Monday, March 28, 2005

My Politics

This is a short version of longer post which I am struggling to write. It's unlikely to be clever and it certainly won't be pretty. It is really just a statement of where I'm coming from. Unless you really, really want to know, I wouldn't bother with this. Read another post instead. This one will probably be deleted if I ever finish the longer version. It's not easy to explain what you believe in a logical, consistent, and structured post. I know what I think, but that's not much use to anyone but me. This is going to be dull. Anyway, here goes.


The first thing is that I think the First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system isn't good.
The 2001 UK election results show one reason why I don't like it.
Out of 659 seats:
Labour: 413 seats, 62.6% of the seats with 40.7% of votes cast.
Conservatives: 166 seats, 25.2% of seats with 31.7% of votes cast
Lib Dems: 52 seats, 7.9% of seats with 18.3% of votes cast.
Others: work it out. This is a short version so I'm not going to.

It doesn't look very democratic. It gives a disproportionate number of seats to the most popular party. It leads to situations like "President Blair" having absolute power with only 40% of voters electing him. It means that if you live in a safe seat and you want to vote for another candidate, well, you'd be better off going down the pub. Your vote is unlikely to make any difference. I still think you should vote because it's never going to change if you don't.

I'd rather we had a Proportional Representation (PR) system. All votes would count. There would be no "President Blair". Parties would have to cooperate because there wouldn't be an overall majority in parliament (unless something really odd happened). It would take some of the "yah boo" out of politics. I know PR has its problems. I don't even want to start discussing the various forms because:
a) I'd have to look it all up.
b) It is very dull political theory.
The general principle is more democratic than FPTP though. There are other problems; coalition governments tend to be more unstable and small unpleasant parties (I'm thinking BNP) might get a few seats. Overall, I think the benefits outweigh the problems.


It has become accepted that the free market system leads to better economic growth than other systems. Fair enough, but does money actually make anyone happy? Ask a rich person. There are more than enough resources to provide a comfortable standard of living for everyone on the planet. Instead, the current system has a few very wealthy people and millions living in poverty. I don't find this acceptable. I don't have the answer but I know that the current system is unfair, and that our prosperity in the West is based on the exploitation of people in developing countries. It isn't up for discussion. I know enough economics to know this is a fact. I'd read "Globalization and its Discontents" by Joseph Stiglitz (one time economic advisor to President Clinton) before you even try to disagree.

Another major problem with the current system is the formation of Oligopolies. This is a growing phenomenon. Some markets: fuel, washing powder (they're all made by the same companies, look at the labels), supermarkets, banks, and lots of others I can't think of right now. An oligopolist market often distorts the competition principles which are supposed to keep prices low. Power becomes increasingly concentrated in the hands of just a few companies. Collusion is illegal in many countries but large oligopolistic companies will always have a large incentive to cheat the system and set prices together with their "competitors". A general point also needs to be made. The perfect market conditions, which proponents of the free market treat as a theoretical holy grail, rarely exist in the real world.

To summarise this, I would prefer to sacrifice economic growth in order to bring about a fairer society. I'd pay more tax if that's what it takes. The current system is, I believe, unstable. At the moment, life expectancy varies hugely between the rich and the poor. In the richest countries people can expect to live for twice as long as those in the poorest countries. Faced with those circumstances, wouldn't you want to immigrate to a richer country, preferably with your family?
As I said before, I don't claim to have all the answers but I do know that this imbalance cannot be allowed to continue.

Only governments can do this. Large multinational corporations only have a responsibility towards their shareholders. They want to make money, it's what they do. This is why it is so important that the free market is not allowed to run rampant. Regulations and taxes must be enforced and used to balance out the huge inequalities in the system. If that leads to slow economic growth, I'll happily sleep in my bed knowing that everyone else in the world also has a bed to sleep in.

This is an ugly summary of things I feel strongly about. It is not complete by any means. There are a lot of other points which I'll try to add to the post I'm struggling to write. I hope that this gives anyone who has read it a basic understanding of where I'm coming from. If you want to know more, the best thing is probably to read some of my posts. If you still want to know more, what are you, some kind of stalker? I'm joking, I guess I don't expect anyone to read all this. Email me if you have done and you want to ask me something. I'll be so surprised that I'll probably send you a really polite reply.

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