Week beginning 16 Feb 1998.
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Unions and work
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The Other News consists of a selection of articles on whatever subjects find their way to the top of the pile on the week in which it is written. Whilst some of it is intended to be serious, quite a lot is just a bit of light reading (or heavy, if you are a certain type of person), and intended to keep you amused, and cause people to question some of the assumptions of life. Most of the material here is written by the editor, but no single article necessarily reflects the views of the editor or anyone else who writes here. They only might.
Banks started out as places where you could, if you had any, store your surplus gold until you needed it to pay a bill. You would then go in and sign a note to release so many pounds weight of gold, the bank would weigh it, and put it in a bag for you to take away. They charged a small amount of gold for looking after it, and probably another selection of small amounts of gold for handling it. It was a cheaper way of keeping gold than having to bar up your house and pay for guards, and probably a lot more reliable, and so it caught on.
Large numbers of people started to store their surplus gold in banks, and it soon became apparent to the keepers of banks that they always had a large pool of gold that was not needed at that particular moment - about 70% I believe. So they started lending this to people who needed a temporary quantity of gold for one reason or another and charging a fee for lending it - this is what they call interest. Interestingly, one economist writing on this subject said the charge for borrowing was about 4 percent, which is not very far from a modern loan rate.
Lending gold out like this turned out to be more profitable than making storage charges for guarding it and as long as you kept on doing it you required less storage space, and so it became worth paying people to store their gold with the bank - not untypically 1 percent was the fee according to my economist. They thus had a profit of 3 percent per annum of what went through their hands.
In due course, banks started issuing promissory notes so that if you needed to give someone some gold you didn`t actually have to carry the gold itself, just a piece of paper, and finally they formalised it by printing standard promissory notes of one pound, five pounds, ten pounds, and so on. These were the same thing as a modern banknote, but as far as I know were printed by each individual bank.
Now that the transactions in gold were executed in paper, with the participants not ever having to see the actual gold it was no longer strictly necessary for a bank to have sufficient gold at any time - unless for one reason or another all the customers came and demanded their gold at the same time (you could at one time within my lifetime go into a bank and ask for a pound weight of gold and they would give you a pound of gold in exchange for a pound note). This would normally only occurr if the customers panicked in some way, and if they all did it at once you got what was called a `run on the bank`. This, of course, resulted in bankruptcy for the bank, because it wouldn`t have sufficient gold to cover the withdrawals, having lent so much out. It could have been avoided by the customers paying more money in instead of taking it out, but logic doesn`t always come into these matters.
That`s how banks came about, and it is interesting to note that most of the best at the time were started by people who were excluded from `the professions` and so invented this profession of their own. They were therefore largely either Jewish people or Quakers, and considered to be the most honest and reliable of all people to keep your gold. As you will know from the avarice of modern banks, this is no longer the case.
The gold no longer comes into the transaction, and we now use a piece of paper in it`s place and take that piece of paper completely seriously, because we have never bothered to question the value of the notes. As long as we take them seriously they continue to have value - and that is the only way they do have value. The government can if it feels like it print any number of notes (and of course forgers from time to time completely confuse the issue by forging large amounts).
So it seems quite logical to take the next step, which is being done in most localities in Britain in a small way. Each area has a LETS (Local Exchange Trading System) with it`s own local currency which does not exist at all unless you write a promissory note - there is no gold whatever, and no particular link to any currency. The transactions are recorded by a volunteer at a central point, and people have balances in their accounts of this non-money. As long as the participants are willing to value the currency it works, and they can have anything that is available on the system in exchange for it.
You have to be a member of a LETS to trade in it, but that is about the only essential commitment. The two that I am in (I am on the border of two districts) have quite a few worthwhile social functions, a lot of musicians, mechanics, babysitters, goods for sale and wanted, teachers, builders, alternative therapists, artists, clerical workers.....and, although we don`t trade on a huge scale (equivalent to hundreds a year rather than thousands a year each) suddenly I am getting the things done that were never possible to get done by conventional trading - like getting things fixed when they`re `not worth it` (I also fix things for people myself). I know other people who are paying for part of their food shopping by this method - and actually if I felt like it I could go to the tailor and get myself a jacket made within my extremely modest income.
It doesn`t replace a `hard` currency because you can`t use it in another area, but as you didn`t actually pay anything at all for what you got (and were paid nothing for what you did) there is no particular loss in that.
Economists tell us that the purpose of a domestic economy is to enable people to serve each other, and that is what a LETS does - in a way that a `serious` currency doesn`t seem to manage to do.
So shall we print ourselves some currency?
The problem is going to be that it actually doesn`t seem to be doing anything much to reduce road vehicle use, and will probably increase the use of motor fuel, and therefore, one assumes, poisonous emissions, because most vehicles are at their most economical at fairly high speeds, not low ones.
Most of the bill gives local councils the obligation (or was it just the opportunity?) of putting into force various measures designed to slow traffic down and facilitate public transport, whilst the Secretary of State has a few obligations that will make very little ecological difference (except possibly for the worse), but perhaps there is a broader plan here.
If as much energy had been spent on getting a bill through Parliament that allowed the government to impose per capita motor fuel rationing (PCMFR) there would have been the opportunity to continue to allow the democratic right to have a powered road vehicle at the same time as having some control over the total amount of road mileage travelled by the total of all vehicles.
Every time I have raised this subject so far, it has either resulted in hysteria from those who don`t bother to listen to what the proposal is or it has been ignored. I don`t know which I find the most annoying.
The arguments against PCMFR are usually along the lines of objecting to black markets (which can, but don`t have to, happen) and a dislike of the general idea of rationing - which is something we have in various forms all the time anyway. Money is rationed, for a start.
The arguments for are rather broader, and if a person could quell his hysteria for a few moments they might become apparent. Not only does it give the government the chance to limit the total amount of vehicle miles travelled per annum at the same time as allowing everybody the democratic right to own a vehicle, it has a few other advantages:
As everyone will get their ration at age eighteen and it will not be illegal to sell it, anybody in need will be able to pick up a few extra bob selling their ration.
Anyone choosing not to use a vehicle will be financially rewarded for not doing so by having the opportunity to sell their ration.
Inventors will be encouraged to try to find ways of making road vehicles more economical (I can only think of a few things that haven`t been tried yet, but there`s always something).
There will be economic growth for the oil companies, who will be in a position to charge ever more per gallon in the light of the ever more efficient vehicles using fuel, whilst at the same time doing less work to get the fuel to the customers.
The motor industry will have a boom designing and selling ever more efficient motors - like the computer industry does now with computers.
Oil, which is much more useful unburnt than burnt, will be saved, and it will be less necessary to extract so much in the first place, thus we will be storing it naturally undergound and saving a great deal of time and money into the bargain.
...And finally, we might actually get a reduction in road use, less accidents, less noise, a prettier environment and cleaner air.
It probably has it`s virtues, even if it doesn`t appeal to politicians - and of course it probably doesn`t appeal to politicians because it hasn`t been invented by a member the appropriate freemasonry, and it hasn`t been invented by the politicians themselves either.
But they could pretend.
BY THOSE politicians who have the wit to understand such things, education is perceived as an economic tool. By those politicians who understand that, it is probably understood that adult education is equally valid, regardless of what the subject.
`Regardless of what subject` was a carefully chosen sentence designed to draw your attention to the fact that there are a great many politicians who do not really know at all what any education is for, let alone adult education, because they think that if it is not `vocational` it has no other use than `recreation`, which they cannot perceive as having any use whatever.
To those who perceive the world in a linear manner, recreation has no economic use whatever, even though recreation is one of our bigger industries, and not infrequently is a way of diverting the attention of those who would otherwise be doing considerable damage to the great god property (I own things too, so I have be careful what I say, but I am sure you get my jist) from doing that damage.
In Bromley, where not quite everyone but nearly everyone votes conservative, the council have decided that they will provide education because they are obliged by law or statute to do so. As the politicians are conservative they only know one way of behaving (that is essentially what the word means) and so each year, in order to reduce the council tax bill they make `economies`.
One of the areas in which they make economies is education, and if there is any parsimonious option available that will knock half a pee off the council tax they will take it, because that is about as much as they know.
This year has been no exception, and as I am on the Joint Negotiating Committee negotiating lecturers` pay this matter has been forced upon my attention (it really should be forced upon the whole population of Bromley, but perhaps they are not up to it).
The councillors will go on pushing the council tax down and the lecturers` pay down (if they are allowed to) until `natural market forces` (one of their other ikons) either rids them of lecturers altogether, allowing them to say that they would like to provide AE but can`t get the staff, or rids them of students, allowing them to point out that there is no longer a demand for such a thing. This despite an alleged commitment to `lifelong learning` (I wonder if they know what that means?)
What are the losses if things are pushed to this point? Superficially, all you lose is a few classes for retired people - a large voting group in Bromley, but not big enough to sway the councillors. But there are other losses, and not least amongst them for a councillor is their seat on the council.
I don`t really mind the councillors losing their seats if they`re not getting things done, but I do mind the fact that eventually, if you take the downward economic spiral far enough you get a completely stifled economy because most of the population are unemployed.
You then don`t have education at all if you push it far enough.
That would save a few pence off the council tax.
Some of the LETSSwing material will be available as sheet music on the net soon. It will probably take the form of `fake book` pieces that have been copied from hand-drawn parts, but if someone wants orchestrated versions it might be possible to find the time to write a small score or two. email firstname.lastname@example.org
Most pieces are either beginner or intermediate standard, but anyway - as you will be able to download for free (although we retain copyrights) why worry?
If you are in a LETS somewhere and would like LETSSwing to play to you, please contact email@example.com.
And if you are not, would you like to book a band about which one person said "it has a certain something." ?
Quite what, I don`t know.
By now I am hoping that you have worked out the chords for Little Brown Jug in G, but if you haven`t these will work:
G /Em /D /G.
I said `these will work` because it is possible to play Little Brown Jug (and most tunes) with alternative chords. There is no point in going into these at the moment because if we don`t keep things as basic as possible we will soon get lost (if we`re not already - go back a few stages if you are, and email firstname.lastname@example.org if you still are).
In those two types of chords you have learnt there are the basics of most but not all music, but after you have played about with your chords for a bit you will probably notice that when you listen to music (and also when you listen to musobabble) there are some other types. Most of these are obtained by adding other notes to the basic chord, and by counting (as always).
The two most common types are the 7th and the 6th. These are obtained by playing root, third, fifth and 7th (flattened, which is talked about in an earlier article) for a seventh. Root, third, fifth and sixth, gets a sixth.
In half-tones, these chords are got by making the basic triad and then from the top note counting up three half tones for the seventh or two half tones for the sixth. This will give you CEGBflat for a C7 and CEGA for a C6, and all other sixths and sevenths are counted the same way.
Sevenths and sixths can be minor or major - it just depends on the sound needed.
(Those readers who play about with things will, I am sure, discover another rather more difficult to use chord with a real - not flattened - seventh. This is called a major seventh, and we will probably come to it in due course.)
You now have enough types of chords to play most common tunes, and the question must now be arising `how`?
I can only show you a bit at a time.
First of all, we can find `sets` of chords that seem to belong together, and trial and error will show us that if we play the chords of a tune a set nearly always will come in that tune.
The set that gets the most publicity is C, F, and G, and we have already tried them together last week when we played a twelve bar blues. By counting, you will be able to find the set for every key. I will fill in two more for you just to get you started:
F, B flat and C
G, C and D
C minor, F minor and G
F minor, B flat minor and C.
Well, you say, apart from the minor sets, those are the same as we used for the 12 bar.
They are, so to make them a tiny bit more interesting make the last in each set into a seventh instead of a plain triad ie C, F, G7, F, Bflat, C7, etc.
Now see how many tunes you can sing using each set - and, of course, make up a few tunes if you like. Just play the root chord until you seem to need to change it, and then try each of the others until you find one that fits, then go on in this manner until you come to the end.
(THERE ARE SOME songs that will not allow you to do this because they need other chords, so don`t be disappointed if the tune you choose is apparently impossible. We will find out about those sorts of tunes in due course.)
Note that if you use the C minor set you can play most of Summertime but not all. The bit that you need to complete it is an E flat followed by the G7. Take as long as you like working this out.
With regard to Summertime above, and to give you a tiny bit more insight into how things are composed, note that C minor is the `relative minor` (see last week) of E flat. The relative minor is what happens when you start a scale in the `wrong` place - from the sixth note, not the root note. You will have to try it to find out what it sounds like.
In C, you start from A and then go up the scale, and when you get to the last two notes it sounds more difficult still. This, I suppose, is because our ear is used to hearing a scale end with a half tone and this scale gives us a whole tone. Usually, this is got round by adjusting the note before last up half a tone when going up (but quite often not on the way down).
When you start to write music on paper (as I am hoping you will be able to do in due course), you will notice the difficulty that arises from not knowing whether this note is sharpened or not.
Next week I want to look at more to do with relative minors, and chord sequences that do not entirely comply with the set of three idea.
Soon, there will be some sheet music with chords attached available on a website with whom I liaise. I hope to write the instructions (where necessary) for playing them on this site.
I HAVE discovered the answer to my Industrial Tribunal problem at last! Last week I reported having found some secret forms, and sent them in.
The industrial tribunal have acknowledged my application - but will they bail out?.
Nothing this week again.
Some different small ads.
I want some Locolink stuff. This is the program and disks for getting data off Amstrad PCW`s onto ordinary PC`s. email@example.com
Cheap laptop for writing the Other News when away from base. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Wanted pc/Acorn monitor, London area. email@example.com
Who knows where on the Internet I can get a good freeware or shareware score-writing program that will run on my p100 or Acorn 5000? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
(Will take LETS currencies): Industrial quality roofrack about 7 feet X 3.5 feet, made to measure for ford Sierra estate. I used it for woodwork contracting. It is the best I`ve ever seen. Contact email@example.com
Same again, about 48" by 96", but lesser quality, for Ford Granada estate or Volvo 7 series -almost free owing to poor condition - but it works. firstname.lastname@example.org
LETSSwing (the London all-LETS-members band) need a bass player. Suit someone who thinks of playing and writing music as a creative, co-operative, gentle activity, who likes out-of-date pop and jazz, and who doesn`t like making a noise. We play so quiet you could have it in your livingroom without bothering the neighbours most of the time, and are looking at the possibilities for involvement in `the community` (playing in hospitals and so on). Contact email@example.com
What, no stop press?
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