Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

Friday, 22 October 2010

Opinion: we won’t be able to please many of the people for much of the time

Earlier this month Stephen Tall offered, in The Saturday Debate, 'Local government is to the Lib Dems what the unions are to Labour and big business is to the Tories'. What Stephen's view does underline is that, unless the Party achieves an unlikely breakthrough and wins a General Election outright, its place is more likely to be as a junior partner in a coalition government, which offers the choice between working with a group supported by the most ruthless of business leaders or by the, oft power crazed, union barons. This will, as demonstrated by the latest debate on graduate funding, necessitate the frequent agreement to policies fundamentally at odds with the membership's wishes. Presently the Party is in danger of losing credibility unless it has some immoveable core values, these in turn would ensure a more loyal core vote.

The most important group not represented by the two largest parties are 'the people' themselves. Local government is closer to them than either the leaders of the business community or the leaders of the Trade Unions, however - not that close. In our system of democracy, that which was originally conceived as 'the will of the people', the will of the grandees of one of these groups will always prevail in this dance of alternating dictatorships.

Representative democracy was necessary because clearly it was impossible to ask all of the people their views on every issue. However, representatives, in this misleading title, have never considered it their role to represent the majority view of their constituents, not even the views of those who voted for them, although some account is required of this if the representative wishes to continue with their political career. With the strengthening of political parties, the MPs were more keen to represent the views of their political party because their career prospects became inextricably linked to being loyal servants of that party.

Previously anyone could stand to become the local MP and would have had a fair chance of election, if they were in touch with the peoples wishes, when the primary form of communication with the electorate was from a soap box in the market square or other meeting places and a time when a simple pamphlet for each voter would not be beyond the means of the candidates. However, as the means of communications became more complex and sophisticated, successful communication by the candidates to the electorate became more difficult and with the political parties having their own manifesto and substantial funds, those who wanted a successful career in politics realized that joining one of these parties was the most practical route to success. Now, joining a political party is the only viable route to electoral success - the days of representative democracy, where the MP represents either their own or their constituents views, is over.

Government in the interest of the nation and its people was possible if their chosen representatives had independence and were able to honestly debate the issues of the day in the House of Commons - those who offered the best solutions to the problems of the day would likely be able to convince their fellow MPs of the wisdom of their case. However, once this independence was compromised, because each MP was reliant on the support of the party grandees, in practice, just the wishes of these managers became the only solutions likely to be given sufficient support to become the actions of the government. Once one of the two main parties had a majority in the Commons - the only solution became the wishes of these party grandees, big business or the unions an our alternating dictatorship.

Stephen is right, the Party does need a core vote if it is to succeed in its own right and not be dragged into supporting the policies of one of these two special interest groups. Why is there any reluctance to have 'the people' as this core vote? It is in the people that the power should reside and it has been stolen from them through devious tricks of devious people. Direct democracy would return the power to the people and is surely a much better system than all of the alternatives to 'first past the post' on offer. Whatever system is used to select the peoples representatives, direct democracy would ensure that they did not stray too far from the peoples wishes.

Only the wildest optimist can view the future with anything but serious concern. Tough decisions are going to have to be made on every issues - defence, education, law and order, immigration, social services etc. The government will not be able to please many of the the people for much of the time - surely if these tough decisions have to be taken it is vital that 'the people' play as big a role as possible in the decision process since it is they who will have to endure the resulting hardships - direct democracy offers a system whereby this can be the case. It is also the route to the big society and would re-enfranchise a disenfranchised people.

First published 13.10.10 - Liberal Democrat Voice

Opinion: we won’t be able to please many of the people for much of the time

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Opinon: the unchallenged global free market

Although the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, which completed the UK’s political union with the EU, is a change which significantly disenfranchised the electorate [in as far as political parties can no longer promise to introduce measures in a considerable number of areas without the consent of the Council of Europe] our surrender to the global free market and all that it entails occurred far less obviously and has had a much greater obvious impact.

The promise of this free market is that the whole of the world’s population can share in the affluence which has been, until now, the prerogative of the West. I pointed out in my article concerning the minimum wage that the seeking out of the cheapest labour by the global corporations has left a large slice of our unskilled and semi-skilled labour force facing an extremely uncertain future – this uncertainty is bound to effect other areas of the workforce as the under developed East are increasingly able to supply relatively cheap labour in the more skilled jobs, perhaps best demonstrated recently by VC’s declared desire to open up the UK to immigrants from India.

However, disregarding the impact of these almost certain changes, the very concept of the promise of the global free market is built on a fallacy, because the increasing affluence enjoyed by the West for the last 100 years was the result of a period when there were surpluses of easily obtained oil. We have now reached, or are about to reach ‘Peak Oil‘ the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached – this rate will be followed by terminal decline. This issue is well described in this short video interview with Robert Rapier.

Without this steady supply of easily reached oil the affluence of the west cannot even be maintained, let alone be spread to the less developed areas of the globe, because oil is the only product which can provide its basis, other forms of renewable energy cannot replace oil in many important areas. What affluence remains as oil production declines can only move away from the least competitive nations towards the most competitive – and the UK does not fall into this category.

Given this reduction in oil supplies, the obvious route is to conserve what remains so that it might be used where and when it is needed most, but the global capitalism relies on moving goods throughout the world from where they can be produced most cheaply to where they can be sold at the highest price at a time when production and use need to be as close together as possible – if oil is to be conserved.

Apart from transportation, the profit motive in capitalism demands that products have only a limited life. There is little value in making a car which will last fifty years with just minor maintenance, once those who want your car have one – you go out of business. In order to maximise profit it is necessary that the vehicle becomes redundant – motor manufacturers make vehicles which become no longer economic to repair after about ten years, regularly change styles so owners feel ‘out of date’ and keep introducing new ‘must have’ gizmos so that their newest product becomes irresistible – this means that redundant old vehicles are regularly scrapped and the energy [oil] originally required in production has gone to waste.

As Jeremy Clarkson frequently points out, the energy savings offered by new cars is negative when the energy required to produce these cars is taken into account – far better to keep an older car in service. This short-term redundancy approach is taken by all manufacturers of products in order to keep profits high.

Clearly whilst we are trapped in the global free market, the UK, whose oil production is low and whose untapped reserves are difficult to extract, will be at the mercy of these rapidly changing forces. Free of this market we would be able to manage all of our resources in a regularized fashion which would give our children and our children’s children a far greater degree of security even if we were obliged to accept a lower standard of living – which will be the end result whether we take these matters into our own hands or not.

The danger of remaining in the center of the turmoil of the free market is that we will have little or no say on where we end up, we will be at the mercy of forces which are too powerful to control by any UK government.

Al Gore's Church of Climatism

James Delingpole, the writer, journalist and broadcaster has written an article in today's Telegraph condemning many of today's leading figures of being members of Al Gore's Church of Climatism. He claims that James Lee, the gunman who was shot dead by police after taking hostages at the Discovery HQ, was also a member. Lee wrote a manifesto that he posted on the internet which included:

"The humans? The planet does not need humans.
You MUST KNOW the human population is behind all the pollution and problems in the world, and YET you encourage the exact opposite instead of discouraging human growth and procreation. Surely you MUST ALREADY KNOW this!"

Whereas it is true that Al Gore, the Prince of Wales, Jonathon Porritt and David Attenborough do believe that there are too many people on our planet, they do not, like Lee, try to use force to achieve their aims, but try to convince us through reason. Why, however, is there any movement against and condemnation of those who claim that the planet is over-populated - when it is plainly true?

Those who benefit from this over-population bring forth endless scientific arguments to prove that the Earth could support many more of we humans with the use of GM crops and other techniques developed by scientists. However, they will not concede that when mankind does try to tamper, excessively, with the natural world - there are usually unexpected and unwanted consequences.

Whereas it is true that Al Gore does seem to have been richly rewarded for this work, so suspicion does fall on his motives, this accusation cannot be aimed at the other three honourable gentlemen who have gone about their work in the traditional British way, not for fame or fortune - but through a love of humanity, the natural world and a desire to avoid unnecessary suffering.

The argument with regard to over-population has been highjacked by those who wish to disprove that the climate is warming. It is true that if the climate is warming and this is caused by man through the excessive production of CO2 this will exacerbated the problem of over-population because the planet's capacity to produce food will be reduced, but whether this is the case or just a temporary state caused by some other phenomenon the over-population problem remains.

The Earth's population has tripled since WWII, with life expectancy rising in most parts of the world as the scientific community find cures for those ailments which reduce mankind's lifespan, clearly over-population is a problem - if not now, then it will be in the not too distant future. Since measures to combat the numbers on the planet, if they are not to be too extreme, take a long time to take effect - it is an issue that urgently needs attention.

There is of course a different approach, which will take effect if the situation is not managed. Survival of the fittest will be the outcome the law that has ruled us for the vast majority of our time on Earth. What those who battle for the issue to be attended to are trying to avoid is - that our children or our children's children are not faced with the problem, each day, of finding enough food and uncontaminated drinking water to survive and that being the sum total of their lives.

We have seen on our TV screens how many people in Pakistan simply face surviving each day as a result of the floods. These floods will subside and gradually the survivors will begin returning to their previous lives - if we should arrive at the point where the planet cannot provide enough food for the global population in a number of decades time - the Pakistani's present lifestyle will be a permanent condition in many parts of the globe.

We in Britain should take particular note for we are only able to produce 50-60% of our food needs - worsening as the population rises. Food prices are already rising rapidly and the serious danger is that as the world's population continues to rise, our children or our children's children will not be able to afford to import what is required for their needs - or it will not even be available! The aim of controlling and reducing the global population is a noble aim - with such evidence why would anyone want to find reasons to prevent a plan being devised and agreed between the nations of the world?

To answer this question it is necessary to consider who benefits from a rising global population. Nation's leaders might prefer to have as many subjects as possible, ambitious religious leaders may prefer their religion is followed by the maximum possible - but it is the global corporations whose very structures are geared to growth that would fear a steady decline in their potential customer base who might see such a development as most alarming.