Brexit and Migration

 

I truly dislike talking about human beings solely as resources for the economy. We are not just pieces of business machinery. Each one of us has a heart full of aspirations, emotions and memories. We are loving neighbours, mothers, brothers, sons and friends to other people who love us too. We have talent, culture and spirituality, whether it is religious or not. We share humanity with everyone. We are the Rivers of Life feeding the Oceans of Hope.

However, since the debate about migration in this EU referendum has focused mainly on how migrants contribute (or not) to the economy and on how to “control numbers”, often with demeaning language, I feel the need to share with the readers a reflection, primarily in economic terms, about migration. Sadly, these are the parameters of the debate and responses on these grounds are also needed. Unfortunately, the urgency of the situation requires it. The stakes are high.

The referendum campaign has been tarnished by very sad episodes of political abuse and even violence, including the tragic death of Jo Cox, a brave woman who defended noble ideas and values and served her community and the country with diligence and enthusiasm. Leaving the EU, as we may be about to do, led by a right-wing movement that rides high on the back of the beast of media xenophobia, fanatic patriotism, dubious democratic claims and self-interest (a movement whose messages have surprisingly captured the imagination of millions of decent Britons!), will be catastrophic for our country.

The debate about the effects of EU migration on the UK economy is simply misguided. Many Brexiters do not acknowledge that EU migrants fill in positions that the local workforce cannot. Migrants are also consumers, pumping up Britain’s GDP figures. Crucially, reputable studies have demonstrated that the value of taxes paid by EU migrants in Britain outweighs the value of the public services that they receive. It is true that different methodologies to calculate the net contributions throw out different figures. Quantifying this is not easy, as shown in this study of the University of Oxford. However, nobody  challenges the fact that EU migration into the UK has been, in fiscal terms, beneficial.

Nevertheless, one of the important points I want to make about migrants’ contribution is that there is a big elephant in the room that nobody talks about in any of the studies cited during this campaign by any of the camps. I call it the “Migrant Premium”, as there is not an easy straight forward term to define it in econometrics, but the premium falls under the well-known category of “human capital gains”. This concept extends beyond any comparison between migrants’ tax receipts and migrant’s use of public services, as it refers to the impact on the wider economy, not just on the public purse (1).

What is the “Migrant Premium”?

If we look at the figures, the cost of bringing up a child in the UK from birth to adulthood is at least £40,000 at 2016 prices. This figure only covers education and health. The cost of state schooling comes to more than £22,000 (2), whilst health costs are in the region of £1,000 a year for younger age groups (3). If we add health and university fees costs for the 19 to 22 year-old group, we have an extra £30,000 on top.

When a young non-university educated migrant comes to Britain, ready to work and pay taxes, he is saving at least £40,000 to UK Plc. If it is a graduate, just with a 3-year degree, that figure goes up to £70,000. This is the replacement cost of that influx of human capital per person.

There are many different ways to calculate the Migrant Premium and I look forward to old and new studies on this matter, but the above estimate is, if anything, on the low side. Bear in mind that we are not including here any other costs, such as maintenance, housing or any other private or public spending that the young person benefited from directly or indirectly in his or her country of origin.

The Migrant Premium surely plays a role in sustaining the U.K. Economy. Our country has been able to increase, on demand, its working and tax paying population without having to invest huge amounts of money. Migrants land in Britain and start paying taxes as they begin consuming and working.

Conversely, the Migrant Premium is a “migrant loss” for the countries whose public services have subsidised the health and education. Basically, the U.K. and other Western economies “import” ready-to-work human capital for free. Germany, when it comes to EU migration, and the United States are our main competitors in attracting human capital. Regrettably, this important asset migrants bring with them to the UK’s economy is not taken into account in any of the calculations disseminated in the media about the benefits of migration. If you find one, please share it in the comments.

Brexiters with an understanding of economics know, in broad terms, about the Migrant Premium, but they don’t want to acknowledge it because it gives breathing space to the opposite camp.

In my discussions with people who intend to vote Leave, whenever I have been successful to demonstrate the immense benefits of migration to the UK, I have then been confronted with other migration-related arguments that would justify leaving the EU. Here they are:

The all-time favourite Brexit icon: an “Australian point-based system” 

This system does not stop or reduce migration. It just provides a sense of control and allegedly filters migrants according to their “quality”. This is a very classist and perverse idea, as it could create a two tier workforce: the low-paid workers, made up primarily of UK nationals and some pre-Brexit settled down migrants, (the points system would stop people without high professional qualifications to come to the UK) and the better or well-paid workers, which, as the proposers of the points system acknowledge, will be, proportionally, made up of more and more highly educated workers from abroad. The points system would allow to fish for skills in a wider sea and perpetuate the situation of underinvestment in training and education for professions such as doctors, nurses or teachers. If their governments in their respective countries train them for us for free, why bother? I am afraid, business principles dominate Conservative-UKIP political practice.

What is the other problem with the Boris’ and Nigel’s “Australian system”?

In an economy like ours, or Australia’s, younger workforce is essential. Businesses need it desperately. That is the reason why people come here. Make no mistakes, U.K. Welfare is not available for newcomers and is not good enough in itself to justify coming here, anyway. The freedom of movement provided by membership of the EU enables changes in supply and demand for labour in any country to be self-regulated, without State intervention. Additionally, the EU is a massive space of 500 million people where to find the right professional profiles when needed.

I am not a believer of free markets as the best solution for many human needs in our society, but I have to say that I very much value the freedom of taking up whomever one thinks is best for a job, or choosing for whom one works. If I ever set up a business again and need someone to work for me, the last thing I want is to fill in immigration forms, ask prospective candidates to fill in even more forms and expect Boris Johnson’s army of Whitehall Bureaucrats to make a decision about who I should take on for a job based on the points system they have designed. There is not anything as illiberal and centralising as that. Employers know who they need and why, employees know who they would want to work for. It is their decision. The EU enshrines precisely that principle through the free movement of workers in our common space.

Some people argue in favour of this points-based system by defending that non-EU citizens should not be discriminated against EU citizens, despite the fact that non-EU migration in the UK remains stronger than EU migration according to Migration Watch. Fair enough. Let us create a system that gives non-EU citizens easier access to jobs if needed. But leaving the EU and imposing restrictions on everybody is a massive step backwards that do not really benefit anyone at all.

Undercutting and discrimination of UK nationals

The other argument used by many to defend a vote for Leave is the very legitimate concern about  local workers being undercut.

I do believe we should work harder to eradicate any business practice that effectively discriminates local workers. David Cameron stated in PM Questions this week that his Government was taking action against agencies that only recruit foreign workers. This was in response to a question by Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who has shown that working conditions and rights are again at the heart of Labour’s agenda. The enforcement of a (higher) decent minimum wage should also be pursued. Finally, as a through study by CERIC Leeds shows (4)  “The Brexit scenario would have even more detrimental effects on the employment and bargaining rights of both UK nationals and migrants.”

Population growth and public services provision

This is of course an understandable concern. In my view, however, the biggest issue about the UK’s alleged overpopulation is that there are areas in the South of England that are real magnets for UK migrants (internal) and non-UK migrants. Their economic growth out-paces everyone else’s in the country. Other areas, particularly in the North, have registered very slow growth in population recently. Blackpool and Sunderland even lost population between 2007 and 2012 (5). The density of population of the U.K. is not that high at all. We are not even in the 50 most densely populated countries in the world (6).

Obviously, the unbalanced distribution of wealth, opportunities and population in the UK has nothing to do with the EU and is a serious problem that will not be solved by leaving the EU. If anything, the poorer areas of the UK will lose out even more by leaving the EU, as the dependency on manufacturing jobs is much greater there than in the South East and this is one of the sectors who would suffer the most. Successive UK governments in the last 40 years have not done enough to redress or alleviate this imbalance. It is their (our) call.

Insofar as the provision of services, the “Migrant Impact Fund”, which was introduced by labour and withdrawn by the Tories, is back on the cards and should be used as a policy tool to ensure that a higher amount of the taxes generated by new local and foreign arrivals in any given area are dedicated to the public services of that area.

Thank you!

All in all, we should be thankful to our migrants for choosing the UK as a destination for their Migrant Premium. We all know they are also grateful and happy to be welcome amongst us. They could have chosen Germany, Holland or Finland, where in-work benefits, public services and wages are better than here, but in instead they joined us. We must be doing something right as a nation. Let us be proud of it.

Let us remain in the EU.

 

Notes

(1) Methodology: The purpose of this part of the article is to highlight the indisputable existance of a substantial Migrant Premium of at least £40,000 at the time of the arrival of the working migrant in the UK. Therefore, the valuation of that premium has been kept on the low side and “replacement costs”, as suggested by Bowman (below), have been used. This is not a longitudinal study of the actual returns of the human capital brought into the economy by each migrant over time and it assumes that the migrant is ready to take a job. There are longitudinal (over the time) studies about the benefits of migration in terms of human capital, but as I suggest when I discuss the question of tax receipt vs public expenditure (Oxford University study cited), the problem is that there are so many different methodologies used to quantify the flows of capital that we run the risk of not acknowledging the existance of obvious magnitudes such as the Migrant Premium for not having found total agreement amongst economists and statisticians on how precisely to measure it. Two recommended readings for those with a professional interest on this question:

Bowman, M.J. “Principles in the Valuation of Human capital”. Review of Income and Wealth. Volume 14, Issue 3, pages 217-246, September 1968

Schaeffer, P. “Human Capital, Migration and Brain Drain”. Journal of International Trade and Development. Volume 14, No 3, 319-335, September 2005

(2) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/10169865/Costs-for-state-school-hits-22500-per-child.html

(3) https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/feb/01/ageing-britain-two-fifths-nhs-budget-spent-over-65s .

(4) https://cericleeds.wordpress.com/

(5) http://www.centreforcities.org/blog/population-growth-and-migration-in-uk-cities/

(6) https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population_density

Picture credits: http://www.weforum.org https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/how-immigration-has-changed-the-world-for-the-better/

 

Brexit Xenophobia

A friend of mine told me last night that she was recently insulted for being a foreign migrant in the UK. As she had finished a phone conversation during which she had to spell her surname, the man next to her on the bus looked at her full of hate and said something rude suggesting she should go back to her own country.

Another friend of mine, who blindly supports Brexit, had told me few days before this happened, in a conversation about xenophobia and freedom of expression of migrants on the issue of the referendum, that if anyone receives ethnic abuse or violence, they must report it to the police.

This is wishful thinking, and quite frankly, naïve. Our police forces cannot deal effectively with this kind of low level, yet highly perverse and hurtful violence. They are overstretched and they would struggle to catch people like that man on the bus and get any kind of meaningful redress from him. Most people I know share this belief. In fact, I have heard of xenophobic behaviour in the past and I cannot recall one single instance in which ringing up the police was even suggested. To me, if things are getting to a point in which police intervention is needed to tackle xenophobia, yet victims do not feel that bringing the police in would help, it is clearly too late for the politicians and the State to tackle the issue effectively.

Of course, many of these xenophobic rude people must feel that they are just expressing their national anger resulting from the horrible effects of migration and membership of the EU. They replicate, in their own language and code, what the right-wing newspapers have been telling them for the last 20 years about migration and the EU. But the same is true of other Tory and UKIP xenophobes who, as members of the middle classes, have learnt to coach their nastiness towards migrants in a way that would not get them into any kind of trouble. No name calling, no swearing. And, of course, this xenophobia can take many other shapes. Do you remember the French Lady in Question Time last week who was shut down by a fervent audience when she said “well, we are all Brussels”. (She was trying to challenge the belief that there is an evil entity trying to control the UK personified in UK Brexit discourse as “Brussels”).

Are there Brexiters who are not xenophobes?

Of course there are, I know some nice normal people who want to leave the EU, but they should acknowledge that if it was not for all the “patriotic”, anti-EU and anti-migration propaganda of newspapers like The Sun and The Daily Mail over the years, UKIP and the Brexit campaign would not have prospered in terms of number of supporters and voters as much as they have. Perhaps that would give them a better understanding of what type of country they are promoting by supporting Brexit.

What about the Brexit right-wing elites, the ones behind all this, the ones who would never share a bus with the man who insulted my friend?

We must remind them that they have come this far in their political and business aspirations on the back of a rabidly xenophobic horse which their media have spurred. It is their responsibility, more than anyone else’s, to help us to put down the beast they have nurtured as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I don’t think these elites are up to the job. Besides, if Brexit wins, they will be too busy over the next ten years trying to desperately negotiate new business and trade deals, for themselves and/or for the country as a whole, to care about anything else, never mind social cohesion and peace.

Image credits: Hope not Hate

Remain. Stand for Democracy.

“Ah, thanks to the EU referendum we are going to see some democracy at last. In fact, we are recovering our democracy. We have had enough of the European Union”, said a Leave supporter to me last week.

What a misguided idea!

The EU is an organisation made up by National Governments. All the important EU laws, the EU Treaties, have to be passed by each one of the European Governments, including our own Government in the UK.

It is up to individual countries (the EU has no say on this) to decide how these European Treaties are approved internally, at the national level. In our case, it is our MPs in Westminster who have voted in favour of every single one of the EU treaties, often following tough negotiations, for the last 40 years. The Treaty of Maastricht, The Treaty of Nice, The Treaty of Lisbon were signed by a British Prime Minister following parliamentary debate in the UK.

In other countries like Ireland, for the approval of the EU treaties a popular referendum is required. In the UK, we trust, naively, the solidity and transparency of our national parliamentary system.

People who think that our lack of democracy in the UK comes from being part of the EU do not understand where the problem stems from. Someone said to me recently:

“We (the British) are the architects of democracy”.

I said to myself:

“I can’t see the architects of this fine building in need of serious refurbishment around. They must be dead by the age of the construction. This guy has not ever heard of Private Eye”.

We are at the heart of Europe. That is an economic, social, historical, cultural and political fact that we cannot hide under the carpet by detaching ourselves from the EU. We are no Switzerland or Norway. We are the second largest member of the Union. It is true that we need to build a better EU, but that only can be done from the inside, not by leaving.

And what about our sovereignty?

In order to have a better national democracy and a more effective control of our UK affairs the first thing we need to do is to vote for Remain and don’t distract our attention with painful and economically uncertain renegotiations of trade treaties, which could take many years, and huge internal changes to our EU laws, which frankly, are there for a reason (protecting the environment, consumers, workers…) and do not prevent us from improving our national democracy at all.

This EU referendum is not part of a plan to improve the way the UK political system works. The Tories and UKIP, promoters of this plebiscite, have no intention to hold any more referendums on other matters. If anything, sadly, this “democratic” referendum experience may put people off direct democracy, and democracy altoghether.

Bear in mind that it is very difficult to make an informed and rational decision in complex issues such as leaving the EU in such a short period of time. One thing is voting for your MP, who you can meet and like or dislike. Another is being asked to make a one-off, one-in-a-life-time decision which would test anyone’s combined critical understanding of History, Economics, Politics, Business, Human Geography and Law, all in a UK, European and international context.

The vast majority of people in this country are not used to research, debate and decide anything political. We are only expected to vote every 5 years in the General Elections. Only a tiny minority of people are actively involved in political campaigning and debate. The percentages of participation in the General Elections are not impressive. Around 40% of people don’t bother. In the case of local elections and the referendum on proportional representation (2011) the levels of engagement are simply a shame in our UK political system (around 25% vote in local elections). We live, like in most other Western countries, in a very “laid back democracy”.

For those who believe in democracy, here is our priority:

We must tackle apathy, our democratic institutions need to connect with people, we need to build a better democratic fabric in society, with more direct democracy on issues we can and should have a say like education, jobs, health or transport. Let people take more responsibility on more manageable, tangible, local and national, matters.

Interestingly, progressive popular empowerment is the only way to have UK Governments that have the strength, legitimacy and honesty to defend our interests in Brussels, within the EU, in coordination with other democratic governments and movements of other EU countries.

The last thing we need is a ToryKIP Government, fired up by Brexit, that runs away from the top tables in the World and turns its back on their own people and on the rest of our allies and friends in Europe.

Democracy in the UK is possible, Another Europe is Possible, but only if we vote Remain.

If you love this country and its people, as I do, (not necessarily its political system), don’t vote Leave.

Boris’ Brexit

Boris Johnson joins Brexit. Most commentators attribute his decision to the need to assert himself in the race for the leadership of the Tory party against the Chancellor George Osborne, but nobody has reflected yet upon the true economic and political significance of Boris Johnson’s move. As the major of the city that harbours the biggest financial centre in the world, and a declared supporter of its financial industry, it would be have been inconceivable for him, and irresponsible, not to have, at least, gauged the mood amongst the leaders of the City’s institutions before making his mind up. Can anybody imagine a conservative major of London standing against the City of London?

In my view, Johnson’s support for Brexit needs to be interpreted in the light of one of the deals achieved last weekend by David Cameron in Brussels: The British Government will be able to object, and delay, the implementation of measures by Eurozone Governments on Monetary Union matters that affect the rest of members of the Union, but will have no right to veto them.

The ability to block Eurozone integration is something that the financial industry had defended for years and the British Government has tried its best to achieve. The Eurozone, as it has become evident following the Great Recession, requires a revamping of its institutional architecture and a more effective, and far more democratic, governance. There are a number of ideas, more or less developed as specific proposals, that could help the Eurozone to address the political and functional shortcomings of the Monetary Union, bringing prosperity and jobs to the Euro countries and, by extension, to the EU as a whole, including Britain. However, some of these ideas might reduce the ability of many London financial institutions to continue working in the way they have done since the European Monetary Union started. Additionally, the City could be affected by any agreement within the Eurozone that touches, directly or indirectly, upon the question of debt (our public and private debt, which is immense. Remember that in our new world order, money is just debt and debt is a powerful political tool. If you need proof of it, watch 4 Horsemen, Boom, Bust, Boom or read the latest work of any alternative economist).

So, in what way could many operators of the City of London benefit from Brexit? Britain’s departure would make the European Union far more unstable and force everybody to rethink their priorities; the question of regulating the activities of the institutions who brought about financial chaos in 2008 will be left in the back burner. Brexit would certainly bring monetary instability for the euro, and the pound, that many will be already betting for and benefiting from. The turmoil caused by the shock of a victory of the No Campaign would prevent the still immature Monetary Union to advance in the direction it needs.

One may argue that Brexit may be detrimental for the city (no capital) of London, but that would not be so much the case for its financial operators. Severing the links with the EU will no doubt force London-based institutions to redeploy parts of their operations in the continent before Brexit is consummated legally, but with state of art technology and the best paid lawyers, it would be easy to minimise the cost of any relocation. At the end of the day, money, as opposed to people, does not have any national feelings.

Meanwhile, it appears that the big industrial corporations of the U.K. are showing their desire for Britain to remain in the EU. Up to 80 of the FTSE100 companies are reported to support Britain’s membership of the EU. For them, the benefits of sharing a common market and being part of a greater economic entity in today’s world are indisputable. For them, migration has brought about the labour they needed to and migrants are seen as an asset, as they are net contributors to the economy who generate more taxation and more consumption. For them, there is no evidence whatsoever that Brexit would generate more investment and more trade to the country. It is a big gamble. The EU “regulations” that so many people complain about would have to be complied with anyway if these corporations want to continue selling good and services to the continent. And, personally, I think Britain, as much as I love it, is one of the most regulating societies in the world. Leaving the EU would not liberate us from suffocating rules, nor make the rules better, believe me. Look at any other aspect of our life and society (Education is a good example) and tell me hand in heart if we don’t have too many rules, protocols, reports, procedures and measurements of our own creation that have nothing to do with the EU.

I am sure plenty of noble ideological and political reasons will be provided by Johnson justifying his stance in no time (today at 10.00 am in the Telegraph, apparently). Well-known anti-EU conservative discourse is widely available in the shelves of Tesco and other major suppliers in all colours and sizes. It is not that Boris does not have the capacity to elaborate his own narrative, but why bothering reinventing the wheel if the pre-packed patriotic democratic neo-romantic stuff is as good as any? Besides, loads of effort has been put in producing the arguments for Brexit by many politicians and commentators, including himself, over the years. Embracing the collective work, using the words and emotions that best resound in our hearts would bring Boris closer to the common man and woman and facilitate his harmonious contribution to the campaign.

However, no matter how appealing his arguments may appear to be, the decision of Boris Johnson to support Brexit reveals the widening gap between the real economy, the one that produces goods and services, which supports overwhelmingly EU membership, and the financial elites, who have decided to rock the boat, using the British people and sectors of the media as a proxy, in order to maintain and improve their position of dominance over States, industries and people across Europe.

La regulación de los medios

Nuestra realidad política y económica, hasta en sus aspectos más íntimos e insospechados, se construye a diario a través de nuestra interacción con todo tipo de contenidos en los medios de comunicación. El poder que ejercen los creadores de opinión e información es real y eso convierte a los medios en un objetivo estratégico para muchas empresas e “inversores” ajenos al periodismo.

La aparición de las redes y comunidades digitales ha introducido variantes y dimensiones muy interesantes, ya que la producción de contenidos se descentraliza y agrupa en torno a diferentes ejes y principios, alterando nuestras concepciones sobre poder y medios.

Por eso, para hablar de regulación de medios de comunicación, no sólo hay que abordar cuestiones de concentración oligopólica y derechos profesionales, sino también de acceso y relevancia digital de contenidos. Por poner un ejemplo: ¿cómo funciona el algoritmo que Facebook usa para decidir qué publicaciones de nuestros amigos nos aparecen y cuáles no? ¿Introduce Facebook un sesgo que limita el alcance de la crítica política en su plataforma? Este quizás sea tema para otro artículo.

Vayamos al asunto que nos concierne: el de los medios convencionales.

En toda relación laboral y profesional se produce algún tipo de tensión, a veces muy dramática, entre los intereses del propietario/empleador y los de los distintos profesionales que participan en los procesos productivos.

Este es el punto de partida de mi reflexión: ¿Cómo resolver ese conflicto cotidiano entre lo que el director de una cadena de televisión o periódico decide que aparezca en las noticias, siguiendo las instrucciones, preferencias o “consejos” de los dueños, y lo que los periodistas quisieran haber podido reportar? En la mayoría de casos existe una relación pacífica en la que la autocensura del periodista y la acomodación mutua entre los distintos eslabones de la cadena editorial actúan de bálsamo. El que decide trabajar a La Razón, por poner un ejemplo, ya sabe dónde se mete.

Sin embargo, este tipo de relación jerárquica basada en la superioridad del propietario es perniciosa. Los titulares del derecho a informar y de la libertad de expresión no son, en el ámbito periodístico, los dueños de los medios. El papel del periodista y del editor no puede quedar reducido al de muñeco del ventrílocuo magnate. La pluralidad informativa no se alcanza ofreciéndole al público una variedad de marcas entre las que elegir, como sucede en el mercado de los refrescos de cola o en el de las cadenas de hamburguesas, y sugiriendo eso de “si no le gusta, cambie de canal”

Por ello a me gustaría abrir, en primer lugar, un debate sobre medios privados en torno a dos temas:

1. ¿Cómo establecer garantías especiales en la relación laboral que permitan al trabajador periodista sentirse con la autonomía suficiente como para negarse a lo que, a su propio juicio, suponga una vulneración de los principios de veracidad y relevancia que rigen su trabajo?

Este tipo de garantías son especialmente difíciles de articular legalmente de forma efectiva dado que muchos periodistas trabajan produciendo crónicas por las que se les paga en régimen de arrendamiento de servicios. Otros tienen contratos temporales. Hay también muchos trabajadores disfrazados de becarios contra su voluntad. Existe además mucha su contratación de programas y mucha dependencia de agencias. La precariedad campa a sus anchas.

Aun así, es perfectamente factible introducir un blindaje especial de la protección laboral de muchos de los trabajadores de los grandes grupos de comunicación privados y públicos. El modelo de contrato se puede establecer como requisito obligatorio en toda empresa que sea concesionaria de cualquier licencia de ocupación de espacio radiofónico o televisivo. El papel de los sindicatos y organizaciones profesionales sería fundamental en el debate, definición, implementación y revisión de estas medidas legislativas.

2. ¿Cómo conseguir que las líneas editoriales respondan a criterios profesionales, a la orientación del medio y a su relación con la audiencia y no a los caprichos de los propietarios? En este caso la solución es la transparencia total, la democracia y la colegialidad.

Para empezar, las directrices editoriales sobre el tratamiento informativo de temas y eventos dentro de un medio o una sección de un medio deben ser comunicadas por escrito y deben ser consensuadas por un comité editorial profesional interno que de forma colegiada comparta las responsabilidades editoriales.

Esas directrices editoriales pueden ser renovadas con la periodicidad que se requiera. Para temas que se cubren con regularidad y que hasta cierto punto sean previsibles, no hará falta cambiar las directrices a menudo. Para otro tipo de asuntos, por ejemplo una catástrofe o un ataque terrorista, el comité editorial tendrá que mantenerse reunido permanentemente e ir acordando las directrices que procedan según se desarrollen los acontecimientos.

Lo importante de estas directrices es que 1) deben ser comunicadas, en sus puntos básicos, siempre por escrito, para que haya constancia, y 2) definirán, con valor contractual, el marco de autonomía profesional del periodista ante cada noticia.

De ese modo las directrices no sólo se convierten en una herramienta de disuasión ante los abusos editoriales sino en un elemento clave en el mecanismo de protección laboral del periodista. En pocas palabras: el periodista que respeta esas directrices no puede ser sancionado ni despedido por incumplimiento de contrato.

Obviamente, si estas medidas legislativas se pusieran en marcha los medios de comunicación privados dejarían de ser un sector atractivo a los que invierten en ellos con el fin de obtener ventajas políticas y económicas a cambio de favores mediáticos a los políticos u a otras empresas. Es muy posible que algunos accionistas pusieran en venta sus participaciones el día que se anunciaran estas medidas. Respuesta: A enemigo que huye, puente de plata. Esto nos ahorraría muchos esfuerzos regulatorios en materia de concentración empresarial.

¿Qué consecuencias tendría la salida del capital de magnates e inversores ajenos a los medios del sector privado? Los ERE volarían en algunos medios.

Y es ahí donde entran en juego los medios públicos y los autogestionados como empleadores alternativos para muchos de estos trabajadores.

Necesitamos unos medios públicos que sean ejemplo de transparencia y profesionalidad y que estén preparados para hacer frente a los retos educativos, cívicos y comunicativos de la sociedad digital. En este sentido la BBC (antes de que el gobierno de David Cameron empezara a amenazar a sus directivos y empleados con un cambio en la fórmula de financiación) es un ejemplo a tener en cuenta en algunos aspectos.

Los objetivos de esta nueva red de medios serían:

  1. ofrecer información profesional, honesta y  atractiva;
  2. la producción de contenidos de alta calidad para escuelas, universidades, empresas y público en general;
  3. la articulación del debate y la participación ciudadana en torno a asuntos de interés público;
  4. convertirse en un medio de calidad respetado internacionalmente que atraiga audiencias globales;
  5. liderar la innovación en tecnologías educativas y de la comunicación.

Por supuesto, para poner en marcha este gran proyecto harían falta más profesionales, algunos de los cuales provendrían de medios privados en quiebra, y también fuentes de financiación variadas, incluyendo venta de programas y servicios al sector privado y a otras cadenas del mundo.

Este medio público, o red de medios, tendría los siguientes principios constitucionales:

  1. la vocación de servicio público;
  2. la transparencia en la toma de decisiones editoriales;
  3. la colegialidad y democracia interna
  4. y el respeto a la autonomía profesional y los derechos laborales de los trabajadores de la información.

En en cuanto a su gobernanza, los consejos rectores tendrían una composición lo suficientemente diversa como para impedir la manipulación política del gobierno de turno. Se crearían mecanismos para permitir la participación de los ciudadanos, los sindicatos y las organizaciones profesionales en la toma de decisiones.

Además de medios públicos robustos y eficaces también necesitamos más medios privados en los que los protagonistas sean sus profesionales, por supuesto. El Estado debe facilitar y apoyar la creación de cooperativas de trabajadores de la información que asuman la gestión de medios que vayan a ser abandonados por sus propietarios. Estas cooperativas también pueden jugar un papel importante prestando servicios especializados a los medios públicos. Hay otros modelos muy interesantes, como el de el Diario.com, que merecen ser considerados. El Diario.com es una empresa privada con accionistas que son periodistas que tiene socios, lectores, que apoyan el medio.

Y en cuanto a la concentración de medios en manos de pocos propietarios, una breve observación: me preocupa mucho y hay que regularla, pero es posible que la regulación por sí sola no resuelva el problema de la manipulación interesada de la información. De hecho, la manipulación descarada se da tanto en los medios grandes como en las pequeñas empresas que disfrutan licencias concedidas por las Comunidades Autónomas, o en los pequeños medios digitales “independientes” y cavernarios.

Creo que si se aborda primero el estatus profesional del periodismo y su democratización en un entorno laboral, y esto provoca una reestructuración del sector de medios privados, la solución regulatoria para el tema de la propiedad será mucho menos complicada legislativamente y por tanto estará menos abierta al fraude y será más fácil de administrar.

Las ciber-utopías de un mundo mucho más libre e interconectado están cada vez más cerca. Los poderes públicos deben garantizar que las herramientas y plataformas comunicativas que permiten avanzar hacia un mundo mejor, más colaborativo y justo, están al servicio del pueblo, de la comunidad global, no al servicio de los de oscuras corporaciones privadas y magnates.

Adiós, PP, adiós Humanidades

Se acerca el final del PP. Es hora de recapitular. Debemos empezar a reconocerle sus “méritos” cuanto antes, para darle mayor resonancia a esas salvas de honor con las que toda la gente de bien de nuestro país y del resto del mundo le despedirán.

Por mi parte, me gustaría contribuir a este ejercicio ascético y colectivo dando fe del papel desempeñado por el partido de Aguirre, Bárcenas, Rajoy y tantos otros a la redefinición en nuestro país de las Humanidades y el conocimiento crítico.

Como todos sabemos, durante los dos periodos de gobierno PP (1996-2004 y 2011-2015) se promovieron con gran éxito, coincidiendo con la revolución digital, numerosos centros de conocimiento de inspiración pseudo-cristiana. En paralelo, los viejos programas de estudio provenientes de la “raída escolástica” fueron transformándose en atractivos “grados” por los que había que pagar cada vez más. Con el fin de impulsar la movilidad social, el nivel de exigencia académica de estos estudios era inversamente proporcional a la renta de los padres del estudiante. “Que aprendan más los pobres, que más falta les hace, jóder”, era uno de los lemas de esta brillante generación de hombres y mujeres de Estado.

En este contexto, y al socaire del proceso de depuración neocarlista del pasado puesto en marcha en círculos pseudo-liberales subpirenáicos, surge una metodología histórica que ha sido comparada, por su carácter disruptivo, con inventos como el paraguas o el caramelo con corazón de chicle. Se trata del “materialismo dialéctico-futbolístico”, una verdadera cosmovisión alternativa para la interpretación de un mundo como el nuestro, contaminado y deformado por los marxismos.

Pero ¿cómo se aplica el “materialismo dialéctico-futbolístico” a la historia?

Todo buen historiador debe partir de la siguiente premisa: hay conceptos que tienen una esencia casi intemporal como la “libertad”, “el Islam”, “España” o la “democracia” que funcionan a modo de balones de fútbol. La historia, pues, se entiende como un partido de fútbol, más o menos rápido en función de la audiencia, en el que los distintos personajes históricos que mejor conocemos, o que mejor nos caen, se van pasando la pelota.

Veamos un ejemplo de la metodología en cuestión aplicando el concepto “democracia” a la explicación crítica de las últimas Guerras globales en Oriente Medio:

El portero Dios saca de puerta. El lateral izquierdo, a la sazón editor jefe del Deuteronomio, recibe la “democracia” y se la cruza a San Pablo. Tras varios toma-y-dacas en un centro del terreno dominado por las comunidades cristianas y los cruzados, El Guerrero del Antifaz le pega un regate en corto a Mahoma que lo deja sentado. Lutero, que había entrado a sustituir al lesionado Torquemada, se hace con la “democracia”. Lutero se la pasa al capitán del May Flower, éste le centra a un Jefferson que se encuentra con espacio. Esta acción es aplaudida por la Ilustración española, incombustible e incondicional en su Fondo Sur desde el principio del partido. Jefferson avanza y le sirve en bandeja a Tony Blair, que venía lanzado. Éste da un toque rápido de puntera a la “democracia”, se escora a la derecha y de un cañonazo marca un tanto histórico, batiendo al portero Sadam: Democracia 1- Fanatismo 0. Final de la primera parte. Los Hermanos Musulmanes se retiran cabizbajos al vestuario.

Este materialismo dialéctico-futbolístico está muy en consonancia con los tiempos que nos han tocado vivir. Gracias a él, la industria librera y los consumidores podrán ahorrarse miles de páginas. Además, se facilitará la concentración de todo el conocimiento humano en una serie de panfletos-blog y vídeo-conferencias impartidas en centros para-universitarios para su digitalización masiva y posterior almacenamiento en la iCloud.

Los directivos de una conocida tienda digital han confirmado que para el año 2016 todos los archivos mundiales estarán disponibles también en almacenaje fuera de red. Esta opción es la mejor forma de proteger nuestro legado cultural de cualquier ciber-ataque yihadista. De este modo, todos aquellos que quieran custodiar en su propio hogar el santo grial del conocimiento, podrán hacerlo sin dificultad. Está previsto que el lápiz óptico de 16GB salga por 26.66 € e incluya de regalo una jamonera y un rosario.

Dios salve al PP por su visión de juego. Ahora a fichar a algún Mourinho y ya rematamos.

Rectificar es de sabios

El nuevo portavoz parlamentario de economía del Partido Laborista, John McDonell, un economista brillante comprometido con la justicia social, anunció el 25 de septiembre que su grupo parlamentario apoyaría el compromiso fiscal del gobierno conservador, parte de su Budget Charter, o Carta Presupuestaria, y anunció que votarían a favor.

El “compromiso” consistía en obligar al Estado legalmente a no incurrir en déficit en ciclos económicos “normales”. La decisión de qué es “normal” quedaría en manos de la llamada Oficina de Responsabilidad Presupuestaria que, a día de hoy, establece que si la economía crece por encima del 1% anual, hay “normalidad”. (Sobre el tema del crecimiento económico escribí algo interesante hace poco: “Crecimiento sin Empleo”).

El apoyo de los laboristas a la Carta Presupuestaria desconcertó a mucha gente en la izquierda real. La mayoría de comentaristas lo interpretaron como un gesto conciliador de los laboristas de cara al público y al establishment: los laboristas son gente responsable que nunca gastará por encima de las posibilidades del Estado. Yo mismo lo defendí (“Living within our means?”) como algo que no era necesariamente malo porque pienso que el compromiso de no gastar más de lo que se tiene también obliga a recaudar mucho más, no sólo a contener el déficit. Y aquí en Gran Bretaña hay tantísimo por recaudar… Somos la oficina central de los paraísos fiscales.

Sin embargo, y para sorpresa de todos, el portavoz de Economía Laborista anunció el lunes 12 de octubre que su grupo parlamentario iba a votar en contra de ese compromiso, que habían cambiado de opinión. John McDonell explicó muy bien por qué habían tomado esa decisión y creo que tiene mucha razón tal y como lo presenta. Hay coherencia.

Este U-turn (“giro de 180 grados” en inglés) ha sido criticadísimo por los medios británicos que están, unánimente, en contra del nuevo líder laborista, Jeremy Corbyn, que fue quien nombró a McDonell arropado por un masivo apoyo de las bases de izquierda. Por cierto, La postura de los medios, que dependen de los bancos, de las empresas anunciadoras y, en el caso de la BBC, de un Partido Conservador que ha amenazado con recortarle su autonomía, no es de extrañar. Corbyn es un socialista real, no como Tony Blair y su panda. (Ojalá en Inglaterra tuviéramos algún medio de comunicación que decidiera destetarse del capitalismo financiero, como en España ha sucedido con algún periódico en línea. Otro gallo nos cantaría, aquí y en Europa).

Pero es que además en nuestra sociedad británica cambiar de opinión está muy mal visto. Los británicos son unos fanáticos de la previsibilidad. Por eso les gusta la puntualidad, la planificación detallada, la prevención de riesgos, los seguros, las estadísticas, todo tipo de anuncios y avisos… La indignación de mucha gente por el viraje de los Laboristas se debe sobre todo a que rompe con esa convención social y cultural que a veces explica esa amable cabezonería de los europeos del norte. Las palabras que se usaron para valorar el viraje laborista eran muy fuertes. Incluso los más refinados, en una sociedad donde la mesura expresiva es un atributo de las clases medias y altas, usaban términos como “shambolic” (caótico, incompetente, desastroso).

Pues bien, yo le doy la bienvenida a esta nueva forma de hacer política sabía, valiente y sin prejuicios: los errores más estúpidos que cometemos son los que no rectificamos.

Espero que en España, donde somos campeones mundiales de la genial improvisación (la coherente), la gente no se avergüence de rectificar en las elecciones del 20-D.

Tony Martin-Woods 2015

CC BY-NC-SA

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