Sunday, 25 June 2017

Making Sidmouth a festival town

Sidmouth has several festivals going now - the granddaddy being the Folk Fest:
Sidmouth Folk Week - Wikipedia
Sidmouth Folk Week – August 4th – 11th 2017
Sidmouth Folk Festival awarded prestigious blue plaque for contribution to music | Devon Live
About the Sidmouth Fringe
‘One of the best festivals on the planet!’ Mike Harding – starts tomorrow!! | Devon Farms Blog

There are several other festivals gaining in impact...

The Literary Festival in on over this weekend:

sidmouth literary festival
Blog — sidmouth literary festival
Sidmouth Literary Festival - Sun, Sea and Books - Home | Facebook
What's On This Week In Sidmouth - Visit Sidmouth
Sidmouth Literary Festival - Sun Sea Books Events | Eventbrite

We've just had the Sea Fest on the Ham:
Sidmouth Sea Fest

And at the height of the summer we will be enjoying the Regatta:
Sidmouth Regatta - Visit Sidmouth

The Science Fest will be with us later in the autumm:
Sidmouth Science Festival: 3 - 15 October 2017 | Sidmouth Science Festival

As will the walking festival:
Sidmouth Walking Festival - Home | Facebook

And Sidmouth is a very special place to hold these events - which are all about 'community':

'We all look forward to it': The social value of a festival in the town

Updated Thursday 14th May 2015
Does a festival have social value? Does it bring social bonding or does it cause social division? Dr Linda Wilks investigates. 
Image of young people at a music festivalCopyrighted image IconWondering about the ways in which a town’s spaces and the activities of its residents might be transformed by a festival inspired me to do some research last summer at Sidmouth Folk Week, down on the UK’s Devon coast. I was particularly interested in looking at the social value of the festival for the locals, including whether it encourages social bonding or social division and whether it helps to build local community spirit, all aspects of social capital.     
Although Sidmouth does attract holidaying visitors throughout the year, the numbers are nothing like the tens of thousands who descend on the small town during its August folk week. Virtually every possible space within the town centre, including church halls, rugby and cricket club pitches and pavilions, and the theatre and arts centre, is taken over by the festival so that people can make music, dance and chat. Green spaces see the construction of marquees for concerts, ceilidhs and musical instrument sales; the promenade becomes a medley of craft stalls, buskers and dance displays; while in every pub there is a corner overflowing with fiddle and melodeon players playing tunes together. ‘Everywhere you go there’s music’, commented one interviewee.
I conducted 37 interviews with local people out and about during festival week, asking them how the festival affects their lives. The buzz created by the festival’s conversion of the town’s spaces is approved of by most, with many comparing festival week to the rest of the year: ‘the atmosphere’s lovely, you know it brings the place to life’. Another highlighted the positive ways that the festival changes the town: ‘everything is different, you walk into the hotel and you wouldn’t know it was the same place’. The public gardens, which are free to enter and include a performance stage and food stalls, were a particular gathering point for locals to relax on the grass with their family and friends. Pubs, too, took the opportunity to create stages in their courtyards in order to pull in the punters. These also provided spaces for social interaction, as a local interviewee explained: ‘it’s a good excuse to see people that we wouldn’t normally see from month to month’. Another, in his early thirties, commented: ‘me and most of my friends have moved away and everyone seems to come back at this time of year, so you’ll always bump into people you know who have come back for the same reason, which is really good’.    
Revellers having fun at a music festival. Copyrighted image IconNot all of the locals are in favour of the festival’s effect on their town, of course, with reports that some who were not keen would go away for the week, perhaps even renting out their houses to the visitors. The problems of parking and crowds were mentioned by others, with one not being keen on the hippy style of some of the festival goers. Others like the increased diversity of the town during folk week, however. There seems to be little bonding between festival visitors and the locals, although some locals take the chance to invite friends from afar to stay so that they can all attend festival events together.
Another noticeable social effect of folk week is the way that it encourages local people to join together for the benefit of the festival and the town. Some become festival volunteers, offering their local knowledge and contacts and pre-festival on-the-spot availability to the festival team, or stewarding alongside the visiting volunteers during the week. Others volunteer for their local sports club or charity, on parking or bar duties for example, to enable the organisation to make the most of the visitors’ spending power. These boosts to finances are then used to maintain club facilities or to enhance charity funds and so provide further social benefit to local people.
The social value of a festival to a town can therefore be high, as I found at Sidmouth. Festivals are certainly about much more than the music and their effects on the locals linger long after the visitors have gone home.

'We all look forward to it': The social value of a festival in the town - OpenLearn - Open University

There is now a new initiative to create some synergies:

Joining forces to make Sidmouth a festival town

PUBLISHED: 14:00 25 June 2017

Sidmouth Sea Fest organisers Mary and Kay Bagwell, Coco Hodgkinson and Louise Cole, with Chris Woodruff from the Sid Vale Association. Ref shs 15-16SH 0420. Picture: Simon Horn

From walking and reading, to science and the sea – Sidmouth is fast establishing itself as a festival town.

Sidmouth and East Devon Walking Festival organisers Ted Swan and Norma Self. Ref shs 6142-40-14AW. Picture: Alex Walton
The events have all sprung up in the last few years, each pushed forward by handful of volunteers and facing similar challenges, as does the regatta.
Organisers came together on Monday to discuss how they can share resources and expertise – and one day become as big a draw as FolkWeek.
Ideas ranged from aggregating insurance costs and cross-promotion to giving a youngster work experience as a social media expert.
Now in its 27th year, Oliver Salter said the regatta is organised by himself, his wife Adele and Keith Knight.

Sidmouth Science Festival chairman Dave Bramley and Sidmouth Lifeboat's Phil Shepperd get ready to launch a 'message in a bottle' during the festival. Ref shs 7116-42-14AW. Picture: Alex Walton
“It’s always challenging,” he said. “We’ve said we want to retire but no one wants to take it on. We wouldn’t want Sidmouth to lose it.
“With the help of Sidmouth Town Council we’ve been able to expand with the Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain display. The chamber of commerce is also running a candlelit dinner, so it will run from Friday to Sunday evening (August 25 to 27).”
He said the regatta raises money for the RNLI rather than the Sidmouth Lifeboat to bring down insurance costs, but a local charity could benefit if a different arrangement was in place.
Dave Bramley said his committee collectively spends a year-and-a-half organising the science festival, which also covers technology, engineering and maths will run over 13 days this October.

Di Bowerman. Photo by Terry Ife.
He said ‘perfect place for this type of festival’ – last year it had the support of 190 volunteers, many of them influential and with contacts all over the country. Each year they get at least one Fellow of the Royal Society to speak.
He added: “We could scale it up or down. If we are struggling, we can cut back, or next year there’s a big grant we can apply for. Our costs are currently about £12,000 but the Welcome Trust would want us to spend £20-30,000. We are exploring that.”
Mr Bramley said the core costs are paying for venues and insurance, and aggregation of the latter would be ‘wonderful’.
He said the organisers hope to grab national media attention, plus interest from hard-to-reach teenagers with a drone race.

Oliver Salter, pictured with his wife Adele was presented with an award for his efforts fund raising for the RNLI after his years of involvement with the Sidmouth Regatta. Ref shs 8009-36-15KB. Picture: Kyle Baker
Councillor Louise Cole is one of the four organisers of Sea Fest, also in its fourth year.
“There are areas we could share resources, possibly with additional support from the council,” she said. “We don’t want to be competing for attention or funding – we can see what each event can do to promote other events.
“We don’t have someone just on social media. We just don’t have time to do it.”
She said it is a ‘crazy situation’ that the town council’s full £500 grant had to go on insurance and wondered if there was a more cost-effective alternative.

Town council candidate Louise Cole
Representing the Sidmouth and East Devon Walking Festival, Ted Swan said: “We started in 2014 but it wasn’t until last year that it really took off. It’s taken three years to come of age. We’re looking to do something even better this September.”
He said one of the challenges organisers face is letting walkers know early enough in advance so they can get booked in – shops have been reluctant to put up posters over the Easter holiday.
Mr Swan said there was no shortage of volunteers as they can tap into the 500-strong East Devon Ramblers, who lead all the walks.
Di Bowerman said that after several committee members stepped down, there are just seven people putting together this year’s literary festival. Another challenge is posters being removed from noticed that constantly have to be replaced.
Addressing the grant-giving town council, Mrs Bowerman added: “Thank you again for backing the festival, which we believe makes a great contribution to Sidmouth’s cultural scene and helps to bring the community together, as well as attract visitors to the town.”
Neighbourhood Plan steering group chairman Deirdre Hounsom said the issues have been raised in production of the blueprint – and that enthusiasm needs to be maintained after it is finalised.
The town council could form a sub-committee to look at ways it can support the various festivals.

Joining forces to make Sidmouth a festival town - Breaking news & sport in Sidmouth | Sidmouth Herald

The TransCanada pipeline >> >> >> >> “No water, no beer. No beer, no fun”

Pipelines are political:
Futures Forum: Peak oil, climate change and pipeline geopolitics driving conflict
Futures Forum: Climate change: and the increased risks of global conflict ... the evidence ...

They are very political in North America:
Futures Forum: Fracking in Fort McMoney: a web documentary and strategy video game about Fort McMurray, the oil sands capital of Alberta, Canada

Rob Hopkins takes us to Canada - the home of a new brew with a purpose:

This beer kills pipelines

By rob hopkins 7th June 2017 FOOD & DRINK

Rob Hopkins finds out about an amazingly imaginative piece of campaigning in Canada that is using craft beer to fight a new oil pipeline.
The TransCanada pipeline (called Energy East) is intended to transport oil from the tar sands in Alberta to St. John in New Brunswick, a route of 6,400km across Canada.  Once built, 1.1 million barrels of oil are intended to flow through it every day.  Every day.  In the province of Quebec alone, the pipeline goes over more than 860 different rivers and at one point, goes underneath the St Lawrence River, which is 2km wide.  It passes through First Nations peoples’ land.  If built, it would be the biggest such project ever built in North America.  TransCanada, as you might imagine, say it would be “100% safe”, but as you might also imagine, no-one believes them.  Here is a short video that tells you more about the pipeline:
From a climate perspective, the pipeline would be a disaster.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was elected saying he would act on climate change, and who turned up at COP21 in Paris in December 2015 saying “how can we help?”, said initially he would only accept one pipeline.  He has already accepted three.  Part of the pipeline is intended to pass through the French-speaking state of Quebec, an independent-minded place, and although it still only at the planning stage, already in Quebec it has encountered a very unusual form of resistance.  Beer.
In Quebec there is a big movement to stop the pipeline.  There have already been two demonstrations, with over 25,000 people on each.  At the moment the pipeline is on hold.  The story of the citizen movement that has arisen in opposition to it is fascinating.  A while ago in Canada there was a massive student riot about tuition fees that lasted many months.  One of their leaders wrote a book about the experience which won a $25,000 prize from the government.
He declined to accept it, but instead he contacted the citizens behind the campaign Coule Pas Chez Nous, a campaigning organisation who had mobilised to oppose the pipeline.  Coule Pas Chez Nous means something like “Don’t Spill in My Home (as in my back yard, my country, my environment)”.  He said “I’d like to give this to you, but let’s see if we can ask the population to double it”.  He went on a mainstream TV programme to tell his story, and in one week, had raised more than $400,000 from more than 12,000 donors!
TransCanada are trying to push the pipeline through, but didn’t even translate their application into French, something they have to do by Canadian law.  Students, unions, First Nations peoples and many more have come together to resist the pipeline.  Marie-Eve Leclerc is one of the citizens involved in  Coule Pas Chez Nous (now an organisation).  One day she gave a talk about the story of the resistance movement and afterwards drank a beer whose label spoke about how it was designed to raise money for endangered species.  The idea came to her for a beer that opposed the pipeline, exposed the risks to drinking water, and brought together many of the craft brewers in the province.
She spent some time discussing the idea with friends, who all loved it, and then presented the project to the Coule Pas Chez Nous Foundation, who decided to make it happen.  It was designed to raise awareness about the pipeline, to show that, unlike the promotions being put out by TransCanada, actually not all businesses were pro-pipeline, as well as raising some money for the campaign.  Marie-Eve went to see a lot of different breweries, who were all very enthusiastic about the idea. A “beer for our rivers” was on it’s way! One of the brewers suggested the tag line “No water, no beer. No beer, no fun”, which was as silly as it was sending a powerful and clear message. To our knowledge, it was the first time in the world that breweries came together in opposition to a pipeline.
She went to meet one of the key microbreweries who loved the idea and who said “love it, let’s do 12,000 bottles”.  That was a fair bit more than Marie-Eve had been expecting to do!  The first batch of bottles and casks was launched in March, and the entire batch, both in bottles and in casks at bars, sold out in just 3 weeks.  The beer was launched in every one of the breweries who signed up to be part of it, and each launch was so popular that many sold out of beer half way through the launch event.
The recipe was created collaboratively by 5 breweries, each of which brewed its own version in different batches.  The launch was accompanied by posters, tshirts and beer mats.  Every bottle sold made $1 for the Foundation.  The launch was a huge hit.  The story went across Canada.  It was on the radio, and the launch date was chosen to co-incide with the month of St Patrick’s Day, River Day and Water Day, with organised events on each of those days.  By the time of the third brew, 26 breweries across Quebec, mostly along the proposed route of the pipeline, were involved.  Each of the 4 breweries who did bottled and cans did their own version created something which, in spite of using the same recipe, tasted different.  As Marie-Eve put it, “it’s like asking different people to make a chocolate cake.  Even with the same recipe, each cake will taste different.  Different oven, different baker.  It was the same with the beer”.
To change from being a campaigning organisation to being a beer promotion organisation took a lot of work for the Foundation.  But it was worth the (volunteer) work, as more than $15,000 was raised to keep up the fight!
The second and third batch were sold through stores and bars across Quebec.  The Foundation sent a slab (12 bottles) to each political party, and even tracked down the offices of TransCanada and paid them an unexpected visit to take them a bottle to enjoy, accompanied by a note to say “This is a beer for our rivers.  We hope you enjoy it.  The citizens don’t want your pipeline, they want clean water”.   They ended up meeting the CEO, who was already aware of their campaign, and who offered them coffee!
Their next project was similarly ingenious.  They printed 800,000 stickers showing a duck covered in oil, and distributed them inviting people to put them onto the $1 bank bills (emblem on the $1 is a duck) they spend, so they show up on more and more bank notes.  What an imaginative way to get a message out! All the breweries involved put them on the notes they give out in change.
For Marie-Eve, there is something very powerful about a lateral approach like this beer project.  “It’s not a project that talks about climate change”, she told me.  “It’s about water.  And fun.  It’s about having a beer for a cause, and it reaches into wider networks.  One old man I met (and he was not sensitive to environmental issues) said “they can’t touch my beer!”, which for me was a great sign that we were doing it right”.
I loved the April Fools joke that the Foundation did, which said that there were plans to build a beer pipeline across Canada, from Quebec to Alberta.  “This needs to be fun”, Marie-Eve told me.  “If I am going to dedicate my life to fighting climate change, it might as well be fun!”
This beer kills pipelines - Transition Network

Saturday, 24 June 2017

The future of Hinkley: "high cost and risky deal"

There have been big questions around the Somerset nuclear plans since their inception - with the last lot being asked earlier in the year:
Futures Forum: The future of Hinkley: Is the UK government about to invest 'direct public subsidies'? And is China about to 'pull out of the UK, creating an even bigger tax burden'?

National and local media have carried the latest reports which add even further questions:

Hinkley Point deal 'risky and expensive' - BBC News
Hinkley nuclear deal is 'high cost and risky', says spending watchdog - Telegraph
Watchdog's verdict on Hinkley Point nuclear station | Daily Mail Online
Spending watchdog condemns 'risky and expensive' Hinkley Point | UK news | The Guardian
Government slammed for 'risky and expensive' Hinkley C deal in new National Audit Office report (From Somerset County Gazette)

The East Devon Watch blog comments: "And still our Local Enterprise Partnership sleepwalks into disaster with OUR money":
“Spending watchdog condemns ‘risky and expensive’ Hinkley Point” | East Devon Watch

This is from the Independent:

National Audit Office slams Government’s ‘high cost and risky deal’ for Hinkley Point nuclear power station

'What might have looked good value 10 years ago, looks much less so now,' says analyst 

Ian Johnston Environment Correspondent

2 days ago

This year’s school leavers will still be paying for Hinkley when they are pension age PA

The Government’s decision to commission a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point – which will receive an estimated subsidy of £30bn – has been condemned as a “high cost and risky deal” by the head of the National Audit Office (NAO).

In a scathing report, the NAO said ministers had failed to look at alternative ways of funding the power station to get the best deal possible, saying officials expect it will add up to £15 to annual electricity bills up to 2030.

The renewable energy industry accused the Government of “ignoring the most cost-effective forms of electricity generation” – onshore wind and solar.

Greenpeace pointed out that this year’s school leavers would “still be paying for Hinkley when they approach their pension age, so it is concerning that the National Audit Office is suggesting it may not be worth their money”.

UN asks UK government to pause Hinkley nuclear reactor development
Critics slam ‘out of date technology’ as Hinkley Point plan approved
Hinkley could turn out to be an enormous white elephant
Three out of four oppose Theresa May's Hinkley decision, poll reveals

Construction of Hinkley Point C, which is being built in Somerset by French power firm EDF and the China General Nuclear Power Group, has just begun amid concerns about whether the type of reactor to be installed will actually work.

Similar projects in France, Finland and China have been “best by delays and cost overruns”, the report said, and there are “no examples of [the] reactor technology working anywhere in the world”. But, assuming such problems can be overcome and the two new reactors start generating, the NAO questioned whether it would prove to be a wise decision.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “The Department [for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy] has committed electricity consumers and taxpayers to a high cost and risky deal in a changing energy marketplace.


Hinkley Point is a bad project. Now focus on making future renewable

“Time will tell whether the deal represents value for money, but we cannot say the department has maximised the chances that it will be.”

Under the deal, ministers agreed the plant would get a guaranteed price of £92.50 per megawatt-hour of electricity for 35 years. This means that if the market price falls below this level, energy-bill payers will be forced to make up the difference. The price of renewables, particularly solar and onshore wind, has fallen dramatically in recent years, and, at times, has turned energy prices negative.

In 2015, after an auction for the lowest guaranteed price, a solar power plant came in at £79.23 per megawatt-hour; onshore windfarms have achieved similar rates. Further reductions are expected; tycoon Sir Richard Branson has even predicted there will be “almost ... no energy costs at all” within a few decades.

The rapidly decreasing price of renewables, coupled with the guaranteed price over such a long period, threatens to make the Hinkley deal even more expensive than the estimated subsidy of £30bn.

The NAO report criticised the chosen method of subsidising the £18bn plant, which could not have been built without some kind of support because of high upfront costs.

“The department’s deal for Hinkley Point C has locked consumers into a risky and expensive project with uncertain strategic and economic benefits,” it said. “While committing the developer to bearing the construction risks means taxpayers and consumers are protected from costs over-running, consumers could end up paying more for Hinkley’s electricity than if the Government had shared these risks.”

And the NAO warned that the taxpayer or energy consumer might end up footing the bill anyway if Hinkley hits major problems.

“Past experience shows that ultimately these risks could shift back to taxpayers or consumers,” the report said. “If the project runs into trouble, the Government may need to fund alternatives to ensure secure supply, or come under pressure to renegotiate its deal. The department did not sufficiently appraise alternative ways to structure the deal.”

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, praised the NAO for highlighting “a number of factors that potentially made Hinkley Point C more expensive than it needed to be. The costs of renewables and smart power technology are changing much faster than the Government predicted, and what might have looked good value 10 years ago looks much less so now,” he said.

“Arguably new nuclear build isn’t compatible with the Government’s smart grid ambitions, and the NAO is surely right to recommend reviewing the case for nuclear power once in every parliament.”
And Nina Schrank, an energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said the report was “a damning indictment” of the Government’s decision to go ahead with the deal.

“It reveals that by the time the Government had signed off the deal, it was already a busted flush,” she said. “This year’s school leavers will still be paying for Hinkley when they approach their pension age, so it is concerning that the National Audit Office is suggesting it may not be worth their money.

“The Government didn’t even consider the impacts on bills beyond 2030. Their assumptions about the cost of renewables, especially offshore wind, were wildly inaccurate. Long before Hinkley is even finished, offshore wind will be producing far cheaper and safer power. The nuclear new-build programme should be halted for better alternatives that will meet our energy needs and provide jobs in the regions.”

James Court, head of policy at the Renewable Energy Association, said the Government had spent 10 years pushing for Hinkley Point C to be built, stressing its “value for money”.

But he said: “The Government has recently been ignoring the most cost-effective of all forms of electricity generation available right now – renewables. Solar and onshore wind are now cheaper than new gas and can be built quickly. New energy storage and flexibility technologies are rapidly developing and can be relied on to manage variability.

“Renewable energy and clean tech costs are rapidly falling. Renewables are now providing around a quarter of the UK’s power and have composed the overwhelming majority of new generation capacity installed in the past five years.”

National Audit Office slams Government’s ‘high cost and risky deal’ for Hinkley Point nuclear power station | The Independent

Monterey Pines in the Sid Valley

The Sid Valley has some rather imposing Monterey Pines:

Everyone knows ‘Old Monty’ (with the thickest girth of its type in the UK) but may not know how to be sure it’s a Monterey Pine. Look for fist-sized cones growing directly from the bark.

Getting to know the Knowle | Save Our Sidmouth
Protection order may not save trees | Devon Live
Sidmouth Tree List

There are also some new-comers:

Sidmouth Arboretum's Diana East with local residents Martin McInerney and Sue Dent with two young Monterey pines that will be planted at Knowle in Sidmouth. They are pictured in front of one of the iconic Monterey pines believed to be around 150 years old and growing in the grounds of Knowle

A celebration of Sid Valley’s trees - Breaking news & sport in Sidmouth | Sidmouth Herald
Futures Forum: A Celebration of the Sid Valley’s Trees >>> kick-starting National Tree Week >>> Friday 25th November

There is a rather sad story about a threatened tree in the centre of Sidmouth - with several issues:

One of the historic curiosities of Sidmouth is that the parish of Salcombe Regis to the south of Salcombe Road includes bits and pieces on the west side of the River Sid.  There have been several disputes over land over the last two centuries, much to do with milling rights. 

The land on which this particular tree sits was called Sidling Field and was an orchard. As so often happens, when Millfield Road was developed , the ownership of this sliver of ground was not transferred to anyone, and so is now ‘no man’s land’.   There are hundreds of similar examples all over Sidmouth.

The Arboretum has been contacted and comments that it is indeed a Monterey Pine.

It seems that the trimming of the tree was to keep overhead cables free - and this has caused much of the considerable listing. 

Meanwhile, it is understood that Cllr Stuart Hughes has been in touch with the Environment Agency who may well be responsible; and Cllr David Barrett has visited the complainant and commissioned a visit from the District Council's arboriculturalist.

Here is the report from the Herald:

Listing tree threatens homes on River Sid

PUBLISHED: 08:01 24 June 2017

Barrington Mead resident Julian King photographed the Monterey pine in 1992 and 2017

A century-old tree that threatens to block the River Sid and cause considerable damage to several homes could be removed with the necessary consent.

No one owns the strip of land where the Monterey pine is now listing at a steep angle over the water so residents are seeking reassurance.
It appears too heavy to be propped up and may need to be felled but Sidmouth Arboretum said it could be replaced with another that is being grown from seed.
Barrington Mead resident Julian King said: “When the tree does topple, over, the branches will block the River Sid like a dam and potentially put all 10 houses in Barrington Mead at the risk of flooding, and also some of those in Millfield Road. The tree roots would almost certainly disturb the bank and Millfield Road itself.”
He claimed that the pine has started leaning in recent years because it had only been pruned on one side to prevent damage to telephone cables.
Councillor Stuart Hughes said East Devon District Council (EDDC) had been contacted and its tree expert is set to investigate.
Cllr Cathy Gardner said she hoped it could be propped up as it would be ‘such a loss’ to that part of the river, but Sidmouth Arboretum president Diana East said it is probably too weighty for that to work. She added that work was done on other trees in the area in 2014, when the pine was considered safe.
“We’ve since had very dry weather and very wet weather,” said Mrs East. “It needs to be looked at again by tree experts. The pine is reaching maturity. The arboretum view is that trees have a lifespan. Branches will fall off or they will fall over – if it fell it would fall on the houses.”
She said it would be up to Sidmouth Town Council and EDDC to consider a planning application to remove the tree as it is in a conservation area, and it would be a costly operation – but Sidmouth Arboretum could fund its replacement with another Monterey pine that has been grown from seed.

Listing tree threatens homes on River Sid - Breaking news & sport in Sidmouth | Sidmouth Herald

"Ignore the populists, neoliberalism is the best system the world has ever known"

There has been a huge amount of discussion about the role of 'regulation' of late - and that we need a lot more of it:
Futures Forum: "The laissez-faire, speculative attitude helps to create a shoddy culture in which the mindsets of estate agents take priority over the resourcing of local authority departments that are supposed to plan and regulate construction."

And there are plenty of new ideas out there giving this demand some framework:
Futures Forum: Doughnut economics

However, those in support of the laissez-faire system would say that its principles have been distorted and misunderstood:
Futures Forum: Free Market Economics and Crony Capitalism

Here is a piece from the Director of the Adam Smith Institute in the latest Independent:

Ignore the populists, neoliberalism is the best system the world has ever known

Sam Bowman Friday June 23rd 2017

Imagine you thought that helping the worst-off was what mattered most, but that free markets were the best way of doing it.
The post-1970s neoliberal era has seen billions of people plugged into global capitalism, and the results have been spectacular. Photo: Getty

The post-1970s neoliberal era has seen billions of people plugged into global capitalism, and the results have been spectacular. Photo: Getty 
You might be a neoliberal: someone who thinks that lightly-regulated markets, free trade and free movement are the best way to create wealth and innovation domestically and globally, but that the state does have a role to play in redistributing some of the proceeds to the least well-off.
So far, despite what people like John McDonnell claim, that system has worked. The post-1970s neoliberal era has seen billions of people plugged into global capitalism, and the results have been spectacular.

Spectacular results

Extreme poverty has fallen from 44% of world’s population in 1981 to 9.6% today. Global child mortality, illiteracy and pollution are less than half what they were in 1990.
Over half of China’s growth since 1980 has come from openness to trade and privatization of state-run industries. Under communism, Chinese GDP per capita was $300/year. Today, it’s $10,000/year and rising. India, Vietnam and Bangladesh, too, are growing thanks in part to neoliberal-style reforms.
Household incomes have more than doubled in real terms since the late 1970s
In Britain, inequality is now at its lowest point since 1985. Wages for the bottom 20% have risen by 13% in real terms since the crisis. Household incomes have more than doubled in real terms since the late 1970s. Consumer technologies like smartphones and the sharing economy are advancing by leaps and bounds.

So why have people reacted against neoliberalism?

One reason is that the pace of change is frightening.
Automation is responsible for 88% of lost manufacturing jobs
Automation, not globalisation, is replacing old manufacturing jobs – it is responsible for 88% of lost manufacturing jobs. Immigration, though it helps to pay for our welfare state, is resented by some voters. Here there is a case for cash transfers to compensate people who lose out.

A Peugeot assembly plant in France. ‘Automation, not globalisation, is replacing old manufacturing jobs’. Photo: Getty

And in some cases the government has not been neoliberal enough. London, Sydney and San Fransisco all have unaffordable housing because their planning policies keep land from being developed.
In Tokyo nearly all plans for almost any building type are allowed if they meet safety and height regulations. Well-located apartments are easy to find for £350/month. There is no reason we couldn’t have the same in London with a little more neoliberalism – and Tokyo has some the strictest safety regulations in the world.

In Tokyo, well-located apartments are easy to find for £350/month. Photo: Getty
In Tokyo, well-located apartments are easy to find for £350/month. Photo: Getty

Reports of neoliberalism’s demise have been exaggerated

Donald Trump is as anti-neoliberal as it gets, and things are nearly as bad in Britain. The Conservative manifesto was nearly as hostile to markets as Labour’s. And both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have pledged to end freedom of movement with the EU, making them the two most anti-immigration major party leaders in decades.
But this populism is mostly an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon. Refugee-friendly Angela Merkel is set to win comfortably in Germany. And France’s Emmanuel Macron – the wunderkind of modern neoliberalism – has revolutionised French politics, smashing the National Front and Socialists in the process.

Emmanuel Macron – the wunderkind of modern neoliberalism. Photo: Getty

I wouldn’t predict a new ‘neoliberal moment’ yet, though if Macron’s policies work voters in other countries may look for their own neoliberal Napoleon. But reports of neoliberalism’s demise have been exaggerated. Those of us who value markets as a weapon against poverty are not ready to throw away the best system the world has ever known just yet.

Sam Bowman is Executive Director of the Adam Smith Institute.

Ignore the populists, neoliberalism is the best system the world has ever known - The i newspaper online iNews

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