Three daft questions
Calling all economists and political scientists! These are questions I’ve pondered again and again, a couple of them for many years now. I’ve never met anyone who could give me an answer – but perhaps I move in the wrong circles? Likewise, the books, magazines and papers I’ve read have failed to deliver any answers. (What do you mean, I shouldn’t have expected to find them in the pages of the civil service motoring magazine!?)
So if anyone out there has the answers, please, please, please put them in the comments box below, so that I may become an enlightened dame.
Where did all the oil money go?
North Sea gas and oil revenue peaked in 1984/5 (and then again in 2008/9). And yet it was in the 1980s that the Government decided that we could no longer afford, among other things, cottage hospitals and village schools (and miners, of course). I was quite surprised to find out about the second spike in revenue in 2008/9, just at the time of the crash. I have my own fantastical theory about where the money has gone. I believe the basements of the Treasury are awash with gold, probably guarded by a Smaug-like dragon, because every so often the Government mysteriously manages to dredge up a huge wodge of cash for something when we thought there wasn’t any. To be serious, though, the following quote from a senior Treasury civil servant in Owen Jones’s book The Establishment and How They Get Away With It made me think I was not far wrong: ‘The Treasury has its own ideological perspective, that no one should spend any money. It’s quite a strong culture that way.’
Why do some companies find vertical integration profitable while others embrace outsourcing, to the detriment of low-paid workers?
Some year ago, when all around there was news coverage of yet another group of workers who were going to be losing some of their rights and pay because the services they were provided were being moved out of their original company or organisation, I heard about what were described as ‘shadowy grain corporations’. A feature of these mysterious entities was that they were ‘vertically integrated’. They evidently found it profitable to own every part of their operation, from the farms on which the grain was grown, to the railroads that transported it to the ports, to the ships that carried across the ocean, and every other stage besides. Why is this structure profitable for them and not for others, leaving workers struggling with Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) legislation and customers with fragmented services from slimmed-down companies? (See any number of consumer agony columns.) This link to an article by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation provides some of the answers, but raises a host of other alarming questions in doing so: http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/y4671e/y4671e0e.htm
This is obviously a more recent conundrum. Wouldn’t you think that by now a few heart-warming stories about individuals whose lives had been transformed by Obamacare would have made it across the pond? A Google search produces some apparently positive statistics – an increase of around 7% in the number of Hispanics who now have health care – but no powerful personal testimony. I’m not normally a conspiracy theorist, but I’m beginning to wonder if there’s been a degree of collusion in the right-wing press on both sides of the Atlantic to ignore any such narrative. (According to The Balance website, the US population has been hit with 15 per cent more negative messages than positive ones.) Only by searching directly on the website of the Baltimore Sun have I been able to find a pro-Obamacare testimony, and you can read it here: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-aca-rheumatoid-arthritis-20161030-story.html
Anyway – just thought I’d ask . . .