Browse > Home / Archive: March 2010

| Subcribe via RSS

Hung Parliament and the value of the £ – part 2

By Angela Harbutt
March 18th, 2010 at 5:08 pm | 2 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats, UK Politics

Well, Nick might have thought the discussion about hung parliament and the value of the £ had been put to bed with his comments last week. Not so. Here is a short extract from Tuesday night’s Newsnight – an interview with Lord Steel and Terry Smith (from brokerage Tullet Prebon).

Rarely have I seen anyone praise Vince Cable as highly as Mr Smith. But note the recurring theme we are hearing from many on the business side of UK plc – that the cuts being proposed by ALL three main parties are simply insufficient for the scale of the problem.
Come on Nick, let Vince off his leash to tell it as it really is.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Labour has taken 13 years of diabolical liberties with Britain

By Angela Harbutt
March 18th, 2010 at 5:00 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in UK Politics

Hat tip: If you have not read it, I urge you to read Simon Heffer’s piece in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph. I dont agree with everything that Simon says on a regular basis, but he has it bang on right with his piece on how this Labour Government  have taken the piss with our civil liberties….

He says..

“A danger of the Government’s having made such a mess of the economy is that one risks forgetting all the other horrors for which it is responsible. Between now and the election I shall make a point of discussing some of these other factors that an intelligent voter should want to consider before casting his or her ballot. Despite stiff competition from matters like Europe, immigration, law and order and the near-destruction of our education system, one is perhaps worse than all the others: the insidious and at times quite terrifying assault on our civil liberties“……. 

“….(This) Government has created 4,300 new offences since it came to office. Many of these are either absurd (such as making it a crime to use a nuclear weapon) or they duplicate laws on the statute book. Some would say this highlights the ignorance of those who govern us. Maybe it does; but I would argue, too, that it shows their insatiable hunger for control” …..

“…….We live in a country where harmless people taking pictures of cathedrals are warned off by police invoking anti-terrorism laws; where the same legislation is used to regulate the positioning of wheelie bins; where smoking is banned even in public places whose owners wish to allow it; where the hunting of vermin is banned even on the land of those who wish to have it hunted. All these invasions of individual autonomy have taken place since 1997…”

That’s all straight from the Heffer’s mouth ….. read his full piece here.

Tags: , ,

Max Weber (1864-1920), Political Writings (1994 edition)

By Barry Stocker
March 18th, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Comments Off on Max Weber (1864-1920), Political Writings (1994 edition) | Posted in Political theory

weberMax Weber was one of the greatest social scientists there has been, in a group which includes Weber, Adam Smith, Montesquieu, and very few others.  He is normally regarded as one the three ‘Classical’ sociologists who instituted the discipline.  Weber was born in Erfurt, Germany and pursued an academic career in Germany, with a period in the United States, and a longer period in Austria.  He also had periods as an indepedent scholar and in public service.

Weber early on leaned towards nationalist conservatism, though he was certainly never an extreme nationalist by the standards of the time.  Over time he moved to a liberalism strongly against socialism and conservatism.  Some define his thought to the end as ‘nationalist’.  It seems to me that his end point is a mixture of civic patriotism, in values, along with realism about the role of interests,  and competitiveness, in international politics, as in all forms of politics.

His academic work began with a mixture of historical work in law and economics.  From these starting points he moved into a vast synthesising enterprise, using a deep knowledge of the history of Europe in all its aspects, and knowledge of civilisations outside Europe.  He also did more detailed work on aspects of the German society and economy of his time.  The greatest product was the 1,000 page masterpiece Economy and Society, along with many other shorter works.

Weber’s interest in economics was as defined by the ‘Historical School’ in Germany, which was interested in historical comparisons of a kind that put differences between societies above general laws in economics.  However, time he spent as a professor in Vienna led him into a warm friendship with Ludwig von Mises, one of the great figures in liberal economics, and an advocate of economics as a science of universal laws.  If Weber had lived longer, there might have been some fascinating collaboration.  In any case, they certainly influenced each other, and it would be a fascinating though exhausting exercise to read Mises’ Human Action and Weber’s Economy and Society together.

Overall though, Weber was closer in thinking to Joseph Schumpter than Mises, amongst the ‘Austrian’ economists.  That is Weber was less inclined that Mises to shrink the state to almost nothing, beyond national security and its law and order functions.

He explores the nature of the state in the longest piece in Political Writings, ‘Parliament and Government in Germany under a New Order’.  This looks at the dysfunctions of the semi-democratic German Empire of 1871-1918, which gave real power to the Emperor and the north-eastern ‘Prussian Junker’ landowning families, who dominated the army and state bureaucracy.  Weber argues that this system was increasingly dysfunctional and that the effectiveness of the state can only be guaranteed, and limited, in the right ways, by democracy, that is from responsibility to a national electorate.

The state needs some central authority to maintain institutions and security, but there must be decentralisation and separation of powers.  Otherwise the state becomes a tool of the person in power, and of a social class that shares the interests of that person, leading to a mixture of authoritarianism and ineffectiveness.

The most famous essay, ‘The Profession and Vocation of Politics’, reflects on the role of political leadership.  He looks at the routinisation of politics as it becomes the preserve of full time professionals, and the role of individuals and of weakening political passions.  Weber throughout his thought fears the decline of individual responsibility, diversity and passion.  He thought socialism was a threat, but was just as much concerned with the way that general tendencies to bureaucracy in the state, and in private companies, threatens individuality, preparing the way for socialism.  Like Schumpeter, he was concerned that individual capitalists were seeking to protect themselves from the market, through anti-competitive activities and political influence.  He had great respect for those socialist leaders he regarded as genuine leaders, not just representatives of a party bureaucracy; similarly he respect the willingness of trade unionists to fight through industrial action, even if he rejected the economic arguments used.

Weber wanted a society based on individuality, and a willingness of individuals to struggle with each other, and against authority.  His sociological work showed how such ideas had emerged in history through the market, autonomy of cities from kings, individualistic forms of religious life, and so on, but also led him to fear the rise of conformism.

His ideas about political leadership, and related sociological concepts of charisma, have been widely misunderstood.  It’s often been assumed that when he talks about charismatic, or strongly personal, political leadership, that he was somehow anticipating Hitler.  Though Weber was very conscious that authoritarian leaders could use charisma, and personal appeal, he did not regard it as a necessary feature of authoritarian rule.  He was just as much concerned with voluntary forms of leadership in religion, and the positive role of charismatic liberal leaders, like Abraham Lincoln and William Gladstone, in overcoming bureaucracy and passionless routine in politics.  As strong passionate but responsible individuals, they gave positive examples of individualism, and moved people according to democratic principles towards liberal goals.

Tags: ,

Will May 7th bring relief from the meddling maniac?

By Angela Harbutt
March 18th, 2010 at 9:23 am | 4 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

Its rant time folks. One of my pet hates – Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO).

Over the years I can come to dread the words “a report from the Chief Medical Officer says”. I know it will say we are all fat, lazy, stupid (or words to that effect); say how “disappointed” the CMO is that some recommendation or other has had little or no effect; how much our collective action (or lack of it) is costing the NHS…

I don’t know what irritates me more – the meddling, or the tone. Its well, so authoritarian. When he speaks of his “recommended levels”, it sounds more like a command than a suggestion. More like a directive than advice. You can almost here the disdain in his voice when points out how we, the public, have failed to implement his plan or “recommendation” with sufficient gusto.

As far as he is concerned we are a nation of idle, feckless idiots, who are unfit to run our own lives, let alone be parents. We need to be told, bullied, shamed, or forced into doing what he knows is best for us. No matter how fit, hardworking, and health conscious we were, it would just not be enough for this man.  

So here are just a couple of the missives from his annual report, out now.

1. We are such crap parents, our kids are all so unfit, that he will subject them to annual “bleep” exercise tests.

Last month I was sure our kids were all consumed with achieving Kate Moss skinniness and the anorexia was on the increase – I was wrong. They are unfit and getting obese. And to prove it, Mr Donaldson intends to subject every child in the country to a series of annual “bleep” exercise tests. Not only will children be humiliated by being forced to participate in this fruitless caper. Parents whose children fail the exercise tests will receive “letters” from the schools telling them their child has failed….I imagine something along the lines of “Dear Mr and Mrs Jones you are clearly unfit to have children because your lard arse son is letting the side down”.  Yes, that’s a good idea, lets pile more pressure on the little darlings. Not content with testing their academic prowess at every twist and turn, lets now point out where they are failing on the fitness level too. Stuff childhood – this is the future economic machine we are building here and nothing less than perfection will do.

And what will the tests achieve? Nothing. If there is a problem – and frankly who knows anymore – we need solutions. Not bloody bleep tests. Selling off playing fields, judging schools on almost wholly academic criteria and demanding that every after-school and weekend sports club “helper” prove they are not a paedophile before they lift a finger, can hardly have helped the situation……

And grandparents don’t escape MrDonaldson’s scorn either. He says that 40% of grandparents now provide some kind of childcare when parents are working, but few of them encourage their grandchildren to eat healthily or take exercise. He now wants Government “advice” for grandparents telling them how they can become better grandparents (and presumably send them a letter too when they fail).  Oh come on Mr Donaldson, parents do the hard stuff, the discipline, the “eat your greens” thing. Grandparents do the spoiling, the treats, the fun stuff. That’s how it is, how its always been, how it always will be. Get a life.

2. Our diet is warming the planet and ruining our health.

Not content with telling us its every grandparents duty to turn into mini-dictator for the good of the nation, Mr Donaldson also reckons it’s our collective duty to eat less meat in order to reduce the threat of climate change, because our diet is warming the planet.

So we should all cut our meat consumption by 30% to save some 18,000 premature deaths and indeed the world from climate change. May be its because it was outside his remit, but I am somewhat surprised he did not suggest we slaughter all our pets (think of all those dieases they carry after all). That would cut our carbon emissions nicely.  Give him time it’ll come to him.

A while back it was red meat we should not eat. Chicken and fish were OK. The chicken thing was not that straight forward – only the breast mind not the evil thigh and certainly NOT the skin. And the fish thing seems to change on a daily basis. Do I have to smuggle my haddock out of the shop these days – its so unethical – they are endangered don’t you know – or walk tall and proud – hey look at me I am buying Haddock. Haddock is cool! ??? And eels. Where exactly are we on eels? Now Mr Donaldson tells me I should not even be eating chicken.Well 30% less chicken. Grass nuts and berries are all that seem to be left that are ok – and if you can forage yourself rather than go to a shop, you just might not get sent a letter.

Well its all just a bit too much for me. Come May 7th, I pray that Mr Donaldson gets a letter too. One that says sod off.

Tags: , , , ,


By Angela Harbutt
March 15th, 2010 at 1:09 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in Personal Freedom, UK Politics

HAT TIP : The Drinkers Alliance  have put together this very nifty little video, made in response to the fear that alcohol taxes are going to Sky Rocket at the upcoming budget. 

Yes we know this Government has spent money like a man with no arms, brought the country to its knees and we’ve got to find the money from somewhere. But taking away the anaesthetic, (or at least making it so damned expensive we can’t afford it) while our arms and legs are being chopped off, is downright insulting.

It’s less than a minute long and jolly well made…..definitely worth viewing in our book..


Tags: , ,