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16 Oct  

Ok, we all need to wake up and take note of what may be coming our way. No one, surely, can have failed to notice that the UK University sector is about to take the biggest hit imaginable from the forthcoming cuts instigated by the current coalition government. According to Universities UK head, Professor Steve Smith, the Browne Review sets out figures that "confirm our worst fears” signaling a £3.2bn or 79% cut from teaching and £1bn from research in the immanent Spending Review, and according to Professor Smith, there “remains is a terrible danger of the valley of death becoming a reality for all institutions.”

What is less obvious is that arts and humanities are to endure the worst of this slaughter. If I am correct, it is evident that STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and mathematics) can tangibly demonstrate at least an 8-fold return on investment and so the terminally unimaginative amongst the ranks of our elders and betters will seize upon this as confirmation of their need to stem the tide of messy and pointless pursuits such as humanities and arts. The fallout from this could see an implosion of arts and humanities studies and research in HE, mass redundancies of academic staff, closures of arts departments and even of some whole universities.

The impact on us as composers could be catastrophic as we take hits from both sides: massive cuts in arts funding in general which will dry up commissions and projects, and then our possibilities for earning from teaching taken away by the Government's wholesale butchery of the university sector.

If anyone has any insights on how to offer a solid and convincing case for supporting and funding arts and humanities to the same extent as science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine, please do add your comments. It may be obvious to us that the destruction of these irreplaceable, precious resources is going to have horrendous consequences for the UK in decades to come, but it needs to be pointed out to those making the decisions now.

Below is a useful range of links on this:

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Jim Aitchison's C:T Profile:  Jim Aitchison
Jim Aitchison's Personal Website


 Leah Kardos commenting on Valley of Death:
20 October 2010 at 09:05

Scary times indeed. I believe Music and The Arts on a practical level will not be stifled - people who create will create anyway, regardless. Output might even become more socially and culturally relevant, who knows? Certainly a lot of grant money was wasted in the past producing unmemorable work that didn't necessarily engage or educate.

The University situation is something else, though. Frightens me to the core, and not because my teaching job is at risk. I'll be watching the horror unfold on the news today along with the rest of my colleagues.

 messyann commenting on Valley of Death:
21 October 2010 at 14:49

Ah, welcome to American style arts/humanities education.

 scott_good commenting on Valley of Death:
28 October 2010 at 23:33

Well, very little response here. Surprising, as it looks like the ability for composers to earn a living will be severely diminished.

I must comment on Leah's post:

"Scary times indeed. I believe Music and The Arts on a practical level will not be stifled - people who create will create anyway, regardless. Output might even become more socially and culturally relevant, who knows? Certainly a lot of grant money was wasted in the past producing unmemorable work that didn't necessarily engage or educate. "

This is baby out with the bathwater mentality, and kind of elitist. What about the history of arts funding - what it was like before and after, how it was lobbied for, how many people benefit from it, and the good it does for the economy? Capitalism is not a perfect system, and it needs to be regulated - grants are a part of this process.

Sure, not everything is wonderful. Ya, some junky stuff has been made. But so what? Is this just some disposable thing to be tossed away? I feel the complete opposite - arts funding should be growing, and becoming more diverse, as the population increases, and as our societies become more mixed culturally. Artists need the resource to navigate these collisions and create works that represents these new dynamics. This is our job, and it takes time to develop, and time is money . It is all very exciting, so why slow down? Sure, it needs to be tweaked - the move to more education and community related activities is good for instance.

Artists who receive grants work for peanuts, all things considered. The hours in vs. pay rate are the kind that most would consider below poverty line, considering the training time and equipment costs on top of the time needed to make the granted work. They do it because they must - they want to create and share. This is why economically, grants are so powerful in many sectors, not just arts. Give people the chance to build their dreams, and they will work to the bone to do it. The work hours to pay is as efficient as it gets - any CEO would dream of a workforce like this. But take the crumbs away, and leave it all up to the "free market"? Well, like all cases where this is done, the haves will make like bandits, and the have nots will have no recourse but to pack it in. Watch the gap widen. It is naive to think that creativity won't be stifled when funding goes away. It will be siphoned through financial attrition.

Arts grants are not just for artists, but more importantly for arts patrons - accessibility. When it was introduced, the benefits were immediate - more people going to more events - way more. In particular, smaller communities were able to establish their own arts organizations, like symphony orchestras. Why did the people go? Because they could. As well, the symphony orchestra for example, represents not only a concert making organization, but also provide the means for which highly trained and dedicated musicians could live and work in their community, and provide quality of life through performance and education - craft and passion. GB has a fine reputation for producing amazing things through the granting process - from the BBC to small ensembles and galleries. Many will fold under these new cuts. So, not only does your society suffer, but the rest of us who enjoy these "engaging" or "educational" artistic endeavors will as well.

Now, with these cuts, many citizens will not even be allowed to hate the esoteric crud, and classical blah - they won't even get a chance to see/hear/smell/taste it. Yay for everyone!

I think what the cons are doing should be illegal. It is wicked and unfair, and many will suffer. It is far too much. People with families depend on this income. Sorry to be cliche, but I'm one of them - I empathize with their position. Of course, we all know that in a few months, they will announce "new" funding, trying to look like the good guys.

Don't be fooled. Remember that you are part of a powerful group/ demographic - the arts sector. I mean really, it moves neighbourhoods - creates go to stuff. The economic benefits are often immediate. The economic part alone is worth this and more. Art is transportable through many mediums. It creates culture that is known and want to be witnessed. From this, tourism, and creative mingling. And this isn't even hinting at the emotional/entertainment value arts give to a community.

I really don't like the government that has been elected in your country. Don't let them get you all ho hum. They prey on fear and coast on apathy. Sure there are problems to be fixed, but this is the wrong way to go. My deepest sympathies to all there, and best of luck to survive the storm.

 Jim Aitchison commenting on Valley of Death:
28 October 2010 at 23:46

Thanks so much for this Scott. So moving and eloquent and just what we all need to start cleaning out our ears to hear. Fantastic words, very many thanks. I'll link to this on Facebook.

 ruska02 commenting on Valley of Death:
09 November 2010 at 02:25

This is happening in Italy since the arrival of the Berlusconi fascist regime. That, as in my beloved hosting country UK, is ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE. the people want this, the people want us to disappear, the people want us to stop creating unusefull works of art, who cares anymore, let's all watch the same damned football match! People do not care becaus ethey do not know and understand what we are doing because we are so far from them due to the complete lack of Education and Artistic Information
Now, it is years that I keep on shouting let's gather all together, at least and first on the European ground that is where it all begun, and start connecting, creating human webs, reacting, complaining , writing and playing against the destroyers of the heights achievement of Mankind Culture.I am an Educator and i am deeply sad everytime I realize our kids and youths , even i am not so old indeed, are not aware of their legacy, of where they come from , of their Artistic DNA. There is little money , I do understand, let's keep it for our kids and youth (and now you can start calling me a fascist Scoot Good and MISUC again like the other time ) . Lets stop accepting and opening facilities to these thousand of Asians coming over only what is to be kept safe four our sons and daughters. LETS STOP GIVING THEM PRIZES AND RESIDENCIES AND COMMISSION , oR WRITING FOR SHENG AND PIPA ONLY BECAUSE WE NEED THEM TO BUY RECORDS FROM THE UGLY LANG LANG AND FELLOWS!

I tell you all once more let' s gather together and defend what is our main incredible treasure musical classical art
and tuition. First from our gov cuts but mainly for the East invasion or your children will go to China to ask for help and let' see the answer they get!

Composer Educator European Citizen

 Jim Aitchison commenting on Valley of Death:
09 November 2010 at 09:07

This is utterly shameful. Art based on hatred: if this is the artistic tradition we are fighting for I hope it dies and good riddance. I want no part of it.

 Zak commenting on Valley of Death:
11 November 2010 at 00:30

I was looking over a favorite news site today and found this:

Quite frankly, I think you're all a bunch of spoiled brats, whining about how awful mommy government is for realizing she can't give you all the free stuff you want anymore. Don't get me wrong, I understand this is how you've lived, but the fact is you've been lied to; you've been taught that the government not only can do everything for you, it has a duty to take from those who have produced and give it to those who haven't. This is the greatest lie of all history, because it results in "unearned rewards and unrewarded duties", it punishes the production of wealth and vilifies those who dare to be self-reliant. It produces a society of unmotivated moochers. That these kids (and yes I am about the same age as them, but I understand something they dont) are the future of your great nation frightens me to the core. They riot and vandalize because they might actually have to pay for what they want? They have no concept of value, and, worse, no Reason.

To take from what others have produced to pay for what I want is immoral, unreasonable, and unsustainable. This is the Truth which you must discover. Think of it this way: if you composed a brilliant, original symphony or opera, would you like it, or find it moral, if someone told you "Oh, yes you wrote it, it is the fruit of your labor, but we need to take it away from you because it isn't fair that you can compose so brilliant a work but John Doe over there is tone-deaf, so we need to give him the rights to it"? Well, replace the composition with money and tone-deafness with poverty, and that's exactly what you're saying to the producers of wealth. (What ever happened to "life isn't fair"?) If this is the way you want your society to operate, then fine, but don't whine when it unravels, as it eventually will.

I'll get off my soap-box now,

Composer Reason-lover Radical-for-Capitalism American Citizen

 Jim Aitchison commenting on Valley of Death:
11 November 2010 at 21:52

Access to an education used to be a right and free for all at the point of delivery in the UK: this was an ideology decided by the democratic process. If people now want to change that in the UK then that's up to them. If you want to have the system that you have in the US then that's your choice and nothing to do with me.

Nonetheless, I would like to look at a few of your fascinating observations:


Uh, no we haven’t been taught this: how do you know what we have been taught? Have you any evidence for what we have been taught? Who is we? Who do you mean?
Who are the people who have ‘produced’? And why is there an automatic assumption that ‘producers’ are ‘good’ and ‘non-producers’ are ‘bad’? By producers, do you mean the morally pure and incorruptible industrial corporations? And by non-producers, do you mean useless and lazy economically and socially disadvantaged and disabled people who just love rolling around being poor and disabled? Those guys Jesus and Gandhi were a bit soft in the head weren’t they? Are all poor people ‘non-producers’?


The ‘greatest lie of all history’ wow, is it?! My goodness, I thought saying the Earth is flat or condoms give you HIV were pretty big lies, but I must be mistaken. Another amazing assumption: ‘producers,’ AKA the wealthy, never ever receive ‘unearned rewards’ or if they do, of course they give them straight back.
I rather thought Duty to be always ‘unrewarded’ by definition. Duty that results in reward is generally known as ‘work’.


What a WHOLE society comprised of 70 million ‘unmotivated moochers’, wow! Exactly how do you know this? Have you studied the social and political history of the UK? Do you have evidence for the effect of particular government policies in this country?


How do you know what motivated these people to riot? Are you clairvoyant? Or were you at the protest and did a survey? How do you know that they have no concept of value or reason? Have you tested them in some way? And who are you talking about? There were some 40,000 students protesting peacefully: 32 students were arrested, that is 0.08%. Are you extending your opinions based on the actions of 0.08% of the students and lecturers there out to apply to the whole 40,000, and then further extrapolating out to apply to the whole UK student population?


Yes, that is called theft. And of course neither the US or the UK have ever taken ‘what others have produced to pay for what they want’ because that would be ‘immoral, unreasonable, and unsustainable,’ and it couldn’t possibly be the case that the wealth of our nations and the continued accumulation of this has any negative effect upon other, poorer parts of the world, thank goodness. Fortunately we live in a vacuum where the effects of our ‘production’ wealth-acquiring activities never ever happens at someone else’s’ expense.


Absolutely right. But why stop at not helping poor people so that you can keep all your money, why not harvest their children’s organs to treat the sick kids of rich people and gas their parents and use their corpses as an alternative form of energy for the houses of the wealthy: clean, empty streets and warm homes!


Please can I come and live in the paradise you are building?

 Jim Aitchison commenting on Valley of Death:
11 November 2010 at 22:05

The fallout from writing this post has been one of the most depressing and distressing experiences I have had for a long time. I simply cannot believe the extent of miserable selfishness, hatred and the will to dehumanize other human beings so utterly. I am certainly no saint or in any position to preach, but I never thought I would feel ashamed to call myself a composer.

 Zak commenting on Valley of Death:
12 November 2010 at 02:53

You misunderstand. If you think that in asking a variant of the question Has a man no right to the fruit of his own labor, to keep or give it as he sees fit? is morally equivalent to calling for some socio-economic genocide (a very poorly thought-out reductio ad absurdum, by the way), then I do not know what to tell you other than that it ridiculous to think that gaining money drains compassion. THERE IS SUCH A THING AS PRIVATE CHARITY, IN WHICH PEOPLE GIVE OF THEIR OWN FREE WILL.

I am not dehumanizing anyone. And I do not equate "producer" with "rich person" and non-producer with poor person. There are certainly many rich people in the world who do not produce anything, and many poor people who do or can/will. Perhaps producer is not the right term, but it is the best I can think of right now. Nor do I think all corporations are pure and necessarily good, but I do think individual achievement is, mostly, for that is the bedrock on which the progress of societies is built, and very often successful corporations are the achievements of individuals. The institution is but the lengthened shadow of one man, as Emerson said. In fact, I do not hold that any group of people is universally good, or universally evil. I am an individualist, I judge on individual merits.

Perhaps it was presumptuous of me assume what you've been taught, but what I was attacking was what I understand to be the basis of the welfare state. And yes as point of fact you are taking from what others have to pay for you want in the UK (and I would add, we are only slightly better in US, in fact we may be worse, because were doing it on much larger scale, we have 4x as many people). Do you want your higher education for free? I assume so, but someone has to pay for it, so who is that? The government, right? Where does the government get its money? Taxes. Who pays taxes? The rich and the middle class. I don't know what else to call it but taking from others to pay for what you want; and yes it is theft legalized, mass theft. And it's not just the UK, the whole Western world has been doing this for some 80+ years, and look where its gotten us. Of course I do not mean to say that governments have no right to tax, its one of the things we as citizens agree to under the social contract. The problem comes in when the government exceeds its core functions of creating and upholding laws that prevent individuals from harming one another (or, more accurately, punish those who do), and providing a national defense, and chases after what economist F. A. von Hayek called the mirage of social justice, that is, equality of result as opposed to equality of opportunity, and begins to acquire more and more power over the economy in order to insure fairness, or because its an emergency. But if that is what the people want, including the taxpayers if that is what is agreed to under the social contract and through the democratic process , then fine, on that much we agree, but dont call me hateful for pointing out that that hasnt worked out so well in the past, while pure laissez-faire has. And I did not say that this HAS produced a society of moochers, I said it does, thats a big difference; it means, unless you change it, it will result in people deciding its better to laze around and eat government cheese than to do anything productive. Not everyone, but a substantial enough number to have negative consequences. And, again, this is not a UK-specific problem.

Fortunately we live in a vacuum where the effects of our production, wealth-acquiring activities never ever happens at someone elses expense.
Does it never occur at someone elses expense? Well if you acquire wealth through politics (off the taxpayer), or through cheating and fraud (e.g., Bernie Madoff), then that is at someone elses expense. But in general, entrepreneurs, etc. are wealth-creators, not wealth-acquirers. Wealth is not finite. If wealth could not be created then we would still be living in the stone ages, because there was no wealth then, and therefore there could not be any now. As for the effect that the wealth our nations has had on poorer parts of the world, how can it have any effect? As I said, we have created it, not amassed it. But if you have any proof that our wealth has in anyway had a negative impact on other nations, then show it.

As for the riots Did I misread the facts? It seems to me that these students are indeed in uproar because they might have to pay for what they want, i.e., their education. (I say might, because in reality their parents will probably get stuck with bill.) Perhaps, however I was too harsh, and fell into the trap of lumping them all together. Okay, only .08% were arrested; that doesnt change the premise of my accusation of saying that they have no concept of value or Reason. No, I did not take a survey and I am not clairvoyant, but I speak to their actions, and the actions, to me, bespeak of people without Reason, and without proper concepts of value and self-reliance. Perhaps I am wrong, if so, I apologize. But someone with Reason would understand, first and foremost, that THERE IS, AND CAN BE, NO RIGHT TO EDUCATION. A Right, properly understood, is something that stems from human nature, something that we all have equally at birth, and something that is unalienable from our being. Education is none of that. There are, properly, really only four Rights: the Right to Life, the Right to Liberty, the Right to exercise ones Potential in any way one wishes, and the Right to ACQUIRE anything one deems necessary to the fulfillment and preservation of the first three Rights (not the right to the thing itself). It follows then that education is a good, a service, something of value for which something else of value must be traded. A self-reliant person would pay for it himself, and be happy to, if he really wanted the service. But, again, if the people decide through the democratic process that they want to create a right to it, then fine; but that doesnt make it right.

Again, not all wealthy persons are producers and therefore, yes, there are some who receive unearned rewards, mostly politicians and bureaucrats who contribute very little, if anything to society. Not all duties are unrewarded, either; defending ones country is a duty, yet what society would let its military personnel go without reward? Not one I would want to live in, for that would be a society without honor.

Finally, you are ashamed to be a composer? Why? What have you said that what was reprehensible? And for that matter, what have I said that was reprehensible and hateful? What have I said that was selfish or dehumanizing? Please tell me, so I can correct it.

 Zak commenting on Valley of Death:
12 November 2010 at 03:00

And I am truly sorry if I have depressed and distressed you, that was not my intention. My intention was to offer a contrasting opinion, if that upsets you, then I apologize, for that, but I will not apologize for my principles.

 Jim Aitchison commenting on Valley of Death:
12 November 2010 at 09:29

I am going to respond just once more: I do not have time (I have to work) to get into an indefinitely protracted debate and I cannot see any useful outcome to continuing.

The meaning that came across, was from your own words not mine and I was not alone in receiving it. If you need to characterize my responses as poorly thought out then so be it.

You are still speaking of actions and motivations of a huge group of people in a country you seem to know little about and making global statements about them with almost no knowledge of them or their ability to exercise what you call reason. It seems that everyone who disagrees with you has no reason.

I must correct you on taxation: it is a fairly well established economic reality (though it will be no surprise to find those who disagree) that it is the poorest (in UK society at any rate) who bear by far the largest part of the tax burden as a percentage of their income when all forms of direct and indirect taxation are accounted for.

If you really believe that our wealth was not accumulated without others elsewhere in the world losing out then all I can do is leave you with that thought. I can’t give you economic data, but anyone who knows even a little about colonial history will be aware of Western societies built upon slavery and the various indirect forms that exist today.

You are extremely and uniquely fortunate that your own money is untainted in any way by its origins.

This is a lengthy manifesto in which I can see you have exerted great efforts to try to justify your beliefs. There are some things that seem reasonable which (almost) mask the unwholesome ones. The realization of the latter of your ‘rights’ seem, once again, to be unrelentingly selfish where you advocate doing ‘anything’ necessary to attain them as acceptable (the ‘right’ itself isn’t necessarily at issue, but the project to do so at any cost most certainly is). The obstacles to getting these things are generally human ones. To achieve those latter rights in the way that you say (in ‘any way’) will inevitably involve depriving another person of one or both of the first two rights.

The whistling void in your manifesto is any statement of obligation (or even concern) towards your fellow human beings. Again, I would never presume to present myself as unselfish or morally pure, very far from it, but I generally feel that I wish I could do more for others. I don’t spend my time devising justifications for how I can amass ‘things’ for myself.

My remarks about ‘dehumanization’ were largely directed to a previous comment by someone else. For you I hope that one day you may be able to devote time to properly finding out about some other people in the world, listen to them without judgment and spend less time finessing and tending to your principles.

 scott_good commenting on Valley of Death:
12 November 2010 at 18:09

Dear Jim,

I am sorry you have had this reaction. I am also shocked at reading this stuff. Funny, I was a bit hard on Leah, but what has followed makes that all seem so trivial.

There is great anger in the world - a tide is moving through. I suppose recessions do this sort of thing.

But it still boggles my mind. We have been given this great opportunity - a civilization built over many millennium to get us out of the cave. Great strides through rights, and the powers unleashed by new technology. Long life spans, relatively stable democracies, unbelievable ability for communication and sharing of ideas, water treatment, modern medicine, sewage treatment etc etc. Yet everyone is so bloody angry and hateful.


Go read about DNA, and how it interacts with culture, and report back in a few years (no, don't just cite one obscure scientist who agrees slightly with your ideas - yes I remember this from before and actually did look into it). Obviously your racism might stick around - it is possible you are beyond hope, but don't try to justify it with science - makes you look very silly.

Also, how do you explain the great shift in gender and race in the symphony orchestra once screens were used in auditions? In other words, take away the eyes to determine musical quality, rely only on ears, and these "genetically inferior" Asians (and also women) actually sound pretty good - even better often than their true blood male European counterparts. But so deep is the racism that screens are not used by some orchestras anymore. (not in North America - here it is mandatory - we don't need to look at skin tone to determine musical quality). Seems like some of these "great masters" don't even trust their ears for music. (for the gender issue, I strongly encourage you to read this essay by Trombone virtuoso Abbie Conant who faced absolutely absurd bigotry from European men, like the kind Roberto likes to spew -

I think they are just scared of the competition. They think their "Male European Blood" is good enough. It is pathetic. They don't understand that like science, art is not the domain of individual groups, but of all people. That the Western Classical tradition was born from a wide variety of ethnic sources, and will continue to evolve through interactions with a variety of cultural sources...and that this is good.

Zac, Zac, Zac...(said as I shake my head)

It is hard to even know where to begin, but perhaps, just one sentence because it is fundamental to your way of arguing - from ignorance:

"Again, not all wealthy persons are producers and therefore, yes, there are some who receive unearned rewards, mostly politicians and bureaucrats who contribute very little, if anything to society."

Now, I have spent most of my professional life working on music, but I have had a tiny tinker here and there with economic philosophy, and economic theory. So, when I read this, I am affirmed that you really have no clue about the economic world - ie. the world. Do you even know what capitalism is? Do you know what capital is? Do you know how profit is made from capital? Have you heard about the Stock Market? Do you have any idea of the movement of money through the stock market? Did you know that many many people make absolutely absurd amounts of money on the stock market and do not make things? They do not produce. Wealthy people don't produce things, they manipulate capital. They own stuff, not produce. Workers make stuff. This is capitalism.

From Wiki:

A stock market or equity market is a public market (a loose network of economic transactions, not a physical facility or discrete entity) for the trading of company stock (shares) and derivatives at an agreed price; these are securities listed on a stock exchange as well as those only traded privately.
The size of the world stock market was estimated at about $36.6 trillion USD at the beginning of October 2008.[1] The total world derivatives market has been estimated at about $791 trillion face or nominal value,[2] 11 times the size of the entire world economy.[3] The value of the derivatives market, because it is stated in terms of notional values, cannot be directly compared to a stock or a fixed income security, which traditionally refers to an actual value. Moreover, the vast majority of derivatives 'cancel' each other out (i.e., a derivative 'bet' on an event occurring is offset by a comparable derivative 'bet' on the event not occurring). Many such relatively illiquid securities are valued as marked to model, rather than an actual market price.

Does this sound like a game of production? It is all speculative/derivative/gambling value, created by the capitalist system - so much so that it has grown to be 11 times the value of actual production value. Can you not see that this might be a part of the problem, not some students who want to afford to go to school, and become educated and informed members of society?

And what about government.

Government is a necessary evil of civilization. Why? Well, have you ever read a science book? See, us humans - that be you and me - are social animals. See, we don't survive so well in isolation, ya know? We organize.

This is the big joke about Anarchism - the irrational belief that this isn't true.

Now, there have been lots of attempts to organize, and the experiment continues. There can be Monarchies, and Militias and Mafia. Now I guess you anarchists think that if we just shut down the power structure, it'll all work out just fine. But me thinks what will happen is the vacuum will just be filled with whomever gets there first. Its human behavior. Might be a nice honeymoon for a few weeks, maybe even a couple of months, but dogs be dogs, and we want alpha.

So, most of us who care for our modern civilization with rights and freedoms appreciate that we govern ourselves by elected representatives, rather than brutish thugs - we appreciate having some kind of say. We believe it civilized. This is why I don't hate government, but hate the particular group that has been elected. We also understand that any power structure can be corrupted because, well, some people are psychotic, or sociopathic, and do bad things to other people. (have you ever studied psychology? )

And yes, governments can be the exacter of the worst sort of evil - war.

So there is much work to be done. There are huge problems. But slashing away at the social structures is for the most part, peanuts compared to the larger economic picture. Yet thousands...millions of individual people are affected by these drastic cuts. It seems crazy when there are outstanding debts of billions from profitable corporations to take money from students. But folks like you think it's great.

I mean your little bit about comparing poor people to tone deafness...come on! That is just so wrong. It is actually a kind of hidden bigotry that you don't even understand. (ie. poor people = stupid people)

And a symphony = money.?.get a life. Your metaphor is both simplistic and silly. I laugh that you think this somehow justifies your belief system. That this childish reasoning is actually insightful.

Stop watching stefbot (I'm guessing you are an addict - am I wrong?), and read some other theories.

 Zak commenting on Valley of Death:
13 November 2010 at 03:57

Scott, thank you for your reasonable reply. But I must say that you also misunderstand, but not as much as Jim. Firstly, I am no Anarchist, I consider myself to be a classical liberal, or libertarian. I do indeed recognize that government is a necessary evil; to your statement that "governments can be the exacter of the worst sort of evil - war" I would add tyranny/oppression, and the mass slaughter of civilians of the sort seen in Germany, Russia, China, etc. in the past century, but that is irrelevant to this discussion. Secondly, I don't consider poor people to be stupid, if I did I would have to think I was stupid! (AlthoughI am staring to think posting here in the first place wasnt very smart of me) Thirdly, perhaps indeed my metaphor was childish, and in retrospect I think perhaps the point is somewhat irrelevant, and of course tone-deafness can't really be helped while poverty can, so I would retract the metaphor.

"So there is much work to be done. There are huge problems. But slashing away at the social structures is for the most part, peanuts compared to the larger economic picture. Yet thousands...millions of individual people are affected by these drastic cuts. It seems crazy when there are outstanding debts of billions from profitable corporations to take money from students. But folks like you think it's great."
Actually, I don't think it's great, I think it's necessary, and it will be difficult, yes, which is why I would suggest phasing out rather than slashing, so that people have time to adjust; I know you'll probably disagree, but can't we disagree rationally and without name-calling? And yes (I assume you're referring to the bailouts of banks, etc. that our governments have engaged in over the past years, right?) it is crazy to have big corporations saved because of political favors (most of the banks/corps. in America that were bailed out had huge lobbying budgets or other political connections), while asking ordinary citizens to sacrifice. You are absolutely right when you say that the programs of the sort being cut are peanuts compared to the larger problems.

As for the stock market, as I understand, it started as a way for entrepreneurs to attract investors for their productive activities, so that they could afford to hire workers and make things before they started selling things, but I'm no expert and don't presume to be.

Again, I do not equate "producer" with the wealthy. What I meant by producer are the people of vision, whose ideas advance society, the people who create the things that workers build. What you describe is indeed part of the economic component of capitalism, but capitalism is not merely an economic system, and what you describe is more of an explanation of how things operate under capitalism rather than what capitalism is. Behind capitalism lies the philosophy of individual Liberty and the idea that when you give people freedom from "all systems of preference and restraint" then "the simple system of natural liberty asserts itself of its own accord", to (roughly) quote Adam Smith.

Again, thank you for being more reasonable than in your reply than Jim, each of your points are argued with less vitriol and more fact, and invite me to consideration, pointing out places where I may indeed be ignorant and should/could improve and fix flaws in my reasoning. One thing though: who/what is stefbot?

I likewise see no point in continuing to argue this with you so consider this my final reply to you.

I did not say that anyone who disagrees with me doesnt have reason, I said the actions of the students seemed unreasonable to me, or at least thats what I meant. Sorry, but protesting over $14,000 is just not something I would do, something that doesnt seem in accord with reason to me unless your universities in the UK arent worth it, which I dont think is the case at all.

I would like to see what data youre using on taxation. In the US I think it is something like 97% of the income taxes are paid by the top 1% of earners (dont cite me on that, though), of course we dont have a VAT or the like (yet), but most states have sales and property taxes, and then you have counties and localities with their own taxes. Of course this burden gets passed on down to the people who buy or use the goods and services of the businesses/people who pay the taxes in the final price of the goods/services, but I dont see how this changes my point. (Actually, its the best argument for cutting taxes on everyone, including the rich, that I have ever heard, aside from the proven economic benefits.)

Yes, our ancestors did use various forms of slavery, serfdom, and servitude, all of which are wrong. But that was over a hundred years ago, and while there are indirect forms today, and places where people work in barbaric conditions and for indefensible wages to make goods that are sold in western countries and for western agents, it seems to me that many companies that relocate their production facilities to China, for instance, do so because taxes, regulations, and union pressure make it too difficult (i.e., expensive) to operate in our countries without charging prices that only the rich could afford. I assume you would disagree.

To achieve those latter rights in the way that you say (in any way) will inevitably involve depriving another person of one or both of the first two rights.
Really? So basically no one can ever achieve anything without harming or oppressing someone else? Thats news to me. Besides, rational people would understand that: though this be a STATE OF LIBERTY, yet it is not a STATE OF LICENSE: though man in that state [of nature] have an uncontroulable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to destroy himself, or so much as any creature in his possession, but where some nobler use than its bare preservation calls for it. The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all EQUAL AND INDEPENDENT, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of One Omnipotent, and Infinitely Wise Maker; all the servants of One Sovereign Master, sent into the world by His order, and about His business; they are His property, Whose workmanship they are, made to last during His, not one another's pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such SUBORDINATION among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another's uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for our's. Every one, as he is BOUND TO PRESERVE HIMSELF, and not to quit his station wilfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, TO PRESERVE THE REST OF MANKIND, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender [of the law], take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another. John Locke (emphases in original:,_Extent,_and_End_of_Civil_Government#Chap._II._Of_the_State_of_Nature.)
I hope that also fills that whistling void which, in fact, isnt there. From the first paragraph of my manifesto: THERE IS SUCH A THING AS PRIVATE CHARITY, IN WHICH PEOPLE GIVE OF THEIR OWN FREE WILL. Isnt it much better to give of ones own free will than to have the government take from one class to give to another? Besides, if, as you say, the tax burden in your country falls mainly on the poor, then wouldnt be better

 Jim Aitchison commenting on Valley of Death:
13 November 2010 at 10:13

This is the very last time:

Your OWN words:

”…the Right to exercise one’s potential in ANY way one wishes, and the Right to acquire ANYTHING one deems necessary to the fulfillment and preservation of the first three Rights.”

I’ll repeat in case you missed it: “ANY” and “ANYTHING.” And again: “ANY” and “ANYTHING.” Enough?

Perhaps choose your words far more carefully in future and properly read what you have written as well as the responses to those words from others.

Good luck.

 Zak commenting on Valley of Death:
14 November 2010 at 00:47

Sorry, but I assumed that "without doing harm to others" would be implied, my bad. Ah, well.

 Leah Kardos commenting on Valley of Death:
14 November 2010 at 09:01

@scott - this conversation has turned a bit weird, hasn't it?

I take your comments in response to my original post on board. I realise I was being a bit flippant, but it came from an attempt to be slightly optimistic in the face of depressing reality.

I was also thinking of the thriving NY indie-classical scene, that seems to be so exciting and alive right now: diverse ensembles packing out venues of young people: Newspeak, the wordless music nights, the artists on New Amsterdam's roster. They seem to be doing it the way popular music has learned to since the industry died. Groups like Nonclassical in London seem to be trying something similar.

Of course I realise that without arts funding in this country orchestras die, whole counties become cultural black holes, actual amazing work will not be funded or produced. Again my original comment was more in hoping that hard times will force the best of us to become resourceful and diverse.

 Steve commenting on Valley of Death:
14 November 2010 at 17:48

As Zak tries to back off a bit from his original comments to something that might come within spitting distance of the appearance of reason, I would point to "sources" for him which he identified in his original comments.

First, Zak began:
"I was looking over a favorite news site today and found this:"
This site, The Blaze, describes itself thus:
"The Blaze is a news, information and opinion site brought to you by Glenn Beck and a dedicated team of writers, journalists & video producers."
For those outside the US who can be excused for never having heard of Glenn Beck, please check out the following for a quick history of the fringiest of our right wing fringe over here (I suggest Zak read it also if he can stand to go to a source from "the other side"):

Second, Zak puts what he evidently considers to be a zinger in quotes without an attribution:
"unearned rewards and unrewarded duties"
These are the words of John Galt, the fictional hero of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. To repeat the connections between Rand and others responsible (IMHO) for the mess we're ALL in right now (including one of the brighter members of her inner circle from the 50s on, Alan Greenspan) is tempting, but I can't bring myself to spend the rest of my life as a conspiracy theorist, as personally profitable as that might be in a free market. I yield that game to the other kooks.

But I WILL end by asking young Zak a question. I've just spent 43 years of my life in the Fox-despised bureaucracy. Four of those years were spent (not happily, but willingly) fulfilling my military obligation (not in a band) and 39 years have been spent using what minimal knowledge and skills I have as a musician and librarian working (again, not always happily but always willingly) in various capacities that I have convinced myself were to the ultimate benefit of the arts and to the citizens of my (NB) nation. In my off hours I have played fiddle in orchestras and string quartets for little or no pay, published a little music theory, and served on a few boards in the arts community. Now, you said, "there are some who receive unearned rewards, mostly politicians and bureaucrats who contribute very little, if anything to society." Without any indication that you have any idea what these bureaucrats actually do (if anything) in return for your tax dollars, and without making any provision for possible exceptions, you are willing to condemn the lot. Without knowing me, what I have done, or what I may have even done for you though we have never met, you are willing to make me into a caricature of a faceless "thing" that has spent 43 years eating your hard earned money. (And forget about your exception for the military. You want to know what a real bureaucracy looks like, visit the real world: join the army. If you haven't done your "duty" there yourself, ask a friend.) I am about to retire within the year and, in the opinion of some, go onto the dole after having been forced by my employer (you, actually) to pay into a retirement fund for 43 years. Now, my question is, Zak: As I receive my retirement benefits, can you tell me, was the contribution I made over the past 43 years all in the bureaucracy in the category of "very little" or "nothing"?

In the words of my favorite American veteran, Kurt Vonnegut, "Thank you for your kind attention."

 Jim Aitchison commenting on Valley of Death:
14 November 2010 at 22:33

Thanks Steve.

Ah yes, Beck: the showman/shaman who rakes in vast trailer-loads of cash via hernia-inducing strain to squeeze out a few tears (which MUST by definition be sincere and automatically render his brand of extreme right-wing lunacy credible). Now I understand where this all comes from.

Authentically questioning art is the enemy of these kind of extreme ideologies which cannot tolerate any interrogation of their principles: this is the way the wind is blowing and those of us judged as 'impure' will suffer.

My plea to those who have embraced these ideas (and I understand how seductive they are and why), is please pause and think; we have been here before.

 Zak commenting on Valley of Death:
15 November 2010 at 01:21

I will not get more re-involved in this than I have to.

I would not belittle what you have done with your life, Steve, and perhaps I have misspoken in saying that bureaucrats as a group contribute nothing to society, but there certainly are redundant are unnecessary bureaucracies that have built up over the years.

As for the Blaze, I would challenge you to watch it and see if there is so much as one story inaccurately or unfairly reported and point it out to me; that has not happened in my experience, but perhaps I have missed it. (In fact, many of their stories consist of little more than video.) But then youre getting your info from Salon, so. : ) I would suggest that you watch his program someday with an open mind.

And Im sorry, but Ayn Rand partially responsible for where we are now? How, exactly? Alan Greenspan was Fed Chairman, not dictator. I should very much like to know how a small, limited government (which, in fact, is something we havent had in a long time) and principles of reason, achievement, individualism, and freedom caused the problems we face today.

Jim, yes, people are so stupid that they would mindlessly follow any madman who cries on national TV. If you knew anything about Mr. Beck you would that one of his favorite quotes is from Thomas Jefferson: Fix Reason firmly in her seat and question with boldness even the very existence of God, for, if there be a God, He must surely rather honest questioning to blind-folded fear. And I know that doesnt say anything in defense of his character or ideology, but its not my job to defend him. I have questioned his motives on many occasions.

I have absolutely no problem with anyone who honestly questions my principles, if I did I would have replied to you with much different language than I have.

 Jim Aitchison commenting on Valley of Death:
15 November 2010 at 15:09

I note these points relating to my own previous post. I will attend to Mr Beck's activities in future with interest.

I am pleased to observe the final remarks.

 scott_good commenting on Valley of Death:
15 November 2010 at 20:17

Sorry for another crazy long post...(sorry Jim, I don't think this is done)

It's directed at Zac. I am sad for him and all of the people who buy into this Glenn Beck hysteria. The guy is a loon - seriously. My wife has training in psychological disorders, and by having a look through the DSM4, it is quickly revealed that this guy has issues. I don't think him wicked, just deluded. He should see a doctor. Giving him power is a dangerous thing. His show should only be viewed as comedy, with an accompanying laugh track. (or perhaps as a tragedy...certainly not news or information)

This little essay is mostly about the following statement Zac made, which is at the heart of all of these discussions:

"But someone with Reason would understand, first and foremost, that THERE IS, AND CAN BE, NO RIGHT TO EDUCATION. A Right, properly understood, is something that stems from human nature, something that we all have equally at birth, and something that is unalienable from our being. Education is none of that. There are, properly, really only four Rights: the Right to Life, the Right to Liberty, the Right to exercise one's Potential in any way one wishes, and the Right to ACQUIRE anything one deems necessary to the fulfillment and preservation of the first three Rights."

You might be surprised at how many of us understand this stuff.

And...we have moved beyond it. Civilization continues to evolve - it doesn't end with these simple but powerful statements - a statement of basic rights. It is a basis from which community can be constructed, yes, but does not come close to understanding the full complexity of human nature.

As I said, we are social animals. We will organize and develop systems of cooperation and co-habitation. This tendency to organize is more primal, far more primal than any for mentioned rights are to human nature. In other words, no human race if no organization. 0. Nothing.

So, the first right that we should all be aware of is the right to organize. Without it, we all die very fast, thus, no more rights. Read this carefully. There is a strange myth amongst the Libertarians that this isn't true - self-determination is seen as a right, yet no self identity exists without social construction.

So let's move forward with that understanding. Let's look at these rights, and why they are good, and how a deep understanding of them will lead to socialist tendencies (yes, socialism comes from Liberty, not in spite of it).

Right to life: Step one is that we do not have the right to take someone's life. This is not new - it is an ancient principal founded upon the oldest of great wisdoms found in all cultures the world round - The Golden Rule. However, it cannot be argued with any effectiveness that the ability to live is intrinsically tied to society. Society creates the environment from which humans can live. Life = society. Thus a right to life is a right to society, and social organization.

Right to Liberty: This is the great emancipation that the system of capitalism has given to the world. But in order to have Liberty, we need protection from the potential of external forces to deprive us of said Liberty by theft or forced evacuation and violence. Law and order must come from the collective, as it will guarantee liberty for most. That is it's striving - to believe it better to have centralized protection agencies rather than individual militia.

Thus, we have the beginning of taxes - protection money - Law and order. And on this, the Libertarians are cool. So, they must believe then that these taxes are not stealing...correct? Is this theft?

Summation so far: Life = society. Liberty, in the context of society - the only context = taxation to protect liberty.

Right to realize one's individual potential: Again, we simply must understand potential as social construct. One can only realize potential through society. Society has to provide the means for such realization. Take the bulk of social constructions away - water treatment, sewage, transportation infrastructure etc, each person's potential will be reduced to bare survival, and be dependant on natures whim. (one can build a house with their potential and have it destroyed by natural event, leaving them not only destitute, but potentially dire.)

Socialism is all about this right - the right to potential. It comes from the first 2 principals - life and liberty, and continues to develop and evolve the right to realization of potential by providing the social fabric from which potential can spring - the pursuit of happiness and fulfilment. It can manifest it self in as many ways as the imagination will allow. It is not an exact science. It must move with Liberty (the right to own and keep property), and play with the fine balances between economic forces, technological advances for increased capacity, and demographics/migratory patterns.

In certain ways, your logic fails when you say that self realization is a right, but education isn't. They are intrinsically tied together. Potential is not just something to be realized, but also developed. A mind needs to interact with stimuli to become potent. Education is civilization. Your beef is not with education - it certainly is a right and as core to humans as food - it is with state sponsored education, and to what degree.


Education in the largest sense is any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character or physical ability of an individual. In its technical sense, education is the process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills and values from one generation to another.

Right to ACQUIRE: Now, I suppose your bold here is to enforce the idea that by taking tax dollars away from someone diminishes their ability to purchase. But again, this is not such a straight line.

First off, although it may seem against everything you have ever been taught, but sometimes, state run institutions are more efficient than private. In other words, through the process of taxation, certain essential services are reduced in price, thus saving money...and time, increasing the acquiring power by allowing more time and resource to devote to it. There are strong capitalistic motivations to have collective agencies to administer services through taxation.

But more important than this is that same old point I keep making is still true. It's not just about the desire to acquire, but the means. And means is provided by society. We are all connected.

Listen, I've said enough, but want to respond to one more point you made a way's back:

"where has it gotten us?"

This shows how incredibly indifferent you are to the great gift of society that civilization has been building for you to live in a period of time with the longest life span and least war. But want to get specific, fine, here is a short list of things socializing has done for you:

water treatment
sewage treatment
transportation infrastructure
police services
fire fighting
agricultural sustainability
public education
National parks and nature preservation
Social Security (pensions etc)

For some obvious ones. 2 specific ones pertinent to the US off the top of my head:

sending manned missions to the moon
eradication of polio

Think these trivial?

And what about bureaucratic institutions such as building codes, and licensing? You think we should just leave this up to the whim of capital gain, a sort of wild west? Have you any idea how cruddy things would get? We collectively hire excellent people to take care of these services. Municipalities need over arching

 Jim Aitchison commenting on Valley of Death:
15 November 2010 at 22:22

Fantastic insight Scott.

I really like this sentence of yours: “Yet no self-identity exists without social construction.”

This is the basis of the fundamental wiring up of the human organism, biochemical and psychological, from mother (or caregiver) to baby and then onwards and outwards. Every flowering of the structure you describe comes from this. The grand project of splendid isolation and self-sufficiency is a (powerful) romantic delusion. We actually all do need each other and none of us as individuals is anything like as important as we think.

 Zak commenting on Valley of Death:
18 November 2010 at 04:22

I actually would agree with somewhere around 75-90% of what youve said. At the moment I do not have the time to point out the minor places where I disagree, nor do I have much inclination to do so, but I will make some points before saying something else.

I dont actually have much of a problem with public education, I have a problem with national funding of public education. I think its best that public education be the sole purview of local/state/provincial governments because: a) decentralization tends to increase efficiency and responsibility (as many corporations and even the US military have learned), and b) the taxpayers of the community/state/province will usually be the ones who benefit from building a school, or hiring teachers, etc. so that it has a potential to return more for the investment on the smaller scale than on the larger. (The same, in one way or another applies to some of the other things you mention as well, and, I would add, could also work for arts funding. After all: "Remember that you are part of a powerful group/ demographic - the arts sector. I mean really, it moves neighbourhoods - creates go to stuff. The economic benefits are often immediate. The economic part alone is worth this and more.") The argument could be made, of course, that local governments dont have as much money; but I would say that that doesnt hold up when you consider that they dont have to.

By emphasizing acquire I meant to contrast it against the idea that somehow we have a right to have things provided for us at someone elses expense. I just dont agree with that. Of course, we need education, food, homes, etc., but does society have an obligation to provide these things for us? I dont think so; I think I have an obligation to provide these things for myself, and an obligation to help others provide for themselves inasmuch as I can.

Humans are social creatures??!! What???! :)
Actually, you might be surprised how many of us understand this stuff. :)
Of course, community is very important; but what is community if not individuals working together? And we can achieve great things working together, yes, but, just as it is dangerous to have no concept of community (utter egoism), it is also dangerous to have no concept of individuality (utter herd mentality). I would say that an individual is, morally, superior to any group, but this is no excuse to exalt oneself over others, of course.

As for my statement about bureaucratsI admit it was a poor choice of words; I should have said something more along the lines of political offices and bureaucratic posts which contribute little to the economy, but even that is perhaps somewhat unfair.

And I feel I must say this: My initial post was inappropriate. I should have kept that thought to myself, and instead written something more constructive, as I originally intended. (I had written a different post, but when I clicked to submit it, it got lost in cyberspace.) I apologize.

 Steve commenting on Valley of Death:
18 November 2010 at 18:37

Zak wrote:
"I think it's best that public education be the sole purview of local/state/provincial governments"
Think about this, Zak. Go beyond the present tragedies such as those that are beginning to come out in many places around the globe (just this morning I read about Scotland). Go beyond the right-fringe idea that a little pain for people in the present is worth the price of puting us all on the "right track" where all good and sane people will magically self-realize. What will happen if local governments really get "sole purview" of public education? In the U.S., over the past century more and more local school boards have increasingly insisted that evolution is bunk. Reason so far has won out, each time by a hair's breadth. Everyone thought the Dover decision in 2005 was finally the end of it. But no. Just a quick google gives you stuff like this:

 Steve commenting on Valley of Death:
18 November 2010 at 18:55

(sorry, transmitted before finishing... so, to continue:)

... stuff like this:

In January, we will have a "new congress" & some in the House majority have long advocated for teaching "intelligent design" along side Darwin in George Bush's words, to "teach the controversy" and in some cases, to replace teaching evolution altogether. Also, there are some in the new congress, and many others around the country, who insist that the U.S. Constitution's establishment clause does not mandate the separation of church and state.

So... if a local public school board finally is put in absolute control, based on local beliefs and assumptions (religious and otherwise) do you believe they have the right to mandate teaching those beliefs to their children, no matter what those beliefs are?

One of my favorite quotes from a U.S. president comes from Eisenhower who, trying to be inclusive (most often a good posture) said: "Everyone should believe in something, and I don't care what it is."

 Zak commenting on Valley of Death:
19 November 2010 at 03:10

I have heard this argument before, Steve, but I think it's really just splitting hairs. Yes, it's true, there are those who want to use education to push an agenda, religious or otherwise, and I would certainly not wish to see that. However, as much as I would like to, I can't make a full response at the moment, nor do I think it would do much good. Suffice it to say that the 1st Amendement to our Federal Constitution clearly says "Congress shall make no law...", so unless a local schoolboard is considered to be Congress, teaching religion in public schools is constitutional, whether we like it not. There would, however, be ways to prevent that at a state level.

And I quite agree with Pres. Eisenhower.

 heeso commenting on Valley of Death:
20 January 2011 at 10:38

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 davidbraid commenting on Valley of Death:
09 February 2011 at 16:16

considering that 98% of commissions go to the same tired old mediocrities EVERY year (think Julian Anderson, etc)- look at the Proms for example - cutting arts funding is a great thing! perhaps the lazy self-indulgent twats may have to wake up and earn a living instead of spending our taxes on the futile noodling nothingness they consider music!

Cut ALL funding to contemporary music I say and do it NOW!!! and sepnd in on research into cancer and the 1000s of other much more important things instead of giving it to self-serving Faber/Schotts/BBC mafia

 Hareton commenting on Valley of Death:
19 October 2011 at 11:43

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 Josseline commenting on Valley of Death:
30 January 2012 at 19:27

I completely understand what you're saying. I went to University at a humanities faculty and I couldn't do anything with it, I had to find something else to earn my daily existence. I've recently signed in for a [url=]master of science in management online[/url] and although this is a completely new domain for me, sometimes people have to adapt to the century they're living in.

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