We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

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

Samizdata quote of the day – AI ate my homework

The only way the jobs can go is if the machines are now doing the work formerly done by humans. Which means that we gain the same output without the human labour input. That’s an increase in the productivity of human labour – the main driver of increases in human wealth.

What fucking value destruction?

Tim Worstall

27 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – AI ate my homework

  • Roué le Jour

    Logically incorrect. It is the productivity of the population as a whole that matters. If 1000 workers produce 100 cars but 500 workers produce 70 cars productivity has increased but production has decreased. Human wealth increases when we produce more, not simply increase the productivity of one group at the expense of another.

    As has been said before, when you have an over supply of labour, which we do, all that utilizing less of it achieves is increasing the welfare bill. Privatizing the profits and socializing the costs, to coin a phrase.

  • Ferox

    If 1000 workers produce 100 cars but 500 workers produce 70 cars productivity has increased but production has decreased.

    Only if the other 500 workers vegetate on their couches and stop doing any labor. But I think the assumption around productivity increases is that the labor freed up by improvements in productivity is then applied to something else; making bicycles? Making frozen yogurt? Who knows … but if the 500 extra workers don’t produce another 70 cars then whatever else they end up doing is likely to be more economically beneficial – otherwise they would end up just making the 70 cars.

    That isn’t guaranteed to be true, I suppose, but there isn’t any reason to think that there’s a limit to the amount of useful labor that can be performed in a society. People aren’t going to run out of things to do. The shortage we have is in real capital, as opposed to vapor capital with nothing behind it. Demand is insatiable – which implies that opportunities for labor are limitless, given the capital to realize them.

  • Roué le Jour

    But I think the assumption…”

    The “assumption” is doing a lot of heavy lifting. If it were true that making people redundant resulted in them doing something else equally productive then the figures to prove it could be easily shown, and it would be unnecessary to argue that it “should” happen.

    Ultimately it comes down to this, a working population is a happy population. Our productive ability defines us. Take that away and you get a crime ridden society dependant on bread and circuses. Looked out of the window lately?

  • bobby b

    In the macro sense, creative destruction is part of an improvement of the economic system. We no longer need buggy whips, and so all of those whip makers move on to making other things that we do need.

    But in the micro sense, creative destruction is dad out of a job and broke. Experienced whip makers now need to figure out something else to do, and find openings. There is always delay and pain in that process. There are always those workers who never really catch their stride again.

    AI is going to lead to a lot of creative destruction. We can and should celebrate the progress that AI represents, but we also should take care that too many dads and their dependents aren’t permanently harmed.

  • Simon Jester

    Why would they stop at 70 cars?

    If demand is completely inelastic, they might stop at 100 cars (so ~700 workers), but it seems more likely that the savings would result in a price decrease, with consequently greater demand for the cheaper cars, leading to an overall increase in production.

  • Stonyground

    Surely the only proof required here is the history of progress since the industrial revolution. There has been a more or less constant process of replacing human workers with machines and we can clearly see and analyse the results. I would suspect that it is low skilled people who have the most to worry about.

  • If it were true that making people redundant resulted in them doing something else equally productive then the figures to prove it could be easily shown

    There is always a period of adjustment, but I can hardly believe I need to point out the figures self-evidently do, going all the way back to the agricultural revolution from the the mid-17th century onwards.

  • Roué le Jour

    If you increase production by letting go the least productive workers and working the remainder harder, you are in something of a dead end. Yes, the cars might be cheaper, but you cannot make more because the workers are already at their limit, and you can’t employ more people because if there were highly productive workers available, the company would be employing them already.

    The key point here is that there is a distinct difference between increasing production by cracking the whip on the workers and by increasing capital investment. One has a natural limit, the other does not. If you work people harder for the same pay, you are paying them less per unit work. We’re trying to make ourselves better off, not turn Britain into a third world sweatshop.

    It reminds me of something Thatcher said about being more competitive by being more flexible. By competitive you mean get more work, by flexible you mean do more work for the same or less money. In other words, “Wealth through poverty” sounds suitably Orwellian.

    I’m getting away from the point I was trying to make, which is this. If you make more with the same number of people you have indisputably increased productivity both locally and nationally. If you make the same with less people, you have increased local productivity but whether or not you have increased national productivity depends on what happens to the people you have let go. And to be clear, it is national productivity that we care about.

  • If you increase production by letting go the least productive workers and working the remainder harder, you are in something of a dead end

    But that’s not what happens when less people can produce more with a tractor than an ox-pulled plough, and it’s not what happens when a person uses an language AI to produce more on their PC than they could without. It’s not “working harder”, it’s just more productive.

    Contrary to those who think language AI will replace every office job, it won’t, it will just change work and push people in different directions. Box ticking process jobs will indeed disappear. At some point it will wipe out much of the civil service’s “back end” (which is entirely about process), leaving only the people at the very top… which might not sound great but it actually is, because it means the self-interested voting bloc the people at the top depend on also disappears.

  • NickM

    Well, I for one am mightily pissed off at having to do web design. As a kid I dreamed of being a Hanosm cab lamp-fitter. Fuck you, progress!

    I dd get your point Roué but I guess I’m just a bit more optomistic. A lot of the jobs in the firing line from AI are mind-bendingly dull which maybe means people really wanna to do something else. I certainly did when I had to work in a call-centre to keep the wolf from the door.

    About call-centres. Yes, it’s tedious and can be quite difficult and stressful (especially the sales aspect) but AI doing the task has another advantage (in principle). It should be able to handle many more clients/customers. An end to call queues and hold muzak is an aunlloyed good. Is there such a concept as a “secondary productivity boost”? There should be. Because what I mean is that not only would replacing a dull and unpleasant job be a good thing but it would also free up more time for the caller to do… whatever…

    Nobody likes being on hold but you know who really hates it. The call-centre operative. Because they know there’s a damn good chance that when they get to answer the call the client is already annoyed at being told “You call is important to us, please hold” five times. I found that unpleasant when I worked in a call-centre. I don’t think an AI would mind.

  • WindyPants

    I have a dog in this fight because I grew up in one of those Northern shitholes that went to hell in a handbasket shortly after the pits were closed and our industry was offshored to China.

    RLJ is correct. UKPLC may have got a bit richer, but my old home town is on life support and still depends on the government’s largesse 30-40 years after the fact.

    In my town a brain-drain preceeded a population decline – this no doubt helped the situation. But those too old or stupid to adjust to the new realities were left behind (and now vote accordingly).

    I think Tim’s point stands if the creative destruction leads to better opportunities. But, sadly, there’s too much evidence that shows this isn’t always the case. Unfortunately, I don’t know what the solution is.

  • Stonyground

    On working smarter rather than harder. I watched a YouTube video about the heyday of the British motorcycle industry. There was a fair bit of footage of the interior of a motorcycle factory around late 1950s or early 1960s. The slow, leisurely and often slightly inept way that the bikes were being assembled was quite astonishing. There was a guy bolting on a front mudguard with a spanner. Two guys fitting a petrol tank while the front wheel kept flopping from side to side so that the handle bars kept getting in their way. When the bikes got to the end of the line they were being taken off with a hand cranked chain hoist rather that just wheeled down a ramp. The whole process appeared to be so horribly inefficient it was really no surprise when the Japanese wiped us out.

  • Paul Marks

    Some people will pay extra for something if they know it is “hand made” – and some people are impressed by the act of skilled human work.

    For example, I am impressed by the skilled craftsmen of “Forged in Fire” – a machine turning out thousands of knives would also be impressive, but not int the same way.
    I see no reason to use the term “Artificial Intelligence” “AI” (the term is radically misleading) – the old word “automation” is more accurate, and it is true that “automation” does imply the loss of skills that are of value (at least to some people – such as myself), HOWEVER…..

    However…. does automation really mean the loss of these skills? After all hand made knives still exist (see above), just as hand produced clothing still exists – in spite of centuries of mechanisation (first in spinning, then in weaving then in….).

    I think what mechanisation and automation really means is more choice – people can still have hand made goods, if they are prepared to pay to support these skills surviving (and some people are), but other people (the POOR) can still have the goods – because they can afford to buy goods made (much less expensively) by machines.

  • Kirk

    Stonyground said:

    There has been a more or less constant process of replacing human workers with machines and we can clearly see and analyse the results. I would suspect that it is low skilled people who have the most to worry about.

    Here would be the thing, though… Who, exactly, are these “low skilled people”?

    For the first time, the “low skilled” are no longer physical laborers like stevedores and ditch-diggers. Instead, it’s the clerks, the lesser “educated” types. This is unprecedented, and the question is, how are they going to handle it?

    One of the symptoms of an over-production of these types is the proliferation of unnecessary bureaucracy and hierarchy positions in everything we do. We simply don’t need all these parasites leaching off the body politic, and that’s exactly what they’ve been doing. DEI employees are simply the expression of all those over-educated (far past the level of their actual intelligence) “gender-studies” types who need employment. So, they created their own need, their own market…

    Healthy societies would not be doing these things. I don’t think the situation as it stands is at all tenable, in the long-term view. There has been a simultaneous over-production of lower-tier “intellectual workers” and serious under-production of tradesmen and actual productive worker types. When was the last time you heard of a kid signing up to be trained as a machinist…? Even with the tremendous changes to that industry through CAD/CAM, few are going into it. Local machine shops are shutting down, because there’s no pipeline of trained replacements coming in.

    It used to be that I could find a radiator repair shop, or one to do work on drivelines. Not any more; the last local radiator guy closed his doors about six years ago, and sold all of his equipment for scrap. Couldn’t find anyone to buy it, not because there was a lack of money in the business, but because there were zero skilled tradesmen around to do the work. He was making money hand over fist because he was the only guy around who could do the work. Same with the driveline guy, who sold up and the new owner couldn’t run the shop himself, not having the requisite skills. Also, couldn’t find anyone.

    Lots of these basic jobs are just evaporating, because there aren’t any young people going into them. They all want to be highly-paid office workers, with those college degrees that cost so much.

    The mentality is hollowing out our society, because the reality is that you can’t run a modern economy with just “knowledge workers” sitting at a terminal somewhere. You also have to have smart people doing things with their hands, and you can’t outsource that crap to India or China.

    The whole thing is just not going to work, over the long haul. Not the way we’re doing it…

  • Paul Marks

    By the way, mass production is not entirely new – for example the Roman Empire had it to-some-extent, and the more we study the Roman world the more mass production, for example powered by water power, we find.

    When the Roman Empire collapsed, partly because of the rise of statism (anyone who really thinks the Emperor Diocletian, and so on, were a good thing for the Roman world – is wildly wrong) – partly because of endless Civil Wars, everything from the distant factories, everything from weapons to pottery, stopped arriving – so the Germanic tribes with their village craftsmen were suddenly actually more advanced than the people they were fighting (for example in post Roman Britain).

    Always remember that the stuff from distant factories, or distant farms, can suddenly stop arriving – indeed (with the massive statism of today – pushing society towards collapse) this may (perhaps) happen again. Make sure that traditional skills survive in your community – your life, and the lives of your children may well depend upon the survival of these skills. The skills of producing food (traditional farming) and of making vital goods.

    Rebuilding advanced society, factories and so on, is a lot less difficult if you are not starving to death and if you have basic tools and an understanding of how to use them.

    A situation like that of Classical Rome or a modern American city, vast numbers of people dependent on government benefits and public services, and with no useful skills (certainly there were-and-are people in such cities with useful skills – but there are also very large numbers of people with no useful skills), is not a good one – indeed it is “an accident waiting to happen”.

    This is also quite a recent thing in modern society – for example American government “Food Stamps” date from 1961 – the year 1960 is hardly a different “historical age”.

    Vast numbers of people did not live on the streets of American cities in 1960. Nor were lunatics and drug addicts allowed to live on the streets and loot shops and attack people.

  • Kirk

    Stonyground said:

    On working smarter rather than harder. I watched a YouTube video about the heyday of the British motorcycle industry. There was a fair bit of footage of the interior of a motorcycle factory around late 1950s or early 1960s. The slow, leisurely and often slightly inept way that the bikes were being assembled was quite astonishing. There was a guy bolting on a front mudguard with a spanner. Two guys fitting a petrol tank while the front wheel kept flopping from side to side so that the handle bars kept getting in their way. When the bikes got to the end of the line they were being taken off with a hand cranked chain hoist rather that just wheeled down a ramp. The whole process appeared to be so horribly inefficient it was really no surprise when the Japanese wiped us out.

    The real reason the “…Japanese wiped us out.” has rather more to do with the general incompetency of British middle management, in my observation. They don’t listen to the factory floor workers, and things that would get solved by a Japanese manager in short order, just don’t get done in the British manufacturing culture.

    The products of UK industry are generally well-designed, and often very well-made. The problems are with the “detail execution”, things like packaging and shipping. I know for a damn fact that Perkins marine engines, which used to dominate the Persian Gulf market, no longer do any such thing. And, why? Simple: They are incompetent at supporting their product. I know this because I once spent a considerable chunk of time trying to acquire through the Perkins civilian dealership network parts for our bridge erection boats that the US Army couldn’t provide. Discovered why most of the parts weren’t available through the military, as well: They weren’t available from Perkins, period. Oh, they still made them, still catalogued them, but… The dealer in Kuwait sadly told us that the reality was that if he ordered the parts today, they would arrive in six months, likely be the wrong ones, would require multiple re-orders, and he couldn’t guarantee he could get a response out of Perkins to save his life… Despite having been one of Perkins biggest agents in the Middle East. He suggested that we consider moving to a Nissan Marine engine, because he could get those parts with ease, and they never, ever screwed up an order. Which was why he sold more of them than anything else… The service was excellent.

    Ran into the same issue with Mabey-Johnson. The Army bought a bridge system from them, for contingency operations. The contingency arose, we needed to pull the bridge out of storage. So, I got all of the 200 containers identified in the storage yards, and shipped them north, along with the floats. Now, I had had all of the documentation from Mabey-Johnson as to which container numbers I needed, and as a cross-check, they’d painted all of them. The spreadsheet was emphatically clear, which was a bit of a wonder to me… So much of what I’d been doing resembled a giant scavenger hunt, more than anything else. Minor issue arose once the Mabey-Johnson expert got on-scene, and they started erecting the bridge: Turns out, our “comprehensive” list of containers was… Incomplete. There were 25 more containers that I needed to find, which hadn’t been included in any of the manifests. Same ship brought them into Kuwait, mind you, but they’d never been manifested as US Army or Mabey-Johnson in the system, the way they were supposed to be. They also weren’t painted, just random containers from a multitude of different shipping firms… Once we had the numbers, it took a couple of days to go through everything and find them, then get them shipped north. The Mabey-Johnson rep was apologetic, telling me that the “…blokes on the shipping end just don’t care to get anything right…”

    I was running into this as far back as the 1970s. My stepdad ran an import auto repair shop. We got in a Land Rover that was built to North African specification, so the parts had to come direct from British Leyland in a lot of cases. Took so long, and had so many errors that the owner just gave him the damn thing instead of paying for the storage fees that built up, and I’ve still got a bunch of parts that came in for it erroneously that we’ve never been able to do anything with. British Leyland just told us to keep them and tried shipping out the right parts… Like, six times. No idea how the hell that worked, but I think we contributed in our small way towards driving them into bankruptcy.

    What’s killed British industry, in my observation, is the absolute horror of things like this. The products are well-made, well-designed, but the shipping and support suck beyond belief. And, that’s apparently due to the disconnect between shop floor and management; I’ve talked to some of the guys who worked in British industry, and they’d have horror show stories about petty rivalries, bosses that wouldn’t listen, and on and on. One guy was a production engineer with Dyson, and had been around for the transition to manufacture in Singapore. He said it drove him nuts, because one reason that they’d done it was because they were losing so much money on shipping/packaging of product. Moved it to Singapore, and everyone sang the praises of the factories and workers, but… The deal was that when the workers doing the packaging in Singapore complained about poor design of the packaging, they got listened to. And, changes got made.

    He had personally observed workers in the UK make the same complaints, with many of the same suggestions, only to get roundly ignored. Which had predictable effects on employee morale, and all the rest of the follow-on effects. He blamed the middle-management that basically told the employees that they weren’t much more than organic machinery, and to suck it up rather than improve workflow processes. My informant later went to work in several the Japanese auto manufacturer plants built on the wreckage of British Leyland, and described much the same thing going on: Same basic Englishmen doing the work, but the big difference was the management would actually listen to the workers and empowered them to change things. Couple of the Japanese engineers he worked with were of the opinion that the workers they were dealing with were largely behaving like long-term prisoners, with something of a Stockholm Syndrome thing going on… They were apathetic, and did not take the Japanese managers seriously when they were told to make product/production improvement suggestions. It was, they said, like coming in after a hostage situation…

    I’d suggest that a lot of the problems with British industry are cultural, and not at all related to industrial skills or potential. The problem is with the management.

    Interesting case study with the guy who started Hesco, for a look at what an empowered low-level guy can contribute to the world. It’s too damn bad his success enabled him to buy into that whole Segway scam, but there you are for a contrast: Hesco Bastions are in use around the world, valuable additions to the world of civil engineering. Segway, developed by one the most hailed geniuses of our time, turned into a bit of a non-starter. Genius ain’t always all that it’s cracked up to be…

  • Stonyground

    The piss poor management, especially at BSA Triumph and AMC is a whole other subject.

  • Paul Marks

    Kirk and Stonyground – two basic things undermined British industry (for example motor cycles) and lack of skill was NOT one of these two things. There was also a third factor I will deal with at the end.

    Taxes were very high – both to fund very high government spending (the Japanese Welfare State did not really cost a lot till the 1970s – in Britain it was the late 1940s) and out of SPITE – yes SPITE. For example, in some years tax on people who invested in industry could be over 90% in Britain – if you invested and lost, the government did not care, but if you invested successfully, the government took 90% of your profit, no surprise that industrial investment collapsed.

    The other factor was trade unions – or rather the power given to them by such Acts as that of 1906 (but there were a whole series of Acts of Parliament – creating what W.H. Hutt called “The Strike Threat System” in Britain – strikes were often not necessary, as the very threat of them would make British management collapse, as British managers knew the law was against them).

    There was no point in a talented person going into management in British industry – as the unions (backed by the government) would not let you effectively run the business. So second rate people (who did not care that they were not really in charge) went into management.

    Add to that nationalisation (a third factor) rather than families owning industrial companies (as in Germany – although Germany is now changing for the worse due to inheritance tax) – in Britain it was either corporations with shares owned by institutions (because they paid less tax than individuals and families) or the state – as with the infamous British Leyland.

    British Leyland was state owned and union dominated.

  • Kirk

    @Paul Marks,

    It’s a major irony how often the “humanitarian” leftoids manage to screw over the average person with their “efforts” on the supposed behalf of the downtrodden…

    Frankly, I think we’d do better without any of the “effort”.

  • NickM

    I’ll see your British Leyland… And raise you The Brabazon Committee

    Note that isn’t nationalisation as such but it is government directing private industries. Which is facism, really. Odd thing for a British government in the circumstances of 1942!

  • NickM

    Karl Marx – “Workers of the World Unite” – never had a job of any description. When one of his kids died his wife had to beg money off friends, relatives and acquaintances to buy a coffin…

  • Roué le Jour

    I assume all the useless managers went to work for the government when their industries went abroad, given that they are following the same strategy of outsourcing their jobs to foreigners.

  • Y. Knott

    “The “assumption” is doing a lot of heavy lifting.”

    I agree with you completely, Roué, but I do have to point out… Back in the day, when universal welfare (or to be honest about it, the dreaded “Universal Basic Income”) was not an option because no government offered it, surplus labour had no choice but to find other work or starve. I would like to see a much more comprehensive re-training effort provided for surplus’d workers, and one of the reasons I agree with your stance is that such an effort would have to be directed by the government and funded by our tax dollars – and there are unending examples of what the result would be. But I do have to insert an ironic anecdote from 100+ years ago, to show where thinking in the opposite direction has occasionally led.

    It concerns a bit of badinage between two society leaders at ~the dawn of the 20th Century – and most of my ‘facts’ are very watery, I don’t even remember where I read this. St John’s, Newfoundland that morning saw a crowd of citizens standing about, watching the first steam shovel on the island at work digging the foundations of the Newfoundland Hotel. One of them was of more-than-usually doleful mien; he was the leader of the local labour union, and he took the opportunity to grouse at one of the plutocrats involved with the hotel, “You could have a hundred men with shovels doing that!”

    To which the plutocrat replied, “Why not a thousand men with teaspoons?”

  • Paul Marks

    Kirk – I used to think that the left wanted to improve the standards of life of ordinary people, but were just mistaken about how to do it. Sadly now it is obvious that they do NOT want to improve the standard of life of ordinary people, they want to make the standard of life of ordinary people much worse – so, therefore, the terrible policies that the left support (which are destroying New York City and so much else of the Western World) make sense – from the cruel and destructive leftist point of view.


    Interesting that in 1942 the British establishment still thought the British Empire was going to survive.

    As for their belief in statism – such weird beliefs seem to have started with a few nutters such as Lord Stanley (later the Earl of Derby and, with Disraeli, leader of the Tory Party) as far back as 1831 (the Irish state education system was established on a whim of Lord Stanley – and he was not even in government at the time). And then spread to other people and got madder and madder over time. Although in England and Wales government only started to increase in size and scope (in relation to Civil Society) in the 1870s.

    Today (in modern times) establishment often comes up with “policy” and elected politicians often have to dance to the tune of this demented “policy” (the system is set up in such a way that “policy” just smothers a person – all the “briefings” and “training sessions” that even local councillors are subject to, are saturated with ideological assumptions that one is not really allowed to oppose) – or they get smeared and forced out of office, as Prime Minister Liz Truss was – just last Saturday, whilst canvassing, I came upon someone who still believed the Bank of England and media propaganda that Liz Truss “crashed the economy” – “brainwashing”, indoctrination, really works with some people – and they stay stuck in it, even years later.

  • Paul Marks

    To those who do not know….

    The British Empire did not make Britain rich – it was the other way round, Britain had an empire because Britain was rich.

    By the late 1940s Britain could no longer be described, in any way, as a free economy – it therefore became a second rate manufacturing power (no longer the “workshop of the world”) so the British Empire collapsed.

    Even in the 1930s British industry was (contrary to what is often claimed) NOT really behind that of other most other major powers – for example, per man, British industry was still more efficient than German industry (yes – it really was). This was because the British economy was still partly sane – still partly free.

    Sadly after World War II the United Kingdom fell behind other powers – in, say, 1950 comparing the United Kingdom to America, or to Japan or to Germany or Italy, one is struck by just how much more Unfree the British economy was – how much more state dominated, in terms of taxes, government spending, regulations, and even state ownership.

  • NickM

    Many years ago I was a temp in Newcastle. One job I got from the agency was at the RPA (Rural Payments Agency) which was a farce beyond comprehension. The offices were located where Lord Armstrong once had a factory. I think that says a lot. As I sat at my computer in the office the thought occurred to me that adminstering the “Beef Special Premium Scheme” (BSP) actually took more time per cow than the abatoir did. I’m glad (in a way) I worked jobs for the government (in the NE there are a lot of government offices) because it gave me an insight into how bloody stupid it all is. I’m very glad I did it as a temp. No way I’d do that as a career.

    Go to a supermarket of your choice. Buy a steak, or some mince, whatever! And know that yes, the farmer was paid, the slaughterman was paid and the butchers, the logistics and the retailers but also know it also paid daft buggers like me doing pointless paperwork for the sake of it.

    I think I was on about 12 quid an hour. That’s temp rates so the government was charged about twice that. For doing nothing useful I was a major cost factor in the supply of food.

    Oh, and the farmers were gaming the system (of course they were! I would, so would you because if the system is utterly bent then why not?) How? Well the BSP paid farmers 20 quid per head of beef cattle. How did they count the cows? They sent someone round with a clipboard. Now imagine the snug of the Dog and Duck somewhere in Herefordshire. Farmer Smith is having a pint with his neighbour Farmer Jones. The inspectors are coming to audit next week but on different days. Now both Smith and Jones have 200 cows each. Tactical moving of the cattle means they can both can claim for 400 cows. The Man from the Ministery doesn’t know one Holstein from another. The Man from DEFRA probably doesn’t even care. He’s ticked his boxes and next week he’ll be in Warwickshire doing the same. Of course Farmers Smith and Jones know farmers Palmer and Cooper in Warwickshire so… Well, it’s not a plan that needs a Moriarty behind it is it? Is it fraud? Technically, yes. Morally? I dunno. If you defraud an intrinsically corrupt system I’d say that isn’t quite as black and white as a Holstein cow.

  • Jim

    “I’d suggest that a lot of the problems with British industry are cultural, and not at all related to industrial skills or potential. The problem is with the management.”

    I’d suggest that the problem of which you speak of is the same one that has resulted in the UK suffering the Post Office scandal and the Infected Blood Scandal (and many others, usually NHS related). I was going to say that it is a class thing, the managerial class being different to the shop floor working class, and thus refusing to accept that their social inferiors could actually be right about something, but I think while that may have been the case 50+ years ago, its not true today. But I think the mindset is the same, just for rather different reasons.

    I personally think the attitude that is responsible is a sort of impostor syndrome – in post war Britain those in management were there largely because of their class rather than on merit and thus knew they were on shaky ground when it came to knowledge and skills to do the job. If confronted with a clever suggestion from the shop floor far better to rubbish it and maintain your position of authority, rather than admit it was better than your ideas, and demonstrate fallibility.

    And the same goes for todays public ‘servants’. They know they aren’t there on merit, mainly because they’ve arse licked their way to the top on the back of BS, the right connections and the ability to espouse ‘right on’ attitudes, so again its a case of never wanting to admit fallibility when faced with someone pointing out an error, because where does that end? With them being shown up as a complete fraud of course. And its cumulative – admitting error once makes it far harder to deny it a second or third time. Far better to front it out, deny everything. 99 times out of a hundred you’ll get away with it. Only very occasionally after decades of dogged effort by some poor bugger who has been terribly wronged, or maybe by a very honest and tenacious journalist, does the truth come out, as we are seeing in the UK today.

    Different underlying reasons for the attitude, but the attitude is the same – I’ve ended up in charge despite having no true qualification to be here, so I better never admit anyone else knows more about the matter at hand than I do, and stamp hard on anyone who attempts to expose my feet of clay.

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