Monday, June 11, 2012

Facing relegation: Why Britain's 'undeveloping' economy means the country could be about to join the Third World

The average Briton gets poorer with  every year that goes by -- and there is no end to that in sight.  The relentlessly rising number of knees under government desks does not leave enough people to do the useful things that would be needed to maintain or improve Britain's standard of living

Relegation, every football manager’s nightmare, now looms on a national scale. Countries, like football teams, can slide down the leagues, and for Britain the pending demotion is traumatic – from the ranks of the first world to those of the third.

Britain is an undeveloping economy, a submerging rather than emerging market. Not only will 2014 mark 100 years since the start of the First World War, it will also be a century since we were last an undisputed economic leader and superpower.

The signs are that this fight will be lost – and not simply because of the depressed state of our economy. More worrying are the indications that Britain is ceasing to be a developed economy and is now on course to swap places with one of the emerging economic giants.

Take our balance-of-payments problem. Britain last ran a current-account surplus in 1983. Since then, it has been in deficit. Worse, it has been borrowing money from countries such as China in order to buy goods made in, yes, China.

Then there is the steady sale of our commercial assets to foreigners. Overseas investors possess nearly £200 billion more of British assets than our investors own overseas.

Britain’s labour market is a mess – another sign of a relegation candidate. Many native workers, considered too unproductive and poorly trained to be of use, are paid beer money in the form of benefits to keep them quiet, while better qualified foreigners are recruited instead.

At the latest count, four million of Britain’s 29 million workers  were foreign-born. Two million Britons are registered as long-term sick, and 2.63 million are unemployed, using the broadest definition.

There is a permanent rumble of discontent from the customers of both State and private organisations. Public servants demand additional upfront payments, in cash or kind, before they will perform their tasks (police overtime, GP contracts).

A pseudo-competitive private sector in gas, water, railways and electricity conspires against the public, as companies conjure up ever-more inventive reasons to increase charges.

As with many countries in the developing world, there is chronic uncertainty about the authority of the State. In Britain, a separatist party is in control of a resources-rich  region (Scotland), while the potential constitutional flashpoints are many and various: Westminster versus Brussels; Ministers versus the still-new Supreme Court ......

It has taken us 100 years to reach this sorry condition. Relative decline, against the United States in particular, may have been inescapable, but our pending relegation was never inevitable.

Let no one say demotion is impossible. Had the Group of  Seven leading economies existed  in 1945, Argentina would have  been a member. But after decades of mismanagement, inflation and debt defaults, it no longer figures in anyone’s idea of the big league.

Yet Britain is in a state of denial, our leaders convinced that the economy is a winning side. The alternative is to accept that we are starting from scratch. Developing countries need a development model, and undeveloping countries such as Britain do too.

Two approaches are on offer. We could try to emulate the so-called Swedish model, with a social-industrial-government partnership and extensive public welfare, or we could aim to be an Atlantic Hong Kong, with minimum State interference, low taxes and only basic welfare services.

We must choose. It is our long-term refusal to do so that has led to our current predicament.


A new global elite is on the march

Comment from Britain

Have you come across “OES syndrome”? The letters stand for Overeducated Elitist Snob, and if you don’t know what that means let me draw your attention to the front benches of the House of Commons.

OES syndrome is an American term, coined by the US political scientist Charles Murray to describe the clustering of wealth, power and – crucially – intelligence at one end of the social spectrum. Murray’s new book Coming Apart: The State of White America is not as controversial as The Bell Curve, the 1994 volume in which he and Richard Herrnstein compared race and IQ. But its conclusions are every bit as alarming.

A hundred years ago, says Murray, most Americans in the top five per cent of cognitive ability had ordinary occupations. They were very clever shopkeepers, farmers, housewives and factory workers. But they didn’t somersault over their peers.

One reason is that they couldn’t marry very smart people. High intelligence was scattered evenly across America, so a gifted farm worker might have to travel 100 miles before he met a woman as bright as he was. Instead, he married an ordinary local girl, and their children, regressing to the mean, were only slightly cleverer than their schoolfriends.

The explosion of college education changed that. Universities plucked bright kids out of their home towns like a tornado and suddenly they found that they weren’t in Kansas any more. Young people hooked up with equally intelligent partners and passed on two sets of smart genes.

This mobility opened up Ivy League universities to competition from ultra-bright candidates. The old-money aristocracy at Harvard, Yale and Princeton shrank, but the average IQ at those universities soared – and with it the earning potential of alumni. The newly elite students married each other and the result, says Murray, is a hard core of Overeducated Elitist Snobs.

Members of this supercharged class don’t just separate themselves from the poor: they’re quarantined from “everybody who isn’t as rich and well educated as they are”. They also produce clever, rich children by marrying brains and money (which go together these days).

Remind you of anybody? We may tease David Cameron and George Osborne for being “toffs”, but they’re more than that. Although both inherited money, they’re also furiously ambitious academic snobs of the type Murray describes. In their meritocracy, the purpose of a superior brain is to amass money and power. Intellectual curiosity isn’t encouraged lest it jeopardise that project. Hence the anomaly of a prime minister with a brilliant First from Oxford who has never uttered a truly original thought in public.

Let’s not kid ourselves that the elitism of this Oxbridge-educated Coalition will disappear when it loses power. Labour has its own OES syndrome; so do politicians and business leaders from Palo Alto to Beijing. Free market capitalism forces the brightest people to the top. That may sound like good news, but it also creates an association between intelligence and living standards that, in the long run, will condemn stupid people to poverty.

The new marriage patterns do as much harm as good. Once bright people are taken out of the local gene pool, what does that leave? Our natural reaction is to say: “Let’s not go there.” But we really have no choice, because global capitalism is creating a cognitive hierarchy in front of our eyes – and, with it, inequalities just as cruel as the ones we thought we had abolished.


What the author above says is undoubtedly true but I doubt that much can be done about it or should be done about it.  It may however lead to a generation of politicians with "the common touch" (Like economics graduate Ronald Reagan) and that may help preserve social peace and realistic politics -- JR

Homosexual "marriage" has many conseqiences

Gays and lesbians can, and have been co-habituating openly for some time.  That's their prerogative, but is it right and fair to force their lifestyle on children?  This is concerning, especially when they are unable to adopt, and choose to bring children into their lives by men hiring lawyers to find female surrogates to carry their children, or women contracting for male sperm.  Lease a womb or buy an egg.

In 2007, Maryland's highest court ruled that a birth certificate could be issued  with only the name of the child's father. A number of state laws provide a way for adults to produce a child and legally be the only parent - a modern-day miracle to have children born with "no mother," at least not listed on the birth certificate.  Also, a modern-day tragedy for such children.

Under such arrangements the child would have no knowledge of one, or both, of his or her parents, begetting a life filled with questions and wondering - a life with a sparse, or no family history,  a life with a partial birthright.  How did their ancestors arrive in this great country, what were their struggles and accomplishments?  That, and other fulfilling and important information will be forever absent from their lives.

The current protection of anonymity does a disservice to children who might be left, not only with sparse knowledge of their identity, but also of their important genetic background.  This genetic information can be significant regarding health conditions that might run in one's family.  Family history is the best source for discovering traits that might be possible health problems or disorders. Incomplete information, or total lack of, which faces these often commercially transacted children, is troubling and serious. In all fairness to them, the states should end their practice of anonymous sperm and egg donation.

If same-sex marriage is made a national statute, would it make any difference in your life?  Unfortunately, children are not the only casualities.

 In a Washington Post article, David Wiegel listed several examples of how, where it is the law, "Same-sex marriage is leading to a campaign of repression and censorship against religious individuals and institutions."  He also cited examples of "college students punished for refusing to support same-sex parenting, graduate students thrown out of counseling programs for refusing to affirm homosexual sex, denials of tax exemptions for church land when the church refuses to host same-sex ceremonies, photographers punished for refusing to photograph same-sex commitment ceremonies, and social work licenses threatened merely because the social worker publicly supported a state marriage amendment."

 After the same-sex mandate went into effect in Massachusetts, officials attempted to force Catholic Charities to match children up for adoption with same-sex couples. To live their convictions, and concern for the children, they stopped providing adoption services. Same-sex marriage can, and is resulting in less liberty, not more.

The act of marriage between a man and woman has been created for only one purpose and that is for the biological and historical protection of potential children and their descendants.  It has nothing to do with discrimination against "gays," since equal rights are now given by most states to couples of the same sex who want a legal or civil union, or even a blessed covenant. Indeed, the practice of discrimination is actually being used against the adopted children of same sex marriage.

But if a national law is enacted where men can marry men and women can marry women, won't others cry discrimination?  Won't those wanting polygamy insist on equal treatment? (And, this won't be the Mormons.  It has given them enough headaches, wasn't popular with them in the first place, never practiced by over 3%, and was rescinded in 1890.)  Will our society expect similar claims of discrimination from NAMBLA, the North America Man-Boy Love Association? These followers are already studying the political trail used by "gays" to reach their current status.  Might religious universities and other church organizations be required to accept membership, and even leadership positions to individuals who are knowingly members of NAMBLAthe Boy Scouts, for instance?
 Then there are other groups who might push for legalizing the abhorrent practice of bestiality. This sounds unbelievable, but it does exist in shocking numbers.  Such an anti-discrimination law could also cause every Bible believing church and synagogue in the country to lose their tax exempt status.  And, this is only a partial list of problems.

In President Obama's recent announcement of support for "marriage equality" (the new term for same-sex marriage) he insisted it "strengthens families."  He also said, "I want everyone treated fairly in this country. We have never gone wrong when we've extended rights and responsibilities to everybody." No one asked what kind of "rights?

 What if those "rights" go against Judeo-Christian beliefs?  Is President Obama asking Americans to offend their God, as many ministers and rabbis maintain?  Is this fair treatment?

Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows.  Results of research regarding "The Future of Children," published jointly by the non-partisan Brookings Institution and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School agree and found that children from two-parent (father and mother) families are better off emotionally, socially and economically. (Children of co-habituating couples are also found to be negatively affected.)

So who suffers when traditional marriage is abandoned?  Many, and especially the innocent motherless or fatherless children who are clearly not "treated fairly" in this important aspect and must flounder through life with fractured roots.


Bound and gagged: freedom of speech and Australia's Finkelstein report

On December 29, 1819, the young Earl of Ellenborough addressed the House of Lords in defence of the Tory government’s Newspaper Stamp Duties Bill. The bill substantially increased the taxes on cheap newspapers and pamphlets. It was a controversial measure, in no small part because it was transparently directed at the government’s radical critics in the press. Ellenborough had taken his seat just a year earlier and he sought to calm his fellow peers.

The bill was not directed against the “respectable press”, Ellenborough told the House. It was targeted at the “pauper press”– cheap publications that were “administering to the prejudices and passions of a mob”. These newspapers and pamphlets “only sent forth a continual stream of falsehood and malignity”. So, he proclaimed, “in the best interests of the country” his government must extinguish the “gross and flagrant abuse of the press”. Against Whig protest, the bill passed.

Nearly 200 years later, the report of Australia’s Independent Inquiry into the Media and Media Regulation in 2012 struck remarkably similar notes. This report, commissioned by the Gillard government and written by former judge Ray Finkelstein, claimed that freedom of the press – and freedom of speech in general – has resulted in “inequality, abuse of power, intellectual squalor, avid interest in scandal, an insatiable appetite for entertainment and other debasements and distortions”. Finkelstein’s proposed solution was a regulatory agency that would enforce “standards” on newspapers, magazines and virtually all Australian news or opinion websites.

Ellenborough was frustrated by the disruptive, anti-authoritarian journalism of radicals such as William Cobbett. The spark for Finkelstein’s report was the hostile relationship between Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers in Australia and Julia Gillard’s Labor government. Both purported to be concerned with questions of taste and press ethics, yet these lofty ideas were scant cover for their true concerns: political antagonism between government and press. The same rivalry, two centuries apart.

Certainly, the similarity of Ellenborough’s and Finkelstein’s complaints obscures the great changes that have occurred in the development of freedom of speech over those centuries. The mid-20th century saw a concerted legislative push to remove the limits on expression that had built up over the past few hundred years. Blasphemy laws were eliminated. Restrictions on obscenity, from racy novels to picture postcards to pornographic films, were substantially reduced. The scope of legitimate political opinion was widened; contrast, for instance, the repressive penalties for sedition during the First World War and much freer debate over the Vietnam War or the First Gulf War at the end of the century.

Yet that liberal tide is receding. In Australia, the laws against blasphemy that were eliminated in the 20th century are back under a new guise of racial and religious vilification. “Hate speech” has filled the void of the obscenity laws of the past: a steadily increasing set of statutory rules and case law has created a “right not to be offended” which directly competes with the right to freedom of speech. The voluntary press councils that were introduced in the middle of last century to ward off newspaper regulation seem certain to become mandatory bodies in the wake of the British phone hacking scandal. With campaign finance laws and election restrictions, political speech is being regulated – “managed” – in order to suppress voices that are considered too loud.

Commercial expression is the subject of an increasing number of restrictions in the service of public policy – particularly in the field of public health. Outright bans on advertising certain products are increasingly common. The addition of privacy into human rights law has also thrown up new, and substantial, restrictions on speech, such as the UK’s “super-injunctions”, where courts now routinely place gagging orders on the very existence of a gagging order. Even anti-sedition laws have experienced a resurgence as part of the War on Terror.

Virtually everybody says they support freedom of speech. But in every single debate over the new wave of speech restrictions there have been intellectuals, commentators and activists smugly claiming that freedom of speech is not “absolute”, or that their pet issues raise no free speech questions at all. Neither the 19th century’s Ellenborough or the 21st century’s Finkelstein believed they were damaging the liberties of their subjects when they proposed legislation to target “intellectual squalor” or “falsehood and malignity”. In liberal democracies, the importance of freedom of speech has been downgraded. It is a value which is no longer central to our self-image, and one which is apparently easy to discard if other goals present themselves. The news that the international watchdog Reporters Without Borders had dropped Australia’s position on their Press Freedom Index from 18 in 2010 to 30 in 2011-12 went without much comment.

But freedom of speech is not merely one value among many.

In the US, the First Amendment of the Constitution demands that Congress shall make no law “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. This apparent stridency has generated a small genre of scholarship in that country trying to define the appropriate limits – if any – of free expression. In no other area of the law is the relationship between philosophy and practice so well-studied, or so highly theorised. This makes sense. As the American jurist Harry Kalven wrote in the 1960s, “free speech is so close to the heart of democratic organisation that if we do not have an appropriate theory for our law here, we feel we really do not understand the society in which we live”.

I argue that the liberty to express an opinion is at one with the liberty to hold an opinion. In a very real sense freedom of speech defines the relationship between the state and the individual. As Benedict Spinoza wrote in the 17th century, “The most tyrannical governments are those which make crimes of opinions, for everyone has an inalienable right over his thoughts.”

It is in the battle for liberty of conscience that we find the first buds of Western liberalism. In our secular age it is easy to forget that for much of our history, religious freedom was the first, and most important, liberty. The case for freedom of speech did not sprout fully formed in the mind of John Stuart Mill as he wrote the famous On Liberty. Nor was it an innovation of the American founders as they drafted the First Amendment. John Milton – whose 1644 tract Areopagitica is commonly cited as the first argument against censorship – was drawing upon 2000 years of thought.

We cannot understand the importance of free expression without knowing how this vital liberty was born; how thinkers and societies throughout history have developed the idea that individuals have the right to express themselves without fear of sanction by the state.

Freedom of speech is a liberty that has been defined and refined for more than two millennia. The greatest thinkers in Western civilisation have explored its tenets and debated its foundations. In ancient Greece, the father of philosophy, Socrates, was executed for heresy. Yet his student, Plato, believed the ideal state would be one that banned all poetry which did not either praise gods or famous men. Cicero and Tacitus saw freedom of speech as the keystone of Roman liberties. Augustine and Calvin punished their fellow Christians for mere doctrinal disagreements. Spinoza, Milton, Locke, Voltaire, and Mill have all defended, to greater or lesser degrees, the right of individuals to believe and speak views of which governments disapprove. Even Karl Marx – no icon of individual liberties – was a passionate defender of press freedom. Yet the communist states that were his legacy have been among the most rigidly opposed to free expression. And it was the Soviet bloc that promoted the concept of hate speech – a concept which has spread throughout the liberal democratic world.

Our modern liberties are the result of a great dialogue within Western civilisation. Intellectual and legal developments made on one continent or in one country ricochet across the Western world. Australian ideas about political and social freedom are drawn from the history of Greece, France, the US, Rome, the Dutch Republic, and, of course, Britain.

And it is only by understanding that history that we can resolve the confusion about free speech in our time. Both ancient Rome and ancient Athens had a philosophy of free expression. But the two differed in an important way. The Athenians imagined freedom of speech as a foundation principle of their democracy. The Romans imagined freedom of speech as a foundation principle of their liberty. The difference is subtle but significant. If we believe that freedom of speech is an instrument, deployed for democratic purposes, we will find it sometimes necessary to restrain certain speakers – that is, to violate their free speech – in order to pursue a higher democratic goal. By contrast, if we believe, as the Romans did, that freedom of speech is a right held by individuals, then any attempt to restrain speech, for whatever reason, will be anathema.

These two competing ideas – free speech as a democratic instrument, and free speech as a right – have echoed through history and still define the contemporary debate.

I argue that only the Roman tradition of individual rights provides a stable and coherent case for free expression.

The reason for this lies in the intellectual origins of speech freedom – the relationship between liberty of conscience and liberty of expression. The free, morally autonomous individual is one who can construct their own identity, form their own beliefs, and pursue their own desires while tolerating the identities, beliefs and desires of others. This idea is the core of liberalism. And its foundations were first articulated in the debate over religious toleration, and later freedom of speech. In this, Rome, with its tradition of scepticism and individualism, casts a brighter light over Western civilisation than Athens.

In the 21st century, it is the very idea of freedom of speech that is now being challenged. Benjamin Constant, an early French liberal, wrote in his Principles of Politics that:

One habitual ruse of the enemies of freedom and enlightenment is to affirm that their ignoble doctrine is universally adopted, that principles on which rest the dignity of the human race are abandoned by unanimous agreement, and that it is unfashionable and almost in bad taste to profess them.

We must show there is no such unanimous agreement.

It is easy to support freedom of speech when we agree with the content of that speech. So we need to ground our support for free expression in something more than platitudes – a resilient foundation that can cope with both the pleasing and the offensive. Freedom of speech has been, and still is, one of our most vital liberties. If we discard it, we critically undermine the moral foundations of liberal democracy, and lose our basic human individuality.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

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