My new year’s resolutions (with apologies to Heather):
1. I will give up swearing. After serious consideration, I have decided to eliminate darn and damn as well as other heavyweight expressions. Mr. Waffle queries what I will use instead. I said with dignity that “how unfortunate” should meet my needs. “Oh” he said “as in, ‘move your stupid, how unfortunate car out of my way, you how unfortunate moron'”. Ok, my technique may need some refinement. Today is January 7 and you are correct in your assumption that my record to date has not been 100%, however, the Princess is endeavouring to keep me on the straight and narrow by repeating incessantly anything I say in a moment of crisis.
2. I will establish a book club. No really. Yes, of course you can join, I’ll be desperate for people.
The London Review of Books
Has gone mad. All this week’s personals are in German. Funny though.
I ignored the signal of a traffic policeman. Not deliberately. I didn’t see him. That’s what I said in my defence before Christmas. They didn’t buy it (but it was true, I swear – is this swearing?) and a fine for, wait for it, 310 euro was awaiting me on my return. And my new employer still hasn’t paid me so it’s just as well I’m at home sick really and can’t get out to spend money.
The Princess is obsessed with colours. But she has no understanding of what they might be. She will hold up a yellow jumper and say “pink”. No, we will tell her, it’s yellow. She will digest this and hold up a pink jumper and say “red”. And so on. And she is obsessed. She keeps asking “colour?”. We are quite keen to let the matter drop because, frankly, it’s only depressing all of us, but she won’t let it go. I suppose that she will get the hang of it eventually.
Has decided to have a seasonal joke. See below the entire text from a pre-Christmas article. Title is from Jonathan Swift who suggested in a savagely satirical article of this title that the Irish should eat their babies to keep themselves fed (am I not clever to know this?). But the thing is, I’m not sure that what worked for Dr. Swift really works for the Economist. I know that they are laughing at themselves and everything, but it really does sound like the kind of thing they would suggest. Skip down to the bit under “make mine a monoglot” for details of the modest proposal.
A modest proposal
From The Economist print edition
How to solve the biggest issue in modern politics
FORGET Iraq and budget deficits. The most serious political problem on both sides of the Atlantic is none of these. It is a difficulty that has dogged the ruling classes for millennia. It is the servant problem.
In Britain David Blunkett, the home secretary, has resigned over an embarrassment (or one of many embarrassments, in a story involving his ex-girlfriend, her husband, two pregnancies and some DNA) concerning a visa for a Filipina nanny employed by his mistress (see article). His office speeded it through for reasons unconnected to the national shortage of unskilled labour. Mr Blunkett resigned ahead of a report by Sir Alan Budd, an economist who is investigating the matter at the government’s request.
In America Bernard Kerik, the president’s nominee for the Department of Homeland Security, withdrew last week because he had carelessly employed a Mexican nanny whose Play-Doh skills were in better order than her paperwork (see article). Mr Kerik also remembered that he hadn’t paid her taxes. The nominee has one or two other issues (an arrest warrant in 1998, and allegations of dodgy business dealings and extra-marital affairs). But employing an illegal nanny would probably have been enough to undo him, as it has several other cabinet and judicial appointees in recent years.
There is an easy answer to the servant problemobvious to economists, if not to the less clear-sighted. Perhaps Sir Alan, a dismal scientist of impeccable rationality, will be thoughtful enough to point it out in his report.
Parents are not the only people who have difficulty getting visas for workers. All employers face restrictive immigration policies which raise labour costs. Some may respond by trying to fiddle the immigration system, but most deal with the matter by exporting jobs. In the age of the global economy, the solution to the servant problem is simple: rather than importing the nanny, offshore the children.
Many working parents would hardly notice the difference, and there would be clear advantages beyond lower child-care costs. Freeing up rich-country real estate currently clogged with cots and playpens would lower rents; liberating time currently wasted in story-telling and tummy-tickling would raise productivity. For parents who wished to be present at bed-time, video-conference facilities could be arranged.
Luddites and sentimentalists will whinge about the disadvantages of raising a brood in, say, Beijing. Language, for instance: what if one found oneself in possession of a posse of mini-Mandarin speakers? Yet in the age of global culture, few sensible modern parents are susceptible to such small-mindedness. If they were, they wouldn’t so commonly leave their offspring in the care of monoglot Mexicans or Poles.
Unthinking conservatism may spawn resistance to this eminently sensible idea. But politicians, the people most often embarrassed by the servant problem, should be keen to popularise itnot just for themselves, but also in the national interest. Offshoring could help solve several problems afflicting rich-world economies, including that of ageing populations: after all, you get more bairns for your buck in Bangalore. And why stop at toddlers? Difficult teenagers, the offspring most liable to vex political parents, could be conveniently removed: imagine how much easier George Bush’s life would have been had his twins been confined to, say, Pyongyang.�
on 08 January 2005 at 13:27
Mildly funny, FT, thanks for the welcome back, hope Christmas was sunny in the US. Will begin work on St. Anthony shortly and revert.