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Comment Re:A word to the wise (Score 1, Insightful) 272

What you mean to say is that the government and the banks supported an industry in which they both feathered each others' nests for as long as it would take them to get obscenely rich.

They're bastards on both sides, and America is the slowest country in the world to realise this.

Comment Re:ah but that's today's results (Score 0) 361

I was a member of Unison (one of the UK's biggest unions, ~2million members) for about 6 years. Since then I've been working private sector (unionless) for about 5 years. I went on strike with them over public sector pay and conditions a number of times and even helped with some organising. As such, I know just a bit about unions in the UK and can hardly be called unobjective on the issue as I have a fairly even spread of experience both inside and outside of union circles.

About 25% of the British workforce is a member of a union. Not many people today spend their whole lives only in organised workplaces. Believing you have special knowledge means, in fact, that you have very little knowledge.

And you can certainly be called subjective while you're talking about your personal experience. Indeed, Unison is probably the best example of an overly politicised union, as well as being completely public sector, so unrepresentative of a mostly private sector workforce.

It has to do with the fact that the UK has excellent employee protection laws

Compared to much of Europe, no it doesn't - and they're being thoroughly diluted.

such that unions are now entirely unnecessary for any reason other than to ensure those laws do not get weakened

That is one important purpose of unions, and the decline in membership has meant a corresponding weakening in labour laws. Unions also exist to ensure that labour laws are kept up-to-date, but this political angle that you perceive to be a major role is in fact a minor role, more relevant for associations of unions (e.g. the TUC).

The main purpose of a union is to facilitate a dialogue between the two sides of industry, primarily providing the voice of the workers. Workers present the grievances which cause higher staff turnover, lower productivity and (in the worst cases) desperate dishonesty, and management provide solutions which fit in with the organisation's constraints (profit or budgetary). In order to do this, unions keep their members informed about the law and company practices. They monitor for both statutory and non-statutory abuses. If negotiation should fail, they provide legally trained staff to represent their members.

we have strong health and safety laws, we have a very decent minimum wage, we have excellent redundancy terms and protection, we have excellent protection against unfair dismissal, we have incredibly strong equality laws, we have an effective industrial tribunal system, we're soon to have enforced pension provision, and so on.

With the exception of health & safety and the vague comment about pension provision (we've always had pension provision!), you evidently have no idea what you're talking about. You're just listing random protections you can remember vaguely that UK workers have, and adding words like "excellent", "incredibly strong" and "effective".

You also neglect to recognise that it is precisely unions which tend to provide representation. I am legally educated and have informally assisted with UT cases, FWIW. A few factoids to get you thinking:

decent minimum wage: Those on JSA for more than a year (less for youth), and with the WRA 2012 even those declared unfit for work, can be and in the former case already are required to work in regular jobs in profit-making establishments up to 30 hours per week for no pay beyond the JSA amount. The usual suspects (Tesco, Poundland) clearly let go of their regularly employed workforce to take advantage of this sidestepping of the minimum wage laws. It doesn't take a mathematician to work out what the effective rate of pay is.

redundancy terms and protection: Obviously you've never lived in mainland Europe.

unfair dismissal: Getting gradually worse - I assume you were asleep when the Unfair Dismissal and Statement of Reasons for Dismissal Order 2012 was passed.

equality laws: On the contrary, proving discrimination is extremely difficult except in the well-established area of gender discrimination (being backed up by a disproportionately huge amount of EU law). And good luck getting EHRC funding - a discrimination case will be hard to prove and may require substantial medical evidence for disability.

industrial tribunal (although it's not been called that for a long time): Actually, the system is fairly lame - most cases are settled or withdrawn before hearing, and the employee in general will fail at hearing or (more often) pre-hearing. Consider, for example, table 2.2. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will make things more hairy for employees, and some (quite hefty - especially for discrimination, surprise surprise!) fees are being introduced in 2012. As good a summary as any.

I imagine you're just another disillusioned kid turned Tory because you felt that one particular union wasn't delivering and lucked out in the private sector. I take heart in the fact that absolute union membership in the private sector has gone up since that buffoon Cameron and his ship of fools took control.

Besides, your underlying assertion that Germany is somehow better than the US or UK is pretty much false anyway. The US outdoes Germany by most metrics, the UK outdoes it by many.

Exports per capita: Germany.
Best labour laws and most effective unions: Germany.
Sustainable public sector exists: Germany.

I'm not going to read your response because it is apparent that I'm speaking to someone who has a lot of opinion and not much knowledge. I have merely provided this post to give you a few things to think about.

Comment Re:ah but that's today's results (Score 0) 361

The US has already lost the foundation for its power. It takes a particularly young sort of mind to think that something which will not be fully felt for another 20 years (I think your estimate is sound) is being reported "too early".

Living in the very much ex-empire that is England, I make no assumption that the end of an empire is the harbinger of Armageddon. Indeed, the US may take a moment to reflect, lose its hubris, and improve the lot of its people - that's what happened here.

Comment Re:ah but that's today's results (Score 1, Interesting) 361

I did go to private school, and while I can't speak for US private schools, here in Blighty:

1) Everyone arsed around. Good contacts mean no need to work unless you're on a scholarship - which I was, and it was hard to work around clowns whose daddies' $40,000+/year meant they weren't going anywhere. I did vaguely attend a state-funded school for a year and I'd never met a harder working bunch of students;

2) The wealth of the parents tends to reflect a certain refined competence - "easy solution: change the law", "piece of shit politically correct beaurocratic mess" and "mother is a cold hearted bitch" reflect neither refinement nor competence.

The first thing to understand about school is that it is in the interests of the powerful to keep most people undereducated - why engineer more competition for yourself?

Comment Re:France not a failure (Score 0) 361

Speaking as someone who performs far better at exams than in reality, I would have to disagree. It's not that I'm clinically retarded, but that there are lots of people more capable than me in practice who just happen to do worse at exams. It would be awful to subject them to the French system.

The valuable people are not those that shine at undergrad level, prepared like robots for the French apparatus - the valuable are the ones who, coming from a wide pool of academics, produce the good research. It's been 180 years since Galois' death and I expect he'd still be turned down by the Polytechnique today.

Incidentally I still have a great deal of respect for social democratic, cultured, technically skilled France - but France suffers from that same "we have been good at some things so we must be brilliant at almost everything" bullshit that America has but, say, Germany or the UK or Spain or the Low Countries don't. Regular criticism and incremental improvement goes a long way, as Japan should have taught us.

Comment Re:Muha (Score 0) 361

. I stated that if there were 360 million Frenchmen, they would beat US economic output any time.

Please explain the calculation you used to arrive at this result. Also please explain why you chose 360 million.

France is a kind of mini-USA and that is already astonishing.

Astonishing in the sense that they both strive for military supremacy, but only one of them has succeeded?

Just building a nuke requires excessive amounts of money and talent.

No, not really. What complexity do you think "building a nuke" involves?

The same is with ballistic missiles

Do you know what a "ballistic missile" actually is? Because an Exocet isn't one.

and aircraft engines.

No doubt.

and Ecole National d'Administration have achieved

When I grow up, I want to go to Bureaucrat School!

So their education system must indeed be marvellous, as their natural resources are quite non-existent.

Nonsense - they have fertile land and weather for wine.

Kicking out people who don't perform ? Very good - it teaches a lesson

Egalit-oh wait, no, just another racist.

The term "engineer" was invented by Napoleonic France.

c1380 Sir Ferumbras (1879) l. 3223 e Amyral made his engyneour e engyns to sette & bende.
a1500 in J. Gairdner Three 15th-cent. Chrons. (1880) 82 Item, of masones, carpentrs, smythis, engyners, pavylandrs, armorars, goners, and macker of artorie,...
1551 King Edward VI Jrnl. in Lit. Remains (1857) II. 369 Baron de la Garde had seene it [sc. Portesmouth castell] having an ingenir with him, and, as it was thought, had the platte of it.

Well, at least the French have a word for entrepreneur.

Do I have to say more ?

No, you've already embarrassed yourself enough.

Comment Re:ah but that's today's results (Score 3, Informative) 361

GDP is not a measure of purchasing power.

HDI measured by mean couldn't be more stupid, and is just the sort of parameter I'd expect from someone educated in America.

University ranking needs to stop confuddling undergraduate education quality with research output. The US and the UK still come out on top at the top for academia, no doubt, but any average high school or university graduate in the US/UK is ignorant as pigshit.

German innovation tends to be in manufacturing, energy, etc. i.e. stuff people need to live. And one does not solve problems by throwing more money at them.

Even with big geographic and demographic advantages, Germany is still lagging behind the USA and the reason is that the burden of the heavy regulation, taxes, welfare state and the unions is too much even for the German worker to carry on his back.
Socialism is slavery.

Lame. I see you're not here for an argument, but to preach. Go back to America - your dying empire needs you.

Comment Re:Ok Hazel (Score 0) 361

It's true - in a world without the US, Russia, China, Britain and Israel, you'd probably do quite well militarily. You'd perhaps have fewer countries who want to buy weapons to use against your allies on that list, of course. But everyone who deals in arms has blood on their hands.

We all respect France's contribution to the CSG, just as France welcomes the 2/3 contribution from the ESA alone.

And we can both agree to hate Thatcher for destroying any hope Britain had of building cars and trains. I admire in particular the way the French state bought up privatised British energy companies - that was hilarious. I fully respect France's social democracy, which has resulted in far more solid infrastructure than anything in the UK.

In car manufacturing, you are, of course, lagging behind the less populous Spain and dwarved by Germany. And even Spanish Talgo technology is far more widely applicable, if not quite as fast. Again, France's social democracy allowed it to build new lines using a more precise construction process capable of supporting high speed rolling stock.

Comment Re:ah but that's today's results (Score 4, Insightful) 361

They are more well-functioning than American unions, but it's nothing to do with their being altruistic - on the contrary, they give power to their members. Indeed, German unions are far more powerful than American ones. But German unions tend to handle themselves better, partly thanks to a government which understands the need for (i.e. provides law for) management and labour to cooperate for the good of both sides of industry.

Neither the UK nor the US get this - even though unions create a low-turnover workforce interested in productivity and self-improvement because workers know that, in return, they're going to enjoy better treatment and security of employment.

Comment Re:France not a failure (Score 1) 361

Exocet missiles which sunk two anglo frigates

Building a missile which can hit an unexpecting ship is hardly what I'd call the peak of human engineering. The British military were known to have shit for missile defences and the warhead lodged in the Sheffield for a few days didn't even explode.

It is a partially french plane which is the largest in commercial passenger biz.

Airbus is certainly mostly European but I'd barely call it "French" as far as engineering is concerned. Anyway, single examples of excellent (and Airbus are excellent) are not what takes a country forward, but a wholly well-educated workforce. There is nothing productive in a university system which randomly kicks out people who have the potential to be perfectly competent (even brilliant) merely because they haven't passed some theoretical exams in the top x%. This is the worst possible way of nurturing talent.

I could go on with this list for at least 200 more words.

Aim higher.

They do the maximum for their size of country.

In what sense?

Comment Re:ah but that's today's results (Score 4, Insightful) 361

Isn't it odd how the most socially and economically advanced production powerhouses like Germany tend to have strong unions?

Isn't it interesting how desperate, fallen empires like the UK and the US are to demonstrate that unions don't work?

Also a union is not "about the students or about education", in the same way that you don't take your paycheque home at the end of the day "for your company". The purpose of a union is to address the interests of the workforce, not the customer / service user. It can do that well, by resolving differences between labour and management, or it can do that badly, running the organisation into the ground. IOW "power" is exactly what a union is about - strength in numbers.

Comment Re:American Advantage (Score 1) 361

3) This is an advantage against Europe etc. America values success. Its a virtue. If you hate the 1% then doing something that causes you to be part of that 1% can actually be discouraged. Australia is a good example, there the most successful are mocked while in the USA the most successful are giving special privilege.

There is a difference between valuing achievement and valuing accumulation of wealth. As America passes from the former to the latter, it takes a walk from the throne room to the bathroom.

4) Americans can always go back to school.

In most of Europe you get not less than one free go - in the US you get between zero and one free go. This potentially makes for a more class-based economy in the US.

However, failures like France tend to very much grade to a test curve rather than on practice ability - e.g. medicine depends on repeatedly creaming off the people who pass with the highest grades at various exams and throwing out the rest, before anyone has spent one minute actually being a a doctor. This produces a country of people who have revised well for the test.

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