Posts from May 2011

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

Closer To The Edge

Wednesday 18th May 2011

I’ve had exams the last couple of days. My next one is on Friday, so after this morning’s exam I decided to take a break from revision for the rest of the day. And as I was in town anyway, I thought I may as well go and see a movie. Specifically, TT3D: Closer To The Edge, because I read a review of it in the last issue of Grand Prix+, and thought it sounded interesting.

It’s a documentary about the Isle of Man TT, a bunch of motorbike races held every year. The circuit is 30-odd miles long, on narrow public roads. The bikes average about 130mph around the lap, and reach a maximum of over 200mph. There are buildings, trees, walls, sheer drops and all number of other things lining the track, which makes it ridiculously dangerous. And one hell of a spectacle.

The movie basically tells the story of last year’s event, mostly following one particular rider in his efforts to win his first TT race. As a motorsport fan, there’s lots to like. Lovely shots of bikes whizzing around very quickly, and some stellar onboards. But it’s not just about that. The TT is a hell of an event, and the story of that event is really quite interesting. It’s a dangerous race (on average, 2 people are killed every year), and so the first reaction is to question why the hell anyone would do something so stupid, to risk their lives like that. The people who made the film did a really good job about answering that question, and of making something which seems completely crazy, look like the most sensible thing in the world. It’s not just a movie about motorsport; it’s about passion. The passion and the drive that makes people do extraordinary things.

I’m always going to like films about motorsport, but this is genuinely something that I think most people would find interesting. And also incredibly exciting. It’s shot in 3D, and this is probably the first 3D movie I’ve seen where it’s actually added something to the experience, not just felt like a pointless gimmick (hello Avatar). It really conveys the speed, and the sheer thrill of racing those bikes in that place. And there are quite a few shots that are absolutely beautiful. If I’m honest, the 3D is probably the main reason I went to see the film; motorbike racing isn’t really my thing and I actually didn’t know much about the TT before I saw this. I just wanted to see how it looked in 3D, so that I enjoyed the film so much (and not just the 3D fast-bikeyness) is really quite impressive.

As ever, I’m aware that this entry will go unloved, as do all my motorsport-themed blogs. But honestly, if you get the chance to go see it, I seriously commend it. You will enjoy it.

Oddly enough, there’s another motorsport movie out in a few weeks, about one of the most talented F1 drivers ever. Apparently it too has been made for a wider (non geeky-motorsport-fan) audience, and all of the reviews I’ve read bear that out. I know more about the subject of that movie, and bloody hell I can not wait. Expect a post about that in a couple of weeks, where I shall probably urge you all to see that too…

Update (23/5/11): And here’s Mark Kermode’s review, to give the point of view of someone who isn’t a motorsport fan.

Posted In: Motorsport Tagged: | 1 Comment


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