Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ryan's Daughter: a 2010 critique

David Lean had directed two stylistic epics before he turned his creative powers to a more modest original screenplay, perhaps based upon the novel Madame Bovary. In its' smaller scale human plot, it does present a wonderful and wisely observed story which only a great film director and team could give such gravity to. At the time however, the film failed to create such critical acclaim and public appeal on either side of the Atlantic, despite Robert Mitchum's prescence.

Cinemographic Theme and Contradictions

The opening scenes are very much shot from the perspective of a still photographer. Huge atlantic waves crash against the beautiful south western Irish coast, with the barren islands just of shore giving depth and interest to the otherwise endless sea. There is careful attention to making this place feel far removed from 1970, being almost medieval in the specially created stone village and narrow roads. This place is awe inspiring, yet remote and at the edge of human existance.

This grand scale of the scenery is captured in enigmatic 65mm wide perspective, using fairly wide angled lenses and long depth of field. However, the cinematic theme actually became a criticism of the film because the magnificence of the Irish coastline coupled to the long, slow "takes" demanded by Lean's characteristic screenplay, were interpreted as melodramatic in relation to the claustrophobic human story being played out against such an etherial backdrop.

To me the photography is stunning throughout most of the film and this contrast to the human level of village mentality, very enthralling: from grandoise nature of the coast and turbulent seas, to the petty jealousy and frustrations of living in a small, remote village under foreign power.

Cast and Characters

Sarah Miles gives most probably the very best performance of her career, in her excellent and often subtle and well observed portrayal of the rather spoiled daughter of the local publican, Ryan. Her tragedy is that she is always seeking romance and having married her idol, played by Robert Mitchum, she finds herself drawn to the traumatised British Major, played by a lesser american actor Christopher Jones. Her stunning beauty with reddish auburn hair in the film make for an encapturing "femme fatale" who owns the hearts of the three main male characters in the film: Her husband, the widowed school teacher; the major ; and the village priest who himself displays his affection for her by never condeming her actions beyond what is forgivable.

Miss Miles seems to really engage and breath life into the part as an overly romantic young woman, and it is clear that despite some sublte understatement in many scenes and naturalistic acting, she holds the core of the film as the title should of course demand. ( despite her billing on the final credits being below the main male actors, with Robert Michum leading) Of all the non irish actors, she is maybe the one who masters the SW irish accent the best.o

Mitchum manages to tone his usually heavy prescence down to play the well cultured, benevolent widower and teacher, mastering a role which otherwise could be seen as dreadful mis-casting. That he found it a battle with Lean in delivering his understated performance, is not lost upon us. In the resulting subtleness of his character, he had given a new perspective to his long career as an actor most known for thrillers, war films and westerns.

Picking up on the topic of dialect portrayals again, a quoted weakness of the film, most of the cast struggle and often flounder with the Irish accent. Leo Mckern gives an almost laughable accent in otherwise good portrayal of a central foil in the film, Ryan the publican and father to Rosy, belaying his Australian and west end theatrical roots.

Tim O'Leary is played by "Van der Valk", Barry Foster who's charisma on- and off- screen was sadly lost to us just a few years ago. With a shock of red, curly hair and a passable dialect, he brings a certain intensity as the IRA leader visiting the area to collect weapons. His "dashing hero" portrayal contrasts to the anti-hero we recognise in both the overly modest Shaugnessy and the traumatised Major Doryan.

Robert Mitchum actually does not a bad job with his appointed dialect, and the same can be said of the American actor Christopher jones who plays the British Major newly stationed to the province after losing a leg in WWI. Trevor Howard also adds some gravity to the film with a strong performance as the priest, although his accent fights between Irish, Scot's and even northern English upon occiasion. The priest is the one wise and true man who spans the story as a major weave in the fabric, so we must forgive him his geographically itinerant tongue.

The late Sir John Mills is spared a talking role as the "village idiot": a handicapped man, Michael, who is also a foil to the story. His naieve eyes and wanderings are part of the uncovering of the affair Ryan's daughter conducted with the British Major. Although much criticised later for being an un PC character, for those of us who have worked with mentally handicapped people, Sir John gives a credible interpretation to an important process in the story. Mentally handicapped people often have strong "crushes" on beautiful local women, and see things some would rather turn a blind eye to.

Historical Setting

The film plays out as as a romantic drama with a backdrop of the summer post 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. At the time of release in 1970, this would have been little palatable in the UK, with the "troubles" coming to a head in Ulster once again as a result of the activities of the Provisional IRA, and the use of British Troops to prevent a civil war between the incumbant "loyalist" and republican followers. ( In 1968, gunmen of the loyalist UVF took positiion on the coal yard at the Shankhill Road to snipe at will upon the largely republican Falls Road and west catholic areas in reprisal to IRA attacks, and this was one of many aggressive actions on both sides of the community which were suppressed by the English and Scottish regiments posted to Ulster)

The republic has enjoyed peace and national rule since the 1920s, and latterly with a by-in-large successful peace process in Ulster, the film can I hope now be seen in a historical context as a cinemographic epic. Perhaps the screenplay had been committed to before the "troubles" arose in Ulster because otherwise it would be obviously difficult for audiences in the UK. The film did take a turbulent, drawn out route in casting, perhaps explaining this, with Marlon Brando being asked to play a leading role. Lean and the producers had the US market clearly in their sights in casting a major US actor, at the risk of alienating audiences in both the UK and Republic of Ireland.


The screenplay involves much about betrayal and with the Ryan fanmily being flawed in both the father's and daughter's weaknesses.

At the centre of the story is Rosy Ryan, the daughter of the title, and her romanticising of love. Upon fulfilling her dream of marrying the obvious intellectual father-figure Shaugnessy the teacher, she loses her passion for him. She is a woman possessed with falling in love and not the reality of being in love.

Her affections soon fall upon a new romantic opportunity, the Major, as a hero-man-child who is in need of rescue from his tormented war experiences and injuries. Thereafter the film plays out the impossibilities presented by this affair in remaining secret and then being made public in an Irish Catholic and staunchly anti british village.

¨That McKern's character, Ryan, betrays the IRA has little credibility, apart from perhaps cowardice infront of the ruling law of English administration and his wish to perhaps redeem himself infront of the local constable. This does lead to an escallation to almost Greek tragedic proportions for the drama. His cowardice arises again later when he fails to incriminate himself for this betrayal and instead allows the mob to take their anger out on his daughter as the alleged traitor. It is a worthy twist in the story, if not fully believable in his motivations to betray both his countrymen and his own daughter.

One element which is still refreshing today is the portrayal of the sex scenes between repesctivley Mitchum, Jones and miss Miles' character, which have a sense of realism from the woman's perspective (I believe, writing as a man! ). Together with tender use of surroundings, the two scenes are made both personal and beautiful. Rosy Ryan both enjoys the fruit of her passions, but also is dissapointed in the consumation of her love in the simple physical act of sex. The simplicity and honesty of these scenes would reach a tender nerve in modern cinema audiences if the film was re-released and would be refreshing in the midst of holywood stereotypical "orgasmic" sex scenes we have had to endure since the 1980s.

Throughout its' long three hours, the film is kept lucent and coherent by Sarah Miles. Without her tenderness and attention to vulnerability in presenting a beautiful, gentle yet flawed character, even the originally cast Marlon Brando could not have carried the film so well to it's tortured conclusion.

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Cinematography and Atmosphere

Back to the overall feel of the film and a technical appraisal. The rapid changing weather is captured both with subtle exposure and often long depth of field, suggesting use of a split camera objetive to allow for both close and very distant scenes to be in focus.

The coastal scenes are the signature of the film with the moist Atlantic air giving a softness to the overall depth of field. Indoor scenes are shot with attention to capturing a realistic lighting, something Lean must have demanded of his camera men in all conditions.

The one scene which has been iconographic for the film, is the imaginary beach promenade infront of Robert Mithcum's eyes as he sees his wife and the Major in their finery on a romantic arm in arm tour to along the beautiful beach. The dreamy over-exposure and vivid colours are perfect for the scene.

The capturing of the atlantic storm in poor light is of particular technical noteworthyness and in terms of what must have been pure perciverance of the crew and cast.

One weak point in final packaging of the film is the brass and piano score which is very dated now and probably even a little inappropriate in 1970.

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Today this film makes a very watchable, if long excursion into David Lean's career and in some ways it has survived the passage of time and film reels better than the overly romaticised screenplays and acting of Mssr.s O'Toole and Shariff in "Dr.Shivago" and "Lawrence of Arabia".

"Ryan's Daughter" is an atmospheric and enchanting film with both a plot and acting which feel contempory, while having also a matchless, classic and etherial cinematographic splendour created by Lean's eye.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Facing the FaceBook

I look forward to seeing the film, "the social network" and I suppose it will be something to get clicky on Facebook about.

Not that I am a social network addict: okay I am a forum and blog addict which puts me in a minor league, with most likley just crawlers reading most of my hits. FB I can kind of take or leave and right now I am going through FB fatigue, although that is not as from any huge overdosing on it-. just boredom. I actually delete people from FB and keep my friends numbers to under 50. There are still a couple of people I would like to connect to, God excluded, and some I should maybe connect to, but I am pretty determined to keep to under 50, at least as my private profile goes. Maybe DF will develope his own profile, alter ego as he is.

(links to founders) The founders were, or have become, somewhat shy types who started the whole concept as a beauty rating project: very peri pubescent of them too. However, they soon saw the social value of a simple "face" on the internet with connections round Harvard and later of course, were lucky to ride the storm and catch the money wave.

As I wrote in my last ranting blogg, I am more interested in the beast than we fleas upon its' back. Or rather how we fleas feeding on the blood of the social network, organised to join up.

The beast itself holds some fascination for me, in its quintessential simplicity. It looks like any live content portal I would have worked on in y2000-2001: Conservative, text and thumbnail based. Simple, clear, familiar, and stable. The simplicity lies in "getting it" quickly,what it does for your wild social betworking imagination proposes to you, more on that soon. But the latter two are pretty important: it is familiar, like the php/cgi/cfm pages I'm thinking about. It has levels of permissions, like the extranets I designed a decade ago. You have to join to get in, and you have to be a good little boy once in.

So it is a familliar and therefore safe environment, and unlike many other predecessors, has no half-hidden agenda of fleecing you to make further progress in your sociableness. The stability is vital to this feeling of security. FB evolves very slowly and is currently no doubt have an internal security review after the spate of FB virus, spy-ware and spam "apps" which have plagued us like chain letters did in the 1970s.

Well, well. FB fatigue: I am a little bored, perhaps I got my personal branding wrong and don't have a little band of the cleveries with good reparte. I just find it a bit static, and fully expect a merger and take over YT-FB! Video with video replies, limited tweet wise to 4 Mb or the like.

So there it is, a totally unstructred, short rant for the evening. But what will become of FB, what is the next move? WIll there arise a new beast from the east or something else capture our imagination? What FB could do, in the mind of DF, will be the topic of a forthcoming rant.

How to Howcast ?


This is a new take on YouTube: or rather a new look opportunity for commentators on the internet and marketing to look back at the Mp4 Mpeg explosion on the internet.

So what is the core offering of to the consumer?

Basically web film makers (who are they?) put up MP4s video clips of "How To" do erm, "stuff" as the Yanks would say. So far, recipies and conversely, diets have been on the play list ticker-tape at the top of the page. ( Sorry, a side scrolling preview panel!) . Different to Youtube? yep, it is only for how to do stuff videos, and the etiquette for the format of content is to do things stepwise, both in the mpeg. Nothing really new ?

Perspective from The Ancient Archives of the Web

When we first heard about Mp4 a decade ago, what was exciting to me was the embedded database information, which meant that videos could be searched by keyword, and other data. This meant you could search a database of films or perhaps fast forward to the part you wanted, maybe the "money shot" eh?

A decade ago all the elements were well and truly in place for YouTube and there were various prototype social networking sites, recognisable as the blogs and Facebook of today. You could say the internet by-in-large is a social network. It would be interesting to see how much www traffic is free-time related: this would need a measure of Mb, page hits and interactions.

Why was there then such a lag until Facebook and YouTube came to the market?

Well they weren't first on the market by any means. More the market coincided with the two entities. People were bored with spam from googling and the sporadic special interest sites, or pay-for-connection social networks like "friends re-united". People wanted something trustworthy, simple, connected to both their friends and special interests and there with scalable. Most of all they wanted it to be free! When I say free, not only void of fees, but with advertising and spam at a low leve, and relevant to their interests.

In other words, people were looking for brands to match their percieved need for a social network, and a place with enough searchabel video content that they could rely on finding something interesting for their gnat like attention spans ( generation X and i- are not alone in this though- the old greys also have a pretty short patience for something playing on a 15" screen with bad sound and bumpy streaming!)

Now they have the two biggies in terms of bandwidth, consumer involvement and rich content.

Why Did FB and YT become so Big so Quick?

FB and YT were in the right place at the right time, and could grow by their very nature of connectivity, snowballing out as people first e-mailed links and invitations to each other and later tweeted, sms-ed or sent direct invites from FB in particular.

Also of course the two sites had the branding and the runway was clear for easy hits on Google and Yahoo ( hey where is Alta Vista these days? My favourite 1995-1998!)

Also an important perspective was that FB and YT came with their own ready baked early adopters and lead influencers: given FB started in Harvard, there was one social echelon which were both the early adpoters on insett, and also lead influencers. As "the face book" was released it spread through business student networks and into the parents of the Harvard crowd, the siblings, the non Ivy league pals and so on. Wider than the initial, and it must be said, established small social networks which were now connected, just about every company in the world had a little group of early adopters: IT and Web people. Then of course the media "luvvies" got into it and celebrities wanted to start getting scores on the doors. Big hit clips on YT and "n>400" friends on FB.

Now the only thing the two needed was enough banne-ad'-click -through revenue to support the server banks and international load balancing across their incoming land lines.

Why are there not More FBs and YTs?

Well that is answered in a self fulfilling spiral from the last point on economics. When consumer sites go big on the internet, they are massive. The nuclear chain reaction is fuelled by the social connectivity and user definable choice of content and sub channels ( groups, brands, likes, playlists and so on, the sub channels or internal clusters). The obvious snowballing in herent in FB meant that the chain-reaction was optimised once, as in the atom bomb, the material reached a critical mass. In fact, once started I think it would have been impossible to stop FB because if anyone had t4ied in say 2008, then someone else would have bought them out. It was just too good a concept and channel to stop. Being able to see friends-of-friends and either complete your current social circle on the net, grow it outwards or locate old friends, aquaintances or which ever celebrity you want to try ensured explosive growth once x% of internet users 14 to 40 years old were on. It would be interesting to know what x was! How much ure-cranium it too

The second of the two factors makes the brands "super sticky" for us: we find that we not only have immediate content we like or social contacts we know, but we can control what we see and explore areas we are interested in. It is not the channel which controls our viewingl. The channels are suprisingly passive, and well, that should not be so suprising.

Other sites like the temporary shooting star, "friends re-united", had annoying features and some lead to outright spamming as they sold out their members e-mail addresses and on site experience to the highest space bidder: either on the point of , or in fact the very cause of their implosion. Like a newspaper, we flick through things and choose what we browse for longer time, we do not appreciate restrictions on access or forced-view advertising content.

All the ingredients for FB were there from the very birth of the www, or even in the newsgroups of the older IP world on the internet. Groups, as discussed in an earlier blogs, by in large were absorbed into Google and Yahoo and became very stale: the problem was they remained special interest and not a portal to a wider yet also personal connectivity.

Portals and Channels

Twelve years ago in 1998, channels and portals were the next big thing on the internet, which did not get big , yet. Web rings were just dying out ( a little button which lead you to a "Jump station" indexing the sites on the ring, or to the next site on the chain, or to a random site within the ring) . Now everythign has come full circle: we go in social and interest rings and web sites want to connect us togetehr with a button to FB. Previously we sent links by e.mail and ICQd , now we micro blog in tweets and FB posts. Previously we toroturously sent round mpegs in e-posts, now we post links to YT on FB.

A decade ago "portals" started to go wrong because they were structure heavy and networking poor. Indexing was usually poor or actually not useable, even with good Atomz or google internal searches. The portals were push media devised by media owners from an earlier education and IT people from the six-levels-of-structural layers. They were push and not consumer-pull. The corporate, academic and quango portals in particular, grew navel-gazing side alleys and meaningless "intra.extranets" .

Channels became buttons which we soon grew bored of, because they were, ah-hem corporate portals. Stodgey and impersonal.

Everything was there for FB and YT and Twitter, but the WILL of those with cash to invest was not in tune with our WILL on the internet: a free and ever expanding source of knowledge, entertainment and social contact driven by our own curiousity and human wishes.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

On Being an Entrepreneur

The first thing about taking the decision to become an entrepreneur is......making the decision to become an entrepreneur :

" I Will Start a Business........ .......from thin air"

The next thing is to learn to ignore all the people who say "No" and turn you away: if there are people who must be persuaded or you really, really want on board for money, legal permissions, expertise etc, then gather enough people to go with you who say "yes" and ambush them.

Have you the "Right Stuff"?

Well if you have come past the first two hurdles, you have developed the perceiverance and bloody-mindedness to get on in life. Sucking up never got people all that far.

Worried about having the right psychographic profile? As a pal of mine once said, "You can't drive round town in a personality profile" when told of his suitability for a sales job which only lacked a company car.......

In other words, forget the profile. I have met small and large business entrepreneurs and many of them are not really very nice, some of them are real charmers on the other hand, while some could be described as somewhat self centred and introverted.

Organise "Yes People" Around You

What they have in common is they are quite good at weeding out people who don't say" Yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir" and keeping just a few advisers in the background to tell them things they might not like to hear.

Another thing they have is a vision of fulfilling something good for the customer: not necessarily unique! It could be a little cheaper, more amenable, understandable, trustable ....a lot of immaterial stuff as well as some kind of ability to pay everyone less for a long time while the business grows....not always the case but often, entrepreneurs pay less than the going rate when ever they can.



This is what the novacaine driven MBA set are really up to: getting the confidence of other people and then their money, to use in business and take a cut.

However the MBA crowd have had since the mid nineteen eighties to get it right in western countries, and come up with.......make it in China if it isn't military or healthcare, and if the latter two, grab your money from the tax payer by employing lobby firms to get more than the fair GM.

Now western economies are bored with the MBA crowd and are looking for masters-of-entrepreneurial studies and general those mad enough to "start a business from thin air". So as an entrepreneur you will be the one hunting OPM...and eventually MBA suckers to expand your business.

If you are smart, you will realise immediately than MBA guys are "No" people: in that "no, I know better" and furthermore, they will steal your concept or bail on you as soon as things get tough and their fees dry up.

Good news though, OPM wants you! Western economies need a higher business birth and expansion rate, and they need both the "facebooks" and "nikes" as well as the company which may never be more than a handful of employees.

OPM seeks young single, GSOH

Money has no shortage of 5% returns on investment, even in the current on going recession, er sorry, credit crunch. No it's a recession. What money always wants is a compound ROI of 19% per annum over 3 years. Money doesn't unfortunetly dare to go in too early, the little boat rowers are your first bet.

This is soft capital by many accounts if you are not self funding a start-up.

Now comes in my critique of the western system and the economic cycle: depsite the unpalatable nature of the Sub Prime Pyramid, it was just a symptom -probabky- of the end of a value cycle.

There are many economists who can explain this better than me, but basically all the chains of promises of delivtering growth and utilising investment run dry. In other words, companies do not make the profits they stated to "the street" and brokers sneeze, investors catch cold and eventually pneumonia if it gets worse.

Now the economies of the west need the new nippers who can be light on their feet around the dinosaurs from the 1980s and before. Nimble.

That is what you also need to be: hard nosed, but able to bail out or take a sudden new and better opportunity. Alternatively, able to react to change, "breath" as the company grows, cutting back when needed, and then expand quickly with initially termporary employees, premises and funding.

Like the soudn of it?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Peronality Tests

I did a very strange thing the other day apparently without realising at the time how abberant my actions were.

I went through a statement -scale agreement response personality test and answered everything with complete honesty.

The situation was not directly position related and I had no one to impress. I had neither nervousness nor excitement.

Now before in life as a job candidate I had both nerves and excitement and a deal of performance angst. I felt often very driven to have come so long in an interview process as to have the DISC test applied to me.

In the recent test, the most comprehensive I have had, I was relaxed and interested in exploring how extreme or non chalant my actual feeling based reactions would be.

I answered by in large also in the middle ground, "slightly agree" and the other side with only a very few what I would consider outlyers.

How I scored: well a hell of a lot more self centered and unstable than you would hear from any of my references and family. In fact I scored as down right antisocial, with no real need for much human contact in the work place, and recommended to take up laboratory work. Very far from the truth.

However, the extremes of the scale, are not actually that extreme and do not represent outlyers in the population.

Not Alone in Being a Psychographic A-Hole

Some years ago Scottish Enterprise decided that the country need to identify the "right stuff" which highly successful entrpreneurs had: people like Tom Farmer and Michelle Mone. Now they tested several successful, self made business people with some kind of "instrument", quite possibly like the NEO PI-R, and unfortuntely, Scottish Enterprise would have rather kept the results to themselves. What they uncovered, as was leaked later, was that many top Scottish ( and I presume no difference on an international basis) entrepreneurs were really quite unsavoury types: egocentric, aggressive, insecure, narcissitic....the leak went on but was PR dammage limited.

Basically they couldn't really go out and advetise for "WANTED Ruthless, self centred - control freaks to lead the Scottish Economic Revolution", which in all truth of the light of the profiles, may well have been the end result of being honest in marketing comms for a change!

The point being that these self made millionaires have nothing to lose in answering honestly. You see where I am going with this....

Understanding How Personality Tests Work

Even since times of the Greeks, personality traits have been grouped into four or five major categories, and the in ancient Athens people would be described by their predominant, expressed or percieed trait as one of four: Phlegmatic, Choleric, Sanguine or Melancholic.

Now in modern times psychologists have been able to organise "instruments" to measure the key personality trait categories: These have been by in large built from studying in detail a small group of diverse people to describe many aspects of their personality-. From these the "instrument" : a list of statements, questions or adjectives and measuring how they then answer to these. The tools are then condensed into less than 250 statements and later they have been compressed even lower to aroudn 60-70 as the key capture mechanism for job interview scenarios.

Often the original study group demonstrated strong traits or abnormal, even psychotic personality disorders. Hence the intial results were highly polar. Further candidates with a range of normal, definable personalities : most likely students and residents in the cities the Universities or institutions reside in.

Once the tools then were validated on this well characterised set of personalities, then it could be used to gather a normal distribution of answers from the population as a whole. Thus an average score within each of the categories coudl be produced, and therefore the original scores compared to this. The tool's wider validity could be estabished or fine tuned for results with averages which did not concur with normal or abnormal score-profiles.

What does this mean for me??

It means you are compared to how Mr Average responds : now in fact Mr Average does not respond in the middle scores to everything. Also if you take the profiling overall, there is not an average distribution of people between each of the five traits.

This also varies by nation, and probably region and of course sub culture especially religious groups. For national markets at least, a new normalised set of respondents must be taken through the test to produce the base lines.

How boring is Mr Average? The Problem with Self Projection

Well in fact Mr Average is quite a nice guy : according to him or miss average's self image.

There in lies the whole problem when you apply these tests to the whole population in a job seeking or even laborotory condition. The rose tinted mirror, the ideal self starts to poke out.

People lie. they fib about how nice or assertive or clever they are by choosing adjectives or interval-scale answers which they know will paint them in the light they would like to be seen in.

Two retorts I hear

1) >There are lie detectors in these tests
2) > The averaging out by sheer volume will mean the outliers are still easy to spot

To answer to one; yes, there are both lie detectors and measures for inconsistency leading to void profiles, but in general you will not activate these by just answering a little bitty rose tinted.

Averaging out by volume:

So if you are in a kind of laid back state of mind, beware: you may start to lie far enough away from Mr Average you may end up being on the verge of a neurotic unemployable: or worse, a reclusive psychopath.

People who read these are trained to look for deviation from mean and the pattern.

WHat is interesting to me is how the different patterns plot across the averages. This is a very shakey area of statistics because you cannot take an average of averages. You can though look at the conjoint analysis or adherence between different personality types and how categories of profiles behave around the different individual point averages.

My point to summarise is that it is easy to deviate from Mr Nice with his rose tinted windows, and your own truthful response will start to be an outlyer, beyond the usual response mean.

Hey! Be nice out there.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

1979 and 2009...Thatcher to Cameron


There are some parallels to be drawn between the period 1978 to 1980, and 2008 to 2010 when looking at both the US and the UK political and economic environments. Both have seen changes in political direction, although possibly divergent as they stand today, but also and both are periods of serious economic crisis.

Comparisons between the two economies per se are some what meaningless. The UK could be geographically absorbed into most US states and the size of the economy has been compared to Florida and California. However it is more in parallell ideologies and international leadership in fiscal policy and public investment which are of noteworthy discussion.

Many economists ( ref.2,3,4) agree that in fact the Reagonomics and Thatcherite years did not, within their terms, achieve the fiscal and full ideological goals of balancing the budget and reducing both the PSBR and the state budget / GDP gearing.

However what both regimes were able to very firmly achieve was a change in attitudes, without which the "neo neoliberal liberals" namely Messrs Clinton and Blair, could not have enjoyed both sustained economic growth, balanced annual budgets and taxation effective policies. The main difference being that this lead to sustainable increases in public spending for the Democratic and Labour governments of the 1990s..

.......As the Actor Said to The Grocer's Daughter...

Thatcher and Reagan were both from relatively naive political backgrounds, which was in fact a help rather than a hindrance. Thatcher was brought up above a Grocers store in Lincolnshire, becoming a university educated Chemist and went on to view fiscal policy very much in terms of the whole country being run like a small business and policies being treated like hypothesis based on current scientific fact.

Ronald Reagan had been a would-be-star in Hollywood and even when rising to office as governor of California, showed often naive political judgement. (ref..)

This naivity was however, not at all at odds to a ground swell of economists who came to be known as the "liberal economists" and their immediate afterfolllowers, arguably, the neoliberals. They too agreed fundamentally that the books had to be balanced.

Furthermore the economists were very much of the view that the rate of inflation in public services had to be halted. There was in the 1970s an expectation in the populous and those working in public service, that public service provision would continue to grow, in order to enjoy incremental investment and operational budgets. Over allever better services would both contribute to, and match the better-expected-living standards based upon perceived need and not sustainabe budget.

The New Right's Legacy for the New Left

The Clinton and Blair governments inherited a political and fiscal environment where economic growth could be stimulated while public spending could both grow, and be paid for by near-time tax revenues, and not long term borrowing.

Gone also was the left wing's punative view on the rich. Instead the nouveau rich of the entrepreneurial classes and the entertainment and sports "industries" were welcomed by both Clinton and Blair in the new vision of meritocracy and righteous social democracy. No longer would the super rich and general self employed be taxed punitively, but rather tax revenues would be optimised by making it attractive to live, invest and run businesses in the UK and US.

First Terms With Backward Effects

The first terms for both Thatcher and Reagan were on the balance sheet, not good. The cuts in public spending in the general services area actually contributed to low growth as government employment was reduced and wage claims curtailed. Also liberlisation of corporate law made it easier for companies in the UK to disinvest or realise liquidation of their assets as the only growth in share holder investment. Privatisation also lead to job cuts in the short term.

The first term of Margaret Thatcher lead in fact to higher public spending and GDP gearing because of the large rise in unemployment ( benefits being payed by the state, and resulting loss in taxation) and the Falklands War. Reagan achieved little of the hoped for tax cuts and cuts in real terms to public spending, due to the same reasons perhaps:unemployment and defence.

What these two first terms did achieve was to releive the inertia of the slow, crisis filled and recessionary 1970s with respect to public spending as well as business investment, growth and birth-rate of new enterprises. Both governments foundered yet managed in political momentum to hold the electorate who continued to want a move away from the stagflation of the late 70s.

One alarming parallel to draw today to the conservative-libdem government in the UK and the potentially righ wing senate and congress swing in the US, is that cuts in public spending lead to slower growth.

Cuts in taxes were popular, but in the UK the "Tories" put in place a large rise in VAT in 1979-80, which in fact is a proportionately far higher tax on the poorest in society as it taxed all VATable items of food, clothing etc at 15% up from the base of 8%. If this had been enacted in a growing economy, it would have inevitably lead to inflationary pressures in both margin-fulcrum effects on traded items and wage demands due to the increased cost of living.

The Cold War Defrosts

In retrospect one area of puzzeling ideology both Reagan and Thatcher held to was a large defence budget, as a far higher proportion of GDP than most western economies ( this is however, weighted by the post WWII withstraints on the key German and Japanese economies).

Ideologically, they had the "Great Bear", the USSR and despite a fairly stable period of cold war post Vietnam, ageing nuclear weaponry and delivery systems meant the Russians had a possible advantage in having the SS20 mobile missile systems, making it virtually impossible to either react to strategic targets ( launch sites) or pre-emptively strike them.

One response was the multiwarhead, longer distance Trident Missile system. The other, which was not nearly as far fetched as the name it gained suggests, was an close-orbit defence satellite system which could identify launched ICBMs and destroy them in the upper atmosphere: Reagan's "star wars".

It took more than a decade for both these systems, Trident as a detterent in the UK and an effective "star wars" technology, to actually come to fruition: and of course by 1992 these systems were really obsolete or of little strategic importance due to the collapse of the USSR . However, star wars did precipitate the initial fall of the soviet ICBM dominance and the credibility of their economic investment in the military, possibly tipping the of the politbureaux into the folly of their brand of totalitarianism.

Boom and Bust

It was really the mid eighties liberisation of capital markets at "big bang" in the UK and following connectivity of capital markets by the use of IT which stimulated the huge investments in western economies, and possibly over investment and later crash of Asian capital markets. Further to this, consumer credit was liberilsed beyond inflationary sensible parameters in the UK ( ref need to support any such claim for the usa 1984-89)

I dare say that you could track the number of people reaching their credit limits and not being able to make payments with the decline in captial markets in the late 80s: this tipping effect from consumer spending and irresponsible debt has reared its' head again with the subprime market ( "white trash bring down all the great empires" )

Inflation headed back up into double figures, with interest rates matching suit and the finance markets crashed and did not fully recover after Black Monday, the first major "correction" to the newly liberalised capital markets.

House reposessions and personal bankruptcies ran high in the UK, although the tories were maybe quite right in their view point on the "nanny state" when it regarded personal investment, debt and home ownership. This would be the first "attitude correction" perhaps in the new right's view, in other words individuals should take and make responsible decisions over their budgets.

Certainly the boom and bust was remembered by voters after the lack lustre Bush I and Major governments failed to cure the ills, with multiple terms and larger influence for the left on both sides of the atlantic being the result at the ballot box.

The Neo-Neo Liberals Take the Helm: Enter Clinton and Blair

As with the implementation of strategic defence strategies, once again it took the Clinton administration of 1993-97 to actually put into place the balancing of government budgets which 12 years of Reagan and "George H" could not. Similarily in the UK, the PSBR and GDP/Spend gearing was only finally achieved under Blair. Both state leaders resided over the longest period of sustained economic growth since world war II. ( 4)

This however in many commentators view was not just the result of a fortuitous inheritence. The two governments were able to present cohesive internal party politics and secure broad support across a spectrum of govermental ( sivil service), public service ( like the NHS and many Quangos), trade unions and economic actors in both international government, capital finance and captains of industry.

Further to this, when both leaders took over in the 1990s they were able to plan for optimised tax efficiency, meaning that both the private economy could enjoy growth driven by tax, legislative and fiscal environments. Public spending could once again grow with the aim of delivering enhanced and more efficient services, which also fuelled economic growth.

Low inflation, and in post war terms, super low inflation of below 3% became the fiscal goal of governments and this was driven by increased competition in the ever more enterprising economies. How two left wing governments, despite having moved to right of centre on monetary policy, managed to achieve such low inflation and interest rates is a mystery to the writer here.

The balancing act of low interest rates from central banks to encourage investment in the real economy could, and later into the 00s indeed did, lead to increased inflation. Lower bank interest rates released working capital through cost effective loans for both small and larger businesses while also making investing in governmental bonds and just savings accounts, far less attractive for private investors. Capital markets would need to also secure higher ROI from the real economy and deriviatives markets, where in both cases, value multiplicaiton could be acheived at a far better ROI than those investments linked to base interest rate.

A Bleak Future for the Neo-neo Liberal Right

The new right face a bleak future once they come to power with their proposed raft of tax cuts.


Western economies were already failing to deliver ROI when the internet bubble burst in 2000/ 2001. There after higher ROI was sought in what I call the "funny money" markets: deriviatives and investment mechanisms geared around at the base, consumer debt. It is somewhat Ironic that the speculators chose to focus their efforts in maximising ROI on what in the USA was in fact a US governmental subsidised initiative for poorer families to buy their homes: The sub prime market was invented, and the whole house-of-cards built around this con trick has lead to the near total collapse of the capitalist investment system.

Fundamentally, an economy must multiply value at several levels: private business must add value from raw materials and peopl'es manhours in rendering these higher value or providing services at a profit. SInce the internet bubble burst, and the far east finance crisis became a long lasting syndrome, westernised economies havve failed to add fundamental value and have instead imported from China.; but bluntly, the chinese are the ones taking the fundamental value multiplication.

Intellectual property is the mantra of the west: we do the clever stuff, and the Chinese will make it. However add the costs of intellectualism to the costs of the supply chain and then divide by increased competition and a low cost base for actual production of something which does not need you patented widget to work as well, and you start to disappoint "the street" on your ROI and profit warnings.

The service economy is of little help in saving this situation of low growth and reduced margins in the product economy. The service economy is in my opinion, fully dependent on two factors: value multiplication in the product economy and consumer spending power from the employees in the public sector. Take the pre 2010 medicare situation in the USA: it is completely dependent on the US police, sivil service and other employees to be able to survive financially. Why choose healthcare, that is just for sick people right? Health care is a large proportion of GDP in western countries with the new sicknesses which take longer to kill us than the old. Smoking, bad diet, lack of exercise and stress mainly from trying to get ROI for your stake holders.


What Blair and Clinton enjoyed economically and politically will be looked back upon as a golden time for both businesses and the public sector. In these years prudent fiscal management and revenue effectvie structuring of personal and corporate taxation meant that the public sector could further boost growth in the economy while intending to support a higher standard of living delivered to the electorate.

What the legacy of this vision of continual improvement of public services, and the freedom allowed the capital markets has lead to is the largest crisis since the 1930s. The gamblers on Wall Street were not the only boys in the casino in the mid 2000s: that governments continued to service wars in areas of little political gain, and had expanding public services now needing PSBR, has well and truly dumped the next rack of right wingers who will promise to do what Reagan and Thatcher did in 1979, and probably end up doing as badly as their well known predecessors.


(1) - (3) TBC

(4) Fiscal policy convergence from Reagan to Blair: the left veers right

Av Ravi K. Roy,Arthur Denzau