The Moorish Wanderer

Wandering Thoughts Vol.3

Posted in Dismal Economics, Flash News, Read & Heard, The Wanderer by Zouhair ABH on October 27, 2010

It’s starting to clear up. I have found a tutor for my final year paper. It should be something about game theory and monetary policy. Very early days indeed, but I have great hopes that it will bring some goods news afterwards.

Plus this year is turning out to be quite important for the future. Well, in any case I’ll be putting some posts on the subject from time to time, it is good practise for the ultimate chore. Obviously, I would like to write something about Moroccan politics, but in our case, silly season took over a long time ago home politics. Of course, troubles down under and Tangier’s imbroglio are all very well, but the barycentre of power remains the monarchy acting as a core, and tribal interests gravitating around. Nothing perhaps that legislative elections are now less than 2 years ahead, and I am increasingly making my mind up about abstention. I would very much like to devote some pieces about it, but that would be too soon, and even I have to comply with media agenda from time to time.

Part of the assignment is to read papers and prepare one that says what others -very bright and quite famous- have written about subjects that are but widely discussed. And I, little voice of would-be PhD holder, comment -elegantly of course- on these illustrious scholars’ work. It looks and sounds a boring job, and up to a point, it is. But the delightful trouble with economics is that under seemingly unadorned papers, interesting facts and theories are read-worthy.

Reading: Barro and Gordon’s paper (1983). In monetary policy, whatever subject one wants to discuss. “we often observe high and variable rates of monetary growth, and a tendency for monetary authorities to pursue countercyclical policies. This behaviour is shown to be consistent with a rational expectations equilibrium in a discretionary environment where the policy-maker pursues a reasonable objective, but where pre-commitments on monetary growth are precluded.” is the part of their abstract I am interested in: how do other players, especially commercial and investment banks, react to monetary policies. These policies are countercyclical indeed, and I will elaborate on that, just as the paper does so on “equilibrium rates of monetary growth/inflation [and how they] depend on various parameters, including the slope of the Phillips Curve”. For the time being, unemployment is not the prime concern (well not that I aver it to be secondary, it’s just that it is of minor interest to my subject)

There’s a bit I am quite interested in, the pre-commitment policy to set an inflation target and stand by it. Indeed, findings are such that under these conditions, players tend to play by the rules. In Game Theory Gibberish, the core of all possible coalitions (or combinatory allocations) is non empty (players find a settlement they prefer to any other outcome).  On the other hand, since we are conjecturing in terms of game theory,  if the policy is sequential (meaning implemented in different time periods) then players make up their mind along – following their own backward inductions, and the achieved equilibrium would be so when actual policy and the anticipated one converge to one. What is anticipated is of course up to the players themselves. Then there’s some stuff about rational expectations and so on. Really engaging, I’m telling you !

jovial Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown. rare picture where the former British PM is caught smiling. Mandelson's account was not very kind to Brown

Oh, I was meant to write about it too, but then I fear I will not be up to expectations for it. Still, one has to give it a go. I’ve just finished Lord Mandelson’s book “The Third Man”. I don’t know, but between Moroccan politics as full of palpitations as our Prime Minister is charismatic (and yes, I am referring to the real PM, not the Gov’oma one), and French politics polarized into a civil war -short of large-scale violence hopefully-, I got on very keenly to British politics. Not that they are saints, but there is a certain touch of “grown-ups” compared to the others.

So, back on the Third Man, Mandelson gives his own account of the rise and dismay of New Labour, his years in office, near power and in the wilderness, all of that through the Shakespearian relationship Blair, Gordon and him had since they met till Blair resigned his premiership in 2007. To a certain extent, his account is very touching: The guileless reader would be charmed by the talent and intellect he displays through his memories and past actions as one of New Labour’s architects. One could almost feel sorry he was dubbed “Prince of Darkness” or “Lord Vador”… I still laugh at the puns BBC broadcasts like The News Quizz or the Now Show; Behind the pleasant caricatures and witty apophthegms, he remained throughout a key player in the strategy -a word that comes very often in his book- Labour designed and followed in media and power management.

Spin doctors? his pals Jonathan Powell and Alistair Campbell, his pro-Brown bitter opponents like Charlie Whelan are but the tip of an iceberg of what British, US and soon to be European politics is about. Researchers, advisers and party officials that are increasingly taking over party machines in the UK- the current Labour leader was an economic adviser to Gordon Brown when he was Chancellor, and the current Chancellor spent most of his career as a researcher at the Conservative HQ. Anyway, back on the book, Mandelson’s story is a fascinating one. I do hope Andrew Rawnsley’s own account would prompt the reader to have a look at it.

Malcolm Tucker is the Man

Posted in Polfiction, Read & Heard, The International Kadetty, The Wanderer by Zouhair ABH on February 27, 2010

Ah, it’s a shame we don’t have a political soap opera. Drama or Comedy, I don’t care; I am referring to government work; not higher up…

I think we got the right persons for the job. I can easily imagine the right honourable Abbes El Fassi being told off by his aggressive PR director… Or perhaps Mezouar, being slaughtered by his spin doctors for his rebellious deeds at the RNI.

In the opposition benches, we might get a glance at Ramid cursing and shouting to a strangely placid Belkhayat, while their respective spin-doctors are plotting in their back for some dirty press campaign.

On second thoughts, we don’t need it to be nominalthe satire show, bear with me please.

It would be legally difficult, and the politicians might not accept it. But the idea of a political satire (or even thriller) is quite nice to contemplate.

Easier said than done: we have yet to build a genuine democracy before one starts thinking about putting up a satirical show on politics. Or is it? It may be that by means of satire, politics might evolve into something more open. Just like caricatures do (or do they?). Well of course, there’s always the money problem: no producer sane enough would accept to back such political dynamite, who would finance it? let alone obedient and makhzenian TV channels… Na, it’s just an idle dream.

Would Morocco be a better democracy with that kind of TV soap opera? Your call, but it would at least be good show for the viewers.

A well-made point actually; Do we really need a democracy where politicians are depicted in a satirical way? Much as I value politics and I advocate for a respectable image, a politician is, besides being a human being, is a public figure, and it is always healthy to have a little bit of steam off by mocking the politics, as long as the caricature is proportionate, harmless and non-smearing. It is argued though, that humour in politics, under some conditions, is actually an expression of a healthy democracy. (Yeah, that’s all Morocco needs, a bunch of clowns to mock politicians that didn’t do much to earn the citizens’ respect)

My hopes are quite vain of course, as we need a far superior democracy, and good TV to put up such shows. That’s what happens when one is too into listening to BBC comedy podcasts, or watching the ‘Thick Of It’ and re-running its widescreen sequel ‘In the Loop.

When I started to learn English seriously, I tried to immerge in the Anglo-Saxon world (just the British one really, Americans are so dull)

I actually came across political satire show a long time before, when I first bumped into ‘Yes Minister’ and ‘Yes Prime Minister’ 1980’s show.

That was the Right Honourable James ‘Jim’ Hacker MP, minister (Paul Eddington), then prime minister, trying to find his ways with the civil service, portrayed and voiced by Sir Humphrey Appleby (Nigel Hawthorne), in a humorous clash between political projects and administrative blocks.

In a more darker –or serious- tone, I could perhaps advise the Houses Of Cards where the Chief Whip Francis Urquhart makes his way to the PM office, or the more leftist’ one where left-leaning labour PM Harry Perkins in ‘a Very British Coup, has to put into practice his manifesto in spite of civil service, army and bankers’ opposition.

These are but few shows I had the pleasure to watch and appreciate. Really, the idea of political drama or comedy should, I think, be encouraged. There’s always some drawback, like people identifying fiction with reality, and actually thinking politicians act just like their actors counterparts. That’s not the purpose of my post. I wanted to write about something else. Or should I say someone else…

The F-word is no longer a taboo in British TV shows –the discernable audience rated of them and I think ‘The Thick of It’, and especially Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) is just taking the edge on the sweary bit.

I am not very fond of swearing but, bloody hell -sorry- the man is a maestro: “wake up and smell the cock” people, Malcolm Tucker is here ladies and gentleman, and he is there to make sure that the ministers and their staff walk the line and speak the words He defines and writes.

I first thought Malcolm Tucker was the Chief Whip, which, presumably, would explain why other party members, especially MPs and their staff, are so frightened by his presence. But then, I understood he was holding the strategic position of senior Director of communications (and strategy I would guess) an equally impressive position under the New-Labour government. The spin doctor has an impressive range of sweary bits -a Guardian article displayed a sample of what Tucker serves his unfortunate interlocutors.

Incidentally, the senior Communications boss character is a bit of a bully. BBC Magazine did feature an article about it (reference to the Gordon Brown alleged bullying behaviour at N°10), but that’s not our point.

Malcolm Tucker does not only police the ministers, he also put the pressure on journalists, the valiant seekers of the truth, as Francis Urquhart said another reference in fictional politicians-

Now, what’s so interesting about an angry Scottish spin-doctor that shouts at everyone, making his way through manipulating his peers, the journalists and even the Prime Minister? It’s modern politics. Politicians in the post-industrialized countries are more and more sucked into the almost real-time media turmoil, they have to make statements and provide their opinions on almost everything. Politicians, it seems, by using and pretending to manipulate the Medias, found themselves trapped in the very scheme they devised for their benefit. That’s why post-modern politicians need Spin doctors, like Malcolm Tucker.

Briefly, the character is loosely based on the actual Spin Doctor Alistair Campbell, special adviser to the then-prime minister Tony Blair (though he denies any common features with Tucker), and, well, I just wanted to write something about Tucker. It is quite fascinating, not in a good way I mean. I know he represents everything I resent in politics and politicians, but the character is so manipulative, so… devious that one has to admit it: ‘what if that’s how politics does work?

Nonetheless, it is always a pleasure to watch Malcolm Tucker manipulating, swearing and bullying the unfortunate ministers, colleagues and civil servant staff; Not that I like the abusive part of it, but it seems, following Bergson, because It is so human, and also because I wouldn’t identify myself with, say, Hugh Abbott or even Malcolm Tucker himself !