Thursday, 8 February 2018

"Nationalisation vs privatisation: the public view"

Here's what DBC Reed linked to in the comments to the previous post on the topic (click pics for links):



It's not as revealing as the previous one we looked at:



Discussion here.

Suffice to say, any serious debate about whether something should be run by the government or private businesses doesn't include waffle about the private sector being more efficient or 'customer focussed', they usually are.

The government is pretty crap at running all but the most simple things, agreed.

But would you really want competing private police forces, or competing private land registries?

Some things have to be run by the government. In a proper democracy, we, the people, decides what counts as a crime and what doesn't, and the police are paid to reduce those crimes as much as possible. Not crap like arresting Twitter trolls. That's yer 'customer focus' right there. Would you want one land registry showing you as owning your home but a competing land registry showing that it belongs to somebody else? How would that work?

The other limit of the private sector is where something - if privatised - would lead to blatant rent seeking. Clearly, we can't have competing private land registries, but what if the Tories had really gone mad and privatised it as a monopoly instead? That business would effectively be able to collect Land Value Tax by charging people 'annual renewal fees' and staff would be bribed into transferring titles.

As (I think) Sobers said, there are some things that are better off in the private sector, even monopolies like water - on the proviso that a government regulator imposes serious price caps, quality and environmental standards etc (or in my view, let's them charge as much as they like and tax them at swingeing rates). This applies to all the natural monopolies on the first list (railways and water).

Health and schools are not natural monopolies or the natural preserve of government but there's too much opportunity for rent-seeking. I see no good economic reason for the government to be involved in delivering letters, broadcasting, generating electricity, telephony, banking or airlines. Bus companies are borderline, private companies are fine for long distance but in larger towns they have to be co-ordinated.

49 comments:

Rich Tee said...

I reckon you could privatise the land registry quite easily. It is just a record keeping service at the end of the day. The Ordnance Survey is a private company, although it is "100% owned by the UK Government".

Sobers said...

It depends if there's competition. By all means nationalise the Post Office, and the energy companies, as long as other private companies can provide similar services. Then customers can make a choice. If the State is a better manager of such businesses, it won't mind a bit of free market competition right?

Incidentally the Land Registry is indeed a State body, and dealing with it is utterly sh*t - it can take years to register old titles, because they work at the pace they want to, and there's nothing the 'customer' can do.

IMO any State monopoly body that is public facing should have to face legal rights for the customer - ie fail to deal with their case within certain timescales, then face automatic fines.

Mark Wadsworth said...

RT, hmm.

S,

Electricity generation - was historically private or local council owned, the National Grid freed up the market and enabled competition and encouraged/forced standardisation, making electric powered goods much cheaper. Win-win. I don't think there's anything wrong with that model. if private people want to generate electricity by whatever means, let them do so.

National grid- this would never have come into being without the government, it actually improved the workings of the market. The other advantage of keeping it nationalised is that it's dead easy to tax electricity companies by charging them per unit electricity carried. If you are a Greenie, you charge wind turbines or solar plants lower prices (or carry for free), and so on.

Delivering letters - might have been a good idea to have a national mail service centuries ago to bind the country together, but is no longer really a 'national' matter. Courier companies do a great job.

What I don't like is 'top down' privatisation of monoliths like Royal Mail, there are too much corruption and back handers involved in the privatisation process.

Far better is 'bottom up' privatisation - just let any old company deliver letters if it wants to and let the Royal Mail shrivel on the vine if there's no demand for it.

Land registry - people have had one and a half centuries to register their land. They shouldn't come crying if they have conveniently decided to disguise ownership all this time and suddenly need to register to make a sale easier.

Shiney said...

@S @MW

Why not make the Land Registry like Nominet, the domain registrar, a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee....

From wikipedia

"customers wishing to register a domain do not approach Nominet directly, but register the domain via a registrar. This is an organisation that is authorised by Nominet to register and update domains on behalf of customers, and that has provided a PGP public key to enable Nominet to authenticate communications from them. Registrars were formerly known as "tagholders".

So if your registrar (GoDady, 123-Reg 1&1 etc) are shit.... go to a different one. Regsitrars are usually shareholders in Nominet so its in their interests to make sure it works.

Some registrars could be specialists, or solicitors could do it as well. Then the private sector would sort the tech to make it work.

You could have services like 'whois' to find out who owns what.

Simples.

The Stigler said...

I'm going to disagree with you about bus companies. I really like taking buses now and a lot of that is that the people running them care about service, because they aren't getting free money. There's e-ticketing and Apple Pay on my local buses and National Express. Rail hasn't got that. The buses had wifi long before the trains did.

Buses are a very private sector/market thing for other reasons: there's no central control, they tap into a market of suppliers (both drivers and buses). Trains are quite naturally centralised (plus the government interferes all over the place), which is why I don't give that much of a toss if they nationalise them. I don't think it will make much difference.

Bayard said...

"National grid- this would never have come into being without the government, it actually improved the workings of the market."

This applies to all the pipes and wires, whether water, gas, telephone or mobile phone. They should be nationally owned and the private companies pay to use them. In the case of mobile phone masts it would end wasteful duplication and improve coverage for everyone.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Sh, no need to privatise HMLR. This is a good example of 'bottom up privatisation' in action.

The legal force (what they say is true, by definition) must rest with a government body.

But apart from that. it's just a massive database. They sell access it to lots of other private services who will do customised reports where there is demand for it. For example Mouseprice, who will send you details of recent sales in a defined area. Zoopla and Rightmove use them for their area averages.

If there were demand for "show me every bit of land that X owns", then somebody would provide it.

St, I can give you examples of where private bus companies work or worked well (or badly) and examples where govt run ones work well (or badly), it's horses for courses.

B, yes, there's a good argument for that. But there's also the Sobers way i.e. price caps and regulation.

Graeme said...

Last December the Amsterdam trams and buses started accepting contactless payment Like TFL all thise years ago . Still not possible on trains but it is still rare in London . I think it's a management issue

The Stigler said...

Bayard,

"In the case of mobile phone masts it would end wasteful duplication and improve coverage for everyone."

But you replace wasteful duplication with other waste in the public sector like extra bureaucracy, politics and that no-one gives a toss, because where else are you going to go?

Graeme said...

And someone should remind DBCR that Mussolini made the trains run on time Although he didn't really

Graeme said...

One mobile telco tried to use the ITV network It didndt work for GSM

DBC Reed said...

As I thought, this blog is more pro-privatisation than the country in general and that is not to mention Brexit!
The thing about nationalisation is that it is a known quantity and is quite accepted despite its known shortcomings. The privatisers on the other hand make wild claims for private ownership with no real knowledge of the consequences and instead a lot of trendy guff.The radical solution to the problems of retail is the CO-OP where the shops are owned by the customer but no amount of hard selling will ever overcome's the CO-OPs present image problem.Brexit on the other hand is spun with all the imagery of freedom and release while being absurdly unthought out with supporters arguing on simple issues about whether to leave a customs union which puts up tariff walls against non members etc.It is irrational to compare one system whose problems are well-known with something like Brexit or a form of privatisation which exists only as a bells and whistles advertising concept.Socialism was once the trendy movement which existed on a diet of dreams; with the passage of time private ownership has replaced it as the image of a new world. We should be sticking to things we know work; should be properly conservative at a time of irreparable change.

Graeme said...

DBCR. Maybe we prefer evidence to dogma

Mark Wadsworth said...

G, thanks. As long as I'm being attacked from both sides, I know I'm on the right lines.

paulc156 said...

Maybe. But what if the evidence doesn't conform? And what if much of what you might refer to as evidence is anecdote?
Missimo Florio has done a thorough and systematic study into the whole privatisation program under Thatcher and Major eras.
'The Great Divestiture.'(MIT)
"Florio assesses the effect of privatization on consumers, taxpayers, firms, shareholders, and workers. His conclusion may be surprising to some; his findings suggest that the changeover to private ownership per se had little effect on long-term trends in prices and productivity in Britain and contributed to regressive redistribution"

paulc156 said...

Response to G's championing of 'evidence'.

Graeme said...

I real evidence would be great. On the other hand there is a lot of evidence to suggest that it is a lot easier to get a telephone than it was in the 70s. And getting a gasfire does not involve a 12 month wait.

Graeme said...

Thinking about it, these days a Polish electrician or Romanian plumber can redo my services. Back in the80s, these jobs could only be done by state enterprises. Brexit does not stop skilled tradesmen working in the UK unless stupid unilateral thinkers such as DBCR stop them

DBC Reed said...

Brexit does stop skilled tradesmen working in the UK. That's what a lot of people voted for in the referendum!And this is the point: we started out in the Macmillan era with a complex rules-based mixed economy. Right wing trendies disturbed the balance of this by chipping away in the name of freedom.Schedule A of Income Tax actually taxed house price rises out of income. This was abolshed in 1963.But it was a long time before the cultural change in housing became apparent and oppressive.Right wing trendies are now right behind Brexit but only when it is imaginary and in fairyland.Faced by reality and the age-old problem of foreign labour, they split in the traditional British ruling class manner of squealing, attacking each other and making fools of themselves with the top priority of keeping their sinecures.
There is no evidence that privatisation away from the Macmillan system has done any good.It has been a series of silly distractions from the real problem of continuous land price inflation. Brexit= dead cat strategy.

Lola said...

BDCR "...We should be sticking to things we know work;..." Not socialism then.

DBC Reed said...

@L
Macmillan's Middle Way politics worked and they were socialist by modern standards; the You gov survey shows popular attitudes remain loyal to Macmillan's balance of public sector / private sector. If changes were to be made they should be to add items to the nationalisation consensus viz. the nationalisation or socialisation of land price rises as per Adam Smith 1776 ; the nationalisation/ socialisation of money creation as initiated by Abraham Lincoln.
There is an argument for the last two as being enough to subsume the other You Gov ten but no right wingers are putting this argument , just spreading scare stories or get rich quick promises of getting rich without having to do any work.
Right-wing land taxers will not work in any consensus and prefer endless football hooligan style point scoring as if there remains two rival sides.

paulc156 said...

G "On the other hand there is a lot of evidence to suggest that it is a lot easier to get a telephone than it was in the 70s."

That's not evidence for or against nationalisation though. By that logic British motor industry was ripe for nationalisation. It was shite in the same era you mention. It seems your idea of evidence is just anecdotal.

Mark Wadsworth said...

PC, easy availability of telephones is clearly an argument FOR allowing private businesses to sell and install phones, what's your problem?

This is not "anecdotal", it is just an example of "better customer service and lower prices".

paulc156 said...

MW. Is dire state of UK motor industry (crap cars, big losses etc) in 70's a good argument for nationalisation? But ease of acquiring a telephone line is strong argument for privatisation? Fine.

But how about changes in output, prices, revenues, costs, employment, productivity, profits and investment?

"Our key findings are that operating profits (i.e. gross profits before interest and tax) were remarkably stable before and after divestiture, and that ownership change per se had little discernible impact on productivity trends, particularly between 1984 and 1991..."

massimo florio. The welfare impact of a privatisation:
the British Telecom case-history
Massimo Florio

"In conclusion, our careful reading of the available evidence (which was documented in detail in this paper), seems to point to a relatively small social benefit of BT privatisation, or perhaps to a small net social cost if distributional and allocative efficiency considerations are accounted for.Basically, there is no way to attribute to privatisation changes in prices and costs that seem to be driven by factors different from the transfer of ownership rights. Most of the charges are related either to the financial mechanism or to regulation.Obviously, if privatisation was the necessary prerequisite for changes in finance and regulation and market structure, one may reach different conclusions, but such a counterfactual is very difficult to be substantiated by any objective evidence.Moreover, the international comparison of BT performance with state-owned Telecom companies (e.g. in France and Germany) would not support such a view."

http://www.massimoflorio.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/w.p.-DEPA-01.08.pdf

Mark Wadsworth said...

PC, I'd love to answer the question, but I have no idea what you want to know:

MW. Is dire state of UK motor industry (crap cars, big losses etc) in 70's a good argument for nationalisation?

¿?????????

Bayard said...

"The thing about nationalisation is that it is a known quantity and is quite accepted despite its known shortcomings. The privatisers on the other hand make wild claims for private ownership with no real knowledge of the consequences and instead a lot of trendy guff."

How do you work that out? Every nationalised industry was once privately owned, so we know how good or bad they were before nationalisation and we also know haw good or bad they were after nationalisation. There is an important difference between public sector organisations and nationalised companies. The former are organisations like the army, the police force and the fire brigades, the latter are companies like BR, BA and BL. As I keep pointing out, the model of the joint-stock company doesn't work very well, even in the private sector. Simply replacing the shareholders by the state, but leaving everything else more or less intact gives you the worst of both worlds. That is why so many nationalised companies ended up being loss-making, nothing to do with public versus private sector.

Bayard said...

"But you replace wasteful duplication with other waste in the public sector like extra bureaucracy, politics and that no-one gives a toss, because where else are you going to go?"

Two points: 1) we, the public, wouldn't be dealing with the wire and pipe organisation, any more than rail passengers deal with Network Rail, so we would always have the chance to go elsewhere.
2) Currently, if you live in the area served by Welsh Water, there is no-one else you can go to for your water. Ditto mobile phones: if only one company has a mast in your area, you are stuck with them (apologies if this is an alien concept to the city dwellers on this blog). All the phone lines are owned and maintained by BT, so no prizes for guessing which phone company gets the best service when it comes to repairing faults etc.

paulc156 said...

Well Mark. It shouldn't be too hard. If the fact that G couldn't get a line back in the 70s is good evidence against public ownership of telecoms then surely how much more so the failing motor industry of the same period could just as well be an indictment of a privately run industry and argument for public ownership! Funny that the process only works in one direction.

In fact it probably is irrelevant who runs BT. As the Florio paper concludes. Other nations telecoms achieved similar results in terms of productivity, output, prices costs etc without privatisation. Telecoms demise in that era was probably more of feature of Britain's class riven post war society (eg.worker versus management culture) than any inherent impediment to public ownership of key areas of the economy.

In fact if you look at Florio's later Great Divestiture work (a smattering of which is available to view online for nowt) where he looks at the whole privatisation program in great detail the picture is one of relatively few benefits almost exclusively captured by the first and second deciles and considerable losses suffered by the income poor. So just plain old upward redistribution dressed up as 'supposed' efficiency gains due to the magic of the market place. But that's (Florio) systematically analysing the events and outcomes looking at 'evidence' which is far less impressive than, 'I had to wait ages for a phone back in the day...'

Mark Wadsworth said...

PC, aha, the penny drops, in your world view, the nationalised British Leyland was failing because was privately owned and run. What a topsy turvy world you live in!

Even if it had been privately owned and run and were failing, that is all the less reason to nationalise it.

BT was 'top down privatisation' which is inherently suspect as I have said many a time, but as you only read what you want to read and ignore the rest, I suppose there's no point me repeating.

DBC Reed said...

I no longer own a mobile phone .(What is the point of something that your wife can use at inopportune moments to demand "Where are you now? What are you doing ?" My real complaint is that I am too old to get up to anything now so the mobile phone calls were a depressing reminder of the tragedy of ageing. ) But as Bayard says the old complaint about delayed installation of domestic land lines by BT is matched by the present problems of mobile phone blind spots due to the wonders of the market.I had a family holiday in Norfolk where the only place you could pick up a mobile signal was a hundred yard stretch of narrow main road where it was suicide to stop.And people had to live in that area full time, of course.
As regards phones the points scoring is 1-1. (There are plenty of people who advocate the nationalisation of the provision of masts BTW. Communists obviously).
In the case of the nationalisation of car manufacturers, some time during the slow vandalism of Macmillan' s legacy by pigmies, the Tories had to nationalise Rolls Royce to prevent bankruptcy due to the advanced management techniques then all the rage in easy-to-read colour supplements.

The Stigler said...

Bayard,

How would you have a chance to go elsewhere if one company owns the network? Ok, it could be organised like ADSL, but that really makes sense because of the complexity of land lines.

paulc156 said...

MW."PC, aha, the penny drops, in your world view, the nationalised British Leyland was failing because was privately owned and run."

Nope. As I said in my precious post to YOU "In fact it probably is irrelevant who runs BT".
...just as 'can't get a phone line put in' is an indictment of bad management not necessarily the 'wrong ownership' ...but as you only read what you want to read and ignore the rest, I suppose there's no point me repeating.

Bayard said...

TS, because you wouldn't be dealing with that organisation (it wouldn't, ideally, be a company) the 'phone company would. ATM one company does own the network of landlines. It's called BT. That doesn't stop you going to TalkTalk if you don't like what BT is offering, but it does give BT an unfair advantage in the fixed line market.

Things like pipes, wires, roads, railway lines, canals and, to a certain extent, airports will always command a geographic monopoly unless there is wasteful duplication. So it makes sense to have those things owned and operated by the state but have private companies using them to transport people, goods, information, power etc.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, you list is similar to mine, so agreed. Most of those things aren't ends in themselves, they are just "channels" to enable consumers and producers to interact - they enable or improve competition, production and consumption - but with a lot of opportunity for rent seeking.

But - for example - "canals" are more a hobby thing nowadays, they ARE an end in themselves.

Also, think about stuff like LINK cash machines, that's valuable infrastructure but I doubt that the government would ever have got it up and running. AFAIAA, it's collectively owned by the banks and is in itself a "not for profit" organisation.

Also, you have to think about the practicalities. Electricity is completely fungible and indistinguishable, so private or competing enterprises can all hook up and pump in "their" electricity. What comes out is a mix of every power company's electricity.

But what about water pipes? If you have competing suppliers, you have to impose high standards on all of them, because a pinch of shit spoils a bucket of porridge. Easier to have a monopoly provider and just keep tabs on him. The rent seeking bit can be (and is) dealt with via price caps.

Also, privately owned airports do a great job, it;s so high tech that I'm not sure an incompetent government (like the UK government) would be up to it. The key here is to tax away the value of the landing slots, whether you charge the airlines or the airport is neither here nor there, or you could just lump it in with Business Rates.

Mark Wadsworth said...

PC, you refer back to BT. It has a monopoly of landlines (as B points out) which is dangerous in private hands unless there are price caps and free access for competitors.

But who cares about land lines any more? It's old hat.

People use mobile phones, which are frankly brilliant and surprisingly cheap (I get 100 minutes with Virgin NTL plus endless texts for £5 a month). Do you think that the UK government would ever have got it all up and running? Nope, the UK government - for once - did the right thing and auctioned off radio spectrum for £20 billion, so the general public get the benefit of the monopoly value for zero effort and the mobile companies do the difficult stuff like putting up satellites and building phone masts.

Bayard said...

"But who cares about land lines any more? It's old hat. "

Real time voice chat maybe, but those same wires/cables carry the internet to your home and office.

"and the mobile companies do the difficult stuff like putting up satellites and building phone masts."

Yep, but that's where the "wasteful duplication" sets in. Although, if the mobile phone infrastructure had been installed by the state, it probably would have been over budget and late, the resulting coverage would have been far better in the end, cf the expansion of the electricity distribution system under state control.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B that's true for many places, although where I am there's Virgin NTL, which is a physically different system (which gets us back to the duplication problem), I was just thinking about actual telephone calls.

The National Grid was a much simpler exercise and maybe UK governments weren't so massively useless in the 1920s and 1930s? And it's not just the masts, it's the satellites as well.

But as things stand, I can't see anything to complain about with mobile phones. You can be a tight git like me and spend £5 a month or you can be a massive show off and spend £50.

Bayard said...

"But as things stand, I can't see anything to complain about with mobile phones. "

That's because you live in London. Out here in the sticks, it's not price we worry about, it's getting a service at all. Just like with electricity, there aren't enough rural customers to make a universal service worth a private company's while.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B it's not just London, it's any reasonably big town. The wife and I drive around in summer and go to National Trust places, in most places, you can get mobile reception.

Aoart from that, fair point, but you also have to think about economic efficiency. It's worth while putting up a mast for the benefit of ten thousand people, but is it worth putting one up for the benefit of a hundred? What if me and a few friends move to an abandoned Scottish island? Do we have the right to a paid-for mobile phone mast?

Bayard said...

Yeah, that's the trouble; the moment something is operated by the state, people start talking about "rights". As to whether it is worth putting up a mast for a few hundred people, that's a commercial decision in the private sector (and, unless some of those few hundred are very rich and willing to pay, the answer is likely to be "no"), but if the network was in the public sector, then it's a political decision. It certainly wasn't commercially viable to connect up all those outlying farms to the mains, yet the government did it anyway. However, I doubt if any of those farmers thought at the time that they had a "right" to an electrical supply.
A friend of mine grew up in a house with its own hydro-electric supply, but when the turbine needed new parts, it was cheaper to go onto the mains. I wonder if the infrastructure is still there or whether it's all been washed out by now.

DBC Reed said...

Never mind remote islands,if you were to move to certain streets around here ,you could find yourself in a privatised or unadopted road where the council won't provide any road surface and out-of-town people park all day blocking your resident access. Not only do residents have to stump up for road surface they are racked with anxiety that people will fall over and sue them as they, the "frontagers", are liable.
I feel that those who vote for privatisation should not be able to pick and choose; if they opt out of the collective state by using private schools etc , they should not use statist universities later.( Of course, Thatcherite homeownerism inflated house prices to give the middle class untaxed capital so parents could subsequently stump up full whack.)

Bayard said...

"if they opt out of the collective state by using private schools etc , they should not use statist universities later."

How do you work that one out (2)? Having saved the country thousands of pounds by educating their children privately, you are saying that they should be punished for this contribution to the common weal by being refused access to state-supported universities? No good deed goes unpunished, obviously.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, I have made the same point myself. Yes, private school kids are over-represented at university.

So what? The parents of each such kid has paid enough tax to fund two or three state school places for 14 years without using that fine service at all.

DBC Reed said...

@B
Having set up a viciously competitive education system our ruling caste make sure that their children always come out on top.The curriculum, national or otherwise, has n't changed in centuries and produces grovelling dimwits who can't think independently.This certainly contributes to the meltdown in the Economics syllabus in which any stray rational thoughts i.e.why don't we tax land value increases like Adam Smith said at the start? Why do banks create money then pretend they are borrowing it off savers? is self censored to avoid failing the course.(How many tenured Georgist economists are there? I can think of one and he's retired/ Emeritus.In English Literature you can use which ever critical methodology, deconstruction/Spatial Form you want/seems appropriate).
The system is constructed around failing people: why not reform the spelling system ; why is frend "friend" and forced on people at a vulnerable age? Why are really young kids taught the multiplication of fractions where the product is smaller than the original terms? Nobody ever uses Algebra in everyday life: they use English all the time.People are taught ab initio that rules have to be followed because they come from a realm beyond common understanding. Private education , as well as buying relatively privileged children
life chances, is an insurmountable barrier to curriculum reform and reform generally.
If private education is so good why isn't everything better? Answer Boris Johnson , and an intellectual elite drawn from the Bullingdon Club(vandals in common parlance). If we were all properly educated we would have read the Evelyn Waugh novels which expose the Bollinger Club for all to see.

Bayard said...

"Why are really young kids taught the multiplication of fractions where the product is smaller than the original terms?"

It's difficult to see what you are getting at here, would you like one half of one quarter to be greater than either one half or one quarter? or are you objecting to "really young kids" knowing that one half of one quarter is an eighth? or the teaching of fractions at all? "Mummy what's an eighth" "Sh, dear, daddy will tell you when you are old enough".

"Nobody ever uses Algebra in everyday life: they use English all the time."

I use algebra occasionally in everyday life. Everyone uses English in the sense that they speak the language, but very few people use what they learnt in English lessons at school beyond knowing how to read and write. In what way is a knowledge of Shakespeare any more useful than a knowledge of algebra?

"Private education , as well as buying relatively privileged children
life chances,"

Ah, the Eton illusion, so dearly beloved of the left wing. There are only a handful of public schools that offer "relatively privileged children life chances," beyond the advantages a good education will offer anyone, less than 1% of the private education sector. Of those, only one really does the business and that is Eton. Yet every article on private schools in the Guardian is headed by a picture of Eton, as the left wing persevere in their attempt to persuade everyone that Eton is somehow representative of the entire private sector, when 99% of it are far more like The Park School, Yeovil. If you send your child to The Park School, Yeovil, so that they can benefit from the old boys network in later life, I am afraid you will be greatly disappointed.

"...is an insurmountable barrier to curriculum reform and reform generally."

Having a state-controlled national curriculum is a far greater barrier to reform than the multitude of curricula that exist in the private sector. If a private school is offering a bad curriculum, they will find that their pupil numbers fall away as parents send their children to schools offering a better curriculum. If you don't like the national curriculum, and I agree with you that it is outdated and badly designed, tough. Every other state school is offering the same curriculum, and the chances of you effecting any changes in the time it takes for your child to pass through the education system are zero.

"If private education is so good why isn't everything better?"

Er, because education isn't everything? Because not everything in private education has to be better than in state education for private education to be better than state education after all? Because state education has its advantages; it's free, for starters?Because the fact that we have such a large private education sector in the UK, whereas they don't in France and Germany shows how crap our state education is compared to theirs.

It's no good citing Boris Johnson or any other Tory. Do you really think they would be any different if they had been state educated? If you think that the privately educated upper classes have a monopoly on boorish oafs, you have lived a very sheltered life.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, most people don't use simultaneous or quadratric equations ever again after school, however I need to fall back on my residual maths O level knowledge once or twice a week at work and it is quite gratifying that it still works.

As to written English, people's writing standards, even the supposedly university educated people at my work, is absolutely appalling. We ought to abandon this "English literature" crap and spend twice as much time teaching people to think and write clearly and accurately and to be able to tell vacuous spin from actual hard facts and arguments.

DBC Reed said...

@B Try entering Multiply a half by a half on the Net.Then read the explanations of why the result is smaller than what you started with : these are beyond the comprehension of a young pupil.
I used to teach remedial English in FE and discovered that the students were bored with the English stuff but seemed traumatised by Maths.I went round the college doing a survey including asking whats a half times a half?All the older people got it wrong; younger teenagers were more likely to say a quarter presumably because their natural reactions were freshly conditioned out of them.
Most of the Maths syllabus which is supposed to be the touchstone of bare unvarnished fact is a social engineering exercise to condition people into thinking Economics is a Mystery only understood by the Elect. And so we end up with a Broken Housing market, Broken Energy Market , Broken Stock Markets.

Bayard said...

"As to written English, people's writing standards, even the supposedly university educated people at my work, is absolutely appalling. We ought to abandon this "English literature" crap and spend twice as much time teaching people to think and write clearly and accurately and to be able to tell vacuous spin from actual hard facts and arguments."

No chance of that with a national curriculum. We can't have the GBP being able to tell when HMG is selling them a load of propaganda crap.

"Try entering Multiply a half by a half on the Net.Then read the explanations of why the result is smaller than what you started with : these are beyond the comprehension of a young pupil."

That's taking a very dim view of the intelligence of young pupils. After all, it can be demonstrated with a pile of beans, dividing the pile in half, counting them and then dividing the resulting piles into half again. If you start with one pile of twenty beans, you end up with four piles of five. Concept-wise, what is difficult about that? (Unless you think that young pupils struggle with the concept of "half". It's so long since I started school, I can't remember if any of my five-year old fellow pupils had problems with the concept)

DBC Reed said...

@B You're dividing the a whole number of beans in half successively: no wonder you find it easy!
Fractions are divisions to start with a half expressed numerically as one over two or one divided by two with short lines in between. If you multiply the figures above the lines you get One and if you multiply the figures below the lines you get Four. So answer: a quarter.Too difficult to explain, so why bother? Any sensible grown-up person would try to use whole numbers at all times.
I have no idea how you multiply 0.5 by 0.5 (decimals) .
I rest my case.
As for Eng Lit this too is beset with curse of politicised Parkinson's Law : that school time has to be filled with something that does not set off independent thinking and represents British values ( containing no discernible thought).