Friday, December 19, 2008

Are simple heuristics slogans?

  • Don't let the bullies win: in government, in business, in international relations, wherever.
  • Trust people to make their own decisions as much as possible.
  • Don't ignore long-term costs: they can be harder to get right, but greener options might be huge cost-savers in 50 years time.
  • Don't ignore long-term benefits: goodwill can lead to unexpected solutions.
  • Devolve power: turn postcode lotteries into postcode choices.
  • Help stakeholders and experts formulate policy.
  • Tax what's bad, not what's good.
  • Don't make the poor pay proportionately more for the State than the rich.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Political frames

This discussion at Liberal Democrat Voice is largely why I set up this blog.

In essence, to look for alternatives to the sterile shouting-matches between left and right, fairness and wealth-creation, authoritarianism and laissez-faire, proletariat and oligarchy etc.

Unfortunately the best I've come up with so far is:
  • fairness without government bullying
  • more libertarian than the other guys, but not so libertarian that we're loony

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Redtop: Which party?

Redtop says:
  • We needed Labour in 1997 because the Tories stopped thinking of the little people.
  • But now Labour has become bossy, and it's time for a change.
  • The Conservatives say they'll be better than Labour, but not how.
  • The LibDems talk sense on the economy, Iraq, ID cards, green stuff and loads of little things. But no-one thinks they're going to run the country.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Redtop: Who should run Britain?

Redtop says:
  • Firstly we want a government that puts the economy back on the right track.
  • We also want better hospitals, schools and police.
  • Listen to the scientists about climate change.
  • And stop doing stupid stuf, like ID cards, Iraq, and speed cameras.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Is it right to remix?

Artists always build on the achievements of others in some way. So, the argument for freedom says that if we the people prevent you from remixing music, words, or videos created by others we're stifling innovation and so impoverishing our society.

Look at the YouTube video "Somewhere over the rainbow", based on fusing the songs "Over the rainbow" (musicWillow Creek Hot Spring by Infinite Wilderness by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, and originally recorded by Judy Garland) and "Wonderful World" (written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss, and originally recorded by Louis Armstrong). This version is sung by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole to an innovative ukelele arrangement. Renzo Schröder has provided a video accompaniment.

Could such a beautiful work have existed without remixing?

On the other hand, the argument for copyright says that if we the people let you republish for free what others have created, we're depriving artists of income for their work, so making it harder for them to spend time creating. And so out society is again impoverished.

Consider again the YouTube video. You watched it for free. None of the contributing artists received payment from you.

The proponents of freedom can say that if you liked the video, perhaps you'll one day buy a related song, concert ticket or other product that eventually lead to some cents making their way to the artists. Perhaps. Perhaps not. It doesn't matter much in this case anyway, because Harold, E. Y., Judy, Bob, George, Louis, Israel, the people who helped them and their dependents have probably received enough from historical sales for it not to make much difference to them. And Renzo shared it on YouTube for free, so he probably doesn't feel any loss.

But the proponents of copyright can ask: Whose decision is it to take that artists' works are shared, if not the artists?

So, which argument is right? If we the people prevent remixing, innovation is stifled and so
our society is impoverished. If we the people allow unfettered republishing, artists are deprived of a source of income that might be their best chance of supporting their craft; and so again our society is impoverished.

I think both arguments are right. And I don't know what we the people should do.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Faith or superstition?

I was brought up a Catholic but, like many, I gradually began to question whether there is a God up there. I also found it increasingly difficult to accept the Church's teaching about condoms.

Unlike some of the militant atheists though, I retain a great deal of respect for people of faith, and I still have a yearning for the consolation of belief in life after death.

I began reading the Holy Smoke blog with some incredulity. Here, I thought, are the worst kind of aggressively traditionalist, mean-spirited, judgemental individuals that give the Roman Catholic Church such a bad reputation amongst many other Christians. And they seem to think that doubters will come flooding back to church if only the fripperies of ceremony are made to conform to narrow traditionalist prescriptions: the "bells and smells", the precise design of the clothes worn by the priest, replacing English with almost inaudible mutterings in Latin, chucking out any music composed in the last 100 years...

Obviously ridiculous. Pandering to superstition. Counter-productive. The rationalist in me was repelled.

And yet... I was wandering past a church the other day and a rare Latin mass (in the "Extraordinary Form") had just started, and somehow I was drawn inside...

The peace. The sense of a holy place. The space for prayer. The feeling of the outside world temporarily melting away to allow openness to God.

The rationalist in me had to admit he had been wrong.

Who to vote for?

It would be very easy to vote for the people with the snappiest soundbites, or the sharpest putdowns, or the most telegenic faces. I think most of us resist those temptations. What is harder to resist is voting for the people who are best at getting passionate about the things we care about.

Perhaps you're fed up of paying ever-greater taxes to be wasted on the undeserving. Or perhaps you're fed up of tax cuts for the greedy rich while the education and health of the majority suffer.

Perhaps you're angry about cowards who'd give to terrorist countries. Or perhaps you're angry about an illegal war.

Or perhaps you're simply wanting to punish whoever's been in in charge for screwing things up.

So should you vote for whoever is best at showing the emotions you feel?

Of course not. A huckster makes a living from faking his emotions.

So how to decide who to vote for?