Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Want want want!

I've been pottering around the blogscape for a few weeks now, reading various viewpoint blogs. Other than politically-induced bulimia, I have discovered (read, decided upon) the following.

'Left' and 'Right' are labels that are outdated, but still useful for people who belong to major political parties. But there is a thing called social policy. It's a relatively simple concept, although you can have it in various arenas. The more you lean on it, the more you are investing into a large-scale view of society rather than a small one. So a light social touch lets people do much as they please, under the assumption this will be 'good' in general. A heavy social touch tells people the exact framework in which they should work.

Now, there's a problem here that there are different concepts of 'good', from no person being left behind, to no person having to support others. Many of these concepts are mutually exclusive. But as far as I can work out, it boils down to 'I want' vs 'they want'. Ask anyone on an individual basis what they want and they will reply. Human beings know what they want. But they don't always know if they are giving as much as they are getting or more. To me, that would be an ideal society, assuming that the excess is used to expand society. (Yeah, Utopiansim. So shoot me. I didn't ssay it was /possible/.) That is the basic 'I want' level. But then people go away and think about how to get it, and somehow that translates to 'they want'.

One level of this is unionism, but the contemporary political spectrum tries to take this further, and tells people 'you want'. At which point I think something is broken, because people start to agree tamely.

However, there's a further problem of ignorance. People don't know what is good for them, long-term. Pay taxes now so your roads will still be functional 10 years from now? Who knows if you'll still have a car? Introduce immigration controls to stop skilled manual jobs going to foreigners? Who's going to do the cheap-ass jobs then? And these are just the headliners.

These are all complex problems, and they are not going to get better just because people vote more, or even if they hold their politicians to account. The huge and complicated snarl that is society cannot be understood by the man on the Clapham omnibus. If it could be, we'd be in a very different position.

Libertarians say (distillation here) that without state interference there would be more room for 'good'. You're wrong, you lot. Democracy may let people vote to fuck you with knives, but it keeps them from doing so without a vote. I've never met a libertarian who wasn't what I would term over-privileged. The only way your philosophy would work is after a massive eugenics program. You're assuming enough resources, as far as I can work out - and political systems assume there are /not/ enough. If they're wrong, the onus on you is to prove it.

Labour Parties (generalisation here) assume that people want to work, and want to contribute to society, but that the poor need help from the rich. To some degree, I agree with that. If I go into a bank and ask for credit, I have a far better chance than if my poor friends do. (I don't mind the poor! Some of my best friends are socially disadvantaged...) But it shouldn't cripple the rich, or even the well-off.

So if you want to avoid me being seriously pissed off, there has to be a lot more transparency. What /is/ the money I'm paying doing? I know you can't break it down pound by pound, but shouldn't money from Chelsea be spent in Chelsea?

Well, not all of it. There's a lot of money on the King's Road and not so much elsewhere, and if you let Chelsea keep its money because it's not needed in the direct area, then you have a tax haven. I am in favour of low taxes. I am also in favour of people paying those taxes. It's not about the nobility of the working class or the rights of man. It's about people not being so envious that they upset the whole system.

Conservatives say mostly that small changes are good, but right now I'm not going to address the Conservative agenda in the UK. I think it's lost its way.

So there you go. The levels of want. I want (but might be damaging) They want (but might be louder than they deserve) You want (but might be ignored). I come down on the side of those who say 'please'.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

More on fairness

I should add, regarding my last post, that I tend to think of 'people' as a homogeneous mass, capable nevertheless of rational thought. And I muddled up two arguments because of that. One point I have to make is that there will always be a settling of society with the more talented in positions of higher earning. In fact, those who /have/ experienced a low sort of life will want a padded fall for in case it happens again. Those who have much self-belief will not.

The other point was the one about tax, which follows on from para 1. But that's already been covered.

Yes, there is great misery brought about through being poor. But you do not deal with that by giving the poor money. You deal with it by making sure they can earn money by working. And yes, that does have to mean 'enough' money. Some people fall through the gaps, but it's better than nothing.

Fairness and Justice

I've been looking over rebuttals to the Rawls position of Justice and Fairness. Let me explain.

John Rawls said that if people had no idea which position in society they would have, then given the choice they would define society to avoid being put in a low and miserable position. He calls it 'the original position'. He's starting from a non-existent point of view, as opposed to the current state, and extrapolating from his guesswork.

You were wrong, John. If you need proof of that, go into any bookmaker's and watch people placing bets. Bookmakers earn a huge amount of money. And yet people still take that risk. Some do it because they think they know better; they may be right, on an individual basis. Some do it because they want a flutter. Humanity is not risk-averse. A society based on being averse to risk will choke in its own fear.

What you were doing was setting up a paper tiger and saying 'people will choose not to be eaten by the tiger'. No we won't. We'll ignore the tiger. Or we'll set fire to it in effigy. Or, as it's paper, we don't even need the effigy.

If I had the original position? I would not assume I was an average person. I would assume that I was me, no matter what the /system/ was. Your model cripples society by enforcing mediocrity as the new standard. Of course the low and the miserable will want resources spent on them. What will you do once you have spent the resources once? Tax and spend again?

For a 40% tax rate, people stay in the country and complain about how much they pay. For a 50% rate, they go abroad. I would be so angry under your model that I would leave the second time you suggested taxing me in favour of 'fairness'. No matter what rate you put it at.

No, I'm not a libertarian. I believe that the state should exist and be fairly hefty, because decent capitalism depends on near-perfect knowledge, and on values such as guilt and happiness being the same for most people. Obviously not the case IRL.

I'm conservative, although I'm not a Tory. I believe that on a small level, libertarian policies work. On a large level, they reinforce people not caring. I am a better and more generous person because the NHS exists. I have grown up thinking it is appropriate to have a safety net and a ladder back up to the high wire.

I don't believe we should be spending most of our money and resources building an elevator back up there, John. We'd only be able to reach halfway, and then we'd have to move the tripwire down.