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Women on boards and traffic regulations

By Simon Goldie
February 26th, 2011 at 10:28 am | Comments Off on Women on boards and traffic regulations | Posted in freedom

In a fascinating discussion on Five Live, Victoria Derbyshire talks to several female contributors about how to get more women on company boards.

I should declare an interest here,   Michelle McDowell, one of the contributors, is a friend.

The contributor from Iceland suggests that to make sure more women get on boards we need something like traffic regulations. She argued that this is because the rules on traffic helps us all behave in a better way.

That reminded me of the video below and made me wonder if her supposition is correct. It may be counter intuitive, but would women have a better chance to be on boards if certain rules were removed instead of more targets being imposed, just as people’s behaviour seemingly gets better without traffic lights?


Alcohol poisoning is not an issue for government

By Angela Harbutt
February 18th, 2011 at 3:20 pm | 5 Comments | Posted in freedom, Government

The BBC has just announced that an alcohol label campaign has just been launched by the partner of former Stereophonics drummer Stuart Campbell. Campbell died after a heavy drinking session in 2010, choking on his own vomit.

 His partner, Rachel Jones, has launched a campaign aimed at bringing alcohol labels into line with stark warnings on cigarette packets and has secured the help of Llanelli MP Nia Griffith to achieve this. 

On Wednesday Ms Griffith raised the issue with David Cameron during PMQs. Cameron referred her to plans to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol (a bad piece of policy in my view that will unfairly penalise responsible drinkers on low incomes, whilst leaving  posh middle class kids binge to drink on our streets as before).

But for the Rachel Jones campaign and the Llanelli MP, this is not enough. Calling for for stronger labelling on alcohol,  Ms Griffiths said “If you saw someone drinking a bottle of poison or bleach you would stop them”…”People need to be aware that alcohol – in particular spirits – can lead to death.” 

 The thrust of this campaign is grounded in the belief that people are unaware of the fatal consequences of drinking a large amount of spirits in a short time. It is undoubtedly extremely sad that Stuart Campbell died in wholly avoidable circumstances. But surely, we should look at the bigger picture?According to the Office of National Statistics 179 people died due to accidental alcohol poisoning in 2009 (latest figures available). That sounds like a lot of people. But consider how else people died that year….


462 people died from complications of medical /surgical care

223 people died in cars hitting a stationary object (a fraction of the total number of car accidents)

431 motorcyclists died in traffic accidents

205 died people drowned

182 people died from inhalation or ingestion of food

….. and so on……

According to the Office of National Statistics, the NHS killed over twice as many people as alcohol poisoning. More people also died from drowning, car and motorcycle accidents; for goodness sake, even FOOD killed more people than a binge drinking session. Are we going to put similar labels on every car, every bathtub and swimming pool, and on the front door of every hospital?

Of course consuming alcohol carries risks. Drunks get behind car steering wheels and kill people. Drunks walk out into the street and get knocked down. Drunks get into fights and kill each other. Drunks go home and beat up their wives and kids. We are also aware that long term heavy drinking can lead to ongoing health issues including liver damage etc..

Almost all of the above are more serious than death by alcohol poisoning. And the idea that a label on a bottle will cut the number of such deaths is just plain fanciful. I have heard (too many times) the line “….if it saves just one life then it will be worth it”. That is just plain wrong. Even if it did “save just one life” – and proving that would be mighty tricky – the cost to the rest of us is simply too high. You just can’t save every person from themselves (there were 3457 suicides in 2009). And the implications of where this might lead next are simply dreadful….leading this government down the same path as the previous government – treating us like incompetent children.

No.Labelling is tackling the problem from the wrong direction. We live in a society that has become increasingly dependent on the government to sort out our problems and our friends, families and neighbours problems. Its time we took a whole lot of that responsibility back.

I heard Rachel Jones on the radio yesterday. She is a genuine person; articulate and yes, courageous, to speak of her loss, and through it, highlight the dangers of binge drinking. But surely her efforts would be better placed using her experience  to encourage people to look after each other a little better. Most of us have been out with mates who have drunk way too much. I have seen good responsible mates take that person in hand, take them back to their place, sit up with them until they have recovered. I have even seen a good friend of mine walk a stranger back to her place one night and sit with her til she had sobered up. That one action probably did save a life.

Doesn’t the answer to death from alcohol poisoning (or rape or assault) lie in a bit more care from everyone of us to our fellow man? That is surely 100 times more effective than a label on a bottle that will be wholly ignored.

I can’t make people care more, or demand that people take more responsibility for those them, nor can the government, but people like Rachel Jones probably can raise awareness to the dangers and persuade us to all be better friends to one another.  That is where she should be putting her efforts, rather than demanding that the Government does something. A harder task but infinitely more effective.

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Time for a Nanny Unit

By Simon Goldie
February 15th, 2011 at 10:24 pm | 11 Comments | Posted in freedom, Nudge Dredd, Personal Freedom

The question of what sort of nannying Alain De Botton would like, got me thinking about those who desire nannying and the people would rather run their own lives.

This led me to wander if it is possible to reconcile that liberal aspiration with a ‘Nanny State’?

It seems that many people believe nannying is a good thing. According to de Botton people need help with what to eat, smoke and drink.

For those who would rather control their own lives this is all a bit annoying as they get dragged into the nannying. Perhaps one could describe this as a ‘tragedy of the nanny’.

What if the ‘Nanny State’ gave way to a nanny unit?

Those who need nannying would pay into a fund for this service. The payment could be progressive or a flat rate. The charges might be based on the level of nannying you desire. For instance, if you would like someone to come and bring you your five a day mix of fruit and vegetables you would pay more than if you simply got sent a regular text message reminding you to eat your apples and broccoli.

The people who wish to control their own lives would not receive any nannying and would not pay into the fund.

An immediate problem is whether people would opt in or opt out of the nannying unit. For those who believe in nannying the opt out route would be most attractive.

The decision on opting in or out is probably best done on the basis of cost.  Is it cheaper to enrol everyone automatically or make them pay a large entrance fee when they opt in? Should one pay a substantial amount to opt out once in?

For those readers who think it is high time for me to remove my tongue from my cheek, the Republican Senator Ron Paul has recently suggested that Americans be given the option to pay a 10% tax for the rest of their lives and in return never ask anything from government bar some basic State provision such as protection by the military.

I should stress I came up with the nanny unit before reading about Paul’s proposals.


Alain de Botton argues for a nanny state

By Simon Goldie
February 6th, 2011 at 10:06 pm | 6 Comments | Posted in freedom, Nudge Dredd

The philosopher Alain de Botton has made the argument for the nanny state on the BBC’s website.

Part of his reasoning is that he believes that the libertarian notion, that we must be free, has won. Those who argue for a liberal society, a society where the individual controls their life, might be surprised to hear that as they tend to think there is more work to be done to establish a liberal world.

Putting that to one side, many people take the view that people cannot make decisions on their own and need help.

Reading de Botton’s piece I was struck that there was something missing from his argument. What would be fascinating to know is what sort of nannying would de Botton like? I am assuming de Botton needs nannying as his argument is that we all do.

I have no idea if de Botton reads Liberal Vision but if he does he is more than welcome to comment and tell us.

The consequences of unintended consequences

By Simon Goldie
January 31st, 2011 at 12:33 pm | 4 Comments | Posted in freedom, Government, Liberal Philosophy, Policy

Policy makers often refer to the potential of unintended consequences when debating new legislation or regulation. Politicians from all political parties seem to realise that whatever you do something will then happen that is unexpected.

If we start to think about policy through the prism of the unintended, then our recent political history makes a lot more sense. Someone comes up with a brilliant solution to a problem, a majority back it, it is enacted and a little later a new problem pops up because of the solution to the first problem. A new solution then needs to be developed to deal with this unintended consequence.

There are different ways to respond to this.

Governments could try and gather together the best brains in order to ensure that every possible outcome is worked out. Arguably, this approach is already being done and yet we still seem to be unable to avoid problems coming from solutions.

Another option is to accept that this is simply part of political life. There will always be unintended consequences so one might as well be stoical about it and just find a new solution.

One of the issues is that policy changes can impact on a lot of people. If that impact is negative it will take a lot of resource to solve the problem. Not only that, but ethically one might ask what right do policy makers have to affect people’s lives in this way?

There is another path to take. If you step back and let people work out the solutions by relying on the wisdom of the crowd, you are likely to arrive at solutions that everyone thinks are workable. This is because ways of doing things emerge through co-operation and experimentation. Another way to describe this is spontaneous order.

The other advantage is that when lots of people try different things and one experiment has negative effects it is not going to impact on everyone, just the ones who are engaged with that particular solution.

The great thing about this approach is that policy makers don’t need to rush off and come up with a framework that enables this activity. We already have one: the free market. And where we think the market isn’t appropriate we can always disperse power to people.