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They Don’t Make ‘Em Like That Anymore. Or At All. October 6, 2009

Posted by markswill in Cars and Bikes, Politics, Schmolitics.

Although it’s not a discipline that bothers professional columnists ­– and I should know, I used to be one – since they have the luxury of  choosing how often (or not) they scribble, repetition is something I feel bloggists should graciously avoid. But am I the only reasonably sentient being who is not incensed by our government’s and, indeed our government-in-waiting’s fiddling around on the fringes of our economic ruin whilst spouting unconvincing platitudes about recovery?

Yet barm-pot Brown and the boy Cameron continue to witter earnestly about “creating the conditions” for regenerating employment whilst failing to identify where the jobs will actually come from. And so I return to my theme of July 27th, namely the decline of manufacturing, a tragedy made all the worse by our servant/masters’ determined reliance on the very phenomena that got us into this mess to haul us out of it.

Every blip in Tesco’s quarterlies or the Nationwide’s house price index are the measures which excite news editors and, presumably, the Treasury, and although Darling Alistair emptily threatens bankers who pay themselves bazillions in bonuses for taking irresponsible risks with what is, quite literally our money, this surely cannot be where salvation lies?

John Meynard Keynes, were he around today, would be urging the government to invest in infrastructure projects and manufacturing – and mindful of globalisation, preferably export-led. But we hear not a peep of this from the media’s financial pundits, let alone anyone allegedly in charge of this sinking ship. I can’t believe such long-term strategies haven’t occurred to them because many of our European peers are doing just that, and with glimmers of success. The days are long over when globalisation at least gave GB Ltd’s financial services the ability to thrive, whereas globalisation itself has moved into overdrive and only the countries that make and sell things abroad will survive and prosper. Witness Iceland, which never exported anything except ludicrously leveraged bank loans and now wallows in bankruptcy the likes of which even the IMF may not be able (or willing) to ameliorate.

And as no lesser financial commentator (!) than the Guardian’s Deborah Orr noted recently, “The west is hoping that human resilience and ingenuity will find a way back to the norm of perpetual economic growth (my italics)… but the idea of perpetual economic growth, even if it can be massaged back to life in the short term, has had its day.”

So Keynesian doctrines ignored, what will replace it as the structure which enables a civilised society to remain civilised? Who will buy the houses, the cars, the white goods and put Amelia through university if there’s no money around except that which the government prints and the only jobs really being created are in a public sector groaning at the seams with its responsibility to maintain a civilised (but bankrupt) society? Communism? Benign dictatorship? I don’t think so.

And whilst you yawn over that, comfy in the knowledge that house prices have risen for the third successive month and George Osborne’s promised that if his bunch of posh shysters lie their way into power they’ll absolve employers of paying national insurance on the first ten new staffers they hire, spare a thought for the poor classic car owner. (That’s me, by the way).

With exquisite irony, I was on my way to the Lancia Gamma Consortium’s AGM and weekend runabout last month, and just days after it had been filmed for Top Gear, when troublesome noises began emanating from the bowels of my beloved S2 Coupe. By the time I got onto the M5 troublesome turned into horrid and before the bugger seized or exploded, I hit the hard shoulder and called the AA. Long and short being that the car is now with one of the few outfits in the UK still qualified (and sufficiently arsed) to minister to ancient Lancias, fortuitously located less than 30 miles from where it expired, who quickly ascertained that it wasn’t the relatively easy/cheap to fettle valve-gear  that’d packed up. So I am now awaiting the call that could well bankrupt me, the call that says they’ve got round to removing the engine and discovering that a virtually unobtainable big-end bearing or con-rod has said bye-byes.

Assiduous investigation has however unearthed a rebuilt engine in Bavaria, albeit one that’s resided in a shed for the last 15 years, and another in a barn in Essex that ‘only’ needs new camshafts and a couple of valves which the vendor can conveniently supply… all at prices you can imagine. So whichever way you cut it I probably have months of fun, travel and adventure ahead of me, but there is an upside to this, and one that could benefit the greater good.

If, as I suspect, we are careening into double-dip (as in big-bloody-dipper) recession, and the bastards in charge haven’t seen the light manufacturing-wise, then none of us will be able to afford the new cars that we won’t be making anymore or the imported ones that have become too expensive, then there’ll be a growing need for men in beige overalls with five biros in their top pockets well practiced in sucking air through their teeth as they survey the knackered Mondeo and Astra engines that only they know how to fix. Hey, it’ll be just like Cuba (but no cigars).

And I think my forthcoming apprenticeship bloodying my knuckles on a weird, 28 year-old motor designed by mischievous if not malevolent Italians will put me in a prime position to lead the nation’s economic recovery.

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1. Paul N. Blezard - October 6, 2009

Hi Mark,
I nodded in agreement with most of what you said, and smiled at your re-naming of John Maynard Keynes as John Milton Keynes!
(Better known for concrete cows and roundabouts than economics).
I remember in the good-old, bad-old days of Thatcherism we were told that UK plc was going to survive with service industries rather than making things. Now half the service industries have been out-sourced to India; Thames Water chases unpaid bills in England with Indians spouting a fixed script like robots down a crackling line from the sub-continent (while, bizarrely, Westminster Council uses Scousers in Liverpool who’ve never been to London to deal with enquiries about their parking fees!).
Commiserations on your Lancia lament. Last weekend we went to an amazing party near Lampeter in the girlfriend’s immaculate 1979 VW Kombi Kamper van. (Nick Turner of Hawkwind fame in top form on sax and flute). Sadly, the said camper went on strike at Magor services and it took the AA 7 hours to get us back to Godalming.
I suspect a dropped valve or holed piston less than 1,000 miles after a thorough engine rebuild due to incompetent mechanics….

2. Wm. T. Krueger, Optimist - October 6, 2009

Well said, youngish man. Why aren’t you enjoying the pap our respective governments feed us? You must not be proper patriotic. Idiot Boy with the Smile Obama is handing out dollops of fluffy stuff about the “recovery”, effectively ignoring the rising unemployment, the increased tax burden, the malignant growth of government, the mounting foreclosures, the reduction in personal income to “help distribute wealth”, the bullseye on anyone who disagrees with The Chosen Ones policies, the pollsters warnings, a compromised media that never adds, but only subtracts from any semblance of fact, the restriction of civil liberties for the “common good”. And these issues are just the easy ones to identify.

And if implanted fear can disguise real trouble, we can all attend to and worry about climate change, asteroid strikes, the 2012 Mayan calendar, H1N1, Aviary pandemics, and the Next Big Crisis. But don’t fear, youngish man, the media will spoon-feed you until you are sick of eating, and then offer platitudes for dessert.

To your point, there really is something to be said to focus worry on a ‘broke-down engine Mama with no drivin’ wheel’ that can be handily fixed by a qualified, beer-bellied, unshaven, master mechanic with a specialty that will be taken to the grave.

Now, given all that has been said in various blogs, it probably is apparent why I focus my company on bright-eyed, bushy-tailed emerging economies who have their sights on the horizon and their troubles behind them, rather than a forelorn, tattered and torn, dying and self-serving post-industrial nation. And, yes, I really am an optimist.

markswill - October 6, 2009

As ever. Mr T has his finger tightly gripping the pulse of humankind’s folly, but I’ll have to work on my beergut if I am to fulfill the destiny he happily concurs is mine.

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