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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Liberty, Politics and Economics

Real Democracy Lies in Purchasing Power not Committee Meetings.

In Ed Miliband’s Hugo Young Lecture this week he outlined his solution to unresponsive and unaccountable state services.  He proposes to give more power to the people. He wants to provide the public with more information.  He wants local people to be consulted about local decisions and he wants local government to take back more power from the centre.  Laudable aims, but how will this be implemented?

Labour will give power to the people so long as their decisions are constrained within their preconceived framework of socialist thinking. So the services would still be state run and monopolistic but the public would be allowed to influence the flavour or hue.  This is not power or freedom. It’s being imprisoned in a series of endless bureaucratic meetings, which will be dominated by a few activists who have the time and energy to expend on a narrow cause. This will inevitably include the type of full time agitators, anarchists and protestors we see objecting to fracking and busily occupying London.

Oscar Wilde’s remark that Socialism would never work because there aren’t enough evenings in the week seems to be accurate. Mr Miliband’s pledge that local people will be consulted on decisions is typical of Labour’s illusion that ordinary people are desperately clamoring to give up their free evenings to sit on the local committee for refuse collection or to influence the local clinical commissioning panel. The voice of the silent majority will remain just that because they have better ways to spend their time than arguing with a few highly motivated extremists. So it would not be very democratic either.

Real power lies with whoever holds the purse strings.    So instead we should introduce a voucher system, which we can all use to procure the type of local services we want.  For example, we would have the power to use our Medical Voucher to choose our own doctor, our Education Voucher to choose our child’s school and our Refuse Collection Voucher  to choose who empties our rubbish bin.   We would all get an equal opportunity to influence these services and providers will be kept on their toes because revenue would flow to those providing the best service.

However the public sector Unions and left-leaning politicians would become impotent under such a scenario. They only have power if we have no choice but to use their monopolistic services.   For this reason neither would allow it.  In reality they will constrain the decision making to the Henry Ford solution. You can have any colour you like so long as it’s black – or in this case, red.

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Liberty

Sexual Harassment at Work and Liberty.

Should we legislate to prevent sexual harassment at work?

The sad fact of the matter is that there are many men who are simply socially awkward, particularly around women.

To find a sexual partner we must court. First we must subtlety make our intentions clear in an alluring way without being too explicit so as not to cause alarm. Thinking of something interesting and relevant to say is difficult. We dread saying totally the wrong thing. We agonise about how we look.  Have we chosen our clothes with care?   We worry about rejection and humiliation. This game also requires a large amount of social and emotional intelligence to accurately interpret the response of the target of our passions. This is a very stressful and difficult game to get right and involves significant social and cognitive skills. In most cases we need alcohol just to cope with the emotional turmoil, which also unfortunately impairs our judgment. Some people are subtle and clever at this game, most are average of course, but a few are completely useless. If you are also physically unattractive the odds are stacked completely against you.

I can recall a casual lunch as a young manager with my female head of HR. She had just returned from a conference on sexual harassment in the workplace. Her take on the whole issue was that any explicit or implicit sexual demands made based on one person’s authority over another were clearly wrong. A dismissible offence. However most of the sexual harassment cases she came across in her professional life could be classified as one person having sexual advances from a person from whom they didn’t want sexual advances. As the majority of these cases were between peers, power and authority were not part of the equation. Consequently many men (and they were mostly men) had claims of sexual harassment against them and were oblivious to having done something wrong. They had seen other men behaving in the same way and having their advances welcomed and then witnessed the relationship that followed.   Many of these sexual harassment claims came after sales conferences and training courses where alcohol had been drunk with colleagues in a social situation.

At the same company one of our male marketing managers was very tactile. He was very enthusiastic and passionate about his job and would get animated when talking about his marketing campaigns. To emphasise a key point in his discussion he would often grab my arm or shoulder. When walking he would often casually put an arm around my shoulder to signify camaraderie. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, but neither did I interpret his behaviour as a sexual advance. He was just tactile. I’ve also had explicit sexual advances from women from whom I did not want a sexual advance, in a work situation, but being male I did not interpret this as a threat to my person or career.

I also watch with amusements professional footballers being sent onto the field of play with a friendly slap on the bottom from their coach or manager. The hugs and kisses after scoring a goal is legendary. Nobody checks with the goal scorer to see if they mind being touched. Does this mean any professional footballer can now allege sexual harassment?  This is their place of work after all.  Imagine the potential litigation income for retired footballers in need of some extra cash.  Or do we just make men touching women a special case?  Would that be sexist?    Will some unscrupulous colleagues exaggerate “touching” claims for professional gain or just pure vindictiveness?

Physical contact is an important part of being human and is a natural response to emotional situations.  Who doesn’t want to console a distraught child?  A tearful colleague?  Hug a friend with good news?  When does that contact become threatening or criminal?  Surely some of this is in the interpretation of the person being touched?

To what extent do we want to vilify and criminalise men (or women) who are just socially awkward, particularly if they’ve had a glass of wine too many?   When does social awkwardness become bad manners?  When does bad manners become a crime?

For many people the vast majority of their social interaction is through work.  Many people also meet their life-long sexual partners at work so it is clear that much consensual flirting and sexual activity occurs between colleagues.  Inevitably some will overstep the mark.  I’m very sensitive to the distress unwanted sexual attention causes women at work. It is clearly wrong and social pressure and education should be used to combat it. However using legislation to try to enforce a change is fraught with immense difficulty and countless shades of grey.  As proof try to craft a carefully worded, watertight piece of legislation.  One which protects women at work without either:  criminalising much innocent behaviour;  or having Taliban like policies enforced by employers and Governments which dictate with whom and under what circumstances consenting couples are allowed to flirt and have sexual relationships. This would be a gross violation of the human rights of everybody and impossible to enforce.  Sometimes we must accept there are no perfect solutions. To assume that anything which combats something which is wrong is automatically right is faulty logic. Often the remedy makes the situation worse. Women would feel slightly better protected in certain situations but their overall basic human rights would be greatly diminished.

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Genetic Explanations, Liberty, Politics and Economics, Religion

Why homosexuality is natural – an evolutionary explanation

Since Aristotle, we have philosophised a scientific and moral order to the world.  A “natural order” or “utopia” to creation.  A way things were meant to be.  If we acted against this order then nature would be disrupted and chaos would ensue.  This pre-supposition was incorporated into the major religions where it is assumed that God had a plan for creation and that His plan was “designed” to be harmonious.  If we could only understand what God intended for the world then we would know how to behave. But only religion knew how we ought to behave according to God’s design, because only religion knew God’s mind. Religion therefore got involved with “moral teaching”, which was a code of behaviour that God had intended and endorsed.

So religion expropriated moral behaviour based on a belief in a “purpose” or “design” of nature.  Men were men, and women were women, and they were meant to marry and have children.

However, unlike Aristotle’s assertion and accepted religious doctrine, evolution does not provide an “ought” for nature.   There is no intention in evolution.  Genes have no intelligence or sentience.  They are inert, self-replicating, complex molecules that have evolved over 3,500,000,000 years to build intricate life-support machines around them (living organisms) that help them replicate themselves.  We humans are a disposable container to further the interest of our genes.  We die, they don’t.

Evolution works by natural selection.  Each generation of genes has small random variations and mutations (some beneficial, most harmful) from which nature chooses the best characteristics using natural selection.  The beneficial behaviours survive and are amplified in future generations and the unbeneficial behaviours dwindle or die out.

Genes merely cover their options by providing random variation to ensure that whatever the future environment may be, some of them will be adapted to take advantage of it.

Without this evolution could not occur and we would still be living primordial slime.

So massive climate change, asteroid attacks, disease and any number of previous natural disasters has not wiped out life on our planet.  It just changes which genes (and therefore which species) are best adapted for the new environment.

So there is no “ought” in evolution.  There is no “intent” or a way things were meant to be.

So nature naturally provides variation in human characteristics and behaviour.  We have variations in skin colour, variations in hair colour, variations in aggressive behaviour and variations in intelligence.  And yes, variations in sexuality.  Some people are gay, some are heterosexual, and some can be anywhere on the spectrum in between.  So homosexuality is as natural as red hair or black skin or blue eyes.

Studies have shown that homosexuality runs in families, leading most researchers to presume a genetic underpinning of sexual preference. However, no major gene for homosexuality has yet been found.   But whilst much variation is directly caused by genes, we know that some variation is only indirectly caused by genes.  Recent studies in epigenetics have found a plausible mechanism for human homosexuality.  Epi-marks constitute an extra layer of information attached to our genes’ backbones that regulates their expression. While genes hold the instructions, epi-marks direct how those instructions are carried out – when, where and how much a gene is expressed during development.

Sex-specific epi-marks produced in early fetal development protect each sex from the substantial natural variation in testosterone that occurs during later fetal development. Sex-specific epi-marks stop girl fetuses from being masculinised when they experience atypically high testosterone and vice versa for boy fetuses. Different epi-marks protect different sex-specific traits from being masculinised or feminised – some affect the genitals, others sexual identity, and yet others affect sexual partner preference.

Epi-marks are usually erased and produced anew each generation, but recent evidence demonstrates that they sometimes carry over between generations and thus can contribute to similarity among relatives, resembling the effect of shared genes.  When sex-specific epi-marks are transmitted across generations from fathers to daughters or mothers to sons, they may cause reversed effects, such as the feminisation of some traits in sons and similarly a partial masculinisation of daughters.

So this mechanism can affect a developing foetus’ response to hormones in the womb which may affect brain development and sexuality.  But how can a genetic trait that causes sexual preferences which will not result in pregnancy and children survive generation after generation?   The reason that many people think homosexuality is “unnatural” is because it denotes behaviour which does not result in any future generations.  Natural selection should ensure that genes for homosexuality will die out.  Many believe the fear of persecution caused many homosexuals to marry and have children in order to fit into society, thus propagating these genes into future generations.  However,  mathematical modeling demonstrates that genes coding for these epi-marks can easily spread in the population because they only rarely escape erasure causing homosexuality in the offspring.  Genetic transmission of epi-marks between generations is the most plausible evolutionary mechanism of the phenomenon of human homosexuality.

So our knowledge that homosexuality has a genetic basis, which is subject to evolution by natural selection, would lead us to predict that homosexuality would be rare.  This is verified by the  results of the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles recently published in The Lancet.   It shows that 7% of men have had some sort of same-sex “sexual experience” and only 4% had physical sex with a man.  The percentage of females who say they have had a sexual “experience”, including kissing, with another woman was 16% and the number admitting to having sex with another woman was 8%.  However there are good evolutionary reasons why we would predict that homosexual behaviour in women would be greater than in men.  (See blog:  Is there a bit of lesbianism in all women? )

Now that homosexuality is accepted in modern societies there is less pressure on homosexuals to marry and have children in order to “fit in” and avoid persecution.  This could mean that there will be less homosexuality in the future because if there are genes which code for homosexual behaviour they would become even less common.  However the recent research into epi-marks suggests that homosexuality will never disappear.  It will just remain rare.

Gay Marriage and Liberty

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Genetic Explanations, Liberty, Religion

From where do we get our moral behaviour?

Since Aristotle, we have philosophised a scientific and moral order to the world.  A “natural order” or  “utopia” to creation.  A way things were meant to be.  If we acted against this order then nature would be disrupted and chaos would ensue.  This pre-supposition was incorporated into the major religions where it is assumed that God had a plan for creation and that plan was “designed” to be harmonious.  If we could only understand what He intended for the world then we would know how to behave. But only religion knew how we ought to behave according to God’s design, because only religion knew God’s mind. Religion therefore got involved with “moral teaching”, which was a code of behaviour that God had intended and endorsed.

It was consequently assumed that if we did not believe in God then our moral behaviour could not be guaranteed.   If we don’t believe in God what is to stop us murdering and raping?  If there is no retribution after death what is to ensure we live a good life?  Non- religious people were feared, excluded, subjected to violence and sometimes death.  Religious belief was considered the default position.  The term “atheist” is a strange word construct that confirms this thinking.  We are not normally described as something we are not.  We are not non-socialists, or non-Manchester United supporters.  Only non-believers.  In past times atheists would have been advised to play the game, go to church and pretend to believe in order to avoid persecution.

So religion expropriated moral behaviour.

But mankind is moral and ethical in the absence of religious belief.  There is no evidence that religious people are more moral than atheists. Or that they are more law abiding. In recent polls, 65% of British people said they weren’t religious and weekly church attendance in the UK is down to less than 2%.  No massive crime wave has ensued.  Violent crime is at a 30 year low.

So if it not religion, where do our morals come from?

Interestingly there are a number of psychological tests which can elucidate our moral compass i.e. establish what moral beliefs we all hold.  These tests can be applied to people from all 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.

Most humans would feel bad about causing harm to another person. We would generally feel revulsion at seeing a child raped or an innocent murdered.  We feel compassion towards small, vulnerable children.  We look after our sick and dying.  We evolved as an emotional, social, altruistic species (but who admittedly can turn violent if threatened).  These behaviours of nurture, collaboration, teamwork, empathy and compassion have led to our success as a species.  Altruism works in evolutionary terms if an individual of a species has a reasonable chance of it being reciprocated.  This is the “is” of human nature.

However, unlike Aristotle’s assertion and accepted religious doctrine, evolution does no provide an “ought” to human behaviour.   There is no intention in evolution.  The Universe was not meant to be a certain way.  There are just random behaviours encoded by our genes that lead to us to be more or less successful in propagating our genes into the next generation.

Evolution occurs by the process of natural selection.  The beneficial behaviours survive and are amplified in future generations and the unbeneficial behaviours die out.

So it seems that our moral code actually has a Darwinist origin, not a religious origin!

Combine this force of nature with our intelligence as a species and our ability to learn, anticipate and interpret our environment and we have very complex “human” behaviour (a “culture”), which in developed countries now includes evidence based debate, democracy and the rule of law.  This is where we must derive our “ought” of human behaviour i.e. how we should behave.

If we combine our innate moral code with rational, evidence based debate, democracy and the rule of law we have a functioning society. A “civilization” that can even accommodate a few immoral miscreants that the variation component of the mechanism of evolution by natural selection throws up. Our intelligence as a species has allowed us to plan and control our own society.  Most of us have the ability to see how things would be if we allowed anarchy to predominate, so we work hard to create order, security and welfare.

So, we have an inbuilt, genetic, emotional behavioural code and a derived behavioural code from our experience and interaction with our environment.  Some things just feel wrong. Some things we rationalise as wrong.  Some of these emotional and rational codes we choose to call “morals”.

Religion was once beneficial.  It was a good way of creating social control through its teaching and threats of social exclusion and eternal damnation for those that misbehaved.  But now we have the ability to collect real evidence through scientific methods for our evidence-based debates.  We now have good-enough democracy and adequate rule of law.  We have superseded religion.

The negatives of religion are now outweighing the positives:  Illogical, irrational thinking; superstition; religious discrimination; the sinister underpinnings of Islamic Jihad and the barbaric treatment of women are all part of the same belief system.  The same irrational belief system underpins extreme Islam and the benign Church of England. If we condone one version, we must condone them all.  We can no longer claim that we should believe in an untruth (religion) because it is beneficial.  The balance has changed.  We must now free ourselves from the shackles of religious indoctrination.  As Steven Weinburg famously said, “with or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

We are right to challenge religious beliefs in order to create a better, more moral, more rational, fairer and more equal world.

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Genetic Explanations, Liberty, Politics and Economics

Why do we vote for a particular political party? Geography and genetics can play a role.

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Geography is more likely to dictate voting patterns in modern Britain than “class” or even income. Well-off people in the north are more likely to vote Labour and poor people in Kent are more likely to vote Conservative:

Leader Article

“The north has wealthy suburbs, like South Wirral, west of Liverpool. They vote Labour. The south has impoverished pockets, like north-east Kent. They vote Conservative.”

Reference

As well as geography dictating political behaviour there is good evidence that genetics may play a role as well.  Twin studies unequivocally demonstrate the heritability of politically related behaviour.  A collection of a dozen genes might be responsible for inclining people towards liberalism or conservatism. There are no genes for socialism or conservatism, or for prejudice or tolerance, any more than there are genes for Christianity or Islam. But a person’s genes can sometimes propel them more easily in one direction than another. Free will is a little freer to turn right than left, or vice versa.  Of course genes are inherited and tend to cluster in particular regions, even in today’s highly connected world.

Genetics and politics

It seems that reason, logic and informed debate play a smaller role in forming our voting patters than we might hope.  This means the electorate has less flexibility and “free will” to change the Government according to the prevailing needs of the nation. 

This is a particular concern at present as the overwhelming need is to reduce the cataclysmic UK budget deficit and national debt.  Each year we borrow more than 100 billion pounds that is swelling a debt that is already over a trillion pounds.  Tax increases will not get near reducing the deficit, let alone the debt, so massive spending cuts are inevitable.  We need to understand from each political party how they will manage our country’s new financial reality.

Even if the Labour leaders understood the need for reducing our colossal debt, their Union paymasters and back-benchers would not let them reduce public spending. The country should feel that there are other political parties that have more currently relevant instincts towards wealth creation, rather than wealth spending, and a strong, historically proven philosophical belief in a smaller State supported by lower public spending.

Even for entrenched Labour supporters there should be an understanding that there is a time and a place for Labour policies.  And that time is not now.  For the good of the nation many traditional Labour supporters must be persuaded to hold their nose and vote for somebody else. Unfortunately it seems they have less free will to change their vote according to circumstance than we might hope.

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Liberty, Politics and Economics

The 2008 Financial Crisis was Primarily a Failure of Socialist Economics

Mr. Miliband and the UK Labour Party believe that the 2008 financial crisis was caused by a failure of capitalism.  To an extent this is true, but then few of us believed that capitalism is a perfect system, just the best system currently available.  Mr. Miliband and his colleagues are very vocal at pointing out the failures of capitalism, but silent on the many everyday failures of The State, negating a credible socialist solution to our problems.

I’ll argue that the 2008 financial crisis was primarily caused by a failure of socialist economics.

Let’s be clear about the economic legacy left by the last Labour Government.  The deficit was a whopping £155,000,000,000 in one year!  Whilst I have heard many Labour politicians responsible for this eye-watering number blame it on extra spending required to avert an “international financial crisis” created by bankers, the facts do not support this defence.

It was not a “world-wide” crisis as it affected only countries that ran up huge Government deficits (Greece and the UK being prime examples) or massive private deficits (Ireland).  This includes the US who refused to raise very low tax levels to meet spending obligations, and the EuroZone who cannot put taxes up any higher to match their totally out-of-control spending plans.  Many countries, including Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, China, Sweden Germany and much of South East Asia all avoided the worst of the crisis because their spending was more-or-less in line with their tax revenues.  Labour must take its share of the blame with the bankers, as it was them that ran up Government debt.

Also, Labour turned on the spending tap long before the 2008 – 09 financial crisis.

http://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/bn99.pdf (see Fig. 4.1 on page 10)

Labour spending went from 36% of GDP in 1999-2000 to 42% in 2005 -2006 whilst revenue was broadly flat at 37% of GDP over the same period.  Increasing Government deficits is not new and the size of this early deficit was not unusual by historical standards.  But the key difference here is that Labour increased spending and debt during the boom which started at the end of John Major’s government.  We expect Governments to increase spending and deficits during a recession.  This is essential to cover increased unemployment benefits and lower tax revenues and smooth out the economic shocks that inevitably hit the most vulnerable citizens.  However, prudent Governments will then pay down debt during the boom times to allow more future borrowing when the economic cycle inevitable takes a turn for the worse.

Remember that the deficit is given as a percentage of GDP, which is much higher during a boom therefore the deficit is proportionally bigger.  Also, the last boom lasted for a long time, an unprecedented 16 years, allowing massive debt to build up if you were foolish enough to continue to borrow during this time.

The reason that Labour felt they could borrow with impunity, even during a boom, was it believed it had banished “boom and bust” economics.  Gordon Brown famously made this statement in the House of Commons. The world’s finances were linked for the first time by technology and Labour believed the massive global market could spread financial risks. Labour bet the country’s financial health on a belief that asset values would continue to rise, allowing borrowing against those assets.  Finally, Labour selfishly expected our disenfranchised children and grandchildren to pay back the debt sometime in the future, believing this was acceptable because it assumed the economy would be much bigger by then and they could afford it.  This is undemocratic and immoral. The consequence of all this is that Labour foolishly and arrogantly believed there would never be another downturn so could continue to spend above tax receipts.

Labour was wrong on all counts.  The connected global markets did not spread the risk, it spread the contagion, asset prices fell and the economy shrank increasing the debt to income burden.

So because Labour arrogantly believed there would be no more downturns they increased their profligate spending rather than pay down debt.  Consequently, when the financial crisis hit in 2008 there was no more credit available, which left the UK economy unusually exposed.

Thanks to Labour the incoming coalition government had the unique problems of solving a massive economic slowdown with no ability to borrow more to smooth the worst effects.  They had to reduce spending when there was more need for the extra money.  An impossible task without causing major hardship.

Whether the coalition policies produced the best possible outcome given the disastrous economic hand they were dealt by Labour is difficult to judge.  This remains to be seen and history will be the judge.

Labour’s election prospects do not lie in trying to talk down the coalition economic performance or in justifying its recent economic mismanagement.  To win the next election they must address one key question:  Which party will best manage our new economic reality?

We have over a trillion pounds of debt, which is still rising due to an annual deficit of over 100 billion pounds.  All this must be paid down.  Combining this with an older population (with their large pension and healthcare needs) means we will have no more spare money for at least a generation. We must earn what we want to spend.  We cannot continue to borrow what we spend. Increased taxation can get nowhere near lowering the deficit, let alone the debt.

Massive public spending cuts are inevitable.

Labour must now convince the country that they can move from a party which financially supports in-work welfare benefit and uncontrolled public spending to one which puts financial prudence ahead of its social engineering experiments i.e. manage the country’s massively reduced public spending capacity for the foreseeable future.

The Labour front bench may believe they can do this, but I doubt that their political paymasters (Unite and the GMB unions) or the socialist Labour backbenchers will let them.  They have a social agenda not an economic one. The country may feel that there are other political parties with a longer history and proven innate instincts of supporting a smaller State and lower public spending.

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Liberty, Politics and Economics

Why Management Targets Become Ineffective

The use of targets usually has a desirable effect on the behaviour of managers for a year or two at most. After that the effects of overusing numerical targets can be detrimental for the following reasons:

1.Targets are only effective if the manager is largely in control of the parameters being measured.  In many organisations the management performance is affected by many factors beyond the control of any individuals, or even the whole organisation.  Prevailing economic factors and general market conditions, demographics, fashion, Government legislation, behaviour of competitors, competence of colleagues and peers etc. etc. can have a profound effect on individual performances. In particular it may not be appropriate to overuse numerical targets for public bodies such police forces and healthcare providers when so much crime and illness is caused by influences beyond their control  – changes in demographics, immigration, relative affluence and socio-economic factors to name but a few.

2. Targets can only be set against aspects of the job, which can be accurately measured. This can cause a bias towards “hard” numerical targets at the expense of more important “soft skill” aspects of the work. For example nurses can be set targets around number of patients treated, but cannot easily be measured and rewarded against the important “soft” skills of a caring bedside manner and patient empathy which lead to better patient care.

This type of “measurement” culture has caused a proliferation of Speed Cameras on our roads. In fact, driving over the posted speed limit accounts for less than 10% of road traffic accidents, whereas “driving without due care and attention” accounts for 40%. Measuring speed is easier than measuring attention levels or driving skills, so that’s where we put our resources. We take policemen of the road and concentrate on what can be easily measured rather than improving driving skills. This is lazy and ineffective.

3.      Soon after the targets are set the incumbent usually finds “short cut” ways to hit the targets required, making them ineffective. The problem here is that managers waste a lot of time and energy “gaming” the target setting system to their advantage, rather than actually doing their job. This will be particularly true if a large part of their remuneration is based on hitting certain “hard” targets. There are numerous examples of this, including those given in the article above. The classic example is the reporting of “profit” made in a business. A good accountant can quite legally adjust the books to show a wide range of profit levels allowing senior managers to choose the scenario which best suits their needs at the time.  Another good example was reducing waiting lists in hospitals. This was easily done my phoning all those on the waiting list and crossing off those which has got better, moved house or died whilst on the list. Hey presto! – the list is shorter.  New managers generally restate previous performance levels to a lower standard and blame previous incumbents for the short fall, so they can show better performance against a lower base. They can also redefine parameters being measured, use legitimate but misleading statistical analysis to show better performance and change the way the data is collected or collated. They can also just lie.

4.Having set targets an enormous amount of time, energy and money must now be spent in collecting endless amounts of data to see if targets are being made. Additional resources are used in collating the data, creating reports, reading and interpreting the reports and constantly adjusting targets and measurement criteria to keep up with the managers who are spending their time and energy finding ways of gaming the system. Endless, expensive debates then ensue as to whether the data has been correctly interpreted.

Eventually we find we are spending all our time and money collecting data and trying to catch each other out using statistics, rather than managing whatever it is we are supposed to be managing. Remember all this work and energy is only focused on aspects of the job which are numerically measurable.  Integrity, professionalism, judgement, interpersonal skills, empathy, care etc. etc. are difficult criteria to measure.

We cannot eliminate all target setting but perhaps we can allow more performance measurement based on soft, observable skills as interpreted by an experienced hands-on manager.  The “art”, rather than the “science” of management.

We should concentrate on getting the right people, in the right job with the passion and motivation to make a positive difference.  And then let them get on with it.  This should take precedent over arbitrary numerical targets.

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Liberty

Why Crime Rates Have Fallen Over The Last 30 Years (hint: it’s not prison)

There is no doubt that crime, particularly violent crime, has reduced significantly over the last 30 years in the developed world.

20130720_FBC856      inline_1540668a-ca6_674467a.jpg

Men are responsible for 86% of all indictable crimes in England and Wales, 88% of crimes against the person, 90% of murders, and 98% of sexual offences (all for the year 2012).  Young males commit many more crimes than any other group, so any influence on this group will disproportionately affect crime levels.

Criminal behaviour in young men is partly due to their naturally high levels of testosterone, which causes aggressive, risk taking behaviour across the animal kingdom. Our environment is now full of anti-testosterone pollutants.  These chemicals mostly come from medicines (including cancer treatments and the contraceptive pill) that enter our water supply via the sewage system. Some pesticides used in agriculture also act as anti-testosterones.  These chemicals are leading to the ‘feminisation’ of male fish and have been linked to falling male fertility in humans.  They may also be helping to reduce aggressive, risk taking, criminal behaviour as a welcome effect.

There is also good evidence that lead pollution from leaded petrol causes more violent aggressive behaviour, particularly in men.  Decreased lead pollution after the West moved towards unleaded fuel is compounding this positive effect on crime.

Another factor is the increased use of social media, which is keeping young men at home on Facebook and Twitter, rather than meeting in pubs and on the streets.  The use of video games by young men has also had a similar effect.  This may have contributed to the measurable national reduction in the consumption of crime causing drugs such as alcohol, heroin and crack-cocaine. In Britain, the current generation of 18- to 24-year-olds is a lot less likely to have tried an illegal drug or to drink than those ten years older were at their age, and the same is true in most European countries.

Demographics also play a role in the reduction of crime.  There are fewer young people overall than in previous generations and therefore fewer young men.

A recent study has suggested that liberal abortion policies can reduce crime by taking potential criminals out of the population before they are born.   A pregnant woman who does not want her child often does so for good reason. She may be poor, uneducated, unmarried, very young, living in chaotic circumstances or addicted to drugs or alcohol.  The boys born to mothers with this combination of circumstances are more likely to embark on a life of crime during their testosterone fuelled adolescence .  There is a direct correlation between those American states which legalised abortions in 1970s and a subsequent drop in crime rates 15 to 20 years later.  Also American states with the highest abortion rates in the 1970s experienced the greatest crime drops in the 1990s, while states with low abortion rates experienced smaller crime drops.  Since 1985, states with high abortion rates have experienced a roughly 30 percent drop in crime relative to low-abortion states.  By the same reasoning any policies which prevent unplanned pregnancies and teenage pregnancies should also have a demonstrable effect on crime rates 15 to 20 years later.

Other reasons for the reduction in crime is due to better policing and forensics. Better security on homes and cars and CCTV in our streets makes it more likely that a criminal will be caught.  The lower value of stealable items also now makes crime relatively uneconomic.   All these act as a disincentive to crime and stops many young men becoming criminals in the first place.

The drop in crime is less likely to be due the policy of locking people up in prison for longer. In Britain the prison population doubled between 1993 and 2012. But several countries, including Canada, the Netherlands, Germany and Estonia, have reduced their prison populations without seeing any spike in crime; so too have some American states such as New York, where crime rates have fallen fastest. Prison takes existing criminals off the streets, but in many places, the drop in crime seems to be down to people not becoming criminals in the first place. Between 2007 and 2012 the number of people convicted of an offence for the first time in Britain fell by 44%.

The decline of the traditional nuclear family and growing ethnic diversity has not unleashed the unstoppable crime wave many conservatives predicted. Religion cannot claim to reduce crime either. In recent polls, 65% of British people said they weren’t religious and weekly church attendance in the UK is down to less than 2%. Left-wingers who argued that crime could never be curbed unless inequality was reduced and wealth redistributed must also reassess their dogma. Their prediction that high unemployment and austerity would increase crime is equally wrong.

References:

Why do men commit most of the crimes?

Men and crime

Crime is plunging in the rich world.

Lead Pollution and Crime

The urban rise and fall of air lead (Pb) and the latent surge and retreat of societal violence.

Where have all the burglars gone?

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Liberty, Politics and Economics

The Economic Rape of Britain’s Youth

We should all feel sorry for Britain’s youth, not least because of the economic rape perpetrated on them by 13 years of Labour Government.

First, let’s be clear about the economic legacy left by the last Labour Government.  The deficit was a whopping £155,000,000,000 in one year!  This has now taken the debt to well over £1,000,000,000,000 that must be paid down by our children and grandchildren.

Whilst I have heard many Labour politicians responsible for this eye-watering number blame it on extra spending required to avert an “international financial crisis” created by bankers, the facts do not support this defence.

It was not a “world-wide” crisis as it affected only countries that ran up huge Government deficits (Greece and the UK being prime examples) or massive private deficits (Ireland).  This includes the US who refused to raise very low tax levels to meet spending obligations, and the EuroZone who cannot put taxes up any higher to match their totally out-of-control spending plans.  Many countries, including Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, China, Sweden Germany and much of South East Asia all avoided the worst of the crisis because their spending was more-or-less in line with their tax revenues.  Labour must take its share of the blame with the bankers, as it was them that ran up Government debt.

Also, Labour turned on the spending tap long before the 2008 – 09 financial crisis.

http://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/bn99.pdf (see Fig. 4.1 on page 10)

Labour spending went from 36% of GDP in 1999-2000 to 42% in 2005 -2006 whilst revenue was broadly flat at 37% of GDP over the same period.  Increasing Government deficits is not new and the size of this early deficit was not unusual by historical standards.  But the key difference here is that Labour increased spending and debt during the boom which started at the end of John Major’s Government.  We expect Governments to increase spending and deficits during a recession.  This is essential to cover increased unemployment benefits and lower tax revenues and smooth out the economic shocks that inevitably hit the most vulnerable citizens.  However, prudent Governments will then pay down debt during the boom times to allow more future borrowing when the economic cycle inevitable takes a turn for the worse.

Remember that the deficit is given as a percentage of GDP, which is much higher during a boom therefore the deficit is proportionally bigger.  Also, the last boom lasted for a long time, an unprecedented 16 years, allowing massive debt to build up if you were foolish enough to continue to borrow during this time.

The reason that Labour felt they could borrow with impunity, even during a boom, was it believed it had banished “boom and bust” economics.  Gordon Brown famously made this statement in the House of Commons. The world’s finances were linked for the first time by technology and Labour believed the massive global market could spread financial risks. Labour bet the country’s financial health on a belief that asset values would continue to rise, allowing borrowing against those assets.  Finally, Labour selfishly expected our disenfranchised children and grandchildren to pay back the debt sometime in the future, believing this was acceptable because it assumed the economy would be much bigger by then and they could afford it.  This is undemocratic and immoral.

Labour was wrong on all counts.  The connected global markets did not spread the risk, it spread the contagion, asset prices fell and the economy shrank increasing the debt to income burden.

Consequently, when the financial crisis hit in 2008 there was no more credit available, which left the UK economy unusually exposed.

Labour’s profligate and selfish policies will materially affect the lives of today’s youth.  They will already struggle to pay the massive pensions and healthcare bills of the much larger, soon-to-retire baby boomer generation (particularly as Gordon Brown also spent the money saved for their future pensions).  Britain’s youth must now also pay back their own University tuition fees and living expenses, something their parents got for free. To additionally pay back our eye-wateringly large trillion pound debt is surely beyond the pale?

Interestingly, Britain’s youth seem to have more sense than their parents, and have rumbled the cause of this economic catastrophe:

“Young Britons are classical liberals: as well as prizing social freedom, they believe in low taxes, limited welfare and personal responsibility.

and….

“Every successive generation is less collectivist than the last,” says Ben Page of Ipsos MORI, a pollster. All age groups are becoming more socially and economically liberal. But the young are ahead of the general trend. They have a more sceptical view of state transfers, even allowing for the general shift in attitudes”

See The Economist leader on this subject and the full article.

None of the old political parties match the political views of Britain’s youth.  They have a choice between illiberal (i.e. socialist) economics and liberal social policy (Labour) or liberal economics and illiberal social policy (Conservative).  Whilst valuing personal freedom Britain’s youth is fed up with collectivist, socialist economics .  They seem to think Boris Johnson has views most akin to their own.

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Liberty, Politics and Economics

Trade Unions Are An Anachronism

One has to ask what is the point of Unions in the context of all-powerful UK / EU employment laws?

The UK and EU offer such high protection to workers that it actively discourages employers taking on new staff, particularly full time staff. Higher unemployment (particularly youth unemployment) and a disproportionate number of part-time workers is a consequence.

The only added value of Union membership is to enable a certain minority of strategic workers to extort additional income from taxpayers and other workers with the threat of industrial action. This detrimentally skews the labour market causing major economic inefficiencies, which make us all worse off.  For example, because tube train drivers can economically ruin London with a damaging strike, they can extort extra income from other workers (fare-paying commuters and tax payers) and earn significantly more than hotel workers doing similarly skilled work.  London Underground staff are lavishly paid by public transport standards, with Tube drivers on basic pay of up to £52,000 ($85,000) by 2015.

They can also prevent the modernisation of an essential economic asset by insisting we have cash based ticketing offices in an era of cheaper automated vending machines and Oyster Cards that can be automatically topped up with cash online.  The Unions are also the reason we have drivers on tube trains in an era of cheaper, more reliable and safer driverless trains.   Transport for London faces a budget shortfall of nearly £80 million for 2013 and 2014. It cannot afford to ignore opportunities to cut costs and modernise for the sake of old-fashioned ticket offices or a confrontational union boss with a social agenda.

The final insult is that it locks away workers in out-dated and unproductive roles that could be doing something more economically useful.  Does anybody remember the Transport Unions forcing diesel trains to have a driver, guard and fireman? Anybody assuming moving to driverless train would cause unemployment should remember this era and swot up on the Lump of Labour Fallacy. Another example of a minority holding the majority to ransom is the National Union of Teachers ability to prevent the modernisation of our education system because a small minority of teachers can vote for strike action. We all vote for policies in general elections. Why should certain workers get an extra vote?

We have a new economic reality since Labour was last in power. Over a trillion pounds of debt, which is still rising due to an annual deficit of over 100 billion pounds. All this must be paid down. Combining this with an older population (with their large pension and healthcare needs) means we will have no more spare money for at least a generation. The UK must now earn what it wants to spend; it cannot continue to borrow what it wants to spend. Increased taxation can get nowhere near lowering the deficit, let alone the debt. Massive public spending cuts are inevitable.

To win the next election Labour must address one key question: Which party will best manage this new economic reality?

Labour must now convince the country that they can move from a party which financially supports in-work welfare benefit and uncontrolled public spending to one which puts financial prudence ahead of its social engineering experiments i.e. prudently manage the country’s massively reduced public spending capacity for the foreseeable future.

The Labour front bench may believe they can do this, but I doubt that their political paymasters (Unite and the GMB unions) will let them. They have a social agenda not an economic one. Unless Labour loosens the power of the Unions over its selection of leaders, MPs and policies the country will not trust them with its new, constrained economic reality.

I understand the important role played by Unions in securing workers rights in the latter part of the Industrial Revolution. But they have won the battle and served their purpose, which has been superseded by modern employment laws. They have become nothing more than a sinister anachronism, practiced in the art of blackmail and extortion on behalf of a tiny minority.

The Labour Party will have more credibility and electability without them.

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Liberty

Speed Cameras and Liberty

I’m not against using technology to catch criminals and provide evidence that will result in their conviction.

My problem with UK speed cameras is that they do this by trampling over the 3 hard-fought-for legal pillars of our legal justice system (which is immoral):

1. Presumption of innocence. We are expected to prove we were not driving to prevent prosecution, whereas it is normal for the police to provide evidence in other cases.

2. Right not to incriminate ourselves. The Notice of intended Prosecution bullies citizens in giving information, which would lead directly to the prosecution of themselves or their loved ones.

3. Right to remain silent. Remaining silent results in an inconvenient and expensive court summons.

The problem with Gatsos is that they rely on citizens providing the last and vital piece of evidence to make a prosecution. I understand that the European Court has ruled that this does not contravene our rights not to incriminate ourselves as it extracts only one piece of evidence.  Other evidence (the photograph of the car) is also required. However, the vital evidence is the identification of the actual driver at the time and this is forced from us by threats of an inconvenient, intimidating and expensive court summons. It also creates a huge dilemma if we can’t quite remember who was at the wheel at the time. Do we go to court (expensive, inconvenient, intimidating) or risk perverting the course of justice (possibly resulting in a prison sentence)?  An unpleasant dilemma for many law abiding citizens and one to which we should not be subjected.

I also note that many European countries do not have the presumption of innocence nor trial by jury. This legislation may be very European but it is definitely un-British.

In any case all this can be avoided by turning the camera around and getting a photograph of the driver. Such technology exists as they use it very effectively in Japan. That way the police have all the evidence they need. There would be no need to bully citizens into providing vital evidence and it would maintain the integrity of the three pillars of the British legal justice system.

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Liberty

Drugs and Liberty

Drugs are undoubtedly bad for our health and we could even make a case that recreational drug use is immoral. However this should have no bearing on whether drugs should be illegal or legal. It is clear there is no chance of the perfect solution where drugs can be completely eradicated from society. We must therefore decide what is the harm of having drugs illegal and compare that with the harm of having drugs legalised – and then choose the least bad option.

The main harm of making drugs illegal is that it creates enormous profits for some of the world’s most violent and unpleasant people, who murder, extort, bully and corrupt their way to power.  i.e. organised criminal gangs. It also supports corrupt regimes in some of the worlds nastiest countries and finances terrorism.

America’s attempt, in 1920-33, to prohibit the sale of alcohol (sensibly not copied in any other big country) inflated alcohol prices, promoted bootleg suppliers, encouraged the spread of guns and crime, increased hard-liquor drinking and corrupted a quarter of the federal enforcement agents, all within a decade. The drugs war has achieved all these things but, since the business is global, it has done so on an international scale.

Add to this the levels of crime conducted by users and addicts to pay the inflated prices, the high cost of law enforcement (police, customs, courts and prisons), the healthcare costs associated with poor quality and doctored products and the criminalisation of a nation’s youth and we have a very high cost to society for making drugs illegal.

Legalisation gives us the ability to easily reach out to users and addicts to educate them away from drug use.  We can also assure the quality of the product, making them safer and reducing the costs of treatment.  Tax revenue from the sale of drugs can be fed back into education programmes explaining the risks of drug taking.  Finally the poor producers in developing countries could get the financial benefits from a legitimate cash crop rather than the criminals in the current distribution chain.  In my opinion the biggest benefit would be taking an enormous source of revenue away from these nasty people in organised crime.

These benefits to legalisation must be balanced with a resulting lower social stigma from drug taking (if that was possible) and lower prices (to ensure nobody bought from illicit channels) possibly creating more users. But bear in mind that drugs are already very available in our society.  In any case most drugs users grow out of their habit if left alone.  Peter Cohen, of the Centre for Drug Research at the University of Amsterdam, followed a sample of cocaine users whom he describes as typical. After ten years, 60% had become completely abstinent and 40% remained occasional users. “Most drug users ultimately stop,” he says. “Drugs no longer fit their lifestyle. They get jobs, they have to get up early, they stop going to the disco, they have kids.”

So what is the least bad option – illegal or legal?  Governments already allow their citizens the freedom to do many potentially self-destructive things: mountaineering; bungee-jumping; cave diving; motor biking; alcohol and cigarette consumption; gambling and (famously) horse riding.  Some of these are far more dangerous than drug taking.

Perhaps John Stuart Mill was right. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.  Trade in drugs may be bad for our health, immoral and irresponsible, but perhaps it should no longer be illegal.

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Liberty

Prostitution and Liberty

So men often pay women for sex.  Some people want this practice to be banned and the purchaser prosecuted.  I’ve no doubt that the practice of women paying for sex is also not unknown.

If people are able to buy sex, if consent, the key principle in rape law, can be purchased with cash, it raises moral questions.  However, should it also raise legal questions?

What is the difference between:  a woman marrying for material gain and providing sexual favours in return;  a mistress who receives material support but remains faithful to one lover;   a woman that accepts expensive gifts from her lover;  a woman that receives expensive gifts from many lovers and a whore?  It is a spectrum but all have a component which puts a value on sex.  So how should we define “prostitution”?  In fact, in many consensual marriages in the Western world wives would soon find themselves ex-wives if they decided to withdraw the physical aspect of the relationship.  The same is true of husbands.  Sex is part of the deal.

Sex can be beautiful and poetic, urgent and base, purely recreational or merely mechanical for the purpose of bonding or procreation.  It may also be a solution to a physical need which can be bought and sold in different ways.  It is also a good way of controlling men.  The physical presence of women has been proven to make men more docile, less aggressive and gentler.  Boxers are told not to have sex before a fight because it reduces their aggression.   Many of the problems of the Middle East are caused by testosterone charged young men who do not have ready access to the calming effect of a physical relationship with young women.  They are sexually frustrated and this sometimes causes them to act irrationally, angrily and aggressively.

Sex is a continuum of intention and activity and can even be different things to the same couple at different times.

Why should The State have the right to tell consenting adults under what circumstances they are allowed to have sex?

(P.S. Human trafficking is already illegal).

Why human societies dislike female sexual promiscuity – an evolutionary explanation

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