back to article It's the white heat of the tech revolution, again!

It's more normally Mr Orlowski around here shouting that Mariana Mazzucato is a poopyhead, but given that she's just been appointed to Corbyn's economic advisory team, perhaps it's time to add to the chorus? For Mazzucato is, as we all know, the economics professor who insists that actually government really invented the …

  1. AndrueC Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Markets do work, even if we have to tip or slap them a bit sometimes.. The reason they work is because we just don't know. We just don't know which new technologies will work, what unmet desires humans have or what the societal utility function is.

    Ah but there's ya problem. Socialists think they do know.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Socialists think they do know

      I hate to rain BBC pinkishness on your polemic, but it's not just socialists.

      1. Ossi

        Re: Socialists think they do know

        Not quite the same thing, is it? This is research funding, not industrial policy.

  2. DaveDaveDave

    I still can't work it out...

    Are Corbynites actually so ignorant that they don't recognise Corbyn's policies, or are they all winking at each other about the camouflage?

    "A strategic state works in partnership with businesses, entrepreneurs and workers to stimulate growth."

    That is one of the most concise summaries of fascist economics that I've ever seen.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I still can't work it out...

      All it's saying is that companies and other people don't operate optimally, so government should actively encourage more optimal operation.

      That's not Fascism, it's sophism.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: I still can't work it out...

        "All it's saying is that companies and other people don't operate optimally, so government should actively encourage more optimal operation."

        That assumes they can work out what would be optimal so as to encourage it. There's always a snag somewhere, usually between theory and practice.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: I still can't work it out...

          Companies all operate optimally for themselves but governments are supposed to optomise for everyone.

          So the National Enterprise Board funded the development of the Transputer to try and develop a new type of CPU that would be useful and break the monopoly of a certain US chip maker.

          Thatcher then closed down the NEB and sold the chip to a French company who operated optomally by closing it down. In the same way that the same US chip maker would do if it were allowed to buy ARM - another result of the socialist BBC interference in the IT industry.

      2. DaveDaveDave

        Re: I still can't work it out...

        "All it's saying is..."

        Yes, but you're ignoring the implications. Corbyn didn't say the state should be creating conditions in which other actors can thrive, but that it should be taking a stake, an active role, in controlling those actors' choices. That's fascism in a nutshell.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I still can't work it out...

          No, I'm not. Partnership means being active, but it also means responding to the partner.

          The fundamental point is that unless there's a government somewhere I don't know about that's _actually_ laissez-faire it's typical empty political rhetoric.

    2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: I still can't work it out...

      > Are Corbynites actually so ignorant that they don't recognise Corbyn's policies, or are they all winking at each other about the camouflage?

      It is interesting that a few weeks ago, the One Show sent Giles Brandreth out on the streets. He stopped random passers by and asked "are you in favour of <something or other> ?" The various things included such things as "a fully funded NHS" IIRC.

      Of course, if you just ask people "do you support a fully funded NHS ?" then the answer is probably yes - as long as you don't prompt them to think about where the money comes from.

      Needless to say, most people were in favour of the "policies" being asked about - and so were shocked to be labelled as a "closet socialist".

      But that's the problem. Few think it's a bad idea to have a well funded NHS. But rather more will have doubts once the "and are you prepared to pay for it ?' bit comes along. We'd all like well funded local services, a fully funded NHS, massive pay rises, a posh car on the drive (and another one for SWMBO), and of course the big house with a big enough drive for multiple cars, and ...

      But, once you ask someone "are you prpared to pay for it ?" then suddenly I think you'll find the answers change. It seems to be standard Labour policy to promise all sorts of stuff, and also promise that "the rich" will pay for it through punitive taxation.

      I think this latter method has been seen to be crap before (hasn't Tim Worstall covered it ?) because if you try and screw the rich too much - then they'll just up and leave and you'll find out that you're worse off !

      Or you keep screwing around with the hidden taxes (as Gordon Brown was a master) until the "middle classes" suddenly realise they've been screwed over - inheritance tax on a far from lavish "middle England" family home anyone ?

      Not that Labour are the only ones doing crass things. The last budget saw an attack on private landlords that will put rents up for tenants - and that's supposed to be a benefit for people who rent ?

  3. dogged

    I miss Wolfie Smith :(

    I think it's the first TV show I actually remember.

    1. ToadOfToadHall

      Woflie Smith

      The main problem I have with this article is the way it equates Corbyn with the Tooting revolutionary... Comrade Wolfie would never have compromised with The System to the extent of joining the Labour Party! Or, indeed, putting forward a programme for managing capitalism (or anything else) more efficiently.

      Power to the People!

      Freedom for Tooting!

  4. Amorous Cowherder
    Thumb Up

    Smiffy!

    Thumbs up for just using a picture of one of Robert Lindsey's greatest roles ( other than in Nightingales! )!

    1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

      Re: Smiffy!

      His other great role was in GBH, where he played a Derek Hatton-like character running a major city. Glad the labour party have turned away from those populist socialist characters eh ;)

  5. graeme leggett

    Changing goal posts

    The "White Heat of technology" should have been good for one British area - aircraft. But that didn't turn out well due to other factors.

    Britain had a host of military aircraft under development but the realization that guided weapons (both short range anti-aircraft, and long range intercontinental) put the kybosh on most of them. While probably good that the projects were dropped before they became a burden, they had already soaked up lots of the governments development cash. And then there was the lack of subsequent successor projects. Result, all those individual - in theory competing - aircraft companies ended up as first a few then one company squashing that entrepreneurial spirit?

    And on the civil front, Britain had the edge with the jet. You might think a quick trip to Malaga in a Ryanair bus is "a bit noisy and why can't they make it quieter", but pre-jet all planes (to put it simply) vibrated to add to the propwash battering the hull. Your surprisingly pricey bottle of water would have pirouetted off the edge of your fold-down tray before you crossed the Channel. Skipping past the dH Comet, Concorde promised swift journey across the Pond. So swift you would put up with the claustrophobic cabin dimensions (I digress but in 1945, it was thought that for Atlantic travel, the passenger would require heroic amounts of cabin space, and room to perambulate, so they could endure the long hours in the air - Bristol Brabazon) . In practice, the long-haul winner was the 747, just enough room that the passengers would not feel cramped, while just fast enough that the journey in that space was not an endurance. For other civil aircraft with the target market being the state airline - foreign sales a bonus, solely British civil aircraft development tapered off.

    So if a possible Labour government hands out the investment cash, but then has to choke it off because they decided they backed the wrong horses, or set them the wrong targets, could we see similar?

    [Obviously the whole British aircraft scene, the interplay between state development targets, politicians of each hue, engine companies and airframe companies is rather more complex than my outline above. In fact, I've probably omitted something that actually invalidates my theme.]

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Changing goal posts

      The Harrier jet was a success story. The last Government sold our remaining squadrons' Harriers as spares to our friends across the pond. Then they realised that they won't have an aircraft that can use the two new aircraft carriers ordered under teh previous Government - or at least for a few years after they are scheduled to be completed.

      The current Government invested £3m pounds in the charity "Kids Company" - apparently against the advice of the Civil Service department. A week later the charity folded.

      1. The First Dave Silver badge

        Re: Changing goal posts

        The main reason that "Kids Company" ( a REALLY stupid name for any charity ) failed was because the final Gov investment was withheld ...

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: Changing goal posts

          "The main reason that "Kids Company" ( a REALLY stupid name for any charity ) failed was because the final Gov investment was withheld ..."

          So you mean it failed because the government didn't hand them even more cash?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Changing goal posts

        The Harrier jet was a success story.

        If success is creating a remarkable (and fabulously noisy) aircraft, then yes. But as a practical proposition VTOL and even STOL airframes are complicated, technically challenging, have very high costs in fuel, design weight and capability, and high accident rates. For those rare occasions you need a moderately fast jet to take off from a container ship carrying a tiny weapons load and limited fuel, the Harrier was the answer. For everything else VTOL is always inferior to the runway launched. The vast cost and many problems of the F35B show this. And that's why the USN opted (as should the bunglers of Westminster) for the F35C.

        I love the Harrier, I've worked for MoD, I was born on and brought up on RAF stations, but let's be clear that just because you can do something doesn't make it a good idea.

        1. Chris Miller

          Re: Changing goal posts

          that's why the USN opted (as should the bunglers of Westminster) for the F35C

          As Lewis Page can explain better than I, our new mini- (but maxi-priced) carriers aren't big enough to fly F35Cs from them without catapults, which they weren't fitted with because they're not nuclear powered.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Changing goal posts

            our new mini- (but maxi-priced) carriers aren't big enough to fly F35Cs from them without catapults, which they weren't fitted with because they're not nuclear powered.

            The whole design concept for the two new RN aircraft-crappiers was misbegotten. Notwithstanding the cost overuns and problems the Yanks are having with the Ford class carriers, we'd still have been better joining the queue to buy two of those, given that the out-turn costs for our new carriers will undoubtedly be in double digit billions each. That way at least we'd have a decent asset (if we have to have carriers at all), and they'd be a standardised asset between us and the US.

            Too late now. The cretins under Gordon Brown signed the country up for the rubbish we're getting purely in a wasted attempt to buy votes in the arse end of Glasgow. Corbyn must admire Brown sooooo much.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Changing goal posts

      "And on the civil front, Britain had the edge with the jet. You might think a quick trip to Malaga in a Ryanair bus is "a bit noisy and why can't they make it quieter", but pre-jet all planes (to put it simply) vibrated to add to the propwash battering the hull."

      And those rear engined jets such as the BAC 1-11 seemed a good deal quieter, at least for passengers, then the engine on the wings variety.

  6. Joe Harrison

    Because things are so great right now

    The global economy is in a fine mess. Trillions wiped off stock markets, central banks' money-printing completely out of control, ridiculous bubbles across asset classes such as property, oil wars, commodity crashes, you name it. Also not a day goes by without a banker somewhere accused of trashing the rulebook even harder than yesterday.

    Governments got us here, shall we have even more of the same or something new?

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: Because things are so great right now

      more of the same or something new?

      Please spell it out. Is there really some new form of government that hasn't already been tried? (With results ranging from poor to absolutely hellishly terrible)

      "Democracy is the worst form of government, apart from all the others".

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: Because things are so great right now

        Actually maybe there is something that's never been tried. A rational form of libertarianism. Government, not anarchy, but as little of it as possible consistent with not arriving at anarchy.

        Very hard to see how you could get there let alone maintain "as little as possible". Those who have power, don't want to give it up, and sooner or later want more of it. Democracy lets you boot them out when they become corrupt, but whoever you replace them with install themselves in all the old niches and continue expanding them.

      2. Fraggle850

        @Nigel 1 Re: Because things are so great right now

        Democracy does seem to be a reasonable solution, it would be nice if someone came up with a version that actually works.

        Democracy, certainly as it exists in Britain today, has significant room for improvement. We shouldn't view it as a fixed thing. The speed of communication today is somewhat faster than it was when our parliamentary system was laid down, it's well overdue an upgrade.

  7. codejunky Silver badge

    Ha

    "Government’s role is to provide the opportunity for massive advances in technology, skills and organisational change that will drive up productivity, create new innovative products and new markets."

    Isnt that called getting out of the way? Taking as little as possible to provide the base services to the protection of the population?

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    The white heat of the technological revolution

    Followed shortly by "What's one of the most technologically advanced jobs we've got on the stocks? TSR2? Cancel it."

    Along with the pound in your pocket speech it made Wilson one of the masters of Yes Minister's principle of getting rid of the difficult bit in the title.

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: The white heat of the technological revolution

      TSR-2 is an example of not being able to pick the best time to cancel. Production of airframes nearly under way, most of the hard work done but little to show for it.

      Compounded by the "cheaper" replacement programme not being cheaper. The F-111K, cancelled when the development aircraft were under production at General Dynamics because of the fall of Sterling against US dollar, together with changes in the East of Suez policy.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The biggest advantage of govt research projects is the experience gained by scientists and engineers who go on to commercialise technologies when the govt project implodes. BTDT....

  10. Downside

    Hmm government funded research

    So the many millions we give THALES and BAE to spin up brit designed robo ships and drones, which they then sell to the rest of the world ... surely we tax-payers deserve a slice of that?

    Truth is we already spend a fortune of funding the private sector to inefficiently and expensively do jobs for us.

    I'd invest in University and colleges developing rapid-cycle (aka agile) teams that could bid for work offered out by private co's. Colleges would get interesting projects to work on, learn how to apply their knowledge to commercial ends, turn out useful employable students - companies would get (effectively) cheap consultancy, govt would fund it and take a slice of the profits from patents.

    1. dotdavid

      Re: Hmm government funded research

      "Colleges would get interesting projects to work on, learn how to apply their knowledge to commercial ends"

      So private companies would receive the fruits of the labour of classes of students learning on the job? Well at least it would be cheap...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ICL

    "True, we did get Concorde out of it, along with British Leyland, Triumph Motorcycles and so on, [...]"

    Don't forget International Computers Limited (ICL). That company went on to be an innovator in many things now taken for granted. Things like: video entertainment on demand; the OPD personal computer with in-built communications on every desk; packet switching networks (with the still non-privatised BT); the VME O/S designed to be secure.

    Unfortunately they were ahead of their times in most of these things - which did not catch on for many more years.

    1. captain veg

      Re: ICL

      Er, Triumph Motorcycles? It was poor management and investment-averse shareholders that did for them (see Hopwood, 1981). It was never nationalised.

      The current Hinckley-based Triumph is an altogether different affair. Unconcerned by notions of share price or shareholder value, it is a fantastic success.

      -A.

      1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

        Re: ICL

        "Triumph" - I have one, a sensibly engineered mid life crisis with great vroom

        1. Fraggle850

          Re: ICL

          I also have one and was somewhat dismayed when I took the gearbox sprocket cover off for a chain and sprocket change. The sump is open behind the sprocket cover and all the oil pissed out. Had gb sprocket covers off a number of (jap) bikes over the years and have never seen this. From an engineering design perspective I'd say that is bad.

          Mind you it goes well and makes a lovely noise. Also looks quite pretty too.

      2. Tim Worstal

        Re: ICL

        My original was Meriden. Subs changed it to Triumph as more would know the name....

        1. Fraggle850
          Pint

          Re: ICL

          Ah, a 'proper' British bike! I'll raise a pint to you for that. Mines a hinckley job, water cooled triple (at least it's old enough to still have carburettors)

    2. NeilPost Bronze badge

      Re: ICL

      ICL OPD, you mustg be joking. A hastily rebadged Sinclair QL, with some ancient BT comms slapped on it, that was a pile of crap. It was even more in the face of the snowballing PC reveolution than the largely successful BBC Micro.

      The realy success of recent UK IT was ARM, which evolved out of Acorn Computers and the BBC Micro project. Now powering more devices than Intel by a vast margin.

  12. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Government’s role is to provide the opportunity for massive advances in technology [..]

    Um, no.

    Government's role is to ensure that its citizens are safe from attack (and unjust prejudice), are adequately educated, do not drop of hunger or rampant disease, and have access to infrastructure that is adequate for the load it is subject to.

    Anything else is mostly a justification that Government has too much money to play with, and should pare down the taxes to leave research institutes and corporations to care for technological advances. Those entities are more engaged in advancing things since they intend to profit from it, profit that Government will skim the top off of in order to ensure funding for the required infrastructure.

    Government's work is already cut out for it, no need to go adding more things which will only serve as troughs for the few to put their snouts in.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Government’s role is to provide the opportunity for massive advances in technology [..]

      "Anything else is mostly a justification that Government has too much money to play with, and should pare down the taxes to leave research institutes and corporations to care for technological advances."

      Largely I agree, but where do those research institutes go to get funded if not to the government?

      It's reasonable that the government should do those things which we can do better together than separately e.g. a public fire service rather than separate ones funded by insurance companies. But that's much less than big government enthusiasts think but more than small-staters want.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Government’s role is to provide the opportunity for massive advances in technology [..]

      Government's work is already cut out for it,

      So you and I think. The unfortunate thing is that the leader of Her Majesty's Opposition* has now got five years of normalising the idea that the state can and should spend even more of my money on doing things that evidence proves it can't even regulate. People of my generation** remember the appalling indifferent service of nationalised industries (still available today from BT), remember that the crooks and incompetents of the Labour party had to be bailed out by the IMF because they bankrupted the country, remember the indulgence of lazy, bolshy unions producing third rate cars only when they could be bothered, remember sitting in the dark because the state owned electricity sector was on strike.

      But by the next election more two generations of voters will have joined the electorate who don't know any of that. They'll just have seen that nice Mr Corbyn repeatedly telling them that there is a free, well cooked lunch on offer, paid for by other people. If he gets in, we'll be reduced to the economic and political status, of, well.......France.

      * In more than one sense.

      ** Owld and grizzled. And particularly grizzly.

      1. Esme

        Re: Government’s role is to provide the opportunity for massive advances in technology [..]

        @Ledswinger - yep, I remember all that. I also remember how much easier it was to deal with anything relating to electricity (or gas) supply, none of this supply company blaming the metering company blaming the meter-reading company malarkey. I also remember when BT was privatised and the cost of a phone call doubling overnight. If I got on a train to a given destination, I didn't have to worry who owned the train, and if there was a problem with the service I complained to national Railways, rather than operator blaming the people that own the tracks or the stations etc.

        I remember how exciting the future for computing looked, and wondered if one day I'd be able to carry a pocket computer around with me, and maybe have a radiophone. Well, nowadays, I COULD have both in one device, but modern "smartphones" are so lumbered down with crap and so completely under the control of mobile phone companies that I don;t want one. I also remember a Health Service that worked tolerably well, and certainly better than the current one does, despite right-wingers chipping away at it and privatisng it bit by little bit for decades.

        I also remember a strongly Conservative government thumping on about nationalism (which I didn't and don't have a problem with) whilst simultaneously selling off every national asset they could, for no discernible benefit to the average UK citizen, and apparently failing to see the irony therein.

        I'm now fairly firmly in the 'the trouble with politics is that no matter whom you vote for, the damned politicians get in' camp. I was contemplating voting purely on the quality of the indiviuals presented us locally at the next election, rather than on party lines, or even not voting at all (for the first time in my life) because the choice appeared to be between the tories, the tories light, the other tories light, the Greens, and UKIP. If nothing else, Corbyns lot (and I don;t as yet know what to make of 'em) will present us with something different to consider, and arguing between them and Camerons lot should at least create some interesting debate rather than lots of 'dont; vote for them vite for us, 'cause we're different, honest!' between parties which weren't substantially different at all.

        Whether it be triumph, tragedy or farce, politics as theatre might just make it more interesting to more voters than the insomnia-curing politics of the last decade or two. And that wouldn't be a bad thing.

        Right, off me soapbox and back to the lab for me! 8-}

        1. DaveDaveDave

          Re: Government’s role is to provide the opportunity for massive advances in technology [..]

          You can have an opinion on service quality of trains, utilities, etc, but the outcomes the NHS generates are matters of fact, not opinion, and you're not remembering accurately. Not that it's been privatised or cut anyway, but outcomes have massively improved even since the eighties - although of course the same is true for non-NHS medical care too.

          "If nothing else, Corbyns lot (and I don;t as yet know what to make of 'em) will present us with something different to consider"

          But it's not a new 'something different', just something so vile that we rejected it about 75 years ago, then fought a world war against it. I really don't see any merit in rediscussing 'the Jewish Question'. Corbynism is very simple, really: there is a magic money tree, and currently 'the Jooz' steal its fruit; if we, ahem, finally solve that problem, we can share the money around and everything will be rainbows and moonbeams and kittens.

          1. Fraggle850

            Re: Government’s role is to provide the opportunity for massive advances in technology [..]

            I think it's a little unfair to conflate Corbyn-flavoured democratic socialism with the nazis. He may struggle to say the word Israel due to his (to my mind errored) cosying up with radical Islamic elements that thrive off the suffering of the people of Palestine but that is a separate issue to the economy of the UK. I'm not aware of him having stated that Jewish people are responsible for our economic and social woes (please feel free to link to a quote to the contrary if I'm mistaken).

            I don't trust politicians full stop and am happy to take the piss out of them (hell, they've been taking the piss out of us for years) but the nazi thing is a bit of a stretch.

            1. DaveDaveDave

              Re: Government’s role is to provide the opportunity for massive advances in technology [..]

              "I'm not aware of him having stated that Jewish people are responsible for our economic and social woes (please feel free to link to a quote to the contrary if I'm mistaken)."

              That's the underlying principle of Corbynomics. Corbyn dances around the edge of acceptability in terms of language - he doesn't come right out and say it's 'the jooz', but simply uses codewords and allusions. It's all straight out of the Protocols/The International Jew, apart from the one word missing.

              Of course, you can excuse away each of Corbyn's actions individually, but looked at as a whole this is a man who has supported and funded Holocaust denial for decades, associated closely with leading neo-Nazis and other assorted antisemites, criticised Israel in a manner that even his supporters have to admit is unbalanced, stated his belief in conspiracy theories about 9/11 and the NWO, and who now expects us to believe that the thinly veiled antisemitic conspiracy theory he's currently wielding is truly just directed at 'bankers'. Given his track record as a flagrant liar*, it's ridiculous to suggest that there's any doubt left about what he's really about.

              *Everything from the lies about 'bankers' stealing hundreds of billions in QE, to the ones about how he doesn't claim expenses (while in fact he's actually fiddling them), to the ones about how he isn't a multi-millionaire fraud.

              "I don't trust politicians full stop and am happy to take the piss out of them (hell, they've been taking the piss out of us for years) but the nazi thing is a bit of a stretch."

              If only it were. I don't like the political class generally, but Corbyn's so vile that he makes Cameron and Blair look like an attractive option. It's not a stretch at all to point out that being in favour of a Fascist, socialist state built on antisemitic lies has a name, and that name is undoubtedly Nazism.

              1. Fraggle850

                Re: Government’s role is to provide the opportunity for massive advances in technology [..]

                I'll bear your comments in mind when I'm reading anything he says but I still think it a little far fetched.

                Who are these neo nazis he hangs around with? I've not heard about that.

              2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
                Black Helicopters

                Re: Government’s role is to provide the opportunity for massive advances in technology [..]

                So, still no actual, y'know, actual evidence for any of your claims, I notice.

          2. Esme

            Re: Government’s role is to provide the opportunity for massive advances in technology [..]

            @DaveDaveDave

            I didn;t say one durned thing about outcome with regard to the NHS. That isn;t, believe it or not, the only metric by which people judge it, although it is, of course, an important one. What I had in mind was that if I needed to see a GP, I could pretty much walk in and be seen that day wiithin a reasonable time. If I needed dental treatment it'd be sorted out in a timely manner.

            Contrast today, where you have to be extremely lucky to be seen same day by a GP. As for dentistry, I'm in a situation of needing two back molars removed. I was told that the dentist could try to pullthem, but there's a good chance they'd break, in which case I'd have to wait a couple of weeks for an appointment at a dental hospital. Not relishing the idea of possibly having to cope for a fortnight with broken teeth, I' asked if there were any other options. Yes, go private, I was told. So I asked how much, was told an amount I dould JUST afford, so I asked if this could be arranged. Three weeks later and I haven't even yet received an appointment for the consultant that I apprently have to see before I'm sent an appointment for the actual dentistry.

            I'm confident that the outcome will be fine - it's the process of getting to the outcome that I have issues with. I'm also highly critical of just about every governemnt there's been since I was a child for failing to manage public expectation of the NHS, as well as privatisation by stealth and the murdering of morale that's occurred within the NHS. (Not to mention the recent discovery that some folk hired from overseas may have been fibbing about their credientials - how in hell is it that they don't have adequate checks about the competence of those they employ?!)

            Also, I should perhaps have stated more clearly - I havent; heard enough about Corbyn's lot because Life (TM) has been taking up too much of my time to pay close attention to politics. But my point stands - if Corbyn & co are coming out with unpleasant crap, then it'll make them a good target of opportunity for the other parties. Debate will be had, and it'll make the point as to why unpleasant crap shouldn;t be implemented. If they come up with good ideas, the other parties would have to justify why NOT to do them.

            Contrast with the last couple of decades where it's been nigh on impossible to tell parties apart in practice, causing a worrying decline in public engagement with politics. In short - Corbyn's lot simply being radically different to Camerons is, IMO No Bad Thing because it may produce more lively debate. It;d be even better if they happen to know what they;re talking about and have some good ideas, but this is politicians we're talking about here, I don;t hold out too much hope.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Government’s role is @Esme

          I'm now fairly firmly in the 'the trouble with politics is that no matter whom you vote for, the damned politicians get in' camp.

          We both are. You may dislike that useless, blue-blood, effete, Etonian lightweight we have for a PM at the moment, but I assure you that your distaste is as nothing compared to the views of most traditional Conservatives.

          But I think the mistake you make is seeing Corbyn as different to either Farage or that Scotch woman. They're all representing people disaffected with the ghastly Yin and Yang of Labour/Liberal/Conservative parties who won't listen to their own constituencies, or the national mood.

          But anyway +1 for the soapboxing! Oi! Reg editors! It's about time we had a given supply of upvotes that we could choose how many to award per post.

          1. ParaHandy

            Re: Government’s role is @Esme

            A woman made of whisky? I gotta' see that!

      2. Naselus

        Re: Government’s role is to provide the opportunity for massive advances in technology [..]

        "remember the appalling indifferent service of nationalised industries (still available today from BT)"

        BT was privatized 31 years ago. Any problems you have with it now are pretty hard to blame on state ownership... and might be taken as an indication that actually, the private sector is just as incompetent and unhelpful as state ownership was, only with the added bonus that they want to skim a 30% profit margin on top.

        1. Ossi

          Re: Government’s role is to provide the opportunity for massive advances in technology [..]

          I think no one would argue that there aren't poorly run private businesses, and BT would be exhibit A, but at least now you can simply leave BT. Arguably, though, the way that BT was privatised as a regulated vertically integrated monopoly was the wrong approach, but somehow it still manages to hang on to Openreach. Is that a failure of private industry, or a failure of government?

          1. NeilPost Bronze badge

            Re: Government’s role is to provide the opportunity for massive advances in technology [..]

            Are British Gas, Vodafone, Tesco, Talk Talk, O2, 3, EE, Sky etc... really that much better ?

        2. NeilPost Bronze badge

          Re: Government’s role is to provide the opportunity for massive advances in technology [..]

          The Ofcom undertakings, aredirectly to blame for no0one being able to speak to the Openreach engineer.

  13. armyknife

    na

    A fine political hatchet job, Mr Worstall I congratulate you.

  14. Andy 73

    White heat..

    I believe you can trace the White Heat policies though to the Cambridge Phenomenon, which has begat a number of billion dollar companies. Not that I disagree with the general conclusions of the piece, but that indirect investment in centres of excellence... oh, hold on, those are universities aren't they?

  15. Bob Wheeler
    FAIL

    State directed funding?

    If I remember correctly (a big ask at times), there was an article here some time back about a British guy who had the idea of a iPod style device, some years before anyone else. He went to (presumably) the DTI who were to help start-ups/innovation etc., in getting new tech/ideas off the ground, and they totally stuffed him over because the civil servants did not have a scobbie-doo on what they were doing.

    So, yeah, more state directed funding, cos we all trust them....

    </sarcasm off>

    1. Tim Worstal

      Re: State directed funding?

      Yeah, the story's in the two Orlowski pieces linked in my piece......

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        @ Bob Wheeler

        Here you go.

        http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/12/13/uk_innovation_nesta_fentem/

        and

        http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/12/20/andrew_fentem_interview/

        Blanchflower, Murphy and Mad Mazzer remind me of Lessig. They've all created an alternative reality in their heads. Some (or much) of the time it's the polar opposite of the reality that isn't in their heads.

  16. jonathan keith Silver badge

    Corporate welfare

    I believe that phrase refers in part to the recent phenomenon of hugely profitable companies paying many* of their staff so little that those staff are only able to get by through receiving top-up benefits from the state.

    * Except for the senior executives. They're paid enough not to need state handouts. They also refuse to contribute to those benefits the state has to pay by "mitigating their tax liabilities". After all, it's only the little people who pay tax.

  17. bonkers

    Corbyn's broader and more useful aims?

    As ever, an interesting piece Mr. Worstall.

    What do you think of the other members of the "dream team" of economists? Surely you must be appreciative that someone, anyone, in politics is thoughtful enough to seek advice from your lot, and thus to avoid so many of the obvious pitfalls. (My opinion, fwiw is that the law of unintended consequences can betray them, but I can't tell you how.)

    Back on topic, sure governments are hopeless innovators, look at the technology in Brazil, the film, for inadmissible evidence.

    I don't think we're even below-par on innovation - kickstarter, self-publishing, crowdfunding et al have changed the innovation landscape far more than Corbyn ever will, for the better that is.

    He might want to address some more fundamental issues, like how to propel young bright minds out of eduacation-debt and into housing, before they're 30 and the edge has been ground off them.

    On that topic, do you have any suggestions as to how we might deflate the property market so it stops being a monster investment for those offshore and starts to serve those who need it?

    1. Tim Worstal

      Re: Corbyn's broader and more useful aims?

      "What do you think of the other members of the "dream team" of economists?"

      Danny Blanchflower has been consistently wrong about everything which is pretty good, even for a macroeconomist. Ann Pettifor believes in the magic money tree which is MMT (on which more in the weekend piece). The Russian sounding bird I know nothing about, Piketty is, well, Piketty and Stiglitz has done remarkable academic work (his Nobel entirely deserved) but that doesn't always carry over into his political pronouncements.

      Those last two are actually sane but I couldn't insist on that for the others.

      "do you have any suggestions as to how we might deflate the property market"

      Yes, issue more planning permissions. Houses are not expensive, land is not expensive, land with permissions to build upon is grossly expensive. It the planning that costs the cash therefore.

      Issue 2 million planning chitties and leave the rest to the market. Even better, repeal the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and succesors and don't replace it with anything at all.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Corbyn's broader and more useful aims?

        "repeal the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and succesors and don't replace it with anything at all"

        As long as building regulations control isn't repealed as well, and there is some sort of overview so that you don't get a ten-mile long road with houses filling both sides meaning it's impossible to develop the next bit of land out as there's nowhere to join on an access road.

        Rolling with your argument about big one-off decisions vs small multiple decisions, building needs regulating (the building itself, not the permission to do so) as it's one of those big rare decisions. You can't say: oh this house fell apart around my ears, I'll not buy another house from this company next time.

        1. DaveDaveDave

          Re: Corbyn's broader and more useful aims?

          "As long as building regulations control isn't repealed as well, and there is some sort of overview so that you don't get a ten-mile long road with houses filling both sides meaning it's impossible to develop the next bit of land out as there's nowhere to join on an access road."

          If there's enough to be worth developing, it's worth buying and demolishing a house to put in an access road.

          Similarly, while you can't say 'oh, I'll just buy a different brand of house next time', you can be aware of the experiences of others, what kind of certification and insurance the housebuilder offers, and so-on.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Corbyn's broader and more useful aims?

          "with houses filling both sides meaning it's impossible to develop the next bit of land out as there's nowhere to join on an access road."

          Part of a new estate's development can involve buying up existing houses to demolish for an access road. If it is considered an essential development then the local council can authorise a compulsory purchase.

          The important thing about planning permission is that, in theory, it stops someone building a tanning factory in the middle of a housing estate. It could also stop your neighbour covering the whole of their back garden with a 20 story block of apartments. That is however not guaranteed to be stopped.

      2. captain veg

        Re: Danny Blanchflower has been consistently wrong about everything

        He was right about QE.

        -A.

      3. Zog_but_not_the_first
        Stop

        Re: Corbyn's broader and more useful aims?

        "Even better, repeal the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and successors and don't replace it with anything at all."

        FFS Tim. You have been to the mid-west US haven't you?

        1. Tim Worstal

          Re: Corbyn's broader and more useful aims?

          Yep. Lovely place.

          As i pointed out over at the ASI this morning. Dallas and Houston between them issue more housing permits each year than the whole state of California.

          12 million people in Dallas/Houston (the whole areas, not just the cities), 39 million in CA. And population density in D/H is very much higher than CA.

          Median house price in Dallas is $150k. In CA, $400 k.

          Issuing more chitties works.

      4. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        Re: Corbyn's broader and more useful aims?

        Why not introduce Land Value Tax and let the land/property market sort itself out that way?

      5. BigFire

        Re: Corbyn's broader and more useful aims?

        Regarding housing and land development sort of bring to mind Guy Ritchie's last gangster film RocknRolla where this high end gangster makes his living doling out building permits through his thorough corruption of the planning board. Without these entities, how's a corrupted politician going to be able to afford that vacation house at the beach?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The value of Google

    "The value of Google is that we get to [give all our valuble data to] Google"

    What a load of shite you're talking.

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: The value of Google

      People don't remember pre-google any more, clearly.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: The value of Google

        "People don't remember pre-google any more, clearly."

        I was just thinking about AltaVista the other day. And Lycos, there was Lycos.

        1. Blank-Reg
          Thumb Up

          Re: The value of Google

          Lycos! I remember them and their free SMS feature. Pretty much the only reason I had to use Lycos!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The value of Google

          "I was just thinking about AltaVista the other day."

          There was also HotBoyHotBot.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The "white heat" speech

    Taking the politics out of this for a second, I was fascinated to read the transcript of the original speech where Harold Wilson starts talking about clock speeds of the computers of the age (page 2 - about 3 microseconds per cycle if you are interested).

    He also has a fair stab at explaining what a nanosecond is, because the next generation of machines would be 1000 times faster. Sounds like an early incarnation of Moore's Law to me.

    Who'd have thought there was a time when politicians explained grown-up concepts with the assumption that their audience weren't morons?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: The "white heat" speech

      >Who'd have thought there was a time when politicians explained grown-up concepts with the assumption that their audience weren't morons

      Further proof, if it were needed, that Harold Wilson was a KGB agent

  20. Kubla Cant Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Paraphrase

    "The white heat of the technological revolution" is actually a slight paraphrasing of the contents of Howard Wilson's 1 October, 1963 speech

    And "Howard Wilson" is actually a slight paraphrasing of Harold Wilson's name.

    1. Naselus

      Re: Paraphrase

      "And "Howard Wilson" is actually a slight paraphrasing of Harold Wilson's name."

      Glad someone else spotted that while we were being told we don't remember our history...

  21. Jim99

    Would Tim have rescued Rolls Royce in the seventies?

    I agree with the broad thrust of this article, but sometimes Whitehall DOES know best. For example, the government rescued Rolls Royce's aeroengines business in 1971, secured its new fanjet tech which forms the basis of most airliner engines today, and kept a big mainstay of British industry going. Was this wrong? Should we avoid rescuing future Rolls Royces (a gold mine) for fear we are actually rescuing future British Leylands (a money pit)?

    1. Tim Worstal

      Re: Would Tim have rescued Rolls Royce in the seventies?

      Interesting question. The actual reason RR went bust was this:

      " A side-effect of this affair was a change in accounting regulations to forbid the capitalisation of expenditure on research. This practice had resulted in Rolls-Royce massively overstating its assets, thus disguising its financial difficulties until it was too late to seek effective help."

      That's the sort of thing that nationalisation and or recapitalisation can solve. Making shite cars, a la BL, isn't.

      1. DaveDaveDave

        Re: Would Tim have rescued Rolls Royce in the seventies?

        "That's the sort of thing that nationalisation and or recapitalisation can solve. Making shite cars, a la BL, isn't."

        When it comes to BL, it's a notable example of government interference being the root of the problems. If they'd just kept their hands off, BL would have stood a fighting chance.

    2. graeme leggett

      Re: Would Tim have rescued Rolls Royce in the seventies?

      By 1971, RR was -if not the entirety - the vast majority of British aero-engineering.

      It was strategic and thus needed to be saved. And since the RB211 needed buyers - and the only buyer was the Tristar being made by the nearly bankrupt Lockheed, it was fortunate(!) that Lockheed was propped up by US gov as well.

      http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1971/may/10/rb211-engine

  22. lucki bstard

    '"Democracy is the worst form of government, apart from all the others"' - I really wish people would stop using this quotation. Most of human society has been governed under a non-democratic process and surprisingly it worked. This quotation is just a farcical little filler that sounds great as a sound bite but means as much a a politician's fart.

    And please, let not have the comments about the 5th Century BC Athenian democracy....

    1. graeme leggett

      "5th Century BC Athenian democracy"

      But it had ostracism! What could be better than a referendum on which politician or leading citizen you wanted to banish. Leaving immediately, do not pass Go, etc.

      1. lucki bstard

        Because 'referendum' implies a consensus of a public majority. Rather than the reality which was the result of a minority (you did realize an Athenian Citizen was a minority?). Again a good demonstration about how a soundbite can be used incorrectly by ignorance. Thanks for proving the point.

        1. graeme leggett

          Yes, I know the strict limits on Athenian citizenship, with a fair idea of how the foreigners (metics) contributed, how magistrates and other public roles were selected by lot. The meaning of eponymous archon. Deme, trittys, tribe. On a good day I can spell Aeropagus - the hill where the court of appeal met - properly.

          But one part to political power in Athens was knowing how to work the crowd. So sometimes you have to say something that appeals to the mass rather than it being absolutely, no-hint-of-a-qualifier-needed, accurate.

          [My apologies in describing my fellow commentards as base, lowly creatures. But vote for me and I promise you an amphora of olive oil apiece, a war won against Sparta, and a front row seat for the next Aristophanes "comedy" (no I don't laugh either, to be honest) ]

    2. DaveDaveDave

      "Democracy is the worst form of government, apart from all the others"'

      "'I really wish people would stop using this quotation. Most of human society has been governed under a non-democratic process and surprisingly it worked. "

      FSVO worked. Is crushing poverty, slavery, rigidly stratified society, and so-on a good thing?

      1. lucki bstard

        Re: "Democracy is the worst form of government, apart from all the others"'

        'FSVO worked. Is crushing poverty, slavery, rigidly stratified society, and so-on a good thing?'

        You mean it stopped? Or did it get re-branded?

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: "Democracy is the worst form of government, apart from all the others"'

          You have never, ever encountered crushing poverty.

          It simply does not exist anywhere in Europe.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Masturbatory self-aggrandizement

    It's easy to propose ideas at a party conference. Holidays for Grandma! Free puppies for all! Rather harder to govern. President Obama's "change we can believe in" rapidly became "change I can get done despite two wars that refuse to die down and a Republican party that refuses to accept a black man has won the White House".

    The problem as I see it is that government intervention invariably picks winners and losers instead of creating opportunities for innovation, most of which will fail. It's the market's job to harvest winners and cull losers. Governments help by tilling the ground: property and contract law, funding blue sky university research, and making access to capital easier (sensible bankruptcy laws, venture capital etc.) They get "paid" by the economic activity that results.

    An example of where govts go wrong is spending money too late in the innovation cycle. Spaffing $$ on a makers loft in Shoreditch is nonsense. Spending $$ to fund a project in how to make mobile phone glass is picking winners. Spending money to fund PhD students investigate lasers and foreign languages, and to teach them how to start a business, is money well spent. You get an educated population some of whom will go on to do great things.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Masturbatory self-aggrandizement

      "Governments help by tilling the ground: property and contract law"

      The UK government better make sure that foreign investors don't get to know that the UK government gives no truck to contract law, and tears up any contract it doesn't like, as it's doing right now with its contracts with doctors.

  24. Commswonk Silver badge

    Re: Corbyn's broader and more useful aims?

    Tim Worstal wrote: Houses are not expensive, land is not expensive, land with permissions to build upon is grossly expensive. It the planning that costs the cash therefore.

    I assume that you mean "houses are not expensive to build, which isn't quite the same thing.

    There is a plot of land adjacent to Commswonk Castle, smaller in area than our patch and all the others on the road. It was offered for sale at offers over £40k, which to my way of thinking puts it out of the "not expensive" bracket. Admittedly it had outline planning permission with it, along with a chunk of money allocated for Community Infrastructure Levy"; doubtless when a full planning application is submitted another chunk of money will be required for the same reason.

    I strongly suspect that the "grossly expensive" applied to land with planning permission is a function of the CIL element, which is little more than a mandatory bribe to the local authority. I often wonder just how much the cost of housing is a function of this front - loading of new build costs.

    1. Richard 26

      Re: Corbyn's broader and more useful aims?

      'I strongly suspect that the "grossly expensive" applied to land with planning permission is a function of the CIL element, which is little more than a mandatory bribe to the local authority.'

      1. It's only been around since 2008, and land prices haven't changed much since then. It's not a huge amount compared to the value of the land.

      2. In any case, it would be a cost the prospective developers have to pay, so it would tend to reduce the land value.

  25. ST Silver badge
    Mushroom

    oh, boy ...

    To begin with, the Internet was, initially, and for about 25 years, a Federal Government program.

    ARPANET is remembered by those of us who actually know that the Internet didn't start with Windows95 or AppleTalk and the late 90's dot.com bullshit. ARPANET was started, and funded, by US DOD, and it remained a Government-sponsored entity until well into the mid-90's.

    US Senator Al Gore sponsored a bill named The High Performance Computing Act of 1991, which passed in December of that year. The enactment of that bill was the foundation of the creation of the private-industry Internet, which did not really happen until the mid-90's.

    There was also BITNET, which was a purely academic research network, and had nothing to do with the private industry, and everything to do with government research grants to universities.

    So, yeah. See? All that useless crap that you don't really need but buy from Amazon, the only reason you can do that today is because a bunch of pinkos working for DARPA and DOD - two well-known and militant bastions of Marxist Socialism - imagined that computers could actually talk to each other over a phone line, came up with packet-switching protocols and TCP/IP, decided to fund research for these ideas, made them real, and kept everything going for about 25 years.

    What was the private industry's response to ARPANET, once they were given the reins, USD $BEEEEEEELIONS in tax breaks, and left to their own devices to run it as a free-market, for-profit enterprise? Answer: Comcast or Time Warner Cable.

    Never mind the facts. Repeat after me:

    Government: BAD.

    Free-market, for-profit: GOOD.

    Makes things simple to understand.

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: oh, boy ...

      Nice rant, but two counter-points:

      1) Comcast/Time Warner do not operate in a free market, except in a few locations. Because of this, your US-centric arguments make little sense in the EU, where in most places there is a good competitive market. Across most of the UK, you can pay more for a competent, non throttling ISP that gives you an IPv6 /64 if you ask (A&A), or a cheap as chips consumer ISP (most of the rest). Markets that work, work. Markets that are not markets, do not.

      2) Consumer ISPs are not the Internet, they are the gateway to the Internet for consumers. The backbone of the Internet is competitive and offers many choices.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: oh, boy ...

      In front of me is the highly technical first edition of the ICL "Network News" - January 1976. The front page editorial "Networks - The Way Ahead? " is from Peter Hall, the director of the Government and Public Corporations Division. Fascinating reading.

      It opens by referencing ARPA and Infonet. That is followed by mentioning some large UK private networks - several of which were nationalised industries eg CEGB and SW Universities. It then mentions the nationalised Post Office's Experimental Packet Switching System (EPSS).

      What is really interesting is that the future is seen as standardised, but private, packet networks to link mainframes and their in-house users - like IBM SNA at that time. It is considered that the Post Office EPSS would be limited by price and availability - and would not expand fast enough to accommodate the needs of big users.

    3. Tim Worstal

      Re: oh, boy ...

      The pro-market argument being, wow, look at how well the markets did to exploit what the government didn't once they got the chance.....

  26. JHC_97

    Gov Research

    One of the great things about government funded research is it doesn't have to have a clear financial goal. So if government invested more we might get more stuff like.

    HTTP invented at CERN

    ARM party started by NEB - an government organisation formed because of Wilson speech (not the best sub there Tim)

    ARPNET - US Government funded

    Internet - Al Gore put the bill though congress

    Teflon - NASA

    Computers - Bletchley Park

    Graphene - University of Manchester

    instead of

    Viagra - Pfizer

    FaceBook - Zuc

    better hoovers - dyson

    1. DaveDaveDave

      Re: Gov Research

      "HTTP invented at CERN" - no, it was designed at CERN, the concept had been around for decades. And really, the cost of CERN is far, far higher than the cost of developing HTTP would have been.

      "Internet - Al Gore put the bill though congress" - Haha, very funny

      "Teflon - NASA" - no, Dupont

      "Computers - Bletchley Park" - No. I'm sure we all know how wrong that is.

      "Graphene - University of Manchester" - nope, simply not true. They're leaders in the field today, but they didn't discover it.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's not the point of Corbyn

    The point of Corbyn is to make politics interesting again.

    Tell your party they can have a free vote on Trident then say you would never be prepared to use it.

    Bang on about your personal mandate whilst forgetting that your followers are 1/100 of those that voted Labour in May.

    Make stupid issues over things even Corbyn can't be bothered to change by not singing the national anthem because it references God and the Queen.

    Be friends with extremists and have friends who do the same.

    Don't change your policies for 30 years.

    Talk about how awful the Tories are whilst ensuring their victory in 2020 and 2025.

    After all he was supposed to be the token left wing candidate who was voted out in the first round.

    1. Zog_but_not_the_first

      Re: That's not the point of Corbyn

      "The point of Corbyn is to make politics interesting again."

      This.

      A door opened. Discuss. Argue. Examine.

  28. E 2

    The author is manufacturing consent, pure and simple.

    Internet - DARPA.

    Computers - WWII military crypto.

    Stealth tech - Pentagon.

    Rockets - WWII German gov't.

    Space Race - Cold War gov't-gov't competition.

    Privately held launch capability - NASA outsourcing.

    TV - private enterprise.

    TV is *such a win*. Where would we be without it?

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