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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Interesting headline photograph

If I emerge from the front door of my block of flats, but then realise that I have forgotten to bring my camera with me, then, unless I am in an extreme hurry, I turn around, go back up the five flights of stairs to my home, and get my camera. I cannot bear to be out and about in London without it, being a ever-more voracious photographer of whatever I see on my perambulations that interests me, and that’s more and more, the more I think of different interesting things to keep track of.

Plus, I just know that if I am not careful in this way, then the one day when I do not have my camera with me will be the exact day that an Airbus 380 on its way into Heathrow gets into trouble so serious that it is visible even to me, and plummets down into central London.

One of the things I like to photograph is the front pages of newspapers, because of their often amusing or arresting headlines. I mostly do this in the shop where I often buy my monthly copies of the Gramophone and the BBC Music Magazine (by “music” this magazine means classical music) and my weekly copies of the Radio Times, so the proprietor doesn’t mind me photographing other things. He knows that I am not going to buy any of these newspapers, but that I might be about to buy something else, and that I regularly do, even if maybe not on that particular day.

And, I take a lot of other photographs, of such things as cranes, bridges, Big Things, roof clutter, signs and notices, and other digital photographers, especially when they are engaged in photographing such things themselves, or in photographing themselves.

All of which is my explanation of why I took the photo below (on March 14th 2014) but then forgot about it, until I went trawling through my photo-archives seeking something else entirely:


I couldn’t find that exact story on the www, but here is the Evening Standard version of the same thing.

For me, this is always an interesting moment in the see-saw that is now British politics, between regimes which contrive as much government as the voters feel they can afford and regimes which unleash more government than the voters feel they can afford. (The option of having less government than the voters feel they can afford, is not, alas, considered worth offering.)

I cannot remember to the nearest year when the Blair/Brown regime was reported as having pushed public sector pay above this same mark, contriving a country in which public sector workers were, on average, reported to be getting more than private sector workers, but I do remember noticing that moment, and thinking it of some significance.

And this latest little tilt in the balance between production and predation strikes me as significant also, and worth noting here even if the announcement happened a couple of months ago. Just for now, for the time being (or so it says in the newspapers): production gets you better wages than predation. Good.

I know, I know. As good news comes, this is pretty small stuff. After all, even this feeble milestone took them four years to get past. As “austerity” goes, it is very mild indeed. But it is good news, I think. And I particularly enjoy being told it by a newspaper which so obviously disapproves of the story that it is telling.

13 comments to Interesting headline photograph

  • Nick (Blame The French) Gray

    Is it true- cameron issued an ultimatum to the Kremlin? No wonder Putin is happily annexing any territory near Russia- Cameron (and Obama!) are just career politicians, whereas Putin will be here forever, with legal comebacks every few terms.

  • Paul Marks

    If true this presents an interesting contrast with the United States.

    In the United States people who work for the Federal government tend to be better paid and have better benefits than people who work in civil society (the “private sector”).

  • AndrewZ

    That headline about workers’ pay is a reminder that the unspoken assumptions behind a statement can often be far more revealing than what is said explicitly. The headline about Cameron issuing an “ultimatum” to the Russians also seems to involve some rather extraordinary assumptions about Britain’s position in the world today.

  • Andrew Duffin


    No mention (in that link, at least) of differences in pension provision, job security, or the scandal of “contractual grade progression”.

    I’d want to see a proper comparison before accepting that production was better rewarded than predation.

  • Mr Ed

    Mr Cameron cannot keep the Spanish Civil Guard out of Gibraltar waters, the Royal Navy’s standing defence is two boats (not ships) each with 2 x 7.62mm GPMG on their sterns, which is less armament that a Boulton Paul Defiant, which at least looked like a Hurricane humping a Dalek (not in its heyday of course), so why should the Russians fear Mr Cameron now?

  • DP

    Dear Mr Micklethwaite

    Good news indeed – possibly.

    It depends also on how many public employees there are*: X% more sharing the same percentage of taxpayers’ picked pockets might reduce the average below that in the producing sector. Better both average pay and numbers have declined.

    Is government the only predator that can sustain a significant percentage of the overall mass of fauna from the surplus of the remainder? The Serengeti does not team with prides of lions in quite the way it teams with wildebeest and zebra.

    In theory government can and, somewhere, somewhen, will grow to be 98% of the ‘working’ population when only 2% of the population are required to produce all the goods and services society really needs, employed mostly as designers and developers of robots.

    @ Paul Marks May 13, 2014 at 10:48 am – this may be because the Federal government tops the food chain, preying on the private sector twice – directly and via state governments. So much power value …


    * and terms and conditions – @ Andrew Duffin May 13, 2014 at 11:11 am

  • Mr Ed

    Well the only way to have a hope of keeping the US Federal govt. in check in budgetary terms would be to permit it to raise funds only by levying on the constituent states of the Union a contribution set at, say up to 5% of each State’s annual tax revenue, so that the State that cuts its revenue reduces its contribution to the federation but also with a per capita cap to reduce contributions below 5% if any State were paying far too much.

    No IRS, no excise, no imports, nothing but 50 annual checks going to Washington and that’s it. War could be funded by voluntary donations, and no federal borrowing powers. Then you might go your whole life without meeting a Federal employee and you’d be as likely to see the US President on TV news as the Swiss President.

  • Rob

    Strange, Polly et all have been saying for years that t is a LIE that public pay is better than private. Now it is a COST OF LIVING CRISIS now that…public pay has dropped below private.

  • Laird

    I like your idea, Mr. Ed.

  • Anonymous Coward

    I’m a civil servant. I do technical stuff for the military. I get paid £37,000 a year. The median salary in the private sector in my region for what I do is just under £42,300 more than this. Where are all these overpaid public sector people?

  • Paul Marks

    AC – I work in the “private sector” (horrible way of describing Civil Society) and I earn vastly less than you do.

    “But I have technical skills and you do not Paul”.

    Then use your technical skills in what you call the “private sector”.

  • Which begs the question: is all of this not comparing apples to oranges? How many jobs are there which exist in both private and public sectors, within the same country, so that their pay can be compared?

  • Paul Marks

    Perhaps Alisa.

    However, one test is common to both.

    If government advertises a job (or a private employer advertises a job) and no one who can do the job applies – then the wages are too low or the conditions not good enough.

    There are also another couple of factors to be considered.

    A Civil Service structure (which means that the officials are not really working for the elected politicians – yet those politicians are supposedly “in charge”).

    And (far worse) unionisation.

    The American government (as government go) functioned (just about) in the 1950s – but with the introduction of unions (under President Kennedy) the “double tap” was formed, firstly a Civil Service structure (that went back to the 19th century) and, on top, a union structure – meaning that no one really controls the Federal bureaucracy at all (at least not in the sense of cost control).

    It is the same at State and local level – a Civil Service structure is not automatically a knock out blow (all 50 States have a Civil Service structure now) but if one adds unionisation as well – then there things are not good.