Facebook Blogging

Edward Hugh has a lively and enjoyable Facebook community where he publishes frequent breaking news economics links and short updates. If you would like to receive these updates on a regular basis and join the debate please invite Edward as a friend by clicking the Facebook link at the top of the right sidebar.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

New Kids on the Blog

Well it seems it isn't only M&A time on Wall Street. It appears that the scale advantages of merging are making themselves felt in Blogland too. I'm referring to the newly created Crooked Timber which is a fusion of the efforts of various old-hand bloggers including Henry and Maria the deady farrell-blogger duo. The name is undoubtedly a tribute to the late lamented Isaiah Berlin, while the quote is also indirectly a hommage to Immanuel Kant.

Whether this attempt at creative fusion works, or whether it will be another Vivendi-Bertelssman I do not know. My own view is that blogging is an intensely personal activity - even a struggle to find identity - and that they may become victims of their own split personality. Or worse, they could become another example of the 'tragedy of the commons'. Blogging is, I feel, a post-ideological activity, where the personal finds its head over the intellectual (and certainly over the dogmatic). My vision of blogging is inheretly pluralist. However, much as our intrepid friends would cling to the life raft (let's hope the timber is at least sound) in a vain attempt to avoid the perilous alternative of swimming in the open sea, I do not abandon all hope. In addition, there is some interesting reading there. Take the following for example:

A common device in the broad-canvassed social-realist novel is to have events throw together people who don’t seem to belong in the same universe, in such a way as to reveal the deeper social reality. Bonfire of the Vanities is a good modern example (why was the film so bad?). Such a real-life even occurred yesterday when an express train hit a minibus in central England. On the train were the Bishop of Hereford and a Tory MP, in the minibus were men variously described as arabs and as Iraqi Kurds. Several of those in the bus were killed and the TV news thought the incident sufficiently serious to send crews to the scene. They interviewed some young women who had east European accents and probably came from Poland or the Baltics.

These people had all been drawn to Worcestershire by the promise of work. The agribusiness that hired them obtained their labour from gangmasters based in cities like Birmingham. Perhaps some of the shoppers who bought their broccoli or cabbages did so because they had a preference for “English produce” over the sugar-snap peas flown from Zambia. Who knows? Anyway, those fields are not tilled by cap-tipping yokels with pieces of straw between their teeth living in tied cottages.
Source: Crooked Timber

The similarity of this situation with my Valencian Bulgarians lead me to make this extensive comment:

Despite the apparent naivety of the premiss (that this situation is hidden: seems like we’re back with the ‘purloined letter’), this post is rather interesting. So this is happening in the UK too. I had imagined that extensive use of undocumented workers was efectively a mediterranean phenomenon - since the arrival of the euro has pushed up ‘official’ labour costs enormously (the so-called harrod-samuelson-balassa effect, god forbid) many mainstream economic activities only continue to survive using undocumented labour.

The textile industry is a case in point. A chinese friend of mine tells me there are about 15,000 undocumented chinese workers in the Barcelona industrial belt. She knows this because she is asked by the courts to work as an interpreter whenever one of the workers has problems with the law. Note that these problems NEVER relate to work. Here there is no control.

Roughly the same is true of a Pakistani community of about 10,000 just off Las Ramblas. We have numbers for all this since the current spanish law gives undocumented workers access to health (for everyone) and education (for children) if you register with the town hall.

I have been studying the same process with the arrival of Bulgarian workers in rural Spain.

It was fashionable in the 80’s in the UK to talk of de-industrialisation. In the case of Bulgaria this has taken a new twist. What we have are highly educated people - schoolteachers, dentists, engineers etc. - coming to work picking peppers and oranges. The reason, in Bulgaria a schoolteacher earns 120 euros a month, while picking peppers on an undocumented basis they can earn 500 euros a month - working ten hours a day in the blazing sun.

Another important detail, this migration is also partly provoked by an important pension reform - pensions are now 50 euros a month - which means they have to come out to send money home. Look out Germany!!!

What seems to me to be important is to understand that this process is not simply incidental. Krugman recently asked why indentured servitude was not being re-intoduced, I argued here that it effectively already has been. One of my blog readers (Joerg) astutely made the point that in the absence of a gold standard, what we effectively have - via the globalisation of labour market reforms - is a ‘labour standard’. And we are about to make all the same mistakes as were made in the inter-war years with gold.

No comments: