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The times they are a changing - Her Most Regal Majesty, the Queen of Snark
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The times they are a changing
You know, I used to believe that I was a liberal or left wing. I based this assertion upon a strong belief that the state should take responsibility for ensuring that no-one should be without the basics they need for healthcare, and that an unrestricted free market leads to the rape of the many to benefit the privilaged few, it being economically more competative in the short term for company boards to act like total tossers and piss on the people who are responsible for creating the wealth that they take their cut of. I still believe these things, so I suppose I can't be right wing.

However, I'm also of the opinion that selection on the basis of academic ability is beneficial to students of all abilities, if funding remains equitable. I'm not a believer in giving children the vote on the grounds of reduced capacity to make informed decisions. There's a large swathe of people I'd like to take the vote away from on the grounds that they clearly aren't wise enough to be able to use it properly. I'm becoming increasingly fed up with the kind of right-on activist that is so busy wishing that the world was some kind of loveable rainbow playground where everyone deserves equal respect, and if anyone is in difficulties then they must be a victim of circumstance.

It's not possible to control circumstance, but that does not give carte blanche to bleat and whine and blame others because life isn't fair. Guess what, no-one's life is fair. The victim mentality is rife within our society. "It's not my fault I got into debt - they shouldn't have offered me such easy credit." So let me get this straight - these people think that they aren't responsible for their own bad decisions, for not thinking enough to follow through with the consequences of their actions, and yet they still think they should be allowed to have some say in how the country is run? Looks like they want it both ways.

There was an expression in American politics "No taxation without representation". I say to you, no, I have a better maxim "No representation without responsibility". That means that either taking the fact that it's well known that smoking could harms health on the chin and accepting that ignoring this is a fucking stupid idea and that blaming it on the evil tobacco companies denies all sense of personal responsibilty. Which doensn't mean not helping people in that situation, but neither does it mean lying to them about the fact that they fucked up big time is an appropriate response.

So I guess I'm not left wing either. In fact, I think I'd like one of those returns to Victorian values that the Tories were always going on about in the 80s. Not in the sense they meant of intolerance of anyone who didn't fit in with they're small minded prejudices about the correct way to lead a life, but in the sense that those with the capacity to think about complex problems were the ones who took responsibility for trying to fix them. Most of the great social advances of our time stem directly from groundwork laid down by philanthropic Victorians who just quietly got on with making the world a better place by giving people what they needed rather than what they thought would make them popular.

Which brings me to another point. Thatcher was a mad old loony, but a lot of our current prosperity was due to her, and she never shied away from telling people unpleasant truths where she saw them. She never wrapped up her opinions in weasel words and lies designed to fool people into thinking they were getting what they asked for. In short, for all Thatcher's faults (and they bloody well were legion), she was never an oily used car salesman like Smiling Tony.

I'm beginning to suspect that it may be time to form the New Whig party, (I don't really know enough about Whig politics to be sure that's the right description.) It's time to abandon this simplistic notion of the binary nature of competence and treat people with differing levels of responsibility and autonomy dependent on their circumstances, the goal being to raise as many people as possible to a level where they are fully autonomous and accept responsibility for their own responses to the hand life deals them. Where did this absurd notion of fairness come from - nothing about our society is fair - let's stop pretending it is and move on from there to try to ensure as much equality of opportunity as is possible. People who cannot grasp elementary logic are not capable of making an informed decision. Letting them do so is folly.

And now I've run out of the ability to think coherently, so I'll stop and bid you good night.
20 comments or Leave a comment
From: ex_lark_asc Date: February 21st, 2006 01:51 am (UTC) (Link)
sevenstring holds firmly that everyone gets more Tory as they get older.

It's certainly true of me.
From: vyvyan Date: February 21st, 2006 02:42 am (UTC) (Link)
It's certainly not true of me.
senji From: senji Date: February 21st, 2006 08:38 am (UTC) (Link)
What a strange concept.

Maybe "Tory" is a codeword for "Disillusioned" in this context :-).
sion_a From: sion_a Date: February 21st, 2006 10:13 am (UTC) (Link)
"Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has not heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains."—Winston Churchill
From: vyvyan Date: February 21st, 2006 11:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Something along these lines seems to have been attributed to a great many people!
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: February 21st, 2006 06:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's the point. I'm no more Tory than I am Left-wing. And I never really was, really. I've always believed to some extent in things like selective education, and persoanal responsibility.
mangosteen From: mangosteen Date: February 21st, 2006 02:57 am (UTC) (Link)
"It's not my fault I got into debt - they shouldn't have offered me such easy credit."

A truly fatuous argument, certainly, but there's an interesting logic chain that belies a greater problem.

- A credit card company exists to make a profit.
- Their most profitable customers are ones who keep revolving their balances, and paying finance charges.
- Therefore, if they're to seek the most profitable customers, it would be people who lack the ability to pay in full.

So, the most profitable course of action is to aim at poor(er) credit risks, with a higher chance of default.

As much as I feel that people have to be responsible for their debts, I even more strongly feel that lenders that decide to actively make bad bets for short-term profit, should be punished in the same market they're looking to exploit. To my mind, that's one of the major economic justifications for personal bankruptcy.
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: February 21st, 2006 07:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm inclined to agree. Also bear in mind that much bad debt is caused by overextension due to change in circumstances which, while exhibiting a lack of foresight is often not in itself feckless. Bankruptcy is by no means an easy option either - it's unlikely that a bankrupt will be able to hold on to their house for example. This of course leads to increased costs for society, which often then has to pick up the slack in providing housing for those adversely affected. I think it would be far more apt if credit card companies who can be demonstrated to have acted irresponsibly be forced to pick up these bills.
the_mendicant From: the_mendicant Date: February 21st, 2006 08:48 am (UTC) (Link)
So When do you stand for election? I'd vote for you!
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: February 21st, 2006 07:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sadly I doubt enough other people would. I'm too likely to tell them things they don't want to hear.
(Deleted comment)
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: February 21st, 2006 07:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
So I was right then. I'm a Whig. I shall remember that.

Somehow it doesn't surprise me at all that my political philosophy died out of common practice over a 100 years ago.

And yes, I used to vote Lib. Dem. Frankly I'm not sure I believe them competent to manage a piss up in a brewery any more.
(Deleted comment)
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: February 21st, 2006 07:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I definitely see "helping people to help themselves" as being a very worthy goal. It's not that I want to be making decisions for whole swathes of society who never bothered to learn how to think. I'd much rather they became capable of a level of thought that meant they could do it themselves. Running people's lives for them is far too much like effort.

It's part of why I like the CAB. It's about empowering people to deal with their own problems. Giving people back a sense of autonomy and self-control.
ewx From: ewx Date: February 21st, 2006 10:00 am (UTC) (Link)
While in favour of people taking responsibility for themselves, I'd observe that money lenders, tobacco firms, etc spent a great deal of money on things that will shift their product. This is information warfare with human brains as the target. I'm not sure it should either be surprising, or always considered the fault of the targets, that sometimes it works.
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: February 21st, 2006 07:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well there's a great deal of difference between saying "corporately you are responsible for acting in an unethical manner, and therefore should be paying the cost to society of cleaning up this mess" and "you must pay A and B and C because you exploited the fact that they were incapable of thinking straight". The first seems to me to be a very good idea indeed. The second serves merely to reinforce the blame culture.
davywavy From: davywavy Date: February 21st, 2006 11:30 am (UTC) (Link)
rysmiel From: rysmiel Date: February 21st, 2006 03:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm pretty much entirely in agreement with you, but I suspect we could spend a fascinating few hours dissecting out the small points of underlying difference. [ One of these years... ]

I don't think of it as becoming more Tory though, quite the reverse. Particularly with the experience of the past four years of the Canadian government and the Quebec provincial government, which for the first couple of years I was here was basically the most left-wing in the Western world, I find myself ever more in sympathy with state-heavy socialism. With the additional considerations of complexity management, which definitely connects on to what you are saying about things not being binary, and... have I at any point in the past got you or otherwise induced you to read any Stafford Beer or Jane Jacobs ? If not, there's been a recent reprint of The Death and Life of Great American Cities here and I should send you a copy. [ To my mind, they are the only two political thinkers of the twentieth century who are doing qualitatively new things rather than elaborating on nineteeth-century models. ]
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: February 21st, 2006 07:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nope, you haven't mentioned them. As I said above, I don't think I'm a tory either. I appear to be a Whig.
fractalgeek From: fractalgeek Date: February 21st, 2006 08:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
As someone who was bored and unstretched in many of his pre-16 classes, my strong suspicion is that the improvement in grades by mixed ability classes is due to a lack of teachers being made up by friends helping each other - The advanced pupils are held back, and cannot progress at the same rate as when working with/against peers and a teacher who feeds at the right rate.

Did I help my friends? Yes. OTOH, I gave up geography/geology and French, despite (a) gaining prizes in a local club and fossiling for a hobby and (b) at 8-10 being able to hold my own in france in conversation. Maths, I went back 3 years when I went to grammer school (an interested teacher had helped me read ahead) and I had 2 years of helping friends, and coming top in the class while getting d/e for effort. I wasn't seriously challenged on maths or the sciences until A level. My only real failings were poor writing and drawing, which have little to do with intellectual argument. Oh, I was also the youngest person in the class.
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: February 21st, 2006 08:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I suspect that most of the so-called 'improvement' has more to do with moving the goalposts than with any actual improvement. While it's possible for teaching methods to improve, I find it hard to believe that they could improve to such an extent that two entire new grades needed to be introduced. Several teacher friends of mine disagree with this assertion, however. What I do know, is that when I was a postgrad I used to teach third year university students stuff that I covered in A level.
fractalgeek From: fractalgeek Date: February 21st, 2006 11:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Even in my day, the different boards had very different standards. We used to use J&B 'A' level papers as coursework on the AO course, but their physics was much more mathematically based than the Oxford & Cambridge one

Of course, in those days, the pass grade reflected a reasonable standard, and the percentages above that were pretty much fixed... There was some levelling between years, but an 'O' level A pretty much meant you were in the top 5% of the year of O-levels, and top-grade CSEs covered pretty much A-C, so you were in the top 2% of all examinees that year. Who needs A*?

I've always wondered what I could have done if pushed. How many 11-year olds work out a general formula for the area under a polynomial curve? Of course, I didn't know what to do with it...
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