Alan's Thunks

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Democracy as mob rule

   It is sad to see "democracy" being abused by many sides in the political debate. Perhaps it is me being naive but democracy to me only functions efficeints as a means of changing those in power not as a method of making complex decisions. It then becomes arule by the majority, or if you prefer, the mob.
  If I remember once before I blogged on this but it is early in the morning and too tired to check. Democracy, in the form od a simple majority made Northern Ireland a mess because the Protestants always won. Some stability and fairness only came in with a power-sharing agreement.  
  There are two situations now where "democracy" is being used to justify a particular course of action. The first is Brexit where people are arguing we have to accept the majority vote. We had exactly the same vote 40 odd years ago. but that was obviously not binding, although a much bigger support for staying in then. So why is this vote binding? There is an argument that there was a simple and clear choice but there was not. Nobody knows what the consequences of leaving are and nobody knows how hard it will be to reverse the decision. In one sense coming out is easy, we can just say get stuffed to Europe and spend the next 10 years negotiating various deals though as far as trade goes we would revert to basic WTO rules. As  to many other things who knows and in some cases who cares. Probably on any one issue very few but for those few it could be life changing.But a more serious complication is what happens if in 5 years there is a majority who want to go back in! Will we have to start entry negotiations again, will we have yet another referendum. Would UKIP have accepted the decision if is had gone the other way, 16 million vote to leavse and 17 million to stay? Of  course not they would have resolved to fight on and would have found another pretext to campaign again. The only honourable thing to do is to fight for another referendum before we finally leave.
  Next we come to the Labour Party and the claims that Jeremy Corbyn cannot be challenged because he won a clear majority in the election for leader. He has been leader for over 6 months and clearly many people who have to work with him in parliament feel he has failed. Does that mean that they have to support him despite this just because he was elected? If Britain had elected Roy Hodgson as manager of the England football team would it be wrong to have called for him to go just because he had been elected. If the vote of no confidence had been 110-100 there might be an argument for  him staying but to have managed to alienate some many Labour MP's shows disastrous leadership qulities and suggest to me that he would be a disastrous Prime Minister. Whether members of the Labour Party like it or not, I am a member, MP's see much more of him than we do and it would be unwise not to liten to them. I used to work in a University where heads of departments were elected by the faculty in that department. On the whole it worked well because those voting knew the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates at first hand, They did away with it because the system removed power from the Vice-Chancellor, sometimes they voted for someone the VC didn't approve, though the two most notorious examples were very successful heads.
 Democracy should never be used to justify mob rule or a claim to legitmacy that doesn't exist.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Funding political parties

 There is a row going on about the funding of political parties in the UK. Can I make a simple suggestion, political parties my only except donations from individuals. Further only individuals who are on the register of electors in the UK can make such donations.

 Firms and businesses do not have democratic rights and thus should not be allowed to interfere with the democratic process.

Monday, January 11, 2016

delusions of gandeur

   It is a long time since I blogged. This is because nothing seems to change and therefore there is nothing new to say. However reading about the splits in the Labour Party and the Conservative party almost take me back to my youth.  Consider Trident and wars and the fighting within the Labour part party.

  Why do we get so worked up about these issues/ Because we have delusions of grandeur and think it matters what we do. Would the Iraq war been any different if Britain had not get involved. Whether we bomb Syria or not will make absolutely no difference to the outcome. It might give some succour to the USA and the French but for the people of Syria the label on the bombs is irrelevant. Similarly Trident is an irrelevance in terms of world nuclear weapons. I am reminded of Bevan's line about going naked into the conference  chamber, what conference chamber.

 Corbyn and his allies are stuck in the rhetoric of the late fifties and early sixties. He is right but we need a different approach. We need to be more internationalist and try, and it it will not be easy, to move the United Nations so that it becomes more effective. The first step is to remove the permanent members of the security council and their vetoes. I have not heard one British politician making this point, hopefully I have merely missed it. The second step would be a properly trained permanent United nations force. People would join this force, not be seconded at the whim of national governments. The funding would come from a levy on each countries defence spending.

 Neither of these objectives would be easy to achieve but if we want as a Labour Party and as a country to move towards a more peaceful world this is the only way I can see us moving forward. Let Corbyn et al come forward with some genuine new proposals to move us forward and stop arguing about whether we renew Trident, which I am opposed to, which is largely a minor pimple and the backside of a minor country. The most influential country in Europe seems to be Germany, perhaps not having nuclear weapons is relevant.

Now let us turn to the issue that is tearing the Tory apart and hopefully will not tear the Labour Part apart. Whether we remain in the European Union. This again is based on delusion of grandeur that Britain as an individual country is so important that everyone will be knocking on our door as supplicants if we are not part of the European Union. Most of the other countries want us to stay and will bend on some minor issues to help Cameron campaign but do not think the Tory Party will support staying in. Those against staying in somehow think things will get better, I am not sure what things will get better. We will become a supplicant in the antechamber of Europe, much as we seem to be with respect to the United States.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bankers Bonuses

  This morning on the news there was some good news, The government has just announced that it is giving £3 million to help research on on prosthetics. Trying to improve the feeling in artificial limbs. Obviously this is good and I wish the researchers well. But we should get this in perspective, £3 million sounds a lot of money but it wouldn't by the bonus for the chief executive of HBOS, who has salted it all away in some offshore fund.

  How can a banker be worth more that serious research into helping people. At the sort of rewards that bankers are given, it would be hard to use the word earn, they must be classified as leeches on society. How have we allowed our society to drift into this situation? Are we all sleep walking into a nightmare without realising it? I am not sure I know the answer but my suspicion is that those with excessive amounts of money can spend a lot of it buying propaganda to tell us that they are need it and it would all be a disaster if they didn't get it.

 We have to believe that  advertising and propaganda work as most firms spend a lot of money. Once the rich are rich it is easy to stay rich. If you get a £5 million bonus and waste half of it you are still rich.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Douglas Carswell: a fraud/

I went to the Charles Clarke conversation on politics with Douglas Carswell at UEA last night. Perhaps it is unfair to  Carswell a fraud but certainly he lives in a world of self-delusion.

He was moved by his experiences as a child in Uganda where his parents were doctors during Idi Amin's regime. It is not surprised that such events moved him to believe in the need for people to be given freedom and independence. So he became a libertarian but what did this mean to him.As a student he studied history at UEA.

Politically he joined the Tory party because he couldn't join the Labour Party because it didn't believe in democracy, just wanted to tell people what to do. Perhaps I am paraphrasing but that is what comes across. As a Libertarian he wants everyone to do their own thing and not be corralled by government or big business, so why he joined the Tories is a bit of a mystery.

So having realised that he could never convert the Tories to his views, he joined UKIP because they are the party of intelligent libertarian thinkers. He managed to explain that they are not a bunch of racists who just don't like immigrants and foreigners. It is wonderful to hear him justify his position as a libertarian who supports the restrictions of peoples liberties, my question was just a  sixth form question. However for a libertarian he supports the health service and the welfare state, or seems to. He also happily supported campaigning against Scottish independence. What has happened to his libertarian principles, they are probably only used against trade unions and the Labour Party and other political parties. He would sacrifice them for other political ends.

Like many people he deludes himself into thinking he is being consistent, never ever self aware of the inconsistencies of his own position. My wife always says that I think consistency is too important but as a mathematician I have no choice, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.  I have always believed in judging people by what they do not what they say. Something my Dad used to say which I disagree with I understand, "Don't do what I do, do what I say" at least recognises that we don't all live up to the standards we set ourselves, perhaps we would be a better society if we all admitted that.


Thursday, February 05, 2015

Property & Land Tax

   In all the discussion of tax dodgers it seems what we really need to do is to make it hard to dodge paying tax. There is nothing illegal about tax dodging it is just immoral, taking things for nothing.  It is as simple as that, these individuals and companies want all the benefits that come from government spending but do not want to pay their share of the bill. As  a consequence the poorer in society pay a bigger share proportionally than they can afford. £100 is a lot to a person with no money and is a trivial amount to someone with a lot.

  So we need a tax, one of many, which is hard to dodge and, preferably,  cheap to collect. We use  to have one but we need to expand and develop it. That is a tax on land and property. it is relatively cheap to collect and is clearly identifiable. If Amazon has a dirty grat warehouse then we know where it is, they cannot pretend it is in Luxembourg.

  It would also be a way to localise taxation and give them a significant revenue that was independent of central government. They could be made responsible for the collection. As there is now a Land Registry it is much easier to identify who owns land. I would argue that any land not registered would be advertised and if not claimed within 6 months would be requisitioned by the local authority and could be used by them.

 Essentially it would be a tax on assets which is missing from the current taxation system. It would encourage efficient use of assets and would mean that if planning permission is granted for development on the land the tax would increase. This would encourage companies and people to actually do something with the permission because they would be paying tax. Also if values went down then the tax payable would decrease.

 These values would be determined by using Land Registry data, a small percentage of the tax would help fund the Land Registry to improve their services and make access to their database free, It would also be good to have a hotline so that if things happen it could be reported anonymously. Tjis would be analogous to the benefits version.

 If this was done for land and property on a quarterly basis there should be  gradual revaluation  and so no sudden shocks. I think we need to move away from restricting taxation to being based on income and expenditure. This is economically illiterate and reduces the base of taxation. Given that we are overcrowded do we wish to discourage the efficient use of land and property?

care would have to be taken, for example public parks should not be taxed because they are in public use and planning permission should not be given to develop them. Waste land should be taxed and the owners might feel it would be good to have some income from the land. Where there is no identifiable owner the land or property reverts to public ownership. When the taxation is not being paid there should be a process as in with unpaid mortgages, the property or land will be sold, the taxation taken out of the proceeds and the remainder will go to the owners.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Football & Mud

Watching the world cup it always amazing to see how most of the teams play with skill and significant ball control. The English never seem to be able to do it as well. The first time I noticed this was 1958 when I am some mates used to bunk off school to watch the world cup which was in Sweden, It was the time when Pele emerged as a great player.

it was the first time that most of us in Britain had a chance to see on live television the best players in the world and we were not up there with them and the skills were so obviously lacking, I remember the English centre forward try to trap the ball and it bouncing 10 yards to the opposition player.

Why was this the case, my theory is that it is down the the British weather. Remember football is played throughout the winter, no breaks and it used to be played with a laced up leather ball. If it was wet the ball got heavier and heavier as it soaked up water, however much dubbing was put on it.The pitch often got wet and slightly muddy in places. The idea of dribbling the ball and making precise passes along the ground would have been very difficult, perhaps a few talented players could manage. Certainly a defender would take no chances of the ball bouncing oddly or slowing up in the wet ground, so safety first, boot the ball as far upfield as you could. strength and stamina in those conditions were more important than skills.

On a related footballing topic I note that people claim that foreigners are always diving. When I was but a lad I often went to Spurs with my Dad. On one occasion I remember going by myself and being on the train from Liverpool St to White Hart Lane. It was one of those trains with compartments and the conversation turned to a Sours centre forward called Len Duquemin. he scores more goals by falling over tan any other method. but as always in such stories someone said but you should have seen, must admit I don't recall the name, who played before the war! Remember this all took place in the mid fifties. So diving is nothing new and the Brits probably invented it.

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