Dr Grumble prefers to write about what he knows about. Sometimes he strays into the realm of general politics goaded, in the case of the previous post, by a politician's gaff. When this happens many do not agree with the Grumble view which, these days though not in the past, is regarded as left-wing, socialist even. It just shows how right-wing general thinking has become. As Grumble has said before right-wing views are very seductive. Dr Grumble has himself been seduced.
One of the good things about a blog is that if you get something factually wrong readers can immediately point out your mistake. We all make mistakes and Dr Grumble welcomes corrections. On matters of opinion the comments column can become lively. Here there are no rights and wrongs.
Following Grumble's last post he was accused of "breathtaking naivety". Grumble is a sensitive individual but he decided at first to leave others to come to his defence. And they did. Thank you.
The accusation of breathtaking naivety came from Middle of the Road Moderate. The comment is well written and makes many good points. As Grumble has said, there are no rights and wrongs. The world is shades of grey. But the comment deserves a reply and since the size of the replies is limited Dr Grumble is going to reply here as a new post. Unusually Grumble will write in the first person.
So here is Middle of the Road moderate's first broadside:
This post, and most of the comments, have an underlying thread of naivety that, frankly, is breathtaking. The country is in debt. Huge, society-threatening debt. Someone had to stop the spending. Someone has to start paying the bill. All over the country, members of each sectional interest are moaning and saying, “Yes, yes, the bill must be paid but our group cannot be expected to cut spending for we are too important”.And now Grumble's reply:
I would very much agree that New Labour spent money wastefully. Quite often money was spent on window-dressing designed more to create good headlines for Tony Blair than good governance. Wrong though that was, it was not the cause of the huge society-threatening debt. This was a consequence of unfettered markets driven by people who could make big bonuses but could never make a loss – one way tickets to success (and, for the taxpayer, disaster). Even the organisations were bomb-proof as the taxpayer has found out to his cost. Banks cannot be allowed to fail. Yet, despite this risk to the taxpayer, nobody in government really knew what the people in the world of money were up to. They didn’t even know themselves. The financial set-ups had become so complicated, complex and convoluted that the banks themselves didn’t know what had happened to their own assets. Regulation was inadequate because the market was seen as sacrosanct (and bankers were being wooed to London). There was scarcely a single siren voice warning what was to come. The Conservatives goaded New Labour on as they deregulated the financial systems freeing them to head lemming-like to catastrophe.And now here an accusation of champagne socialism:
The bill that has broken the taxpayer’s own bank came not from the NHS or the students or the libraries or whatever your favourite good cause is. It came from the people who to this day are still not feeling any pain.
I love coming here for my glass of Grumble-style champagne socialism. Grumble-socialism may be naïve but it is a refreshing change from, for example, the uber-right wing Wat Tyler. Sadly, though, Grumble-economics does not add up, for Grumble-socialists do not acknowledge that we are facing a financial catastrophe.Grumble seems a bit stung by that:
If I haven’t acknowledged that there is a financial crisis, it must be because it seems to me to be self-evident.Now Middle of the Road moderate goes on about successive Labour governments destroying the education system:
The education system has been destroyed by successive Labour governments. The Grumblers extol the virtue of state education and well they might for, as good champagne socialists, they live in leafy-laned suburbia and congregate around good comprehensives. Comprehensives that can attract keep good staff. How many of you live in Tower Hamlets? All well and good for medical Anthony Wedgewood Benn clones to enthuse about schools such as Holland Park comprehensive or St Olaves. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emily_Benn) As well paid middle-class professionals you have the dosh to live close to these schools. Comprehensive? Bollocks. Not from the pool they serve. And you guys complain about post-code lotteries! Diane Abbott was less hypocritical.He does make some good points. Good state education is heavily dependent on where you live. What this shows is that it is as much dependent on the local people as the schools. It will help if society recognised this. Grumble does not really know about schools but he does know a bit about health. The nonsense that Darzi used to spout about life expectancy falling by a year for every stop on the Jubilee line as you travel from Westminster to Canning Town is just that: nonsense. OK, the fact is true but the nonsense is that doctors are to blame for not providing better healthcare to the poor. Health and wealth are closely related and lack of provision of health services to the poor is not the reason. Grumble suspects that there are parallels with education. Anyway here is his riposte:
Do you really think that if you were to transplant a fully-funded Charterhouse to Tower Hamlets the problems would be solved? One of my neighbours, a doctor, worked outside the NHS for a private company and, earning much more than Grumble, was able to send his children to a public school. One of them ran into difficulties and they asked him to leave. It is very much easier to run a good school which selects children only from the very rich and leaves the state to take on kids they cannot handle. Private schools like private hospitals cherry pick and immediately dump what they cannot handle.Now something about pallid skinheads waiting on Matthew Paris (actually Grumble had very similar thoughts when he was at Oxbridge):
The question of funding university students is challenging. Easy for you to slag off the Coalition/ It’s always easy to criticise the status quo. But you don’t offer an alternative. Some one has to pay. Who should that someone be? Why not just pay for students out of general taxation? Matthew Paris wrote recently about how, when dining at his Cambridge College as a student he felt uncomfortable being waited upon by a pallid skinhead, moonlighting to increase his income out of which he was paying taxes to support Paris et al at Cambridge. Something wrong there. You can make arguments for the taxpayer putting the Grumble medical students through University, but please don’t ask the taxpayer to underwrite crap like a joint honours degree in "football and society" as offered by the University of Central Lancashire. And there’s lots of stuff like that around.Grumble's reply points out that there are still two ways of doing things:
My point about paying for students is that borrowing money and paying it back is one way of funding university and paying it back as a taxpayer is another way. The two are not so different. Either way you pay back the money eventually. One way you pay it back as a loan, the other way as a taxpayer. Actually a large proportion of the students will never pay back their loans so the two are not so different as they appear. It’s mostly a question of which book the debt appears on. My view is that it is not a particularly good idea to sell to people who come into this world with nothing the idea that they should start their adult lives with a substantial debt – especially since it is debt that has caused the problem we are in now.And now Grumble is giving the last word to Middle of the Road moderate who has posted a comment yet again as Grumble was typing. In this comment he gets to the fundamental issue that is driving a lot of what we are seeing which is that we need the bankers and their roulette wheels and that if we do not woo them they will earn money for someone else. Unfortunately he is right.
Actually I think the previous government, goaded by educationalists who do not live in the real world, made a mistake in thinking that so many should go to university. Learning is important but many do not learn well in the lecture theatre. What was wrong with traditional forms of learning such as apprenticeships? It's no wonder we ran out of plumbers and others who work skilfully with their hands given some of our education policies. And the same has happened with medicine. We are told that lack of experience can be remedied with a day's training on a simulator when what doctors really need is more supervised on-the-job training at the bedside.
Ah! We got there. The bankers. They are, even as we speak, eyeing up their January bonuses. Of course it's obscene. But, once again, the champagne- socialist ethic prevails. Lots of criticism but no solutions. If you tax bonuses to extinction, the bankers will disappear. And there are lots of countries who will welcome them with open arms. Switzerland and the BRIC countries for starters. Don't forget what percentage contribution these bankers make to our GDP. There are other approaches that would help the public. Stop the investment scams. Did we really use to buy endowments? Stop the pension fund rip-offs. Pay the obscene bonuses but only to bankers who have been demonstrably successful. Much could be done without destroying the city as a source of income. And don't forget it was your very own Gordon Brown, now hiding somewhere on a witness protection programme, who was so anxious to cosy up to the bankers that he removed all effective financial regulation.So there you have it. The final word from Middle of the Road Moderate.
Medical students do already get some mitigation of fees in their final year. As earners they will be in the top 1% of the population and will have the privilege of pursuing a vocational career with rewards in terms of status and personal satisfaction far greater than many others. Why should they not pay more than, say, a school teacher or a social worker.
Thank you, Middle of the Road Moderate, for commenting. And thank you Dr Aust, Julie and Sam for generating the debate. Forgive me for not including your contributions here but this post is getting rather long and I have doubts about whether it will work as it is.