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The Anti-science of the Left & Right

By Sara Scarlett
August 25th, 2013 at 6:14 pm | 3 Comments | Posted in freedom, health

This is a very sad story. This part especially hit home:

Not owned by any company, Golden Rice is being developed by a nonprofit group called the International Rice Research Institute with the aim of providing a new source of vitamin A to people both in the Philippines, where most households get most of their calories from rice, and eventually in many other places in a world where rice is eaten every day by half the population. Lack of the vital nutrient causes blindness in a quarter-million to a half-million children each year. It affects millions of people in Asia and Africa and so weakens the immune system that some two million die each year of diseases they would otherwise survive.

Most GMOs have hitherto been developed for the benefit of farmers e.g. creating plants that are resistant to disease and that give higher yields. This particular GMO has been developed solely for the benefit of the consumer. It is quite clear that both the Left and the Right have dedicated anti-science viewpoints. The Left’s hatred of GMOs is as indefensible as the Right’s creationism, and possibly worse due to its horrendous effects on the poorest people in the world. Technology used in the private sector has rarely been used for evil on the scale that technology used by governments has been evil. Golden rice won’t even be the only choice of consumers – they could still buy the other rice if they wanted to. It is both anti-science and anti-humanist to prevent the use of a technology that can minimize human suffering.

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Votes at 16 won’t have young people flocking back to the Lib Dems

By Leslie Clark
January 21st, 2013 at 11:14 pm | 4 Comments | Posted in freedom, Liberal Democrats

Over on his blog, Stephen Williams MP has revealed he will once again attempt to lower the voting age to 16 for UK elections and referenda.

Williams makes some valid points about its successful operation elsewhere, on the maturity of young adults and their political awareness through organisations like the UK Youth Parliament. But whilst votes at 16 has been a longstanding aspiration of the Liberal Democrats, it could be perceived as a desperate attempt to reconnect with the younger demographic following their u-turn on tuition fees.

Many remarked alterations to the franchise for the Scottish Independence Referendum was an attempt to gerrymander the vote (subsequent polling has shown this would backfire) and for Nationalists to cynically curry favour with young people.

Indeed, where had the sudden desire to ‘empower’ and ‘enfranchise’ [insert meaningless buzzword here] young people come from? After all, the SNP effectively deemed them as too infantile to understand the obvious health consequences of smoking cigarettes by upping the purchasing age from 16 to 18 and then sought to increase the purchasing age for booze from 18 to 21. One Nationalist MSP even ludicrously proposed a curfew on young drivers under 25 (good on LYS for taking them to task).

One would expect liberal voices to challenge  such liberty eroding moves yet in his article Stephen Williams said,

There are good health reasons for controlling access to alcohol and tobacco.”

Hold on. You can be deemed mature enough to participate in an election and understand the main policy debates including, one assumes, health policy, yet be too immature to fully understand the consequences of smoking fags or drinking lager? It seems hypocritical to confer rights on one hand whilst restricting them on the other. If they are young adults, we should allow them to exercise personal responsibility. I believe young people have the capacity to make sensible and informed decisions about their own life but it is puzzling that some advocates of votes at 16 don’t seem to agree.

Votes at 16 won’t help the Lib Dems suddenly re-engage with young people. I’m not inherently against the idea of extending the franchise but we should look at the rights of young people in their totality rather than an à la carte approach. Within the confines of a blog post, I tentatively suggest:

  • Allowing young adults to make their own decisions about how they lead their life. In response to a YouGov poll last year, only 17% of 18-24 year olds believed politicians and civil servants were well-equipped to make personal decisions on their behalf. They reject the Nanny State; so liberate them from it
  • Don’t return to opportunistic and unaffordable pledges aimed at students like scrapping tuition fees
  • Instil a little intergenerational equity into policy and share the burden of cuts
  • Challenge negative perceptions surrounding young people on issues such as anti-social behaviour and binge drinking
  • But most of all, inspire them. The age-old liberal values of personal freedom, civil liberties, peace and internationalism sound pretty appealing to young ears.
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Hats off to Norman Baker

By Tom Papworth
August 3rd, 2012 at 2:34 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in freedom, Liberal Democrats, Libertarians, Nannying, Personal Freedom, Transport

Stephen Tall, Research Associate at Centre Forum and Editor of Lib Dem Voice, has kindly posted my choice for Liberal Hero of the Week on the Centre Forum blog.

So (ahem!) hats off to Norman Baker, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport with responsibility for cycling, who described as his “libertarian right” to cycle without a helmet on.

And if you want to find out why, you can read the full article on the Centre Forum blog.

transport-ministers-cycling

(PS: Do I win a prize for squeezing the most links into my opening sentence?)

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Smokers – State Approved Hate and Intolerance is UK Policy

By Guest
April 16th, 2012 at 12:23 pm | 5 Comments | Posted in freedom, Personal Freedom, Uncategorized

 

I have previously commented on nations more liberal and more tolerant than ours with respect to their treatment of those who choose to smoke. In addition to Germany and The Netherlands I have observed pragmatic approaches that guarantee smoke free air for the many without victimising the significant few in France, Austria and Switzerland.

It is mildly surprising that Switzerland offers some of the best facilities for travelling smokers despite being home to the WHO an organization that seeks to impose its politicised extra budgetary funded will on all without actually having to do anything as inconvenient as obtaining a popular mandate.  My experiences are based on Basel and things may become decreasingly liberal as one approaches Geneva.

Basel provides airside facilities for smokers in both arrivals and departures. They have chairs, tables and other comfort features that tend to be absent from smoking facilities in the UK where our laws are intended to punish and coerce.  UK facilities lack even the basics like an appropriate number of walls.

The Swiss authorities seem unconcerned that the mere sight of a cigarette brand will cause a mass surge in smoking uptake suggesting that they are reasonable, sane individuals unlike their increasingly ridiculous UK counterparts. Imagine not only allowing a cigarette manufacturer to advertise on a smoking lounge but having the intelligence to work out that it might be a good way to help cover the costs of providing such facilities.

Basel airport links directly to an international high speed rail network and it is a short walk from the terminal to the train station.  On arrival there smokers are greeted by the amazing sight of a cafe with a ventilated separate smoking lounge. Yes, smokers can sit down and have a drink in some comfort and apparently without bothering non-smokers.

In the UK smoking facilities are exclusively outdoors and not segregated which seems to create an issue for some non-smokers. I have never really observed unwanted smoke in my workplace but I have noticed that these days I seem to experience greater exposure to environmental smoke outside UK buildings.

It seems I am not alone. Here is a selection of reader’s comments from media forums:

 “I object to having to walk on the road because you’re all standing outside the pub/restaurant on the pavement. When I have to stand close to you and you smell so bad I want to be sick”

 “I for one am tired of the thick wall of foul smelling smoke outside of every shop on every high street in every town as the inconsiderate people who smoke stand in the doorway indulging in their foul habit”

 “Smokers are by nature dirty. They stand outside smoking without a care for anybody else walking past them and blowing their smoke in faces…”

It would appear that a more reasoned approach that did not force smokers onto the streets might benefit everyone but instead, our government encourages social division through laws that inevitably create conflict. Should anyone be in any doubt about the degree of hate and prejudice that has been encouraged towards those who smoke, here are a few more readers’ comments:

“Smokers disgust me. Me and my friends do see them as second class citizens. We all look down our noses at them and their disgusting and filthy habit. We make sure they know it too.”

 “Smoking is disgusting and dirty. And so are smokers.”

 “It’s a no brainer. If you smoke, you are stupid. If you are stupid, you are probably low-income or no income beyond benfits”

“smokers are weak minded addicts and should be removed from society if they can’t be helped or refuse help.”

“We could always just change the law to allow people to legally shoot dead anyone caught with a cig between their lips outside the four walls of their home…”

 And from 2 people commenting on a BBC forum:

 ”Smoking is darwinian”

 “An excellent point. My only objection is that procreation often takes place prior to demise.”

 It is difficult to imagine that comments like these would be considered acceptable if directed against any other minority but thanks to a myopic adherence to the one dimensional “quit or die” mantra of the activists and an ongoing “denormalization” campaign, UK politicians have given legitimacy to this hate, which is an inevitable consequence of trying to force social change through coercion and state sponsored intolerance combined with deliberate distortion of the facts.

Politicians who continue to support such strategies despite their manifest failure are entitled to their opinion in an allegedly free society but those who promote intimidation, exclusion and hatred as a means of engineering change should not call themselves liberal. Hiding behind the pretence that it is possible to “denormalize” an established activity without “denormalizing” the millions who indulge in it is not a valid excuse.

By Chris Oakley. Chris has previously posted on Liberal Vision:   Alcohol is Old News – Minimum Pricing for Digestives is the “Next Logical Step” , Soviet Style Alcohol Suppression Campaign Called for By Public Health Activists , Alcohol Taxation: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth , A Liberal Tolerant nation? and  What hope is there for liberty if truth becomes the plaything of political lobbyists.

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Alcohol is Old News – Minimum Pricing for Digestives is the “Next Logical Step”

By Guest
March 26th, 2012 at 4:23 pm | 3 Comments | Posted in freedom, Government, health, Nannying, Nudge Dredd, Personal Freedom

Last week witnessed a remarkable low when the leader of a coalition between a party claiming to oppose top down dictatorial government and another claiming to be liberal, announced his support for exactly the  kind of mass social engineering that most of us hoped had died a death with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Sir Ian Gilmore

As I pointed out in a previous post, minimum pricing adherents are not at all ashamed of the totalitarian nature of their plans and indeed have actively sought to persuade our elected representatives of the “rewards” to be gleaned from emulating Soviet policy on alcohol. They did in the process of course focus on short term successes and completely failed to mention the disastrous longer term consequences of said Soviet policy. Zealots and fanatics rarely allow the truth to get in the way of their endless campaigns which is one reason why it is generally a bad idea to appease them.

David Cameron and his government appear to have ignored conventional wisdom with regard to appeasement by caving in to a deeply dishonest campaign for minimum alcohol pricing spearheaded by the medical establishment. A campaign that has, amongst other unsavoury tactics, seen the public lied to about the real price of alcohol, misled over the number of hospital admissions related to alcohol and kept in the dark about positive trends in both attitude and consumption.

At least I have to assume The Prime Minister’s spineless capitulation is an attempt to appease the zealots as the alternative explanation that he and his cabinet truly believe a 40p minimum price per unit will “mean 50,000 fewer crimes each year and 900 fewer alcohol related deaths per year by the end of the decade” would be evidence that the country really is being run by fools.

One of the reasons it is generally considered a bad idea to appease fanatics is that it only encourages them to greater excess and also encourages others to emulate them.  On Saturday the BBC ran what should have been an upbeat news item about major food companies co-operating with the DH on obesity by cutting calorie content in their products. It sounds like just the sort of thing that people who care about obesity might applaud but this being a BBC news item it had to feature some rather severe criticism from a spokesperson for one of the myriad obscure “charities” that taxpayers are forced to fund.

According to the BBC, Children’s Food Campaign spokesman Charlie Powell said:

 ”The food industry wants to be part of the solution but altogether refuses to admit that it’s a big part of the problem. And it’s to the government’s disgrace that the food industry is actually helping to set government health policy. I think we should look at what’s happening on the alcohol network and actually the government have decided that the way to go is actually to mandate companies in terms of their pricing. While they grapple with voluntary approaches, we’ll see these weasel word pledges continue.”

Charlie describes himself as “Left-thinking vegan feminist, campaigning for a fairer and more sustainable world.”

Clearly this otherwise gentle soul has scented blood following the government’s surrender on alcohol and will be crusading for minimum pricing or maybe even outright banning of foods he doesn’t think that we should be eating.  I assume that will include meat if he dares to dream that big. After all, all he needs to do is gather support from the more unscrupulous and fanatical elements of the medical establishment and anything might actually be possible.

His first port of call could be Jonathan Waxman, whose words are living proof if more was needed that passing a medical degree is no guarantee of intelligence, humility, decency or common sense.

“Not only do we need to ramp up the public health campaigns that encourage us to ditch the doughnuts. But we will have to go further and ban adverts for high-fat foods. It is wrong that manufacturers can produce mayonnaise with a 70 per cent fat content, so we should tax food laden with saturated fats. 

Some will argue that this is an affront to personal freedom. But the people with the least ability to make informed choices are the poor, who happen also to be more likely to smoke or be fat.”

As Dave and his elitist mates seem to share Waxman’s view that the people in general and the poor in particular are too stupid to be allowed to make their own choices I think it likely that it will not be long before minimum pricing becomes the preferred option to reduce consumption of anything the medics and activists decide they don’t like.

I recommend stocking up on digestives and other “sinful” foods before it is too late.  I wouldn’t worry about alcohol because it is ridiculously easy to make.

By Chris Oakley. Chris has previously posted on Liberal Vision:  Soviet Style Alcohol Suppression Campaign Called for By Public Health Activists , Alcohol Taxation: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth , A Liberal Tolerant nation? and  What hope is there for liberty if truth becomes the plaything of political lobbyists.

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