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Saturday, June 06, 2009


Scottish island, known as "The Queen of the Hebrides" (Banrìgh nan Eilean), is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides. It lies in Argyll just to the west of Jura and around 25 miles (40 km) north of the Irish coast, which can be seen on a clear day.

Islay is the fifth largest Scottish island and the sixth largest island surrounding Britain.

Islay has just over three thousand inhabitants. It has a total area of just over 600 square kilometres (239 square miles).

Long long ago Islay was the capital of the Lordship of the Isles. It is 8% larger than the Isle of Man whose, prosperous, population is 76,000, so clearly there is wasted potential.

I have previously proposed the Scottish Tunnel Project similar to the Norwegian activity. This would mean cutting road tunnels to the larger of the Scottish islands & other needed links & if done at Norwegian costs should be far less expensive than the single new Forth bridge proposed. This would make it an 80 mile drive rather than a 200 mile ship voyage from Glasgow. One way to fund this would be by a levy on land sales in places where improved access means land prices rise.

I want to propose using this as an opportunity to do much more. Potentially at least not quite the Hong Kong (427 sq mi) of Europe but certainly a centre of human progress. Set up a Development Corporation as has been done successfully in Scotland before. Give it a charter like a normal commercial shareholding company owned 10% by the current population & 90% by government which shall sell off not more than 5% & not less than 2% on the open market annually. To stop it being simply a commercial company there should be a 10% dividend bonus & a 3 times voting share to residents up to 0.1% of the total. Government should be forbidden to use its voting share except to veto asset stripping or non-commercial decisions. Getting the first CEO right is vital - I suggest headhunting the youngest engineer on the board of Exxon, Richard Rogers, Disney or Singapore's government, with share options.

The corporation should also be responsible for maintaining local authority infrastructure & should have not only the right to create by-laws but to veto many central government regulations. It should also be given a 25 year holiday from corporation tax & capital gains/death duties. Though this would require Westminster as well as Holyrood legislation it would cost them nothing since corporation tax on Islay is not large currently. The corporation should be able to buy all agricultural & absentee owned land at the current market rate & on selling it include a requirement for continued payment of a Land Value Tax. The LVT requirement would also apply to non-agricultural land so long as the owners agree - any that don't would not have to pay LVT but would not receive shares in the corporation. This would also allow the ending of any council tax. Finally the corporation would have a duty to invest 10% of its profits, year on year, in scientific research & a University with 1/3rd of that research having to be for research attempting to break current scientific paradigms. It would also have to pay off the cost of the tunnel from the Kintyre peninsula.

Certainly not a libertarian society because the governing body has a lot of control. Nor a warm body democracy but a mixture of a corporation, a wealth creating concept that has worked since the Swedish King chartered the first one in 1347. & a Co-Operative in which electors can opt out of responsibility by selling their shares (or get more by buying more). This last element would weaken one great problem of democracies - that people have an incentive to use the government to take from the creators to provide circuses for the voters. I would not like this introduced now everywhere but think it is a useful social experiment that can be tried here, particularly since, if the community grows as I think it could, it would have a population which had voluntarily chosen to move to such a society.

If it worked we would see the speedy building of holiday communities, probably by prefabricated means & certainly without the 75% of UK housing cost that is regulatory. That would mean land values climbing which is what would get the Development Co-operative out of the red. The island's land area comes to 150,000 acres so land prices would only have to go up by £6,000 an acre to raise £1 billion. The lack of taxes & the extra voting power would encourage rich settlers. The money put into research & a university would encourage high tech start ups. While, even with the tunnel, it would be more isolated than most of Britain this also has the advantage that, combined with the power to create local by-laws, it could keep out the eco-terrorists who are making life hell for so many scientists. That plus the pure physical beauty of the place should make it very attractive to a significant number of the world's best & brightest.

I would like see this having similarities to Walt Disney's original concept of Epcot as a Community of Tomorrow. See also. After he died the suits turned it into just another roller coaster. Lets see it as a place where the likes of Peter Duesberg & the cold fusion scientists are be able to do the scientific testing which would prove or disprove their theories without interference from politicians - that is why I put in the bit about 1/3rd of scientific grants having to go to contrarian science - that is actually how all science is supposed to be done but rarely is. Probably more would be disproven than proven but "proving" originally meant testing (still used for "gun proving") & the name change shows the inevitable social movement from "testing" to "finding evidence to support". Such change is the death of science. Also if you want to build a world class scientific centre you have to do something nobody else is (& some of it has to work) & not having a reputation to lose may be an positive benefit.
Walt Disney's original EPCOT

Friday, June 05, 2009


Lesley Riddoch was doing the radio round up of the week in politics on the radio today with 2 Labourites & a Conservative. I sent this email which she read out.
Lot of Labour people on here considering they are only the 2nd party in Scotland.

Why are you not talking about Alan Johnson's call for Labour to stand on a policy of PR? Is this not their only chance of surviving the next election?
which did indeed produce such a discussion. The Tory opposed it. One of the Labourites supported it. The other, who was one of these dinosaurs who make it clear they believe Labour has a hereditary right to run Scotland, opposed it but entirely, as Lesley pointed out, saying that it is a system that allows other parties than Labour to win. This he described as "gerrymandering"

Apart from the ethics this omits the point I was making - that in this case it is the only chance for Labour to win. I don't want a Labour win but I do want an electoral system that reflects who people actually want to vote for - it is known as democracy.

I also want to mention something from her blog regarding the recent hustings & the BBC's attitude to allowing the public to intrude on their election coverage:
Regarding next week's European Hustings with the Federation of Small Business and Amnesty International, I do find the BBC's decision to cancel this event bizarre and have told them so. They are worried the public could form a biased audience. We'd given 10 tickets to each of the four main parties for their supporters – the way we've always done to overcome such possible bias in the past. I don't know why that suddenly isn't good enough, and having spent three months arranging the event it's tough to have it cancelled at the last minute. And even tougher to see how the BBC will ever manage to have an election programme involving the public without loads of staff and months of audience vetting. Is that really necessary or massive politically correct overkill?
It says a lot about how scared of anything even approaching real political debate involving the public, who can be an undisciplined bunch, they are. The BBC is the propaganda arm of the Civil Service. Even a meeting where 40, out of about 50, of the audience were selected by "approved" politicians & chaired by Lesley, who holds all the correct establishment views (I remember her once saying windmills deserve subsidy because they are "groovy") & can be relied on to silence any "unhelpful" questions was too real for them.

Having made the point that we need a democratic electoral system to be a democracy I also suggest we need free media, willing to tell us the truth rather than having essentially a monopoly that pushes fake scare stories & lies & promotes racial genocide to be a liberal & free democracy.

Once again I am convinced that if our media wanted a popular political programme they need only broadcast a formal debate & that they know this perfectly well.

"A managed democracy is a wonderful thing... for the managers... and its greatest strength is a 'free press' when 'free' is defined as 'responsible' and the managers define what is 'irresponsible'." — Professor Bernardo de la Paz/R.A. Heinlein

Thursday, June 04, 2009


From the BBC at the time
Several hundred civilians have been shot dead by the Chinese army during a bloody military operation to crush a democratic protest in Peking's (Beijing) Tienanmen Square.

Tanks rumbled through the capital's streets late on 3 June as the army moved into the square from several directions, randomly firing on unarmed protesters....

The protests began with a march by students in memory of former party leader Hu Yaobang, who had died a week before.

But as the days passed, millions of people from all walks of life joined in, angered by widespread corruption and calling for democracy.

Tonight's military offensive came after several failed attempts to persuade the protesters to leave.

Throughout the day the government warned it would do whatever it saw necessary to clamp down on what it described as "social chaos".
So though our media now tell tales of unverified "thousands" killed at the time their figure was similar to the Chinese government figure of 241.

So could China have immediately gone to a multi-party western style democracy. My guess is no. The protesters were not a unified group but a mixture of "included disillusioned Communist Party members and Trotskyists as well as free market reformers" which is similar to the mixture of democrats, communists & Moslem fundamentalists who brought down the Shah of Iran. It is at least likely that the defeat of the Chinese government would have brought not democracy but chaos, possibly a new Cultural Revolution & prevented the nearly 8 fold increase in GNP which, over the last 20 years has raised the Chinese people from poverty.

Last night the BBC showed its belief in democracy, liberal values & not killing people by having Kate Adie to a tell us that "Tienanmen will not be forgotten". This is the same Kate Adie who lied & censored to support the BBC's Nazi propaganda in Kosovo done for the specific purpose of assisting in not merely the genocide of thousands but cutting them open while alive, carried out under the orders of our political leaders.

In numbers NATO's crimes were many tens of times worse than Tienanmen, in the degree of horror they were at least 10 times worse than that & in the possible justification, in terms of firm action to maintain peace or the rule of law, the NATO/Nazi actions cannot have 1/100th as much justification - indeed, since NATO's war was done entirely for the pleasure of destruction, murder & genocide it is difficult to see even that much justification.

Therefore by any objective standard the Chinese leaders, who all sides agree did not seek confrontation (indeed a number lost their careers for being to placatory) cannot be said, individually or collectively, to have demonstrated less than 10,000 times as much respect for human rights than our own criminal leaders & their brown nosers in the media. I don't think any honest person can deny this fact.

The sheer cynicism of the BBC sending Adie, someone they know has lied to help them promote mass murder, run this piece of racist hate-speech is to be expected.

Nonetheless a couple of interesting points made:

A woman who had been both a party member & a demonstrator said that as the demo had gone on the more extreme types had come more to the fore. This is not surprising & is well known crowd behaviour in that special interest groups tend to reinforce each other & movement is towards a more combative position.

Another democracy protester, from a later era, was described as having been one of the people who designed the Bird's Nest Stadium. Thus while he may not have the freedom to vote for one of 2 undesirable parties as we in Britain do he does have the freedom to do creative work on such a building, something government in Britain denies us.

However the Chinese government is, we are told, still censoring what their media may say about what their government did in Tienanmen. As our still censors the far worse atrocities our 10,000 times more fascistic leaders have done.

*The title is taken from the Headline "Climate study is open to criticism" used by the Times for a letter by Benny Peiser saying & proving in detail elsewhere that this new report was a corrupt & fraudulent lie. Perhaps my criticism of the Chinese government here has been a little heavy handed if anybody thought I was equating its behaviour with the western promotion of the catastrophic warming lie.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Humanity has been very lucky that we seem to have been harmed by fewer meteorites than we could reasonably expect. There are probably are unaccounted ones that caused tsunamis since 3/4 of the planet is sea & it is possible that the lack of recording of at least the 2,800/3,000BC one is because of the damage it did to the society that encountered it. Since our population is so much greater today there are fewer places like Tunguska where you could set off a megaton explosion without hurting anybody.

It also looks like there have been more cometary ice meteors which, like Tunguska, exploded as airbursts & thus left little record but may have had severe weather effects at the time. This listing is via Wikipedia but I have done them in date order:

50,000 BC Barringer Crater Arizona 2.5 megatons, relatively well preserved because it is in desert

8,900 BC Clovis event Airburst over North America which is hypothesised to have killed off most of the big game at the time (personally I think mankind could have done that die off without help but the charcoal layer evidence of such an airburst is good).

8,000 BC Rio Cuarto craters Argentina 25 megatons

Holocene impact events have been proposed by the dendrochronologist Mike Baillie as a possible cause of several brief (typically 5-10 year) climatic downturns recorded in ancient tree ring patterns. In his book 'Exodus to Arthur: Catastrophic encounters with comets,' he highlights four such events

4,000- 2,000BC Henbury crater Northern Australia, also desert.

2,800 - 3,000 Burkle Crater Indian Ocean at a depth of 12,000 feet. 62.5 megatons. "This time period saw: a) the Indus Valley Civilization and the end of its Early Harappan Ravi Phase at ca. 2800 BC; b) the end of the pre-dynastic "antediluvian" rulers of the Sumerian civilization and the start of the First Dynasty of Kish after 2900 BC. ("After the flood had swept over, and the kingship had descended from heaven, the kingship was in Kish."); c) the pre-Xia dynasty rule of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors of China starting ca. 2850 BC (with the first two figures, Fuxi and Nuwa, as husband and wife credited with being the ancestors of humankind after"

1490 In China's Shanxi Province, 10,000 people were said to have been killed in 1490 by a hail of "falling stones" that some astronomers surmise may have been triggered by the breakup of a large asteroid

1863 or 1891? Wabar craters Empty Quarter desert of Saudi Arabia. Discovered by Kim Philby's father.

1908 Tunguska Siberian airburst 10-15 megatons fortunately in a particularly remote part of Siberia!.

1972 Great Daylight Fireball Crossing from Utah to Alberta. This was an Earth grazer entering the atmosphere on such a shallow trajectory that it is less than the Earth's curve & thus exits again. When you consider that the atmosphere is about 100 miles thick & the Earths radius is 4,000 you can see how unusual this is. Had it hit it would have been 1.3-6 kilotons.

1979 Vela Incident Putting this in though it almost certainly didn't happen. "U.S. nuclear detonation detection satellite (Vela 6911) in late September 1979 was possibly not a nuclear test, according to a number of studies posted today by the National Security Archive - The signal appeared to come from a 3,000 mile area that included the South Atlantic, Indian Ocean, tip of Africa, and part of Antarctica. A presidential panel concluded in May 1980 that the signal was more likely an artifact of a meteoroid hitting the satellite and sunlight reflecting off particles ejected as a result of the collision." This had been assumed to be evidence of a South African atomic test & did ratchet up fears of nuclear proliferation. Had it been real it would presumably have ratcheted them up a lot more. Indeed H. Beam Piper's future history contained a northern hemisphere nuclear armageddon triggered off by a megaton explosion in New York State which was later proven to be a meteor.

2000 A fireball exploded over the city of Whitehorse in the Canadian Yukon at an altitude of about 26 kilometers, lighting up the night like day. The meteor that produced the fireball was estimated to be about 4.6 meters in diameter and with a weight of 180 tonnes.

The late Eugene Shoemaker of the U.S. Geological Survey came up with an estimate of the rate of Earth impacts, and suggested that an event about the size of the nuclear weapon that destroyed Hiroshima occurs about once a year. Such events would seem to be spectacularly obvious, but they generally go unnoticed for a number of reasons: the majority of the Earth's surface is covered by water; a good portion of the land surface is uninhabited; and the explosions generally occur at relatively high altitude, resulting in a huge flash and thunderclap but no real damage.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


I have made it clear I believe that free enterprise, free trade & traditional liberalism is the most successful way to run an economy & modern practice shows this. Yet there is one quite overwhelming counter example. Up to about 1850 Britain was easily the world's leading industrial power. At that stage it repealed the Corn Law tariff by the Importation Act 1846 which represented the triumph of Adam Smith's commitment to free trade & of the liberal ideal. Yet by 1914 Britain had fallen to 3rd place behind the USA & Germany, both of which, while no bastions of socialism had significant significant tariff barriers. Indeed Bismark's Germany did have a significant amount of government, if not planning, at least encouragement of particular industries.

Does this mean that traditional liberalism wasn't the optimum policy? This is certainly the conclusion drawn by socialists whose ultimate expression was found in the Soviet centrally planned economy. Indeed it is difficult to believe that if Britain had prospered more than Germany free trade liberalism would not have been the overwhelmingly dominant ideology of the 20thC. America can be explained - it is a massive continent with enormous resources, which had always had a higher per capita standard of living than Britain, hence Britons migrated there from the Plymouth Fathers on, which just kept up immigration. If anything the per capita income ratio fell over this time as the US filled up. Germany had no such resource base& without it economists up to the time of Hitler assumed wealth was unsustainable.

I will admit I simply do not know a firm answer to this. However I have some read some articles on the subject from which I have excerpted these:

The British Stock Market and British Economic Growth, 1870-1914

"As W.A. Lewis (????) has noted, in the last years of the nineteenth and the first years of the twentieth century Britain lost its leading position in new,modern industry after new, modern industry. Organic chemicals became German (and American), British railroads became smaller and slower than those on the continent, the development of the automobile lagged behind France and the United States, the electric power grid was put into place slowly, the telephone network was rudimentary, and so on. Even in textiles,Britain began to be excluded from foreign markets on the basis of too high price.British levels of productivity remained high. They just failed to grow at the same rate as in the rest of the leading edge of the industrial world. And British companies lost, or failed to develop, market position in what were
going to become the leading industries of the first half of the twentieth century...

As U.C. David economist Gregory Clark (????) puts it, by 1910 you could combine British labor and British capital in the textile city of Fall River,Massachusetts, and obtain 50 percent more output per worker hour and 20percent more output per machine hour than back in the textile city of Manchester, in England....

The poor British educational system, its weak corps of technical engineers, and the easy availability of unskilled Irish and rural British workers were no great handicap as long as the most dynamic edge of the economy intensively used both machines and unskilled workers,but not skilled workers. But technologies that made heavy use of skilled workers would be the locus of industrial development in the twentieth century...

This was a far lower percentage than found in the United States or in Germany. What was true of elementary education was even more true of technical and engineering education. In Britain, technical education was the business of private firms. But why should they train workers who might well go elsewhere for jobs? And why should they train workers if such training only upped the bargaining power of British unions? Meanwhile, in the United States and Germany institutes of technology were founded....

Pre-World War I price and price-dividend ratios are such as to indicate that British investors had an absolute distaste for investments in domestic industry as opposed to colonial infrastructure.Thus there is evidence that at the aggregate level the stock market was pricing domestic industry “too low” relative to colonial infrastructure—or at least lower than alternative stock markets would have priced such investments. At the more detailed level, there is some evidence that the stock market was not recognizing the growth prospects of “high tech” investments:equity of firms in industries at the cutting edge of late nineteenth century technological progress sold for no higher price-dividend ratios than equity of firms in slower-growing, established industries. To the extent that the stock market exists to provide capital for risky yet promising enterprises and industries, and to take account of high prospects for economic growth as it prices claims to speculative high tech companies, the pre-World War I British stock market was not fulfilling its typical role...

in pre-World War I Britain, stock prices appear to be characterized by a great “fear of equities” on the part of investors: the average enterprise is valued by the market at little more than ten years’ purchase of its current dividend. Thus for British domestic companies, raising money on the stock market is expensive—much more expensive than in the other leading industrial economies of the turn of the century like Germany and the United States....

There is no sign that industries with bright growth prospects were able to raise more money on the Exchange for a given commitment to pay immediate dividends: no sign that anticipated market expansion played any role at all in determining the relative prices that British investors were willing to pay. The figure above plots our estimates of dividend yields over time for four industry groups: infrastructure, heavy industry, consumer goods, and telephone and telegraph. The fact that relatively “high tech” industries reaped no advantage in terms of lower immediate dividend yields from their bright growth prospects holds in the earlier, 1875-1890 period as well.Perhaps the most interesting episode is the sharp spike in dividend yields on high tech and heavy industrial stocks in the crisis surrounding the collapse of the City of Glasgow Bank. The panic was not general: dividend yields on infrastructure and consumer good firms barely moved. Yet the more dynamic sections of industry saw their relative values greatly—albeit temporarily—reduced....

the scarcity of British engineering talent was matched by a scarcity of venture capital—there was plenty of capital for infrastructure or for government debts, but little for the progressive entrepreneur....

“High tech” and expanding industries have not low but relatively high dividend yields—as if investors do not value the prospects of future growth. Investors appear to fear equities, and not to accept that the risks associated with investments in high technology and capital intensive industries are well worth running...

So what happened was that, for some reason, British investors simply would not invest in new technology. But why.

The Second Industrial Revolution, 1870-1914 stresses the difference between industrial growth in that period form the 1st industrial revolution:

"It was in this regard that the inventions after 1870 were different from the ones that preceded it. The period 1859-1873 has been characterized as one of the most fruitful and dense in innovations in history (Mowery and Rosenberg, 1989, p. 22). From the point of view of useful knowledge that mapped into new technology, this view is certainly correct. The second Industrial Revolution accelerated the mutual feedbacks between these two forms of knowledge or between science (very broadly defined) and technology. It should be stressed that the difference was one of degree.... and the persistence and acceleration of technological progress in the last third of the nineteenth century was due increasingly to the steady accumulation of useful knowledge. Some of this knowledge was what we could call today science
... but a lot was based on less formal forms of experience and information. Inventors like Edison and Felix Hoffman relied on some of the findings of formal science, but a lot more was involved. As a result, the second Industrial Revolution extended the rather limited and localized successes of the first to a much broader range of activities and products.

...the changing nature of the organization of production. The second Industrial Revolution witnessed the growth in some industries of huge economies of scale and throughput (to use Alfred Chandler's well-known term). Some vast concerns emerged, far larger than anything seen before. This change occurred because of ever more important economies of scale in manufacturing."

So having a financial system willing to invest large amounts to build up large new industries became crucial & Britain's stock market with its refusal to invest in innovation became a heavy anchor on growth, far moreso than in the original revolution which, with the exception of railways, had been based on smaller manufacturers. An example of this is Andrew Carnegie who built up enormous & extremely profitable steel works in the US but could not have raised that capital if he had stayed in Britain. This also explains the earlier remark about British capital & workers in the US being more productive than in the UK.

Did Victorian Britain Fail? Puts the opposite view - that it didn't fail & that growth was limited by the number of workers available. Having more faith in technology improving productivity I simply don't agree but the author puts forward the facts which, in my view, contradict his theory with admirable clarity facts

" Had all emigration from the United Kingdom ceased and had all these emigrants been of working age, the labour force might have grown at 1,6 per cent per year rather than at 1 per cent as it did from 1871 to 1911, but this is still low relative to the hypothetical growth of gross output. If capital and labour were not substitutable, then, the slow growth of the labour force m the United Kingdom would have limited output growth. To put it the other way, had output grown at 3.7171 per cent per year from 1872 to 1907 instead of 1 -69 per cent the labour force at the end of the period would have had to have been twice as large as the actual labour force...

The hypothetically higher capital growth would have had to have come from a great increase in the ratio of savings to income. Indeed, the disproportionate growth in capital...

American savings ratios were higher than British ratios, but the difference was small. For example, from 1886 to 1900,by all accounts a period of low British savings, the British ratio of net investment to net national income averaged 10 -4 per cent, while the American ratio aver-aged 13 -7 per cent, a difference of 3 -3 per cent of income...

The more common theme than the loss from default in the literature of im-miseration by capital exports is the perversity of Britain's imperfect capital market. The City, the story goes, was expert at channelling British savings into foreign trade credit and railway bonds, but inexpert at serving the industrial hinterlands of Britain itself.4 Keynes, for example, emphasized the Colonial Stock Act of 1900 and similar Acts before it which permitted British trust funds to be invested in colonial railway and governmental bonds, giving, he claimed,an artificial incentive to investment abroad. The effect was "to starve home developments by diverting savings abroad and, consequently, to burden home borrowers with a higher rate of interest than they would need to pay other-wise"...

In 1911-13 the average return on all capital at home was more than 10 per cent, while the return on capital abroad was less than 5 per cent.2 The capital abroad, however, was held in safe bonds, while the capital at home had to be held on balance in equity. Englishmen owned their own capital stock and the risk of ownership required compensation in the form of a higher return than on the comparative safety of lending abroad.

The United Kingdom exported a huge amount of capital m the period and it is tempting to believe that it could have drawn on this capital as a surplus to growth...

Another quote from Dave Langford's book Facts & Fallacies
"Around 1878, when Edison was developing his incandescent lamp, a british Parliamentary Committee was established to decide whether such new-fangkled nonsense could ever be rlevant to Britain. In general the idea was thought
... good enough for our transatlantic friends...but unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men


Also during this period Germany adopted universal schooling before Britain & its University system became more science orientated while Britain's universities & even more its private schools moved more towards studying classics as befits a country that considered it its mission to rule the largest Empire the world had ever seen. It strikes me that Britain skewed its entire society towards running an Empire (the White Man's Burden - Kipling) which it had originally obtained almost by accident & for its own benefit but which it had to retain as a macho symbol, even though that meant most of our investment capital (10% of GNP many years) went to invest abroad. Though the US & Latin America were not colonies they became such by proxy. In the same way we can see, after WW2, that the US encouraged development of the West German & Japanese economies to keep them loyal to the Pax Americana.

A couple of cultural instances that struck me. The less important one, if only because it isn't contemporary, is from Mary Poppins where the brat is assured that by putting his tuppence in the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank he will be part of "railways in Africa, dams across the Nile" rather than car plants in Birmingham. His refusal to do so starts a run on the bank & indeed railways in Africa have turned out to be an extraordinarily bad investment. The less musical example is the Sherlock Holmes stories which are just hoaching with characters who have returned from a career in the Indies with a vast amount of money & a mysterious stranger pursuing them. In no case is the mysterious stranger Tesla with a copyright infringement case. Makes you sympathises with Moriarty.

I have no doubt there are many other causes for Britain's failure but think that the explanation that the Empire, far from being a strength, was an economic drag. By keeping order throughout it we artificially attracted our investment money there It gave the British upper classes an excuse for continuing to exist, aristocracy by its nature being drawn to the military & law enforcing rather than science. National heroes became soldiers & missionaries rather than chemists (Germany) & capitalists (the USA) & the education system was distorted to provide officers not scientists. Even today the top people in the British Civil Service studied classics rather than engineering or accountancy as was intended - something which was cemented in place by the Northcote-Trevelyan report of 1853.

So I personally think the apparent failure of liberalism here is no such thing. It is the failure of a society which had succumbed to the ideal of Empire & the Pax Britannica at the expense of science, technology & thus progress.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Girdon Brown interviewed on Andrew Marr this morning. Mostly bluster about how all this fraud deeply upsets his "Presbyterian conscience" & that "people are rightly annoyed, I'm annoyed" at it & how there is going to be looking at massive reform. In due course
So I'm looking at the Bill of Rights. We're looking at whether there's a case for a written constitution.

I'm looking at the case for votes at 16. I'm looking for the case for extending freedom of information. The House of Lords cannot stay in its present form. And all these issues which would come to making - and you've written about it, Andrew - a new constitutional settlement, these are the issues that are now on the agenda because it's about parliament's accountability to the people.

You can look at fixed terms in the light of that and you can look at all sorts of other things like recall (of MPs by constituencies) in the light of that but the major issues…These are the sort of headline grabbing issues, but the major issues are how do you make parliament more accountable to the people of this country between elections as well as at elections.

But the real big constitutional issue which he doesn't mention is proportional representation. Everything else is cosmetic. Without that the cosy duopoly continues & people are told not to "waste their vote" on anybody else. Since the PM won't mention it Andrew has to & Gordo says
That's an issue that I've always been interested in because, look, there are three issues in voting reform that have got to be resolved and no system does it perfectly. Not one system in the world. First is, in my view, you've got to have a link between the constituency and the Member of Parliament.

And you know you've seen over these last few weeks the importance of that link because MP's have had to explain to their constituents why they've done what they've done and people want to feel that their geographical area is represented.

Secondly, the balance of an election has got to be fair and therefore people have got to think that the way the votes are counted are fair. And, thirdly, you've got to get out of this government that can govern, so you've got to get some form of democratic stability out of an election. These are the three criteria.


Which would add up to a system for the nerds who know about these things called AV Plus pretty much.


It might not, it might not. But it could add up to a debate about change that is a fair debate to have in this country.


And you're open to that?


I've always been open to debates…


(over) Because you kill…I mean you killed off Roy Jenkins' - may he rest in pieces - version of this ten years ago.


I am the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. I want to continue to be a member representing a geographical area with which I have responsibilities to meet.


With Gordon Brown at the top, could AV or a similar system be introduced for the House of Commons?


Well let's, let's see how the debate goes. But what I'm saying to you is that there are a whole range of issues in this debate that are prior to that about how you organise the Constitution.


There's an awful lot of long grass over there, if I can say that, where you're kicking…
Which is pretty much it. So he is prepared to "consider" a number of cosmetic changes & "debate" the option of a democratic electoral system but not do anything until everything else is fixed, or Hell freezes over or everybody has forgotten about it (I consider the middle one most likely.

On the other hand, with Labour likely to place 4th, possibly even 5th in the EU election, Alan Johnson looks like the one who will be making the decisions.

Meanwhile from an entirely different direction - Douglas Carswell a genuinely libertarian Conservative MP, who along with Daniel Hannan proud blogger & MEP (in that order), takes no shit from party leaders but whose book The Plan has heavily influenced Cameron's recent policy pronouncements - has come out for PR
Why? If 7 out of 10 colleagues in your workplace thought they had a job for life, would your business or organisation be firing on all cylinders? Parliament neither.

With so many of our law-makers returned from “safe seats”, for far too many of our MPs there simply isn’t much realistic chance of being ejected by the voters on polling day. Without genuine competition to be an MP, the weeds of indolence and entitlement that choke Westminster are able to take hold.

He then goes on to give a reasoned discussion on how any PR system must allow people who are not blue eyed persons on the party list to get in.

Interestingly the other comments, from a readership which is clearly overwhelmingly Conservative come out heavily for some system of PR though there is no agreement which one.

I have left a comment which gives an overall view of why I think PR, in one system or another, is vital if we are to call ourselves a democratic country.

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