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British General Election - May 2015

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  • British General Election - May 2015

    I am watching with growing alarm at the media coverage of the forthcoming UK parliamentary election. Setting aside ones perception of what is the best or right policy for either us as self-centred individuals, or I would hope, for the benefit of the entire nation long term, the theatre of politics is an ugly place indeed. Have we learned nothing at all since the gladiatorial contests of two thousand years ago?

    Running a corner shop, a manufacturing business, a school, a town, a county or a country in an ever more integrated global environment requires a careful study of the socio-economic reality now, and a cool head in anticipating the changes in that socio-cultural-environmental arena, welcome or not, likely over the coming years. Absolutely nothing of any value can be achieved with raised voices and TV debates because the issues are so complex, and often so very finely balanced that even the most able and thoughful academics in our society cannot reach simple, convenient, TV game show friendly yes/no answers, not even after considering the issues for years.

    It is no wonder to me that the steering committee of the People's Republic of China look at the public debate in western politics with a determination that they will not follow the same mistakes. This level of hysteria, fuelled and driven by the media for their benefit of newsworthy headlines and sound bites is an affront to true democracy. It gives undue advantage to the core human itch for change, thrill seeking for the sake of the new thrill and also to base instinct to 'do down' somone who is perceived as having an advantage.

    We surround ourselves with the trappings of modern technology and think that we are so sophisticated, but en masse, are we still an ungrateful, selfish, unreasoning, unreasonable, ill educated barbaric crowd baying for blood? One can see all too clearly that despite the ghastly lessons of history, powerful oratory is as capable of moving public opinion as it was eighty years ago.

    The definition of electoral ignorance of the facts and even ingratitude? Perhaps here (just for the record).

    God help our country. If there was somewhere to escape to, I'd give it serious consideration. I despair.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  • #2
    The road to coalition and cooperation aka wisdom?

    And yet, I remember Perikles' funeral oration for the fallen war dead of Athens fight against authoritarian Sparta. Why was Athens superior? Because in Athens everybody's views mattered, and because it thus benefitted from a larger pool of wisdom and experience as a result.

    British political debate is indeed lively rather than profound. Chances are you will have a coalition government. In the long run that should make politicians a bit more careful in what they say before an election, as after the election they will need to find a middle ground, whether they like it or not.

    Comment


    • #3
      Let me tell you how it will be, there's one for you, nineteen for me ....

      Originally posted by A.S. View Post
      The definition of electoral ignorance of the facts and even ingratitude? Perhaps here (just for the record).

      God help our country. If there was somewhere to escape to, I'd give it serious consideration. I despair.
      So for example of the 567,000 created over the past year, 281,000 were full time jobs for men and 167,000 were full time jobs for women. Part-time jobs were only a fifth of all new jobs.

      Also 61% of the new jobs went to UK nationals.
      That means (281,000 + 167,000 = 448,000) / 567,000 = 79 % were new full time job posts created last year. 448,000 x 0.39 = 174,720 full time job posts went to non UK nationals. And probably more of remaining 119,000 not full time posts were offered to foreigners either ...

      Alan, don't you have job vacancies in your well prospering company, I can start immediately, even as a cleaner, I don't have false pride as Mr. Chaplin used to say ....

      This confused me a bit - http://www.theguardian.com/politics/...rits-explainer

      ATB

      Comment


      • #4
        More on the shouting match

        Originally posted by A.S. View Post
        I am watching with growing alarm at the media coverage of the forthcoming UK parliamentary election. Setting aside ones perception of what is the best or right policy for either us as self-centred individuals, or I would hope, for the benefit of the entire nation long term, the theatre of politics is an ugly place indeed. Have we learned nothing at all since the gladiatorial contests of two thousand years ago?

        Running a corner shop, a manufacturing business, a school, a town, a county or a country in an ever more integrated global environment requires a careful study of the socio-economic reality now, and a cool head in anticipating the changes in that socio-cultural-environmental arena, welcome or not, likely over the coming years. Absolutely nothing of any value can be achieved with raised voices and TV debates because the issues are so complex, and often so very finely balanced that even the most able and thoughful academics in our society cannot reach simple, convenient, TV game show friendly yes/no answers, not even after considering the issues for years.

        It is no wonder to me that the steering committee of the People's Republic of China look at the public debate in western politics with a determination that they will not follow the same mistakes. This level of hysteria, fuelled and driven by the media for their benefit of newsworthy headlines and sound bites is an affront to true democracy. It gives undue advantage to the core human itch for change, thrill seeking for the sake of the new thrill and also to base instinct to 'do down' somone who is perceived as having an advantage.

        We surround ourselves with the trappings of modern technology and think that we are so sophisticated, but en masse, are we still an ungrateful, selfish, unreasoning, unreasonable, ill educated barbaric crowd baying for blood? One can see all too clearly that despite the ghastly lessons of history, powerful oratory is as capable of moving public opinion as it was eighty years ago.

        The definition of electoral ignorance of the facts and even ingratitude? Perhaps here (just for the record).

        God help our country. If there was somewhere to escape to, I'd give it serious consideration. I despair.
        Your despair is entirely understandable, but the worst of it is that there's probably no better alternative. Perhaps a wise and benevolent dictator (an individual or small group) could do a better job in some ways than a democratic government. The great 19th century British philosopher John Stuart Mill considered and rejected this idea in his Considerations on Representative Government. His arguments are too many and too subtle to set out briefly here, but in summary a few of them are that (1) even the most enlightened and benevolent despotism would render the mass of people ever more passive and dull; (2) free societies outperform despotisms economically, now matter how well the despotism is managed; and (3) what do you do if your despot ceases to be benevolent? (an ever-present possibility, human beings being what they are).

        My own view is that we tend to treat democracy as being essentially coterminous with elections. If you think about it, it's the elections that really cause most of the evils you describe. Everyone's vote is equal, no matter how intelligent or unintelligent the voter, no matter how well or poorly informed, no matter how fair-minded or biased. Most people take for granted that this should be so, but I sometimes wonder if, say, a qualification for voting would be a bad idea. Or if there are selection mechanism that might still be democratic in a broad sense, but would be difference from the kind of horse race/popularity contest/shouting match kinds of spectacles we see now. What if the candidates had to be screened in some way by an impartial body? And what if we reduced the impact of money on the whole process, which is a problem everywhere but has really become extreme now in the USA (they're often the leader, in good things and bad).

        The problem is that change is always bloody difficult to achieve, because the people who are in a position to achieve it are always the ones who are the winners under the current system, which they then understandably look at with some favour. But something needs to happen. Maybe we need a broad conversation about whether how we select our governments is the best possible way, or whether it could be improved.

        Comment


        • #5
          "... the land of opportunity..."

          Originally posted by EricW View Post
          Your despair is entirely understandable, but the worst of it is that there's probably no better alternative. ....

          The problem is that change is always bloody difficult to achieve, because the people who are in a position to achieve it are always the ones who are the winners under the current system, which they then understandably look at with some favour. But something needs to happen. Maybe we need a broad conversation about whether how we select our governments is the best possible way, or whether it could be improved.
          There was a thought provoking article by Charles Moore in the paper yesterday which I'd say ranged over the sort of issues that an electorate of an advanced economy must take a position over. It's really worth reading - attached.

          "Injustice" and "inequality" exists in human society as it does in the animal kingdom from top to bottom, and Mr. Moore covers this specifically in his fourth column. Despite the most assiduous attemps of decent god fearing people to rearrange these injustices, it seems that they will always exist as we are, biologically, mentally, physically, emotionally and intellectually and socially born unequal. The key point that he makes is that this inequality is the very stuff of which an economy and wealth creation is made even possible, and providing the opportunity is open to all to seize the chance and gravitate, then that natural process should be encouraged at every opportunity. British society is famously open to talent, and there is no better example in our world here on HUG of physical realities of opportunity being seized than that of Prof. Michael Faraday.

          Furthermore, I would add as an employer, that the race, colour, religion, ethnicity, size, height, weight or appearance of those who have the ability and desire to take up employment in this country (and hopefully seize the opportunity for enterprise and employ other people) is utterly immatrial, provided that they keep out of trouble, pay their dues and make an effort to integrate. I employ two east Europeans who are both pleasant, hard working and can be trusted. "Immigration" is not the issue: the issue is that far too many home-grown British youngsters are work shy.
          Attached Files
          Alan A. Shaw
          Designer, owner
          Harbeth Audio UK

          Comment


          • #6
            Some thoughts from London

            Originally posted by A.S. View Post
            There was a thought provoking article by Charles Moore in the paper yesterday which I'd say ranged over the sort of issues that an electorate of an advanced economy must take a position over. It's really worth reading - attached.

            "Injustice" and "inequality" exists in human society as it does in the animal kingdom from top to bottom, and Mr. Moore covers this specifically in his fourth column. Despite the most assiduous attemps of decent people to rearrange these injustices, it seems that they will always exist as we are, biologically, mentally, physically, emotionally and intellectually and socially born unequal. The key point that he makes is that this inequality is the very stuff of which an economy and wealth creation is made even possible, and providing the opportunity is open to all to seize the chance and gravitate, then that natural process should be encouraged at every opportunity.

            Furthermore, I would add as an employer, that the race, colour, religion, ethnicity, size, height, weight or appearance of those who have the ability and desire to take up employment in this country (and hopefully seize the opportunity for enterprise and employ other people) is utterly immatrial, provided that they keep out of trouble, pay their dues and make an effort to integrate. I employ two east Europeans who are both pleasant, hard working and can be trusted. "Immigration" is not the issue: the issue is that far too many home-grown British youngsters are work shy.
            It is certainly a very interesting article. The oppostion debate made Milpede look like a right-winger. Sturgeon has successfully framed the argument as Tory vs. anti-Tory rather than Austerity vs. anti-Austerity. The greater part of the electorate is pro-Austerity or Labour's Austerity-Lite. Even if Labour won a majority, it is unlikely the Parliamentary party could not carry it's own MPs on Austerity measures.

            My relatives have been in the UK for 100 years. I don't feel British at all. My wife is not British. I will not be spending my final days in the UK. I went to the top-ranked UK public school and hated it, made no friends and never went back. (They told me I was going to fail my A levels and told me not to apply to university. I think I passed them and got a First at the LSE just to spite them.) I have one son at a very liberal private school and another in a fantastic state school. What I hate is the sense of privilege that private schools engender. I would love to see them banned, at the very least lose their charitable status. Contrast with the public school system in the US, the huge social diversity and their almost unbreakable sense of Patriotism. (I am reading about the Reagan effect at the moment - "The Invisible Bridge" by Rick Perlstein).

            A curious point on social equality is that is we all earned 25,000 the country would rapidly go bust, as the top 1% pay 30% of income tax, most of which would disappear. Alasdair Darling, the ex-Chancellor, who wrote one of the few readable political biographies ("Back from the Brink"), said therein that one of the immediate problems from the banking crisis was a 25% drop in income tax revenues from the City workforce.

            According to The Times this morning (a former Blairite paper that is now approaching The Telegraph in it Right-Wing stance, no doubt due to Tom Watson MP's singular efforts), and its columnist AA Gill, my consistency of Finchley is "a perfect microcosm of what a modern Britain ought to aspire to be".

            Robert Harris, a writer of fiction that is often close to the truth (reference his very amusing Blair parody "Ghost"), also wrote a serious and amusing article about a Tory-SNP pact. Andrew Marr questioned both Sturgeon and Cameron on the proposition this morning on his BBC1 programme and both ruled it out. So it must be possible.

            [moderator - again, do not have permission for attachments - argh..]

            Comment


            • #7
              The political super-class?

              I have to 'bare all' here and state my views on the political system.

              I have rather cynically come to the view that the 'political class' is so separate from most of us that they have little idea of what the ordinary 'prole' has to encounter in the broader outer world.

              They are largely derived from highly coached Eaton-Oxbridge privileged origins, and are often millionaires before entering politics, and I feel that they as a group may well hold the 'proles' in contempt. (Hungry; can't they eat the grass?)

              It is also my view that there may well be a collusion between the left and right in running a 'shuttle system' for the last 5 decades, which itself has served to prevent radical and incisive change for the better.

              The left gets in and increases taxes, espousing the need for public services in the form of basic needs, (transport, water, drainage, energy, autonomous food provision, etc.), for the ordinary working man.

              Then at an election the right gets in on the basis that the left takes too much money from the people, who are in reality able to be responsible enough with their own money. They then sell of the public services to their wealthy friends at knock down prices, on the basis that they would be much more efficient if run by private companies. The share holders then demand profits, and the provided services are compromised for all but the well off.

              This cycle results in our money being shuttled into the hands of the wealthy, and it is all done in the guise of us having a free choice to alter the way society is run, but largely the distribution of wealth remains the same and the political classes have their same privileged positions and subsidised living standards.

              Pleas show mw that I am wrong, and just a cynical old gitte.

              Comment


              • #8
                Finding a policy fulcrum

                Things are not so easy, I fear.

                Good government has to find a careful balance between the benefits of the market and social equity. It is no secret that a free market is the most efficient way to allocate resources (with a few exceptions such as externalities like the environment). Sometimes an unfettered free market creates havoc like in financial markets, but by and large a free market is efficient, and provides the right incentives.

                The common European market has demonstrably brought us many of the advantages that the US enjoyed for much longer. Mess with it, and you constrain innovation, entrepreneurship, and growth. On the other hand, and against the micro economic argument in favour of the market, there is also the macro argument that is well documented in the scholarly literature that too much inequality is bad for economic growth and welfare. A nice and readible example is Acemoglu and Robinson, Why nations fail.

                A very unequal income distribution constrains demand for quality goods, is bad for the quality of the labour force, and in and of itself also reduces aggregate standard of living (an extra dollar/euro/pound for a poor person represents more welfare utility than the same money for a rich person).

                Finally, there is the moral argument, that it is just not right to have poverty. So good government somehow balances these two opposing arguments. That is what many continental European economies have tried to achieve, and with some success. It is, however, increasingly difficult in a globalizing international market where the outside forces of the market are pulling us towards unlimited market freedom. For the better educated, this brings benefits. For others, they are now pitted against cheap labour in Asia etc. So it is not surprising that it is precisely these people who in many European countries succumb to economic nationalism and even xenophobia.

                In the UK, my analysis is that the alternation between the two parties who represent the opposites of the spectrum has made it much harder to find the right spot in the middle where social equity and inclusiveness are combined with the benefits of a competitive market.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Where is the root of the problem?

                  Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                  There was a thought provoking article by Charles Moore in the paper yesterday which I'd say ranged over the sort of issues that an electorate of an advanced economy must take a position over. It's really worth reading - attached.

                  "Injustice" and "inequality" exists in human society as it does in the animal kingdom from top to bottom, and Mr. Moore covers this specifically in his fourth column. Despite the most assiduous attemps of decent god fearing people to rearrange these injustices, it seems that they will always exist as we are, biologically, mentally, physically, emotionally and intellectually and socially born unequal. The key point that he makes is that this inequality is the very stuff of which an economy and wealth creation is made even possible, and providing the opportunity is open to all to seize the chance and gravitate, then that natural process should be encouraged at every opportunity. British society is famously open to talent, and there is no better example in our world here on HUG of physical realities of opportunity being seized than that of Prof. Michael Faraday.

                  Furthermore, I would add as an employer, that the race, colour, religion, ethnicity, size, height, weight or appearance of those who have the ability and desire to take up employment in this country (and hopefully seize the opportunity for enterprise and employ other people) is utterly immatrial, provided that they keep out of trouble, pay their dues and make an effort to integrate. I employ two east Europeans who are both pleasant, hard working and can be trusted. "Immigration" is not the issue: the issue is that far too many home-grown British youngsters are work shy.
                  Mr Moore's opinion about the political role of SNP ad its present leader Madame Sturgeon can be disputable among UK citizens I suppose, but I can subscribe under his reflections in the last column with my both hands. Opportunity is not growing not only in UK, which has vast tools to stimulate it as this country proved in not so late past, but it is more general problem of modern societies in our continent. Why it happens so?

                  It is one of the main "unresolved challenges" young generation accuses our consecutive goverments for here, in Poland and emigrates intemittently or for good. Figures on papers about economy seem to look outsanding in general, but the reality looks from under these sheets like nothing on earth.

                  Where is the root of the problem?

                  As for Mrs First Minister some much more lightweight video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhbYaN5p5PI

                  I must confess I admire those women who dare being independent persons in their careers, they usually have some fresh household-like look on substantial matters some men do not care for.



                  ATB

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Depressed ... but saved

                    I remember walking out of a university exam and chatting with a fellow student, who was German, asking what she thought. She said she didn't understand half the questions! One of them, I don't know why I recall after 30+ years, was "British housing policy exacerbates inequity within tenure groups. Discuss." I got her point. Current students need not worry, as we don't seem to have a housing policy. Or many other policies on offer.

                    As AS indicates, it does not take a lot of effort to get depressed about (a) the level of political debate in the UK and (b) the likely outcome. I have taken recourse in Telemann:Ouverture & Concerti pour Darmstadt, recently released on the Alpha label. Beautiful.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      WHat's best for society overall?

                      Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                      The key point that he makes is that this inequality is the very stuff of which an economy and wealth creation is made even possible, and providing the opportunity is open to all to seize the chance and gravitate, then that natural process should be encouraged at every opportunity. ...
                      Agreed - to a point. I don't think being critical of inequality means that one necessarily wants everyone in society to be exactly the same. There's probably a level of inequality that's natural and healthy, or at least inevitable. But if it becomes too extreme, if too much wealth gets pushed upward to too few people, then I think society at large suffers.

                      One point I've heard made, and that makes sense to me, is that a distribution of, for example, an additional 1000 per year to all lower and middle income members of society is likely to benefit the economy far more than the distribution of the same aggregate amount to a much smaller group of higher income people, because the former will almost certainly spend the entire amount on basic goods and services, stimulating the economy, and the latter will not - they don't need to. It will be just more pooled capital that will not necessarily be put to productive use.

                      Also, the point about opportunity is well-taken: but while some inequality is probably a necessary spur to improving one's condition in life, perhaps too much could have the opposite effect? It's well-documented, for example, that the pay of top CEOs, as a multiple of the average worker's salary, is many many times higher now than it was a few decades ago. Is this disparity motivational, or demotivational? I don't know, but I'm guessing more likely the latter.

                      As I get older, I find I lose interest in political labels and ideologies. I want society to work well, and people to have the best lives they can - and the opportunity to achieve it for themselves, if they're capable of it. How best to achieve that, I really don't know.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Political Pursuasion

                        This was an interesting radio programme:

                        http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05pnw2x

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Elegant salvation and recourse.

                          Originally posted by ssfas View Post
                          I remember walking out of a university exam and chatting with a fellow student, who was German, asking what she thought. She said she didn't understand half the questions! One of them, I don't know why I recall after 30+ years, was "British housing policy exacerbates inequity within tenure groups. Discuss." I got her point. Current students need not worry, as we don't seem to have a housing policy. Or many other policies on offer.

                          As AS indicates, it does not take a lot of effort to get depressed about (a) the level of political debate in the UK and (b) the likely outcome. I have taken recourse in Telemann:Ouverture & Concerti pour Darmstadt, recently released on the Alpha label. Beautiful.
                          Glad you have liked last release of Alexis Kossenko and his Les Ambassadeurs. He is also exellent recordist and flautist . They carved out their position in early music world deservedly. Truly recommend, also catalogue from this label.

                          ATB

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Political debate and science = opposites

                            It seemed clear to me from the first TV debate I saw that there was little argument (intellectual), going on in the discourse.

                            What we have is propounded selected-truth portrayal of the situation by each party, and denigration of other party's views and positions.

                            That is no way to attempt to solve problems of design; can you imagine the sort of dialogue protocol we hear from politicians being used in an engineering or scientific context, with put downs and derision being the norm, and actual analysis being disregarded?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              A system for all?

                              It does seem to me that from an engineering/modelling point of view, that a few fundamentals would be agreed by all.

                              Surely a working man should have at least a basic home, perhaps state provided at a reasonable rent, food to eat, and enough money to be able to get tp work.

                              A position in life which is humble, say that of a road sweeper, does not lessen his needs at this basic level, nor should he be looked down on for his position; his inherent abilities and inclination may not be such that he does anything more, but he can still be a respectable, moral, decent human being with integrity.

                              The latter contrasts very much with what I see as obscene decadence and opulence in some of the extremely wealthy, some of whom show little in the way of good character, and who are often wasteful and unappreciative.

                              I do not see the acquisition of wealth as inherently evil per. se., and am very much in favour of industry producing artefacts which enhance the quality of life for all via the market, but as we all know this can mutate into a predatory paradigm which does not benefit people so much as consume their money.

                              How are we to create a system which addresses all of these vital aspects of living, without it morphing into something which fails to do so?

                              Comment

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