Politics and Economics

Healthcare professionals should not tackle obesity and other lifestyle conditions.

fat-man

In a paper published in The Lancet Researchers are calling for a national NHS slimming service after finding that patients could lose up to 21lb (9.5kg) if a family doctor took 30 seconds to book them into Weight Watchers or similar schemes, i.e. non-medical intervention.

When it comes to ensuring individuals make major lifestyle changes to combat conditions such as obesity, hypertension and smoking, it seems the “white coat” of the medical expert can be a hindrance to a successful outcome.

Psychologically the “patient” abdicates responsibility for their condition to the expert, whether it is a doctor, nurse or the healthcare system itself.  For a successful outcome individuals need to maintain responsibility for their own health.  If fact becoming a “patient” is part of this detrimental process.  “Patients” are seen as somebody that is broken and needs fixing.  Somebody who is passive, wounded, subservient and vulnerable. There is a stigma attached to being sick, which can be depressing and demoralising.  This leads to demotivation at a time when motivation is exactly what is required. The medical messages of doom and destruction, unless the “patient” mends their ways, are also counterproductive.  All in all, a downward spiral.

A better solution is to assign a “lifestyle coach” (who could be a medical expert by another name).  This reduces stigma and makes the “individual” (now not a patient) feel more positive.  Which is more palatable?  Having a nurse, with associations of decrepitude and bath chairs, or a coach?  Coaches should return power and authority to the individual and deliver positive lifestyle messages – i.e. do you want to have more energy?  Do you want to be more attractive?  Do you want a better sex life?  Do you want better and more refreshing sleep?

Psychometric testing can help to elucidate the individuals’ strengths and weaknesses and establish their attitudes towards food, exercise, stress, wellness, alcohol, drugs etc.  The coach can then tailor the lifestyle change programme and use an individual’s strengths to help overcome their weaknesses.

Lifestyle is not a medical condition, even if it may lead to one. Responsibility for weight loss, exercise, better diet, sleep and other lifestyle conditions should be taken out of the medical arena and returned to the individual. There will be better results and savings for the over stretched Healthcare budget.

Reference:

GP referral to weight loss program is effective, acceptable and takes 30 seconds

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Genetic Explanations, Politics and Economics

Why did David Cameron’s £1.3 billion Troubled Families Programme Fail?

The £1.3 billion Troubled Families programme was launched after the riots in 2011 to give intensive support to 120,000 of Britain’s most challenging families.  But it has had no measurable impact on cutting crime or changing their lives for the better, an official assessment reveals.

This scheme was also a failure of The Blank Slate Hypothesis.  This is an idea that optimistically believed that our personality and intelligence is solely the result of our interaction with our environment.  This is a comforting belief because Government policy can manipulate the environment (at a cost) and therefore change the outcome for its people.

The Blank Slate Hypothesis became fashionable after World War 2 because of its total rejection of the Nazi pseudo-science of Eugenics and the reassuring belief, for the ravaged post-war society, that everybody would be given equal opportunities to thrive.

The social restrictions in our society were removed through grammar schools, much improved state schools and greater access to universities and polytechnics.  Children with talent and motivation broke free across Britain.  Working class children shot up the social scale with talent in science, engineering, law, sports and the arts.  These talented people did well.  They earned a good living, achieved a higher social status and joined the affluent middle classes. This seemed to prove the Blank Slate Hypothesis worked.  Change the environment and the poor working classes do better.

Then recently this progress came to a screeching halt:

  1. The research highlighted in The Times on 17th June 2013 shows that the 24 largest research universities in the Russell Group admit a lower proportion of undergraduates from state schools and from poor families than ten years ago.
  1. Children from wealthier families were nearly twice as likely to leave school with five good GCSEs, including maths and English, as those from poorer families — 63% against 36%.
  1. It seems poor white children do worse than poor ethnic minorities despite having a similar “poor” upbringing and environment. i.e. poorer outcome, same nurture.
  1. Of the 20 top local authorities in terms of sending pupils to the prestigious Russell Group universities, 19 are in London and the south. Of the 20 worst-performing councils on the same league table, 18 are in the north.
  1. Social mobility is stuck.

So what happened?

We now know that intelligence and personality are largely inherited through our genes from our parents.  Combine this with one of the most passionate and time consuming aspects of human behaviour, i.e. finding a mate, and you have a very powerful natural force. Talented, motivated women generally seek and marry talented, motivated men.  They then generally have talented, motivated children. i.e. they cluster the genes responsible for these talented, motivated characteristics into certain sections of society. As these characteristics generally lead to higher earning potential they are more likely cluster in the affluent parts of society. Also these talented genes will move and cluster to where the best jobs are.  i.e. in London and the South East of England.

Or put another way, intelligent and motivated individuals tend to increase their social and economic status in a relatively socially mobile society. It’s not the posh getting cleverer, but the clever getting posher.

For new immigrants the social factors which have limited their progress until now are relatively recent, so we expect the genes for talent and motivation to be more numerous in poorer parts of their society as they haven’t had time to cluster in the more affluent parts of society.  This explains why poorer students from ethnic minorities out-perform their white peers. i.e. same nurture but better outcome.

We would predict that eventually there would be a more polarised genetic society as the genes for talent and motivation are slowly leached out of the working class areas and into the affluent middle classes.  Eventually social mobility will slow down and humanities educated journalists and politicians will conclude that more must be done to help the talented working class children who used to exist but have now mysteriously disappeared.

They then implement an expensive Troubled Families Programme and scratch their heads and wonder why it didn’t work.

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Genetic Explanations

What makes women happy? An evolutionary perspective.

Young women are suffering record levels of depression, post-traumatic stress and self-harm and are now three times more likely to have a mental health problem than men.

According to a recent NHS survey, conducted every seven years, 26% women aged aged 16 to 24 have a clinically recognised mental health condition. The compares to 9% of men.

So what will make women happy?

The last 3,500,000,000 of evolution is not about survival of a species but solely about the survival of our genes. Women have a much lower reproductive capacity than men and must carefully nurture the few children they can have to get their genes into future generations.

So we are reminded that all living things are effectively transient life support machines for our genes. A disposable container that passes our genes into future generations. Genes control the physical characteristics and inherent behaviours in all living things. There is overwhelming evidence that genes control human intelligence, personality and behaviour, much of which is hard wired.

Over the last 3,500,000,000 years our genes have finely tuned their life support machines to act in their best interest. When they need food they make us hungry, when they need water they make us thirsty. When they need to reproduce they make us impassioned. When they need to maintain copies of themselves in future generations they make us altruistic and nurturing for our children and grandchildren.

We are rewarded psychologically for good behaviour. The satisfaction of a good meal, the pleasure of slaking a fierce thirst, the warm afterglow of sex. The radiance of a young woman with a new baby.  The pleasure a mother gets seeing her children happy, fed, clean and healthy. All are incentives to help our genes survive.

We are also punished psychologically for bad behaviour.  The misery of following a life-course or career for which we are not suited or does not increase our reproductive capability.  The guilt of perceived poor parenting.  The desperation of a childless woman towards the end of her fertile years.  All are disincentives to act against the interests of our genes.

In the modern, gender neutral, politically correct world we sometimes forget what makes us happy.  And very often it is the simple things in life. The things the last 3,500,000,000 years has evolved us to do.

Perhaps in order to feel happy and fulfilled we should play the game.  We only get one shot at life.  Perhaps we should listen more to our bodies and less to politically correct ideology?

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Genetic Explanations

Why do women cry at the film “Me Before You”?

me-before-you-2

The central London screening for the new high-profile weepie Me Before You was mostly an all-women affair. There were free tights, hankies and low-calorie crisps on every seat. There were four men in the auditorium. The film was introduced by director Thea Sharrock, writer Jojo Moyes and star Emilia Clarke (from Game of Thrones).  The film is based on the book of the same title that spent weeks at the top of the best seller lists.

Me Before You told the story of an alluring, happy, working-class girl (Emilia Clarke) who is hired to care for a despondent, moody, upper-class, phenomenally rich, handsome, quadriplegic man (Sam Claflin). He is suicidal because he hates being paralysed.  Her job is to show him that being disabled is manageable and despite his severe disability his life can still be enjoyed.

Apparently this film had the entire female audience in tears, much to the confusion of the few men present, who thought the film was terrible.  One later asked what is wrong with these women that they cry at such a contrived and awful film?

There is nothing “wrong” with women, they are just different to men.  To say this however is deemed politically incorrect.

It was in the communist Soviet Union that the phrase “politically correct” was born. i.e. something could be demonstrably untrue or scientifically incorrect but politically correct because it supported their particular political philosophy.

It may shock us to our core but women and men are fundamentally different, on average. They are wired differently.

We may also ask ourselves why Mills and Boon novels are so popular.  J.K. Rowling sold 400 million Harry Potter books in an 11-year career.  Mills & Boon sell 200 million formulaic female romantic fiction novels worldwide every year.  And this is only one publisher of this popular genre.

50 shades of Grey is a book written by a woman and the film is directed by a woman.  The audience for both was predominantly women.

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice created the formula for most female fantasies written since 1813:  Young, inexperienced girl meets older, aloof, condescending but rich and very powerful man, who she initially dislikes but with whom she feels a strong physical attraction.   Her latent physical desire for him causes her body to “betray” her and she ends up dancing with him against her better judgment and conscious will (the modern version has her having passionate sex with him against her conscious will).  He does male things like hunting, fencing and shooting.  She is pretty, intelligent and gentle.  She manages to tame this rogue as her own through her personality, intelligence and common sense.  Eventually he is tortured by his love for her and has eyes for nobody else, despite having a whole world of women to choose from.  He proposes to her and she admits she loved him from the start but didn’t know it.

Neither books nor films are substitutes for real relationships and physical contact, but perhaps the popularity of this genre gives us a peek  into many women’s subconscious fantasies.  It seems this is what many women want.

A few evolution based scientific facts to back up this clever and much used formula:

  • Women are generally more attracted to men of a higher social status than themselves.
  • Women are generally more attracted to men of equal or higher intelligence than themselves.
  • Women are generally more attracted to men who are attractive to many other women (think One Direction and the rich and powerful)

This formula doesn’t work if the man is a lowly manual labourer or has learning difficulties.  The disabled addition in this particular film plays to womens’ naturally more nurturing hardwired behaviour.

Women will choose high social status men (a proxy for good genes) to ensure their own genes have a good chance of survival in future generations.  To prove high social status takes a bit longer so women tend to go for successful, older men (4 years older in the UK on average).  Men had different evolutionary pressures so evolved to behave differently, on average.

Much of this behaviour is hard wired, as is our sexuality and our urge to have sex with attractive members of the opposite sex.

This film is basically a formula designed by psychologists and evolutionary biologists to appeal to women.  Much the same concept as Teletubbies, which was designed by child psychologists to appeal to toddlers.  The purposes of both ventures was to make money.

Feminism is concerned with how the world ought to be.  Science is concerned with how the world is.  Unfortunately 100 years of feminism does not undo 3,500,000,000 years of evolution.

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Genetic Explanations

The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness

girl-depression

A recent UK Department for Education study into the mental wellbeing of 30,000 teenagers found that girls were more than twice as likely as boys to suffer symptoms of mental ill health.  The proportion of girls with anxiety or depression has risen by 10 per cent in a decade.

The study was one of the largest of its kind and involved in-depth interviews with thousands of teenagers aged 14 or 15. It was based on a similar study carried out in 2005, allowing researchers to compare trends over time.

37% of teenage girls had three or more symptoms of psychological distress, such as feeling unhappy, worthless, and unable to concentrate, compared with 15 per cent of boys. Instances of depression and anxiety in boys had fallen since 2005, but risen by about 10 per cent in girls.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 14.32.33

Researchers said that some of the increase could be attributed to “pushy parents” and “peer pressure” but these factors were not wholly responsible.  Also, social media was blamed for putting pressure on girls to lose weight, look good, be popular and achieve academic success.

This decline in female happiness started in the 1970s and was noted in 2009 in a major academic study (The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness):

“By many measures the progress of women over recent decades has been extraordinary.  Given these shifts of rights and bargaining power from men to women over the past 35 years, holding all else equal, we might expect to see a concurrent shift in happiness toward women and away from men. Yet ….measures of subjective well-being indicate that women’s happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men. The paradox of women’s declining relative well-being is found across various datasets, measures of subjective well-being, and is pervasive across demographic groups and industrialized countries. Relative declines in female happiness have eroded a gender gap in happiness in which women in the 1970s typically reported higher subjective well-being than did men. These declines have continued and a new gender gap is emerging — one with higher subjective well-being for men.”

It seems that this decline in happiness of young women has continued since 2009 and is now resulting in depression.

As this steady decline in happiness has been noted in women since the 1970s we cannot blame social media, modern technology or recent changes in parenting, although they may be contributory factors.  Perhaps we should look at more fundamental changes in the structure of our society since the 1970s instead?

We must remember that all living things are effectively transient life support machines for our genes. A disposable container that passes our genes into future generations.  Genes control the physical characteristics and inherent behaviours in all living things.  There is overwhelming evidence that genes control human intelligence, personality and behaviour.

Evolution has occurred at a glacial pace over the last 3,500,000,000 years. Each tick of the evolutionary clock is about 250,000 years, so we are very similar to our ancestors of 50,000 years ago.

Women have a much lower reproductive capacity than men and must carefully nurture the few children they can have to get their genes into future generations.  The evolutionary pressures on men are different.

Over the last 3,500,000,000 years of evolution our genes have finely tuned their life support machines to act in their best interest.  When they need food they make us hungry, when they need water they make us thirsty.  When they need to reproduce they make us impassioned.  When they need to maintain copies of themselves in future generations they make us altruistic and nurturing for our children and grandchildren.

We are rewarded psychologically for good behaviour.  The satisfaction of a good meal, the pleasure of slaking a fierce thirst, the warm afterglow of sex. The radiance of a young woman with a new baby.  The pleasure a mother gets seeing her children happy, fed, clean and healthy. All are incentives to help our genes survive.

We are also punished psychologically for bad behaviour. The misery of following a life-course or career for which we are not suited or does not increase our reproductive capability. The unbearable guilt of perceived poor parenting.  The desperation of a childless woman towards the end of her fertile years.  All are disincentives to act against the interests of our genes.

In the modern, gender neutral, politically correct world we sometime forget what makes us happy.  And very often it is the simple things in life. The things the last 3,500,000,000 years has evolved us to do.

Perhaps in order to feel happy and fulfilled we should play the game.  We only get one shot at life.  Perhaps we should listen more to our bodies and less to politically correct ideology?

So perhaps this unhappiness is caused by women trying to be something for which they had not evolved?  Perhaps the creep of feminism since the 1970s is a contributory factor?  Perhaps women are not getting the necessary psychological rewards in a modern, gender neutral, politically correct world?  Perhaps the “sexist” 1960s philosophy was right.  Many women just want to get married and have babies.

Genetics works on a population level and cannot be used to make predictions about individuals.  However, the decline in female happiness since the 1970s occurs on a population level.

Anybody seriously interested in the happiness of women must consider all possibilities.

References:

The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness (academic reference)

Further reading:

Feminism, childlessness and female unhappiness – an evolutionary explanation

Men and Women Evolved with Conflicting Interests – why we don’t always get along

 

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Education, Genetic Explanations

Gender based learning difficulties – why do many more boys struggle than girls?

Boys Learning Disabilities

Sian Griffiths, writing in The Times recommends that you should  “Give your son a leg-up: treat him like a girl.”

According to this article it is parents who are mostly to blame for the lack of educational attainment in their sons.  The rest is caused by a gender-biased society influencing academic achievement.

Ms. Griffiths and the authors of this study seem to be keen advocates of the flawed “blank slate hypothesis”.  This believes that who and what we are as individuals is solely dictated by our environment, education and upbringing.

This article notes two phenomena:

  1. There is a difference in the rate and level of educational attainment between the sexes, with many more boys struggling at school than girls.  This is not new.  We’ve known this for decades.
  1. Parents treat male and female children slightly differently.  Again not new.  We’ve known this for millennia.

However, in a startlingly unscientific and unsubstantiated way they have rammed these two phenomena together and assumed that they are causative.  Not only that, but they have assumed that the way parents treat boys affects their educational attainment.  There is no reason why they should not have chosen the equally unverified and unsubstantiated assumption that parents treat boys differently because their educational attainment is different.

Both assumptions are demonstrably untrue.  Identical twin, sibling twin and adoption studies have conclusively proven that the primary factor driving intelligence and academic achievement in a modern, progressive, relatively socially mobile environment (such as the UK) is genetic.

There is also a demonstrable genetic difference in the variance of intelligence between the sexes.  Not only do girls mature mentally and physically before boys but there is a difference in the variance of intelligence between the sexes.  There are many more males than females with learning difficulties and many more males of very high intelligence than females.  The average intelligence of both sexes is broadly similar.

The references cited below have separated out what is caused by inherited DNA sequence and what is caused by everything else.  So we know these differences are not cultural.  Additionally, this article deals with the extremes.  There is no controversy that there are more males than females with learning difficulties.  This article refers to a million boys over the last decade who have fallen behind.  This is the extreme “left tail” of the standard distribution curve of male intelligence.  These results are what we would expect to see.  We have known about this issue since at least 1932.

If Ms. Griffiths wants to be taken seriously as an educational journalist, she should refer to the proven differences in educational achievement caused by genetic inheritance to ensure balance in her writing.  After all, the “blank slate hypothesis” has been comprehensively discredited so she needs to find another explanation for these differences.

It seems that political correctness continues to overcome scientific fact.

References:

Further  Listening:

Intelligence: Born Smart, Born Equal, Born Different  (3 Podcasts from The BBC on the genetics of intelligence).

What makes some children smarter than others?  Professor Robert Plomin talks to Jim Al-Khalili about what makes some people smarter than others and why he’s fed up with the genetics of intelligence being ignored.

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Politics and Economics

Hierarchy of Argument

Graham's_Hierarchy_of_Disagreement.svg

 

The rise of social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter and this website) and the ability to respond to online newspaper articles has ensured that we are more able to debate and disagree with the author. Agreeing tends to motivate people less than disagreeing and there’s less to say.

So,  there’s a lot more disagreeing in the modern, connected world. Many debate anonymously using a pseudonym rather than their real identity, which allows people to be abusive and behave differently than they would if they were face-to-face with their opponent. Trolling is the modern equivalent of poison pen letters and easier to execute.

Consequently the quality of disagreement in online debates is poor.

I found this model, Grahams Hierarchy of Disagreement useful in holding people to account on the quality of their argument.

Name-calling.

This is the lowest form of disagreement. We’ve all seen comments such as “you’re stupid / racist / sexist / homophobic”.

But it’s important to realize that more articulate name-calling has just as little weight  e.g. “the author is a self-opinionated dilettante” or “America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilisation in between” (Oscar Wilde).

Ad Hominem.

Ad hominem is Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”.  It is short for argumentum ad hominem and is a logical fallacy in which an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument (or persons associated with the argument) rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.  An ad hominem attack is not quite as weak as mere name-calling. It might actually carry some weight. For example, if a doctor wrote an article saying Government health spending should be increased, one could respond: “Of course he would say that.  He’s a doctor.”

This wouldn’t refute the author’s argument, but it may be relevant to the case. But it’s still a very weak form of disagreement.  If there’s something wrong with the doctor’s argument, one should say what it is; and if there isn’t, what difference does it make that he’s a doctor?

Arguing that the author is unqualified or lacks authority on a topic is a variant of ad hominem and is also ineffective.  Good ideas often come from outsiders with a fresh view of the problem.

Responding to Tone.

The next level up we start to see responses to the style of writing, rather than the writer. The lowest form of these is to disagree with the author’s tone  e.g. “I can’t believe the author dismisses the theory of evolution in such a cavalier fashion”.

Though better than attacking the author, this is still a weak form of disagreement. It matters much more whether the author is wrong or right than what is his tone.  The tone is subjective and doesn’t tell us if the author is incorrect in their conclusions.

Contradiction.

In this stage we finally get responses to what was said, rather than how or by whom. The lowest form of response to an argument is simply to state the opposing case, with little or no supporting evidence.

e.g. “I can’t believe the author dismisses evolutionary theory in such a cavalier fashion. Evolution is a proven scientific theory.”

Contradiction can sometimes have some weight. Sometimes seeing the opposing case stated explicitly adds to the argument, but references and evidence carries more weight.

Counterargument.

Here we reach the first form of convincing disagreement. Forms up to this point can usually be ignored as proving nothing. Counterargument might prove something. But it’s hard to say exactly what.

Counterargument is contradiction plus reasoning and/or evidence. When aimed squarely at the original argument, it can be convincing. But unfortunately it’s common for counterarguments to be aimed at something slightly different. More often than not, two people arguing passionately about something are actually arguing about two different things. Sometimes they even agree with one another, but are so caught up in their squabble they don’t realise it.

There could be a legitimate reason for arguing against something slightly different from what the author said.  For example,  when one feels they missed the central point of the argument. But when one does that it should stated explicitly that is what you are doing.

Refutation.

The most convincing form of disagreement is refutation. It’s also the rarest, because it’s the most difficult.  This is why the disagreement hierarchy forms a pyramid – the higher one goes the fewer instances one finds.

To refute someone one should quote them and then explain why the argument is mistaken. If one can’t find an actual quote with which to disagree one can give the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent  i.e. arguing with a straw man.

While refutation generally entails quoting, quoting doesn’t necessarily lead to refutation. Some writers quote parts of things they disagree with to give the appearance of legitimate refutation, then follow with a response from a lower form of argument, such as contradiction or counterargument.

Refuting the Central Point.

The force of a refutation depends on what is refuted. The most powerful form of disagreement is to refute the opponent’s central point.

Even as high as Refutation one can still see deliberate dishonesty, as when someone picks out minor points of an argument and refutes those. Sometimes the spirit in which this is done makes it more of a sophisticated form of ad hominem than actual refutation. For example, correcting minor mistakes in events and statistics. Unless the opposing argument actually depends on such things, the only purpose of correcting them is to discredit one’s opponent.

Truly refuting something requires one to refute its central point. And that means one has to commit explicitly to what is the central point. So a truly effective refutation would look like:

“The author’s main point seems to be <x> as he says <quotation> , but this is wrong for the following reasons….” Preferably with the addition of relevant evidence and authoritative references.

Even this formula can reveal deliberate dishonesty in a debate.  For example, the deliberate citing of poorly conducted or flawed research as evidence that the central point of the argument is wrong.  Examples of poor research are many, but even well conducted research can produce the occasional exceptional result.  It is mischievous to produce these as evidence when the author knows most other examples of well conducted research on the same topic proves a different conclusion.

So what?

So what good is all this? One thing the disagreement hierarchy doesn’t give us is a way of picking the winning argument in a debate. These levels merely describe the form of a statement, not whether it’s correct. A response that refutes the central point could still be completely wrong.

The most obvious advantage of classifying the forms of disagreement is that it will help people to evaluate the quality of what they read and if the responder is being intellectually dishonest.  An eloquent speaker or writer can give the impression of destroying an argument merely by using forceful words or getting amusing and memorable sound bites quoted repeatedly in the media.

But the greatest benefit of disagreeing well is that it will improve the quality of debate.  A debate should be about testing alternative solutions to a problem.  So, a better debate should lead to a better solution.  This benefits everybody.

Thanks to Paul Graham.

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Genetic Explanations

Chivalry – An evolutionary explanation

Chivalry

There are a number of psychological tests that can elucidate our moral compass i.e. establish what moral beliefs we all hold.  These tests can be applied to people from different cultures and belief systems.  From these tests we can demonstrate that mankind shares an innate moral code, independent of religious indoctrination or cultural teaching.  This moral code is hardwired in the same way as much animal behaviour is hardwired.  It is part of human nature.

Psychologists investigating how far our moral behaviour depends on the gender of the people who will be affected found that as a society we are far less willing to harm women than men. Test subjects were presented with a series of moral dilemmas. The first was based on the classic “trolley problem” where people are told that they are on a bridge above a railway line and can see a runaway trolley on course to kill five people. The only way to stop the trolley is to block its path — and the only thing big enough to do that is an overweight person leaning over the bridge. Do you push the person over, killing one to save many?

When given the choice between pushing a man or a woman overwhelmingly, by 88 per cent to 12 per cent, they went for the man. When asked why they chose the man examples of responses were ‘‘in a utilitarian situation, I value women and children over men”, “‘[pushing] a man is the moral thing to do” and “women are fragile and it would be morally wrong.”

This scientific study demonstrates an intuitive and moral protective feeling towards women based on a theoretical situation.  However, this is backed up by statistics that show that as a species we are also much more accepting of harming men in the real world.  In the UK men are the victims of 62% of violent crime.  They are also much more likely to die early and violently though accident and trauma. They account for 95% of work related deaths, 92% of motorcycle deaths and have three times the overall road traffic mortality rate as women.  Men account for 75% of suicides and are 68% of all murder victims.  And just to remind ourselves that as a society we are happy to deliberately put our young men in harm’s way, the statistics for UK military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan to May 2012 reports 582 male deaths and 8 female.

All the statistics seem to indicate that the world is a much more dangerous place for men than for women.  The lack of fuss over these statistics and the media obsession with violence against women shows that we are generally accepting of this fact.

This result is only a surprise if your starting assumption is that men and women are born with the same behavioural potential and society moulds us into different sexes.

Let’s accept the fact that we humans are an evolved species that has been built as a life support machine for our genes and to propagate them into future generations.  This process has taken 3,500,000,000 years.  Let’s also understand, like all other animals, that much of our behaviour is hardwired by our genes.  i.e. not learned.  Finally let’s understand that evolution takes a long time.  One tick of the evolutionary clock is about 250,000 years, so we are very similar to our ancestors from 30,000 years ago.  We now have an explanation for this phenomenon.

Men and women are fundamentally different, have been subject to different evolutionary pressures and are hardwired to behave in different ways to ensure survival of their genes.

Women have a pathetic ability to reproduce their genes, having only a limited number of pregnancies in a life time and generally only having one offspring at a time.  In our evolutionary past many women did not survive pregnancy and child birth. Their fertility declines sharply at 35 and falls off a cliff at 40.  Men’s ability to reproduce is limited only by finding enough willing or unwilling women to impregnate.  They are fertile for nearly all their life.  So, in evolutionary terms, women are more valuable.

An isolated population with 95 men and 5 women is unlikely to do well in the long run.  A population with 95 women and 5 men has a better chance.  Consequently men and women have been hardwired to protect women.  This also explains why men are more likely to take risks and to die in accidents and war.  We have evolved to be more willing to put men in harm’s way.

This is in the best interests of our genes.

References:

Moral Chivalry

Further reading:

Men are the main victims of violence and violent death

Why do men commit most of the crimes?

The Behaviour of Women and Why They Worry About How They Look – an Evolutionary Perspective

Women are either bisexual or lesbian, but rarely straight.

Female Bitchiness and Unsisterly Behaviour – An Evolutionary Explanation

Why human societies dislike female sexual promiscuity – an evolutionary explanation

Why Does 50 Shades of Grey Appeal to Women?

Why do male students get more first class degrees at Oxford University than female students?

Men and Women Evolved With Conflicting Interests – Why We don’t Always Get Along

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Liberty, Politics and Economics

Brexit – The Movie. A critique.

or stream the video here:  Brexit – the movie

Critique:

This movie revealed an EU that is relatively undemocratic, frustratingly opaque, often unaccountable and hopelessly bureaucratic. The EU’s accounts have not been transparent enough to be signed off by an independent auditor for years, which means it could also be corrupt. I was appalled to discover that democratically elected MEPs cannot suggest or initiate legislation (that can only be done by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats) and neither can they repeal legislation once it is on the statute books.

On the business side it covered the enemies of a successful economy: lack of competition, restriction of free trade, excessive regulation and (again) bureaucracy. All areas in which the EU excels.  The EU has restrictions on trade with countries outside the EU and this stifles competition.   It is also damaging the economic growth of poor African countries by preventing access to the EU markets for their farming produce.  The examples of it gave of free trade and lack of Government control and regulation unleashing an economic miracle in post-war Germany, whilst the UK economy drowned in Government regulation and bureaucracy (i.e. socialism) was compelling.  As was the example of the huge economic success of Switzerland, which is outside the EU and free of its regulation, bureaucracy and general centrally controlled interference and incompetence.  Switzerland also has some of the lowest levels of social inequality in Europe.

The film also made the excellent point that we don’t need trade agreements with other countries to trade with them. In fact the UK  trades with many countries without a trade agreement. In the same way my company doesn’t need a contract to sell products to our customers. They just buy according to our standard terms and conditions.

However, I thought their emphasis on Tate and Lyle and the decline of the British fishing industry was weak, as these are relatively old and small industries.  Examples of biotechnology and technology industries would have been more compelling.  The huge success of the Swiss pharmaceutical industry, despite being outside the EU, was briefly mentioned and should have got more prominence.  There should also have been some debate on the effect of EU membership on quality and quantity of scientific research in Europe.  And everything said by the editor of The Sun newspaper lowered the tone of the debate.

Mervyn King, the former Governor of the Bank of England thinks the economic impact of Brexit or remaining in the EU will be broadly similar:

All in all, I’m not convinced there will be an economic disaster if the UK left the EU. The CBI, IMF and other so-called economic experts have all been wrong before.  Very recently the IMF and EU said George Osborne’s economic plan for Britain would cause a major recession and mass unemployment. They were wrong.  UK has the strongest growth in the developed world and low unemployment.  The EU economy is a disaster, particularly in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy.  Unemployment levels are high and their youth unemployment levels are scandalous.  High European unemployment is predominantly caused by restrictive labour laws i.e. bureaucratic, Government intervention in the employment market.  Perhaps the UK’s economy is doing reasonably well despite, and not because of, EU membership.  Maybe we would do even better without the EU.

In any case there is also the future possibility of rejoining the EU, perhaps even negotiating better terms.

Even if it is proven that the EU gives specific economic benefit it would have to be huge to compensate us for not having a democratic and accountable Government making our laws.

If the Brexit debate is just about the economy why don’t we just sell our freedom and sovereignty to the highest bidder?  China may be prepared to pay us a lot more than the EU for the rights to make British laws.

The one opinion I really value is The Economist newspaper, which I have read religiously for over 25 years. I generally find their views agree with my own.  They are very much in favour of staying in the EU, which is why I am still wavering.

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Liberty, Politics and Economics

Should Muirfield Golf Club be allowed to ban female members?

Muirfield-Open-Championship

Muirfield Golf Club will not stage another Open Championship after maintaining its ban on women members.  The Scottish club said voting in favour of allowing female members had fallen just short of the required two thirds majority required to change its rules.

There are a very small number of single sex golf clubs in the UK and roughly half of them are women’s clubs.

A private club is a place where like-minded people can meet and socialise.  Effectively a private club is free to exclude anyone based upon any criteria, regardless of how bigoted those criteria may be.

Should The State have the right to dictate to its citizens how they socialise and with whom they socialise?  For example, by passing laws banning private clubs or dictating their membership criteria.   i.e. restricting the right of free association.  Certainly not in a free country.

There are many, many people (particularly on the left of politics) who would like nothing more than to restrict the social activities of the rich and privileged. In fact, they would like to control how society behaves and thinks in general.  They justify the consequent legislation, prosecution and bullying of citizens whose views are different to their own by claiming they are eradicating racism, sexism and inequality. This leads to social engineering and the terrifying concept of “The Thought Police” as portrayed in George Orwell’s  1949 novel Nineteen Eighty- Four and Stalin’s real-life Soviet Communist State.

It was in the communist Soviet Union that the phrase “politically correct” was born. i.e. something could be demonstrably true or scientifically correct but politically incorrect because it didn’t support their particular political philosophy.

To maintain a free society we are in the unfortunate position of having to support Muirfield’s right to have a private club and choose their own membership, even if we disagree with their decisions. In the same way we must support a person’s right to free speech even if they use this right to express bigoted views.

If we go too far in criticising the likes of Muirfield there is the danger of populist but well meaning politicians empowering State intervention through legislation, which would be much worse.  And when political correctness goes too far we have the additional danger of a potential counter-movement, which could be even more worrying – i.e. Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen.

So, a free society means giving our citizens the freedom to make bad choices and actively supporting that right.

Further Reading:

Discrimination by private members clubs and associations – overview

Why is it legal for some golf clubs to still be single sex?

How does the Equality Act 2010 affect private clubs and associations?

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Genetic Explanations

Women are either bisexual or lesbian, but rarely straight.

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When it comes to what turns them on, women are either bisexual or gay, but rarely straight, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by the University of Essex.

The study, which involved 345 women using eye tracking devices and direct measurements of genital physiological sexual response, found that “straight” women were strongly sexually aroused by videos of both attractive men and attractive women – even though they reported that they are only sexually interested in men.

This was in contrast to lesbians who showed much stronger sexual responses to women than men. It shows that lesbians are more male-typical in their arousal than “straight” women. It is usually men who show distinct sexual responses to their favourite sex.

According to the author, Dr. Gerulf Rieger, “this shows us that how women appear in public does not mean that we know anything about their sexual role preferences. Men are simple, but women’s sexual responses remain a mystery.”

An understanding of evolutionary biology will demonstrate that women’s sexual response is not a mystery but entirely explainable and predictable.  See below.

This research, published in October 2015, is supported by data in the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles  published in The Lancet in November 2013.  It is one of the world’s most comprehensive studies of changing sexual habits and it indicated a big increase in relationships between women.  The number of lesbian encounters has increased fourfold.  The percentage of females who say they have had a sexual “experience”, including kissing, with another woman has increased from 4% to 16%. The number saying they have had sex with another woman has gone up from 2% to 8%.  While the figure for women has increased fourfold in 20 years, for men it has barely changed — 7% for same-sex “experiences” and from 4% to 5% for physical sex.

What has caused this change?  Have women’s desires changed?  If not, are they more likely to live out their fantasies?  Or are they behaving as they have always done, just more likely to admit to same sex relationships in survey?

Many media articles on this subject have postulated the factors which could be “causing” more women to “change” their feeling of sexual attraction towards other women

For example:  seeing more friends indulging in same sex relationships affecting their sexual orientation; internet porn and computer games causing men to fail women sexually, “driving” them into lesbian affairs; recent media exposure to “celebrity lesbians” affecting women’s sexuality; witnessing lesbian relationships in books and films affecting women’s sexuality ……..

These articles are assuming that it is society that “causes” us behave in these ways, that because society expects certain behaviour we are more likely to adopt that behaviour.

None of the media articles commentating on a major survey about one of the most basic, primordial human instincts even mentions how genetics and 3,500,000,000 years of evolution may affect women’s sexual behaviour.

There is a convincing genetic and evolutionary reason why women are more likely to find each other physically attractive and men are less likely to find each other physically attractive.

Evolution is not about survival of the species, it is about survival of the genes.  All living things are a disposable container that has evolved to ensure its genes get moved forward in time.  Living things die.  Their genes don’t.  So any behaviour conferred by those genes, which increases the likelihood of their host having more offspring, will ensure more of those genes are passed to the next generation, amplifying that behaviour in future generations.

Evolution takes a long time.  One tick of the evolutionary clock takes about 250,000 years, so we are virtually identical to our ancestors from a mere 50,000 years ago. And our male and female ancestors have had very different evolutionary pressure over the previous millions of years.  Males and females have consequently evolved very differently.

Human females have a pathetic ability to reproduce, having no more than a dozen pregnancies in their lifetime. Each pregnancy is life threatening and she will generally only produce offspring one at a time. Human children are unusually vulnerable in infancy and take many years to reach maturity.  Women therefore engage in a long, energy sapping and life-threatening investment in their children to ensure these (few) offspring reach childbearing age.  She must choose her mate with great care to ensure her offspring receive beneficial genes from the father, which in turn maximises the chance of her own genes prospering in the next generation.  It also means she must carefully and selflessly look after the few offspring she manages to produce. She (i.e. her genes) has no other choice.  So human females have evolved to be more nurturing.

Human males produce 250,000 sperm every second and their number of offspring is limited only by their opportunity to impregnate willing (or unwilling) females.   Two strategies would work to increase the number of their genes in the next generation:  1. Look after their offspring, nurture them and ensure they reach child-bearing age  (i.e. copy the only strategy available to women);  2. Spread their sperm as far and wide as possible, have thousands of offspring and hope that some reach childbearing age.  A third alternative is the best.  Do both.  Men invest almost nothing in child rearing so it makes sense for them to take huge risks to have the opportunity to reproduce. So human males evolved to be more competitive and risk taking.

Women will choose high social status men (a proxy for good genes) to ensure their own genes have a good chance of survival.  To prove high social status takes a bit longer so women tend to go for successful, older men (4 years older in the UK on average).  Men are programmed to advertise their success and achievements in order to attract a high social status mate.

Men will choose younghealthy, fertile (i.e. physically attractive) women because their chosen mate primarily needs to be fit to survive 9 months of pregnancy and the years of childcare that follows. Men have evolved to visually select a mate on this basis.  Women have evolved for millions of years with this pressure.  Women are therefore programmed to try to look young and attractive in order to find a suitable mate.  Much of this behaviour is hard wired, as is our sexuality and our urge to have sex with attractive members of the opposite sex.  Heterosexual women also need to recognise these traits in their competition (i.e. other women).  Women easily know if another woman is attractive.  So, even heterosexual women have evolved to appreciate the female form, and for some this will go a bit further.  This answers the question  – why women can find each other sexually attractive.

As physical attractiveness is less important to heterosexual men than heterosexual women, men have generally not evolved to know if another man is physically attractive. They tend to compete on success and status.

The desires of men and women have not changed much in 50,000 years, however women are now able to admit to, and indulge in, more lesbian behaviour because we are more tolerant and open about homosexuality.  Technology has allowed anonymous sexual surveys leading to more honesty in answering survey questions; and the anonymity of the internet allows women to meet similar minded women online and explore their sexuality without having to go to a terrifying lesbian club by themselves.

Genetic research consistently shows that the effect of our environment on our behaviour is much smaller and much more transient than we imagine.  This is important because our politicians incorrectly believe they can make big changes to human behaviour by meddling in aspects of public social policy and personal liberty; whereas much of our behaviour is already hardwired by evolutionary processes.

I’m describing the is not the ought of human behaviour, and nothing here should make us believe we can predict the behaviour of individual men and women.  But please remember evolution is about survival of our genes and does not care one jot about human happiness, fairness or equality.

Further Reading:

Getting in touch with our female sexuality

National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles.

Sexual Arousal and Masculinity-Femininity of Women

The Behaviour of Women and Why They Worry About How They Look – an Evolutionary Perspective

Female Bitchiness and Unsisterly Behaviour – An Evolutionary Explanation

Why human societies dislike female sexual promiscuity – an evolutionary explanation

Why Does 50 Shades of Grey Appeal to Women?

Why do male students get more first class degrees at Oxford University than female students?

Men and Women Evolved With Conflicting Interests – Why We don’t Always Get Along

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Education, Genetic Explanations

Dr. Rachel Cohen is wrong about the modern causes of social inequality.

Acland Burghley, an inner-city comprehensive school in north London, invited the actor Damian Lewis (who has starred in TV hits such as Homeland and Wolf Hall) to switch on a laser display for their 50th Anniversary celebrations.

But a former pupil, Dr Rachel Cohen, a City University sociology lecturer, gets up a petition. Lewis, she says is a “wholly inappropriate choice” to take part in the school’s celebrations. Is this because he is a paedophile, a wife-beater or a drug addict?  No.  It is because he went to Eton, which she said “embodied the reproduction of privilege and inequality in the UK”.  According to Cohen, the actor didn’t represent “real Burghley values”.

Dr. Rachel Cohen has fallen into the trap of good logic based on a false premise.  It goes something like this:

Talented and motivated children are produced at random and are equally spread in society regardless of social class or parental income.  And the only way to nurture and develop that talent is to go to a school with high levels of financial resource – e.g. a private school.

This logic concludes that private schools produce a disproportionate number of talented individuals because more money is spent on honing that talent. And that this is unfair to equally talented children who do not receive the same opportunities.

The basic premise of this argument is demonstrably wrong.

In actual fact talent and motivation, in whatever form, is mostly genetically inherited from our parents. It is not allocated randomly.

Up to World War Two, there was little social mobility because of the way British society was structured.  If you were born into coal mining village before the 1930s there was a very high likelihood that this is where you would stay, regardless of talent.  Genetic studies (identical twin / adoption studies) up until World War Two confirmed that social class had an impact on our eventual social status.

After World War Two there was an enormous social mobility due to Grammar Schools, public school scholarship and much improved State schools.  As the social restrictions in our society were removed children with the genes that coded for talent and motivation broke free.  This happened across Britain with working class children shooting up the social scale with talent in science, engineering, law, sports and the arts.

These talented people did well.  They earned a good living, achieved a higher social status and joined the affluent middle classes.  They married other talented and motivated individuals and had children who had a higher than average chance of inheriting their parents’ genes for talent and motivation.  As these (now middle class) children had parents who were more affluent they also had a higher chance of being sent to a private school.

So effectively, genes for talent and motivation starting leaving the working class areas (such as coal mining villages) after World War Two and became middle class. 

We would predict that eventually we would see a more polarised genetic society as the genes for talent and motivation are slowly leached out of the working class areas.  Social mobility will slow down and humanities educated journalists and politicians will scratch their heads and wonder why, and then conclude that more must be done to help the talented working class children who used to exist but have now mysteriously disappeared.

Genetic studies since World War Two confirm that social class has relatively little impact on our eventual social status.

The irony is breath taking. Increased household income inequality and slowing levels of social mobility are the result of society becoming more equal. Talented children are still reaching their potential, it’s just that more of them are now middle class.

The class-war warriors, socialists and genetics ignorant sociologists (such as Dr Rachel Cohen) had a laudable dream of equality whereby poor working class children would be fairly and equally represented in society.  They made the assumption that talented and motivated children where thrown up by society at random.  i.e. that talented and motivated children are equally spread across class and relative affluence.  So once “equality” was achieved they imagined a world where there would be a fair representation of working class originated talent in the top echelons of society in perpetuity.

They were wrong. Society is now much more equal, but because talent and motivation are largely genetically encoded the talent has just migrated to the affluent parts of society by the process I have described.  This process is called assortative mating.

Genetics is probabilistic not deterministic.  However, so is the macro level consequence of its effect.  It is more likely that talent will migrate to the middle classes, in a society that is relatively socially mobile, by the process of assortative mating.  So 7% of all students who attend private schools make up 40% of Oxbridge intake, for example.  Not 50% or 100% but 40%.  So 60% still come from the State sector.  This disproportion is explained by assortative mating, not by discrimination.

But this is not enough for the class-war warriors, socialists and genetics-ignorant sociologists (such as Dr Rachel Cohen).  They would want the 7% of students who are privately educated to make up 7% of Oxbridge intake. i.e. not equality of opportunity but equality of outcome.

Our future is not entirely genetically determined and I have no doubt that good schools with quality teachers still make a difference. We should continue do everything we can to ensure that individuals from all parts of society have access to an excellent education and quality careers with equal opportunity to succeed on merit alone.  But if we are to have a serious debate on helping the “disadvantaged” we need to look at all causes of “inequality” and move away from the discredited 1960’s assumptions that it is explained by “nurture” and “class”, which is what Rachel Cohen believes.  Our sociologists should learn a little about evolutionary biology and genetics before making these wild assumptions.

Further Listening:

Intelligence: Born Smart, Born Equal, Born Different   (three BBC radio programmes on the genetics of intelligence)

References:

Twins early development studies

Differences in students’ GCSE results owe more to genetics than environment:

IQ is in the Genes

Why Poorer Students Are Underrepresented In Top Universities – an Evolutionary Perspective

One Cause of Inequality: More Rich Marrying One Another

Marry Your Like: Assortative Mating and Income Inequality

Women, Men and the New Economics of Marriage

How Much Difference Does a Good School Make to Your Child’s Academic Achievement?

Getting ’em young (The Economist looks at the impact of early years education)

We can’t ignore the evidence: genes affect social mobility

 

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Liberty

Liberty and the morality of foetal “gendercide” abortions.

Foetus

We’ve known for years that the selective abortion of female foetuses is a common practice in cultures where the economic value of women is considered lower than men.  In many Middle Eastern and Indian cultures parents live with their sons and their daughter-in-laws.   Their sons are valued for their ability to provide a secure and comfortable retirement. The more sons one has, the more secure and comfortable the retirement, and the more daughter-in-laws to provide the domestic duties.  Daughters also require an expensive dowry in India, but in Middle Eastern cultures the future husband buys his wife.  This may be why India has more gender-based abortion than the Gulf States.

The problem is worse in China where the one child policy has exacerbated the problem.  In some provinces the ratio is 130 boys to 100 girls, whereas we would normally expect a ratio of 103 to 108 boys to every 100 girls. Other East Asian countries, including Taiwan and Singapore, former communist states in the western Balkans and the Caucasus, and even sections of America’s population (Chinese- and Japanese-Americans, for example) all have distorted sex ratios (reference). The statistics don’t seem to reveal much evidence of gendercide in the UK, with the exception of the figure for Chinese immigrants (109 boys to 100 girls). Gendercide exists on almost every continent. It affects rich and poor; educated and illiterate; Hindu, Muslim, Confucian and Christian alike.

So gender-based abortions around the world are carried out primarily for economic reasons.  Perhaps a better way to reduce this practice is to increase the economic value of women by social change, rather than by draconian abortion law?

Abortion is often carried out for other economic reasons, including in the UK, where any two doctors can argue that allowing a pregnancy to go to term is more dangerous for the mother than an early abortion.  The fact that a full pregnancy is also now very safe seems to be irrelevant in this argument.   The UK effectively has abortion on demand.  Many UK abortions are carried out because the future child (boy or girl) is inconvenient to the mother’s current economic circumstances, education or career.  In the rich world, where another pregnancy is unlikely to result in a threat to the mother’s health or cause her real poverty, this amounts to a lifestyle choice.   Exactly the same philosophy results in gendercide when extended into cultures where boys are more economically beneficial than girls.

This may be pointing to a conclusion that abortion is morally wrong and should therefore be heavily restricted.  However, by restricting something that is wrong is not necessarily right.  Often the restrictions make matters worse.  As a society Britain has reluctantly agreed that abortion is a necessary evil.  This is often for good practical reasons rather than good moral ones e.g. : to prevent dangerous amateur abortions; protect women’s physical and mental health; prevent many unwanted children being brought up by reluctant mothers; acknowledging pregnant women can travel abroad for abortions…..and a recognition that women are valuable economic members of our society, who have their own rights and a vote.  So let’s be clear that British society has not decided that the lifestyle of the mother is worth more than the life of the future baby. It has decided that making abortion illegal is worse than making it legal.

But perhaps even more could be done to stop women having unwanted pregnancies in the first place?

As a society we should work very hard to ensure that abortion is safe, legal and very rare.

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Politics and Economics

Is recent extreme populism a reaction to extreme political correctness?

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Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans and Chinese have all been insulted by Donald Trump. In August, he accused a popular news presenter of asking questions about his serial misogyny because she was menstruating — and his poll numbers rose.

He enraged much of the British establishment this week by suggesting that Muslim-dominated parts of Britain had become no-go areas for police. Yet the latest poll suggests that 35 per cent of Republican voters, the highest figure yet, want him as their presidential nominee.

There is a misguided campaign to have Mr. Trump banned from the UK because of his populist views. I don’t support his views either, but he has the right to express his opinions and voters have the right to listen to him, make an informed choice and vote for him. And his populism is not alone.   In Europe populists are in power in Poland and Hungary, and in the governing coalition in Switzerland and Finland. In the first round of the French regional elections on 6th December, the far-right National Front (FN) gained the largest share of the national vote. The FN’s leader, Marine Le Pen, and her niece each polled over 40%. 

This far-right populism is perhaps a natural reaction to the con of political correctness gone berserk.  The con is the flawed belief that a human being is born as a malleable lump of clay that can be manipulated and moulded by society into anything that we want.  i.e. social policy can liberate people from their own limitations, flaws, personal inadequacies and insecurities through legislation and indoctrination.

The problem with political correctness  (if there is one) is that it has a strong vision of how the world ought to be.  Inconvenient truths are met with denial followed by shrill personal attacks and screams of “racism” and “sexism”.  Like all idealists (including socialists) there is little debate about how the world actually is and little effort to find pragmatic solutions and compromises.  This can lead to very poor and expensive decision-making, as many real-world facts are not considered before choosing a chain of action. We now experience constant change regarding gender identity, roles in society and social, sexual, racial and religious equality.  We are moving beyond laudable intentions around equality of opportunity to the dangerous premise of equality of outcome – irrespective of possible average natural differences between the classes, races and sexes.

But for the vast majority human happiness is based on security, familiarity, predictability and conformity.  i.e. understanding your place in the world and knowing how to navigate it.  Fundamentally most people don’t like change.  Change management is an enormous industry in the world of work for this reason.  Trade unions desperately try to stop the world of their members changing because it is considered harmful and stressful.

Small groups of people with a “cause” are highly motivated to change the world to suit their own agenda.   They have energy and intelligence to seize power through the media and government and then change the world to suit their own personal grievances.  But they are often a minority and their constant moving of once-taken-for-granted certainty in our societies causes stress, anxiety, confusion and unhappiness for the majority.

Perhaps Mr. Trump and Ms. Le Pen are speaking for a significant number of voters who believe that political correctness has gone too far.  It is possible to have too much of a good thing.  Political correctness must be reigned back and infused with real world truths or we risk voters supporting these populist extreme counter-measures, which would be much worse.

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Genetic Explanations

Intersex, hermaphroditism and evolution.

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“Intersex” is a modern term for hermaphroditism.  It is used to describe a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the commonly accepted definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to have a female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. Or a person may be born with genitals that seem to be in-between the usual male and female types.

There are signs of intersex issues filtering into mainstream life in the same way that transsexual issues did before Caitlyn Jenner’s celebrity transition brought them into the limelight.  An MTV teen show, Faking It, features a character who happens to be intersex.  Intersex or hermaphroditism has been long recognised as a medical condition since ancient times.  What may have changed is society’s recent better acceptance of an indeterminate sex.  Or rather re-acceptance, as indeterminate sex was better accepted in ancient times – along with other un-modern concepts such as eunuchs.  It makes sense to allow an intersex individual to reach puberty before letting them make an informed choice regarding their body’s sex.  We know that the sex of their brain will make a big difference to the sex they will choose their body to be.

The development of the human body and brain into the sexes is a complex process.  This includes the interaction of genes, hormones and environmental factors (e.g. disease, drugs and pollutants) at different times during our development in the womb, immediately after birth and during puberty.  Variations in this elaborate process can cause brain development and body development to fall outside our commonly accepted ideas of gender.  For example a male brain inside a female body (or vice versa) and indeterminate sex organs. To this extent what we currently call “transsexual” and “intersex” have a similar root cause.

In terms of evolution it is important to understand that nature has no intent.  Evolution is not sentient and not trying to be anything.  Evolution is driven by natural selection and to work its magic it needs variation from which to choose.  Variation is driven by random genetic events.  Intersex individuals are therefore not unnatural and are just part of the evolutionary process that provides natural variation without which life on this planet would have stalled at the single cellular stage.  Of course if the natural variation results in a biological format with a reduced ability to reproduce we would expect their numbers to be low.  And in the case of intersex individuals they are relatively rare –  less than 1 in 2000.

If society is able to accept the modern view of evolution by natural selection then intersex individuals should not feel like freaks but simply as normal individuals who are different to the average.

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Liberty, Politics and Economics

Liberty, Employee Rights and Mental Health

We now live in a world where employee rights trump good business decisions.  Companies are increasingly forced to accept employees based on our social engineers idea of “equality” and “fairness”.  These misconceived philosophies are based on an assumption that we are all equally capable and any difference in ability is down to racism, sexism or some other type of bigoted discrimination.

Pregnant women must be given equal rights, allowed to leave work for extended periods and demand equal pay when returning to the workplace despite missing out on vital experience in the meantime.  This creates a strain on all businesses but particularly small businesses when competing in world markets.  We are now being asked to relieve the work and make allowances for menopausal women who may have problems concentrating or coping with their symptoms.

There are effectively quotas for gender, and disability and race are increasingly mentioned in order to socially engineer a society with equality of outcome.

Fair enough many would say.  Our businesses are at a disadvantage when competing with China, South East Asia, etc. etc., but the social benefits outweigh the economic cost.

However there has recently been a push to extend the concept of disability to mental health.  We understand that a work place must accommodate a person in a wheelchair for example and we should not fire somebody or discriminate against them because of a physical disability.  But we are now asked to do the same for people with mental health issues.  People with physical disabilities can do almost any job so long as there is some physical help.  This is not true with mental illnesses, whose sufferers often cannot even face going to work. They may have problems processing information, communicating effectively with colleagues and they can be unpredictable and occasionally dangerous.

The idea that a person must be able to do the job they have been hired to do seems no longer applicable.  Nowadays the workplace is not about building a successful and efficient business but about creating secure employment for everybody in society.

However, this politically correct policy carries considerable risks.  The driver of a bin lorry that crashed in Glasgow killing six people and injuring 15 others had deliberately misled doctors over his history of mental blackouts that caused the fatal accident.   The pilot of a Germanwings A320  who deliberately crashed his aircraft, killing all 144 people on board, had previously been treated for suicidal tendencies.  We now understand that half of all fatal air accidents involve some sort of pilot error.   This should strengthen the case for closer monitoring of employees and their mental health — and eventually for removing them from jobs where they may kill or injure others.  We already understand that political correctness in employing people with mental health issues creates a huge economic cost but now we find that it also creates a huge human cost.

Companies should not be legally forced or morally pressured to employ anybody or retain them unless they believe they can effectively and safely do the job for which they are hired.

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Education, Politics and Economics, Religion

How can we tackle Islamic terrorism?

Islam came out of the xenophobic and violent Arab / Bedu culture of Saudi Arabia. It was then spread violently by conquest throughout the Middle East, Far East, North Africa and into Southern Europe.   The sword on Saudi Arabia’s flag celebrates this fact.

We used to say that there was nothing more dangerous than a fool with a cause. But a fool with a cause who believes they are carrying out God’s will is literally capable of anything. Any genocide, any atrocity, any sacrifice.

In Britain we have three pillars of the State – The Monarchy, The Church and Parliament and they are all largely independent.  The Church and Monarchy have been suitable neutered and liberal parliamentary democracy rules supreme.

Islam is not just a religion. In Islamic countries it is not part of the state, it is the state. It is also an ideology that seeks total control over its citizens in their personal life, their economic life and their political life.  In Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, Yemen, Sudan, Pakistan Somalia and Afghanistan Sharia is the only source of legal decisions. Stoning to death, beheading and amputation of limbs remain a legal form of punishment for such crimes as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery, theft and homosexuality.

In the West we value rational, evidence-based debate, democracy and the rule of law.  Much of Islam values only irrational religious doctrine written down over 1000 years ago for goat herders living in a different age.

The problems of the Middle East can be summarised into a series of failed nation states.  The only stable Middle East countries have autocratic leaders and they quickly dissolve into chaos if they are deposed (Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt…).  The national borders are contrived and their populations have more loyalty to their tribe and their Islamic religious sect (Sunni, Shia, Wahibists, Aliists…) than they do to their nation state.

The same will be true of many Muslims in the UK.  Some would rather fight and die for their fellow religious sects in Syria and Iraq than their own country.  There is also a deafening silence from the many moderate Muslims who will not criticise their religion’s extremists. A few meager conciliatory words from a couple of media contrived Muslim “leaders” but where are the marches and mass participation campaigns on social media – either in the West or the war ravaged Middle East?  Again they have more loyalty to their religion than their community.

Clearly these values are incompatible with liberal Western values and our idea of the Nation State.

Worse still, these poisonous views have now infested our Western cities where they are passionately held by legitimate Western citizens.

So what is our solution?

Western liberal values and the fear of further provoking these evil extremist groups prevents us from isolating Islam for particular attention. We are a society that is comfortable making “The Life of Brian” but would recoil from considering making the Islamic equivalent.

However we have a long history of neutering the power of religion in order to achieve peace and build our Western democracies.  By religion we meant Christianity, but from now on it must mean all religion.  i.e. any form of irrational, unsubstantiated, superstitious belief.

We can criticise and defeat the generic ideas behind Islam without inflaming and offending one particular religious group.

All religions must pay the price for peaceably neutering the power of extremist Islam, because if we accept the philosophy of one religion we must accept them all.

Firstly we must protect our children from this evil.  Any religious indoctrination should be seen as a form of child abuse.

We do not have ”Conservative children” or “Labour children” or “Socialist Workers children”.  We accept that a child does not have the maturity and knowledge to give their consent to a political ideology.  We do not allow political activity in our schools, do not allow children to join a political party and we do not allow them to vote in a general election.

We believe the same is true of sexual activity.  We do not have “gay children” or “heterosexual children”.  Children cannot give consent to sexual activity until 16.

Restrictions on political and sexual activity is intended to protect naïve impressionable minds from the sinister manipulation of predatory adults.

We should have similar policies towards religion.

How can we have a “Jewish child”, a “Muslim child” or a “Christian child”?  Have they made an informed choice? Given their consent?  The sinister power of indoctrination over young and impressionable minds has been known to Catholics for centuries.  Their priests claiming, “if you give me a child, I will give you the man”.

No child should be forced to adopt any form of religious activity in schools until they are old enough to give their informed consent.  This would eliminate faith schools and the form of religious apartheid that exists in Northern Ireland and Glasgow.  It would starve extreme religions of their future brainwashed, indoctrinated disciples.  All Jewish and Muslim schools would be banned and all forms of religious clothing and adornment could not be worn in schools until the child is old enough to give informed consent.

Britain would still have complete religious freedom of expression, exactly the same as we have political freedom of expression and sexual freedom of expression.  But only when the person is old enough to give informed consent.

Secondly all religious activity must be viewed with suspicion and prevented from spreading its ideas using the machinery of State. No State sponsorship or tax breaks for religious activity.No special treatment for religious groups in our democracy (e.g. no automatic right to bishops in the House of Lords). Furthermore religious belief should have no privileges when drafting laws. No automatic right to Halal or Kosher food and no special exemptions from employment law based purely on religious doctrine. No pandering to religious belief when setting our national curriculum. No politesses when teaching our children the realities of evolution. No laws that hinder free speech for fear of causing offence.

Finally there must be more education and open debate about the dangers of irrational, illogical, superstitious belief.  We should be free to criticise these generic religious beliefs and ridicule and hopefully dissuade all those people that follow them.

This is very unfair on the moderate religions. It is also not a perfect solution but the best available solution.  But we let this evil into our societies and extreme measures must now be taken to keep it under control whilst protecting our liberal Western ideals.

Islam cannot be tackled head on without provoking more violence. But its fundamental tenets can be demolished with allegory, analogy, comedy and satire.  This should be further backed up with an insistence on logical, evidence based debate, democracy and the rule of law.

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Religion

Does terrorism have anything to do with Islam?

This argument boils down to defining the single, true and pure meaning of a particular religion.  This is an impossible task.  Muslims are as unlikely to agree on the true meaning of Islam as any other religion.  This is despite having a text, written in the original language that they all agree is the word of God.  Shias, Sunnis, Sufis (and at least 8 other sects of Islam) all disagree on its interpretation and within each sect there are many sub-sects.

And even individuals in each sub-sect will disagree on the correct interpretation of any particular passage in the Koran.  I was recently having dinner with a group of 8 Muslim friends (4 men and 4 women) and we discussed a passage in the Koran that allows a man to take up to 4 wives, so long as he treats them all equally.  Bear in mind that polygamy (only for men of course) is legal in all Muslim Countries.  So it seems that this interpretation of the Koran has been universally accepted.  However the next passage in the Koran states “but of course he can never treat them all equally”.  To the women in the group and at least one of the men this changed the meaning to the opposite view i.e. that a man cannot have more than one wife.

The point about anything as irrational, superstitious and unsubstantiated as religious belief is that you can infer anything you want from their ancient texts and then justify your actions by claiming God’s will.  They would not be alone in cherry picking convenient facts to support an entrenched view of the world.  Followers of political and social movements do the same. “In the messenger of God you have a beautiful model of behaviour” states the Koran. It matters just as much to jihadists and “moderate” Muslims who would never contemplate violence that validation for what they do is indeed to be found in biographies of Muhammad. Politicians and journalists who take it on themselves to define what is and is not “authentic Islam” are buying into the notion that such a thing actually exists. Unless one is a fundamentalist believer, it does not.  The concept of accepting that there is a single authentic interpretation of Islam plays into the hands of violent extremists who want the world to believe just that.

In any case, what Islam was meant to be is irrelevant.  I remember having a discussion about the practice of communism in the former Soviet Union with my parents during my philosophically idealistic youth. I felt that it was unfair to dump the extreme human rights abuses of the Soviets on the doorstep of Communism because they weren’t actually following “proper” communism.  It was called the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) after all.  However my parents dismissed this argument saying that what we saw in Russia and Eastern Europe was practical Communism.  Whatever it was meant to be, this is what you got.

A review of the Muslim world of the last decade or so makes lamentable reading: 9/11 trade center attack; 7/11 tube bombings; Madrid train bombings; genocide, public executions and public beheadings in Syria and Iraq; mass slaughter of Pakistani school children; murder of non-Muslims in shopping malls in Muslim Africa; ethnic cleansing, kidnapping and sex-slavery of school girls in Nigeria; Malaysian nightclub bombings; Bali nightclub bombings; US embassy bombings; USS Cole; Lee Rigby; Russian airline bombing; 2 Paris massacres, massacre at a Kenyan University…..

It seems that Islam is currently more open to a violent interpretation than other mass religions.

We must remember that Islam came out of the xenophobic and violent Arab / Bedu culture of Saudi Arabia. It was then spread violently by conquest throughout the Middle East, Far East, North Africa and into Southern Europe.   The sword on Saudi Arabia’s flag celebrates this fact.  The prophet Muhammad is said to have owned a sword whose name can be translated as “Cleaver of Vertebrae”. We used to say that there was nothing more dangerous than a fool with a cause. Well, a fool with a cause who believes they are carrying out God’s will is literally capable of anything. Any genocide, any atrocity, any sacrifice.

Conversely, the violence we are seeing in the Muslim world may well be against the true meaning of Islam for most of its followers.  But so what?  They don’t have a monopoly on the true meaning any more than their violent, murderous, Jihadi brethren.

What we have around the word is practical Islam.  Whatever Islam was meant to be, this is what you get.

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Politics and Economics

A Greek exit from the Euro is now the best possible outcome for Greece and the Eurozone.

The Eurozone nations would be foolish to bail out the Greek Economy without insisting on the structural reforms necessary to stop a repeat performance in a year or two.

And why should only Greece get special access to no-strings-attached free money?  Why should Germans be forced to retire at 67 so Greeks can retire at 55? A Greek bailout at Germany’s expense would cause a landslide of further left-wing governments in Portugal, Spain, Italy and elsewhere with hands outstretched and beaks wide open. The Greek debt is barely manageable by the Eurozone but an emergency bail out of any of the other larger economies would cause a pan-European economic catastrophe.

Greece’s existing deal with its creditors is very lenient.  Its private debts have already been largely forgiven and the remaining €243 billion of debt is to be repaid with outrageously low interest rates over a very long repayment period.  Its interest payments are currently less than 3% of GDP, which is manageable even for Greece.

The sad irony for the Greek people is that their economic fortunes had finally started to recover when Syriza came to power.  For the first time since the first Greek bail out five years ago the Greek Economy showed modest growth and a small budget surplus (excluding interest payment) in 2014.

Syriza should have used this firmer economic base to confront the pervasive tax evasion, abysmal public administration, inflexible markets and rampant corruption to drive further economic gains for the Greek people.  Instead it has embarked on a shambolic campaign to disprove the laws of arithmetic by insisting on implementing fantasy socialist economics without the cash to fund it.  This includes reversals to labour-market reforms and promises to raise the minimum wage to pre-crisis levels, both of which are madness in country with 50% youth unemployment.  They also plan the restoration of pension increases when they should slash early retirement rights to prevent more people switching from employment to dependency.  Their planned rehiring of thousands of public sector workers and the scrapping of privatisation projects is unaffordable and if they cannot collect income tax there is no choice but to raise more VAT, which they also oppose.   Their proposals would both breach Greece’s agreed bail-out terms and wreck the economy.  Since Syriza came to power the economy started shrinking sharply and the small budget surplus has once again descended to a massive shortfall.   This is despite increasingly desperate measures such as raiding the funds of municipalities and delaying payments to suppliers.

In 2001 Greece used some opaque and creative accounting to fool the EU’s auditors into believing it had a budget deficit of only 1.5% of GDP.  It subsequently emerged that the true deficit at the time was more than 8%, which is well above the 3% limit set out in the Maastricht treaty and would have prevented it joining the Euro.   If the Euro is to endure its rules must be enforceable. Mr. Tsipras is still ignoring those rules and he has torn up the legal agreement made by the previous Greek Government with its creditors .

So Syriza have done nothing to rebuild trust and economic credibility and many doubt that Greece would honour any future promises it makes.  Creditors are likely to demand more onerous terms than before and a rigorous inspection process to ensure the terms are honoured.  This is unlikely to be acceptable to the Greek people let alone Syriza.

Syriza’s adolescently amateurish diplomacy has alienated many of the Eurozone countries previously sympathetic to Greece’s plight. Mr. Tsipras’s courting of the sabre rattling Russian regime currently annexing parts of Ukraine, hysterical allegations of criminality against the IMF and revisiting claims of war crimes and demands of reparations from Germany are hardly going to win sympathy and influence with its allies.

Syriza’s conduct sets a poor precedent and if successful would open the door for other states to behave similarly in order to get access to free money from its partners.

Astoundingly these acrimonious economic and political disputes relate to the relatively trivial issue of how to conclude Greece’s second bail-out. Even if a deal is patched-up the funds will be immediately swallowed up.  Greece will still need to negotiate a third bail-out of about €50 billion. And unless Greece makes the much needed but much hated structural reforms this would still not be the end of it.

Compared to the last Greek economic crisis in 2012 the Eurozone is better prepared to manage a Greek exit. Its banks are well capitalised and have virtually no exposure to Greece; a large bail-out fund is established; quantitative easing is supporting bond and equity markets; and the weak euro is boosting exports.  A Greek exit would also dissuade other vulnerable Eurozone countries from dragging their feet on structural reforms and drain support from their extreme populist political parties.

So Syriza’s almost comical diplomatic and economic ineptitude has precipitated a situation where a Greek exit from the Euro and a re-launch of its own currency (the Drachma) is now the only realistic solution for any sort of independent long-term economic recovery.

By restoring the Drachma, Greece could have the flexibility to continually adjust its value on international currency markets to levels that cushion it from the shocks that are currently devastating its economy.

This is how it works:

Suppose on international money markets 100 Greek Drachmas is worth 1 Euro.  So a product that Greece was producing for 200 Drachmas costs 2 Euro in Germany. During a crisis the Drachma can be revalued to 200 Greek Drachmas to 1 Euro. Now when Greece exports its products to Germany its prices are much lower.  A product that costs 200 Drachmas to make is now selling for only 1 Euro, instead of 2 Euros.  This increases exports of Greek products to Germany, which supports Greek businesses and creates employment.  The Greek government gets more tax from successful domestic businesses and has lower costs because there is less unemployment and associated welfare costs.

Of course this also makes Greek imports more expensive.  Now if Greece wants to buy products and raw materials from Germany it has to pay twice as much.  To import a product from Germany which cost 1 Euro is now costing Greek businesses 200 Drachmas instead of 100 Drachmas.  This has the effect of causing Greek consumers and businesses to buy their products and raw materials from within Greece, which further boosts their economy.  It reduces imports and boosts domestic trade.

Furthermore Greek workers are still on the same salaries, which have the same buying power within Greece.  They will not notice a difference to their living standards unless they go on holiday in Germany where they will find prices very high.  This will encourage them to holiday at home further boosting the Greek Economy.  Also Germans will find being on holiday in Greece very cheap, so they will come in larger numbers, further boosting the Greek tourist trade.

So the ability to devalue a currency helps to smooth the problems of an economic crisis in poorly managed economies.

Now let’s consider the options for the Greeks if they share the same currency as Germany.

The Government cannot afford the interest payments on its loans and cannot borrow more so it must reduce Government spending and pay off some of the loans.  It must pay its public sector workers less salary and reduce government spending.  Greek industries are uncompetitive so they must reduce their costs too.  They must pay lower salaries and find further cost saving in its production.  This is not easy and lower salaries in Greece means lower spending by consumers causing the economy to slow further.  Germany has no incentive to buy Greek products or visit Greece on holiday, because it is just as expensive for them.  Unemployment stays high, which increases the costs to the Greek Government in unemployment benefit.  This means less money for investing in Greek infrastructure and industry that is essential to make them more competitive.

The situation is made worse for Greece if the German economy starts booming.  The value of the Euro will rise causing Greek exports to be even more expensive on international markets, which will cause their economy to slow even more.  This is because exchange rates are set at a level appropriate for the larger German Economy, not the smaller Greek economy.

To ensure that countries like Greece do not continue to mismanage their economies and cause future crisis within the single currency it is essential that their tax and spending policies are aligned with countries like Germany. Greece likes the economic security of the Eurozone and the financial protection it offers, but it seems they also do not want to to have their economic policies influenced by larger states.  They cannot have both.

This bailout is no longer working and a Greek exit from the Euro is now the best possible outcome for the Eurozone and Greece.   It will restore to Greece control of its economic destiny and restrict the consequences of its economic policies mainly to Greece.  It will also restrict an economic catastrophe to a mere disaster.

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Politics and Economics

The Problem with the Greek Government’s Economic Policies.

Mr. Tsipras and his government are socialists. The basic philosophy of socialism is a strong sense of entitlement to other people’s wealth.

His logic will be the same as any other socialist, who has a strong social agenda but rarely a credible economic one:

i.e. “I need a certain amount of income to live a decent life therefore I am entitled to have it.

If I’m unable to earn this much myself then somebody else must make up the difference:

1.   My employer must pay me more for my efforts (minimum wage)….or……

2.…. my next-door neighbour (who earns more than me) must give me some of their income (intra-generational redistribution of wealth)….or

3.…The Government must borrow more money, give some to me and get my children and grandchildren to pay back the debt (inter-generational redistribution of wealth)…..or…..

4.….a combination of 1,2 and 3.”

As a country Greece cannot demand a salary increase from its employer, although this would doubtless appeal to Mr. Tsipras if it could.  So he is resorting to 2. Expecting his rich European neighbours, such as Germany, to give him money by writing off debt and 3. Taking on more Government debt and expecting his country’s current and future children to pay it back.

Socialism is often merely self-interest justified by ideology and in a normal socialist economy the sense of entitlement to other people’s wealth is legitimised by democracy.  i.e. to claim that most people in the country voted for redistribution of wealth so it is legitimate to implement it.  Mr. Tsipras is using democracy as justification for his current stand.  But he has forgotten that whilst Greece has democratically voted itself the right to more free money, that Germany, as a separate country, is equally democratically entitled to refuse to give it.

It reminds me of the worse days of the trade union excesses of the 1970s when they would decisively vote themselves a 40% wage increase and then were scandalised when their “democratic will” was not fulfilled by “management” or the prevailing government. They failed to understand that voting for something didn’t automatically mean it was practical or affordable.  All the Greeks have done in electing Syriza is to vote for an end to austerity. As did the French in 2012.  Look where it got them.

The concept of earning the money you want to spend does not compute in the socialist psyche.  So Greece has now reached the inevitable fatal flaw with socialism:  Eventually you run out of somebody else’s money to spend.

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Politics and Economics

The UK would benefit by leaving the EU

The EU is trying to reconcile the differing social and political aspirations of its diverse 28 member states. The UK has a long, proud and independent history in these areas. It created the model for modern democracy. It initiated and developed common law that protects all and is a model for the rest of the world. It has bravely fought for social justice including establishing trial by jury, abolishing slavery and fighting the Nazis. It is rightly suspicious of delegating these responsibilities to largely unelected and unrepresentative European bureaucracies that do not share its cultural and social heritage.

The UK joined the Common Market when it was primarily a free trade zone. This was for predominantly economic reasons and at a time when it was “the sick man of Europe”. Undemocratic militant unions, the troubles in Northern Ireland and run-away profligate socialism were devastating its economy. These problems have since been solved and it is Europe that is in an economic malaise. The UK’s recovery from the last great recession has been hampered by the poor economic performance of its European partners.

It is right that the people of the UK should be given a choice on whether to continue membership in a referendum. Since it joined the Common Market in 1973 it has morphed from a trading zone to the EU super state, with ambition to dictate social, political, economic and foreign policy. A new democratic mandate is required for this massive change of circumstance.

Few in the debate believe that Britain cannot manage its political, social and foreign policy at least as well as the EU. Sovereignty of its own Parliament can ensure it can tailor these issues to better match the specific will and needs of its electorate, without interference from unrepresentative politicians from other independent states.

It is the UK’s economic future that is driving many to consider staying in the EU. However the UK is still a large economy and one with which many countries would want to trade. As a newly Independent state the UK could set up a new free trading zones and agreements with its more affluent northern European partners – Germany, Netherlands, Scandinavia, Ireland – and any other countries who were competitive enough to join.

The Common Market was set up in an age when geographical proximity was essential for the trading of goods and services.  In the modern, online, connected world physical borders and geographical proximity are irrelevant for much of the world’s trade. The UK’s free trading agreements could therefore be extended to include countries with which the UK has strong language and cultural links but no geographical proximity: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and and India. It could further cement its “special relationship” with the world’s biggest market – the USA.

Many of the services in which the UK excels (financial and legal services for example) can be done largely online. Meetings can be held by videoconference. Ideas can be shared online with collaborative software. As can scientific and industrial research. So we can also add digital technologies into the mix: telecommunications, media; advertising; marketing and market research. The UK has unique world-class skills in the production of films, television programmes and computer games. Professional sport is a very affluent and growing industry. Cultural and language links will allow particular benefits in the free trading of all these industries and services – more than could be achieved within the language and culturally diverse European market. The ease with which physical goods are currently circulating between these countries would naturally ensure they were also included in these free trade agreements.

The UK would be further benefited by not being tied to countries creating an economic drag on the EU and consequently the UK: Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy.  Their expensive social policies and the strait jacket of the Euro will ensure their economic woes will not be quickly or easily be remedied.  Without the EU the UK would be free to open up better opportunities with more diverse economies such as China and Japan.

These new trading blocks and agreements would be based solely on economic free trade. This would eliminate most of the social and political tensions and the subsequent market distortions and bureaucracy created by the EU super state structure and ambition.

Leaving the EU would be a short-term economic risk but with time and ambition the lost economic benefits could be mitigated and then massively exceeded. Over-and-above the long-term economic benefits the UK would also regain the freedom to follow its own unique democratic, political, cultural and social destiny.

 

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Politics and Economics

The Labour Party has missed the real trend acting against them – the colossal rise of Individualism

Labour has missed the real trend which is acting against them.  It is not the anti-austerity yearning of Scotland, or the anti-immigrant sentiments of the working classes in the North of England.  It is not even the rising aspiration in the Midlands and South of England.  What Labour has failed to see through their statist, collectivist eyes is the colossal rise of individualism.

Society has moved on from Henry Ford’s “you can have any colour you like so long as it’s black” philosophy   We are the internet generation and do not need to identify with mass movements in order to express ourselves.  We can define ourselves very precisely on social media and advertise and revel in our many similarities and differences with people across the globe.  We believe that what we buy is a reflection of who we are and there is a mesmerising diversity on the market.  Just look at the car market.  Choose your colours, body styles, interior designs, mood lighting, car audio, Sat Navs, engine size and type, gear box…define it on the web and the manufacturer will make it – just for you.  No need to buy an LP record anymore, create your own playlist on iTunes from a whole world of music.  No need to buy your clothes from the store on the high street but go online and find exactly what you think projects precisely who you are and how you feel.  We are less likely than our elders to consider ourselves part of any particular religion and less likely to join a political party or a trade union.  We can tailor our world to exactly fit who and what we believe we are.  A highly individual, tailored personality.

Part of this tailored identity resides in where we are from.  There is now more identity with local geography i.e. North and South, Yorkshire, Welsh, Cornish, English and Scottish, rather than British. The rise of nationalism in Scotland should not be a surprise.  Many Scots don’t identify with the English and Labour’s campaigning with The Tories (“The English Party”) against Scottish Independence lost many voters.  After all, 45% of Scots wanted independence.   The English, London based, Middle Class personalities running the Labour Party alienated even more Scots. This was not an argument about austerity and extent of left-leaning political positioning. It was an argument about the desire for a tailored personal identity expressed as a localised, geographical belonging.  The UK’s disaffection with the EU is following a similar trend.

Work has also become less collectivist.  The mass employment coal, steel and car industries are long dead.  Automation has taken manufacturing jobs.  We are more likely to start our own business than our forbears.  Starting a business online is easier than ever before.  We make our living designing web sites, apps and computer games.  Online we sell our marketing skills, our ability to write, entertain and solve problems.  We can advertise our spare room for B&B and our car as a part time taxi.  Our local bespoke businesses can now reach a global audience, be it in IT, local food and beverage or art and craft.  We make a living from millions of small industries.  We now get our employment protection through employment law and the EU, not from our politicians and trade unions.  Politicians are only important in creating an environment where these businesses can flourish.  They cannot control business as they did in the 20th Century. They cannot control the internet, let alone nationalise it.

So we are not collectivist.  There is no more tribal belonging.  Our individualism can be expressed in so many ways through commerce, in social social media and fashion.  We believe we have a right to express ourselves by what we consume and how we choose to live.

Organised Labour and Trade Unions don’t connect with this new reality.  The Labour Party are arguing there is no point offering “Tory Light” politics and that they should go back to their core vote and historic beliefs.  i.e. the traditional left position by offering classic statist, collectivist, trade union supported, high tax, high spend, nanny-knows-best politics.  The Tories, however inadvertently, stand for individualism and personal freedom.  They believe individuals should have the economic freedom to spend more of their own money themselves and they are increasingly advocating more social freedom with the passing of laws around gay marriage for example.  They believe in a small state that doesn’t interfere with our personal lives and doesn’t tell us how to think, what to buy and how to live.  They are the party of free enterprise, individualism and free expression.

In the modern, highly individualistic, personality tailored world who do you think will win?

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Politics and Economics

Despite the scale of Labour’s electoral defeat its supporters are still in denial.

Labour’s denial of why they lost the 2015 General Election is symptomatic of a chronic mental condition called “idiopathic socialist ideology”. It seems that its sufferers have such an overwhelming delusion that their beliefs, logic and thought processes are right (and that everybody else is wrong) that they fail to detect, interpret and internalise opposing points of view.

Involuntary motor-neurone symptoms include inappropriately enthusiastic clapping on Question Time every time a left wing politician so much as farts and knee jerk reactions to perceived social and economic inequality. In extreme cases small groups of those afflicted can be seen shuffling along public streets holding placards and robotically shouting inane slogans.  Sufferers can also have paranoid delusions that the media is deliberately disseminating toxic opposing views and that non-sufferers are particularly stupid for believing them. Their delusions are further manifested by a ludicrous belief that they are the only ones immune to the media’s propaganda because they are intellectually and morally superior.

This condition further exhibits itself with impaired social interaction whereby its sufferers speak very loudly to people expressing contrary opinion (often even shouting) and hurling Tourette-like ad hominem insults in debates, on social media and in the press. Sometimes they are even deliberately offensive to people who don’t share their delusions.  This aggressive and anti-social behaviour is very cathartic for the sufferers but unfortunately it creates a downward spiral in their symptoms, as they are subsequently further angered when they inevitably fail to change the opinions of the people around them.  Sufferers are further deluded by thinking that this behaviour enhances their self-image as a virtuous individual.

Currently there is no cure for this serious mental condition. Fortunately, however, it is self-limiting.  The recommended treatment is a repeat subscription to The Guardian and to quarantine the sufferers into the Labour Party, where they will not interact with society at large.  Consequently their symptoms can be contained by only interacting with a shrinking number of sufferers with similar delusions.

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Genetic Explanations

Why Does 50 Shades of Grey Appeal to Women?

50-Shades-of-Grey-2-1

50 shades of Grey is a book written by a woman and the film is directed by a woman.

Feminists have called for the film and books to be boycotted, arguing that they legitimise domestic violence, glamourise sexual abuse and reinforces the concept of the dominant male.

However, the book and film are read and watched predominantly by women.

Why do women find this plot so compelling?

Actually this is nothing more than a Mills and Boon bodice ripper for the internet porn generation.

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice created the formula for most female fantasies written since 1813:  Young, inexperienced girl meets older, aloof, condescending but rich and very powerful man, who she initially dislikes but with whom she feels a strong physical attraction.   Her latent physical desire for him causes her body to “betray” her and she ends up dancing with him against her better judgment and conscious will (the modern version has her having passionate sex with him against her conscious will).  He does male things like hunting, fencing and shooting.  She is pretty, intelligent and gentle.  She manages to tame this rogue as her own through her personality, intelligence and common sense.  Eventually he is tortured by his love for her and has eyes for nobody else, despite having a whole world of women to choose from.  He proposes to her and she admits she loved him from the start but didn’t know it.

A few evolution based scientific facts to back up this clever and much used formula:

  • Women are generally more attracted to men of a higher social status then themselves.
  • Women are generally more attracted to men of equal or higher intelligence than themselves.
  • Women are generally more attracted to men who are attractive to many other women (think One Direction and the rich and powerful)

Men and women are having now having much less sex than previous generations and modern women are much less satisfied with the little sex they have.  In fact women’s overall happiness has declined markedly compared to our parents and grandparents  – both absolutely and relative to men, whose happiness has stayed static.

The sociologists explain this lack of sex and lower satisfaction as a lack of a “sexual script” in modern relationships.  The result of our more gender equal, politically correct society is that couples don’t fancy each other as much.  Put simply seeing a man in a pinny and doing the school run is not a turn-on for most women.  What modern women have is a “life partner” to help run the house and family, whereas our grandparents had a passionate lover (at least until the war or children came along).

Moreover our modern, intelligent, career successful women are finding it hard to find a male partner of a higher social status than themselves.  This is called the “Sex in the City Syndrome” –  the modern world has many single, lonely, childless, career successful, 30+ women who have been unable to find an adequate sexual partner.  i.e. a man who really turns them on.  The depth of their unhappiness (and childlessness) has been recently documented by social commentators and researchers.

Apparently seeing men doing physical male things and women doing gentle female things is a turn on and a precursor to great sex – even our politically correct sociologists admit this. Evolutionary biologists have a much better genetic explanation, but it results in the same conclusion.

Let’s get this is perspective.  J.K. Rowling sold 400 million Harry Potter books in an 11-year career.  Mills & Boon sell 200 million formulaic female romantic fiction novels worldwide every year.  And this is only one publisher of this popular genre.  So it seems this is what many women want.

Women have made enormous gains in social and economic equality since 1970.  But despite this their subjective feelings of happiness have declined in real terms and relative to men’s, whose happiness has remained fairly constant (reference: The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness).  So perhaps the success of 50 Shades of Grey is picking up on women’s dissatisfaction with their asexual, politically correct, gender equal lives.

Ask yourself it the formula would work if the hero was of a lower social status (an unemployed labourer for example), less intelligent than the heroine, not masculine or physical and fell at her feet like a soppy puppy from the moment they met.

No, 50 Shades of Grey is female fantasy as it ever was.

References:

The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness

The Third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles

Summary of results from the 3rd National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles

Egalitarianism, Housework, and Sexual Frequency in Marriage

Childlessness and female unhappiness – an evolutionary explanation

Men and Women Evolved With Conflicting Interests – Why We don’t Always Get Along

How to marry well: meet at University

Why is Generation Y having less sex?

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Politics and Economics

Is Syriza the solution to Greece’s economic problems?

The root of the Greek economic crisis is that they have been living beyond their means.  They paid themselves too much for producing too little and made up the gap with excessive borrowing.

Greece is an extreme example of a problem that left-leaning economies in the West have failed to address for more than a generation.  There is a significant disparity in global labour costs.  The average worker in the West earns $135 per day; the average worker in urban China earns $12 per day.

What entitles the rich world’s 500 million workers to salaries ten times greater than the 1.1 billion workers in urban bits of the developing world?

(Full, brilliant article is here:    $135 – $12 = the pay gap the West can’t bridge.)

Greece has bigger problems because this issue is compounded by massive tax evasion, out-of-control corruption and a culture of taking Government hand-outs and public-sector salaries without giving anything in return.  Greeks can retire at 58 and some professions retire even earlier.  Clearly this has to end and the previous government was working hard to achieve this.

So now that Greece cannot borrow any more it must stop overpaying itself.

There are three ways to do this:

1. Devalue your currency.

Advantage:  A tried and trusted mechanism that would have lowered their wages on international markets.  This lowers domestic costs of production, which boosts exports and reduces imports whilst maintaining domestic living standards – so long as Greeks buy home grown goods and services.

Disadvantage:  Doesn’t address the main structural problems of the Greek economy.  It is just delaying much needed economic and structural reform required to address low productivity, tax evasion, corruption and a “something-for-nothing” culture.  Also devaluation only works if a few countries use it.

Greece cannot devalue its currency as it is in the Euro.  So it must choose from the other two options:

2. Cut Wages.

Advantage:  This quickly addresses the problem allowing Greece to regain competitiveness in international markets, boosting exports, attracting internal investment  and creating economic growth.

Disadvantage:  Causes an instant reduction in living standards, which creates hardship, which reduces consumer spending, which slows down the internal economy further.  i.e. the economy gets worse before it gets better.

This is painful solution but it is a shortcut to growth.  Ireland used this method and quickly returned to growth after initial hardship.  It concentrates the pain over a shorter time period than the only other alternative which is…..

3. Freeze Wages

This is a slower way to achieve a wage cut because it relies on inflation slowly eroding the wages compared to living costs –  i.e. eventually causing an effective pay cut.  The UK government has adopted this approach along with devaluation.

Advantage:  Less painful way of cutting wages but…

Disadvantage:  …delays the time it takes to regain competitiveness on international markets.

This is effectively the same solution as 2 but stretched over a longer time period.

The Greeks have suffered over the last few years but they required significant restructuring in order to develop a strong, sustainable economy.  The medicine was working as Greece has slowly returned to growth and even has a small budget surplus.

Now Syriza want to adopt the usual socialist solution to a budget deficit – that is to get somebody else to pay for it.  In this case they want Germany to write off their debt.

Many reference the 1953 London Debt Agreement that reduced Germany’s war debts by 50% and stretched the repayment of the remaining debt over a longer period.  This led to German economic growth so surely this could also work for Greece?  This may well be true, but at the time it was only Germany’s debt that was being written off.  Poor old Britain repaid all its war debts, with the last payment being made to the USA on 29th December 2006.  But this time we have France, Italy, Spain and Portugal waiting in the wings with beaks wide open and palms out-stretched.  Any hint of weakness towards the Greeks will cause a landslide of similar political extremism and a similar expectation that their debts will also be forgiven. Why should Greece have special treatment?

In any case the Greeks have already been given voluntary debt forgiveness by private creditors.  Banks have slashed billions from their debt.  Their remaining official debt has a 16-year maturity and an average coupon of 2.4%. So despite Greece’s extraordinarily high public debt (175% of GDP last year) successive concessions have already eased its debt-servicing charges so that annual cash interest payments are now only 3% of GDP.

And yet Syriza has pledged to go on yet another spending spree. They have promised to launch a welfare package worth €2 billion; to rehire 12,000 sacked civil servants; to give a massive increase in the minimum wage and to freeze privatisations. They have agreed to tackle tax-avoidance and cronyism but these are unlikely to do enough to pay for their profligate promises.  They will quickly return Greece to the mire from which it is slowly extricating itself.

The best compromise is for Syriza to jettison their ludicrous socialist economic policies and negotiate some further debt relief, perhaps by further pushing back the payment schedule (as did Britain in the 1950s), in return for further political and structural reforms.  Greek wages must be linked to productivity, they must retire later, reduce their public sector costs to an affordable level and clamp down on corruption and tax evasion.

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Politics and Economics

The Greeks vote for Syriza. Is this the end of austerity or fantasy economics?

The Greeks voted emphatically for the radical left wing Syriza party who claim they will reject austerity.  The UK Labour party might look wistfully for inspiration from Syriza, reassured by Ipsos Mori polling that shows half of voters in the UK think no more cuts are needed.

This coincides with some 15 Labour MPs led by Michael Meacher and Diane Abbott leaping on the success of Syriza in the Greek elections by demanding that Ed Miliband reject austerity. They released a signed statement aimed at persuading the Labour leader to pledge significant state investment in the economy and jobs, instead of backing swingeing public cuts.

It’s difficult to know if these Labour politicians and voters are being economically illiterate or populist or both.

It reminds me of the worse days of the trade union excesses of the 1970s when they would decisively vote themselves a 40% wage increase and then were scandalised when their “democratic will” was not fulfilled by “management” or the prevailing government. They failed to understand that voting for something didn’t automatically mean it was practical or affordable.

All the Greeks have done in electing Syriza is to vote for an end to austerity. As did the French in 2012. Look where it got them.

These statements avoid the obvious question of how they will pay for the public services and welfare they want and this in turn highlights two of the many problems with socialist economics.

Firstly they believe money comes from taxation, an impersonal and limitless ATM in the sky, rather than the hard earned income of taxpayers. Extra taxation can always come from the “rich” – a vague, nebulous, undefined collection of immoral capitalists who are just queuing up to hand their money over to the exchequer. Somehow they always overestimate their numbers and under-estimate their global mobility. Something the French have learned very quickly.

Secondly they have not grasped the simple fact that if you want to borrow money somebody has to be prepared to lend it to you. The more you owe, the higher the risk of default so the more the lenders charge to cover the extra risk. Eventually the risk becomes so great, because the interest is so high, that lenders will stop lending. The UK’s interest rates are only low because the lenders see a plan to bring spending under control.

Have you noticed that left-wing politicians love applying fancy labels? The group of 15 leftist MPs were given a boost by Peter Hain, the veteran Labour MP and party grandee, who made a separate intervention yesterday that echoed their sentiments. He said “capitalism that dominates today requires far more radical responses than the neoliberal, right-wing orthodoxy of the post banking crisis era could ever provide”. This sounds very grand. Giving contrived labels to things is a trick used by many academics to make a simple subject sound intellectual. Pompous language helps left-wing politicians fool naïve voters that they are thoughtful and clever and know what they are talking about. This is because the simple language “we hope to spend our way out of our catastrophic debt ” is not as convincing.

These statements by Labour’s back benchers is the reason why Labour cannot be trusted with the economy. Labour must now convince the country that they can manage the country’s massively reduced public spending capacity for the foreseeable future. The Labour front bench may believe they can do this, but it is clear that their political paymasters (Unite and the GMB trade unions) and their socialist Labour backbenchers will not let them.

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Politics and Economics

What is Quantitative Easing (QE) and why is Europe trying it now?

Europe’s QE (quantitative easing) initiative, planned for an initial 18 months, involves buying bonds to a value of as much as €1.1 trillion, or about 10% of Eurozone GDP. That is still well below the 25% of American GDP reached when the US Federal Reserve printed money to help revive the country’s economy after the 2007-9 financial crisis. The ECB is leaving the door open to expand its programme further.

What does Europe hope to gain from this initiative? And why are they doing it now?

Base rates are low (the rate the central bank lends to other banks) but the banks are not lending cash to its customers (businesses and individuals).  This may be because there is not enough “lendable” cash in the banking system because banks are trying to repair their balance sheets after the financial crash. They must also now comply with  the new international capital holding requirements to prevent another banking meltdown similar to the one we saw in 2008-9.  To a bank a “loan” is the same as an “asset” because they make their money by lending out money.   So the banks want to increase the proportion of low risk assets that they own. Government bonds (loans to governments) are seen as low risk because the chance of default (not paying back the loan) is low compared to say a loan to a business or an individual. When they do lend to businesses and individuals the banks are reserving their loans for ultra-safe investments and charging higher interest rates.

This lack of credit causes an economic slowdown as businesses cannot borrow money to fuel their investment for future growth.

Quantitative easing (QE) is a mechanism where the central bank “prints” new money and uses this to buy the Government Bonds (Government debt) held by the banks.  The idea is that banks take the new money and buy other assets to replace the ones they have sold to the central bank. These assets could be new loans or company shares. This raises stock prices and lowers interest rates, which in turn boosts investment. Interest rates initially may come down because QE injects new money into the banking system, which will encourage banks to lend more.  As other banks also have more cash through selling Government Bonds to the central bank the extra competition should ensure that their interest rates fall.  After all, banks make money by lending money rather than paying interest to depositors.

Some of this extra money will find its way to businesses and households because banks are more likely to lend due to the extra cash they have.  This extra credit is expected to stimulate economic growth in Europe.

What other benefits to economists believe Europe will get from QE?

Economists like inflation to be around 2% – the “goldilocks” theory. This ensures economic growth is sustainable i.e. not too hot and not too cold.   Economists use changes in interest rates to deliver this 2% inflation target. If the economy overheats, causing high inflation, they increase interest rates, which reduces the amount of money in the economy to slow it down and reduce inflation.  If the economy slows down they can boost it by lowering interest rates, which injects more cash into the system, which increases growth and inflation.

Economists are terrified of deflation (negative inflation) because there is a limit to how far they can reduce interest rates to boost the economy.  That limit is obviously zero.  Deflation causes a spiral of economic malaise because consumers will delay buying goods and services if they think they will be cheaper at a later date because they anticipate further price decreases.  This causes a further economic slowdown, which further depresses prices, which causes consumers to further delay purchases…….. Economists hate this because if there is low growth and zero interest rates they cannot use their main tool (interest rates) to further stimulate the economy because they cannot reduce interest rates below zero.

Japan had a decade of lost growth due to deflation.

QE is seen as the answer to deflation because the extra money in the system causes inflation irrespective of interest rates.

Whilst the initial effect of QE may be to reduce interest rates eventually all this new money in the economy will drive consumption and increase prices, ultimately increasing inflation and therefore requiring an upward adjustment of interest rates.  This will then signal the need to end QE, which was implemented to head off deflation.

So QE is seen as the solution for Europe because it has no growth and low or negative inflation.  As QE causes inflation it can only be safely used when deflation is a serious risk.

There are further perceived benefits for QE. The extra “printed” Euros in the system will reduce their value on currency markets, which makes European products cheaper for the rest of the world to buy (driving exports) and imports become more expensive (causing European consumers to buy home grown products).  Both of these further help to boost the economy of Europe.

Finally, the eurozone’s national central banks will be buying their own government bonds from pension funds, banks and other financial institutions.  As central banks are part of government machinery this effectively reduces government debt by using printed money to buy it back.  This should reduce these Governments’ future interest payments to the financial markets.

This is the theory of QE anyway.  But economists have been wrong before……

This type of monetary easing has already been tried in Japan, America and Britain, with mixed results.

Japan first began printing cash in 2001 after interest rate cuts failed to create growth.   Arguably despite QE they have still not recovered.

America followed, creating $4.5 trillion of new money, while Britain issued £375bn.

There are questions over how and if QE works, although in America and Britain growth has returned and unemployment is continuing to fall.   Inflation unexpectedly fell in the UK despite QE but the theory is it would have fallen even more without QE.

Germany has resisted QE until now because the Euro is already relatively cheap for their economy (although perhaps still too expensive for Greece, Italy and Spain) and they historically worry about inflation after they experienced catastrophic inflation after the world wars.

As QE prints “new money” many worry that some of this “cheaper” money will be borrowed at a low rate and used to buy other assets such as property and shares – pushing those prices even higher. This could create another asset price bubble with shares and property becoming overvalued and causing another future economic crash.

Many also worry that QE will stop the other Governments in the Eurozone making the structural changes they need to implement to be more competitive.  QE could cause the weaker economies in the Eurozone to become complacent in reducing their spending, reducing their deficits and loosening up their restrictive labour markets.

Germany has reluctantly agreed to QE because the serious threat of deflation is now a real risk.

So QE is a desperate measure to breath some life back into the Eurozone economies as they cannot reduce base rates further.  It is a last resort.

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Education, Genetic Explanations

Why is there an academic north-south divide in Britain?

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Of the 20 top local authorities in terms of sending pupils to the prestigious Russell Group universities, 19 are in London and the south. Of the 20 worst-performing councils on the same league table, 18 are in the north.

Commentators claim this is an unacceptable divide and believe that this creates a “lottery” for places at top universities arbitrarily based on where you live.  Greg Clark, the cities and universities minister, who has led the government’s push for a “northern powerhouse”, is duly demanding that universities do more to attract students from northern schools.

The superficial knee-jerk conclusion here is that some sort of discrimination is causing this disparity.  This is based on an untested assumption:  that academically talented children and equally spread across the UK.  If so, they should suggest some sort of mechanism for this discrimination and provide some evidence, rather than just naively looking at the spread of successful candidates in Russell Group Universities.

To prove the discrimination hypothesis one must prove that there is a difference in the quality of the schools across the north-south divide and secondly that this difference materially affects the academic outcome of the brightest students.  But it seems it is not the schools causing this divide: New research by the UK Government’s university funding body, based on 132,000 students, shows the effect of the quality of schooling has a much smaller effect on academic results then was previously believed.  For the brightest pupils quality of schooling makes no difference at all.

If it’s not the quality of schooling are we to believe that Russell Group Universities just prefer southern students?  i.e. actively discriminate against northern children? This is a ludicrous proposition.

Let’s assume for the moment that Russell Group Universities just choose the best qualified candidates and seek another explanation for the north-south divide.

First we must acknowledge that academic talent and motivation are largely heritable (i.e. we receive them through our genes).  This has been proven over and over again using identical twin and adoption studies.  Over the last 100 years at least 200 of them have given the same results and have been recently re-verified using massive studies at Kings College London. Differences in students’ GCSE results owe more to genetics than environment.  This also revalidates the research (above) from the UK Government’s university funding body that schooling is less important than most people suppose.

Combine the fact that academic talent and motivation is largely inherited through our genes with one of the most passionate and time consuming aspects of human behaviour, i.e. finding a mate, and you have a very powerful natural force. Talented, motivated women generally seek and marry talented, motivated men.  They then generally have talented, motivated children. i.e. they cluster the genes responsible for these talented, motivated characteristics into certain sections of society. As these characteristics generally lead to higher earning potential they are more likely cluster in the affluent parts of society. Consequently talented, motivated children are not equally spread in our society. This is unfair, but I’m explaining the is not the ought. This biological process is called assortative mating.

So here is a potential mechanism for the north-south divide that does not involve ludicrous conspiracy or discrimination theories.

Academically talented people from the north of England have been getting into prestigious universities on merit ever since Britain’s ludicrous class based society was largely dismantled after World War 1.

Our talented northerners got a good degree and then searched for the best paying jobs, which happened to be in the south of England.  Here they married other academically talented people also seeking high paying, prestigious jobs.  They both settled in the south and passed on their academically talented genes to their children.   This process is still going on.  Over a period of a number of generations there will be a clustering of academically talented genes in the affluent parts of society, which in the case of the UK happens to be the south of England.

Top universities may be becoming less socially representative, but they are representing where the talent has clustered because in a relatively socially mobile environment, talented genes will cluster in affluent parts of society.

A perfectly reasonable explanation, backed by good scientific theory that does not need to involve ludicrous discrimination or conspiracy theories.

Further listening on the genetics of intelligence:

Intelligence: Born Smart, Born Equal, Born DifferentThree BBC Radio programmes on the genetics of intelligence.

What makes some children smarter than others?  Professor Robert Plomin talks to Jim Al-Khalili about what makes some people smarter than others and why he’s fed up with the genetics of intelligence being ignored.

References:

Pleiotropy across academic subjects at the end of compulsory education An article in Nature on the genetic effects to human intelligence and GCSE results in the UK.

Academic north-south divide in English schools

Why Poorer Students Are Underrepresented In Top Universities – an Evolutionary Perspective

Differences in degree outcomes: Key findings  (examines the extent to which a student’s background affects their chance of obtaining an upper second or first class degree)

Twins early development studies

Differences in students’ GCSE results owe more to genetics than environment:

IQ is in the Genes

We can’t ignore the evidence: genes affect social mobility

One Cause of Inequality: More Rich Marrying One Another

Marry Your Like: Assortative Mating and Income Inequality

Women, Men and the New Economics of Marriage

How Much Difference Does a Good School Make to Your Child’s Academic Achievement?

Getting ’em young (The Economist looks at the impact of early years education)

Genetic influence on GCSE results

Genetics and general cognitive ability : Article : Nature

Genetics – How Intelligence Changes with Age

Access : Childhood intelligence is heritable, highly polygenic and associated with FNBP1L 

Genes may play role in educational achievement

Access : Genome-wide association studies establish that human intelligence is highly heritable and polygenic 

Genetic and environmental contributions to the covariance between occupational status, educational attainment, and IQ

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Liberty, Politics and Economics

Women’s rights and gay rights are the result of a free society, not the cause if it.

A “free society” is one where the creative talent, energy and ambition of the people is free to fuel enterprise, innovation and achievement.  A society where self-expression, individualism and self-determination is not stymied by the tyranny of the masses, bossy politicians and nannying State interference into our personal lives – both social and economic. Or as John Stuart Mill would have it – the individual should be free to do as (s)he wishes unless (s)he harms others.

Such a society would have gay people publicly living their lives with complete freedom to express themselves in ways that feel natural to them.  Especially as this behaviour is not hurting others.  Women would be free to follow their dreams whether it is family, professional or both.  But this gay and female friendliness is an outcome and not a cause of a free society.

So in achieving this type of freedom we must be careful not to put cause and effect the wrong way round.  This type of freedom is won by creating a society where tolerance and equality are valued in their own right – not because they have been legislated for.

Any legislation is a restriction of freedom and it should be used sparingly to prevent people doing harm to others.

Many people pre-suppose that legislation drives the changes in society that we want.  i.e. politicians drive change.

It is similar to the view that marketing and advertising changes people’s buying behaviour.

In both cases the marketeers and the politicians are merely reflecting what society already wants.  Politicians win votes by advocating policies in which society already believes.  Marketeers are more successful when they create and promote products that their target market already desires.

So successful politicians merely grub for votes – reflecting back to the electorate what they already know they want.  This is why they spend so much money on focus groups and opinion polls.

In a democratic society it is not easy to get legislation enacted and kept on the statute books if it is expressly against the wishes of the people.  Think of the UK poll tax.  And sometimes in opinion polls people express views that are not particularly strong. So successful legislation can appear to be against public opinion but only if the public has no strong views on the subject.

A free society allows freedom of speech and campaigns to educate, inform, debate and influence society regarding social change. These are far more effective in changing social attitudes than legislation that forces behaviour without necessarily changing opinions.

So it is not the legislation that drives change, it is the change that drives legislation.  We could do without much of the legislation (which inhibits freedom and often has other unexpected and detrimental consequences) because society is already changing.

Fewer politicians, less state power and less legislation will only have the effect of creating a freer, less bureaucratic and therefore less expensive society.  Social change will continue its own course regardless.

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Genetic Explanations

We know what happened to Shoshana Roberts whilst walking in NYC – but nobody is asking why?

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Shoshana Roberts’ video was posted on You Tube

For ten hours on a recent day, Shoshana Roberts simply walked around New York City. She was wearing jeans and a crewneck T-shirt. She was silent as she walked and received over 100 catcalls. The actress involved has now received the rape threats that are the inevitable consequence of the contributory negligence of being female and doing something.

Journalists have picked up on this and written hundreds of indignant articles decrying the behaviour of her street antagonists. They have given much coverage about what happened in those 10 New York hours but little as to why. No wonder little has changed. I have no doubt that what happened to this young woman is true and also no doubts that we should address this issue for the benefit of women and civilisation in general.  But until we understand why this happened we have no chance of changing it.

Let’s recap. Despite decades of feminist lobbying; criminalisation of laddish behaviour; relentless, exaggerated and surreal political correctness from our media; personal-freedom sapping sexual equality legislation and extensive re-education of boys in our schools men still make unsolicited and unwanted comments about women’s bodies.

It is about now that intelligent commentators on these issues should start to question whether their basic premise as to why this is happening may in fact be wrong, or at least incomplete.

The basic premise is that our environment creates human nature. i.e. we are solely the product of our upbringing, parenting, education, environment and experiences. This is called the “Blank Slate Hypothesis”. This is a very seductive philosophy for feminists and socialists because it offers hope that we can create the socially and sexually equal nirvana we all crave just by changing our environment. It is also a convenient philosophy for feminists and socialists because it justifies the anti-libertarian State meddling into the lives of individuals via their social engineering experiments.

The Blank Slate Hypothesis is fundamentally flawed and what is more we have known it is flawed for decades. We now have a much better understanding of genetics and its role in moulding the behaviour of all animals, including the human variety. We don’t just behave in ways we have been conditioned to behave but also in ways we are genetically programmed to behave. Until we understand and accept this we cannot have a fighting chance of doing anything about it.

All living things are basically survival machines built by our genes to propel themselves into future generations.   We die, they don’t. Genes are insentient molecules that by a freak of nature became self-replicating. Any behaviour they confer on their host (i.e. us) that increases our chance of reproducing will inevitable mean that those molecules (and the behaviours they encode) will be more common in future generations. Evolution in a nutshell.

Our male and female ancestors have had very different evolutionary pressure over the previous millions of years.

Human females have a pathetic ability to reproduce, having no more than a dozen pregnancies in their lifetime. Each pregnancy is life threatening and she will often only produce offspring one-at-a-time. Human children are unusually vulnerable in infancy and take many years to reach maturity.  Women therefore engage in a long, energy sapping and life threatening investment in their children to ensure these (few) offspring reach childbearing age.  She must choose her mate with great care to ensure her offspring receive beneficial genes from the father, which in turn maximises the chance of her own genes prospering in the next generation.  It also means she must carefully and selflessly look after the few offspring she manages to produce. Women therefore evolved to be highly nurturing towards their young.  She (i.e. her genes) has no other choice.

Human males produce 250,000 sperm every second and their number of offspring is limited only by their opportunity to impregnate willing (or unwilling) females.   Two strategies would work to increase the number of their genes in the next generation.  1. Look after their offspring, nurture them and ensure they reach child-bearing age  (i.e. copy the only strategy available to women). 2. Spread their sperm as far and wide as possible, have thousands of offspring and hope that some reach childbearing age.  A third alternative is the best.  Do both.  Men invest almost nothing in child rearing so it makes sense for them to take huge risks to have the opportunity to reproduce. This would include propositioning as many women as possible on the off chance a few will accept.  What have they to lose?

Women will choose high social status men (a proxy for good genes) to ensure their own genes have a good chance of survival in future generations.  To prove high social status takes a bit longer so women tend to go for successful, older men (4 years older in the UK on average).

Men are programmed to advertise their success and achievements in order to attract a high social status mate.  Men will choose young, healthy, fertile (“attractive”) women because their chosen mate primarily needs to be fit to survive 9 months of pregnancy and the years of childcare that follows.  Men have evolved to visually select a mate on this basis.  Women have evolved for millions of years with this pressure.  Women are therefore programmed to try to look young and attractive in order to find a suitable mate. Much of this behaviour is hard wired, as is our sexuality and our urge to have sex with attractive members of the opposite sex.  Women also need to recognise these traits in their competition (other women).  Women easily know if another woman is attractive.

So it makes sense for men’s genes to take risks in order to reproduce. This includes a good war that kills off much of the competition and assertive / aggressive behaviour towards unaccompanied women.

What is good for our genes also explains why human societies dislike female promiscuity.

Throughout human history men have needed to control women’s sexuality.  When women have a baby they are 100% sure that it is theirs.  For nearly all of the 200,000 years of their existence, human males have never really known if their child is truly their biological heir.  This is despite the reassuring knee jerk exclamations we hear from midwives, mothers and female relatives as soon as they clap eyes on the newborn infant: “oh, he / she has his father’s eyes!”

For good evolutionary reasons no man will want to spend time and resources inadvertently bringing up another man’s child.  A child that contains another man’s genes.  This is particularly important when title, wealth and inheritance are involved.  Consequently, to make sure that they knew who was the father, human civilizations created intricate ways to ensure female sexuality was monitored and controlled – doubly so when title, wealth and inheritance was involved.  Promiscuity in women was brutally discouraged and religion became the vehicle to achieve this.

The senior female members of these societies would also connive and reinforce this controlling behaviour.  No mother or grandmother wants to be duped by the women of their male heirs.

Women also have a vested interest in ensuring that sex is relatively rare in their society, as it increases their bargaining power with men.  Promiscuous women lower the price.

And this is how an unaccompanied, attractive young woman walking the streets of a city can be “criticised for being frigid and unresponsive by some street antagonists, declared a slut and a whore by others, all in the course of a few magical metres ” – to quote the words and experience of Hannah Bett’s writing in The Times.

You see this is not about us (humans) it is all about the survival of our genes – a process that has been slowly exerting its influence for the last 3,500,000,000 years. 50 years of feminism will not undo this.

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Politics and Economics

Lack of military action created the extremist chaos in Iraq and Syria.

Middle East politics reminds us that sometimes we have a bleak choice – the choice between a disaster and a catastrophe. Idealists and bleeding hearts will often eschew the disaster in the forlorn hope of finding a perfect solution, whereas a disaster would have been the best possible outcome.

As always with political decisions, we don’t have the luxury of a controlled scientific experiment whereby we can see what happens if we do something and compare it with what happens if we don’t. We can only look at the available evidence, blend historical outcomes and make a judgment. Often that judgment is finely balanced and the law of unintended consequences applies to both action and inaction.

Due to the disastrous military intervention by George Bush and Tony Blair in Iraq in 2003 the West was very reluctant to get militarily involved early in the current Syrian civil war.  This was a mistake.

Now any western military intervention in Iraq and Syria is too late and would still have been too late 12 months ago.

When the Syrian civil war started in 2011 the Government opposition was mainly moderate and President Assad’s government forces were caught unprepared, even if they were better equipped. There was a small window of opportunity to support moderate opposition groups in Syria and bring the conflict to an early conclusion, whilst at the same time getting rid of an unpleasant Syrian dictatorship.

Sunnis account for 60% of the Syrian population, while 13% are Shia (Alawite, Twelvers, and Ismailis combined) and 10% are Christian.  Assad and his henchmen are part of the tiny Alawite minority.  The moderate Sunnis were therefore unlikely to be loyal to Assad so their struggle for independence from a minority dictatorship was legitimate.

International inaction and appeasement allowed the war to escalate. This inaction allowed extreme Sunni islamists loyal to Saudi Arabia and al-Qaeda to come to fight against Assad.  At the same time extreme Shia islamists loyal to Iran and Hezbollah came to fight for Assad. Russia and Iran had time to rearm Assad’s forces allowing them to regain lost territory.  The chaos of the civil war left large tracts of Syria ungovernable allowing extremists of all flavours to strengthen their hold.

Out of this festering vacuum extremist islamist groups have morphed into ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria).  They have carried out acts of barbarism and genocide with impunity –  mass executions, public beheadings, crucifixions and floggings. These atrocities are committed without restraint, due process or rule of law. They have taken large tracts of Syria, invaded Iraq and now hold territory very close to the Turkish border.  It will take years to eradicate them.  From these territories they now encourage and plot terrorists attacks on Western cities.

Now, whoever wins this brutal civil war will be a victory for extremism.

International inaction has allowed this deplorable state of affairs to develop. And as usual innocent civilians pay the price. Over 200,000 people have died, schools have been bombed and chemical weapons have killed innocent children.   Millions more have had their livelihood destroyed and have been displaced creating a humanitarian crisis affecting Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Turkey.

If we are to allocate blame for our shameful inaction I believe Russia should shoulder most of the blame. It deliberately neutered the legitimate international voice early on in this conflict – The United Nations Security Council. This would have been the most effective way to send a clear and unequivocal message from the international community to the Assad regime and force him to find a political, negotiated solution. A Russian aversion to any Western political actions, a desire to have a Mediterranean naval base and lucrative weapons sales seem to be their primary motivation. Not a moment’s thought for the innocent victims now or in the future.

We must also recall that the current problems with Afghanistan started with the Soviet invasion in December 1979.  This aggressive action destabilized a large and unruly country, gave rise to the Mujahedeen, which morphed into al-Qaeda (admittedly with US funding) and the Taliban.  Resulting attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and numerous other terrorist atrocities is the final legacy.  Russia also gave political and military support to Saddam Hussein and his Ba’ath Party in Iraq as well as to Assad’s Syria.  Both countries have disintegrated into dangerous chaos as a result.

So Russia must take much of the blame for its contribution to Middle Eastern (and consequently world-wide) insecurity.

But President Obama also deserves some of the blame for his prevarication. He commands the only military power with sufficient clout to have got the early attention of President Assad. Obama could have done much more to put pressure on other Gulf States, the UN and Russia to intervene sooner. Failing that he could have made direct threat of military action to Assad before he became emboldened and the war escalated with extremists entering the conflict on both sides.   Obama also missed a window of opportunity to militarily intervene when Assad was caught using chemical weapons.  Instead he hesitated and allowed Russia to make a diplomatic coup and play for time by negotiating a long drawn out eradication of chemical weapons.  This gave even more time for extremists on all sides to consolidate their gains.

So thanks primarily to Russian intransigence and American prevarication the international community has missed its chance to make an early difference in Syria.  Extremism has taken hold of the country and has now spread into Iraq. All sides of this conflict continue to act with impunity. As usual nobody will win – there will only be degrees of losing, with the innocent losing the most.

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Politics and Economics

Labour’s Mansion Tax – too good to be true?

The left-leaning UK Labour party plans to raise a tax on all UK properties valued at over £2 million if it wins the next election.  This is socialist economics at its best.  A promise of  “free money” from the old mythical sources – closing tax loopholes, reducing tax evasion and increasing tax on somebody else.

In the Labour mind this somebody else is the “rich”, a vague, nebulous collection of immoral capitalists who are just sitting around waiting for Labour to increase their taxes.  A group that can always find more money whenever a bill is presented. The ultimate, infinite ATM.

Unfortunately, the “rich” are very few in numbers and highly mobile. They can live wherever they want.  And pay tax wherever they want. Consequently Labour’s numbers never add up. Perhaps they should ask Francois Hollande why not?  He has recent practical experience.

According to Labour the mansion tax will only hit those that can afford it and will raise £1.2 billion of somebody else’s money.

There are just over 108,000 homes in the UK valued at more than £2m. Of these, 85,461 are in London (88% of the total), and a further 14,261 are in the south-east. In Wales there are just 87 homes that would be liable for the tax. One London borough, Kensington and Chelsea, would pay about 35% of the tax in total.  As this policy is half-baked Labour has not revealed the precise rate it would charge.  But if the party reckons it will raise £1.2bn, then that sum spread equally over 108,000 homes suggests an average of around £12,000 per household.   Labour also promises to reintroduce the 50p tax rate, so a top-rate taxpayer would have to earn an additional £22,917 gross to cover the mansion tax.

My parents taught me that if something is too good to be true then it probably is.  The mansion tax is too good to be true and a dangerous distraction.

Here’s why:

In the UK we have an annual £100,000,000,000 deficit which is bloating our £1,400,000,000,000 + debt.

The current interest payments are greater than the defence budget.

This type of policy can only be considered as “tinkering” by a government with much bigger problems.  The maximum revenue would be a  £1.2 billion without accounting for the law of unintended consequences.

For example, the UK is desperate to attract high net worth individuals to the UK who will spend their money in our high streets, in our art galleries, in our car show rooms, on our housing market and in our private schools.  They employ builders, plumbers, decorators, teachers and domestic staff.  These purchases provide income, employment and in many cases VAT at 20%.

The type of people who would be caught by this mansion tax are exactly the people who are rich enough to live anywhere they like.  Dubai, Switzerland and numerous other countries world-wide will accept these people with open arms if we are clumsy in our attempts to unilaterally implement a mansion tax in a global market.  The only alternative is to convince the vast majority of the world’s countries to adopt a similar policy.  A global State with a global tax regime.  Good luck with that.

Those that can’t leave will be mostly forced to sell their property if Labour wins power next May.  These people are generally asset rich but cash poor and won’t be able to afford the £12,000 per year additional tax. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimates that one in four of those affected by a mansion tax are pensioners.  But who will buy a property at between £2 to £3 million if there is a huge hike in tax?  Better to buy something slightly cheaper.  In my case I’d buy a small comfortable flat in London and spend the rest on a nice cosy cottage in the country.  I’d have the best of both worlds and Labour wouldn’t raise any additional tax.  There would be a huge distortion in the housing market with nobody wanting certain properties because of the extra costs.

Labour is spending time and energy on a policy with very little financial upside and vast potential financial downside.  They should be racking their brains on how to pay down our £100,000,000,000 annual deficit so we can eventually start paying down our £1,400,000,000,000 + debt.

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Politics and Economics

The Scottish Referendum should not become a Scottish “Neverendum”.

Alex_Salmond

So Alex Salmond got nearly everything he wanted.

He got to choose the exact date of the Scottish referendum.

He chose it just after the 700th Anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.

He chose it just after the successful Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow.

He chose it in the middle of one of the worst economic recessions in the UK history.

He chose it during unparalleled economic austerity.

He chose it at a time when confidence in Westminster politicians is at an all-time low.

He chose the exact wording of the referendum question.

He chose who could vote by enfranchising idealistic 16 and 17 year olds.

But he still lost decisively.

He should keep his promise of no more referendums on Scottish Independence for at least a generation.

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Politics and Economics

Scotland will get more tax raising powers – prepare for a low tax, low spend UK.

Prepare for low tax, low spend economics in all 4 nations of the UK.

Scotland voted decisively to stay part of the UK and has been promised more powers to raise its own tax as well as to decide how it is spent. Consequently England has also been promised similar powers over its own fiscal policy. The case for English MPs with power to set English income tax, corporation tax and spend is now overwhelmingly compelling.

This would make the election of an Old Labour style tax and spend Government in England all but impossible.  In 2010 Labour won 41 Scottish seats to the Tories 1.  Wales returned 26 Labour MPs to the Tories 8.  Also the Scottish and Welsh Labour MPs tend to be more socialist Old Labour style politicians than we find in England.  Tony Blair would still have achieved overall majorities in the elections of 1997, 2001 and (possibly) 2005 even if all Scottish and Welsh votes had been declared invalid, but his politics were hardly the Socialist Nirvana dreamed of by the Old Labour and the SNP.  Tony Blair’s top rate of income tax was lower than that of the current Tory led coalition.

In England the Tories would have had an absolute majority of 63 in the 2010 General Election rather than having to share power with the Liberal Democrats.

This would suggest a long series of Conservative or Centrist English Governments committed to lower public spending, lower top rates of income tax and downward pressure on business rates.

Where would that leave the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments with England making up 85% of the GDP of the four nations?

If taxes rise in the Socialist Scottish and Welsh territories in order to pay for higher benefits how will they stop their high earning, affluent citizens and businesses moving across the border to seek a more favourable tax regime?  How will the other nations stop English benefit seekers moving to their territory to maximise their income from the State?  There are few geographical, language and cultural barriers to abate a massive movement of people and capital.  With such a large economy on their doorstep the other nations ability to manage their own tax and spend would be much diminished unless they were prepared to put up a Berlin style wall to stop the affluent leaving and the poor arriving.  There would be a race to the bottom in terms of taxation to attract affluent capable citizens and business investment.

It would reproduce the scenario of the mass emigration we saw from the Republic of Ireland, a flight that did not abate until the Irish abandoned the worst of their country’s ultra-nationalist business cronyism and implemented some of the most attractive low-tax packages in the western world.

Currently the other nations’ MPs are able to influence the economic policy of the UK, which they would not be able to do if they were managed solely in their devolved parliaments.

So a vote for more independence would most likely result in a series of more right wing, low tax, low spend governments in England, which would then severely limit the other nation’s ability to mange their own tax and spend as they would wish.  They would have to fall in line to manage their Government finances and maintain their competitiveness.

Under a centralised UK Government the other nations had an opportunity to influence English economic policy, which is 85% of the UK GDP. Under a fully devolved Government they will not. Counter-intuitively Scotland and the other home nations would have more independence as part of a centralised UK Government than they would as devolved nations within the UK.

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Liberty

Vaping and Liberty

Many Government and health lobbies are trying to ban vaping (the smoking of e-cigarettes).  They argue that it would reintroduce smoking as a socially acceptable habit and that its safety to human health is not proven.

This issue is about personal liberty and the extent to which the State has a right to dictate to individual citizens.  People should be allowed to “vape” so long as it doesn’t detrimentally affect anybody else (particularly children).

Firstly we must understand that nothing can be proven to be safe.  It is a logical impossibility to prove that something isn’t there.  Nobody can prove that there are no detrimental effects to human health. We can only claim we have not found any – yet. Even pharmaceuticals are not declared “safe” despite extensive clinical trials.  They offer a positive benefit / risk ratio to get their products on the market.  So e-cigarettes have not been proven safe and never will be.  On the other hand decades of research into the effects of nicotine has not found any detrimental effects in the dosages most smokers (and vapers) inhale.

I don’t smoke and wouldn’t take up vaping on the grounds that nicotine is addictive and I would most likely spend much money pursuing this habit.  But the same can be said of alcohol, caffeine and gambling (all of which I do enjoy from time-to-time).

If individuals get pleasure from vaping and there are no proven detrimental effects to others the State and nannying health lobbyists should mind their own business and leave well alone.

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Politics and Economics

How Independent Would an Independent Scotland be?

The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) dream of an independent Socialist Republic of Scotland where they believe they can better create a more equal, fairer society.   A sort of socially-just Xanadu where the wealth of the nation is more equally spread.  A society with generous housing and pension benefits, free childcare, free prescriptions, free health service, free tuition…..free everything.

This has to be paid for and Scottish North Sea oil reserves would be asked to cover much of the costs.  But can it?  Ignoring North Sea oil and gas, Scottish tax revenues per head are almost the same as the UK average but public spending per head is about £1,200 a year higher in Scotland than in the UK as a whole.  Oil revenue would have to cover the existing higher level of public spending as well as the SNP’s planned increases.

North Sea Oil_graphic_767622a

Scotland’s oil reserves are running out at a time when large shale oil reserves have been found in England.  Additionally the international norms for determining territorial waters would also mean Scotland will get a smaller share of North Sea oil than the SNP are claiming.  Some of these reserves will actually belong to England.  Also, most of Scotland’s oil belongs to the Orkney and Shetland Islands, who have clearly stated their reluctance to be subservient to Edinburgh and would prefer an allegiance to London.  They don’t feel particularly Scottish and their history proves it.  If you ask a Shetlander “who are you?” They will say “Shetlander”, not “Scottish”.  In the event of a Yes vote for independence expect Shetland to ask for their own referendum or at least more autonomy over “their” oil.  Scotland will need Shetland more than Shetland will need Scotland so their negotiating position will be strong.

In any case oil revenue is highly volatile.  North Sea oil and gas revenues would have accounted for over 15% of Scottish revenues in 2010-11 compared with 1.6% for the UK as a whole. They were more than 20% of Scottish revenue in 2008-09 but just 12% in 2009-10. Looking back further they accounted for nearly half of all revenue in the mid 1980s, falling to just 3% in 1991-92.

But the cost of running a socialist state is not volatile.  It is high, constant and addictive. The ups and downs of Scottish oil revenue would need supplementing with borrowing in order to pay the social bill every year.

Borrowing costs are likely to rise in an independent Scotland as the financial markets would worry about Scotland paying back the debt without the reassurance of the Bank of England as bank of last resort. Rating agencies have already indicated that Scotland would have a lower credit rating than the UK, requiring a higher yield and therefore higher interest rates. The assets of Scottish banks are an alarming 12 times the country’s GDP adding markedly to the perceived risk of Scottish debt.  This is much higher than the multiple in Iceland before their economic crash.  The equivalent multiple for the rest of Britain is below five and for Ireland on the eve of the financial crisis it was about seven. In another economic meltdown Scotland would struggle to rescue its banks.

Scotland would also have to take its fair share of UK debt after independence, which would amount to perhaps £100 billion ($161 billion)— a lot for a small country to issue at once.  Scotland’s likely high debt, fiscal deficit, weak economic growth, lack of institutional frameworks and low foreign exchange reserves suggest it would pay a higher interest rate than the British government.  Brokers estimate an extra 1-1.5 percentage points a year.

In any case this still leaves somewhere between 80% and 97% of Scottish Government income coming from sources other than North Sea oil. How easily can the SNP and Scottish Labour party raise taxes and benefit spending in an independent Scotland with an economy on their doorstep that is 10 times larger?

The rest of the UK (rUK) stripped of Scotland would be more likely to produce Conservative governments. The chance of an old Labour socialist style Government would be much diminished.  Labour has had the majority of seats in Scotland in all but two General Elections: 1951 and 1955.  The Conservative share of seats has been 2% or less since 1997.  Also the Scottish Labour MPs tend to be more socialist Old Labour style politicians than we find in England.  Tony Blair’s New Labour would still have achieved overall majorities in the elections of 1997, 2001 and 2005 even if all Scottish votes had been declared invalid, but his politics were hardly the Socialist Nirvana dreamed of by the SNP.  Tony Blair’s top rate of income tax was lower than that of the current Tory led coalition.

Without Labour’s 41 Scottish seats the Tories would have had an absolute majority in the current Westminster parliament rather than having to share power with the Liberal Democrats. This would suggest a long series of Conservative or Centrist rUK governments committed to lower public spending, no increases in the higher rates of income tax and downward pressure on business rates. Where would that leave the Scottish Government?

If Scottish taxes rise to pay for more benefits how will the SNP stop high earning, affluent Scots and Scottish businesses moving across the border to seek a more favourable tax regime?  How will the SNP stop English benefit seekers moving north to maximize their income from the State?  There are few geographical, language and cultural barriers to quell a massive movement of people and capital.  With such a large economy on their doorstep the Scots’ ability to manage their own tax and spend would be much diminished unless they were prepared to put up a Berlin style wall to stop the affluent leaving and the poor arriving. It would reproduce the mass emigration we saw from the Republic of Ireland, a flight that did not abate until the Irish abandoned the worst of their country’s ultra-nationalist business cronyism and implemented some of the most attractive low tax packages in the western world.

Currently SNP and Scottish Labour MPs are able to influence the economic policy of the UK, which they would not be able to do if they were independent. Despite the Tories being wiped out in Scotland in terms of Westminster Government seats their style of politics is not as unpopular there as many pre-suppose.  They still accumulated 413,000 votes in the 2010 general election — hardly a different order-of-magniude from the 491,000 votes won by the SNP.  An independent Scotland voting for its Government using proportional representation would have to take these political views into account.

So a vote for independence would most likely result in a series of more right wing, low tax, low spend governments in England, which would then severely limit an independent Scotland’s ability to mange its own tax and spend as it would wish.  They would have to fall in line to manage their government finances and maintain their competitiveness.

This mirage of independence would also be further diminished if they entered a currency union with the rUK. Counter-intuitively Scotland will have more independence as part of the UK than they would as an independent nation. England is likely to do well despite a breakaway from Scotland. It would be free to have a more friendly tax policy to attract businesses and talented, motivated individuals.  As North Sea oil dwindles the English taxpayer will not have to fund the higher public spending and faster aging population of Scotland.

The main Scottish banks and pension funds are likely to relocate much of their assets and many of their jobs to England, boosting English GDP and creating more high value employment.

English depositors will be unhappy to hold their money in a foreign bank (the Icelandic banking meltdown is a sobering example).  They will worry about the future of their pension and life-assurance policies held with the likes of Standard Life, Scottish Widows (owned by Lloyds) and Aegon (formerly Scottish Equitable). All are Edinburgh-based and among the largest pension funds in Britain. English investors will want to know whether they would still be paid in pounds and will also worry that they would no longer have any influence through the ballot box over the tax regime governing their pensions.

If Scotland votes to leave the UK the flow of pension money into the Scottish-based insurance companies from outside Scotland may well dry up and there would be transfers out, to English-based companies.  The main Scottish financial institutions have already announced they will move much of their business to England in the event of independence to reassure their depositors and prevent this from happening.  Edinburgh’s financial sector will be weaker and London’s stronger after a split. This is significant because finance is a highly lucrative business and already pays 12% of all UK taxes.

Quebec_investment_graphic_767622a

In fact, business investment and employment in general will probably increase in England at the expense of Scotland. Look at what happened in Quebec after it tried to break away from Canada in 1995. Investment as a share of GDP before the referendum roughly matched the rest of Canada. Afterwards, even though Quebec voted against independence, a big gap opened up as investors decided the political risk was too great. They took their money elsewhere in Canada.

Many companies serving Scottish markets may be tempted to base themselves in Newcastle or York, boosting jobs and investment in the North of England. This will be in addition to the expected migration of talent from north of the border to seek better opportunities and lower taxes in England.

The loss of British influence in the United Nations, NATO, G7, Security Council and European Union will be a major blow to both Scotland and the rUK, but England will suffer less.  It will cope well without Scotland and may well flourish at Scotland’s expense.

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Politics and Economics

What do 2014 local elections predict about the General Election Result in 2015?

From previous elections it seems that the opposition party needs at least a 15% lead in the opinion polls one-year before the election before they stand a chance of forming the next Government.  The Tories enjoyed such a lead in 2009 and were still not able to form a majority Government a year later.  Previous 8% poll leads by the Tories in opposition still saw Tony Blair returned to Government with a majority the following year.

The current 2% lead enjoyed by Labour is, by historical standards, not enough.

There is a simple reason for this.  Being in Government is much harder than being in opposition.  Running the Government often means making tough, unpopular decisions.  This is particularly true of the current coalition Government, which has had to implement unpopular austerity measures in order to get the budget deficit under control.  At the beginning of the current Government some Labour politicians gloated that they would have to make such unpopular decisions that they would subsequently be out-of-office for a generation.  Opposition parties are able to merely talk about what they would do or claim that they wouldn’t have implemented unpopular policies in the first place.  The Labour opposition has been voting against the all coalition’s Government cuts for example.

The electorate use opinion polls, bye-elections and local elections to register a protest to the Government and to keep them on their toes.  They can do this with the safe knowledge that there will be no change in the national Government.  However the British electorate is very sophisticated and understands that being in Government is difficult.  They are more forgiving in ballots that will choose the next Government and Prime Minister.  Also protest votes that go to the third party (historically the Lib Dems) tend to be soft when it comes to a real election.  This is because the British “first-past-the-post” electoral system makes the electorate more reluctant to “waste” their vote on a party that has no chance of winning a particular seat or forming a Government.  They vote tactically to keep out the party they like the least.

Taking into account these historical trends Stephen Fisher at the Department of Sociology at the University of Oxford has come up with an election forecast based on current opinion polls:

Approximate probabilities of key outcomes

(Con largest party) = 60%

(Lab largest party) = 40%

(Con majority) = 34%

(Lab majority) = 18%

(Hung parliament) = 48%

(Hung parliament with Con largest party) = 26%

(Hung parliament with Lab largest party) = 22%

To add to Labour’s woes no opposition party has been elected to Government at a General Election unless they have a majority of seats in local Government.  The Tories currently hold the majority of local Government seats.  And Ed Miliband is even less popular than his own party.  This is important because in a general election the electorate also believe they are voting for the next Prime Minister. Labour also has low poll rating for their economic competence, which has historically acted disproportionately against parties when it comes to an election.  Additionally the fact that the UK economy is likely to recover significantly in the next year will benefit the current Government at the expense of Labour.

But what is different this time is the possibility of UKIP adding an unknown dimension compared to historical trends.

The Conservatives may worry that some of their votes will go to UKIP in 2015 causing a split in the right and centre-right.  This could give Ed Miliband a further advantage on top of his in-built 30 seat electoral advantage caused by the unequal constituency boundaries.  But the local election results yesterday suggest that UKIP can also take votes away from Labour, even in the north of England.  The Tories do seem to disproportionately lose votes to UKIP compared to Labour however.

In previous parliaments some protest votes went to the Lib Dems.  As they are now in Government they have clearly suffered in the polls so they too may expect their core support to trickle back in line with historical values as the election approaches.

But as the official opposition Labour have not been collecting the protest votes that previously went to the opposition and the Lib Dems.  They have instead have gone to UKIP. Labour should worry that they cannot even be trusted with a protest vote.

As the official protest party we should see UKIP’s poll rating decline towards the next election to favour the Tories.  Labour’s poll rating would be expected to decline as the election approaches in favour of the incumbent Government.  This may be partly negated by winning back some of the UKIP protest votes, so it is likely their poll rating will decline only slightly.

All this probably means that David Cameron will be back in Downing Street next year as leader of a coalition with the Lib Dems, as predicted by Stephen Fisher.

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Politics and Economics

Should the UK Government try to block the Pfizer bid for Astra Zeneca?

Many in the UK worry that a successful bid by Pfizer to aggressively acquire one its biggest pharmaceutical companies, Astra Zeneca, will result in large UK job losses in R&D and manufacturing.  They seek to get the UK government to block this deal in order to protect British industry and jobs.  What should the UK government do?

Astra Zeneca employed 51,600 people world-wide in 2013 but only 7,200 of these were in the UK.  This is down from 59,800 employees word-wide in 2011 of which 8,700 were in the UK.

This significant loss of jobs is due to the fact Astra Zeneca has been relatively unsuccessful in recent years: global revenue was $33.6 billion in 2011, $27.9 billion in 2012 and $25.7 billion in 2013.

In order to create and retain jobs we must have successful businesses.  We must also have a successful business to invest in new drug development.  It is in patients’ long term interest to have a thriving pharmaceutical industry.  To see how this works ask yourself how many successful medical technologies came out of the Soviet Union and communist Eastern Europe.  Or China for that matter.

A certain amount of drug development is serendipity and Astra Zeneca have been unlucky with their recent research pipeline.  Industry insiders would say that it is a better managed company than Pfizer.  It’s just not as big.

But the real question is whether the newly merged company will be better than the two independent companies and whether they want to invest in UK manufacturing and research expertise.

Few Astra Zeneca jobs are in the UK so the fact that it is considered as a UK company (with a French CEO and a Swedish Chairman) does not necessarily help.

Astra Zeneca does not plan to have the bulk of its research efforts in Cambridge because of some misplaced patriotism.  It plans to have its research in Cambridge to benefit from the life-sciences expertise in the Cambridge technology cluster, partly driven by science coming out of Cambridge University.

Pfizer will also dispassionately look at where is best to place its researchers in order to maximize the quality of drugs in its development pipeline.  It will want to spread its research to a few technology clusters, to get a broader range of excellence and expertise, but only if those technology clusters are truly world class and cost effective.  This is where the UK government can add the most value.

The UK owns very few car companies.  However the UK is now making and exporting more cars than at any time in its history.  The world’s motor racing research is almost entirely done in the UK, attracting the majority of the Formula 1 racing teams in a broad technology cluster based loosely around Oxfordshire.  This employs, trains and retains exceptional British automotive engineering expertise and much of the profits are reinvested back in the UK.  Much of this research and knowledge ultimately ends up in consumer cars, which encourages the world’s volume car manufacturers to maintain a presence here.  The same can be true of other technologies such as biotechnology, nanotechnology and robotics.  The government can implement policies to encourage the development of these technology clusters by investing in research, development and education.

The USA is much more aggressive in defending its businesses than the UK.  I don’t always like the way the USA uses its colossal economic power, but the great thing about not being socialist is that we have the luxury of living in the real world.  The real world states that the USA is the biggest and most lucrative market in the world.  As such they can get away with much more than the UK.  Companies will put up with a lot to have access to their market, and do.  Companies will put up with a lot less from the UK government because the potential gains are so much smaller.  Sad, but true.  Consequently we must work harder to attract businesses to invest in the UK.  In any case the idea of national ownership is ludicrous.  Pfizer is seen as an American company (with a Scottish born CEO) but its shareholders are global.  I own some Pfizer shares so at least a small percentage of its ownership is British.

The nominal ownership of a company is less important than whether it invests in UK technology and industry.  Whether they do that depends on whether they see the UK as a good place to do business.  A strong reputation for low taxes, low government interference and government investment in research, development and education will make far more difference in the long run than short-term protectionist political policies.

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Genetic Explanations

Genetics, gender and race – how will social policy cope with recent scientific discoveries?

In his recent book  A Troublesome Inheritance Nicholas Wade makes some excellent points about mankind’s recent evolution, which shows there are tangible genetic differences between the races.   Mr. Wade states that Human evolution did not cease thousands of years ago; it has been “recent, copious and regional”.

In the past 30,000 years, after humankind migrated into different races, many genes have changed through natural selection: lactose tolerance developed in response to dairy farming in Europe and parts of Africa; physiological adaptations for high altitude emerged in Tibetans; malaria resistance spread throughout Africa and the Mediterranean; a gene for sweat glands, ear wax and hair changed in China.

One estimate is that 722 regions containing 2,465 genes (about 14% of the human genome) has been affected by gene mutations that brings an advantage and replaces other versions of genes in one race or another. In many places, the affected genes are active mostly in the brain. As Wade puts it: “These findings establish the obvious truth that brain genes do not lie in some special category exempt from natural selection.”

The more we look, the more genetic variation we will find between races, as well as between individuals.  We had therefore better get used to the idea and consider how human society and political policy will deal with these discoveries.

Before discussing the explosive and vitriolic subject of genetics, sex and race we should first emphasise the strong arguments against sexual or racial discrimination.  Genetic variation just gives tendencies in ability and behaviour at a population level.   We cannot predict the behaviour and ability of individuals. There is so much overlap between different sexes and races regarding their different abilities (strengths and weaknesses) that any discrimination, against any individual, on any terms, is not in society’s best interest.  It is in our interest as a society that we have the best people in the right jobs.  We all benefit from a genuine meritocracy.  Discrimination is also just clearly morally wrong.

So there should be no discrimination based on colour, class or sex. But this includes “positive” discrimination too. We should not be giving people a leg up because of a perceived injustice unless we can prove beyond doubt that they really have been disadvantaged.

A knee-jerk reaction of blaming discrimination has adverse effects as well as good ones   For example we know of a collection of genes that cause men to have very high levels of testosterone during adolescence.  In certain situations this leads to very aggressive, violent, criminal behaviour.  The fact that this is more common in young black men is enough to explain the disproportionate number of them in prisons around the developed world.  This is politically explosive in the wrong hands, but nobody minds the fact that a very high proportion of top sprinters can show they have genetic ancestors from a particular part of West Africa.  The genetic explanation of athleticism is generally well accepted, but our political correctness has caused us to ignore this high–testosterone phenomenon, which prevents medicine or science from finding a temporary solution until the adolescent has grown up and calmed down.  Some timely intervention could help the youth through a difficult time and stop them committing crimes that would ultimately ruin their life and those of their victims.

And yes we’ve known for decades there are differences in mental capacity between the races and big differences in mental capacity variance between the sexes (although the average intelligence of both sexes is more-or-less the same).  This explains many puzzling educational and achievement phenomena that we currently blame on discrimination.  We are currently spending billions of tax pounds trying to close a perceived gap in societal equality without even considering it may be genetic.  Economists who study patterns of discrimination have long argued (generally to no avail) that there is a crucial conceptual distinction between difference and discrimination.   A departure from a proportionate sex or race representation in academic qualifications or professions does not, by itself, imply that we are seeing discrimination.  Not unless the interests and aptitudes of all the groups are identical.

How much culture and environment moulds human behaviour and how much inherent human nature moulds cultures is open to debate.  But I am glad we are now moving away from the flawed 1960s social sciences research, which assumes the balance is entirely on the culture affecting human nature side i.e. the now discredited “Blank Slate” hypothesis.  To understand that genes are not insignificant could explain why the Middle East, for example, is so explosive with an uncompromising, tribal, revenge culture at its core.

We know with male / female intelligence that it is the extremes, the rare outliers, that can make a real difference to our society, not the mediocre average.  If a society occasionally produces some rare genetic prodigy then that society will do better than one that doesn’t. A few gifted individuals can and do change society so long as that society communicates widely and have an education system to ensure their discoveries are quickly shared.  And all human societies like to communicate; it is part of human nature.  It is difficult to argue that the Jews particularly have not produced a disproportionate number of intellectual prodigies.  But the term “prodigy” also includes other skills such as those possessed by Mozart, Shakespeare and Pele.

I understand the fear that society has regarding this type of genetic research.  The dark shadow of Nazi eugenics still hangs over this subject and demonstrates what happens when this science is mis-understood and mis-used for political purposes.  It has also set back our ability to discuss these issues by decades.

However we must not forget that eugenics was originally researched in order to improve the human condition.  Many famous people, before the Nazis, were keen on the concept, including: George Bernard Shaw; Winston Churchill and the great “feminist” Marie Stopes.  Marie Stopes, amongst other great achievements, is a seen as a pioneer of birth control during the early 1900s.  Her interest in contraception and family planning was to prevent too many poor people reproducing and spreading “poor” quality genes.

William Beveridge was best known for his 1942 report Social Insurance and Allied Services (known as the Beveridge Report) which served as the basis for the post-World War II welfare states.   He was also a member of the Eugenics Society, which promoted the study of methods to ‘improve’ the human race by controlling reproduction. His idea of the much-loved welfare state is an example of the positive benefits of this type of belief.

Of course we must keep our feet on the ground and merely understand that genes are not irrelevant in all this.  Genes are not everything.  Mr. Wade tries to explain too much of human history by gene changes. The industrial revolution started in Europe and not China, he suggests, partly because Europe had been preconditioned by genetic evolution for the sort of economic openness that sparked accelerating innovation.  To explain the industrial revolution genetically is going too far.  My favourite explanation is that Henry VIII quashed the authority of the Catholic Church in order to get into Anne Boleyn’s knickers.  This freed England from the conservative idealogical constraints of the Catholic religion, which enabled a surge in technological and social progress.  This freedom and progress ultimately led to the Industrial Revolution and British Empire.  Nothing to do with any genes that all other men don’t possess.

We must make sure that we understand the science of genetics and how it can explain the way society is.  However we must never forget that this science can never justify human behaviour nor allow discrimination against individuals at any level nor under any circumstances. We should continue do everything we can to ensure that individuals from all parts of society have access to an excellent education and quality careers with equal opportunity to succeed on merit alone. But if we are to have a serious debate on helping the “disadvantaged” we need to look at all causes of “inequality” and move away from the discredited 1960’s assumptions that it is all explained by “nurture” and “class”, which is what most press articles on the subject imply. We should learn a little about evolutionary biology and genetics before making these wild assumptions.

How we ought to behave should only be decided by: rational, evidence-based debate; democracy and the rule of law.  Genetics will allow us to manage our expectations regarding real equality and hopefully to spend our meagre tax pounds where they will have the optimum impact.

Further Reading:

Why do male students get more first class degrees at Oxford University than female students?

Why are immigrant groups in Britain generally better motivated than indigenous people?

Further  Listening:

Intelligence: Born Smart, Born Equal, Born Different

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Genetic Explanations

Why are immigrant groups in Britain generally better motivated than indigenous people?

A child’s social class is more likely to determine how well they perform in school if they are white than if they come from an ethnic minority, researchers have discovered.

The gap between the proportion of working-class pupils and middle-class pupils who achieve five A* to C grades at GCSE is largest among white pupils, academics found.

They analysed official data showing thousands of teenagers’ grades between 2003 and 2007.  Some 31% of white pupils on free school meals – a key indicator of poverty – achieve five A* to Cs, compared with 63% of white pupils not eligible for free school meals, they found.

This gap between social classes – of 32 percentage points – is far higher for white pupils than for other ethnic groups.

Poor immigrant groups in Britain are generally better motivated than poor indigenous people, who often just can’t keep up.

Why?

The following observations are linked and can be explained by assortative mating.

  1. It seems poor white children do worse academically than poor ethnic minorities despite having a similar “poor” upbringing and environment. i.e. poorer outcome, same nurture.

  2. The research highlighted in The Times on 17th June shows that the 24 largest research universities in the Russell Group admit a lower proportion of undergraduates from state schools and from poor families than ten years ago.

  3. Children from wealthier families were nearly twice as likely to leave school with five good GCSEs, including maths and English, as those from poorer families — 63% against 36%.

  4. After our ludicrously embedded class system in UK was largely dismantled after the last war we saw a massive surge in social mobility, which has now come to a screeching halt.

  5.  New research by the UK Government’s university funding body, based on 132,000 students, shows the effect of the quality of schooling has a much smaller effect on degree results then was previously believed.  For the brightest pupils quality of schooling makes no difference at all.

Overwhelming evidence from identical twin studies, adoption studies, molecular genetics and Mendelian genetics give us a big clue, but the media and our (PPE graduate) politicians are too unsophisticated to acknowledge it, causing billions of tax pounds to be wasted on closing a perceived gap in equality.

First we must acknowledge that talent and motivation are largely heritable (i.e. we receive them through our genes).  The massive data from identical twin / adoption studies have shown that the “environment” of pupils before World War 2 accounted for some of the differences in a person’s eventual social status by age 35. After these social based advantages were largely dismantled we saw a high degree of social mobility as talented and motivated individuals from all parts of society started to meet at Grammar Schools and Universities. The advantages of upbringing have now largely disappeared. Similar studies since World War 2 (in the developed world) shows upbringing makes little difference to our eventual social status, peer groups makes some difference but the largest driver is the genes for talent and motivation we inherit from our parents.  Our upbringing, education and experiences are transient, so the  influence of different “nurture” experience on our lives will be diminished over time.  Our genes exert their influence consistently throughout our whole life.

Combine the fact that talent and motivation is largely inherited through our genes with one of the most passionate and time consuming aspects of human behaviour, i.e. finding a mate, and you have a very powerful natural force. Talented, motivated women generally seek and marry talented, motivated men.  They then generally have talented, motivated children. i.e. they cluster the genes responsible for these talented, motivated characteristics into certain sections of society. As these characteristics generally lead to higher earning potential they are more likely cluster in the affluent parts of society. Consequently talented, motivated children are not equally spread in our society. This is unfair, but I’m explaining the is not the ought. This biological process is called assortative mating.

This explains what we have seen in recent history. A strong genetic determinant of talent and motivation combined with a sudden dismantling of unfairness in society will lead to an initial surge in social mobility. However this social mobility will then fade as beneficial genes cluster into the affluent parts of society by the process of assortative mating.

The top private schools are highly selective and have rigorous academic entry requirements.  This alone would explain why private schools have a disproportionate number of students at top universities.  Assortative mating further explains why private schools and affluent families provide a disproportionate number of students to top universities on merit, and why they are providing slightly more now than 10 years ago.  As assortative mating continues its influence this trend is likely to continue, unless our politicians want to start choosing with whom we mate?

Top universities may be becoming less socially representative, but they are representing where the talent has clustered because in a relatively socially mobile environment, talented genes will cluster in affluent parts of society.

For new immigrants the social factors which have limited their progress until now are relatively recent, so we expect the genes for talent and motivation to be more numerous in poorer parts of their society as they haven’t had time to cluster in the more affluent parts of society.

Also immigrants are self-selective.  They are the minority of people in their own country who are prepared to take risks and who have the motivation, desire and initiative to seek economic and social opportunities elsewhere.  These types of behaviours are more likely to make them successful in their destination country.

This explains why poorer students for ethnic minorities out-perform their white peers.

Of course there are also some social factors.  Recent immigrants have the experience of seeing large increases in their standard of living for each unit of effort.  In the developing world extra income can mean the difference between owning a refrigerator or not.  Or owning a car or not. Or the novelty of having access to quality healthcare and education for the first time.  For the indigenous population in the western world an incremental increase in income will just result in a better model of refrigerator or a slightly better car.  Indigenous people in the west are used to having quality healthcare and education to the point of entitlement and complacency.  The incremental benefit of extra income is smaller and therefore so can be the motivation to achieve it.

Of course these motivations amongst poor immigrants will dissipate over time.  Their genes for talent and motivation will eventually migrate towards the affluent sectors of society and the novelty of the benefits of the western world will become entitlement to those less motivated individuals who are left behind with the indigenous poorer classes.

Our future is not entirely genetically determined and I have no doubt that good schools with quality teachers also make a difference.   We should continue do everything we can to ensure that individuals from all parts of society have access to an excellent education and quality careers with equal opportunity to succeed on merit alone.  But if we are to have a serious debate on helping the “disadvantaged” we need to look at all causes of “inequality” and move away from the discredited 1960’s assumptions that it is all explained by “nurture” and “class”, which is what most press articles on the subject imply. We should learn a little about evolutionary biology and genetics before making these wild assumptions.

It is in our interest as a society that we have the best people in the right jobs. We all benefit from a genuine meritocracy.  There should be no discrimination based on colour, class or sex. But this includes “positive” discrimination too. We should not be giving people a leg up because of a perceived injustice unless we can prove beyond doubt that they really have been disadvantaged.

Governments should set their expectations correctly before spending billions more tax pounds trying to save all pupils from a “perceived” injustice. They should instead target Government spending on developing each child’s individual and innate talents and motivations.

References:


Social class affects white pupils’ exam results more than those of ethnic minorities – study

Pleiotropy across academic subjects at the end of compulsory education An article in Nature on the genetic effects to human intelligence and GCSE results in the UK.

Twins early development studies

Differences in Degree outcomes – Key findings

Differences in students’ GCSE results owe more to genetics than environment

One Cause of Inequality: More Rich Marrying One Another

Marry Your Like: Assortative Mating and Income Inequality

Women, Men and the New Economics of Marriage

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