October 8th, 2009

credit crunch, recession, commerce

Profits and the Post Office

I'm not the world's foremost expert on the history of the Royal Mail, but as far as I'm aware it was setup as a service with it's main function to provide that service. That's why there were lots of little post offices in tiny rural villages to provide everyone with access to the service, not because there's lots of profit to be made from rural communities.

Nowadays, the Post Office is now a Public Limited Company and as such is not only required to cover it's costs, but to try and maximise it's profits. Hence profits take priority over services and all the obscure little village post offices that were never designed to make profit get closed because they don't.

Not only that, they are forced to compete with other delivery companies which have been designed with profit in mind from the word go rather than service, which means that none of them have a network of delivery centres to revival that of the post office and so have lower costs and can undercut the post office while delivering the same service to the sender. The service to the recipient is less important to these companies as it's the sender that pays, so the incentive to deliver the same level of service at that end isn't there.

So, we end up in the situation where the money flows into companies focused on providing services mainly to the major financial focus points rather than an equally accessible national network and the Post Office ends up with massive financial problems and has to cut back on the amount it spends on it's services.

This obviously includes funding it's workforce, which necessarily has to be quite large to ensure the coverage we expect from the service and then we're surprised when they're not happy that there are not enough funds to support this? The fundamental thing about putting profits first, is that the welfare of the workers will be economised as far as possible.

OK, some of the services the Post Office provided can be done using other means now including other communications technologies, but as none of these can provide delivery of solid objects or somewhere you can walk in in person and deal with the majority of the day to day bureaucracies of life, the Post Office is far from being made redundant. Yet by forcing it to compete in a system based around maximising profits we're making it fall apart.

However, given our whole society is based upon profits, how can such an institution possibly exist without turning it's focus to profits itself? All in all, as far as I can see it the problem with Post Office is that it was setup with completely different objectives to those of the society to which it belongs. The question then has to be asked, which objectives were better, the ones we've got or the ones we appear to be losing?
rapper, thrales

Rapper Tour of Clerkenwell

Thrales will be dancing out in Clerkenwell tomorrow evening.

The plan is to meet at 7.30 at the Castle to dance at 8pm then tour as follows:

The Castle, Cowcross Street (dance tbc)
The Green, Clerkenwell Green
The Crown, Clerkenwell Green (dance tbc)
The Three Kings, Clerkenwell Close (dance tbc)
The City Pride, Farringdon Lane
The Betsy Trotwood, Farringdon Road (dance tbc)
The Coach and Horses, Ray Street (dance tbc)
The Exmouth Arms, Exmouth Market (at least I think that's the one he means)
The Easton, Easton Street (dance tbc)
The Peasant, St John Street

and then onto... Farringdon or Angel time permitting.

In other news, for those of you I haven't already told a thousand times on Facebook or Twitter. Thrales are now on Facebook at facebook.com/thrales (the tour is also on there as an event here, but doesn't have as nice a url)

Blackheath are also dancing out this weekend (details to follow once I figure out what's happening).
capitalism, bank war

The Zeitgeist Movement

Discovered about this lot via the Socialists who had seen them on the 4th plinth. Their views are distinctly odd in places and I disagree with them on a number of points, but their views are broadly socialist and they do have a some interesting ways of looking at things.

The video below, as with all political propaganda is very one sided and makes a lot of broad sweeping statements without backing them up. It's also just over 2 hours long (just to warn you if you were thinking of watching it quickly in your coffee break), but worth watching though as it does have some interesting points as long as you take it with a small mountain of salt.

(direct link & download)

The first part analyses the current capitalist system. They do this paraphrasing a document released by the US Federal Reserve. It's all entirely based on that one document and is a massive simplification of the banking system, but it's an interesting way of looking at it and even putting aside the spin they put on it, there are interesting points underneath about the levels of debt and inequality inherent in the system.

It's after that that they go really weird with their conspiracy theories. OK, I would not be at all surprised if the conflict in Iraq was heavily influenced by the oil, just because of how much power it gives the holder within society. However, I would like to see a lot more evidence before saying that it was all a conspiracy by the capitalist system. More likely, I would suspect the case to be more along the lines of US getting touchy about the level of power Sadam was gaining and jumping at spurious evidence of WMDs that would otherwise have been ignored. However, even at that extent Capitalism would have been the key motivator behind the conflict, so their criticism would still hold to an extent.

I'm also fairly unconvinced that we can fixed society with technology. Yes, profit is at odds with sustainability and efficiency and as such the development of technology outside of capitalist society may benefit society more, but I very much doubt it will magically solve all our problems.

Then there's the religion bit at the end, which I find really odd even as an atheist. Yes, ok, there have been a lot of wars based on religion, but there are also a lot of very religious people who are highly tolerant of other beliefs. I would say the separation of cultures is more of the issue causing these conflicts rather than the beliefs themselves. All people have beliefs that cannot be back up by hard evidence, that's human nature, you can't rid society of those.

OK, it would be nice if we could move away from a society based almost entirely on the movements of numbers, but this idea seems a little too sterile. Work, beliefs and everything along those lines are part of what makes us human and generally add interest to our lives. Yes, it would be good to automate tasks especially repetative work to reduce labour hours, but we all need purpose and to gain that we need to be able to do our bit for society.