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Support for the Coalition Melts

By Leslie Clark
May 4th, 2012 at 6:49 pm | 4 Comments | Posted in coalition

Voters have expressed their cold feet at the direction of the coalition across the country. In one Edinburgh ward, a man dressed as a penguin – Professor Pongoo – gained more first preference votes than the Liberal Democrat candidate.

Both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will need to assess where they go from here. Saying its down to mid-term blues after another drubbing won’t do (Alex Salmond, the Scottish Emperor politician, was able to increase the number of SNP councillors whilst in government).

Certain Tories will want their party to move further right to appease UKIP, whilst many Liberal Democrats will no doubt seek to shift the party leftwards after Labour’s gains. It will be hard to reconcile these views. Some may say they are poles apart.

However, the senior party figures that have taken to the airwaves have been silent on the key issue following the local authority elections: just what are the increasingly out of touch Cameron and Clegg going to do about a potential march of the penguins?

Not So Happy Feet

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The Improving State of the World

By Leslie Clark
March 1st, 2012 at 10:54 am | 1 Comment | Posted in International Development

The World Bank have released some interesting statistics. Data from 1981-2008 has illustrated that the number of people in the developing world existing on $1.25 per day or less has declined markedly. As the study shows, the United Nations goal of cutting the extreme poverty rate by 2015 has already been met.

The narrative familiar to many is often the exact opposite, with globalisation/free markets/big business/other evil villains worsening the lives of the very poor in the developing world. The facts, however, show something completely different:

There are still too many individuals living in poverty but that should not trick us into believing that things are getting worse. We should be optimistic that the trends shown in the graph above may continue to fall.

Perhaps ‘neoliberalism’ isn’t that bad after all…


Vaclav Havel’s Obituary…Guardian Style.

By Leslie Clark
December 19th, 2011 at 5:17 pm | 4 Comments | Posted in Weird and Wonderful

I’m sure many bloggers and journalists feel self-conscious about writing in a public forum but this article on the passing of playwright and statesman Vaclav Havel from the Guardian’s Comment is Free (but facts are absent?) section shows that literally any old tripe can get published. I can assure you that it isn’t a parody and is one-hundred percent genuine. Here’s a snippet:

Havel’s anti-communist critique contained little if any acknowledgement of the positive achievements of the regimes of eastern Europe in the fields of employment, welfare provision, education and women’s rights. Or the fact that communism, for all its faults, was still a system which put the economic needs of the majority first.” (Neil Clark 19.12.11)

Just take a minute to savour the undiluted Marxism.

Don’t know about you but I’m already looking forward to reading his take on the death of Kim Jung-il and his impressive record of reducing income inequalities.

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It’s all Mandarin to me

By Leslie Clark
November 12th, 2011 at 6:48 am | 5 Comments | Posted in Comedy

Ever wonder what goes on inside the mind of Julius Nicolson types? Well thanks to a FOI release of the weekly blog of top civil servant Permanent Secretary Sir Peter Housden, all is revealed! 

Originally for the consumption of Scotland’s civil servants via their intranet site, Sir Peter updated his colleagues on matters ranging from traditional mandarin activities to his tedious middle class existence outside of office hours.

They read very much like a 21st Century version of Grossman’s Diary of a Nobody.

You can view the released files in full here* but below includes a selection of his finest musings:

A baking hot weekend in London, hiding indoors for the most part. But we did venture out to the opera – this time to see a superb production of Don Giovanni…They are given under a canopy in Holland Park, and this time at a critical point, a pigeon flew in to join the proceedings and looked around rather disdainfully for a while before finding the way out. Perhaps she prefers Beethoven.” (12/07/2010)

I spent quite a bit of time this weekend with office papers… But I did get some time to have a mooch up and down George Street and get into Harvey Nicks, ostensibly in search of a raincoat. I came home with a jumper and a shirt, but that’s shopping isn’t it?” (06/09/2010)

“…in best Bridget Jones fashion, I can report Walks to Work (4), Pars at Duddingston (7,) Lost Balls (1), Swims (1), Car Wash (1) and Tyres Inflated (4). They needed it.” (31/01/2011)

And finally, in the interests of greater flexibility on the golf course, I plan on Monday night to make my second visit to a yoga class. And if that doesn’t work, I shall try Pilates. Desperate? Yes, I suppose so.” (15/08/2011)

As an interesting aside, Sir Peter currently earns approximately £180,000 p/a…

(*Caution: contains excruciatingly awful material)

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Of God And Socialism

By Leslie Clark
November 2nd, 2011 at 6:21 pm | 6 Comments | Posted in Economics, The Human Condition

In the spirit of Christian harmony, the Archbishop of Canterbury has joined the Pope in publicly stating his support for a ‘Robin Hood Tax’. This is perhaps a curious development given the plush residence and sartorial garments of the latter whilst the former leads an organisation once described as ‘the Tory Party at prayer’. I digress.

The Archbishop’s intervention is very much in response to the continued presence of those incoherent trustafarians outside St. Paul’s and the upcoming G20 summit in Cannes.

In his FT (£) article he claims that “many people are frustrated beyond measure at what they see as the disastrous effects of global capitalism…” Of course, I acknowledge that the Archbishop isn’t calling for the downfall of capitalism a la Karl Marx but the notion that an ethical and moral interest in the financial world stipulates greater government intervention or taxation is wide of the mark.

Indeed, one shares the sentiments of those who bemoan the privatisation of profits and the nationalisation of losses (crony capitalism if you like) but the idea behind the financial transaction tax – “Robin Hood Taxes would take from the richest in society and give it to those who need it” – is economically illiterate. It is built on shaky foundations as the wealth of the rich in society is not derived by exploiting the poor.  Although capitalism may not leave individuals perfectly equal, it is perfectly moral. Indeed, some may say that it is the most impressive anti-poverty device ever created – despite what Oxfam contend.

Supporters of the Robin Hood Tax must understand the absurdity of George Osborne declaring Unilateral Financial Disarmament in the absence of a global agreement. All that would do is place the UK banking sector at a competitive disadvantage for the sake of indulging in populist attacks on bankers. And anyway, such a tax will simply be transferred to the consumer.

In a period of entrenched hostility towards capitalism, only the foolish would neglect the tremendous amount of good generated by capitalism. It is the only economic system that maintains individual liberty whilst at the same time raising living standards. The system may be driven by self-interest but as Adam Smith says in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, that does not negate the empathetic qualities of the individual:

How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.

Maybe those Christians who believe in the morality of capitalism can take comfort in that as well as the old saying, ‘there are only two places on Earth where socialism can work; in Heaven where they don’t need it and in Hell where they already have it’.

Leslie Clark is an atheist.