Monday, February 28, 2011

A Venetian Future?

Is Venice the role model for life after Peak Oil? I visited the 'incomparable city' for a few days last week. I took the photo at the quayside near Piazza San Marco. Everything is transported by hand and cart around the city. As it always has been. And considering that Venice was more or less constructed as it is today long before the invention of the internal combustion engine there are, perhaps, some lessons for how to build a (very) civilised city when the supply of cheap oil has peaked. Perhaps.

The Libyan crisis has engendered lots of fevered debate about Middle East oil supplies. As well it should. But I was intrigued by a recent report by BP called Energy Outlook 2030 which points out that OECD oil consumption peaked back in 2005, and by 2030 is expected to be back to the level last seen in 1990. And, coincidently, another study suggests that we may have reached Peak Travel in developed countries.

So we're in something of a race: efficiency gains and lifestyle changes are weakening the demand for oil, just as production peaks and fewer discoveries are weakening the supply of oil. Though BP assumes nevertheless a net increase in both supply and demand to 2030. I hope they are right: otherwise Venetian modes of transport may become a lot more common - and trips to Venice a lot less so.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Quote of The Day

"If I were to guess at this point, I would guess that we are facing 1848. The Muslim world will not experience massive regime change as in 1989, but neither will the effects be as ephemeral as 1968. Like 1848, this revolution will fail to transform the Muslim world or even just the Arab world. But it will plant seeds that will germinate in the coming decades. I think those seeds will be democratic, but not necessarily liberal. In other words, the democracies that eventually arise will produce regimes that will take their bearings from their own culture, which means Islam.

The West celebrates democracy. It should be careful what it hopes for: It might get it."
George Friedman

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What About Growth?

I've been reading Tyler Cowen's The Great Stagnation on my iPad using the Kindle app from Amazon (guess that makes me an 'Infovore'!) He discussed it recently on EconTalk.

Tyler's thesis - captured in the sub-title - is that America has reaped the benefits of all the 'easy growth', and now needs to find a way to secure further growth from 'higher hanging fruit'.

Although his focus is mainly on the United States, I can't help feeling that much of what he has to say is extremely relevant to Ireland right now (and to the UK). Indeed, what amazes me is how little attention has been given to the issue of economic growth over the course of Ireland's General Election. Following on from my recent Wordle experience, I went back and used the word count feature to find out how often the word 'growth' is mentioned in each of the manifestos. Here are the results:

Fine Gael: 6 mentions
Labour: 2 mentions
Fianna Fail: 1 mention
Sinn Fein: 0 mentions
Green Party: 0 mentions

Which is worrying. We rapidly need to agree a road map for growthsizing the economy over the rest of this decade. Burning bond holders, balancing budgets and bashing the bankers won't make a blind bit of difference if we end up experiencing a 'lesser stagnation' a la Tyler's hypothesis.

Mind you, I've a feeling quite a few candidates are going to have a lot of time on their hands after Friday, so perhaps they'll get a chance to download the book to their own eReader of choice in the weeks ahead?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Unfinished Story

"Story is born where the subjective and objective realms touch, in the gap between expectation and reality. The protagonist acts in pursuit of a desire or goal, and the world around them reacts; this is where conflict occurs, the essence of all storytelling. That’s what we’re all doing, every day of our lives. That’s why stories are so important."
Richard Cordiner

For a nation of story-tellers we produce remarkably few politicians capable of telling stories. I don't mean those kind of stories. I mean the kind of stories that inspire us with a vision of a better future. Think Reagan or Obama: from 'shining city' to 'yes we can' they wove stories that inspired a nation.

Someone who was part of the Obama election team explained to me that the essence of Obama's campaign was 'the unfinished story': that the election of black president would represent the final chapter in the story of America's difficult history in relation to racial equality. What is Ireland's unfinished story?

The image - and the quote - are from an article interviewing Richard Cordiner who one of the most interesting writers on the theme of 'story' I have come across in a long time. As I've noted before, the use of story is the most powerful means we have for dealing with uncertainty and guiding us towards the future. We face extraordinary uncertainty here in Ireland right now. Which is why we need a story - and the political leadership to communicate it convincingly - in order to inspire us to face the future resiliently.

General elections tend to default into shopping lists and horse trading: GE 2011 is no different in that regard. But this is the most important election in our sovereign history, as those we elect will face into an unprecedented combination of domestic and international forces for change and uncertainty. Using the road map in the Cordiner's diagram above, what is our national 'object of desire' and what must we do as the protagonists to face the conflicts ahead in order to reach our final destination? That's a story that needs to be told, even in the few days remaining before the voting on Friday.

As for Ireland's unfinished story? That's about securing our freedom, of course. 

Enjoy this presentation from Richard Cordiner (ht UK COI), but best download the powerpoint so you can read his very helpful presentation notes that accompany each of the slides:

Monday, February 21, 2011

In Memoriam

Last Friday's excited reaction to the ISEQ Index passing the 3,000 mark was a useful reminder that financial markets have the memory of a gold fish. Today marks the fourth anniversary of the day our little country reached peak wealth. That day was February 21st 2007 when the ISEQ Overall Index reached 10,000. The market value of Ireland's banks alone touched €60 billion. Tales to tell our grandchildren.

Just 7,000 more points to go before we're back to the good old days...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Church of Possibilianism

If David Eagleman wants to set up a church he should consider Ireland. I've mentioned him once or twice before. David has coined the term possibilianism to explain why he isn't an atheist, theist or agnostic. His ideas may not add much to the canon of Augustine, Aquinas nor Kant, but they do seem peculiarly apt for the times we live in.

We Irish are becoming a nation of possibilians. Despite the decline of formal religious observance, we still consider ourselves to be a spiritual people. More so than our neighbours in the UK. The chart shows the responses to the question 'do you consider yourself very spiritual, moderately spiritual, slightly spiritual or not spiritual at all?' The UK results are from the BSA survey I referred to in my previous post. There, 40% of British adults describe themselves to be 'not spirtual at all' versus just 25% of Irish adults.

The Irish Church of Possibilianism nevertheless has some notable demographic skews. Irish men are twice as likely to describe themselves as 'not spiritual' compared to Irish women (32% vs 18%). And of course younger people are more likely to be in the non-spiritual segment (37% of 16-24s vs 20% of the 45+ age group).

Still, Possibilianism is a belief system with real possibilities. But I'll let David explain it:

David Eagleman on Possibilianism from PopTech on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Consensual Liberals

I noted recently the resurgence of Ireland's working class. The interesting question is why this hasn't translated into a surge for Labour? Perhaps Sinn Fein are the real beneficiaries?

Of course social class is only one marker of political affiliation - and possibly a weakening one at that. A more straightforward approach is to come straight out and ask people whether they consider themselves - politically and socially - to be liberal or conservative? The question was asked as part of the British Social Attitudes survey - the most recent findings are from 2008.

However, 'liberal' and 'conservative' are words that mean different things to different audiences. In the United States the words tend to code directly to 'Democrat' and 'Republican'. Even in the UK the very word 'conservative' connotes the Conservative Party. Canada, Australia and New Zealand also have their own, unique historical associations with the words.

Which brings us to Ireland. We have never had political parties that self-described themselves explicitly as 'liberal' or 'conservative'. One more example of our non-existent 'infrastructure of dissent' lamented by Dan O'Brien in today's Irish Times. Nevertheless, we are familiar with the use of the words and their various meanings in the political dialogue of both Britain and the United States thanks to our exposure to much of their media.

So what about Ireland? A survey by my company of 1,000 adults earlier this month asked the same question as in the BSA survey. The chart shows that most Irish people are able to answer the question - only 10% opted for 'don't know'. It also shows that we tend to describe ourselves as more liberal than conservative, in contrast to the UK which tended more conservative than liberal in 2008 (and I suspect even more so in 2011). As with the UK, the largest sub-group in terms of political and social values in Ireland are those who describe themselves as 'middle-of-the-road'. Just as most Irish people self-describe themselves as dead centre in terms of the Left-Right political spectrum.

Irish men are more 'extreme' politically and socially than Irish women: they are significantly more likely to describe themselves as either liberal or conservative than women - among the latter 48% describe themselves as middle-of-the-road versus 40% of men. Although older people (over 45s) are more likely on average to describe themselves as conservative in Ireland, it does not follow that younger people are more liberal than average. In fact, over a quarter (26%) of 16-24 year olds in our survey answered 'don't know' to the question - substantially more than any other age group.

So much for youth being in the vanguard of political radicalism. Dan's 'infrastructure of dissent' looks set for the same fate as our ghost estates: incomplete and unfinished for some time to come.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Quote of The Day

"You know those gamblers in Vegas, who go there and blow their house on the black jack tables? And then they go around town buying hookers and blow left and right, partying hard until the dawn, acting as if they didn’t have a care in the world? At least until the night runs out?

That’s the United States.

The American people—collectively, irrespective of political parties—blew their country like a gambler blows his house on the black jack tables. Whether it was on unsustainable entitlement programs, or unwinnable (and illegal) (and pointless) wars, or foolishly short-sighted tax policies, or crony corruption, or demands for absurd services—it doesn’t matter, the result is the same:

The American people collectively blew their country. So now, everyone’s pretending that everything’s fine, while they wait for the shit to hit the fan."
Gonzalo Lira


I must confess I haven't read any of the election manifestos yet. Nor do I intend to, at least until after the election. If there's a multi-party coalition then the manifestos are moot - it'll be the programme for government that will count. Of course, if there's a Fine Gael majority government then I might just revisit their manifesto...

I don't doubt you can learn a lot from the manifestos - though you'll probably learn more about the self-perceptions of the political parties than their ultimate intentions. For fun I've copied the text of the manifestos of the four main political parties into Wordle. In case you're not familiar with it, Wordle takes a text and creates a word cloud of the contents with the more common words appearing larger than the less common ones.

The chart below shows that both Fine Gael and especially Labour are quite happy to talk about themselves and their plans in their manifestos. Fianna Fail go to the other extreme - hardly mentioning themselves in their own manifesto! Talk about low self esteem... Sinn Fein, to their credit, are the only main party using Irish extensively throughout their manifesto:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Quote of The Day

Thank God for the HSE:
"Shortly after this meeting, my host informed me of an audit recently done on one of the largest hospitals in Athens. This hospital was hemorrhaging Euros, and the Greek government is required to make up the deficit with capital injections. Officials began an inquiry into these losses and found 45 gardeners on staff at the hospital. The most interesting fact about the hospital was that it did not have a garden. The corruption is endemic in the society, and it is no wonder that Greece has been a serial defaulter throughout history (91 aggregate years in the last 182 – or approximately half the time). It is unfortunate that it is about to happen once again."
(do read Kyle's newsletter).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Comrades in Debt

Here's one measure of the shock to the national psyche from the recent collapse: the percentage of adults who describe themselves as middle class has gone down over the past six years.

Back in 2005*, more Irish adults felt they belonged to the middle class than to the working class (43% vs 35%). Crash forward to 2011 and now slightly more Irish people feel working class than middle class (40% vs 41%) . Curiously, it is the under 25s and over 45s who are more likely to feel middle class; 25-45s are significantly more likely to feel working class.

All of this suggests that social mobility has finally arrived in Ireland: of the downwardly mobile kind. Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your debts...?

* based on nationwide surveys in 2005 and February 2011 by Amárach Research of 1,000 adults, quota-controlled by gender, age and social class.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Quote of The Day

"At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to state this or that or the other, but it is 'not done'... Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness."

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Wisdom of the Herd

The Economist recently reviewed the IMF's report on their own failings to foresee the financial crisis. At one level it's quite depressing, but at another it's (almost) reassuring. The IMF's findings will be only too familiar to an Irish audience:
Staff reported that incentives were geared toward conforming with prevailing IMF views. Several senior staff members felt that expressing strong contrarian views could “ruin one’s career.” Thus, views tended to “gravitate toward the middle” and “our advice becomes procyclical.” Staff saw that conforming assessments were not penalized, even if proven faulty.

...Self-censorship appeared to be a significant factor even in the absence of overt political pressure. Many staff members believed that there were limits as to how critical they could be regarding the policies of the largest shareholders—that “you cannot speak truth to authorities” since “…you’re owned by these governments.
Michael Lewis' article for Vanity Fair paints a similar picture of how dissenting voices in Ireland were treated prior to the collapse. The IMF's findings confirm that economic myopia is not confined to Ireland however.

So what is to be done? Ultimately we must face the reality of human behaviour. We are motivated by social norms to behave like everybody else. It's Lesson 4 in Sapra and Zak's guide to the eight lessons of neuro-economics for money managers (ht Simoleon Sense):
What was beneficial for our ancestors on the African savannah does not always serve us well in financial markets. Social learning is great when mastering calculus or riding a bicycle, but herd behavior in markets is typically detrimental. Herd behavior violates the “all else being equal” rule in economics in that investor decisions are not independent, and mispricing is thus likely to occur. Trading does not occur in a vacuum; often traders buy an asset because they see it going up in value. As more investors jump on the bandwagon, herd mentality results in a price bubble.

Our brains have evolved to make us desperately want to follow the crowd. Riots, overly popular restaurants, and asset market bubbles are the results. Herd behavior can occur even when individuals do not coordinate with each other but trade only on the basis of private information and prices.
...But evaluating alternatives while others follow trends goes against our nature because our brains bias us to follow the crowd. Desperate buying and panic selling are the inevitable consequences of herd mentality. Instead, investment professionals should discount their evolved bias toward following others and be contrarian. This approach will make them feel alone and exposed—two things our ancestors feared the most.
 No wonder those shouting 'stop' have such a hard time when the everyone else is shouting 'go'.  One of the great challenges we face in Ireland is that of creating a culture that is less conducive to herd thinking. Regulatory and organisational reform will not be enough. We only have to look at the IMF to see that.

Quote of The Day

Message to Merkel:
The European economies have not been experiencing the worst recession since the Second World War because the retirement age is too low, or because there are national differences in corporation tax rates. Ireland is not in an IMF bailout because the budget deficit, in the years before the crisis, was outside the Eurozone parameters. There was exemplary compliance with the fiscal policy rules and all boxes were ticked, up until 2007, in Ireland and in most Eurozone countries. This is a banking crisis and it remains unresolved three years after the bubble began to burst.
Colm McCarthy

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Generation of Freedom

Wise words from a young Egyptian on the historic day that's in it:
We were fighting for our rights, and we were ready to face anyone who interfered. The people weren’t afraid of losing what they had, they are winning something greater. When people aren’t afraid of losing, they are free, and great men can only be free men who build great countries.

Quote of The Day

Arguing the politics of 'why not?':
"And the reason that Why Not? is irresistible is quite simple: modern culture cannot argue against Why Not? anything because it does not believe Why? anything."
Bruce Charlton

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Irish Triangle

Tyler Cowen explores The Nordic Triangle over at Marginal Revolution, which posits a triangular relationship between the Family, the State and the Individual. The model comes from a Swedish study, reported in a fascinating report on The Nordic Way. The suggestion is that different axes dominate in different countries. In Germany the Family-State axis dominates, in Sweden it is the Individual-State axis. The United States is dominated by the Family-Individual axis.

Which got me thinking: what about Ireland? I think we are moving from Family-Individual axis dominance to a more dominant Individual-State axis. But such are the volatile times that we live in that I expect we'll keep moving: probably towards a more German Family-State axis arrangement. Why? Because of Peak Government: the Nordic Individual-State model is very expensive (as the State must fund more of the activities otherwise the responsibility of the Family) and, well, very Nordic (especially in relation to their highly secular/high trust culture).

The Family-State axis is less expensive by comparison, which is just what cash-strapped governments need right now. You can look at it from another angle: the cost of family failure (and the bill then presented to the State) is unsustainable in the long run. It has been estimated recently, for example, that family failure costs 5% of GDP in the UK. Translated into Irish prices that equals nearly €5 billion per annum. That would fund a lot of tax reductions or, em, bank bailouts...

Of course, the Family-Individual axis is the least expensive welfare arrangement, and is probably where we'll all end up anyway as sovereign defaults becomes more widespread throughout the developed world in the decades ahead. Or even next month.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Quote of The Day

"The most compelling explanation for the marked shift in the fortunes of the poor is that they continued to respond, as they always had, to the world as they found it, but that we — meaning the not-poor and un-disadvantaged — had changed the rules of their world. Not of our world, just of theirs. The first effect of the new rules was to make it profitable for the poor to behave in the short term in ways that were destructive in the long term. Their second effect was to mask these long-term losses — to subsidize irretrievable mistakes. We tried to provide more for the poor and produced more poor instead. We tried to remove the barriers to escape from poverty, and inadvertently built a trap."
Charles Murray

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


So that explains it:
On the one hand, recruiting the best possible individuals may enhance the party’s electoral prospects in a competitive electoral environment (competition effect). On the other hand, recruiting a relatively “mediocre” but homogeneous group of individuals may maximize their collective effort on behalf of the party since the presence of “superstars” may discourage other party members and induce them to shirk (discouragement effect).

ht: Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Monday, February 7, 2011

Quote of The Day

"There is a difference between an 'optimist' and a fool. An optimist is somebody who looks at bleak facts and decides to make the best of the situation that they can. A fool is somebody who looks at bleak facts and decides to ignore them because they are too upsetting."
Matt Savinar

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The European Ark

"The animals painted on the walls of Lascaux are not there in the same way as are the fissures and limestone formations. Nor are they elsewhere. ...For I do not look at it as one looks at a thing, fixing it in its place. My gaze wanders within it as in the halos of Being. Rather than seeing it, I see according to, or with it."
Maurice Merleau-Ponty
I finally got to see Russian Ark, Sokurov's masterpiece filmed in a single shot in the Hermitage in St Petersburg. I'll spare you the cliches about 'creative genius' etc etc - just take the phone off the hook and watch it sometime. Like The Leopard and - on a far more intimate scale - The Dead, the film is a bitter sweet reminder of what has gone before, never to return.

Nor is Russian Ark just about Russia. One of the mysterious characters in the film is 'The European', whom we learn is 'from' the 19th century. And the film is indeed as much about Europe as it is about Russia. The setting (the stunning architecture of the Winter Palace), the costumes and the music all combine to invoke a sense of what once was. We see according to the film, rather than merely observe its characters, to use Merleau-Ponty's insight.

Accordingly we see the height of European culture (the second half of the nineteenth century if the film is to be our guide), well before the horrors of the 20th century arrived. Of course we only see the heights: life for Russian peasants wasn't so great in Tsarist Russia (though it took something of a turn for the worse under Stalin). So don't watch the film for geo-political insight.

The film is about culture - that stuff we now keep in museums (hence the 'Ark' in the title). In one wry scene during the film we emerge briefly into a gallery filled with contemporary, modern day tourists - decked out in the mandatory uniform of 21st century 'individuality': i.e.: t-shirts, jeans and runners. As 'The European' exits the gallery he wonders aloud: 'why is everyone dressed so poorly?'


Friday, February 4, 2011

Quote of The Day

"But what if commodity prices are instead embarked on a long term uptrend against the prices of goods and services in the developed economies, driven by the rapid growth in the emerging economies? In that case, the commodity price shock would have a permanent effect on input prices in the developed economies, and it would not be appropriate for the central banks to ignore this shock. In fact, if they ignored it, they would simply be accommodating a permanent inflation shock to the system, which is what they did in the inflationary 1970s."

Eating The Future

"The older generations have eaten the future of the younger ones." 
Giuliano Amato
Is there a Generation War brewing?  Amato, Italy's former Prime Minister, thinks so. And youth unemployment may be the trigger. The riots in Tunisia and Egypt have been linked by many to a burgeoning generation of unemployed young people. Or more precisely: unemployed young men. Erica Orange calls it malecontentment:
As we look at what is happening in Egypt politically, socially and economically, a combination of frustration with the existing system, a yearning for democracy, a desire to participate in decision-making and general dissatisfaction have all come together to create the current situation on the streets. An important lesson here, too, is the realization that if the interests of the young – especially the young males – are not taken care of, political stability in any country can be threatened. So this may be just the beginning.
Peter Coy calls it the Youth Unemployment Bomb. He cites shocking statistics showing that youth unemployment has reached 24% on average throughout North Africa and the Middle East. Or at least it would be shocking if we hadn't already reached and exceeded that level here in Ireland. I've copied the following table from the latest Eurostat analysis (pdf) and highlighted the Irish figures:

Ireland's youth unemployment rate is now 29.1% - the third highest rate in Europe - with the highest rate found in Spain: at a truly scary level of 42.8%.

Coy's article details some of the excellent work being done in different countries - involving various stakeholders - to tackle the youth unemployment problem. I consider it be the biggest single issue facing us in Ireland in terms of its long term impact. Debts can be repaid and loans can be forgiven, but lives cannot be lived again. In 10 and 20 years time we will be living with the consequences of what we do or do not do for our young unemployed long after the interest rate on IMF loans has been forgotten. Hence youth unemployment must be the priority in this election and for the next government.

For if it is not we will indeed have eaten their future.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Quote of The Day

RCs don't do PC apparently:
"Political correctness has become the most deeply entrenched in historically Protestant countries, primarily the nations of Scandinavia and the Anglosphere. Presumably, this can be explained as a manifestation of the sense of Calvinist guilt that has been woven into the cultural fabric and historical memories of Protestant societies. That colonial American Puritanism was a rather extreme manifestation of the Calvinist ethos, and that American left-wing Christianity came about largely as an eclipsing successor of orthodox Calvinism in the American northeast, may help to explain why PC first took root in America and exported itself throughout the Western world the way that it did."
Keith Preston

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Glass Cellar

It's that time of the year again: the CSO have just published Women and Men in Ireland 2010. The headline from their press release says it all: 'Women live longer but earn less than men'. It's funny when you think about it: is the reader supposed to be annoyed to learn that women earn less than men, or that men die younger? I'm guessing the former to judge by the media coverage. I certainly haven't seen any EU funded advertisements on buses drawing attention to the mundane fact that European men die five years younger on average than Euopean women. Another one of those 'manority' findings I guess.

In fairness to the CSO their report does provide a 'balanced' guide to gender realities in Ireland - if you read beyond the press release. You'll learn that some women apparently have to deal with a glass ceiling when it comes to attaining influential positions in business, government and other centres of power. But you'll also learn that many men have to deal with a glass cellar: they are massively more likely to end up in prison, on the dole queue, or in an early grave than women. Now you might think that the EU would be worried about this. I can see the ad campaign now: 'are our lives valued the same?'. Then again, perhaps not. Indeed I question the value of reports such as the CSO's. I'm sure there's a statutory requirement for them to produce it: and I'm sure they have many other things they could more usefully spend the resources on.

But despite the clear evidence that men get a lousier deal than women in practically all domains for which there are measurements, the focus is not on the glass cellar but rather remains firmly on the glass ceiling. Take the recent demands for quotas for female TDs in the run up to the general election. There is even a campaign group - The 50:50 Group - who want gender parity in the Oireachtas by 2020. Amazingly, what advocates of quotas never address is the simple fact that women make up the majority of the electorate in Ireland. As they do in every other democracy in the world. They have done in Ireland since 1922. So if women actually wanted to elect female TDs for being female they would have not only secured parity in the Oireachtas by now, they would have formed a majority of TDs long ago. They could do the same in every other democracy. But they haven't.

Ultimately what those demanding gender parity are claiming is that, ironically, women are different from men.  On the one hand we are told that women are the same as men and therefore just as capable as doing the same job (being a TD); and on the other it seems that women are different from men because their absence from the Oireachtas means that those better able to represent women (i.e.: women TDs) are not able to do so. Confusing. I think Simon over at Dossing Times captures it well:

Can men represent women, or indeed can women represent men?
If indeed the answer is yes, then women are not under-represented in parliament. As a male TD can serve the needs of a male constituent as well as a female constituent. If the answer to that question is no. Then we have a situation that states that men can not represent women and women cannot represent men.

So by definition men can’t elect women and women can’t elect men and thus we would require gender specific ballot papers. Robbing us of the idea that we are a democracy that elects citizens to represent citizens, instead having a genderocracy.
Taking the gender parity idea to its logical conclusion should surely require that we don't elect TDs, but rather that instead we select a representative sample of adults at random from around the country to ensure that 'everyone's voice is heard'. Which, come to think of it, might well be an improvement on the way we do things at present...

But back to the glass ceiling/glass cellar dichotomy. Why is that the focus remains on the 'disadvantages' experienced by women than by men? After all, women have had the vote, equal pay legislation and every other legal right identical to men for several decades now. Catherine Haskim has even argued that 'feminism has won' and that it's time to move on to more pressing issues (racism is one she identifies at a European level).

She's right of course. But what she overlooks is that feminism isn't a campaign: it's an ideology. What's more, it's a victim ideology as explained by Adam Kostakis:
Once a period of consciousness-raising has propagated the belief that the members of a group are - by their essential nature as members of the group - victims, the group shall pursue two objectives:

(1) To equalize with the designated 'enemy' group;
(2) To forge their own 'victim identity,' separate from and unaccountable to the 'enemy' group.

You will notice that, while the first objective brings the 'victim' group closer to the 'enemy' group, in terms of status, expectations, autonomy, etc., the second widens the gulf between them. The first objective, we are told, will unite us in our common humanity, and bring about liberty for all, and other nice things like that. But as soon as we get close to this, there tends to be a drift towards proclamations of the importance of the second objective. Nothing will ever be enough to satisfy the 'victim' group, because they view themselves as essentially and inherently the victims of the 'enemy' group, regardless of what may have changed in reality. A victim ideology is anti-contextual, and its followers - the self-designated 'victims' - shall never see themselves as anything but. Their victimhood is affirmed in advance, and the facts must be made to fit the story. In other words, they will spin any situation into one where they are most harshly treated.
If you think he's exaggerating take a look at this quote from Hillary Clinton, from a speech on domestic violence in 1998:
Women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat. Women often have to flee from the only homes they have ever known. Women are often the refugees from conflict and sometimes, more frequently in today’s warfare, victims. Women are often left with the responsibility, alone, of raising the children. 
Did you spot it? Sure husbands, fathers and sons get killed, but the women have to become refugees and raise the children alone! Perhaps the CSO wrote her speech? 

Unfortunately this is why the glass ceiling always gets more exposure than the glass cellar. The victim ideology that drives contemporary feminism is only focused on the 'disadvantages' experienced by women. Why the scare-quotes around disadvantages? Because the agenda around the glass ceiling is about a minority of women wanting to attain positions of power just like a minority of men. In case you haven't noticed: whilst it's mainly men at the board table and the cabinet table, it's mainly men who never get to sit at those same tables. But their needs don't matter apparently. As Adam puts it in another post, feminism is the project for increasing the power of women. Be it political, economic, judicial or cultural power.

And the CSO's report suggests that their project is progressing very well indeed.

Quote of The Day

"Just as prosperity cannot be forced, but must be built one exchange at a time as individuals further their own self-interest by catering to the interests of others, so recuperation must also take place on the finest of scales, with each person, each partnership, each company taking resolute steps to put its own house in order before forcing its solutions on it neighbours, regardless of circumstance."
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