The wisdom of Philip Davies, MP

June 22, 2011

Twitter Philip Davies MP

A couple of nights ago, Twitter was alive with the news that Tory MP for Shipley, Philip Davies had stood up in the House of Commons and said this:

“If an employer is looking at two candidates, one who has got disabilities and one who hasn’t, and they have got to pay them both the same rate, I invite you to guess which one the employer is more likely to take on.

“Given that some of those people with a learning disability clearly, by definition, cannot be as productive in their work as somebody who has not got a disability of that nature, then it was inevitable that, given the employer was going to have to pay them both the same, they were going to take on the person who was going to be more productive, less of a risk.

“My view is that for some people the national minimum wage may be more of a hindrance than a help.

“If those people who consider it is being a hindrance to them, and in my view that’s some of the most vulnerable people in society, if they feel that for a short period of time, taking a lower rate of pay to help them get on their first rung of the jobs ladder, if they judge that that is a good thing, I don’t see why we should be standing in their way.”

Philip Davies ideal England is one in which sweatshops, full of people with disabilities create cheap goods for the overly privileged Tory benches to feed from, whilst the sweatshop bosses drive up to the gates of Downing Street in their brand new Mercs, accompanied by a lovely big donation for the Tory Party.

Perhaps we could use the £161,300 in expenses he claimed rather dubiously in 2009, on top of his £65,000 a year salary, to pay people a better salary? On the subject of his expense claims, he claimed the most of all Bradford MPs, and claimed £10,000 more on his second home allowance than Bradford North MP Terry Rooney. I am not entirely sure how that’s warranted, or helps him does his job to a greater degree. Incidentally, claimed for more in second home allowances than my dad makes in a year. Unsurprisingly, he clings onto this gravy train by opposing much needed Parliamentary reform. The lobby for Parliamentary reform, Power 10 label Philip Davies as one of the six MPs who will happily block reform of Parliament. This isn’t surprising, given just how much he has financially benefited from the current corrupt nature of Parliament.

Nevertheless, there is an unnerving essence to a member of our national legislature, insinuating that a person’s worth should be based solely on their physical or mental capability, and then using defensive rhetoric, heartfelt sentiment, to sound as if he only wishes to help disabled people, rather than line the pockets of his Party’s donors, and make it easy for employers to exploit without worry. It is equally as unnerving for a politician to tacitly suggest that wage discrimination is not only acceptable, but entirely the fault of those who are being discriminated against. His words sound as if he is suggesting being disabled is a lifestyle choice, that requires a bit of a punishment. That punishment should apparently be an agreement to work for less money that one needs in order to live, along with the added expense that comes with certain disabilities.

It would be right to point out that those with disabilities, who Davies wants to be paid less, did not cause the financial problems we’re now in. Ironically, for Davies, it was the private sector’s excessive greed (of which he clearly has no problem in promoting) that caused the mess, through unproductive excess profit being used – not to pay people better even when it had accumulated enough to easily manage paying more – but on dodgy asset deals. The problem in 2007 wasn’t that there appeared to be a lack of capital caused by the need to pay disabled people, or anybody a national minimum wage, but by the fact that there was an abundance of concentrated excess capital that wasn’t being put to good and productive use. Wages were stagnating for the majority of people, whilst wages at the very top climbed higher and higher. That, is entirely the fault of the private sector. Is Davies saying that if we dropped the minimum wage, wages would flourish, failed Tory economics would be proven right, and disabled people would be working shorter hours, for a loyal boss, who paid wonderfully? Because I foresee a bunch of employers driving even bigger Porsche’s whilst their £2 an hour disabled employees can no longer afford adequate care. Davies certainly didn’t offer any added benefits that some disabled people may require due to being paid below minimum wage. Grants for specialised equipment? Incomes and the ability to pay for necessary care and equipment cannot always be planned for even on a week to week basis, for those suffering certain disabilities. To promote the idea of wage discrimination against those with disabilities, at the same time as cuts to Disability Living Allowance take hold

It is a minimum wage for a reason. Do we really believe employers wouldn’t use an “opt-out” for their own advantage? Wages at the top are already obscenely high in the private sector. In 2009, for example, the chief executive of the Anchor Trust, which provides home for the elderly, took home £391,000. Anchor Trust is a charity! Whilst donations are down and employees are facing redundancy it is ludicrous for a CEO of an organisation that so many people rely on, to take home almost £400,000 a year.

I continue to be of the opinion that if an employer cannot afford to pay somebody a decent enough wage to live on, he/she shouldn’t be running a business. They are a danger to the public. £5.89 is not a lot of money, and to suggest that the rest of us are entitled to at least that, whilst a disabled person is entitled to less, purely because of a natural affliction is sensationally regressive.

The far right narrative is the problem, not minimum wage legislation. Philip Davis is attempting to remove responsibility for fair pay away from the employer, and onto the employee. Citizens UK found that of the companies in London willing to sign up to paying their lowest paid members of staff a “National living wage” rather than a “National minimum wage”, of £8.30 an hour, they managed to lift 3500 families out of poverty in 2009. It didn’t have an adverse affect on prices, in the same way as the minimum wage introduction in the late 1990s didn’t have an adverse affect as many Tories claimed it would. Campaigners for a National Living Wage are screaming out at Tesco, who have failed to ensure their cleaning staff are paid a fair living wage, despite the company making £3.8bn profit last year. Employers do not, ever, take paying their staff a respectable wage seriously. Ever. Surely if they were made to pay more, of which they can definitely afford, the money would be divided among a workforce who would pay more tax, and use the added disposable income on goods and services from businesses across the Country, rather than wasting it on the very very small band of wealthy elites?

A study in America called “Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination.” , found that job applicants with a white sounding name are 50% more likely to be asked back than an applicant with a white sounding name. The researches sent out 5000 applications in sales, marketing, clerical and customer service positions. The names they used were a mix of white sounding names, and black sounding names. The report showed that white applicants with stronger resumes than other white applicants received 30% more callbacks, whereas black applicants with stronger resumes than other black applicants received just 9% more callbacks. It proved that regardless of credentials, black applicants were 50% less likely to get a callback than a white applicant. I wonder if Philip Davis thinks black Americans should agree to work for less money than their white counterparts, purely because they are black? What about a black person with a disability? Back to slavery?

We should though, not be surprised by the ignorance that Philip Davis displayed. Here is an MP who voted against the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, which state that it is unlawful to discriminate when selling goods or services, education or facilities based on sexuality. Davies therefore thinks it is acceptable for a school to expel a gay student. Or for a shop to ban a lesbian lady purely for her sexuality. He also voted against removing hereditary peers from the House of Lords. So, he wants more freedom for shop owners to ban people based on sexual orientation (individualism and all that Libertarian bollocks) yet that same individualism, he doesn’t extend to the most privileged of people passing that privilege onto their children, who may or may not have worked or produced anything worthwhile in their entire lives? Oh the hypocrisy.

In 2011 he even invented his own logic based on a lie, when it comes to making cigarette packaging plain:

“I believe that the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes is gesture politics of the worst kind. It would not have any basis in evidence and it would simply be a triumph for the nanny state and an absurd one at that.”

– The objection I have with the line “it would not have any basis in evidence” is that it does have basis in evidence. Cigarette companies spend millions on their packaging, and over the last couple of decades, they have used the idea of “light” packaging to sell products to people who believe smoking “light” fags, means less danger. A 2004 British Medical Journal research article found that:

The increase in lung cancer risk is similar in people who smoke medium tar cigarettes (15-21 mg), low tar cigarettes (8-14 mg), or very low tar cigarettes (≤ 7 mg)

– So smoking a cigarette from a package that claims to be “ultra light” means nothing. But do people really believe “ultra light” means they are at less of a risk of developing lung cancer? Does the advertisement on the packaging work? If it does, then Davis is either a liar, or a massive idiot. Well, surprisingly……. he’s a liar or a massive idiot. A University of Toronto research paper, titled “‘Light’ and ‘mild’ cigarettes: who smokes them? Are they being misled?” published in 2002 found that:

In 1996 and 2000, respectively, 44% and 27% smoked L/M (light and mild cigarettes) to reduce health risks, 41% and 40% smoked them as a step toward quitting, and 41% in both years said they would be more likely to quit if they learned L/M could provide the same tar and nicotine as regular cigarettes. These data provide empirical support for banning ‘light’ and ‘mild’ on cigarette packaging.

– The policy of plain packaging is absolutely based on evidence. It is time we started to ignore the “nanny state” hysterical screams from manic, misinformed, ignorant right wingers.

Not only that, but in 2006, after an act of vandalism was initially blamed on a group of Muslim men, Davies said:

“if there’s anybody who should fuck off it’s the Muslims who do this sort of thing.”

– It later turned out that the act of vandalism was caused by white men. Davies did not apologise, nor did he take the same tough far-right, BNP-esque line with the white vandals as he had done when he imagined the vandals were all muslim.

You might think the incessant stupidity stops there. You’d be wrong. In 2009 Davies asked:

“Is it offensive to black up or not, particularly if you are impersonating a black person? Why it is so offensive to black up your face, as I have never understood this?

Maybe he would be happy for black people to take a pay cut after all.


The logic of incentive

July 16, 2010

According to our financial experts, the reason we couldn’t punish bankers, and curtail the bonus culture, or slap a tax on banking bonuses or transactions in the UK was because the “best people for the job, will leave the country“. We were told that the market system dictates that if you take away the incentive, no matter how unjustifiably large those incentives are, the best people will all flee the country to some fucked third World country, where oversight and regulation and taxes are low. It encompasses the entire scope of human nature, and sums it up by telling us that monetary incentives are what ultimately drive us, and anything else would be evil socialism and that government should be off our backs but big business should be allowed to stab as many backs as they wish, because it’s capitalism, so it’s okay. I think that pretty much sums up Friedmanite economic theory.

The utterly ridiculous Mayor of London, Boris Johnson claimed recently that a 50p top tax rate, and an extra levy on non-doms would force 9000 bankers in Britain to flee the country. Boris’ office said:

Boris is determined to highlight to everyone, including George Osborne, that this [bonus] tax is already having an adverse impact and should it become a more permanent feature of our tax system it would have an extremely devastating impact on London’s long-term prosperity.

What interests me, is that Boris, along with every other Conservative both here and America seem unable to admit that London’s long-term prosperity was not attacked by the idea of a bonus tax, but instead by the free ride that the Conservatives gave to bankers, allowing them to gamble horrendously, for twenty five years. Why are they unable to admit that their precious free market system failed miserably? Their logic no longer applies. Johnson should therefore be ignored on this one. Especially given that the Tories matra has been that we are “all in this together“.

The article goes on to say that Goldman Sachs would consider moving their offices abroad because of a super tax suggested by Alistair Darling, the then Chancellor, earlier this year. This is the same Goldman Sachs who were forced to settle $60million out of court to stop an investigation by the Massachusetts Attorney General into whether or not Goldman promoted drastically unfair and impossible home loans across the State. This is the same Goldman Sachs that stands accused of selling dodgy packaged mortgages that they knew were going to fail, to investors, and then betting against them, making a fortune through it, prompting an ex-Goldman worker involved in the scandal to write the book “How I caused the credit crunch“, the same scandal that lead to Goldman Sachs paying a record $550million settlement after being sued by the SEC for fraud. Why are we all allowing ourselves to be held to ransom, by a bunch of criminals? Incidentally, when the 50p top rate of tax finally came into force in April 2010, Goldman did not make good on their threat. They still do business in the UK. Goldman didn’t leave. The 9000 bankers didn’t leave. The Tories, as ever, were wrong.

Now, ignoring the logistics of moving to another country so quickly, upping your family out of the place they call home, simply because you now only make 1.2million instead of 1.5million in bonuses each year; the apparent science that offering higher rewards will improve performance, is actually flawed and realistically cannot be called a science. It is a manipulation more than anything. A threat. Keep paying us unjustifiably high amounts of money, or we’ll leave, and your country is screwed. It is why politicians are effectively useless, because they have very little say over economic matters. We all know these bankers will not leave the country in one huge banking emigration day.

A group of economists working out of M.I.T and the University of Chicago conducted an experiment using a number of students. They gave the students a number of assignments, including mathematical and scientific problems to solve. They offered the first group a very small amount of money as an incentive to complete the assignments. They offered a second group a higher amount, and they offered a third group a large amount of money. The theory put forward by the defenders of market principles, or those with free-market-failure-denial would argue that those offered the most amount of money, would perform the best. The reality was different. The students offered the highest incentive, failed miserably. The students offered the medium amount and the students offered the lowest amount both ended up with similar results. Both beating the students offered the most.

The economists then took the experiment to Madurai, in India, with higher incentives, fearing that maybe there wasn’t enough difference in incentive when the experiment was conducted on students in the US. In India, they offered the first group a weeks wages, they offered the second group; a months wages, and the third group; two months wages. The stakes in India for such rewards, would be far higher than at M.I.T. Again, those offered the smallest incentive performed pretty much identically to those offered the medium sized reward. Those offered the top incentive, did the worst again. So, the higher the incentive, the lower the performance. Why? Firstly, we now have to accept that free market theory is just that; a theory, and whilst some of it is relevant and works well, there is much of it that has failed recently, and analysing the entire process in this way, can only be a good thing.

It is true that if you don’t give people the money they clearly deserve for the work they have done, they will not perform highly, they will be unmotivated and annoyed. So yes, money as an incentive does work to an extent. The experiment showed that when you give someone a simple task and tell them they will be paid a certain amount for completing that task, the incentive works. But when you give people a difficult task, which requires long term thought, creativity and problem solving skills of the highest calibre, the incentive doesn’t work. I’d suggest the reason for this, isn’t simply ‘human nature’, it is mainly because our society and our universal culture rewards greed and excess and so that trait of greed which exists in all of us, becomes amplified. Human nature is so vastly complex, to sum it up in such a simple way and create an economic system around it, is a problem. And so a highly problematic task, is rewarded in three ways according to the research, and those three ways are personal from than simply the need for money. Those three things are Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

Autonomy states that if you want a difficult and complex task completed, self direction is better. Figuring it out for yourself is far more rewarding than having someone tell you how it’s done, it is far better than having a demanding manager micro-managing your every move. Leave your workers to do the job their way. Social commentator Dan Pink points out that the Australian software company Atlassian tell their employees that on one day of the second quarter, they can spend the next 24 hours working on whatever project they want, with whomever they way, and any way they want, they have to then show their results the following day at a staff meeting filled with drinks and cakes. That one day has lead to huge advances in software fixes and new ideas and creations. This did not involve a promise of a bonus or any extra money. They performed to the best of their ability, without the need for more money.

Mastery means improving and understanding what we are doing, far better than when we started. I read a lot of history books, not because it is economically valuable, but because I enjoy it, and I like to know that I can debate and talk about historical events with a degree of mastery. People add to opensource, in their spare time for no money reward, but because the work is autonomous, and they improve and learn as they go. What they create, then becomes free, they do not sell it. It is not economically valuable for the individual. Evil Communism at work again.

Purpose, is pretty self explanatory. A company without its eye on a purpose, becomes pretty dangerous. Now, right winged economics would have us believe that a primary motive for any company should be profit making. This isn’t true. Look again at Goldman Sachs. They took their eye off their purpose to provide sensible mortgages and a helpful responsible banking service, and instead kept their eye firmly on profit, which has been catastrophic. Profit and purpose should be interlinked. Purpose should serve the community, and not just shareholders. There must be a reason for people to want to improve.

Now, what this all means is that when you combine the three, it is interesting to note that our motives, are based almost firmly on concepts that don’t involve money. Money certainly plays its part, we all want to feel secure, but once we have a degree of security, we are not just consumers nor economic statistics, we have personal reasons for the work we do. If we leave people to it; dress in what makes you feel comfortable, talk in a way that isn’t imposed on you from those above, create, innovate and at the same time laugh and talk, instead of simply saying “look, if you do this, you get $2000, but do it my way. Oh and there’s a really important person coming through the office later, when you see him, make sure you bow and call him Sir, for he is above you.“, you will almost always see better results. Once the boss is off your back and the carrot made out of gold has been put away, and employees are treated like people rather than cogs in a money making machine, you will almost always see better results. The logic is now based on quite strong research. Free market obsessives can no longer claim their way is the only way, and this makes me happy.