Friday, 21 May 2010

The Big W

Coming, ready or not?

When the Recession started there was talk about the possibility of a 'double-dip', W-shaped recession, that is a dip (such as we were patently going through) followed by something of a recovery, such as governments have been trumpeting over the last year, followed by a second dip, perhaps bigger that the first, as economies crash back into if anything even worse recession.

Graph it, and the line of such a double-dip recession is shaped like a W: down, up, then down again...

No, it could never happen and business-leaders' continue to reassure us that business is 'recovering', indeed doing quite well. If only one trusted their judgement a single inch.

That is not how Angela Merkel is telling it. And in the UK we will have an emergency budget on 22 June (before which a lot could happen, none of it good). Already the doom-sayers are suggesting that even the UK will be seeing civil disturbance, 'debts, cuts and riots' etc. of the sort already evident in Greece. We may yet be hearing rather more of the terms 'double-dip recession' and 'W-shaped recession'.

(The term that I used in the title of this piece, 'Big W' was the name given in the UK to Woolworth's super-stores – sorry, it just came to mind).

Conductive Education

A year or so back Conductive World devoted quite some space over a period of time to the onset of the Recession and its possible effects on Conductive Education.

Looking back over the last year, though, there seems to have been little public indication of economic downturn in the affairs of Conductive Education. New centres, new programs, new jobs, expansion. Perhaps this public face, the news that people want one to hear really has accurately represented the economic health and prospects of Conductive Education. There has been virtually nothing about contraction, even closures, or failure to afford services, or conductor-unemployment. Such matters tend not to get into the public domain – or maybe they just have not been happening.

Anyway, Conductive World has continued to report the good news as it arises, not least because that is also what people want to hear, and tried to avoid any hint of what the Germans call Scheißenbedauern, disappointment at things' not turning out quite as badly as one had expected!

Maybe they still will not, in which case, for all sorts of reasons, I shall be delighted. In the meantime it is a question of chin-up and avoid the doom-sayers (sample: this week's headline story in the New Statesman, see below).

A toy story

So, rather than hang around at the book-store, scanning the disheartening Anglo-American intellectual and social press, it was straight off for a bit of discounted (half-price) retail therapy, to take my mind away from economics.

For the first time in quite a while, I bought myself a toy.

Like almost every single thing in the toy-shop, it had been made in China. It was beautifully designed, well made and well packed, robust and and ridiculously cheap. The instructions were excellent, it does what it says it will do and it flew straight out of the box.

(Oh, for Conductive Education that could be described in such terms!)

In the closing years of the old Soviet Bloc I used to collect Eastern-Central European toys. As objects from low-cost low-wage economies, they were wonderful, every one of them. As toys or as consumer-goods you could hardly say the same. The Czechoslovak and East German stuff was quite good and at its top end might just about hold its own against Western products – though it was much cheaper. Hungarian stuff – well, so-so: some was fine, with excellent play value. Some, however, was much less so. But oh dear, the Soviet stuff! Fight your way to a counter in Detskii Mir (and I do mean 'fight'!) and you would be rewarded either with the most terrible tack, disintegrating before even out of the box, or something so over-engineered... Even cheaper, though, but unsellable on Western markets other than as curiosities for collectors.

My only role today in the economic process that produced my new toy has been to buy it. No choice really, look around the shop: there was virtually nothing else to buy. I and that toy shop stand as types for the Western consumer and increasingly nearly our whole economy. The toy industries of Birmingham and Nürnberg are as extinct as Monty Python's parrot and so are those of the old Soviet Bloc..

Is this almost total reliance upon Chinese manufacture the root of the West's present economic ills? Well, yes, at one level. But I paid for my purchase in cash. I have never had a credit card – unlike so many people. I just would not trust myself with one. The Western world, however,  is awash with debt, drowning in it. People, institutions, nations, whole currencies.

Economics lost the Soviets the Cold War. They just could not compete, either on quantity or quality.

So, when China starts manufacturing Conductive Education, smaller, cheaper, more robust etc. than what is presently available on the old Euro-American market, in the economic realities that lie ahead, to be paid for money-down.


This week's New Statesman

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