Polly on the Electoral System

No, I don\’t agree with her but then that\’s nothing unusual. But it is disagreement, not that what she\’s saying is obviously wrong or inane.

Except for just one minor point:

But why so much hot indignation on Scottish MPs\’ votes or a referendum on insignificant issues in the EU treaty

Err, given that 80% of our law now comes from Brussels, don\’t you think that that actually is the most important question?

\”Town Faces Defeat To Tesco\”

This is an interesting little example of the different conceptions of freedom that are out there. On the one side we have democracy, the will of the majority as expressed through the political system (and for the moment we\’ll accept that the local council is indeed reflecting that). On the other we have the market conception of freedom, that people themselves should decide what they want to do. That is, that people should not be subject to the tyrrany of the majority:

An 11-year planning battle pitting Tesco against townspeople and featuring secret agreements, allegations of corruption and dramatic U-turns could end in victory today for the supermarket giant.

Twelve councillors will vote on whether to allow Tesco into the Norfolk town of Sheringham after the district council\’s planners urged them to accept Tesco\’s proposal for a 1,500sq metre store.

While anti-supermarket campaigners will make a final plea to councillors, the mood in the seaside town of 7,000 residents and more than 100 independent businesses – the only settlement of its size in Norfolk still without one of the big four supermarkets – was pessimistic yesterday.

On the democracy side we have people insisting that the choices of their fellow residents must be limited. In order to keep those 100 independent businesses, as they the vocal majority desire, others are not to be allowed to shop at a local Tesco\’s.

On the other side we have people moreorientated to an individual, or market, conception of freedom (like myself for example) who would look at it the other way around. Why should the desires of that majority stop the minority from expressing their own preferences? The only possible answer that I can see is that by expressing such desires, by shopping at Tesco\’s, they will be reducing th choices of the others by making those 100 independent businesses unviable.

Fine, so we have two groups each arguing for the thing that they desire and they are mutually conflicting. So a decision has to be made between the two, yes?

Well, not quite, and this is where the market vision of freedom comes into play. Instead of looking at what people say they want, or at the number of people willing to write to the council on the matter (about 8% or so of the population it seems) look at what people think that people will actually do in the future.

Will that democratic majority not shop at Tesco\’s? Tesco obviously doesn\’t think that will happen, otherwise why all this effort to build a store? But the thing is, nor do the opponents of the store. If they thought that people wouldn\’t shop there then they wouldn\’t give two figs whether Tesco wasted its money or not.

The very fact that they oppose the plan shows that they think people will shop there: they are thus using politics to deliberately limit the desires and freedoms of others. Which is why the store should be built, of course, so that individuals may make their own decisions, not be subject to such a tyranny of the majority.

One other matter: you know all these stories of the supermarket\’s land banks? If it takes 11 years just to get planning permission, don\’t you think it\’s actually entirely rational of them to have such?

The French Paradox


Yes, I\’m banking on the French Paradox, a phenomenon first noted by an Irish doctor in the early 19th century. It refers to the relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease among French adult males, even though their diet tends to be high in saturated fats.

It is suggested that the explanation lies in their regular consumption of red wine, one of the ingredients of which – resveratrol – is believed to help fight cancer, heart problems and degenerative nerve diseases.

Not entirely sure about that. I\’ve heard an alternative explanation. Spcifically about the Gascon diet. That people in that region have been eating a diet very high in animal fats for a couple of thousand years: those genetic markers for diseases caused by such a diet have been bred out of the population as those with them died before reproducing some 1500 or more years ago.

I\’d rather, of course, believe the red wine story (indulging as I do in a copa or three to wash down the churrasquera here) but I\’m not wholly convinced. Does anybody know whether studies have been done on immigrants to such high fat eating areas to tease out whether it is genetic or wine based?


Well, sorta. John Kampfner is generally pretty good in this piece about immigration. Distinguishing between asylum and economic migration and so on. Except, except:

In truth, nobody could have envisaged the scale of the influx. A decade or more of strong economic growth has been cause and the consequence of such a higher number of immigrants. It is the middle classes, and employers in general, who have benefited most from a ready source of eager, skilled and undemanding workers. They have driven down wages and business costs, thereby increasing profits.

No, the people who have benefitted the most are the immigrants themselves. That always gets left out of the calculations from people like MigrationWatch and it shouldn\’t be left out. We\’ve clearly and obviously had an increase in both human happiness and wealth as a result of this wave of immigration. Sure, ther are also problems associated with it: but when looking at any form of cost benefit analysis we do have to include all of the costs and all of the benefits.

Shock Horror!

A major drugs scandal hit tennis last night when Martina Hingis admitted that she had tested positive for cocaine during this summer\’s Wimbledon Championships. But the Swiss, a winner of five grand slam titles and the youngest world No 1 in history when she was 16, maintained her innocence, claiming she had never used the recreational drug.

Really? Rich young woman said to have taken cocaine and denies having done so? Bit of a shocker, innit?

Amanda Marcotte

That’s why I’m mostly unable to get on the train with the strange fascination with this woman. Yes, she’s horrendously wrong and pig-headed and possesses a shocking lack of self-awareness, but I’m a softie and I just end up embarrassed for her.

Sadly, no, not a moment of self-realization. She\’s talking about someone else.

Too Good To Be True?

Prof. Salter\’s cool yachts do have one major design flaw: They promise to save the planet for a pittance, and without making humans pay a dear price for their profligate ways. Fifty ships a year, built at a cost of some $400-million to $500-million, would remove the increased warming now attributed to all the fossil fuel burning.

That would never do now, would it? Stopping climate change without a radical change in our consumerist capitalism simply cannot be considered.




Any so-called "Trick or Treaters" banging on my door dressed as zombies and vampires, bringing this ghastly transatlantic tradition unasked for to these shores, will find me dressed as Fred West, carrying an axe. My garden does need re-concreting….

Sense on Abortion


In so far as ethics should determine a time limit on abortion, the relevant question is at what stage, if at all, a foetus should be regarded as a person,

At what point does a person, a person whose right to life should be protected, created? That is, absolutely, the nub of the entire argument. Until that\’s answered we\’ll never have sense on the subject.

US College Costs

This is a remarkable piece of work. Truly.

Holders of bachelor\’s degree earn 70% more than their high school counterparts, and those with advanced degree earn 130% more. In a 40-year career a bachelor\’s degree means an added $903,320, and a graduate degree $1,670,360.

This is used as an argument in favour of further government subsidy, the use of grants to students, rather than their taking out loans to pay for it.

No, seriously, that you\’ll earn §1.6 million extra is evidence that you shouldn\’t pay for it. We should tax the garbage collector so that you can earn that extra $1.6 million.

This is from a professor of American Studies at Sarah Lawrence College:

Small coeducational liberal arts college located in Bronxville, NY that recognizes the creative and performing arts as integral to a liberal arts education.

Not all that keen on logic there then.


Solving Global Warming

According to the Pentagon, at least, it\’s all rather simple:

At some point before 2050, satellites collecting solar power and beaming it back to Earth will become a primary energy source, streaming terawatts of electricity continuously from space. That\’s if you believe a recent report from the Pentagon\’s National Security Space Office, which says confidently that we will see "a basic proof-of-concept within 4-6 years and a substantial power demonstration as early as 2017-2020".

The technology itself exists, both for the collection and transmission of such power. The one sticking point is the cost of getting into orbit. That, unfortunately, is still far too high….sadly, one of the reasons for that is the existence of the Space Shuttle itself.

"The technology has been in development for a while," says Joseph Rouge, associate director of the space office. "The truly hard and expensive part is going to be getting it into orbit. We\’ll need regular launches and on-orbit robotic assembly systems. It\’s a $10bn [£4.8bn] programme, but by 2050 it could deliver 10% of America\’s power needs."

$10 billion? In the context of climate change this is a pittance of course. Why not just go ahead and build one? It would, after all, save the planet, wouldn\’t it?

An Interesting View

A Labour MP tells us that:

The purpose of the courts is to protect the public.

Personally, I thought the job of the courts was to sort the innocent from the guilty and then to treat each appropriately.

Well, Yes

Shocking really:

The law lords have delivered a major blow to the Government\’s anti-terror policy, ruling that stringent control orders should be watered down so that suspects will be able to wander free for half of the day.

That people who have been convicted of no crime should be free to wander the streets! What is this? A free society or something?