Lincoln Drill Hall

Lincoln Drill Hall
Lincoln Drill Hall

Monday, 20 May 2019

Can we learn from history?

I am reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s carefully argued book, Team of Rivals, the book at inspired Barack Obama. It is about the incredibly complex and divided political landscape that surrounded the American Civil War. A hopelessly divided country.

One of the many things that struck me was the immense care the new Republican (anti-slavery) Party took in selecting the right leader in the person of Abraham Lincoln. There were four strong candidates, all with principles passionately held. Three of the candidates were far better known that Lincoln. Those making the choice were seasoned politicians who understood not only their parties(the Republicans were a joining together of smaller groups) but the electorate as a whole.

They chose Lincoln for his undoubted gifts but also because he would attract wide support.

Perhaps our Brexit riven country could take a lesson from this?


Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Polarised debate

Team of Rivals is a fascinating book, dealing as it does, with the biographies of the four men who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1860.
So what?
The winner was Abraham Lincoln and the battle ground slavery.
Dories Kearns Goodwin traces the slavery debate with the Southern States fighting for their treasured way of life, the Northern States fighting for emancipation, not only on moral grounds but also to unleash the economic benefit of many more free Americans. In the middle politicians seek endless compromise designed to keep both sides happy, but ending up pleasing no one.
Does this ring a bell?
The debate is characterised by violent expression of feelings particularly from the South with deep longings to keep things how they used to be.
The arguments revolve round the will of the people, the astonishing power of the press and the inability of Congress to reflect this will and power in legislation that will command a majority.
I read on. It is a long book. The parallels with the Brexit debate are chilling.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Concentrated wealth as a major drag on national prosperity

The concentration of wealth in the hands of the few is a drag on any economy. So said Adair Turner in his book, Debt. Such wealth is frequently saved in the form of nonproductive assets. In contrast, wealth more widely distributed is circulated within the economy to the benefit of most, if not quite, all.

Quite why I had seen this as a 21st century phenomenon, I don’t really know. It was the case in 19th century Britain, but many of those with wealth then invested it in industry which in turn created employment and, to a degree, distributed wealth. 

In her masterly book, the Team of Rivals, Doris Kearny Goodwin tells of the Southern states of America before the abolition of slavery. 

‘Slavery trapped a large portion of the Southern population, preventing upward mobility. Illiteracy rates were high, access to education difficult. While a small planter aristocracy grew rich from holdings in land and slaves, the static Southern economy did not support the creation of a sizeable middle class.’

In contrast of the Northern states, she sees a land ‘teaming with bustling, restless men and women who believed passionately in progress and equated it with growth and  change; the air was filled with the excitement of intellectual ferment and with schemes of entrepreneurs.’

I can’t help seeing a parallel with 21st century Britain, where we are told that employment is at an all time high but so much is part time and low paid, and that wealth is again concentrated in the hands of the few and invested in such as empty London penthouse apartments. Employment for middle earners is shrinking. This is before we look at the wider world and the plight of refugees.

Schools in poorer areas, for all the efforts of teachers, are not enabling upward mobility. Our public schools, great educational establishments though they are, are overwhelmingly the preserve of the wealthy whose children go on to Oxbridge and well paid jobs.

Are we so different economically from pre-civil war USA?

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Employment in the 21st Century

On 18 June 2019 Lincoln Drill Hall is hosting a one day symposium presented by the University of Lincoln to explore the nature of employment in the 21st century.
The numbers of people in employment are said to be at record levels, but how much of this is full time employment, how much is capable of providing a family's income and how much is fulfilling?
The arts sector is said to be a significant contributor to the British economy, but how much employment in the arts is full time and sufficiently income providing? Very few writers earn their living from writing.
Computers and robots are said to be ready to take on a great many jobs which used to the preserve of human beings. What impact will this have on employment, and on the distribution of national income?
These are some of the big questions which the symposium and the process that will follow will seek to explore.
Follow this link to find out more and to register your interest.