The Dim-Post

June 26, 2012

Dual mode government and diminishing returns of crushing

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:47 am

Our current National government operates in two different modes. There’s their real, substantive agenda – asset sales, increased exploitation of the environment, slashing the public service (sacking teachers, gutting ACC) etc – most of which is unpopular with the majority of voters. So to distract the electorate they have their gimmick based agenda: cracking down on boat people when we don’t have any boat people, Paula Bennett announcing that she was going to do ‘something’ about child abuse, Key’s latest stunt in which he’s vowed to do ‘something’ to get 20,000 people off the unemployment benefit. (Still no word on when these clowns are going to do ‘something’ about our balance of trade deficit or net external debt.)

The epitome of the gimmick based agenda was Judith Collins’ car crushing scheme: a policy designed solely around the PR possibilities of a Cabinet Minister compacting some teenagers’ car in front of a media scrum. This finally happened a couple of days ago and the TV news shows duly lead with new police Minister Anne Tolley dancing around on top of the flattened wreck.

But my totally unscientific impression, gleaned from talking to non-politics junkies and eavesdropping on strangers on the bus is that this PR gimmick misfired. For most people a car is the most valuable or second-most valuable thing that they own. They can understand confiscating cars and auctioning them – but for the government to destroy them and then have a senior Minister dance around on top of them in heels in the midst of our current age of austerity doesn’t seem to sit well with Joe and Sally public.

Which makes me wonder how long National can keep selling their gimmick, distraction based agenda. Surely you can only announce plans to reform the welfare system or fight child abuse so many times before the public notice that you’re not actually doing anything, other than making a lot of noise while quietly implementing policies they really dislike.

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67 Comments »

  1. It’s truly a government without real governance, at least governance where it seems it should be (as you’ve alluded).

    And the car thing is just great from a Jude’s perspective I’m sure, but given the value of the car, could it not have been repurposed some other way instead of becoming akin to a bumpy dancefloor? A friend of mine and I were reading about it and she said “why don’t they just give it to a family who needs a car?” – for example.

    Comment by Patrick — June 26, 2012 @ 9:04 am

  2. Or alternatively, they could make the distractions bigger and more absurd. Fingers crossed, they might even work their way up to threatening to do something about all those layabout National MP’s who keep letting them threaten to get tough on random topic of the week.

    Comment by Ben — June 26, 2012 @ 9:06 am

  3. It is a PR, gimmick based approach to government wholly pedictable to anyone who read “The Hollow Men”, with all the cynical and contemptuous views of the public and democracy expressed therin. Sadly, the hollow men of the right have a better idea of how the modern mainstream media work than anyone on the left.

    Comment by Sanctuary — June 26, 2012 @ 9:09 am

  4. And the lists, the endless lists of goals that never get acheived but, rather, are quietly forgotten about and, later, replaced by a new list of goals that bears no relation to the previous lists and doesn’t even acknowledge their existance.

    My favourite list?

    It’s a toss up between the ‘120-point action plan’, which was mostly small things that had already been done, most of them instigated by Labour, and the new ’10 results’, which we won’t be able to assess until after 2 elections from now.

    To be fair to the MSM, although they always report the government spin in the first round of coverage, as with the lists and the car-crushing, there was actually quite a bit of criticism in the media on the second round of the car-crushing story – Breakfast was calling it an unseemly stunt etc – and the Labour critique of the 10 results was the main frame in this morning’s media.

    Comment by Dean Logan — June 26, 2012 @ 9:10 am

  5. Still no word on when these clowns are going to do ‘something’ about our balance of trade deficit or net external debt.)

    As you point out in the same post – the clowns were going to slash the education system, sell assets and gut ACC etc. It’s a novel approach, but no less strange than the solutions Labour and Greens advance to sort external debt.

    Comment by ZenTiger — June 26, 2012 @ 9:11 am

  6. Duel mode – pistol’s at dawn to decide policy settings.

    Awesome!

    Comment by Gregor W — June 26, 2012 @ 9:21 am

  7. Yeah, I was hoping duel mode was going to be a clever pun.

    Still, current polling suggests making empty announcements to distract from your real agenda works a treat.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — June 26, 2012 @ 9:44 am

  8. “They can understand confiscating cars and auctioning them – but for the government to destroy them and then have a senior Minister dance around on top of them in heels in the midst of our current age of austerity doesn’t seem to sit well with Joe and Sally public.”

    Perhaps the only market for (possibly illegally) modified high-performance saloon cars are … other boy racers? Which may somewhat defeat the purpose of the enterprise.

    Plus, Ministers hardly ever get to have fun. So why must you always be such a grump?

    Comment by Flashing Light — June 26, 2012 @ 9:44 am

  9. Flashing Light @8: How is it bad to sell the car to other boy racers? You get the $9k or whatever the car was supposedly worth and then when the new owner clocks up a third strike you get to repeat the process ad-nauseam. Like candy from a baby.

    Comment by Simon Poole — June 26, 2012 @ 10:04 am

  10. Which makes me wonder how long National can keep selling their gimmick, distraction based agenda.

    In NZ, 5-6 years is easily possible.

    Comment by George D — June 26, 2012 @ 10:31 am

  11. Which makes me wonder how long National can keep selling their gimmick, distraction based agenda.

    The real question is: how long do they need to? I’d argue that by the start of December 2011 they could probably have dropped it; there’s no point in trying so hard if you can’t keep it going until the next election.

    In NZ, 5-6 years is easily possible.

    Three and a half down…

    Comment by Simon Poole — June 26, 2012 @ 10:36 am

  12. Surely you can only announce plans to reform the welfare system or fight child abuse so many times before the public notice that you’re not actually doing anything

    Shh, or they actually will reform the welfare system, and we know how that goes.

    Comment by helenalex — June 26, 2012 @ 10:58 am

  13. Aren’t they going to make the cars into ploughshares?
    I could use a new ploughshare just now.

    Comment by Roger Parkinson (@RogerParkinson) — June 26, 2012 @ 11:02 am

  14. “For most people a car is the most valuable or second-most valuable thing that they own. They can understand confiscating cars and auctioning them – but for the government to destroy them and then have a senior Minister dance around on top of them in heels in the midst of our current age of austerity doesn’t seem to sit well with Joe and Sally public.”

    It might just be that the most effective way for some people to feel richer is to make other people poorer. And chances are that those guys were never going to vote for (or against) the government anyway.

    Comment by MikeM — June 26, 2012 @ 11:08 am

  15. “…In NZ, 5-6 years is easily possible….

    To be fair, this whole Tory divide and rule meme was what made Shipley so loathed in the end. People forget how hated her government was. In the end, people DO get fed up with the constant politics of fake aspiration, divide and rule, and fear and loathing – it took around five years back then, but Winston Peter’s shafted the voters intentions back then in the first MMP election, hopefully 2014 will show the electoral limits of gimmick government.

    Comment by Sanctuary — June 26, 2012 @ 11:11 am

  16. did anybody find it weird how the story was quite uncritically reported as improving road safety when only one car has been crushed and only 116 drivers are on their second strike? When you look at the VAST number of transport related offences that the police deal with (for example, 21,000 car thefts were recorded in 2011, they give out around 8000 tickets for riding a bike without a helmet a year, they expect to give out more than 700,000 speeding tickets in 2011) it is clear that these numbers are ridiculously tiny and the law has had minimal impact on road safety. It is like 3 years from now we will be celebrating because the boat people law has prevented one refugee in a tiny little dinghy from entering NZ (note – I look forward to seeing Judith collin dancing up and down on his back in high heels).

    Comment by LucyJH — June 26, 2012 @ 11:13 am

  17. Re the crushing – Never have National been so gleeful about the destruction of private property.

    Comment by alex — June 26, 2012 @ 11:14 am

  18. well obviously, I don’t look forward to seeing Judith Collin dance up and down on a poor refugee’s back. That would make me psychopathic. i am just saying that it doesn’t seem totally impossible…

    Comment by LucyJH — June 26, 2012 @ 11:15 am

  19. Flashing light. You’re assuming that all boy-racers are criminals. Couldn’t one buy a boy-racer car and use it legally?

    Comment by Dean Logan — June 26, 2012 @ 11:39 am

  20. We’re assuming people are paying attention. Most don’t. They’ll ‘get it’ when some policy or other hits them personally. What I find interesting the folk who refuse to see any connection between National’s tax cuts and the requirement for austerity it induced. One woman I’ve explained to many times keeps on talking about the needs for cuts. I remind her about the tax cuts…and her eyes glaze over. Like revenue and expenditure have no connection. It’s just weird.

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — June 26, 2012 @ 11:43 am

  21. Like revenue and expenditure have no connection…

    Ha! You go on living your fancy-pants ‘reality’ based Universe, chum.

    Comment by Gregor W — June 26, 2012 @ 12:03 pm

  22. @Dean: “You’re assuming that all boy-racers are criminals. Couldn’t one buy a boy-racer car and use it legally?”

    Not my assumption … it’s how the policy would be perceived. First time a boy racer turns up before the courts for an offence committed in a car that the Government sold her/him (which may only be one-in-ten, or whatever), the “getting tough on boy racer” message goes out the window. And given this policy isn’t actually intended to change anything (much), the message is all important.

    Plus Anne T. likes to dance. She really, really likes to dance. So why not let her have a stage?

    Comment by Flashing Light — June 26, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

  23. Which makes me wonder how long National can keep selling their gimmick, distraction based agenda.

    Until somebody sells an alternative agenda that isn’t based on gimmicks. Like guitars.

    Somebody who can say …

    “Here’s what I believe. Here’s why I believe it. So here’s what we’re gonna do. And here’s how we’re gonna do it.”

    Preferably without fluffing the lines. (Plus, it would help if they really do believe it, but you can’t have everything).

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — June 26, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

  24. “One woman I’ve explained to many times keeps on talking about the needs for cuts. I remind her about the tax cuts…and her eyes glaze over. Like revenue and expenditure have no connection. ”
    Personally, I am enjoying my tax cut. It helps me fund the extra GST that we are charged, plus the ridiculous council rates increase year upon year.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — June 26, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

  25. I see John Key’s mate David Cameron has also launched a blitz on welfare

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/jun/25/david-cameron-wants-further-welfare-cuts

    Coincidetally, Cameron “stressed that these were ideas rather than fixed proposals, and many would not be implemented until after 2015″

    Aspirational government is obviously a world-wide trend. Pity it’s about the only export idea the Nats have had.

    Comment by TerryB — June 26, 2012 @ 1:26 pm

  26. I like your post, but I think you’re wrong about teachers. Its not about firing teaches, its about destroying all unions – they’ve just decided to go after teachers now. Police next. Any strong union will be targeted.

    Comment by Ang — June 26, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

  27. Car crushing is not a solution to this problem, it merely serves to antagonise people. it is a waste of a resource – these vehicles can be onsold and make the government money instead of the government going ahead and creating a loss – and it is not a correct punishment to this crime.

    If a man used his mansion in which to sell drugs, and he did this four times, no government would bulldoze the mansion. This si just creating more of a rift between the haves and the have-nots.

    Comment by Daniel Lang — June 26, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

  28. “If a man used his mansion in which to sell drugs, and he did this four times, no government would bulldoze the mansion.”

    I’m really tempted to say give it time.

    Comment by MikeM — June 26, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

  29. “If a man used his mansion in which to sell drugs, and he did this four times, no government would bulldoze the mansion.”

    Mind you, replace “sell drugs” with “issue a dodgy finance company prospectus” and you could be on to something here.

    Comment by Flashing Light — June 26, 2012 @ 4:06 pm

  30. John Key is so popular right now.

    Comment by OECD rank 22 kiwi — June 26, 2012 @ 6:46 pm

  31. Sanctuary, your comments make up for this blog not being funny anymore.

    Comment by gn — June 26, 2012 @ 7:26 pm

  32. Not funny and infested with low level green and union activists most of whom are beltway types.

    Comment by Tim — June 26, 2012 @ 10:01 pm

  33. Jesus Fuck. How many times do you have to use the term “beltway”, Tim?
    It doesn’t make you sound any smarter.

    Comment by Gregor W — June 26, 2012 @ 10:13 pm

  34. I don’t know who all the you’ve been listening to, but I get entirely the other impression. You all really don’t get it do you – most of the NZ public dislike the loud obnoxious ‘boy racers’ and are happy to see their cars crushed. So, because the Govt can seize the houses of drug dealers etc. are those that own houses worried? Bollocks – most people see this for what it is – a method of ensuring the penalty fits the crime – think of only a few years ago, headlines with how much fines, $10,000’s of dollars young drivers were accumulating and not paying – now that their means for breaking the law (their car) is on the line, they’ve had to think.

    Also many of these vehicles have been heavily modified, to the edge of what is legal (and at times over the line) so they are not really usable as ‘normal’ vehicles any longer, thus only really salable to other boy-racers – it is better to remove them from use. So crush away – I would prefer to see more of this going on, rather than yet more fines. Anyone that has defaulted on previous court fines, next time they are convicted, it is time, instead of more fines they’ll default on to take something they own, up to that value instead (but be generous with the value – not bailiff/second hand value, but full replacement value) – a car, a TV, etc. Make the penalty have some bite.

    Comment by Anon — June 27, 2012 @ 9:50 am

  35. There’s their real, substantive agenda – asset sales, increased exploitation of the environment, slashing the public service (sacking teachers, gutting ACC) etc – most of which is unpopular with the majority of voters.

    that’s a huge generalisation. Do West Coasters oppose more mining? Who exactgly is opposed to off-shore drilling and mining in the North (and will Labour really stop any of that)? And how deep is opposition to asset sales really? It wasn’t deep enough ot stop them voting National. And once people have bought the shares their opinion might change.

    I’m also of the opinion that Govts shouldn’t only do what’s popular. As this is now Shearer’s position – mandates are only gained via referenda – I look forward to Labour putting a CGT and changes to super to referenda. Unless that is his current position is merely empty political theatre.

    As for the crushing. Boy racers’ cars are fetish objects. It might be a strong deterrent, we shall see if the boy racing crime figures go down.

    i’m not fond of the “distraction” narrative. It presupposed that there are the intelligent people who pay attention and the stupid who don’t.

    Comment by NeilM — June 27, 2012 @ 9:51 am

  36. But the distraction narrative does roll off the keyboards of the agitated blogging liberal left so well.

    Comment by merv — June 27, 2012 @ 10:20 am

  37. @Tim: “Not funny and infested with low level green and union activists most of whom are beltway types.”

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — June 27, 2012 @ 10:28 am

  38. Urk … premature posting … I don’t understand it … it’s never happened to me before … I promise.

    Anyway, my point was going to be that Tim’s behaviour in repeatedly returning to this blog, while knowing this fact to be true, seems somewhat odd.

    @NeilM: “I’m also of the opinion that Govts shouldn’t only do what’s popular.”

    Agreed. But I think danyl’s claim is that National’s substantive policy moves are in the (mostly, while not universally) unpopular sphere, whilst its claims to be pursuing (mostly, not universally) popular ends are little more than empty window dressing as there is no substantive policy basis to achieve them. To wit, closing the gap with Australia, ending the pattern of emigration to Australia, adding 36,000 jobs in the last financial year, etc, etc. And it seems to me fair enough to do exactly what the PM is asking voters to do … judge the Government on its record of accomplishing the goals it set for itself.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — June 27, 2012 @ 10:36 am

  39. Oh, now … that’s just weird. My premature post disappeared. This blog is not funny, infested with low level green and union activists most of whom are beltway types, and possessed by an evil spirit. I’m going back to Kiwiblog, where at least there is a fucking edit function.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — June 27, 2012 @ 10:38 am

  40. @34 “And how deep is opposition to asset sales really? It wasn’t deep enough ot stop them voting National”

    Well, what is a mandate? National were upfront about this policy and more people voted for National than anyone else (but even more people voted not-for-National).

    The people who voted National may have voted National because:
    – they like school reports that aren’t full of educational jargon
    – they like a government that’s tough on welfare
    – they don’t trust Labour
    – they like that nice Mr Key.

    And yet, because people are complex, it is possible for a large chunk of the above to simultaneously be against asset sales. So does National have a mandate for asset sales? Only if you view mandate in the simplest of terms. Every opinion poll is quite clear, the public opposes asset sales by such a large margin that even some people who voted National must oppose them. This doesn’t mean the voters were stupid, it just means voting is a blunt instrument. It’s possible to distrust Labour + like that nice Mr Key + oppose asset sales.

    Comment by Me Too — June 27, 2012 @ 10:41 am

  41. @MeToo: “Well, what is a mandate?” … “It’s possible to distrust Labour + like that nice Mr Key + oppose asset sales.”

    The implication I took from the election was that National’s asset sales policy was required to pay for Mr Key’s smiley face policy. Isn’t that a mandate? It’s not as if you can have one without the other just because voters refuse to accept the connection.

    Comment by MikeM — June 27, 2012 @ 11:11 am

  42. “National were upfront about this policy and more people voted for National than anyone else (but even more people voted not-for-National).”

    If you claim National has no mandate because more people voted against it than for it, no political party has had a mandate in New Zealand since the Watersider’s Strike.

    Comment by Hugh — June 27, 2012 @ 11:58 am

  43. Yeah, people voted for this Government, so they do technically have a mandate. Either people voted for this government knowing it was going to do these things and approving, not knowing and approving, not knowing and disapproving, or knowing and disapproving but voting anyway. The extent to which you believe that any one of these is true (they’re obviously not mutually exclusive among a population) and the extent to which you judge non-knowledge a problem in a democracy is going to shape your judgements about democratic mandates.

    I personally believe that a democracy without knowledge is not a democracy, because participants are essentially deprived of the ability to make choices, and its a crucial problem. But, people consistently vote for parties that undermine public-interest media and broadcasting, so either non-knowledge isn’t a problem for them, or they don’t know that they don’t know. Krugman has an excellent essay on English food that illustrates this problem.

    Also, I’m loving all this talk about mandates. Before the 4th Labour Government, mandates were published with all the planned policies of the next government, and taken quite seriously. After that, nobody bothered, and by the early 2000s it was fashionable to release a major policy 10 days out from an election, knowing only the soundbites would be picked up on and discussed. (The Greens are largely an exception to this problem, publishing fully on their website.)

    Comment by George D — June 27, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

  44. There’s another alternative above in my second paragraph; that people knew National was going to extinguish 7 and disapproved, but voted for them anyway because they value other things more highly (perceived competency, perceived economic management, tax cuts, etc.). How much is this true? I don’t know; a lot of people who look and sound like National voters are acting anguished and surprised, but that’s no indication of anything.

    Comment by George D — June 27, 2012 @ 12:12 pm

  45. “that people knew National was going to extinguish 7 and disapproved, but voted for them anyway because they value other things more highly (perceived competency, perceived economic management, tax cuts, etc.).”

    I think this is probably true of a lot of people, although some of them might have had a vague idea that that nice Mr Key would change his mind or something, thus leading to their annoyance at the moment.

    I think those people constitute a genuine mandate, though.

    Personally, if I were the Greens, I would not be working so hard to establish the idea that a policy that 50%+ of the population don’t support is illegitimate. When the Greens do get into government, few if any of the policy concessions they win off Labour will be able to muster that level of support.

    Comment by Hugh — June 27, 2012 @ 12:24 pm

  46. I personally believe that a democracy without knowledge is not a democracy, because participants are essentially deprived of the ability to make choices, and its a crucial problem. But, people consistently vote for parties that undermine public-interest media and broadcasting, so either non-knowledge isn’t a problem for them, or they don’t know that they don’t know.

    I’m not 100% sure about how people go about making political decisions but my impression is that it’s usually done within the context of peer groups and that everyone feels they have enough information to do that and it’s often impervious to information that might confict with that decision.

    Most people would never have the time to spend finding out all one should know about an issue to make a true informed choice. Which is why we delegate to politicians who we, er, trust to do that on our behalf.

    Taking asset sales as an example, knowledge of the issue does not necssarily lead to a particular point of view. I would say that Cunliffe and English both have considreable indepth knowledge and yet come to opposite conclusions. Pity the average punter then. I tend to suspect that a part of the public broadly supports the centre-left politiciians and similar for the cenre-right and that they’ll vote that way despite what they hear through the medai even if that is public broadcasting.

    Comment by NeilM — June 27, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

  47. I’m not 100% sure about how people go about making political decisions but my impression is that it’s usually done within the context of peer groups and that everyone feels they have enough information to do that and it’s often impervious to information that might confict with that decision.

    Elegantly demonstrated in the 60s by Brock and Balloun.

    Comment by Gregor W — June 27, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

  48. @ Gregor – Beltway beltway beltway.

    @ Andrew – I pulled the wings off flies as a child. Same thing.

    Comment by Tim — June 27, 2012 @ 7:07 pm

  49. Oh dear, Tim. Are you aware of the significant link between childhood animal cruelty and antisocial personality disorder, antisocial personality traits, and polysubstance abuse … http://jaapl.org/content/30/2/257.full.pdf?

    Alternatively, if you realise that you are still acting like you did when you were 12, you could try growing up a bit.

    Comment by Flashing Light — June 28, 2012 @ 8:10 am

  50. “…Krugman has an excellent essay on English food that illustrates this problem…”

    An interesting essay, but one which is completely wrong on the origins of bad British food. The idea that British food until the 1990’s was bad because the Britain was the first country to industrialise is complete rubbish. Pre-industrial Britain was not full of stout yeomen and smiling, ruddy faced peasants feasting on fine locally sourced food products. Hogarth’s beer street set in Devon is a ridiculous myth. The great mass of the pre-industrial population were subsistence farmers living on gruels, porridges and potatoes. The food available to the waged factory workers was no better than they would have been used to as peasants. The introduction of industrialised food preservation (canned, bottled, salted) represented a massive improvement in the quality, security and variety of the food supply. Far from being “primitive” the British food distribution network was advanced. The protein boon of fried fresh fish (newly distributed inland via rail) and fried potatoes to a population previously living largely on bread can easily be imagined. British workers were generally better fed en masse than their continental counterparts throughout the 19th century. The late Victorian and Edwardian eras were times of great prosperity in the UK as food prices fell and food quality improved. British foodwas famed as the cuisine of a rich, imperial nation – meat heavy and of the very best ingredients simply prepared, all backed by baking and enormous and sumptuous puddings – whilst the upper classes discovered Escoffier. Our food traditions stem from this time and still largely conform to the idealised diet of a prosperous British working class (roasts, cakes, puddings. Now I am hungry.)

    The big turning point in British food, which strangely Krugman fails to even mention, was the Second World War and rationing, which lasted in one form or another for almost fifteen years. An entire generation was subject to military rations, British Restaurants, rationed food and poor quality, substitute ingredients. Another one of the victims of Hitler was British cooking, a death that lasted two generations before migration resurrected British taste.

    Now, none of this necessarily undermines Krugman’s (or George D’s) point – that people can reach a stage where they don’t know what they don’t know. But By failing to identify the correct cause, Krugman fails to identify a crucial aspect of agency. Rather than the decline of British cuisine being an historical accident of industrialisation and empire it seems to me it was by the deliberate and destructive intervention of Hitler in general, and his nasty submariners of the U-Boat arm in particular. So if we were to advance to Krugman’s conclusion on that idea then we can see that perhaps the destruction of democratic knowledge may be at least partially the result of someone’s deliberate, external actions. Perhaps if we were to replace Admiral Donitz with Rupert Murdoch, and his ruthless U-Boat skippers with the likes of Rebekah Brookes, we might have more accurate understanding of the cause of the problem, and therefore of it’s potential solution.

    Comment by Sanctuary — June 28, 2012 @ 9:25 am

  51. ” Pre-industrial Britain was not full of stout yeomen and smiling, ruddy faced peasants feasting on fine locally sourced food products.”

    Never underestimate the power of a myth about the ‘good old days’.

    Comment by Hugh — June 28, 2012 @ 11:46 am

  52. I basically agree with your argument Sanctuary. However I think you overstate the problems with the diet of “pre-industrial Britain.” In fact it wasn’t static, and what you’re describing is more like the pre-modern situation, prior to roughly 1550. Once the Dutch began importing large amounts of grain from the Baltic in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, British land that had been dedicated to grain production could be turned over to producing fresh vegetables locally, as well as increased dairy and wool production (much of which was exported). This is why, in the eighteenth century, roast beef became a symbol of British superiority over the French, whose diet, especially in rural areas, remained heavily restricted to locally produced grain and small amounts of cured meats and other preserves. This lasted until the penetration of rail into rural France, which is some cases took place in the early twentieth century.

    The emergence of market gardening in seventeenth century Britain is one of the things that accounts for the steady rise in population from that point on, although it was still occasionally checked by plague, most notably in the 1660s. However, this extra nutrition was still seasonal, and relatively expensive, especially when it had to be transported into London, which meant that for the vast majority diets were still relatively meagre, though more diverse that the gruel and meal version that you argue for. It also means that the move away from fresh produce that Krugman notes wasn’t really a matter of moving away from “traditional ingredients,” as they were only really introduced into the British diet in the seventeenth century. In 1699, John Evelyn wrote Acetaria, a book basically explaining what salad was, now that there was enough English produce to make one. We can take further evidence for the diversity of the pre-industrial diet from the fact that the sailor’s diet, which was heavily based around grains, was noted over and over again throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth century for its coarseness — the sailor was marked out as a marginal figure in society particularly because his diet was so poor. This couldn’t have been the case if it was true of everyone.

    Nevertheless, I agree that the rationing of two world wars and their aftermaths (especially the second) probably did most of the damage to the British diet, and with the broader assertion that our choices are limited by our mental horizons, and that those limits can be deliberately imposed by others.

    Comment by Jake — June 28, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

  53. Jake – fascinating review of the renaissance / pre-industrial revolution British diet!

    Comment by Sanctuary — June 28, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

  54. And now it’s Jammy Dodgers, Butter Chicken and Stella!

    Comment by merv — June 28, 2012 @ 4:01 pm

  55. What the hell does beltway mean?

    Anyway, I think we’re above car-crushing. It’s taking away their car and their means of transport for getting to work and since getting young people into work is apparently so important to the government, you’d think that they’d just send them to jail for a few months upon their fourth offence rather than crush their car in a ridiculous PR stunt that has so obviously backfired.

    Comment by Dan — June 29, 2012 @ 12:59 pm

  56. What the hell does Beltway mean?

    Comment by Daniel Lang — June 29, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

  57. Accordngly to the reliably servile John Armstrong in todays paper, it is all part of the Messiah Keys master plan to rule us all forever. It is just all cunnng and subtle in conception and execution, as he has come to expect from the political maestro that is John Key, that left can’t see the danger because of its bewildering complexity.

    Honestly, far to often John Armstrong writes the sort of rubbish you’d expect if you gave Pete George a column in the Herald.

    Comment by Sanctuary — June 30, 2012 @ 8:39 am

  58. MikeM #14: “It might just be that the most effective way for some people to feel richer is to make other people poorer. And chances are that those guys were never going to vote for (or against) the government anyway.”

    Classic case of the inferiority complex, with a heavy dose of “hiring half the working class to kill the other half”. Turned it up beyond 11, and it’s called a Weimar Republic.

    Comment by DeepRed — July 1, 2012 @ 6:10 pm

  59. @Daniel #55: it’s an Americanism referring to Washington political insiders. More recently, it’s been misused as an anti-intellectual synonym for “out of touch ivory tower academics”.

    Comment by DeepRed — July 1, 2012 @ 6:18 pm

  60. “56.What the hell does Beltway mean?”
    First ask “What does Google search mean? How can Wikipedia possibly help me?”

    You HAVE heard of google, right?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — July 2, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

  61. Daniel, it was like the time I had no little what folk here were talking about when they mentioned “The Wire”. So I gets on the interwebs and does a bit of research.

    Now, when the boss steps out of the lift, I can call out “Omar’s comin’ yo!” and be confident of getting a smile out of my colleagues.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — July 2, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

  62. Crushing a car that could be sold hurts the public more than the boy racer, if they were going to have it confiscated anyway. Cutting off nose to spite face.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — July 3, 2012 @ 12:47 am

  63. Furthermore, the car that went through the crusher was a Nissan Laurel, which is known in Japan mostly as a taxi fleet vehicle. It certainly was no Golf GTI or Lancer Evo.

    Comment by DeepRed — July 3, 2012 @ 2:04 am

  64. lol clunking fist

    Comment by Daniel Lang — July 4, 2012 @ 2:49 pm

  65. @CF: “it was like the time I had no little what folk here were talking about when they mentioned “The Wire”. So I gets on the interwebs and does a bit of research.”

    Not good enough. Unless you’ve spent at least 62.5 hours of your life watching all 5 seasons, you don’t get to comment on anything. Ever.

    Comment by Flashing Light — July 4, 2012 @ 3:36 pm

  66. +1 FL

    Sheeeeeeeeeeeeiiiiiit.

    Comment by Gregor W — July 4, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

  67. Oh, I done the time, dug. ‘fuck you think I am? Some kind hopper?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — July 5, 2012 @ 3:06 pm


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