Friday Fury – Lord Voldemort

Here in the UK we get eight public holidays every year. Now I don’t know about you but I look forward to these holidays. They are a chance to recharge, to meet up with friends, spend relaxing time with family. Apart from the folks who have to work on public holidays to keep essential services running (sincere thanks to you), these holidays are ours to spend how we choose.

I also like the fact that they fall on certain days, the fact that a lot of people will be taking time off on a certain determined day lends a kind of mega-community feel to the public holiday. Public holidays are a part of our social fabric and I believe people return to work from them feeling generally better about themselves, and in a good frame of mind to do good work.

Which is why I’m delighted that I don’t work for the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). This week the CEBR published a piece of total crap suggesting that UK public holidays ‘cost the economy £2.3 billion’ and in addition they ask ‘Do we really need so many?’ The article is littered with numbers and percentages and as you read through it you feel the deathly hand of the economist on your shoulder. It reminds me of Harry Potter and co as they struggle to fend off the soul sucking misery of Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters.

I stuck a link to this article on our Facebook page yesterday and Marco Faimali got in touch saying, ‘Everything seems to be about costs to ‘the economy’. Whatever happened to the costs to society or gross national happiness?’ Chris followed up with the excellent ‘As Bobby Kennedy said “GDP measures everything except what makes life worthwhile”.

Right at the death, the CEBR says, ‘This is more a social than an economic judgement. Money is not the only thing and a healthy lifestyle needs time off to reflect and relax.’ But by then it is too late. All that is left of the reader is a dry husk, a lost soul ready to be blown away on the breeze. Oscar Wilde’s quote ‘The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing’ is often turned into a joke about economists. It’s a crap joke and I ain’t laughing. Now get back to work willya, GDP just dropped another millionth of a percent.

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

13 thoughts on “Friday Fury – Lord Voldemort”

  1. I was listening to Radio4 the morning after the CEBR released this and one of the people being interviewed provided the exact same quote from Bobby Kennedy. It’s a sign of the times. The government wants to find ways to boost the economy, and reduce the deficit, and is taking actions which it perceives will achieve this. Groups like the CEBR see this as a good opportunity to pounce on the zeitgeist (sp?) and provide ‘data’ and ‘facts’ to support why it could be a good move. I bloody despair.

    1. Nicely put Sukh – I bloody despair too, partly at the desperation of the CEBR. A cheap shot by them.

  2. Hi Doug, I’ve been doing some work with Born to Learn, a charity that looks at how we learn and how society and education needs to rethink it. You might like trailer for our next animation The Faustian Bargain I think this is at the root of the CEBR/government focus. Totally agree that we need to think about our nourishment and development as human beings first. Great post 🙂

  3. Assuming a direct correlation between total days worked and GDP seems facile; it’s entirely possible that resting on those days increases total annual productivity. I would also suspect that India, not mentioned in the study, is a strong counter-example.

  4. Doug – I saw the same headline and wondered where these people actually on the same planet as anybody else – but then I realised that this is just typical posturing by a think tank to gain attention – a bit like the claim that the third monday in January is “blue monday” with a peak in depression. There are lies, damned lies and statistics – but a PR stunt takes the biscuit of misinformation. Which is why I enjoy listening to the debunking on “More or Less” on Radio 4 (podcast available) – if we take the numbers as read (with a rock of salt), then how about this – the current population in work is 29.12m but their are 2.67m unemployed (an 8.4% unemployment rate) – so on this basis 200m of “GDP potential” is lost each day. So in the space of 11 working days the UK economy has lost the same as a bank holiday – why not focus on getting those out of unemployment, rather than on flogging those in employment!

    1. Great stuff Tony – I should have sent you the draft of this article first, your additions and observations are v useful.

  5. actually Doug after reading the article I think it is quite balanced. It is afterall an economic comment and it does state the added benefits of Bank Holidays socially (note comment ‘Money is not the only thing and a healthy lifestyle needs time off to reflect and relax’). I think the UK, compared to the US and many Asian countries has a good balance of downtime. I would be interested to read a similar report on profitablity and work time in Australia (where I now live) as try getting a call centre to answer after 5pm or even 3pm on the west coast, as everything operates around Eastern standard time (and I dont mean US) so the state that is making the most money for the rest of the country (Western Australia) due to the amount of mineral wealth being churned out of the ground is being largely ignored. Coming from the UK where I could pretty much order anything online or over the phone 24/7 AND most often get it delivered the next day – doing business in Australia feels like the dark ages – it can take 5-7 days to get something delivered from the East Coast where most distribution centres are based to the West, I can get an order from the UK in quicker time than that (and usually for less too)

    1. Hello Julie – thanks for coming by and for your comment. I noted the comment on lifestyle and also its placing toward the very end of the CEBR piece. It felt like an afterthought to me, and I do acknowledge it is at least there.

      Your observations on Australia interest me and I’m really pleased you shared them. I may be wrong, I often am, but it seems that you get better service from the UK where we’re all busy taking time off and slacking on our bank holidays, than you do locally. Strikes me there’s a case for more downtime down under?

      1. You are totally right Doug, I moved back to Oz after 20 years of living in Europe, half of them in the UK and over the years watched the services levels in the UK improve dramatically. Australia on the other hand (and particularly Western Australia due to the skewed mining boom fueled economy) seems to have gone downhill in the last 10 years from offering excellent service to couldn’t care less – I wonder how it will be in another 10 years….

        1. Well here’s hoping that you and a few other determined folk pull the service dudes up out of their nose dive. Hopefully I’ll hear from you before the next ten years is up 🙂

  6. Nice discussion.

    To the point about economic or social effect, I agree that the social effect is actually more important, but I think a key point is that the survey misleads economically as well as socially.

    People in today’s world, in a knowledge economy, do create economic value while not physically at work, often while doing totally different things. Econometrics still assume only linear activity contributing linearly to the economy, literally as though everyone works on a production line, as when FW Taylor propounded his Scientific Management brand in 1911. His thinking was wrong even in that context, though it was understandable and did make some sense in the US North East states handling twin challenges of mass industrialisation and mass immigration with significant language challenges.

    Many people today do not work or add value in that tangible way. Personal value contributions today may be invisibly growing and maturing internally and immeasurably to be released in one apposite observation, insight or question at the right moment in the right context, that may have immense long term effects. So for many people, the more and the wider the experiences they have, the greater their economic potential and that is hard to measure conventionally.

    The more important issue is that people should engage fully with whatever they are doing. They should enjoy and engage with their families and friends on holiday and they should enjoy and engage fully with their work and their colleagues at work. The saddest waste is to be worrying about work while on ‘holiday’ and worrying about your ‘social’ and family life while at work, so neither gets your full attention.

    Talking of which, we are looking forward to seeing everyone at our second engagement unconference on 27 June in London’s Vauxhall Gardens

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