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November 3rd, 2004


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02:46 am - There's more than one election
My desktop computer remains in the local repair shop. I was hoping they would have estimates as to the duration and cost of repair for me today, but apparently not. Accordingly, I am still solely on the Laptop 0f Love. This is annoying because I have lots of things that I'd like to blog about, but they're all listed in files on the desktop. I shall be quite annoyed if these cannot be salvaged. Accordingly, I shall have to blog out of sequence. It's been a while since I've written much here, but some of the delay was due to having a wonderful time when dezzikitty came to visit and due to a small piece of puzzle work taking far, far longer than it should have done.

Perhaps it's just because I know many political activists and politically interested folk, especially in the US, but there does seem to be a real festival atmosphere in the air; lots posted to LJ today (are there stats kept?) and very high-quality posts. I love reading the celebration about the record-high turnout! Perhaps this is just a consequence of having such an extreme president that he really raised people's views about him, for and against, whereas the record low turnout in the UK last time was more of an admission that the status quo wasn't o unacceptable after all and that none of the opposition had much to offer. This is the most inspiring election I can remember since at least Labour ending 16 years of Conservative rule here in 1997. daweaver points to the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman being asked some undiplomatic and frankly silly questions about the US election and delivering the parliamentary-language equivalent of "I smack your foolish question down". (The line at the end is a killer.)

One aspect of the US election by which I am strongly impressed is the existence of explicit (even if small) Democrats for Bush and Republicans for Kerry campaigns, where people are encouraged to vote for a political philosophy rather than for a party line. Of course, perhaps I'm being naive here; could I really tell if they were instead "Democrats pretending to be Republicans for Kerry" and "Republicans pretending to be Democrats for Bush"? Of course, such counter-partisan and tactical voting is not unknown, but the British way to do it (the multi-partite way to do it?) tends to be to change your vote to a minority party. I would love to see campaigns explicitly called "Conservatives for Blair", "Liberal Democrats for Howard", "Labour voters for Kennedy" (which could well be the Guardian, we hear) and so forth.

One aspect of the US election by which I am strongly unimpressed is people who comment on the Republican Party not being conservative enough and those who attack Bush for financial liberalism. Now perhaps by US terms I'm down there with Walt Brown but as unimpressed as I am by the Republican party, I am even more unimpressed by the most excessive ravages of unrestrained capitalism. Libertarians on my Friends list - of whom I know there are many proud ones - I'm looking at you in a fashion that could be described as "kind of funny", bordering on disbelieving, here, and will ascribe our fundamental differences to radically distant viewpoints on the human condition.

Anyhow, particularly with the numbers that are starting to seep out (which I know we should all be ignoring and pretending they're going in the fashion that we would rather not see them go in) it should be rather a fun evening tonight. (Big party at daweaver's place!) Does there exist a chart of when the results from each state are expected? I've found plenty of charts with when the polls close in each state, but that's not the same thing. Ha-ha-only-serious jokes about "Ooh, two weeks next Thursday" aside, I'm half-tempted to try to get a nap between when the FL/OH exit polls come out, after the polls have closed, but before the actual results are declared, but I'm just not sure if that's practically possible at all. I was going to run a prediction competition myself but someone else is doing one instead. Still time to enter, though it's too late to win a prize.

That said, apart from the US election and the Ukraine election yesterday, I have my own chance to vote here in the UK. I haven't done so yet.

One of the Labour government's big plans has been devolution of power throughout the country. There are now elected assemblies in Scotland, Wales and London, and plans to have an elected assembly in each of England's nine-ish other regions. North-East England is the first region to have a referendum about whether or not it should have its own regional assembly. The government wanted to hold referendux in the North East, the North West and Yorkshire-and-Humberside, but there really wasn't the support in the latter two regions. It is felt that the NE region is the one in England that considers itself most distant from mainstream politics. Not to put too fine a point on it, we're the poorest.

My own standpoint is that government should take place at the most appropriate level. Local affairs should be decided at a local level, regional affairs at a regional level, national affairs at a national level, continental affairs at a continental level and global affairs at a global level.

At this point, I'm reminded of the other scary aspect of US politics: people who quite seriously want the US to divorce itself from global political institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the IMF and even NAFTA. (Let alone the Kyoto Agreement.) I haven't seen this being described as US nationalism, but it seems to fit the description to me. Happily, this is an attitude shared by very few US folk, but it strikes me as arrogance of the highest order; I would be likely to favour political movements in favour of greater continental and global government and find it disappointing that this viewpoint is not promoted nearly as passionately as that of independence and adherence to traditional national boundaries. (The Green Party movement and the socialist/labour movement to me seem to be most statist and most globalist - the globalistest, if you like.)

So, returning to the NE assembly, I think that if there are decisions which can be usefully taken at a regional level, a regional assembly is required to take those decisions. However, the case that there are sufficiently many decisions that can be more usefully taken at a regional level than at a local level or a national level to make the regional assembly the best option has yet to be proven.

Neither "Yes" nor "No" campaign have particularly convincing web sites, in my view, but you can see the "yes" campaign site here, the official "no" campaign site here and another "no" campaign site here heavily associated with Metric Martyr Maverick and blogger Neil Herron. All the arguments are fairly woolly in my view and the "Yes" campaign seems to rely on appeals to pride and a number of celebrity supporters. Unfortunately both sides' supporters are regional at best; the figurehead for the yes campaign was Brendan Foster, a runner who set the 3,000m world record twice in the 1970s and won the UK's only athletics medal in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. He has a strong Geordie (Newcastle-on-Tyne) accent which makes him sound like a cross between the "Come to Kenya" singer and comedian Vic Reeves' club artist. He's not exactly credible.

Quite a degree of the discussion concerns the powers, or otherwise, that any such assembly would be allowed to have. For instance, there is not a hint of tax-raising or tax-lowering powers, though theoretically there could be some interaction between the regional budget and the councils' budget which might affect local council taxes. The argument is that a relatively powerless assembly has very little in its favour; indeed, the appeal by the "Yes" campaign that a bare-bones assembly is a "Christmas tree" on which to hang powers in the style of baubles. Surely this is an appeal to motherhood-and-apple-pie politics of sentiment? Certainly the "No" campaign seem to be doing a far stronger job at rebuttal than the "Yes" campaign, though frankly neither side's positive points look particularly strong. The "Yes" campaign do win on quality of talking heads, for what little it's worth, including our fierce local Mayor.

It's a sign that Dad, not normally a strong political animal, has been privately ranting here at home about the election and opining that he wishes he had been selected by TV for a man-in-the-street vox populi interview so that he could rant at great length on TV. It's interesting that this ballot is being organised purely postally, after the use of the same technique in our neck of the European elections to get a relatively strong turnout. There are a small number of ballot boxes as well for people who haven't posted their vote in time; I had to use one for my Eurovote and will be using one for my referendum vote as well.

Perhaps it's worth thinking about the likely consequences of the election of an assembly and how it would be likely to be constituted. It may well be along the lines of the London assembly: partly directly elected, partly top-up to ensure proportionality. The No campaign, in their single flimsy pamphlet, claim that the Tees Valley area would only get 3 representatives with 22 from elsewhere; assuming the Tees Valley area has a population of about 660,000 and the NE region at large about 2.5 million (based on an electorate of 1.9 million) this would be condign with a 50-50 split between directly-elected and top-up. As a second system, it is not unreasonable to expect the local assembly being used to give the main parliament of the day a bloody nose, regardless of colour.

Nevertheless, one would expect the Labour party to be almost always the largest body and quite possibly with a small absolute majority during a national Conservative administration. The Conservatives and Lib Dems should both pick up a few, with the Greens hoping for two seats in a good assembly and the Far Left would hope to be able to unite far enough to pick up one. (Especially if they could give Arthur Scargill a fond farewell.) One would also expect the UKIP to be represented, not because this has anything to do with Europe, but UKIP might well try to act as anti-assembly wreckers, much as with the European Parliament. This shift in political emphasis would suit my tastes, which is another reason for me to vote in favour.

It's interesting to think about what differences a NE assembly might be able to make, whether they might be able to go as far as changing local law. It's interesting to compare the sizes of differences in laws between European countries with the sizes of differences in laws between US states. It is known that there is significant "drug tourism" in Amsterdam - people who visit simply, or largely, to visit the legal cannabis cafes there. I also strongly suspect there is significant sex tourism to Nevada, simply so that people can visit the legal brothels in the ten counties around (but famously excluding!) Las Vegas. One wonders whether we might ever get to a situation in England where a small number of regions permit hunting and hunting fans from other regions travel into the permissive minority region where hunting is legal? After all, it is not unknown for Big Game hunters to go on safari to Africa, so perhaps there might be Little Game hunters in a poor, rural region some day. Like us. (Or Yorkshire.)

It's also very interesting to think about the more general case: to what extent it is wise for small states with widely different beliefs to be governed by a single government? Is it more important to have a strong government or a government that represents your state's views accurately? There is a pronounced split in British politics (and, I think, most countries' politics) between two hard bases. Sometimes I wonder whether it wouldn't be better to have two governments, or split the country into two, each half of the country being governed by a different administration, so that the north of the country has a government that is naturally (say) 70-30 red and the south of the country has a government that is naturally (say) 70-30 blue.

I'm sure that there are strong reasons why this is a bad idea and the benefits that would be gained this way would not outweigh the penalties of a stagnant, uncontested government. On the other hand, I suspect that there would still be internal debates, much as there is internal debate within the broad church of each party - it's just a case that each half of the country would be able to take more for granted as the will of the people and the divisions would be over much smaller issues. Now the North and the South would take different things for granted and either half might take great distress at the differences between the two. The question is: is living next to a neighbour who disapproves of some of your policies worse than living in a union with a neighbour which may force some disagreeable policies on you?

I fear there isn't a good general answer to that and the practical case-by-case-basis answers depend on the issues involved and the strengths of feeling with which they are held; some differences of opinion are just so egregious that they may be worth waging war over, others can be accepted. The general issue seems to be one of whether it's acceptable to inflict your views on another state, even when they may have seceded from you just to escape your views. I'll take this no further before I say something rash and uninformed on a couple of specific conflicts in the past, but it's an interesting general point.


I think the "No" campaign have made a stronger campaign, have more convincing arguments and are more likely to win than the "Yes" campaign. That said, I am going to go against my better judgment and vote an uncertain and hesitant "Yes" on vague, confused princple. However, much as I - and many of my comrades - have attempted to meddle with the US democratic process and influence you all to vote Democrat, I invite you all to convince me one way or the other on this strictly domestic affair!
Current Mood: excitednervous, hopeful but uncertain
Current Music: BBC 1 US election coverage

(23 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:biftec
Date:November 2nd, 2004 07:29 pm (UTC)
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Libertarians on my Friends list - of whom I know there are many proud ones - I'm looking at you in a fashion that could be described as "kind of funny", bordering on disbelieving, here, and will ascribe our fundamental differences to radically distant viewpoints on the human condition.

My Libertarian radar went off here, as it's a party I'm quite interested in and identify with more than either of the two major US parties. :) I'd actually just love to here you expand on these radically distant viewpoints a bit, as I'm not sure I'm exactly understanding what you disagree with.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 3rd, 2004 02:36 pm (UTC)
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OK - now I've been called on this, I've got to do my homework and check that my preconceptions of (American) Libertarianism are actually close to the truth... :-)

http://www.lp.org/issues/ -

"Libertarians believe the answer to America's political problems is the same commitment to freedom that earned America its greatness: a free-market economy and the abundance and prosperity it brings;

There's your fundamental difference right there. I feel that the failures of the unrestricted free market in its ability to deal with negative goods like pollution do not make its advantages worthwhile.

a dedication to civil liberties and personal freedom that marks this country above all others;

Kind of sketchy on this one, too. Minority rights: very important. Freedom of speech: sending the FBI to a LJ user's house is clearly ridiculous, but I do not support unrestricted freedom of speech to the same extent that the Libertarians do. Ditto freedom of association and so forth. (See this previous post of mine which attracted many good responses, none of which really got the "why" part to my satisfaction.)

and a foreign policy of non-intervention, peace, and free trade as prescribed by America's founders."

Peace = good, obviously. Free trade can lead to really excessive global inequalities that I am uncomfortable with. Non-intervention is not something that I can accept as a policy stance.

Let's look at some of the individual policies:

End drug prohibition: hmm, I can't jump in favour of this one. I've been thinking about it a fair amount and have concluded that my objection to drug legalisation is based on two fundamental principles: I can't understand why anyone wants to get off their face through any sort of recreational stimulant and all forms of smoking are really, really ugly. These aren't the strongest bases on which to found a position but I think they really are the ones I hold to. (Freeing up lots of police to work on less victimless crimes obviously a good thing.)

Low taxes, low public spending: no, this is at the heart of my contention. I don't feel that people at large are able to look after themsselves responsibly to the extent that I am prepared to let them do so with the attendant consequence that substantially many will make a real mess of things. I would rather have higher taxation and less freedom, particularly for the vulnerable, to ensure their basic standards of living.

Foreign aid: see my reply to dawn_came_dim below and the argument above.

"Individuals who are unable to fully support themselves and their families through the job market must, once again, learn to rely on supportive family, church, community, or private charity to bridge the gap.": I shake my head at this. I accept that some people feel that this is a principle to work from, but I cannot. Some people do not have these things, often through no fault of their own, and I am not willing to let them fall to the wayside.

There are some other LP stances I quite like, but you requested that I should focus on the ones where I differ.

It might even be that the US Libertarian Party is not felt to be the most accurate reflection possible of libertarian views!
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From:biftec
Date:November 3rd, 2004 04:34 pm (UTC)
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I think you've touched on several of the points that I, too, disagree with the party. Not all, though, and I will definitely get to those.

- Unrestricted free market - No, I'm not in favor of a totally unrestricted market, but I do think I tend toward the less-restrictive, at least in the present.

I feel that the failures of the unrestricted free market in its ability to deal with negative goods like pollution do not make its advantages worthwhile.

I have a very good friend from the state of Oregon who would argue with you on this point. I don't claim to be an expert, but from my discussions with her, the Pacific Northwest logging industry is a prime example of business taking pollution and conservation into account, and taking it very seriously. It is in their best interest to keep the logging industry going, and to do that, conservation of trees and protection of the environment is a top priority. This, of course, is taking place in the Pacific Northwest, which is the first (and leading) region of our country to really embrace environmental causes, but I think it shows that business does not always mean a disaster of this kind. I don't think the country is ready to accept all of the responsibility of a free trade society, but I do feel that we could start inching in that direction. It's not impossible, just perhaps not practical currently.

- Foreign policy of non-intervention - totally agree with you on that, and is one of my major disagreements with the party. Though I would argue that this party line is not really in line with the basic philosophy of libertarianism, but that's a whole other discussion. Moving on.

- End drug prohibition - This one, I have to disagree with you on. You don't understand using a recreational stimulant and think smoking is ugly. I totally agree. But I don't feel it's my place to tell anyone else what to do. If tobacco and alcohol are legal, then I see no reason for pot not to be. And having had to watch my father go through chemotherapy, I must say that I would have loved to have been able to have ready access to it if it meant he felt less sick. But the bottom line is that, to me, it's legislating morality, and not something I agree with. But then again, I think seatbelt laws (for adults - whole different issue when we are talking about children) are the dumbest things ever. As an adult, you should not have to have the government threaten to fine you to get you to fasten a simple belt across your lap that might keep you from flying out your windshield fifteen miles down the road.

- I don't feel that people at large are able to look after themsselves responsibly to the extent that I am prepared to let them do so with the attendant consequence that substantially many will make a real mess of things.

I think I'm seeing that this is the real heart of your disagreement with the libertarian philosophy. Because they believe that people should be able to look after themselves, and if they can't, it should not be up to the government to support them, but rather private organizations and charities. This is something I agree and disagree with, and I think it's one of the big misconceptions about libertarians (and to a degree, conservatives) in general.

continued...
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 3rd, 2004 04:57 pm (UTC)
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I think you've got the crux of the matter in your last para there, yeah. It looks like I am relatively comfortable with legislating morality after all. (This is probably the point where malachan, hanacandi, wednesdayschild and other nice folks descend upon us with names of philosophers and the like, calling me a moral absolutist and all other sorts of things. I throw my hands up, bemused but amused.)

Excellent news about the PNW logging industry! I have a suspicion that deforestation is a global issue as well as a local one and wouldn't like to take the industry separately from other similar concerns around the world.

I do take your point about the relative desirability of legality for alcohol, tobacco and cannabis (though we should certainly take the effects of passive smoking, passive drinking and passive - er - stoning into account) but I would prefer solutions involving more restricted legality for all three rather than less restricted legality. I have a suspicion that tobacco is probably the most abstracted of the three from nature - that it may be easier to grow your own dope or brew your own booze than to grow your own tobacco.

Health care: this all follows from our fundamental differences. The NHS is far from perfect, but I know I'd be happy to see increased taxes across the board to see improvements rather than having to deal with many competing health care providers and pay for it myself. Here, give me a sufficiently convincing guarantee of even vague competence and you can have my freedom on this issue any day of the week!

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

I have never understood why people keep quoting Ben on this, other than for the reason that it was a Founding Father who said it. Why is he right? Lots of people seem to regard it as almost axiomatic, but I just don't get it.
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From:biftec
Date:November 3rd, 2004 05:17 pm (UTC)
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It looks like I am relatively comfortable with legislating morality after all.

The problem then becomes who's morality? Don't get me wrong, I'm not just trying to pick at you here, because believe me there are many days where I think the world would be a better place if I got to walk around and whap people because I don't like the way they are living. ;) But you see my point, I hope. Once you start legistating morality, you inevitably come up against that question. It's one of the reasons people are so adamently against the Republican party right now, because they feel that the morals of only a portion of the country are being taken into account with legislation.

Health care: Yeah, I think this is where we will have to agree to disagree. :) And it may be that it would be inacted and I would love it. I just have a very deep distrust of government programs working efficiently and in the best interest of those they are supposed to serve. ;)

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

I have never understood why people keep quoting Ben on this, other than for the reason that it was a Founding Father who said it. Why is he right? Lots of people seem to regard it as almost axiomatic, but I just don't get it.


Not to say that all Americans would agree with Ben, but I think that is a very American way of looking at things, and I do think that it's a direct line of thinking from the way our country was founded. I'm not sure I can even describe why this quote is often brought up. It's a hard thing to explain because I have limited knowledge of the day to day life and attitudes of Britain, so I'm not sure if it would apply to a British mindset. But I think when you look at how freaked out Americans get when there is even the hint of our civil liberties being taken away, you start to touch on the American attitude toward this. I'm not sure where it comes from, if it is a general distrust of government or a deeply-rooted rememberance in this country of being a colony... I'm not sure. But I think that when you are an American kid, sitting in a classroom when you are ten years old, studying the Revolutionary War, and what was being fought for, and how the colonies worked... that gets in your head. That concept of liberty, of your rights as a citizen, of your freedoms... it's just always there.
[User Picture]
From:biftec
Date:November 3rd, 2004 05:43 pm (UTC)
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Did I actually type "who's morality?"

I have clearly spent too many hours drafting today. ;) Whose morality would be the question.
[User Picture]
From:biftec
Date:November 3rd, 2004 04:34 pm (UTC)
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For instance, I'm very very wary of a socialized health care plan in the United States. And it's not that I'm evil and want to sit back and cackle while people lose their health insurance. Hell, I don't have health insurance right now and would very much love for someone to come up and hand me some. But I'm not ready for the government to have that much control over my body and my choices about it. I'm very scared of where that would lead... to a place where doctor's appointments can't be obtained for months and months, where hospitals have no real push to see as many patients as they can because they are being paid the same no matter what, where I can't see the doctor I want because it's not a part of the health care plan that I was handed. And maybe none of that would happen, but maybe it would. I don't know. But I'm scared to give up that much of my freedom. And I don't necessarily think that it's the responsiblity of the government to pay for something that personal. I think there's a line that you have to draw somewhere where your life is your responsibility, and I struggle often with where that line is.

So yeah, I agree and disagree with you, but I think there are a lot of points you brought up that are also issues I have with the party. This is why I never declare myself A Libertarian, or A Democrat, or A Republican. There's something a bit weird to me about tying myself in that way to a party, any party, especially when I've yet to find one that I agreed with completely.

It might even be that the US Libertarian Party is not felt to be the most accurate reflection possible of libertarian views!

I think the current party holds some of the purely libertarian views, but not all of them. It's something I try to study and make sense of constantly, and it was very interesting to hear an outside point of view.

[User Picture]
From:fruufoo
Date:November 2nd, 2004 08:14 pm (UTC)
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Personally, I'm inclined to think that regional assemblies are a good idea, but I think they should bring in regional assemblies for every area at the same time - it's not really fair for one area to have more of a say in what happens than other areas do.

I'd say that it's a good idea to have them based on the fact that the priorities of individual counties are different enough that it's ridiculous to have policies tailored in a kind of one-size-fits-all mentality.
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From:beingjdc
Date:November 2nd, 2004 09:18 pm (UTC)
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I'd say that it's a good idea to have them based on the fact that the priorities of individual counties are different enough that it's ridiculous to have policies tailored in a kind of one-size-fits-all mentality.

We could just solve that by having, er, y'know, County Councils.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 3rd, 2004 02:06 pm (UTC)
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I support the devolution of more powers to lower levels in theory, possibly even to parish level, but recognise the drawbacks: a requirement for considerably greater scrutiny at every level rather than just the top level, which would probably lead to an increase in unscrutinised or dubious administration at lower levels, and considerable, highly expensive extra costs and uncertainties when it is not clear at what sort of level an issue is most effectively administered. Labour's pledge to have no more than two levels of local government (i.e. moving from district and county to regional and unitary district/county) seems like a good one, though living under a single level in the Middlesbrough unitary authority and no other level hasn't been catastrophic.

Is that a way to admit that I don't have all the answers? Why, yes, that is what it would be.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 3rd, 2004 02:10 pm (UTC)
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Mmm. I've never been terribly keen on counties in the first place when one county has to deal with both rural and urban concerns. Certainly there are places where it's inevitable, such as county Durham; separate rural-county-Durham and urban-city-Durham councils would strike me as wasteful, simply because urban city Durham is really not particularly large. Were Durham twice its size, though, I would have thought there would be reasonably good cause for such a separation.
From:dawn_came_dim
Date:November 2nd, 2004 08:49 pm (UTC)
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At this point, I'm reminded of the other scary aspect of US politics: people who quite seriously want the US to divorce itself from global political institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the IMF and even NAFTA. (Let alone the Kyoto Agreement.) I haven't seen this being described as US nationalism, but it seems to fit the description to me. Happily, this is an attitude shared by very few US folk, but it strikes me as arrogance of the highest order; I would be likely to favour political movements in favour of greater continental and global government and find it disappointing that this viewpoint is not promoted nearly as passionately as that of independence and adherence to traditional national boundaries. (The Green Party movement and the socialist/labour movement to me seem to be most statist and most globalist - the globalistest, if you like.)

A thorough but very dense post, thus I'll comment on just this one point from above. (Not that your other points aren't interesting, but this is the one I feel most like discussing just now.)

My extended family -- conservative nearly to a man (though the XX chromosome carriers among us can be more liberal) -- tend to frequently voice opinions in line with American nationalism, at the expense of a more globalist view. To be honest, it's the aspect of their conservatism that I am most sympathetic to -- I frequently check myself and do a re-evaluation of thought, but I tend to go either way in a 50/50 split. There are days when I just want to be nice, to give everyone what they want, to develop a broad definition for what the most liberal among us here online all talk of as "what folks deserve." There are also days when I'm "cold" or "callous" enough to play the numbers game, to look at who pays for what on a global level in terms of dollars, supplies, human bodies -- and I get very, very angry to see that America frequently tops the list with all three of those items.

If we had a healthier, wealthier, better established general population as a nation, I would feel far more generous to the rest of the world with our resources. But when American children starve in our streets, when American citizens are denied schooling or shelter, when our American veterans suffer mental illnesses and go untreated, leading to rampant homelessness, hunger, and alcohol/drug-dependency -- when the funds and efforts that can go to solving those problems are diverted to places outside of our country while the rest of the world still clamours for more of our support, denouncing us as selfish and self-centered and unwilling to save them, my blood boils and I want nothing more than to tell the rest of the world to fuck off and take a flying leap into a black hole.

Most of the time I try to be reasonable and keep my temper in check. But there are times that I just don't.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 3rd, 2004 01:51 pm (UTC)
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I have a great deal of sympathy for the points you raise in your second last paragraph, but would seek redistributive solutions, which are (as I understand the definitions) far from conservative. Had I my druthers, I wouldn't redistribute money to the global poor from the American poor, I would redistribute it from the American rich - and the British rich, and the Scandinavian rich, and the Middle East rich and the rich from around the world.

I accept that such redistribution would not only mean a decrease in industries producing luxury goods, but also a decrease in investment in experimental research. If the US had British taxation policies, we likely wouldn't have private companies putting men (just) into space yet. Is this a price worth paying? To me, yes. To some, no.

Let's take this down to a personal level. Would I support a radical increase in global taxation on aviation fuel, to be redistributed to help the environment, even to the tune of adding $100 to each flight to see the other that Meg and I would take? Yes. Do I follow the lead that (e.g.) daweaver has taken, join Friends of the Earth and voluntarily pledge this equivalent additional $100 (or whatever they state) to environmental charities for every transatlantic flight I take? Not yet, I admit.

I am very glad that so many people in the US do so much good for the world and it may well be that the US is a very generous contributor even in percentage terms. However, my anger is at those who want to pull away from the international institutions; I won't even say that they will (or would, or want to) do less good for the rest of the world, merely that they seem only to be prepared to do it on their terms.

Would I rather have some sum of money redistributed to a genuinely good cause because someone has done it to further their own agenda (even by selection of that particular good cause at the expense of others) or as a result of the state? I accept that the former is likely to be more efficient, but I genuinely prefer the latter. Now I realise that this may set up a difference of opinion that you may not find easy to accept, not least because you have thrown your life spectacularly into what you do and I admire you for it. It's just not the system I would prefer to have in place.

If you find this an irreconcilable difference of opinion, I accept that.
From:dawn_came_dim
Date:November 3rd, 2004 03:44 pm (UTC)

Irreconcilable differences don't end friendships, do they?

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I have a great deal of sympathy for the points you raise in your second last paragraph, but would seek redistributive solutions, which are (as I understand the definitions) far from conservative. Had I my druthers, I wouldn't redistribute money to the global poor from the American poor, I would redistribute it from the American rich - and the British rich, and the Scandinavian rich, and the Middle East rich and the rich from around the world.

I absolutely, completely, 100% disagree with that idea of distribution -- which is what makes me a fiscal conservative -- or "republican when it comes to money". Taxation here is based on earned income, designed as a gradient -- so the highest earners are taxed more per dollar than those who earn less. This system makes my skin crawl; I work my ass off for every dollar I earn, and I loathe that the government "redistributes" the product of my sweat to someone who for whatever reason doesn't work as hard as I do.

I understand that crises happen, that jobs are lost, that it takes time to figure out what to do when that happens. We have social systems set up for those situations; Unemployment $ is available on a short term basis for those who need it while finding another job. Welfare $ is available for caring for families when income drops dangerously low. Food stamp $ are available to ensure that folks can still eat when they fall on hard times. I have no problem with some of my tax dollars supporting such a program, since such a program is a type of insurance plan -- it's going to be there if I ever need it, too.

But I loathe the fact that I am taxed more money for basic services that everyone uses than someone who earns less money than I -- money that pays for rescue services, for law enforcement, for waste removal, that pays our government officials and state workers. I use these services no more nad no less than anyone else in the nation -- and I hate that I pay more than other folks. I similarly hate that people who earn more than I lose more of their sweat-earned money than I do, too. It's not a question of what people "deserve" -- as far as I'm concerned, there's no such thing -- it's a question for me of what people *earn*.

However, my anger is at those who want to pull away from the international institutions; I won't even say that they will (or would, or want to) do less good for the rest of the world, merely that they seem only to be prepared to do it on their terms.

I don't understand why this is so disturbing. The international institutions were designed as communities; a community is only functional as long as every member contributes and every member gains. I'm not saying that the US hasn't gained anything from being part of groups like the UN (though I'm hard pressed to cite an example just now), but we seem to give far, far more than we receive. Why should we be expected to work at a perpetual loss, ignoring our own problems in the face of similar global issues, when we get so very little -- or nothing at all -- in return?

As for the distribution of money to worthy causes -- hell no, not by the government. It isn't the government's job to worry about. What is legal, what is appropriate, what are proper procedures for governance, how do we ensure that all people are treated fairly and equally under the law, how do we ensure that private citizens are acting in accordance with the law -- these are the responsibilities of government. It's a massive task list, and no one on the planet has mastered it yet. When we do, I'll chat about giving them more responsibilities in terms of "redistributing" my money.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 3rd, 2004 04:35 pm (UTC)

Re: Irreconcilable differences don't end friendships, do they?

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Well, there's no ending of friendships going on at this end, in case I have mistakenly given you cause for concern.

If you are opposed to income tax, how would you gain tax revenue for any government? Tax is a difficult issue; I am not sure that income tax is the fairest or most ideal tax. (I always rather liked beingjdc's comment, which I'll surely misquote, that relying on one form of taxation to raise revenue is like only decorating one room of a house.) All forms of tax have their ethical arguments in either direction; I was surprised to hear people arguing against inheritance tax, which is possibly the least meritocratous of them all.

I find the market for wages to be extremely eccentric and regard that the market rates for public sector workers, in very broad terms with certainly many specific counter-examples, tend to lead to what I would consider to be an underprovision of public services. Accordingly, I (broadly, etc.) support intervention of the wage market in favour of public sector workers. I accept that some may regard it as arrogant of me to want to impose my desires as to what ought to be rewarded on the wage market.

Why should we be expected to work at a perpetual loss, ignoring our own problems in the face of similar global issues, when we get so very little -- or nothing at all -- in return?

Altruism, for one. You can make good cases for enlightened self-interest (being generous makes you friends!) in a lot of cases, but I would hope that altruism would be enough for a good start.

I recognise and admire the altruism currently displayed by the US and by nations around the world. However, altruism just isn't about giving, it's about respecting other cultures and codes even when they may not be directly beneficial to you. I would be concerned about those who propose to pull away from international institutions even if the ones they would put in place instead might result in a greater net transaction from rich to poor.

To me, the distribution of resources to worthy causes is, at the end of the day, the essential function of government. I suspect aspects of the libertarian platform may well be to your taste, even if they are not to mine. :-)
From:dawn_came_dim
Date:November 3rd, 2004 05:08 pm (UTC)

Re: Irreconcilable differences don't end friendships, do they?

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If you are opposed to income tax, how would you gain tax revenue for any government?

I am not opposed to income tax, I am opposed to a gradient income tax. If a percentage of a person's salary goes to taxes, then it's the same percent of EVERY salary. Not 29% of mine and 33% of my father's and 16% of my sister's. I don't care if you earn $80 per week or $80,000 -- it's a flat percentage.

I am very much in favor of other taxes which are specific to certain markets -- like New Hampshire's luxury tax. They don't have regular sales tax -- groceries, clothing, equipment, etc. -- regular necessities of life aren't taxed when they are sold. They do have a high tax on real estate, automobiles, lovely-to-have but not necessary items. And the taxes are a flat percentage -- higher priced items have a higher tax, so the wealthy do pay more, but it's done equally.

We have a very specific, nearly innavigable set of rules that govern the value of labour done in the public sector.


Why should we be expected to work at a perpetual loss, ignoring our own problems in the face of similar global issues, when we get so very little -- or nothing at all -- in return?

Altruism, for one. You can make good cases for enlightened self-interest (being generous makes you friends!) in a lot of cases, but I would hope that altruism would be enough for a good start.

I recognise and admire the altruism currently displayed by the US and by nations around the world. However, altruism just isn't about giving, it's about respecting other cultures and codes even when they may not be directly beneficial to you.


Quite true. But frankly, after the results of the election here, with the devastation I see in my cities every day, with the sick, the hungry, the tired, my altruistic endeavors belong at home.

I can't come up with a nice way to say what I'm saying next, and because of it, I'm going to plead emotional exhaustion and the breaking of my hopes -- I don't honestly know if I'll feel the same way in a week's time. But right now, in this instant, I'm ready to tell the world to fuck off and leave us alone -- to deal with their own problems without us -- whether America helped cause them or not.

The more I think about what you're saying, the more and more disturbed I am by the fact that you feel this way about ideas I abhor. I'm going to go away and rest and try to figure out what I can do next to help my country.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 3rd, 2004 06:18 pm (UTC)

Re: Irreconcilable differences don't end friendships, do they?

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I'm not wedded to a progressive income tax. The Green Party, with whom I have a fair degree of sympathy, propose a guaranteed living income for every citizen, employed or unemployed, then taxing all income in excess of that tax at a single rate, regardless of how much or how little. It would just have to be a reasonably high rate, that's all.

Sin taxes (I'm sure there's a posher name for them, but I can't remember what this name is) definitely have a place, but I fear that sufficiently high tax will just push supply of the good into the unregulated black market. I would be rather happier with a lower/less-progressive/no income tax solution if this could be worked around, but I fear it can't.

"Charity begins at home" is a saying that is used quite frequently here. I can see the sentiment behind it, but I'm not sure I necessarily agree; if you accept it, the real question is where you regard as home - whether you want familial ties (how close?), geographical ties (to your state? To your country? To your continent? To your planet?), interest group ties, religious ties or whatever other form of kinship to be the common factor. I don't share the same allegiance to my country that you do and I don't think that that makes either of us right or wrong. Sometimes jingoism (not the same thing as patriotism) scares me, but I accept that my lack of patriotism might scare you.

Lastly, please do know that I like you very much and respect you massively, even if we have some fundamental views which are poles apart.
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From:ringbark
Date:November 2nd, 2004 09:46 pm (UTC)

Statistics

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Summary statistics on LJ are at http://www.livejournal.com/stats.bml but a geek like you would want to look at http://www.livejournal.com/stats/stats.txt - the "postsbyday" field shows the number of - er - posts by day.
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From:ringbark
Date:November 2nd, 2004 09:51 pm (UTC)

Re: Statistics

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Closer invg reveals that this doesn't seem to have neen updated recently.
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From:bateleur
Date:November 3rd, 2004 02:23 am (UTC)
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My own standpoint is that government should take place at the most appropriate level. Local affairs should be decided at a local level, regional affairs at a regional level, national affairs at a national level, continental affairs at a continental level and global affairs at a global level.

Ah, but hang on a minute... Something like fuel taxes would then be set globally because the environment is a global issue. However, because of the size of urban populations, it would be set at a level completely incompatible with the requirements of rural life. For them, it's a local issue.

And so on.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 3rd, 2004 01:11 pm (UTC)
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Strikes me that that isn't the sort of issue that can be solved at a global level, for exactly your reasons. I flirt with the idea of a global "one level of tax for rural areas and another for urban areas", probably expressed in terms of purchasing power parity, but that will just lead to fuel tourism. It's possible that we might have had fuel tourism in the past or still have it, to the extent of large road tankers going to the NL to fuel, but I have no clue whether that story is accurate or not.
From:daweaver
Date:November 3rd, 2004 09:07 am (UTC)
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I'd recommend downingstrtsays to anyone who likes their humour laconic. From to-day's briefing:
Asked what the Prime Minister did overnight the PMOS said that as he had a busy day ahead today he did get some sleep. Asked if he was woken during the night the PMOS said that he wasn't.


people who quite seriously want the US to divorce itself from global political institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the IMF and even NAFTA. (Let alone the Kyoto Agreement.) I haven't seen this being described as US nationalism, but it seems to fit the description to me.

It could be nationalism, it could be a tenet of a branch of the evangelical christians. Apparently, they reckon that the state of Israel will be torn apart by a multi-national body (the EU and UN generally get the rap, but it could be NAFTA.) Then all the jews will convert to the radical christian sect, Mr Jesus will come down on a fiery chariot, and the world will be a happier place. I'm a little hazy about some of the details, but it's general picture.

I've not kept up to speed with the regional assemblies, mainly because there isn't one here. However, were there a referendum on one for the West Mids, I'd be racing to put a Yes in the box. That would mainly come from the democratic gap we've got between city / county councils and the national government. The democratic structure needs something at an intermediate level, and purely on that basis, regional assemblies would be a good thing.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 3rd, 2004 01:08 pm (UTC)
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I would be appalled if that were the reasoning behind the decision, but I can just about believe it. Nutty Christians, eh? (NB I don't regard any of the Christians on my Friends list as nutty, though if you turn out to take sufficiently much of Revelation literally, I reserve the right to change my opinion to "nutty but nice", as the old commercial nearly went.)

Strange thought: could the UK Conservatives admire Bush's "homely charms" and decide that that's the sort of leader they need, the sort of leader that Dinky Smiff, Vague and Overrule haven't been. Dennis Wise for Conservative leader? Jamie Oliver? Decand Ant?

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