Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Asking the unaskable...

I have recently purchased two volumes of Arthur Seldon's collected articles. Those wishing to daydream about the full potential of the market economy should look no further. This extract from his 1988 article 'Political Bar to Economic Progress' is a perfect illustration of the problems of government ownership and centralization:

'In the commercial market we 'represent' ourselves directly. We spend our money on food, clothing, furnishing, motoring. We use our money - 'votes' - to buy what we want as individuals, families. If we don't like one supplier we can change to another.

The political 'market' is very different. Politicians spend other people's money. We the people are 'represented' indirectly in a tortuous chain of public meetings, conferences, motions, references back, elections, private conclaves, lobbies, compromises, hard bargains.

We submit to majority decisions on intimate personal services like education, medical care, housing and transport. And if we, as individuals or minorities, don't like what this Tower of Babel produces, we cannot escape.

In spending our own money, we make every penny count. In the political 'market' our cross on the ballot-paper makes not a scrap of difference. The cost of voting [...] can be high; the benefit is doubtful, immeasurable or absent.'

The 'Broken Society': Part 1 - Education

Living in Salford, I feel I can pass fairly accurate judgement on the state of Britain's 'society'. Social breakdown which is prevalent across the country is more likely to be exaggerated in less affluent areas, where crime and unemployment are high.

At present, Salford is undergoing a dramatic transformation. Most of Lower Broughton is being rebuilt. The Irwell Riverside will be transformed. Unemployment is comparatively low. So, apparently, is crime.

These days, though, politicians are speaking a different language. The problem has stopped being jobs and the economy and is now a sociological phenomenon centred around such things as deprivation, ignorance, lack of respect for law/family/govt. institutions, and selfishness.

I don't think a Labour government can solve these problems. They have tried to bury meritocracy, and replace it with some peculiar notion of universal equality. Where is the carrot and the stick for young people now? School-leaving teens are treated as clones: GCSEs, A Levels, University undergraduate; and yet, universities are struggling with the number of students having difficulties with basic English grammar, spelling and punctuation. Schools are being polluted by notions that teachers should be responsible for 'citizenship' and other meaningless notions of glib do-goodery. It is not the responsibility of a school to mould a pupil into a decent citizen, least of all a state school. It is for parents to teach children the basics of citizenship. Questions such as 'What does it mean to be British?' are not worth asking, because everyone has a different answer, and it is constantly changing. Being British is what the British do best. We do not need to be TAUGHT how to do it. This sort of nonsense going on in education means kids have less time to learn about important things.

I left university because I didn't believe I would gain enough from it to justify being there. There are few attending university at 18-20 years old who have much (detested phraseology) life experience. Second year students usually move into rented accommodation, at which point, some have to adopt a degree of financial nouse. Many, however, are completely covered by their parents' generous donations, and are left to spend their student loan WHICH THEY WILL HAVE TO PAY BACK.

All Conservatives should believe that only the brightest students should be at university. Universities should be centres of excellence. Britain's much-discussed 'skills shortage' could be replenished by limiting university places and encouraging less academic students to take up apprenticeships and job placements.

We are faced with a huge increase of graduates, whose courses cannot provide them with employment in their respective field. Meanwhile, we are short of plumbers, electricians, plasterers, and all manner of skilled tradesmen.

There is no shame in not attending university, indeed, I believe my prospects are better poised having thrown the towel in on the damn thing.