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Archive for March, 2011

Innovation and growth

March 28, 2011 3 comments

Innovation is a process of resource allocation. First, developmental, in that it commits resources to irreversible investments with uncertain returns. Second, organisational, in that it generates returns through the integration of human and physical resources. Third, strategic, in that it allocates resources to overcome market and technological conditions that other firms take as given.

Why is innovation important to growth?

Stagnant growth, little to no growth, is as a result of a) lack of consumption, and b) lack of innovation. While lack of consumption may be tackled through Keynesian demand-side economics – boosting the aggregate demand in an economy. This is artificial and cannot be sustained without innovation. For the reasons mentioned above, innovation is a greater driver of growth than demand-side economics.

What has innovation and growth got to do with today?

Well, if you hadn’t noticed it is a worry that Britain’s growth could stagnate. The coalition government also launched http://www.startupbritain.org – a website with useful links and information, together with corporate sponsorship, to help people to innovate and start up their own business with the drive of entrepreneurialism.

Great idea, but what’s the catch?

There isn’t one. However, many may feel that this is just another shallow gimmick by the government to get people on board with their programme. It may be, but it’s not a gimmick. It’s a step in the right direction for Britain to realise its entrepreneurial spirit. It’s something that should be applauded, embraced and built upon by all major parties, especially Labour if it is to seek re-election.

The situation in Libya and the Gulf



The failure of cultural dependence in Libya?

In my recently published book: “Oman and Britain’s changing military relationship: Dependence or special relationship?” I outlined a theory of “security dependency”, specifically in relation to Oman. A large part of this theory is “cultural dependence”. This is a theory developed by Seers, Mohan and others that a leader’s ideas are shaped by their education, advisors, workforce and dependence on other’s methods. (There are other facets to this theory, considering things such as a “brain drain” and an addiction to Western technology which are not relevant here.) In this way the leader’s ways of thinking about things are shaped by the hidden curriculum of the educating country and this leads to a propensity to favour that country. In this way, until the leader gains access to other viewpoints they will be “trapped” in a dependent relationship. As I put it in relation to the Omani Sultan and Britain ‘… all of the Sultans’ ideas were shaped by Britain and he only had access to British viewpoints. This means that his socialisation, ideas and mind-set were predominantly British, affecting the way he considered things and keeping him dependent on British ideas and Britain in general.’[1]

Whilst this is true of Oman and Britain’s relationship it seems to have failed with regards Libya. Saif Gaddafi, the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, studied at the LSE in Britain from 2003 -2008 gaining an MSC and a Phd[2]. Therefore similar to the argument I made in my book about Sultan Qaboos, you would expect Saif Gaddafi to be more reasonable, more westernised and more favourable to Britain than his father. Whilst it is possible that he is more this way inclined than his extreme father, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of the kind of cultural effect that would be expected or that happened with Sultan Qaboos. (Sultan Qaboos is well known as an anglophile, having studied in Britain and serving with the Cameronians. He enjoys the music of Gilbert and Sullivan and favours British businesses, techniques and advisors) As Saif Gaddafi has been shown on the television holding a gun and declaring that his father will not give up power and for the protestors to prepare for civil war, he has also given lectures in favour of his father and the regime, there doesn’t seem to be any indication that Britain has anymore influence on him than anyone else so this cultural affect doesn’t seem to have occurred here. Why this is the case is a bit of a mystery. It may be to do with the fact that Saif only did postgraduate study in Britain, where students are taught to develop their own ideas much more and therefore there is much less of a hidden curriculum, or it may be that it was to do with the perception of and treatment of Libya (unlike Oman) as a pariah state and therefore Saif was disinclined to adopt British ideas or to gain favour for them. This is a mystery which only he can answer but it is clear British influence did not spread here the way it has for many other countries. Still every rule has its exceptions.

The Ugly Side of “Strategic Influence”

Recently we have seen the ugly side of Britain’s policy of selling arms to Middle Eastern countries. The idea, which was articulated by Jones and Stone,[3] was that by selling arms to Middle Eastern countries, Britain would gain a strategic influence over them. As I explained it in my book ‘Jones and Stone argue that the sale of arms is more than just a commercial practice, it also mutates into strategic interest. Therefore greater political weight is attached to arms sales than just commercial benefit. The sale of arms usually involves sophisticated weaponry that requires a level of involvement from the supplier country (in the form of advisors/training). Due to the scope of the deal, this allows the supplier country to exercise considerable influence in the defence policy of the supplied state.’[4] This helped to produce a dependent relationship which benefits British business, but also allows Britain to exert strategic influence over the rulers of these countries in order to promote British foreign policy goals such as democracy.

In the events of the protests of the last months we have seen the ugly side of this policy. Whilst it was clear that Britain was able to exert influence of these countries because of the arms sales (and other reasons), their foreign policy goal of promoting democracy was severely damaged when in Bahrain and Libya, British arms were used against pro-democracy movements. This led to the criticisms of Western hypocrisy, (especially when David Cameron took arms sellers with him on Gulf peace talks) which to an extent is true but British arms sales have always been about more than just arms as I have shown above. It now seems clear that in very repressive countries such as Libya, this policy was a bad one, if the ultimate goal for Britain is democracy and this is a big if. Whilst I have no doubt that Britain supports democracy and wishes for Middle Eastern countries to be democratic, when the policies of advancing democracy and advancing British business interests cannot be run side by side, I’m not sure if democracy will come out on top. Britain seems content to use democracy as a tool, only fully advocating it (though always genuinely supporting it) when it suits them. The proof of this is seen in Britain’s willingness to support Mubarak and its dealings with Gaddafi, the speed and circumstances in which Britain turned on these leaders shows that it was only willing to genuinely support democracy when the time was right.

Military Action

Britain with France has to its credit, seemed to be leading the way to try and support the rebels in Libya but is in a quandary about what to do about Gaddafi. I’m not sure, beyond military action, what can be done to remove him. Military action in my opinion should be out of the question because of the Iraq debacle and the fact it would hinder a new Libyan government as it would bring with it new accusations of Western interference. Military or other action needs to come from the Arab countries to give it legitimacy, and to their credit they seem to be making headway with this, agreeing with the no-fly zone. I feel it is unlikely the Arab countries will get too heavily involved however, for fear of provoking their own populations (especially as potential allies such as Oman and Bahrain are facing their own protests at the minute). The only Arab country who may be able to support to a good level and who is willing to is Egypt following its revolution but it has its own problems and is unlikely to get involved. Therefore even if the current action is successful in removing Gaddafi, the subsequent regime that he will be replaced will be hindered by the assistance of the West. Just look at what happened with post-Saddam Iraq. The problem for the West is that they really have to get involved for fear of being hypocrites of the highest degree. This is really the West’s last opportunity to win over the people of the Middle East, if they don’t back up their words with actions now, after so long preaching they could lose the region for ever. Cynics may suggest that the West is only getting involved to protect its own business interests. There is a degree of truth here (you don’t see the West getting directly involved in supporting pro-democracy movements in Zimbabwe for example) but I think this current action serves two ends for British foreign policy. This is that it protects British business interests and promotes democracy at the same time, it therefore matches well with British foreign policy ends. In this vein, whilst I think the action is a bit misguided and hasn’t properly learnt the lessons of history, I can tolerate the current action, as long as it doesn’t escalate into a full blown conflict like Iraq again.

The effect of Gaddafi being removed would be huge, he represents the most oppressive regime in the region and if he can be toppled, anyone can. On the other hand, if he defeats the rebels, all Middle Eastern leaders may feel that it is their interests to fight protests, if they start at all. Things for the rebels do not seem to be going well recently, I wish them luck in their struggle for freedom and commend them for their bravery. Daniel Pipes put it best ‘How deeply satisfying will it be to watch as a brave and desperate people sweep this eccentric, nasty, and repressive tyrant into the dustbin of history. How gratifying that he has alienated nearly the entire world, even the U.N. Security Council. May his ugly example serve as a permanent warning to other dictators who make war on their populations.’[5] Hopefully we will be talking about 2011 as the year of freedom, the year of democracy.


[1] Carlton, C (2010) Oman and Britain: Oman’s Changing Military Relationship with Britain: Dependence or Special Relationship?, Saarbrucken: Lambert Academic Publishing, pp. 52-53

[2] Sellgren, K (2011) ‘LSE investigates Gaddafi’s son plagiarism claim’, BBC News, 1st March 2011, available from (www.) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-12608869, accessed 13/03/11

[3] Jones, C and Stone, J (1997) ‘Britain and the Arabian Gulf: New Perspectives on Strategic Influence’ International Relations, Volume XIII, Number 4 (April 1997) Aberystwyth: The David Davies Memorial Institute of International Studies, pp. 1-24

[4] Carlton, C (2010) Oman and Britain: Oman’s Changing Military Relationship with Britain: Dependence or Special Relationship?, Saarbrucken: Lambert Academic Publishing, p. 20

[5] Pipes, D (2011) Gaddafi’s Fin de Régime, available from (www.) http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2011/02/gaddafi-fin-de-regime#continued, accessed 14/03/11

Categories: The Middle East

Cameron is an ‘Enemy of Enterprise’

March 6, 2011 1 comment

On Sunday, David Cameron addressed the Conservative Party’s Spring Forum in which he declared war on the ‘Enemies of Enterprise’. It does not mean a lot, but it is a great fantastic. But, the most pressing issue is: what is an ‘Enemy of Enterprise’?

An ‘Enemy of Enterprise’ is: High Regulation; High Taxation; and Low Investment. The first two, high regulation and high taxation, are addressed through the creation of Enterprise Zones, a relic of Thatcherism.

An Enterprise Zone is an area in an economically deprived region where regulation and taxes are reduced in order to attract businesses. The most notable of these Enterprise Zones is the Docklands aka Canary Wharf et al. The Enterprise Zones work in such a way that they are responsible for the initial attraction. What is needed for an Enterprise Zone to become successful is investment in order rejuvenate the area (aesthetically) and to improve the infrastructure. This investment, especially for the infrastructure, comes from the government. The private sector, due to its fragmented structure, cannot command the large financial resources required, but are largely available to a government.

Without the necessary investment from the government the Enterprise Zones will become an expensive failure and thus damage the recovery further and stifle enterprise due to a stagnation in the economy.

Categories: Uncategorized

Britain, the EU and Migration

March 3, 2011 1 comment

On Thursday it was reported that due to a change in European Law citizens of former Soviet-bloc nations could claim some benefits and work in the UK without registering under the Workers Registration Scheme.

As is currently stands, workers from the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have to register with the State in order work in the UK for more than a month. The change in law means that they no longer have to register and can claim Job Seekers Allowance, Council Tax Benefit and Housing Benefit. However, the rules will remain in place for workers from new EU member states (less than 2 year membership) and from outside the EU.

How is this fair?
It’s not and nor is the Workers Registration Scheme. A lot of the rulings and new laws that come out from the EU, ECJ and ECHR are based on the principles of fairness. Fairness based on the principle of human equality ie of equal worth.

Under the new law the narrative in this country towards the migrant population will go from “they come over here and take our jobs” to “they come over here and take our benefits”. With a greater strain on public resources due to austerity measures antagonism between the migrant population and domestic population will get worse, from which the far right will capitalise.

What must be remembered is that it is not the fault of the migrant population or the EU for this law, but the failing of fairness in this country. If everyone was treated the same then there would not need to be antagonism or new laws in the first place. For example if everyone signed the Register, domestic and foreign, then there might be some empathy or, at the very least, sympathy from the domestic to the migrant. Or, conversely, everyone has to work for a set number of years before being able to access the full range of benefits available to them.

The solution is not about creating more barriers between “us” and “them” but destroying barriers between “us” and “them”. We are all members of humanity and citizens of the world, so let’s treat others like we would treat ourselves.

Categories: Uncategorized

Labour and (Civil) Liberty

NB: This was created in November 2010 when I was asked to defend Labour’s record on Civil Liberties in a debate with Alex Deane, the Director of Big Brother Watch. I don’t agree with all that Labour has done, but for arguments sake please read the following.

What is Liberty?

The etymological routes are from the old French meaning freedom, but what does this freedom entail?

The early modernists, if you’ll agree with them, believe that Liberty is the freedom from tyranny. In earlier societies Liberty is also this, but was only given the wording and notion by the Dutch in their campaign against the tyranny of the King of Spain in the late 1500s.

Notions of Liberty then developed throughout the enlightenment period drawing inspiration from individualism and the notion of laissez-faire. True Liberty, therefore, is “that every man should be left free to dispose of his own property, his own time, and strength, and skill, in whatever way he himself may think fit, provided he does no wrong to his neighbours”. Liberty, then, is the freedom to do as one pleases provided it does not inhibit another from doing as they please. This still stems from the early modern notions of liberty in that this notion was the freedom from tyranny from the divine right of monarchs and the divine right of the Church. This, thus, promoted the doctrine of individualism.

Even modern day Civil Liberties – being briefly: right to life, freedom from torture, freedom from slavery and forced labour, the right to security, right to a fair trial, the right to privacy, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, and the right to marry and have a family – come under the broad traditional notion of Liberty. But with all these rights come responsibilities – responsibility for the state and individuals to ensure these rights are met.

So, there is only one form of Liberty and that is the freedom from tyranny. Do we have that? In short, yes. A longer, more academic, answer would say no and we never have had nor will have liberty. This is because, to take liberty to its logical conclusion, any social structure and interaction is a form of tyranny whether that be the State or relations between individuals – there will always be subjugation of one party over another and vice versa. In this debate I am attempting to force my will on the opposition, whether I am successful or not is another matter, but my stance is currently tyrannical.

To step away from theory and back into reality, democracy can only function if the will of the majority, the tyranny of the majority, is accepted and the rights of the minority will be impeded and, therefore, liberty must be restricted. Unrestricted liberty is an ideal operating under ideal circumstances. Unfortunately utopias do not exist.

We live in a world where practical politics and the security of the majority are more important than an abstract theory, such as liberty. There are those out there, motivated by self-interest, that are pursuing a campaign of terror against the state and the citizens of this country. The state has a responsibility to protect the majority, and this comes under the banner of civil liberties as the right to security.

Labour has increased the liberty of many individuals through Devolution. The Welsh Assembly and the Parliaments at Stormont and Hollyrood have given the separate polities of the United Kingdom a voice distinct from Westminster. In charge, to a degree, over their own affairs. Civil Partnerships are one step to fulfilling the right to Marriage, but we have a long way to go. Labour abolished blasphemy which meets the freedom of expression.

Labour has not eroded civil liberties, in fact, if anything, it has strengthened them. We have the right to life. We won’t get tortured and our security services do not prescribe to such practices. We were the first country to prohibit slavery and ended child labour soon after. The right to security has been strengthened, despite protestations from libertarians, as we live in one of the most secure countries in the world. We have the right to a fair trial and that right has not been suspended since the troubles in Northern Ireland. We have the right to privacy and it is only the guilty and paranoid that have need to fear that this is being ‘eroded’.

Lord Carlile, a Lib Dem Peer, believes that Britain is still liberty conscious. “You have nothing remotely like Guantanamo in the UK…When he went to the US to talk about the Patriot Act, he came to the view that it could never pass through any government here. The powers of the act include the power to detain witnesses. Witnesses, not suspects! By contrast, the development of UK legislation was rather cautious, taking close account of the European Convention on Human Rights.” Carlile also believes that Britain is held in contempt by foreign agencies and governments for its pernickety approach. “There’s been a reaction in foreign intelligence agencies against what they regard as the prissiness of MI6 on the terrorist threat.”

Labour did not erode civil liberties because 1) the will of the majority must be accepted in a democracy for democracy to work and; 2) the rule of law still reigns supreme.

Categories: Uncategorized