Wednesday, 28 August 2019

The Wisdom Of J Paul Getty

I have just been reading J Paul Getty's autobiography, 'How To Be Rich', which I picked up in an antique shop.
Despite its enticing title, you don't really learn that much about how to be rich, alas.
Basically J Paul lucked out in the early 20th century oilfields of Oklahoma, though he drilled plenty of holes which didn't strike black gold as well.
Yes he had a good education and got sent to Oxford for two years of it, but his self-made father still made him earn his own money and he spent his early years living out of a battered jalopy, the front passenger seat his office, prospecting (ie drilling) on various leases, some of which paid out, but many of which turned out to be dry holes, spending the bulk of his time with roustabouts and other working men, learning the business from the ground up, literally, getting down and dirty in his overalls.
A few surprises - Mr Getty turns out to be very pro-worker and pro-union. Like Henry Ford he recognised that a workforce needs to be sufficiently well paid for the fruit of their labours to contribute to the economy in their own right. The consumers must be equipped to consume and be customers too. He boasts how he solved a pay dispute with a union within an afternoon, much to the shock of his fellow directors, and even the union itself, who had all mentally prepared for a long siege. His solution to a pay rise demand was simple. He took the balance sheet to the meeting, showed all present that the current profits allowed the pay demands to be met by 50% that year, but the second 50% of the demand would be dependent on how the company prospered in the forthcoming year. This was accepted, and in due course honoured, with the workforce incentivised to the necessary level of productivity.
J Paul was also a firm believer in CEOs donning their overalls several times a year to visit their factories or oil wells, not just for the cameras, but to work alongside their men, making it their business to know their company inside out and the view/views from the factory floor. He personally invented a new drill head retriever tool, which alone made him an enormous amount of money in solving a problem prospectors had had for decades when the screw head became detached at great depth and could not be retrieved, blocking the new hole it was trying to drill. He railed against process assuming more importance than productivity and saw this as the sure route to future business doom or takeover, and witnessed many examples of his theory in action during his long life.
He adored art and felt that the world means very little without the artefacts and writings which outlived most of their civilisations to become their only surviving legacy. He despaired in particular of the American male's rejection of high culture as being 'unmasculine' (a big fear in those days, apparently). He even goes as far as to state:  'The cultural man is invariably a self-assured, urbane and completely confident male. He recognises, appreciates and enjoys the subtler shadings and nuances to be found in the intellectual, emotional and even physical spheres of human existence - and in the relationships between human beings. Be it in a boardroom or a bedroom, he is much better equipped to play his masculine role than is the heavy-handed and maladroit educated barbarian.'
Quite a statement!
No small proportion of J Paul's wealth came from his eye for good art, but it was never an investment for him - he genuinely loved art and collected it for its own sake and the pleasure it gave him. Accordingly the J Paul Getty Trust was created after his death, the world's largest cultural and philanthropic organisation dedicated to the visual arts.
His biggest hobbyhorse however is his fear for humanity - ie the homogenisation of the individual to become as pasteurized (and bland) as milk. He sees this as a disaster not only for the economy but for the future. Human progress depends on the world's free thinkers and eccentrics according to J Paul Getty. They may sometimes be a thorn in society's side, but they are also the innovators and the stimulus every society needs to carry on thinking, debating and evolving. And he himself had been a part of the pioneering world which achieved so much - a maverick. And remained a proud 'individualist' his entire life, who neither wanted nor expected to be approved of for his every opinion.
He accepts the need for sensible structures in society but rejects the push towards regimentation, akin to fascism.
How appalled he would be then that western society is now on the brink of mandatory organ donation, mandatory vehicle tracking, mandatory smart meters, mandatory vaccination and other questionable mandatories, with the prospect of human microchipping just around the corner. As for diversity of politics and viewpoints, that is also heavily discouraged in apparent Western democracies. We also see anomalies like street drugs freely available while Western governments do more to try and drive vitamins and homeopathy underground as alleged dangers to humanity!
His worst fears appear to be coming true, though friends assure me that we will soon be replaced by cyborgs, so that's all good then! Except that no one seems to have twigged that cyborgs won't be consumers yet as they start to replace all our blue collar jobs with more mundane self-service machines.
So patriarchal is this book that J Paul scarcely mentions women at all. It is all about a man's destiny and greatness and a man's obligations to humanity. As a female I could see this as insulting, but with my comedy hat on I choose to think; 'Hooray - he's let us girlies completely off the hook!' Notwithstanding, he was writing this in the days (1976) when women could still afford to be housewives and were strongly encouraged by society to be so and he himself was in the final year of his life at eighty four, a product of his times, as we all are.
On the other hand J Paul was clearly a very progressive and individualist thinker on every other level so, on that basis, I would have loved to have met him. I am sure he would forgive a fellow arts lover for being masculinely-challenged.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

The Dumb of Smart

There is a legal obligation on all energy companies to complete their smart meter roll out by 2020. This will be pushed back to 2025 at which point county court bailiffs can apparently come round to your property and insist on replacing meters.

After the deadline customers will be openly charged £405 to ‘upgrade’ their meter to  a smart meter, even though we are all paying for them through stealth via our bills anyway.
It is no longer possible to request an analogue meter from an energy company. They do not provide them.

Currently the policy of many energy companies seems to be to deny the best tariffs to customers who refuse smart meters (the legality of which is being explored).

All of which begs the question:

Why does our government care what type of meters citizens have, never mind make it compulsory in a democracy???

1.       They know smart meters don’t save money
2.       They know smart meters are not free – they are added to people’s bills.
3.       They know they are not greener – people who can’t afford to use energy (or who are genuinely environmentally woke) will carry on switching things off and being frugal. The careless or those who can afford unlimited energy will carry on using vast or unlimited energy including to heat up their swimming pools, pool rooms and outdoor jacuzzis and to run their banks of automatic gadgets and lights.

    The following is also well known.

  • .       Smart meters use more energy than analogue meters
  • .       Smart meters can be interrupted or inaccurate if there is not a constant signal.
  • .       Smart meters make it harder to switch energy suppliers
  • .       Smart meters can be monitored to find out if householders are out (data which can easily be sold to criminals by energy insiders)
  •       Meters have to be disposed of at regular intervals as do not readily transfer between suppliers.

There are health concerns about EMF waves and their potential to detrimentally affect plants, pets and people, especially when operating 24/7. At least your microwave is not in use 24/7.
As for the cartoon above, many a true word is said in jest! Our comings and goings will be known to our energy company and who could blame a call centre worker on minimum wage for selling this information on to those who might take advantage while we are on holiday? You can bet the energy company itself will be using this information to take commercial advantage.

I have just heard an advert on the radio for an insidious new 'campaign to help create a smarter Britain', hiring the naive voice of Jane Horrocks to convince us of its planet-saving innocence, albeit with the questionable claim that UK electricity needs are predicted to DOUBLE by 2050.
IS the UK population predicted to DOUBLE in only 30 years?
How can that be, and if we are all going greener/using less?
I think we should be told.

Interesting too how this push towards 'smart technology' is ironically pushing us to use more and more energy whereas analogue and even manual use far less or none - anyone else remember when they used to have to open their own garage door manually, wind down their windows manually, put the sunroof up if it was hot, etc etc and there were far fewer devices of every hue in our homes. Indeed most rooms could get away with one plug socket! This point is also highlighted in my previous post 'The Internet of Things We Might Not Want'

As for Sir Elton John, he appears to think you can make private jet miles disappear simply by making a financial donation to a carbon offset charity!!!!!!!!!

I manage a number of properties in my daily life and those which have smart meters installed are already showing demonstrably higher bills so they are doing the consumer no favours.

According to Fiona Parker's excellent article in yesterday's Money Mail, they are also leaving a lot of customers very angry.... 

Not just me then.