Philobiblon: A small link-fest

Monday, January 03, 2005

A small link-fest

Today's Oxford Dictionary of National Biography character is "Bennelong", who was to my recollection the only Aboriginal character who featured in the (very limited) Australian history that we were taught at school.

Typically enough, the first governor of the Australian colony, Phillip, who was in many respect a decent man, had "Bennelong" and several other local men kidnapped in an attempt to make friends with them. "Bennelong" was the one most amenable to the treatment, and he eventually sailed to England and is said to have met King George III. (The quote marks are around the name because his "Aboriginal" name was never properly recorded.)

And there's an excellent piece in the New York Review of Books about Wal-Mart, a review of a book arising from an academic conference on the subject - just like there are "area studies" it would seem there are now "company studies", a further reflection of the changing balance of power.

Of course a lot of its abuses are already well-charted, but I found this enlightening:

Wal-Mart is also a burden on state governments. According to a study by the Institute for Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2003 California taxpayers subsidized $20.5 million worth of medical care for Wal-Mart employees. In Georgia ten thousand children of Wal-Mart employees were enrolled in the state's program for needy children in 2003, with one in four Wal-Mart employees having a child in the program.

Having been brought up in a rightwing household that complained regularly of "dole-bludgers", it reminds me of that "aha" moment in agricultural economics when it was pointed out that tax relief and other government subsidies to companies were just another form of welfare. (There weren't many other moments like that, but I suppose it taught me something.)

It makes me wonder about the Blair government's achievements in lifting some children out of poverty with benefits; which employers are they subsidising?

Finally there's a lovely storm in a tea-cup about a rightwing report about crime. The "moral values" stuff is nonsense, of course, but I can't disagree with its view of British policing.

My encounters with it suggest that it hasn't got out of the 19th-century; when my credit card was cloned two bobbies wasted an hour getting a statement from me that I could have typed in five minutes, one taking it down laboriously in longhand (and no doubt spending as long typing it up). Then, when I later found some relevant information, I found it impossible to contact the investigating officer - his name was Smith, there were five of them at the station, and no one showed the slightest interest in ensuring he got the message.

Whenever you see police in London they are either travelling at ridiculous speed with blue lights flashing or, far more commonly, standing around in groups coffeehousing or taking a gentle stroll on a pleasant evening (which no doubt counts as "community policing", "bobbies on the beat" that the right-wing press is always getting excited about).


Blogger Nathanael said...

If I may be so banal, there is an episode of South Park that suggests that Wal Mart is the creation of consumer demand (or at least a demand that had been groomed by corporations themselves). However, these sorts of corporations are more than made by their customers. Wal Mart inserts itself into communities and provides a meager range of private services while creating the need for more public services. Their trick is to redefine economic growth in terms of consumer activities rather than quality of life.

1/03/2005 06:59:00 pm  

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