BLOG ARCHIVE 1

European Union (posted pre-2017)

So we have voted to leave the EU. People across the country celebrate that all our problems are solved. The NHS will have enough money, we will stop immigration and regain sovereignty enabling us to throw out all these pathetic European rules and regulations and return to our freedom.

This cannot be more wrong. With an economy as weak and vulnerable as ours, with interest rates at 0.5% for 8 years, a deficit that is nowhere near to being eliminated, huge amounts of quantitative easing, a national debt that defies numeric ability to keep up with it and an atmosphere of continuing and relentless austerity, any further impact on it will prove to be very damaging indeed.

As we have depleted our own home-grown entrepreneurism, investment and business generation, we have become dependent upon inward investment from foreign enterprise to sustain jobs and keep some wealth generation in this country. We already have the challenge of much of this wealth being exported back to home nations, but now we reduce their motivations to be here in the first place. Will manufacturers such as Nissan and Toyota choose to build their next model in the UK if it does not help gain access to the European market?

This is a disaster for our country and all I can hope is that in years to come the likes of Farage, Gove, Johnson, will be able to stand up and accept responsibility for the consequences of it.

The latest is that Johnsn and Farage have stepped out of the way to leave others to clear up the mess they have left. A truly remarkable example of political cowardice.

Environment & Energy (posted pre-2017)

There should be no one now who does not accept the fact that man-made factors are seriously impacting the environment. Specifically the pollution of the atmosphere which is then affecting our weather systems, in turn causing serious harm to people, flora and fauna all around the world.

It is no longer an issue of the impact of our need to use energy to survive within our current social systems and with the vast numbers of people populating this planet, but exactly what should be done to resolve this potentially disastrous situation.

We have been subjected to any number of measures which we enthusiastically embrace in our haste to do the right thing and to keep our halos shining, but are we really doing anything of merit? Are we really going to make any difference at all if we aim to carpet the country with windmills and solar cells, or drive our cars everywhere at 20mph?

If we are to believe the scientists who have been spouting these doom-laden messages of environmental catastrophe we also need to look objectively at how to resolve the problems and the sheer scale of the challenge necessitates a truly radical solution.

Carbon Fuels

We have to break our dependence upon carbon fuels of any sort. Even if we do not accept 100% the theories of global warming and the greenhouse effect, we do know the profligate combustion of carbon-based fuels, whether fossil or not, has to be a major factor in the environmental pollution we face. We do have to acknowledge other factors, such as the sheer magnitude of energy usage and other forms of pollution, but carbon is accepted to be at the heart of the issue.

So any solution which still uses carbon fuels is clearly unsatisfactory.

Population

However we view this problem the scale and extent of it is very much a function of the number of people populating this tiny planet. As populations grow, and as they develop, they learn how to live longer and to maintain their existences in more and more hostile environments. In colonies such as cities, they use more and more energy to fuel this life-style. More heating, more air-conditioning, more transport, more industry, much of which comes as a result of the social and economic structures we have created.

As we seek to resolve environmental problems, we cannot ignore the impact any solution may have on the world's populous. If we neglect the consequential outcomes we are destined to swap one major problem for a much worse one. In particular we have to avoid global conflict and mass dislocation and famine in the developing world. We have to recognise the normal order of the world will lead to the poor and disadvantaged being those who pay the heaviest price for our 'progress'.

Economy

One thing that cannot be ignored in any future solution is the impact of changes in energy policy and their affect on the world's economy, which today is so inextricably linked to energy, and especially oil. Changes in our use and hence valuation of oil, will create huge shifts in power base throughout the world. Something that could be a good thing but will need careful management to avoid huge disasters.

Objective

What is it we need to achieve to begin to alleviate the pattern of pollution, to reduce our impact on the environment and to begin to reverse the changes we have made to the planet's ecosystem? We need to address three main areas of energy use: domestic and industrial electricity, ground transport and air transport.

We need to think in terms of replacing the generators and power stations of the national grid in order to supply vast quantities of cheap, efficient, controllable and clean electricity. There is no alternative to nuclear power if we are to achieve what is needed. All the half-hearted, green solutions lack predictability and controllability, take up vast amounts of valuable real estate and are simply inadequate to the task. Even if we could harness all the incident wind and solar energy on the United Kingdom, we could not use it efficiently and we would need vast areas of land to permit storage for the times when the wind isn't blowing and the sun is not shining. Regulating supply according to demand would be impossibly difficult, and as a consequence, wind and solar energy are only really viable as small-scale adjuncts to the grid and certainly not a replacement.

We naturally fear nuclear energy, but we also used to fear travelling above 30mph in a train. We readily accept the risks of petrol at fuel stations, explosive gas and high voltage electricity supplied to our homes, and many other similar threats, and we have done so by managing and controlling risk as far as possible. We must do the same for nuclear energy.

Proper research in nuclear technology will enable us to reduce the cost, raise the efficiency and improve the safety, but it will also open the future to plentiful supplies of electricity which in turn can be distributed and used in a host of ways. We can even envisage a time when we all have domestic nuclear power plants on the walls of our kitchens where our old-fashioned gas boiler used to be.

The electricity generated can be used directly to power trains, to charge batteries in motor vehicles, and most interestingly of all, to convert water to Hydrogen for use in fuel cells, which will in due course represent a major opportunity for the future of the motor car.

Air transport is likely to remain challenging, with few if any technologies coming forward to replace the kerosene powered jet engine. However, it is not impossible that such a propulsion system will come about.

Education (posted pre-2017)

Education always used to be a process of investment in future generations. Today it is a business with those future generations paying the price for the privilege. Traditionally, the working generations have paid their taxes to provide education to the younger generations, putting back what they benefited from when they were younger. Now those younger generations have to pay from their futures.

Education is intended to prepare young people for their lives ahead, ensuring they are equipped with the skills required to contribute to a successful and prosperous society. Sadly, these young people are not being prepared as they should and too often they are finding themselves inadequately trained with the skills they need to make a full and successful contribution.

Much of this has resulted from the focus on academic results at the exclusion of so many other features of education that are often as important. Education should not just be a process for filling heads with facts. These facts are not the main tools that people need to enable them to make a positive contribution. What they need is the ability to think, to learn, to be open minded, to be creative, flexible and most of all, to be contributive. They need to be able to apply themselves to the task in hand, to work hard when it is necessary and develop their skills through learning and experience. So few of the specific facts we learn at school are of much relevance to anyone other than serial pub quiz teams.

An important part of the education process is to create ones place in the social order. Making your contribution and being an active part of a successful team or group. All this requires discipline and application, aspects of the current system that are missing. Some young people understand that and work to correct it themselves. They are the ones that succeed, but some without the guidance necessary, fail to make their contribution and that is bad for them and society.

We must be prepared to look at well-educated young people as our major assets and produce them and support them as necessary. Although some skills are inherent in some people, much of what we need in life is learned through experience and application and the more positive that experience can be, the better the lesson.

Our tertiary education system is the most challenged these days with many young people studying subjects with little or no relevance to the employment market and ending with skills and expertise of limited value to them. On top of this, they have staggering levels of debt to live with for so long in their working lives. Furthermore, because the university system is being run as a business rather than a social investment in future generations, we are educating so many foreign students, many of whom return to their home countries to apply what they have learned to compete with us in the world of commerce.

We as a society have to re-evaluate the whole purpose of education and returning to an approach that represents an investment in our young people. Meanwhile we need a young generation much more engaged with the political process to ensure they are heard and properly represented.

After all, the future belongs to them.

Fundamentalism (posted pre-2017)

The reaction to the perceived over indulgence of western society by extreme religious groups in many ways reflects the frustration and anger felt by so many at the altered values of world society. Reacting against the consumerism and materialism of the developed world, many are turning to religion to provide the answers they need and to give them a defined purpose, however extreme and uncompromising that might be in practice.

Fundamentalism feeds on the fears of social groups that have a much less advanced awareness of the secular and scientific world and the realities of life. Religious leaders use the ignorance of their followers to spread the doctrines of superstition which lie at the very heart of religion and the stranglehold it has on people.

Fundamentalism is just an extreme manifestation of the superstition of religion, within which people can justify anything they do by the creative distortion of the vast collection of written and spoken word from generations of religious leaders who have throughout the centuries used this superstition to give them the power they use to further their own interests.

Hundreds of years ago religion played a huge part in providing leaders with power and control over populations, but in more recent years and with the more enlightened people educated in science and forging a future with engineering, exploration and enquiry, religion has become much more of a purely spiritual support to those who need it. The developed world makes few political, scientific or commercial judgements using religious principles and the life of those who do not accept the superstitions of religion are largely unaffected by it at all.

Fundamentalism can only be confronted using education. Giving people the outlook and understanding of the wider world and removing them from their very restricted and focused social groups where religion is an enforced way of life, will enable a much more enlightened attitude and in particular, will enable people to realise that so much more can be achieved without resorting to violence.

Attempting to break fundamentalism by further violence is a folly which only results in many innocents being slaughtered for religious principles that in reality mean nothing. Providing a way forward for people in whatever society they live, which provides answers through secular principles will help to avert their need to resort to superstition and to relive the centuries old tribal conflicts which have only divided society.

Let us accept that those who have faith can believe in whatever they like, however superstitious it may be in reality, but let us not create systems, organisations, rituals, laws or social rules that bind us to any specific superstitions. Each to his or her own, but without the need for reinforcement through tribal rituals, costume, ceremony, written texts, ways of life etc that have no real meaning other than to label one as a member of a specific tribe.

Let us face it, if there is a god he (or she) is going to be a really nice person with a sense of humour and an ability to understand and believe in us vulnerable and ignorant people. This god would not be vengeful, violent and unforgiving and they would probably even have the ability to understand the likes of me.

In practice of course, our images of god are created by man to present the kind of uncompromising leader that gives the church such power. Reinforced by ritual and playing on everyone's fear of death, religious leaders use the image of god they portray to hold us all accountable. The time has come in the developed world to move on from these archaic traditions and to seek enlightenment through science and the wonders of our universe, not through childlike superstitions.

Economy (posted pre-2017)

At this time of writing while we are heading for a general election, the government wants us to believe that the economy is improving and we are well on our way to recovery. Sadly, the reality is very different.

I think many people are worried about the underlying parameters of the economy. We continue to have extremely low interest rates, low inflation, verging on deflation, and huge levels of debt we cannot service and consequently continuing to grow uncontrollably. Just as for any domestic or business economy the sums just do not add up and this can only be delaying the inevitable.

This country has for some time now degraded its ability to create genuine wealth, which has to be at the very heart of the economy. Without wealth generation we cannot justify the value of the money we have. Too many people are engaged in moving money and wealth around, while too few are actually generating the wealth through making things and providing genuinely valuable services.

The economy, at every level; personal, corporate, national, is so dependent upon credit. Much of this is just postponing the problem to later generations. Whether it is student loans, mortgages, or state borrowing which cannot be supported by today's taxation, the problem has become critical. All this leads to us living to a standard which is beyond what is genuinely affordable for us, which is why we are experiencing a change in our standard of living as the realities force us to come to terms with our true wealth. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the burden of this change is borne disproportionally by the poorer members of our community.

Very few if any of the major problems within our economy have been resolved, meaning that we simply haven't addressed the fundamental issues. The banks in particular have not corrected their approach and the government, so desperate to convince us to give them our vote, make promises to us all they simply cannot afford. However, by borrowing yet more they can postpone paying for these things until well after their political careers are ended and they can be judged.

But, this is not something that can go on indefinitely, and those of the younger generation who face the bill in the future should wake up to what is happening and realise they will not escape the cost of today's excesses by their parents.

Is there any possibility of correcting this situation? Is the economy so fundamentally flawed that we can never expect to resolve it and return to a more stable and equitable situation? Can we raise taxes or build the wealth generating parts of our economy? Can we get people to accept a standard of living that is much more realistic? Can we do all this in the context of a democratic process which sets out to provide people with what they want today rather than what is right for the future?

Economists will always give an argument that the economy is working well and we just need to get used to these occasional violent swings that will occur from time to time. They will cite examples of other nations that have an even worse position than we do, with higher levels of debt vs GDP as if that is adequate evidence that we are doing alright.

There will be no resolution unless and until we have a more radical approach to the economy and we can force through changes that many will find unpalatable. We need to look at real wealth generation and our ability to keep the results of it here in our country. We need to look hard at what we can genuinely afford and make some very tough decisions about how our social society works and how it is funded. In particular, we have to move away from this huge dependence upon credit to fund everything we want or need.

Immigration (posted pre-2017)

In many ways it is unfortunate that immigration has become an issue of race. This obfuscates the real issue and prohibits intelligent debate on how our small island might cope with an inflow of people from other nations.

Global society has huge variations in wealth, organisation, stability and religious doctrine, which leads to vast numbers of people around the world living in poverty and deprivation and with very poor education.

On the other hand, within the developed countries of the world, we have learned how to manage our resources; to invest in education, research and development and to build successful commercial enterprises to support our own indigenous populations within the context of a modern, developed society. However, in common with so many other countries of the world, we suffer hugely from excessive population, struggling to sustain its way of life within its own restricted infrastructure.

This crowding is manifest in so many ways, from queues in A&E, to schools without places for local children, to heavy traffic congestion on our roads. But perhaps more importantly than that is the inability of the commercial system to create the wealth necessary to support our chosen standard of living. Adding more to our populations only makes this problem worse.

It is not just the numbers, but also the level of education people have and their ability to contribute in a modern developed society which is increasingly dependent upon people with professional skills and thorough background that comes from a sound education and solid experience.

One way of looking at this problem of population and the extent to which our infrastructure is challenged, is to consider the contributions made by people through taxation to the various services and facilities the government provides from which we all benefit. Whether it is schools, hospitals, roads, armed forces, emergency services, government and civil services, the judiciary and, of course, the benefits system, or the many services and facilities ostensibly provided by the private sector, but in actual fact heavily subsidised by the state, such as rail transport, we can see the need for us to pay a certain amount to cover our contribution to these costs in comparison to the amount we benefit from them. In practice one has to pay quite a lot in tax to be a net contributor, especially as some are not able to contribute at all.

Many people entering the country may pay some taxes, but in fact they are in many cases net recipients of benefit, especially as they are very often economic migrants and unlike the resident population, they have no history of contribution.

Immigration per se is not the issue; it is the scale of it that is the problem, and this has been understood for some time, although successive governments have been incapable of dealing with it.

Many of those entering our country continue to live the life of their home, following their own traditions and practices. This in itself is no problem except when it impacts some of the services we provide and hence impose extra cost. An example would be managing many different languages with those who rely on their native tongue and who have very limited English. Attitudes to family size also vary, while amongst indigenous, professional classes the birth rate is falling, amongst immigrant communities it is rising. This not only increases the cost of supporting immigrant communities, but also creates a shift in the very nature of communities.

Of course, immigrant populations can add very much to modern cosmopolitan societies, but as our economy is so challenged and our infrastructure, both physical and operationally, is so very stretched, we have to manage these changes so much more rigorously to ensure they are genuinely affordable.

Politics (posted pre-2017)

As we enter the period of campaigning by the various political contenders, it is clear that for many the current political system has not been able to deliver and more and more people are feeling disillusioned by politics. This is leading to the rise of new and previously minority parties, as electors struggle to find a new, fresh approach which may serve us better.

We have dismissed the extremes of communism or fascism as highly flawed alternatives, so the political flavours we pursue today are far more moderate. Unfortunately, it is hard to see how any of them have any of the answers. All we see is lack of leadership, no answers to the big questions and cheap bribes to buy our votes by borrowing yet more money.

We could suggest, however heretical it might seem, that at the heart of the problem is the democratic process. Politicians have to satiate the current needs and desires of the population and that leaves little or no room for making the difficult decisions and planning for the future, especially the long term future. No politician is going to risk their job to push through difficult and controversial policies to resolve fundamental issues, such as the environment, when we have to take the pain today and reap the benefits in 50 to 100 years' time.

This leads to "gesture politics" where we are offered solutions today which on the face of it address a problem while in fact doing little or nothing to resolve anything of consequence, usually because it makes so little difference it is totally pointless. But it allows the leaders to tell us they are at least doing something however futile it might be. The environment is the best example here where we have wind turbines and solar farms sprouting everywhere, making no meaningful contribution to saving the planet's environment while costing us dearly and diverting resources from much more viable long term solutions such as nuclear which can only show the true benefit in decades hence, but will ultimately prove the proper solution to the problem and not just a sticking plaster.

The lack of leadership qualities amongst our politicians mean that they impose little or no confidence in their ability to see us through whatever crisis we face. Proper leadership would enable us to feel an integral part of the process of government and enable us to make our contribution to the resolution of our problems, but with little or no true guidance we have no one inspiring us to follow. We cannot see characters with the leadership qualities and character of the likes of Winston Churchill or John F Kennedy.

We need to address the fundamental structure of government and how our democracy functions. We need to be looking at the issues we face and moving to resolve them and this often requires the input of experts in their field, people who are not tainted by politics or self interest. Perhaps we need a government that is more like the board of a company where some people are there on the merit of their experience and qualifications to do the job and some people are there as representatives of interested parties and some are there as elected members. Periodically some of these people can be changed by a process akin to an election and they can also be removed by an executive that judges them unfit for the position. They would all have a responsibility to the principal, ie the country, and they would all be paid to do their job and like any other employee, they would not be permitted any other sources of income. They would not receive anything from political donors seeking to further their own interests.

We would end up with an executive, the lower house, responsible 24/7 for running the country, and a non-executive upper house which would oversee what was happening in the executive to ensure they are prioritising things appropriately, especially balancing short and long term issues and the wider issues of groups within society. This upper house would also manage the logistical aspects of legislation, perhaps even being responsible for a constitution.