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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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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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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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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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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Liberty

Gay Marriage and Liberty

Arguments in favour of gay marriage:

1. Gay people want to get married

2. It is important to them.

3. It affects nobody else.

Arguments against gay marriage:

 

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Further reading:

Why homosexuality is natural – an evolutionary explanation

Is there a bit of lesbianism in every woman?

 

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