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Posts Tagged: Politics

The iron must have been hot yesterday…

Friday 1st July 2011

…because there was a lot of striking going on. That, or people are massively, horrendously selfish and blinkered.

I wanted to post this yesterday, but I’ve been working away oop north where my only connection to the internet has been flaky 3G reception on my iPhone. Which basically meant that I couldn’t be bothered to write a blog post.

Anyway, read this post from another blog, which gives a taste of what public and private sector pensions are like. An idea of the massive difference between the two.

The crux of the matter is that public sector pensions are massively generous compared to those offered to the private sector. It’s worth remembering that private sector employees contribute more in tax revenue than public sector ones (there’s more of ’em), and that tax subsidises the public sector pensions.

So what the strikers want is for private sector employees (who have worse pensions) to pay more in tax during their working lifetime, so that public sector employees can continue to enjoy more money in retirement than those in the private sector can expect to get. The strikers want other people to pay for them to have a cushy retirement.

It’s not as if the government’s proposals are stingy; as I understand it they’re still way better than what the the majority of people in the private sector receive. So those striking would still get a comparatively brilliant pension, just not as amazingly good as before.  They’re already in a position of privilege, but they still want more.

If anyone wishes to try to justify this, good luck. Personally, I cannot see how there can be any possible justification, because it’s just naked, unadulterated self-interest, with scant regard for equity. I think it’s disgusting and contemptible.

If you need a measure of how unjustified the strikes were, look how eager the Labour leader has been to distance himself from them. He essentially won the position because of the support of the big unions, and here he is condemning their actions. That tells you something (and as a sidenote it’s disappointing that the broken record act overshadowed what he said, because for once he is right. The first glimpse of the opposition doing its job half decently; we should celebrate!)

What amuses me is that most of the people who support this, are also likely to be those who denounce the activities of greedy bankers. But it’s hugely contradictory to support this behaviour from the public sector whilst ragging on bankers. Hell, at least bankers try to make it look like they deserve it, and don’t (usually) force it from other people.

Apologies if this post isn’t as eloquent as it perhaps could be. To be honest this sort of thing makes me properly angry, so it’s all I can do not to fill the screen with a string of expletives.

Posted In: PoliticsRant Tagged: | 2 Comments

How to make everybody richer

Tuesday 31st May 2011

The World Bank have released a report looking at how 100 countries have performed economically in the last 30 years. Which is useful; there are lots of ideas about how to grow economies, so let’s see which ones work best:

“this paper finds new empirical evidence supporting the idea that economic freedom and civil and political liberties are the root causes of why some countries achieve and sustain better economic outcomes… These results tend to support earlier findings that beyond core functions of government responsibility — including the protection of liberty itself — the expansion of the state to provide for various entitlements, including so-called economic, social, and cultural rights, may not make people richer in the long run and may even make them poorer.”

So economically, its free markets, low taxes, and small government which makes us all richer. Good to know, eh?

The bewildering thing is that people have argued this for a century and a half, and this is not the first piece of evidence to support the argument, not by far. And yet lots of people (mostly in the Guardian, it seems…) will still argue against this, will argue against the evidence.

So much for pragmatism, I guess.

Posted In: Politics Tagged: | 5 Comments

Holy crap, the Guardian have published something worth reading!

Wednesday 18th May 2011

About the government’s health reforms. I’ve mentioned in the past that some of the arguments against the proposals seem somewhat blinkered. The Guardian published an article today which looks at those arguments in a similar sort of way:

“The media debate has ignored the most obvious evidence: the fact that almost everywhere where they have been tried, market approaches work better than centrally planned government ways of running the same activity. Not all markets work well, but even the bad ones seem to do better than central planning.

Many arguments against competition in the NHS seem stuck in a 1930s time warp and ignore 80 years of world history that have taught even the Chinese Communist Party that planned economies are a failure – and this is true even when compared to very imperfect market ones.”

I still don’t understand why people think that healthcare should always be provided by the state. As far as I can see it, such strict adherence to state provision is the answer to a question that no-one is asking. The basic desire – that I think most people can agree on – is to have a good service, for the best value for money, which is accessible to everyone. In that case, as long as the government pays for the treatment, does it really matter who provides it? Shutting out providers other than the NHS simply means that we’re excluding providers who might, potentially, be able to do something better, cheaper or quicker than the NHS can. Can anyone explain why this is a desirable thing?

Some people will say “ah, but we don’t want to be like America, do we?!”. No, and the proposals do not mirror the American system. The American private insurance system, which means that some people simply can’t afford care, is not good. And that’s also not what’s being proposed. The market bit of the American system works well, and it’s notable that countries like France – which has private providers and a public insurance scheme – generally have better health systems than our own. The evidence stacks up, and as far as I’m concerned that trumps any ideological misgivings.

Posted In: Politics Tagged: | 5 Comments

Proportionality

Friday 6th May 2011

Looking at the results in the AV referendum so far, something occurs to me.

At the moment, it’s running at 32% in favour of AV, 68% against. The regional results are somewhat interesting though: 7 for, 314 against.

In this case, the regional results are not important. The winning side will be whoever has over 50% of the vote, which is as it should be. If, though, this was for representatives, the picture would be different, because the votes of 32% of people would amount to 2% of the representatives.

Nothing new, and I have no idea whether the regional boundaries used here are the same as those used for normal elections. But it’s yet another illustration that electoral reform is desperately needed.

AV wouldn’t have solved this issue, but it would’ve been an improvement on FPTP. The fact that so much of the population has rejected it – and therefore bought into the propaganda from the No campaign – is somewhat concerning actually.

People moan about politics and politicians, yet rejected a system which would’ve made them more accountable. Very odd.

As an aside, I’m even more amazed at the general backlash against the Liberal Democrats, but not against the Tories – or Labour, whose actions in government have fundamentally caused much of the mess that the Coalition Government are trying to fix. Do people really have such a superficial grasp of politics? How depressing.

Posted In: Politics Tagged: | 1 Comment

This is worth a listen

Monday 4th April 2011

This is a BBC radio programme from last January, called “Are environmentalists bad for the planet?“. I heard it quite a while ago and meant to put the link up here, but forgot. Luckily it’s still online, so I thought I’d do so now. The argument is that green movements are trying to use climate change and other sustainability issues, in order to push their own political motives. Which perhaps explains the reasoning behind some of their solutions.

It’s only 30 minutes long, so worth listening to if you have time.

Posted In: EngineeringPolitics Tagged: | No Comments

It’s Almost As If One of Them Had a Rich and Powerful Lobby Pressing for its Introduction…

Friday 18th March 2011

A couple of years ago, an independent review of the regulation of the water industry – the Cave Review – was published. This review was done for DEFRA, and looked at ways of altering the current regulatory mechanisms in order to improve the way the industry works. To promote innovation and efficiency, and to change the cost of abstraction and discharge licensing to reflect real environmental costs. As an example of thinking through sustainability, it’s exemplary.

Last year, the Labour government passed the Flood and Water Management Act. Reading some of the responses to the review, you repeatedly see it noted that: “These reforms will need legislative change. For this, the Flood and Water Management Bill, currently in draft, represents a very important opportunity” (from the Ofwat response). Great. So did they do it?

Well, the FWMA was passed last year. In the wash-up period. So no, of course, none of the Cave Review got put into legislation (instead FWMA covers stuff from the Pitt Review, which looked at the 2007 flooding. Not read it, but I probably will at some point). Despite there being the opportunity to do so, and despite the government paying for the bloody thing to be done in the first place… nothing.

Sigh.

For contrast, the Cave Review was published in April 2009. The Digital Britain report – which forms the basis of the Digital Economy Act, also passed in the washup last year – published June 2009. Pardon me if I think water resources are more important than screwy copyright legislation and the role of Channel 4.

Sigh sigh sigh.

I suppose we can only hope that this bunch do something positive. From the quick look over some of the stuff there, doesn’t look like it.

Sigh ad infinitum…

Posted In: EngineeringPolitics Tagged: | 1 Comment

UK Uncut Revisited

Friday 18th March 2011

In a previous post, I mentioned UK Uncut, the activist group that campaigns against tax avoidance. It was mostly a rant, because of a particular protest that seemed idiotic to me.

Today, a report has been published which looks at the 4 main victims of UK Uncut, and what the actual situation is. In each case, UK Uncut’s argument is incorrect, and often contradictory. The report also briefly looks at the economics of taxation, and suggests some ways to reform the tax system.

I think it’s well worth reading, to understand a little bit of the nuance that’s been so crassly ignored by the protests.

Posted In: Politics Tagged: | 17 Comments

Is it just me or does this not make sense?

Saturday 12th March 2011

On the Lib Dem conference this weekend:

“The motion calls for the “complete ruling out of any competition based on price to prevent loss-leading corporate providers under-cutting NHS tariffs”.”

If we can buy healthcare (of the same quality) from someone other than the NHS, for less than the NHS can provide it, why on earth wouldn’t we? Why is this so inherently wrong?

Seems odd to oppose the reforms on those grounds, really.

Posted In: Politics Tagged: | 7 Comments

Taxing my Patience

Saturday 26th February 2011

If you’re lucky, you won’t have heard of UK Uncut. If you haven’t, they’re an activist group who basically want businesses to volunteer to pay more tax than they legally need to, and who also dislike banks (for reasons which aren’t entirely clear to me).

So. In the last week, the Royal Bank of Scotland have announced that they lose £1.13bn in 2010. They’ve also announced that in the same year, they’ve paid £950m in bonuses to their staff.

UK Uncut don’t like this. I can’t for the life of me work out why; they don’t like banks, and this one just lost over a billion pounds. They want businesses to pay lots of tax; this one just paid out £950m in bonuses. Bonuses on which there will be an associated tax bill. So RBS will end up paying more tax than if they didn’t pay their employees. Excellent!

Okay, if I’m being slightly less facetious, bonuses with a loss might not make sense if you only take a superficial look at the headline figures. They lost £150bn, then paid bonuses of £950m; what gives? Well, it’s a large company, made of lots of different components. Some of those made money. The people who made money for the bank are then entitled to their bonus. This is not a tricky concept.

UK Uncut protest by staging sit-ins in banks. This is really, mind-numbingly stupid. I used to work for RBS Retail, so I know that the RBS staff being inconvenienced by UK Uncut are not the greedy bankers that they want to target. They’re people who aren’t paid a great deal in the scheme of things, trying to do what can be a pretty stressful job. On a Saturday. They don’t need a bunch of ignorant halfwits coming in to make their lives more difficult, and it doesn’t actually achieve anything.

I don’t mean to stick up for RBS in particular, or banking in general. The things they did prior to 2008 were fucking stupid, and it’s an absolute failure that they are such crucial businesses that the state was unwilling to let them fail. The real – bloody scary – issue here, that people like UK Uncut fail to address, is that very little has been done so far to stop banks from abusing this position again. Governments are too scared to have tighter regulation, because they don’t want to drive banks away from the country and lose the massive tax revenue they bring. Focussing on pay or taxes is a mere distraction, to focus attention on really trivial things instead of the real systemic issues.

If they don’t like certain banks, fine. Don’t use them. If they want businesses to pay more tax, fine. Campaign outside HMRC to get the tax laws changed. But misconceived, ill thought-out, stupid protests like this are just a waste of time.

Posted In: PoliticsRant Tagged: | 9 Comments

China and Stuff

Monday 31st January 2011

I watched this TED talk the other day (which is always a great way of killing some time), and thought it was really quite fascinating:

I don’t think it’s a completely bad thing that things like this are happening. China was poor, it’s getting richer. This is good. If that happens, it’s also sort of predictable that China will grow big, considering the population.

The thing is, we need to be aware this is happening. I think there’s a sort of implicit complacency in the Western world. We assume we’ll be at the cutting edge, that we’ll always hold all the power; we’re the most advanced now, so we must always be the most advanced nations in the world. But that’s not true. In many ways, it sort of feels to me that we’re already starting to almost stagnate in many ways. Things like the green movement are really dangerous for this. Because that movement is all about trying to reverse development, to eschew technology to take us back to a supposedly “sustainable” way of living – these are the real conservatives. Except the only way to truly be sustainable is to embrace that technology.

Look at where most of the big engineering projects happen now: the middle and far east. They seem to have the same zeal for those projects as we had back in the Victorian era. It’s great. And where are we now? Protesting against High-Speed Rail, because it’ll go through a field a mile away from my house and it’ll spoil my enjoyment of the 6 o’clock news. We’re campaigning* against things like the Severn Barrage – successfully, as it turns out – because yes we need the electricity and of course it’d be great for flood control, but it might endanger the habitat of this group of birds which don’t actually live anywhere near the proposed site. And on the subject of protests; in Egypt, they’re protesting to overthrow the government, for free elections. This weekend in the UK, (mostly stupid) people were protesting to get companies like Vodafone to volunteer to pay more tax – and I do wonder how many of the protesters do likewise. It’s mad!

Anyway. I sort of got off-topic and started ranting. Do watch the video, it’s interesting.

* From the site – “The expert charged with silt modelling and tidal impacts, has his post sponsored by Halcrow. How could his evidence ever be independent?” – that expert taught me fluid mechanics, and was my undergraduate personal tutor. I find it stupid that whoever wrote the site accuses him of bias.

Posted In: EngineeringPoliticsRant Tagged: | 10 Comments