A guest of www.faxfn.org

Welcome to www.planningforterrorism.org, started 1st February 2003.

Planning for terrorism.

www.planningforterrorism.org.uk. provides a topic new to faxfn. Here is an initial statement of the objectives.

Briefly, should a sensible response to terrorism mean replanning:
  • Towns and villages ?
  • Transport infrastructure ?
  • Distribution networks ?
  • The economy ?

Is anyone planning the replanning?

PlanningForTerrorism takes a long view

The idea for www.planningforterrorism occurred before Sheik Yamani said that in comparison to future terrorists, Osama bin Laden would seem like an angel. We do not assume that future terrorism will arise in any obvious way from the current world conflict. But we ask if the advances of science and technology will give small terrorist groups more scope and potency over the coming decades. If this is so what changes should be made in the way we live?.

PlanningForTerrorism and town planning

Informal enquiries indicate zero interest amoungst the planning profession for changing the way we plan our towns, cities and villages in the light of the threat from terrorism. They should be asking: Sould we replan our villages or cities - or develop a new form of settlement.

Relocation of populations

Will we ever need to relocate large numbers of people in the case of a WMD incident? Can we improve on the response that happened in the wake of Chernobyl?

...after few hours trip with some army vehicle one stands under some shower, washing away radiation and then step in a new life, naked with no home, no friends, no money, no past and with very doubtful future.
(See Chenobyl and the ODPM below.)
Transport planning

In the oil crisis of the 1970s, hospital consultants were allocated special rations of fuel to fill their cars and get them to their jobs. Now the nurses, cleaners and the man that lights the boiler all come by private transport and, in any emergency, they will need rations too. We should ask: Do we need to change transport infrastructures and travel patterns to cope with future threats? If so how do we bring about the changes?

Other infrastructure planning

In the UK we are developing some mechanisms to see that our present way of life is protected. See for example this discussion on slashdot.org about ID cards and CCTV. But there are more generic concerns such as those about distibution networks particularly for food and energy. We should ask:

  • Will just-in-time deliveries prove to be economically efficient in normal times but unreliable in a crisis?
  • Can we rely on contracts for the supply of energy from distant and troubled regions?

The economic consequences of terrorism

The current consensus seems to be that the dangers of terrorism, in the short term, have been exaggerated but that the loss of confidence from terrorist incidents may have substantial economic consequences. In the longer term, we may need to change many aspects of our way of life. The economic analysis should begin now.

The causes of terrorism

On the causes of terrorism, at this moment in time, on this spaceship Earth, in our hostile Universe, planningforterrorism.org.uk is completely out of its depth. However, we will be collection contributions that might have some relevance. See some below.


Head of MI5: Terror attack 'a matter of time'
Jobs gap 'fuels' Mideast radicalism.
Chenobyl and the ODPM: housing our displaced persons.
(Follow the fantastic link on a visit to Chernobyl)

Contributions from faxfn.org

Education, Unemploment and Discontent in Algiers
Who's afraid of Alison Wolf?
Employment friendly VAT



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17jun03a: Head of MI5: Terror attack on a major Western city 'a matter of time'.

In this story on the BBC news website the head of MI5 warns of serious terrorist attacks on a major Western city.

Intelligence suggested "renegade scientists" had given terror groups information needed to create chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons.
"It is only a matter of time before a crude version of such an attack is launched at a major Western city," she said.
She also warned in her unprecedented speech in London that the threat from international terrorism would be "with us for a good long time".

First question: Are these judgements by our security experts noticed by those that formulate our planning policy? Does the current ODPM policy of the densification of urban areas a pattern of settlement even more vulnerable to terrorism.

Second question: Should the policy of filling in brownfield sites before building in the greenbelt be reviewed? (See also www.greeningthegreenbelt.org.uk)

Third question: Is anybody answering the first two questions?

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24jun03a: The FT: Jobs gap 'fuels' Mideast radicalism.

An article (Subscription required) in today's Financial Times starts :

The potential labour force in the Middle East and North Africa region will grow by an alarming 40 per cent in this decade, underlining the urgency of reforms to counter social pressures and radicalism caused by economic hardship.

Mustafa Nabli, regional chief economist at the World Bank, told the FT on Monday that a forthcoming report would stress the scale of the labour problem at a time when average unemployment was already at 15 per cent - among the highest in the world.
The article goes on to say
Youth unemployment is seen as a key factor driving radicalisation in the Arab world, a concern encouraging the US, since September 11, to push more aggressively for reforms.

The implication of the article is clearly that unemployment generates radicalism, which causes terrorism.

The remedy for this unemployment reported by the article appears to be an increase in growth which should be helped by a US-Middle East free trade zone. (Albert asks "Is this Mickey Mouse Growth?").

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07mar04: Faxfn : Chenobyl and the ODPM1: housing our displaced persons.

www.slashdot.org had a discussion recently about a young Ukrainian woman has made a photo journal about a visit she has made to Cernobyl where she lived until the disaster. It can be found here..... moved to here

Lovely photos. One of her quotes - "A new beginning":

"People had to leave everything, from photos of their grandparents to cars. Their clothes, cash and passports has been changed by state authorities. This is incredible, people lived, had homes, country houses, garages, motorcyles, cars, money, friends and relatives, people had their life, each in own niche and then in a matter of hours this world fall in pieces and everything goes to dogs and after few hours trip with some army vehicle one stands under some shower, washing away radiation and then step in a new life, naked with no home, no friends, no money, no past and with very doubtful future."

Today, according to a BBC story:

Home Secretary David Blunkett is flying to the US to finalise plans for a US-UK simulated terror attack.

The Home Office is taking this seriously, but what are the planners at the ODPM1 doing? We have been warned of the possibility of serious terrorist attacks. What will happen if significant numbers of people have to "stand under some shower with no home, no friends, no money, no past and with very doubtful future." Where could our displaced persons find new homes? Some plans necessary surely.

Did our sister site, www.plannersattheodpm.org.uk, get it right about them. Are they really frightened of their own shadows? If they have the balls to formulate some bold policies (for some public discussion at least) they might take a look at how housing provision can be quickly made for substantial numbers of people.

One idea would be to dust-off the idea of the traditional prefab. (We now have a new sister site www.prefabsareforpeople.org.uk. This will point out what an enormous success many prefab developments have been and how they have formed sustainable communities.)

There are reports that the planners at the ODPM are embracing prefabrication. According to Property People No 360 (7th November 2002, Housing lobbies in full voice at Prescott’s Urban Summit):

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott told 1,600 delegates at last week’s Urban Summit, that all future housing developments in the South East would have to build to at least 30 homes per hectare from now on. The average for the region is currently 20 per hectare, compared to more than 50 in Islington, 80 in Greenwich Millennium Village, 250 in Edinburgh and 400 in Barcelona.
He said the UK should strive to match America and Europe in producing prefabs and should be aiming to give people a good quality of life, rather than just think about building houses...
Campaigners at the Council for the Protection of Rural England said they were deeply disappointed and puzzled that the new density would only be applied to the South East.
Sprawling, land-wasting housing estates are a problem everywhere, both in town and country, 2 said its policy director Neil Sinden.

Sadly the ODPM's interest in prefabrication seems not to be a recognition of the success of the prefabs of the 1940's. They seem more interested in "prefabricated flats" for high-density living - reminiscent of the horrors of the flats built in the sixties and seventies which were knocked down in disgust in the eighties and nineties. However, it is encouraging to see that the ODPM takes some interest in industrialised building. We may need it.

There are two points we wish to ask here. Firstly "Is density dangerous?". Secondly, if large numbers of people have to be relocated quickly how can this be done? www.prefabsareforpeople.org.uk might argue for settlements of detached, traditional prefabs a plausible solution as they have worked successfully before.

But there are other many other possibilities: e.g. subsidised emigration. After all, many older people are already taking the route to countries with more sun. Do we all need Villas in Spain or Getaways in Goa? Guidance from the Home Office and the FO would be welcome.

Let's all help the planners at the ODPM 1 put their thinking caps on!

1 (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister who have responsibility for planning policy in the UK)

2 "Sprawling, land-wasting housing estates" are not always the problem. As Dr Keith Porter of English Nature said at the British Association last year, low-density developments with gardens and public open spaces would provide more favorable habitats for species than the giant pesticide-treated cereal fields that dominate much of the countryside now. www.greeningthegreenbelt.org.uk explores some of these issues.

Three pieces from www.faxfn.org

Faxfn websites have not featured much expertise in international affairs but none of our contributors have followed the conventional wisdom that economic growth, and the growth of formal education, are the proper cures for unemployment. The three following pieces from www.faxfn.org highlight the problems with this conventional wisdom and put forward, among other things, alternatives for job creation which do not rely on economic growth. We feel this may have some significance for the causes of terrorism.

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06jan00a: Steve Cox: Education, Unemploment and Discontent in Algiers

Anecdote #1 - The Gaza Strip, Palestine in the 1990's

The Jabalya refugee camp, the largest in the Strip, is one of the poorest and most densely populated areas in the world. Casual inquiry will suggest, however, that there are more PhD's per head of population than in either Bloomsbury, London or in the university town of Boulder, Colorado. Furthermore, these doctorates are in 'infrastructural' subjects such as engineering, computer science and information technology rather than in sociology, history or literary theory. And yet the unemployment rate in this area is typically of the order of 50-60% and this area lacks proper sewers, water treatment plants and even basic communication systems, the very facilities which Gaza's educated elite are trained to provide.

Anecdote #2 - Algeria, in the 1980's

Anyone flying out of Algiers airport or taking the boat from Algiers to Marseille is likely to meet any number of highly qualified individuals fleeing the country in order to gain employment. Algeria has one of the most developed education systems of any 'third world' country and yet during the week, the city of Algiers is awash with civil engineers and computer scientists who weekly migrate from the country to look for work as bottle washers, road sweepers and shoe shine boys.

Admittedly these anecdotes prove nothing and relate to economies quite different from that of the UK, and each has their distinct problems, but what they suggest is quite simply that neither the number nor quality of jobs correlates to the level of education and expertise in a society. [One could add that in the cases cited this has resulted in a high degree of frustration and discontentment among the middle classes in these areas which in turn has contributed to the growth of a particularly reactionary form of Islamic politics. That, however, is another issue, and in any case this is not an argument against education per se.]

One might well ask then, 'Why is the notion that education creates jobs, such a popular one?' In order to answer this it is necessary to make an important distinction between:

  • an idealist notion of education, that is one which is abstracted from any real social context, which views education as the free pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, that is as 'learning', which, therefore, is necessarily 'good', and,

  • an 'embedded' or realist conception of education which views education as the concrete process which serves to legitimise the unequal allocation of places (and consequently, the unequal entitlement to resources) within an economy.

It follows that the outcome of real, as opposed to ideal, education is necessarily unequal and that access to such education, in itself, does not create equality.

The confusion between education as it exists and an idealised notion of education only explains the popular belief that education as such is intrinsically good, it does not explain why those in power promote the idea that education creates jobs. Quite simply the overproduction of people ostensibly qualified to perform a particular job increases competition for that job, competition reduces costs in this case the salary or wages attached to that job. Consequently, having a degree, the cost of which is increasingly borne by the individual, no longer guarantees a high or even a modest salary you need a degree to run a MacDonalds these days. Competition for jobs does not of itself create jobs, since a 'job', in the most abstract sense, consists of the instruments of production and the material to be worked on as well as the techniques of operation embodied in the incumbent.

Clearly if there was a match between 'places' in the economy and the number of people who were truly 'fit' to occupy them in terms of knowledge and expertise, then there would be no market in jobs, but then that would not be capitalism. The popular confusion of education as it exits with its idealised shadow, its opposite in fact, merely serves to sustain the very system under which that ideal cannot be realised. The apprehension of this confusion, on the other hand, might serve to engender the desire for an alternative where it can.

04feb03a: Update 2003: The dangers of alienation.

In the longer term, the alienation of this educated elite of many countries has frequently resolved itself into support for Islamic militancy with consequences that we have seen in Algeria.

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15jan03a: Faxfn: Who's afraid of Alison Wolf?

In 1999, Faxfn used a considerable proportion if its tiny budget to buy copies of Ronald Dore's "The Diploma Disease: education, qualifications and development" for every member of the House of Commons Education and Employment Select Committee. We had heard that some of them had never even heard of Ronald Dore. Sad to say none of them thanked us or even replied. But there was some evidence that a few of them (or their researchers) looked up the site. ( see the section on www.faxfn.org Credentialism and the Diploma Disease section)

Once again, it has come to our notice that some current members of the committee may be in a similar state of ignorance. So we will try once again to correct the situation. This time we want to make sure that the committee is aware of Alisons Wolf's recent book. At that time we quoted her when she was roughing up the civil servants responsible for the NVQ reforms.

The reforms slid into something reminiscent of the 'Cargo Cults' of Polynesia. Just as worshipping replicas of planes was thought, by cult adherents, to bring the showering of gifts from the sky, so it became an article of faith that awarding enough vocational certificates would somehow transform the nature of the UK economy.

- Alison Wolf (p39 "Growth stocks and lemons: Diplomas in the English market-place", Assessment in Education: principles, policies and practice. Voume 4 Number 1 January 1997, Carfax)
We are delighted to find that she uses a similar quote in her new book ("Does education matter?", Penguin 2002, ISBN 0-14-028660-8)

At Faxfn, we are closely examining our budget to see if it will stretch to sending copies of the book to members of the current committee. In the meantime we give a few short quotes from it:

the countries which have done most to increase the education levels of their population have, on average, grown less fast than have devoted fewer resources to education.
The evidence on skills suggests that employers in the brave new 'knowledge economy' are after those traditional academic skills that schools have always tried to promote. The ability to read and comprehend, write fluently and correctly, and do mathematics ... It isn't obvious why this means pouring extra resourcesinto more years of education rather than maintaining quality in the places that already teach the skills.
The fight against university fees isn't a major campaign for equal opportunity - quite the contrary. The poor don't go to university. The children of the middle classes do.
...what is the alternative? [to give those at the bottom of the heap a slightly more equal chance at things] ... It is simply to subsidise jobs.
The most eminent and eloquent proponent of wage subsidies for the low-paid is the American economist Edmund Phelps.

Those of you that have read some of the other sections will understand why we think this is an important work. During 2003 Faxfn will do its best to make sure our politicians are aware of it. (We hope to be able to report better success than we had with Ronald Dore's work in 1999). However, this does not mean that Faxfn will be completely uncritical. For example, we have potential contributors who will probably reject her assumption that universities have good records for innovation.

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23feb98: Professor Kim Swales1: Employment friendly VAT.

(Click here for full version)

Governments can influence employment levels with an appropriate tax and subsidy system.

The policy we have considered involves a fixed labour subsidy per worker, equal to 5% of the average wage, financed by an increase in VAT. This tax/subsidy scheme works by pricing workers into jobs and increasing the incentive to work. The scheme stimualtes the low paid the most so the policy has favourable distribution effect. Savings on unemployment benefits reinforce the policy.

Governments are concerned about the overall level of taxation and question the desirability of automatic subsidies. However, the type of subsidy and tax plan outlined could be operated as an integrated tax scheme in which the change in the firm's tax is calculated as the difference between the additional VAT and the per capita subsidy. As the scheme increases employment, and so reduces the cost of unemployment benefit, there is a reduction in overall tax. So the introduction of this scheme would simultaneously increase employment and reduce taxation.

There is an increased faith in "market forces" and a desire to reduce subsidies that artificially maintain inefficient or inappropriate industries. However, where there are high levels of structural unemployment amongst primarily low skilled workers, long-term labour subsidies should be considered. Such subsidies improve productive efficiency by offsetting market failures in other parts of the economy. They restore, rather than distort, appropriate price signals. They do not rob the private sector of resources but reallocate resources within that sector. Such subsidies generate an expansion, not contraction, of private sector economic activity.

If such subsidies can be packaged as tax rebates there we have a simultaneous fall in taxation and increase in employment.

(Precis of the summary of a report to DG5)

1Fraser of Allander Institute, University of Strathclyde