Russian team — additional to track and field eventers — from taking part in the Rio Olympics, lost its bottle. By leaving the decision to each sport’s Federation, athletes from other countries can never be sure whether any Russians they’ll be competing with are doped or not

It’s been a bad decision which probably means that there’ll be no chance of drug-free international sports events from now onwards.  Also, never mind the longer term dangers that drugs impose on the individual health of the athletes themselves, it is much more seriously part of the continuing exploitation of sport as a spectator-heavy business with far wider health penalties for all concerned.

The big lie about Tibet

One of the greatest lies ever sprung by Western politicians on their credulous electorates — and still widely believed — is that the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 was an illegal and brutal effort.

How legal or illegal the Chinese occupation was, who can say? International law is a very elastic thing, and, as for domestic ownerships, it’s usually the case that possession is nine-tenths of the law. How brutal or relatively unbrutal the invasion was will probably never be known for a considerable time until private accounts start coming into light.

But one thing for certain is that, in 1949, Tibet was a deeply feudal society in which most of its people were serfs. It was, in fact, very similar to Tudor England where about one third of the productive land was owned by church and monasteries and two-thirds by no more than about 200 aristocratic families. In Tibet’s case there were no churches, of course, only monasteries, and the other land owners were about a score of aristocrats.

We can be reasonably certain that the average Tibetan today is a great deal happier than his grandparents were and if there’s any call for national independence — which is highly likely in due course — it will come under the aegis of a well-educated Tibetan middle-class, not the Dalai Lama and his Buddhist abbots.

Pot calling the kettle black

How ironic it is that, after years of Western politicians — mainly Americans, but with British not far behind — telling Chinese politicians how to run their affairs, we find that government after government in the advanced countries are being told by intelligent observers in academia and the media that their governments are “broken”.

“Broken” is rather strong language but we understand what is meant and, as far as we can see, what with Donald Trump being a Presidential candidate, the decision to leave the EU by Britain, chaos reigning in one party or another in all advanced countries and growing scepticism by their electorates, the description is not far off. If it’s not far off now, it soon will be unless politicians and their advisors, economists, can’t pull something out of the bag.

“A bright hi-tech future” is what William Hague, sometime leader of the Tories, calls it in an article in today’s Daily Telegraph. We now have more innovations than ever before. All we have to do, for this country to rise like the Phoenix, he reckons, is to be more thoroughly enterprising than ever before.

He’s quite right in his assumption. We — in the advanced countries because of our monopolisation of scientific research — certainly do have more innovations than than ever before. But where are the innovative consumer goods of any ‘weight’, such as a house, a car, a television set? Which one — or two or three — will William Hague select for enterprise?

He hasn’t a clue. Neither can any of the top dozen or so of the major multinational corporations. They would give billions — tens of billions — for the merest glimpse of anything that is uniquely new. All that we have today on the drawing board are refinements of what was invented 100 years ago.

We’ll bave masses of innovations and their applications but they’ll be in the producer and infrastructure fields, not brand new consumer goods. We already have enough of those to occupy our leisure. Also the investments required will be so increasingly expensive that only governments or ad hoc associations betweeen them — will be able to afford them.

We’re moving into a totally new era of robotized jobs and informational services. Instead of politicians telling the Chinese — or us — what they’d like us to be doing, perhaps they’d better start reforming their own systems and make them more relevent to the needs of their electorates.

Why families become smaller

In a recent study of whether religious parents tend to produce more children than the average, and published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, it was found to be true. This study depended on data from 3.6 million women of various faiths in 32 countries.

The authors of the study speculate that the reason for this might include (a) greater marital happiness and stability; (b) a lower likelihood of using contraception; and (c) a greater likelihood of holding traditional views of marriage and childbearing.

Because data for (a) and (b) were not known for the 3.6 million women then they must remain speculative or, at best, only by-products of (c) which is really a catch-all and is only another way of saying that “traditional views of marriage and childbearing” belong to the past — that is, to the agricultural era before urbanisation.

And, of course, all parents in an agricultural society — usually without state, or even local, welfare in old age — have got to produce more than merely a replacement number of two children per family in order to ensure that there’ll be enough children to look after them when they become too old to look after themselves.

The one exception that the researchers discovered does, in fact, prove the rule about agricultural culture being the basic reason. This was of Brazilian women, almost all of whom are Roman Catholics — the faith in which large families are greatly encouraged — who turn out to have small families.

These are on the cusp of rapidly changing from an agricultural society to that of being an urban one. Whether the parents are living in poverty in a favella or not, very many second and third children are simply not conceived for the sake of being able to afford a television set and a washing machine.

Always a danger

The Munich mass murderer turned out to be nothing to do with fanatical Islam at all but fell into the all too frequent pattern of being a lonesome male, usually young, though not always when we remember the massacre in Scotland in 1996 when Thomas Hamilton, 43, killed sixteen children and one teacher at Dunblane Primary School near Stirling.

The Islamic State terror movement is probably on its way out now, having been largely routed in Syria and hopefully in Libya, too. It will have a few isolated reverberating echoes in Europe and elsewhere for a year or two yet and, of course, its basic reason for existence — Sunniism versus Shiaism — will continue full blast in Iraq for some considerable time yet but, by and large, Isil will have been a passing historical phenomenon.

Not so, massacres by young male loners. Products of inappropriate childhoods, or having been bullied, or having a genetic mental handicap, they are individuals who never quite made the usual sorts of friendships in adolescence that most people do. Unable to socialize in the increasingly individualistic modern world without long term birth communities in which their personalities can be recognized and modified in time, a small percentage of male loners are always going to be a danger.

Ban the Russian government

By all means, let the International Olympic Committee ban the entire Russian team from the Rio Olympics. But not because most of their athletes will have been on performance enhancing drugs. This will never be entirely eradicated in the case of a few dishonest athletes while there are huge prizes for sportspersons. Ban the Russians because their whole government has obviously been implicated in deception against most of the athletes of the free world.
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“All’s fair in love and war” is acceptable enough. But a ban would reassure ordinary Russian people that the instinct for fair play has not entirely been smothered elsewhere in the world even though it must be in short supply in their country.

An Anglo-French absurdity

Scores of thousands of British holidaymakers and thousands of .lorries are now stuck in a traffic jam which is 11 lanes wide at the port of Dover and 3 lanes wide stretching for many miles into Kent. Some were stuck all Friday might and didn’t get onto the ferries until later yesterday. Many won’t get away until later today and many not until Monday. Many are stuck with young children in the car and all are short of food and water.

Supposedly, the cause is the terror alert in Europe. But why should this mean that French customs officials are only servicing one lane at a time? It’s also the peak holiday season for the Brits. Is not this the best time to make a pay claim? Then again it could be revenge by French trade unions for this country voting to leave the EU. Or could it be pique by President Hollande because our new Prime Minister, Theresa May, made her introduction to Angela Merkel before him?

At all events, no-one seems capable to resolving this absurd situation.  Not even our Mrs. Thatcher 2.  We used to fight wars for far less provocation than this — particularly with the French

Letter to The Economist

“You write in your editorial (“Breakthroughs and brickbats”, 23 July) that ” . . . [economists] should study instability instead of assuming that economies naturally self-correct.” Yes, there are instabilities in the world economy. We’ve just experienced one — the 2008 Crisis. But this is due to a Third Body — the financial system — which is strictly extraneous to the essential one — producers negotiating with consumers.  In the case of economics, however, the Third Body is more subject to instability than the main narrative.

“Focussing on suppliers and buyers, they operate in a physical system which, like all such systems, is subject to the laws of physics and, in particular, the laws of thermodynamics and the principle of least intrinsic effort (or maximum energy dispersal or entropy).

“Given a fairly constant injection of energy into the economic system from year to year, then the principle of least effort has it that the system will always hunt towards its most efficient state. This applies from the level of the sub-atomic electron and upwards. If it’s impeded from time to time by adverse economic decisions such as QE — themselves the products of the physical systems of the human brain — then stabilisation will take longer. Nevertheless, the hunt to maximal efficiency will resume. Neoclassical economics is right after all.”

Destroying justice

In this week’s first Leader, the Economist considers –like mosf everybody else — that the recent bloody fracas in Turkey was a failed military coup.  I disagree.  I think it was a highly successful hoax which allowed Erdogan to plunge mush further backwards into power-Islam than by the normal drift that has been going on for the last year or two.

I agree with the Economist , however, in saying that Erdogan is now destroying the very democracy which he says he protected when defeating the coup.

Even nore important than democracy, however, is that, in arresting 2,300 judges, Erdogan seems to have also destroyed whatever semblance of justice the country might have had before last week.

Watch out, advanced countries, your time may be limited !

It is a fallacy that every possible job requiring rational decisions will be robotized in future years. The reason is that, in order to make progress in any discipline, previous rational assumptions have to be thrown into the air sooner or later and new ideas incorporated. In academic language this is called a ‘paradigm shift’ after Thomas Kuhn, its proposer in 1962.

But how can a robot be programmed to recognise that its particular discipline needs a paradigm shift? It can’t. All its software hitherto would have been quite satisfactory and it would have no reason to change or want to change. It will still have to remain a fact that in every discipline those who are at the forefront will still be humans and not robots because only they can make the necessary paradigm shifts when necessary.

The two economic growth areas of the future in the dozen or so advanced countries are educational and health services. If any of the 170 undeveloped countries of the world want to break meaningfully into the high value trading network of the advanced countries then they will have to have leading edge scientific research areas in those subjects and to offer the latest expertise for trade.

This is going to be possible when enough software writers write efficient learning programs in educational and health care. By this is meant software programs that teach only the essential framework of a subject, leaving out a huge amount of extraneous data that’s presently taught and kept in being by the various restrictive practices that presently hold sway — via governmental privileges — in the dozen or so advanced countries.

Out of billions of young people in the world in the coming years — poor, middling and rich – with access to increasingly cheap smartphones, there will be thousands, or at least hundreds, who will want  to write efficient learning programs for the attention of their peers who wish to get to the leading edge in one subject or another — particularly in education and health — as rapidly as possible, not having to be stalled — as they are now — for many years by protective practices. They will be competing energetically.

If some of the software writers live under governments which are prepared to give them freedom to operate domestically ad lib — that is, without protective practices hanging over them — then they’ll make rapid headway in filling their domestic markets. After then, the world will be their oyster! Watch out, advanced countries, your time may be limited!

(P.S. The above is a modern version of a forecast I made originally in 1984 — long before smartphones were ever dreamed of! — when my book, Introduction to Computer-Assisted Learning was published.  It is only recently, 30 years later, that I can discern the possibility just around the corner.)

St Tiggywinkles

One of the most fascinating obituaries I have read in a long while is in my paper today. It is of Les Stocker, an accountant who ran a fridge business but then turned to helping injured wild animals in his back garden shed. Which then expanded somewhat!

Thus St Tiggywinkles — named after a hedgehog in a Beatrix Potter story — was formed. No, St Tiggywinkles is not a joke. It is a full-blown teaching hospital — for vets — in the Buckinghamshire village of Haddenham. It has a diagnostic and triage section, state of the art operating theatre, X-ray unit, nurseries for juvenile birds, a pool for otter, seals, and water birds, and even a bat cave with ultra violet lights in order to attract insects into the cave while occupants are recovering!

Man is the earth’s No. 1 predator, by far the most ruthless of all the species, the cause of the demise of thousands of other species. But man also experienced some mutations in his brain genes way back in time and this also gave him an intense curiosity — and even a fondness — for and about many of our fellow species. We are at once the great slayer of wildlife but hopefully also a useful friend in due course, able to empathise with their suffering as well as our own.

One day, when our educational curricula are better balanced — particularly classical economics which assumes that we are nothing else but selfish — individuals such as Les Stocker won’t be as uncommon as they are today.

The prevention of Armageddon

Just as Tony Blair’s wife finally persuaded him to become a Roman Catholic convert, so has Recep Erdogan’s wife finally persuaded him to make Turkey a fully Muslim country again and to neutralise the secular reforms of Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s.

The attempted army coup — which must now be regarded as a successful hoax — has enabled Erdogan to carry out the most extreme purges — some of the most extraordinarily rapid as ever in history — to advance the de-secularization of Turkey and the re-establishment of a predominantly religious country.

The latest purge. that of withdrawing the licence of 21,000 teachers in private schools, means that the last vestiges of a balanced curriculum will have gone.

The prospect of a Sunni-dominated Turkey with one of the largest armies in the world sitting next to a Shia-dominated nation is not a comfortable one. It would not be surprising if secret talks between America, Russia and China are already being arranged in order to prevent Armageddon in the Middle East.

The Trump phenomenon

What is the Trump phenomenon? We might as well ask: What is the Corbyn phenomenon in this country, or the Le Pen phenomenon in France, or any number of new political phenomena on either the extreme left or the right in various countries in the EU?

It is the outcry of the least educated portion of the electorate which is saying: “Hey, don’t leave us behind. You promised us so much over the years but now you’re not delivering.”

There’s no conspiracy against them. It’s innovation that’s at fault. Now that the flash-in-the-pan part of robotization is mostly over — the industrial revolution of 1780 to 1980 when muscular effort was increasingly automated — we’re moving into a new type of advanced economy where mental routines are also becoming automated and much higher educational credentials are necessary for the jobs that remain.

At least, the well-paid jobs. There are still plenty of temporary jobs, part-time jobs, zero-hours jobs when children are becoming too expensive to consider and advanced country populations are not replenishing themselves. Some advanced countries — maybe only those smaller ones in which educational reform can take place quickly — might be able to retain single populations.

Otherwise, overall social mobility is coming to an end and advanced country populations are dividing into two largely separate economies in each case.

Make up your mind, Western statesmen!

Some are suggesting that the attempted coup in Turkey was actually a plot engineered by Erdogan in order to be able to clamp down even more fiercely against army officers and judges.

This could well be so. It would only take half-a-dozen well-placed army officers to get the ball rolling. I happened to be watching BBC News channel at the time and followed every development of it for a few hours. What was so very remarkable about it was the apparent overwhelming success of it in the first couple of hours. Yet Erdogan and his supporters were immediately saying that it would be a failed coup.

After apparently one Facebook call on his smartphone while he was on holiday, thousands of citizens were pouring into the streets. That could have been achieved by a claque of no more than a dozen or so accomplices making repeated Facebook calls, and people being what they are — lemmings. Within another couple of hours, the coup had obviously failed. This is very unusual indeed when army coups take place.

Erdogan’s arrest of thousands of judges, army officers and army conscripts — most of whom were only following orders — shows just how ruthless he is, whether he’d organised a false coup or not.

Erdogan has realised in the last month or so that he’ll never be able to get Turkey into the EU because he’d been allowing Sunni clerics to re-establish more influence over the country in the last few months. So it looks as though he’s decided to go whole hog in the opposite direction in order to be a Big Man in the Middle East. With the largest army in the ME, Erdogan might cause a lot more trouble, particularly against iran, from now onwards.

In the meantime, spokesmen for Western governments had been fawning in their praise for Erdogen. What a contrast with what they’ve been saying in recent years about Assad! Whereas he’s been trying — however ineptly — to secularise Syria, Erdogan has been leading Turkey back into the middle ages, reversing what Turkey’s great secular hero, Kemal Ataturk, had achieved in the 1920s.

Beautiful girls and the social elite

Women libbers are to be applauded for the immense courage and stamina they’ve shown over the past century and a half in overcoming male superiority that had become deeply entrenched during the agrarian revolution of the last 10,000 years.

Males in the advanced countries don’t appreciate just what an effort this has been unless they consider the outrageous behaviour that is still going on in Muslim and Hindu countries and no doubt others where religious superstitions and male religious leaders still hold sway.

In the advanced post-industrial world there are still some pockets that remain to be tidied up but, by and large, the battle has been won.

There are, however, a couple of important asymmetries between males and females which women libbers are in denial about — or, rather, not so much in denial but are as yet unaware of. At least, to my knowledge, they’re not yet being taken seriously.

One concerns unequal brain development as mentioned in my previous posting and which I don’t need to discuss further here. The other is the fact of the high genetic correlation between beauty and brains. In my newspaper this morning there is a photo of Carina Tyrell, a former Miss England and also Miss World runner-up, shown cycling to her graduation ceremony at Cambridge University where she obtained a 1sr class degree in medicine.

But beautiful girls don’t necessarily have to work hard. While women don’t attack great importance to the appearance of the men they marry — it’s rather more economic promise and future security than looks — men pay a great deal of attention to beautiful girls. And, as beautiful girls also happen to be above the average in intelligence, then they have much easier access than men to make it into the social elite.

In the increasingly meritocratic society of the post-industrial world, we are already seeing the emergence of a social. political and business elite — this time, unlike former times, it’s quite a sizeable one of about 20% to 25% of the population. Although larger than at any previous time in history it is becoming, if anything, even more difficult to gain access to.

Except for beautiful girls! They alone will help to keep up the numbers and quality of the social elite as opposed to to the majority of the population which is not only floundering during a period of increasing automation but is also suffering decreasing numbers due to smaller family sizes and also vastly increasing numbers of singletons unable to afford starting a family.

Treating boys like girls — and what do you get?

Not all scientific research is useful and some of its results are plain wrong. One laughable project from Bristol University is reported in my morning paper today where Elizabeth Kilby, presumably the team leader, says that if parents sang nursery rhymes to their sons, hugged their sons more and used reward stickers to encourage them to read, then the big language gap between boys and girls would disappear or at least be lessened.

What a pity this research team didn’t consult the brains department at the university! Ten minutes spent with a neurophysiologist there would have convinced them that although nursery rhymes and hugs are beneficial — to both girls as well as buys — they’re not going to make the slightest difference.

Boys and girls are born with slightly different structures in their brains meaning that boys will be useful with their hands — and often aggressively to one another — long before they have any facility with words. And, at the time of puberty when additional hormones wash through their brains, girls are ahead of boys in almost all the curriculum subjects. By the time girls are 25 years of age they are far ahead in almost every academic subject and it take another 5 years before boys catch up.

The answer to the brain gap conundrum is that boys and girls really need different educational regimes. This will have to wait until educationalists catch up with scientific research — that is, sensible scientific research!

Obama still hasn’t got it

When talking of the latest racial shooting in Baton Rouge, it’s no use President Obama talking of “love” and “hatred”. These are emotions that are only applicable between two individuals. They have no place in racial relationships. The latter are group phenomena and the appropriate words to be used are “acceptance” and “rejection”.

How much, and in what circumstances, does one group accept one or more individuals of another racial group?  Indeed, prejudices can exist between two cultural groups within one racial group where sufficient behavioural differences are perceived.  For example, between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, or Sunnis and Shias in Iraq.

Groups of mixed race or culture exist quite happily if there’s a predominant common objective — say in a factory work gang or a professional association or even in a police patrol.  In their leisure time, however, where individuals of each race or culture want to exercise their full repertoire of behaviour — as genetically and epigenetically inherited — then relationships between different groups can vary between wariness and aggression.

Even if Obama understood what the problem is in America, then stateside sensitivities would prevent the national imposition of best police practice. The solution will have to await states adopting sensible police practices one by one. That may take a very long time in the case of the poor states with low quality leadership.

What does wealth depend on in a contented society?

If we assume that the individual’s self-assessment of wealth does not necessarily depend on the size of his or her bank balance but on a self-assessment of health, security and happiness such that, when maximised, disincentivises any aspirations for social advancement, then wealth can become measurable and thus meaningful for everyone and not just those whom a journalist, say, would describe as wealthy — that is, excluding most in a population.

If the package of health, security and happiness is accepted as a collective synonym for the cognitive feeling of wealth that people have in their brains then any number of people in a population can be as wealthy as the singleton in the present era who is the richest person in the population in terms of cash according to the present definition of personal wealth — and also who is number one in social rank order according to modern culture.

Total poverty is that condition when an individual is able to eat just enough food to survive, but not a gram more. More exactly this is a condition when the energy gained from food is the same as for the energy required by normal bodily functions. If the amount of food eaten is more than the minimum due to the relative ability of the individual compared with others then wealth is gained.

Total maximum wealth is that condition when an individual has enough abilities to be able to eat more food as is needed to maximise all those body processes which lead to the brain having the experience of feeling that health, security and happiness cannot be improved any further.

The absolute definition of wealth now becomes modified with relative notions of personal ability. But this doesn’t justify that relative wealth should now take over as the only definition. The absolute definition of wealth is the more fundamental one.

Of the three components of cognitive wealth — health, security and happiness — it is only the last term that is labile enough to be useful when measured on a daily basis. Marking each one out of ten which one’s brain can readily do — crude but still scientific enough — the first two might remain much the same for weeks, months or even years on end, but happiness changes daily — and within the day. Also. happiness can be usefully compared between one age group and another.

Happiness can also be usefully compared between one nationality and another because measurements can yield correlations with other aspects of their culture, such as relative forms of governance — which are conducive to average happiness and which are not.

At the personal level, some economists who study happiness such as Richard Easterlin and Andrew Oswald have revealed that happiness rises with social rank order. If someone i given a promotion or an entrepreneur rises up the wealth scale by unusual personal effort then personal happiness invariably increases.

The subjective gain might seem to have disappeared within a few days or weeks but not if an individual is demoted to his previous level or an entrepreneur loses his recent gains. The stresses that then result — and they can be considerable — show that the previous gain really did mean something. This is probably due to an altered state of an individual’s brain — in the expectation of social deference from lower social levels — once a gain had been made.

Richard Easterlin and Andrew Oswald have also shown that a law of diminishing returns applies to the gains in happiness. On average, most people’s happiness stabilises when reaching a salary of around £40,000 ($50,000) per annum. Note that this is the minimum income required in order to buy the basic package of status goods — house, car, furniture, clothes, personal ornaments, etc. For the average person, no more income is needed because there have been no more status goods in the offing since the 1980s.

The wastage of nuclear weapons

Peace between America and Russia was barely held for 45 years and only then because of the mutually destructive effects of nuclear weapons. But now they’re out of date because an even more extreme weapon — hacking — is now possible. In the event of a hacking attack that renders a country’s electricity grid inoperable, it’s not just the principal cities that would be taken out but the whole country and, of course. its defensive and offensive systems.

This means that this coming Monday’s debate in the House of Commons on whether to update the UK’s Trident fleet — four submarine armed with nuclear missiles — ought to be unnecessary. However, the debate will still be held and the government will still win the vote to carry out an update because, as always — like all very large ‘mature’ organisations — the government is at least a generation behind the times.

In Scotland, however — where the submarines happen to be berthed — the Scottish National Party have come out strongly against them.  When the SNP achieve total independence for Scotland they’ll want the submarines removed to a port in England. This is not because the Scottish are more rational than the British, but nuclear weaponry is a useful stick with which the SNP can whack the Westminster government.

All the above, plus a credulous public — always manipulable when wars and weapons are considered — plus the American manufacturers of nuclear weapons lobbying behind the scenes will ensure that enormous amounts of money will continue to be wasted for many more years yet.

The polymathic smartphone

During a night of mourning for the terrible tragedy in Nice, an attempt at a coup d’etat came and went in Turkey. Most people in this country this morning will be unaware of it ever happening.

The two main bridges in Istanbul were sealed and the state broadcasting studio, secret service headquarters and airfield in Ankara were occupied by the military — or, rather, by an insufficient portion of it. Within hours, the people refused to be curfewed and a loyal airforce and most of the army restored order.

What can be learned from the occasion? Unlike the wave of revolutions that hit Europe in the 1840s and ’50s, take-overs today in anything approaching a modern country are well nigh impossible. There are too many silos of power that need to be simultaneously neutralised.

Whereas it was the smartphone that played a large part in causing revolutions six years ago in north Africa — the Arab Spring — it was the agent by which the Turkish people rumbled theirs almost as soon as it started. And the lesson of this is that we probably haven’t heard anywhere near the last of the smartphone’s social and political consequences.

Robotic wars

Arthur Cordell is gently ironic about my posting “Proxy warfare for now” (8 July) — “Robots fighting robots. No soldiers die. Only civilians and innocent bystanders and the cities and towns where civilians live.”

I didn’t dispute that robotic warfare will never be used. It will continue to be used by major powers against minor powers where large-scale civilian deaths and property devastation are also consequences — such as in the invasion of Iraq, or the present war in Syria. Politicians will publicly deplore civilian deaths but carry on warfare just the same.

Unlike nationalistic wars between major powers, there is now no intention to occupy the victim country or control its government permanently for the sake of its resources. as used to take place in Europe. It took the last three major wars — 1870, 1914 and 1939 — to finally teach the lesson that occupation doesn’t work in these increasingly complex times. This was only confirmed by the Soviet Union when it collapsed into Russia and a dozen other countries, each reviving its own language and currency.

Calling the bluff about the EU

This country’s departure from the EU will not make the slightest difference to most large corporations — yes, including those that were joining in the threats of adverse consequences. The massive German firm, Siemens, was one of them, so was the largest investment bank in the world, J.P.Morgan and there have been several more which have said since the vote that will actually make no difference.

Even the Japanese-owned Nissan factory in Sunderland, which avoids EU tariffs now and will definitely suffer a little when EU negotiations are finished, has said it won’t leave the country after all.

It was mostly bluster and bluff. Big businesses have the administrative measure of EU regulations, while medium firms find them daunting and small firms impossible. The EU is a protective device to keep small firms at bay.

If, in the next few years, our Foreign Secretary and our Trade Secretary get enough outline bilateral treaties in place in the rest of the world — mainly with China, of course — that can be signed the day that our membership of the EU ceases, we should be able to bridge the sag in exports

One of the last gasps of Isil?

The Bastille Day attack last night is the latest tragedy to hit France with, at the time of writing, 70 people killed and 100 injured. A large truck mowing them down has the mark of having been an opportunistic attack from the few details known at so far.  If so, with only one terrorist involved, then it is similar — though far more devastating — than recent (Isil) attacks of an amateurish nature in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Isil is losing ground in Syria and, from recent accounts, in Libya also — to which the leaders of Isis fled some months ago. All the above attacks seemed to have been encouraged, but not able to be organised in detail. It looks as though all these belong to Isil’s dying gasps. Terrible events will continue in Iraq no doubt, but these, essentially Sunni attacks on Shias, were going on even before Isil came into existence.

The conspiracy continues

A third name, Owen Smith, has now joined the contest for the Labour party leadership. Like Angela Eagle, he has not been prominent in the party and, like her, he has nothing distinctive to offer by way of policy, only a wish to defeat Jeremy Corbyn, the present leader. In this story of continuing absurdity, he will, of course, split Eagle’s vote and make it even more certain that Corbyn will be elected.

This makes it all the more certain that there is now a serious plot that when Corbyn has been re-elected to the leadership, most of the Labour MPs will then break away and form a new party. This will be socialist, but only moderately so, compared with what will remain as a far left Labour party rump.

Conspiracy theory all over again

Such are the bizarre goings-on in the Parliamentary Labour Party — and also the six hours of bitter arguments of the LP National Executive Committee yesterday — that Angela Eagle is being suspected, at least by Evan Davis of BBC Newsnight, of being a stalking horse.

In challenging Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the LP — and in easily getting 51 proposers — the hitherto back-stage Angela Eagle will, in fact, achieve what the powerful clique at the top of the Parliamentary LP are now reconciled to — a new party — as mentioned in my posting of two days ago (“Getting rid of the lesser problem”).

This is similar to what happened in the early 1980s when there was a breakaway of the Gang of Four — senior members of the LP — and the formation of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Unfortunately no other MPs joined them and the SDP floundered a year later.

This time, however, when Corbyn wins against Eagle — as he’s likely to — the clique’s breakaway party (Democratic Party?) will be joined by at least 175 Labour MPs who’ve already registered their lack of confidence in Corbyn, leaving a rump of MPs remaining in the Labour Party.

The new party will have at least two or three years, and possibly five, in which to establish constituency parties, obtain funding from non-trade union sources and face the country at the next general election as rhe true successors to the successful government of ‘New’ Labour under Tony Blair in 1997.

The EU a stretch too far

Sir Andrew Large, a former deputy governor of the Bank of England writes in my morning paper about the supposed dangers of the referendum vote to leave the EU. He is plainly upset about it and he’s supporting the idea of some that there’s should be lots more discussion about it followed by another referendum after which, he hopes, we stay in.

There are several points in his article, “Politicians must heal the rifts exposed by the referendum”, which could be commented on but there’s a sentence early on which ‘innocently’ inveigles the reader into an illogicality. After mentioning the motives of those who voted to leave, he writes this: “In a world where progress requires increasingly collective actions, that seems unwise.”

Every thoughtful person would agree with the sentence. We need more and more international treaties and collective actions about issues such pollution, fishing rights, ozone layer, and such like. But note that all of these are single issues — and on which there is usually complete agreement. Andrew Large is implying that we need the EU for this reason even though all sorts of issues, including controversial ones, are bundled up together in Brussels’ directives.

Goodness knows, the complexity of modern life is making ‘ordinary’ nation-state governance difficult enough– the word increasingly used is “broken”.  For a body that is trying to be a super-size nation-state “collective action” is a stretch too far.

Turning our attention elsewhere

The vote to leave the EU has had tremendous effects on English and Scottish politics. What might it have had in Europe itself? Pretty substantial, one imagines. Anti-EU parties which have sprung up from nowhere in several EU countries since the immigration issues of the last couple of years will now be much encouraged by England’s — though perhaps not Scotland’s — departure.

Will there be another breakaway attempt? Several without a doubt, but the one that’s likely to proceed fairly soon, though not so ‘tidily’ as ours, will be in the most individualistic country of them all — Italy. Deeply in trouble economically, particularly in the condition of its banks, it will be needing large bailouts from the European Central Bank quite soon — in other words, subsidies from Germany’s taxpayers.

There isn’t the remotest chance that Italy will be helped — or, being a relatively much larger country than Greece, could be helped — so when our media settle down a bit and our negotiators start work in back offices it will be interesting to hear more about events in that country.

High jinks but little satisfaction

If the Labour party are in turmoil the Tory party has now become sweetness and light with the resignation of Andrea Leadsom from the contest against Theresa May for the leadership. The latter will now quickly become the Prime Minister of the country.

May could continue as PM until a 2020 general election if she wished but she could also decide to call for an early general election — and very soon perhaps — to take advantage of the chaos in the Labour Party in order to gain a larger majority in the House of Commons.

She might have to anyway due to the 56 Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) presently elected as UK MPs. This is a situation which any non-Briton would say — quite rightly — is crazy. If UK negotiations with Brussels go well (from he EU Leavers’ point of view) then the SNP will call vigorously for another Scottish Independence referendum in order to make the separation from England complete and for the SNP to make its own arrangements with the EU — in which it wants to remain.

It’s all very complicated, and will be replete with unexpected shocks along the way no doubt. It will all be very exciting to politicians at Westminster, senior civil servants in Whitehall and thousands of media journalists in London but it will do nothing to reassure the English — that is, those who live and work outside London — that anybody is giving much thought as to their future.

Getting rid of the lesser problem

It very much looks as though the Labour party is about to split, budding a new party that might well be called the Democratic Party.

Angela Eagle is putting her name forward today as the leader of the opposition Labour party on the grounds that Jeremy Corbyn, the present leader, doesn’t have the leadership qualities that would give the party any chance at all of winning the next general election.

Although she would win hands down in the preliminary ballot among Labour MPs she would probably lose against Corbyn when the countrywide Labour membership votes because there would probably be a surge of extreme left-wing young, rebellious-minded people joining the party before the vote just as there had been previously when Corbyn was elected.

Angela-Eagle says that she hopes there will be a surge of new Labour party members joining in order to vote for her. That’s extremely unlikely and Eagle won’t be privately thinking so either. Corbyn will be elected again — probably with an increased majority — and this will be the opportunity for the bulk of the party MPs to separate themselves from the nucleus of MPs around Corbyn and form a new moderately left party.

Just as the present Labour party was born out of a new rising class 100 years ago — unionised industrial workers — the reason for the new party is also being born from a new class — professionalised intellectual workers. These are the products of Oxbridge and other elite universities. Two or three decades ago they began to dominate the short lists from which local Labour parties chose their Parliamentary candidates

When the new UK Democratic party — or whatever it will be called — is instituted it will say that it will be concerned for the poorer classes. But it will carry on just as the present Labour party — and, indeed the Tory party — has been doing. This is, being immersed in their comfortable Whitehall redoubt and rather more concerned with national — that is, London-based — policies rather than in reviving well-paid employment in the regions, particularly in the north.

Left-wing MPs will no doubt sort themselves out — even if in two parties — in the near future, but it won’t solve the longer-standing problem — the increasing public disillusionment with the overall political system, left and right, as it presently stands.

Why not more social activities and leisure?

According to my morning paper, Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England is “about to slash bank rate in order revive economic growth”.

I’m amused by the word “slash”. Bank rate is already as low as 0.5%. Reducing it to 0.25% or even all the way down to 0% is hardly slashing it.

More amusing still, if it wasn’t so tragic from the government’s point of view, is that Carney is hoping to lift economic growth from the present 1% to something more decent like 2.5% or 3%.

What will it achieve? Nothing. There are no uniquely new mass consumer goods in the offing to stimulate spending and saving. Of course, there could be — never say never — but there has been none since about 1980 and there are none on the drawing boards of the major corporations.

And this must be set within the wider context of world-wide trade which, following the laws of physics, is heading towards a steady-state. It would take massive additional injections of energy from oil, gas and whatever else to jog it onto a higher level.

But in any case what consumer goods would the Second and Third World countries manufacture and export that are not already made by China? What sophisticated services could they supply that are not already available from the advanced countries?

Now that the advanced countries are heading deeper and deeper into an era of automation, why should we have constant economic growth every year? To take care of international warfare why doesn’t each country make a proxy by improving its manufacturing and services software from year to year? At individual level, what’s wrong with spending more time on social and leisure activities?

The ladies will give the edge

Gay marriages has come up as a difference between Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom in their leadership bid to be the next UK Prime Minister. May voted with the government in passing the Same Sex Couples Act, 2013, whereas Leadsom abstained.

Leadsom didn’t have any objection against homosexuals being married as such but only in the wording of the Act as though the ceremony is part and parcel of the Christian tradition. She was quite right. State acceptance and necessary registration of marriage is secular only. It is a take-over from church marriage.

But Andrea Leasom is not right more fundamentally because, for most couples, church marriage became popular as a celebration of social status and which was at its peak during Victorian times. Back in the Middle Ages most people married by simply moving to set up home together. Only people with wealth –usually only the groom, of course — got married in church because it was only there that there were enough Latin scholars who could act for both spouses in drawing up a business contract.

Journalists will continue to ferret out more differences — if they can find them — between the two candidates during July and August. Nothing of note will emerge for a while until they’ve both assembled their chief advisors who’ll help them to draw up a strategic plan for when one of them will be in charge of negotiating with EU officialdom.

Any differences will no doubt confuse most of us — as during the original Referendum campaign. But, as said before, the May-Leadsom vote will be mainly determined by their television personalities and when they speak at local Tory associations. Women Tory members, being more numerous than the men — and being a lot more perceptive — will probably give the decisive edge.

Greece is really a tragedy

What a laugh! Greece, with more than enough troubles with the EU, is ready to sign up an arms deal with Russia. Gosh, won’t this upset NATO leaders meeting in Warsaw today! Bang goes any European united front against Russia.

Why is it a laugh? Because artillery — and even ballistic — warfare is out of date. Neither dare be undertaken in any sort of major episode because of large scale, and possibly, total mutual destruction. If there is outbreak between the major powers, first-strike electronic warfare will decide the outcome so much more quickly and without loss of property.

Most of the tension between the great powers is mainly playacting. Neither NATO nor Russia sought to expand the problems in eastern Ukraine, despite all the public posturing.

Greece is not really a laughing matter, of course. But what is much more to the point as far as Greece is concerned, is that the EU has done nothing constructive to help Greece since it joined. It has imposed draconian policies which may be appropriate for highly disciplined countries like Finland or Germany but not for laid-back Mediterranean countries like Greece.

Haunting Tony Blair for years yet

Two interesting things came out of the BBC’s Questiontime on Thursday night. Firstly, George Galloway revealed that Alex Salmond MP appears to be leading a cross-party group of MPs who are taking legal advice as to impeachment proceedings against Tony Blair for leading the House of Commons into the Iraq invasion in 2003 on the flimsiest of evidence. Worse, that on 28 July 2002 he’d already written a private commitment to George Bush long before the House of Commons debated the matter.

Secondly, that the audience at Brighton — no doubt a carefully balanced one as usual — agreed with acclamation that something should be done. I have never seen a Questiontime quite so responsive and united as this one was.

On the first point, I don’t believe that the House of Commons will agree to impeachment proceedings. That was possible in Victorian times, not so today.

On the second point, such is the anger of the hundreds of parents whose sons were killed and injured in Iraq, mainly for lack of sufficient equipment, that they won’t rest until other serious legal charges are taken against Tony Blair. There’ll be more than enough public donations to employ top flight legal counsel and take this to the Supreme Court sooner or later.

Obama has been pussy-footing over Dallas

Since writing my previous posting yesterday on the matter of police shootings of black men in America there’s been another shooting. This time in Dallas and this time a revenge killing of five white policemen by — as it turns out — one black sniper.

I can’t say any more than I wrote earlier except that, this time, it’s likely to lead on to more copycat shoot-outs which may in turn lead, for all we know, to further escalation of the usual pattern of killings by unbelievably gung-ho police officers.

In speaking of the incident, President Obama was guilty of pussy-footing. Why did he say that police officers shoot twice as many blacks as whites? The real figure is twenty!

Proxy warfare for now

As weapons of war depend increasingly on computers — the modern fighter aircraft, for example — all the major powers are no doubt dedicating part of their defence budget to even more advanced weaponry. Some of those involved in this line of research and development think that warfare will be completely robotised in future years.

This is what Lieutenant General Andrey Grigoriev, head of Russia’s Advanced Research Foundation said recently in a newspaper interview — “I see a greater robotization [of war]. In fact future warfare will involve operators and machines, not soldiers shooting at each other on the battlefield. It would be powerful robot units fighting on land, in the air, at sea as well as underwater and in outer space.”

But what is the point of all that? All it would prove is that one power has more advanced electronic methods than another. Does it lessen the immense costs that would be involved in the forced territorial take-over of another country? But, in any case, advanced electronic warfare is already going on between the major powers by means of hacking into opponents’ electronic systems.

Any of the major powers could already bring another to its knees instantly by damaging its electricity grid. So why fight a robotic war when you can do that? But even that is much too dangerous to contemplate.

All countries will always be territorially and culturally defensive — thus permanently on the cusp of aggressiveness if necessary. Territorial defensiveness is too deep in our genes to imagine that the urge to wage war can ever be neutralised.

Proxy warfare is taking place right now by means of competitive trade regulations, tariffs and the preferential taxation of large corporations. We’ll have to put up with those for the time being until politicians and civil servants are more educated in the human sciences.

Reaching happiness equality

Women’s lib in the last few decades has not been saying that women should give up being mothers for the sake of having a career. But it’s certainly been implied and, in the ‘liberal’ advanced countries it has caused many thousands of women to at least delay having children until they’d reached a good career position and, in some cases, of highly ambitious women, not to have any at all.

There are already many old women in care homes who are deeply envious of children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren visiting their fellow inmates. One of the biggest growth areas in economic life in future years will be the application of gene-editing to the DNA of men and women who are identified as being infertile early on in their marriage.

Just like men, only a minority of women are highly ambitious but, unlike men, a substantial majority of women want children. Yes, housewifery in the typical urban and suburban home these days can be very boring once the children are socializing. It means that an interesting job is highly desirable — but not a top job necessarily and not without the chance of having children as well.

Under an entirely erroneous headline in my paper today, “Why women are no longer the happier sex”, the story is based on the Happiness Index which the Office for National Statistics (ONS) started some four years ago. Although the difference has diminished in that period, women are still happier than men.

The disparity has declined from 0.5% in 2011 to 0.3% today. This is not surprising. Women are continuing to be pressured to have a high positions in politics and business corporations where they meet stress, alcohol consumption and wayward sex at far higher levels than in more ordinary jobs.

Also, as automation steadily takes over many unhealthy and dangerous jobs that men used to do, men are living healthier and longer lives — both compatible with happier lives. Thus, on both counts it would be very surprising if well-being doesn’t equalise between men and women in the decades to come.

The boot is on the UK foot

The boot is on the UK foot

Sajid Javid, the UK Business Secretary is now flying the world setting up preliminary discussions for future trade deals with countries outside the EU. Once negotiations for leaving the EU are over, more than enough trade deals may be able to be quickly signed that will more than compensate for any diminution of trade with the EU.

Besides, our trade with the EU has been steadily declining for the past ten years. Even so, our exports to the EU are more important to them than their smaller exports are to us.

Considering that the EU has found it impossible to set up a centralised budgeting authority that will override EU countries’ own Treasury Departments then the EU itself has a hollow centre which means that it can never be what ot wants to be, a super-nation-state, a United States of Europe.

In our forthcoming negotiations with the EU we’ve no need to sudffer any undue pain. It will be the EU pleading with us to stay rather than making it awkward for us to leave. The boot is on the other foot.

A politician commits hara-kiri

Michael Gove’s disloyalty towards his friend David Cameron, his treachery towards Boris Johnson and the final bit of nastiness towards Andrea Leadsom has been a three-step regress as a career politician.

During the Referendum campaign he told David Cameron that although he was in favour of leaving the EU he wouldn’t publicise his difference. Instead, he turned out a 2,000 word manifesto in favour of leaving the EU and gave as much publicity in support of Boris Johnson as the latter could wish.

Then, when Cameron resigned after the Leave EU vote, Gove then turned against Johnson in saying publicly that the latter wasn’t a good team player. Johnson then dropped out of the running.

Finally, Gove allowed an e-mail to go to fellow MPs who were supporters of Andrea Leadsom. This was intended to change their vote to him in order that he would do better than Leadsom against Theresa May in the final Tory-wide country ballot. This may have been normal shenanigans for politicians in Westminster but such deviousness only confirms what many of the public think of many of their MPs.

It’s not often that a politician self-destructs quite so systematically — or so publicly! — as Michael Gove, but that’s what he’s done.

A woman Prime Minister for certain

In the Tory MP’s second ballot this afternoon, Michael Gove came last leaving only Theresa May (199 votes) and Andrea Leadsom (84 votes) to go forward for the vote of Tory Party members in the country. The main difference between them so far is that Theresa May was in favour of remaining in the EU — albeit tepidly — while Andrea Leadsom was campaigning to leave the EU from the start of the Referendum campaign.

Theresa May, 60, has had over 30 years of politics and many years as a Minister, latterly as Home Secretary, a very difficult role. Andrea Leadsom, 53, is new to politics –elected only in 2005 — but has had 30 years experience in finance, latterly at a high level. She has served only briefly at Ministerial level.

More than their policies it will be how their personalities resonate with the 150,000 members of the Tory Party as to which one wins in the final vote in September. They now have two months to go around the country and speak to local Tory associations.

Most of the members are in their middle-to-old age and there will be somewhat more women than men. It’s anybody guess at this stage who might be favourite. Now that the Tory Party is committed to leaving the EU, the vote will go to the candidate who can convince her hearers that she will be the better person to drive our negotiators to the best possible outcomes.

The inevitable monetary collapse

In commenting on my earlier posting of today “We could forget about gold . . . “, Steve Kurtz writes — “The global banking elite will continue to do all possible to prevent fixing currencies to a commodity of any sort. They have some power now to adjust interest rates to defend exchange rates. Also they have the ability to increase the money supply ad infinitum. Few people choose to give up power they already have, even if just a % reduction.”

True enough, but what will they do about power when the next monetary crisis comes along? In his book The End of Alchemy, Mervyn King, not long retired as the Governor of the Bank of England — and as authoritative as any other individual in the world — writes, not once but several times, that a crash at least as severe as 2008, is inevitable. And Lord King is not the only eminent voice.

Trade balances are more unequal than ever before. Inequalities in living standards between the advanced countries and the Third World are greater than ever before. The present monetary situation simply cannot continue for much longer.

Although most of the major commercial banks now have reserves of about 10% against their loans — compared with 0% to 2% in 2008 — they are not immune from going bankrupt again. They would needs to be 100% as Irving Fisher and other eminent economists proposed in the ‘Chicago Plan’ of 1933.

But come the next monetary collapse the advanced country governments will not be able to print more money because they have no government bonds to sell. It would seen to be Monopoly money straight away. To be able to print more money that wouldn’t be fictional governments would have to requisition private property on a large scale. That simply couldn’t be done without coups d’etat by the social elite and the private banking sector.

When the inevitable monetary collapse occurs then the dollar will have to relinquish its pole position as the world’s reserve currency. A new one will have to be instituted. Whether it’s backed up by gold or platinum or kilowatt=hours doesn’t matter.

More on clumsy educationalists

Lawrence de Bivort has thrown a question to me after my my posting yesterday “The clumsy Department of Education again”. The question is — “Wouldn’t this leave poorly educated parents to make poor educational decisions for their children?”

I suggest that “poorly educated parents” are not synonyms for poor choosers. They are surely as good observers as most people as to what happens to the children who go to one school or another — what sort of universities they go to, or what sort of jobs do they get, and so on. Poorly educated parents may be at the bottom of the social pecking order but they are not averse to being promoted upwards — if not for themselves but for their children.

In this country, secondary schools are being rapidly released from day-to-day recruitment control from local authorities. What it will mean is that more people who are retired specialists — particularly in the sciences — or mothers who have successfully raised children of their own can be brought in as teaching assistants and will prove to be natural teachers. What’s badly needed now is to release secondary schools from the month-to-month, year-to-year curriculum control by the centralised Department of Education and its persistent policy changes in teaching methods.

A super-large market awaiting us

As regards trade, England and China are made for each other. England has a divers skill set — cognitive and physical that few other countries can match — and China has a vast consumer market that is, at present, only half developed.

Until now, and being bound by the EU’s tariffs against foreign products, we have not been able to trade with China to anywhere near the same extent as we could have done. China has been frustrated as we have been, and one of its senior officials, Xing Houyuan told the government newspaper, China Daily yesterday that, now we are leaving the EU, a trade treaty between China and the UK is high on the agenda.

This is a different story from our trade with America where Obama has already threatened that we’ll be at the back of the queue if it came us wanting a trade treaty. But we oughtn’t to worry too much because China’s middle-class is already as large as the total American population, and it will grow a lot larger in the coming decades.

To a considerable extent, George Osborne has called Obama’s bluff by giving warning that we’ll be reducing corporate taxes to 15% — knowing full well that it will be American firms more than any other country’s that will take advantage by moving their headquarters here.

We could forget about gold as a guarantee of stability

If two businesses were making an identical product out of identical materials, each capable of supplying the world, then only one of them would be making a profit. Because of the imprecise nature of currency exchange between different countries and also the locations of the businesses — with different delivery distances to customers — then both businesses might seem to be making a profit, at least for a while until maximum competition for customers takes place between them. But sooner o later one of the businesses would go bankrupt.

What has been the real difference between them is the method by which they made the product — more exactly, the energy used in each system. The business that used less energy would be the one that finally turned out to be the most profitable but only at the very end when one business palpably failed.

Before that point, the price charged for the product in different countries was flexible and more or less ambiguous. And this is really why economics, as it stands today, without anything that can be a stable unit of measurement, can never be a scientific subject.

But if money, as printed in varying amounts from time to time by different governments, is dis-baring economics from being scientific what can? Energy, of course. Energy is needed when any and every product or services is brought about.

Because energy can be defined scientifically as so many calories, or joules or kilowatt-hours then why not define a unit of currency in terms of how much energy it can buy?. Currencies backed up with the average world market price of gold at any moment would be a commonly agreed unit of measurement that would hardly change from year to year. But then so would a unit of currency defined in terms of the average minimum world price of 1 kilo-watt hour of electricity? We wouldn’t need gold as a guarantee of stability for any currency

Supplying its own mystery and wonder

“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.” — Werner Heisenberg

Heisenberg, one of the Greats of quantum physics at the dawn of the last century, has put it very well. Quantum physics, which no-one yet understands is now being suspected of threading its way through some of the most crucial chemical processes that take place in life forms. Not only that but it is being suspected of being the initiator of the first self-generating creature some 4 billion years ago.

The advent of quantum physics is more or less driving verbal philosophy, high-faluting poetry and religious superstitions out of the window, at least in the more advanced countries, not because it’s crass but because it has supplied its own brand of mystery and wonder about life and the universe.