Tuesday, 21 March 2017

We Are The People

Anthropologically speaking, it is not at all uncommon for a primitive tribe to call itself 'The People' or sometimes 'The Human Beings'.

By definition in a tribal society, everyone who is not of 'The People' is an enemy. The tribal leaders are able to achieve a high degree of loyalty from their members, on the one hand by claiming that they know from their experience and wisdom what is best for 'The People' and on the other by maintaining an implied threat to exile any dissident, cutting them off from 'The People' and sending them out into an alien and hostile world.

Important problems present themselves for tribal leaders as members grow more sophisticated and begin to interact more with other tribes, for example by trading with them rather than just fighting them in the traditional way.

First, alternative sources of authority and alternative truths will be presented to members of the tribe. It will become obvious that other tribes have contrived to prosper without necessarily following the methods prescribed by the leaders of 'The People'.

Secondly, the tribal territory may become less precisely defined.

In the early tribal period of course nomadism precluded any notion of owning land. Once the tribe settled down to a more sedentary agricultural existence it was necessary to introduce at least a communal land-ownership concept in order that those who worked to grow food should also be able to enjoy eating it.

However once tribes begin to mingle then there arises the problem of whether anyone who lives within the territory of 'The People' should be regarded as a member of 'The People' or not.

Perhaps however of greater concern is the members of 'The People' who gradually lose their subservience to their traditional leaders and begin to suspect that peaceful mingling with other tribes is potentially better than enmity.

At this point, in order to defend their power, the tribal leaders will usually try and start a war.

Sadly it seems the SNP administration have declared war on a very large segment of the population of Scotland, probably still the majority. Whatever the outcome, it will not be good.

Monday, 13 March 2017

No to Another Referendum

For those in Scotland who despair at the thought of having to go through all the misery again so soon after the last independence referendum:

The Holyrood petition against it is at this URL.

The UK petition against it is at this URL.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Truth and Error

It's always easy to critique our opponents because, of course, they're always wrong. If they weren't wrong they wouldn't be our opponents,would they? Unfortunately our critical regard has to look both ways.

It's a lot more difficult to critique ourselves. I write as someone who once stood for election to the UK parliament as a Liberal.

The intolerance of dissent displayed by large numbers of self-styled liberal people today is about as far from classical liberalism as it's possible to get.

From the very inception of liberal philosophy it has been a fundamental principle that everyone has a right to his or her view and a right to express that view without being subjected to ostracism or vilification. The liberal response to perceived error is calm, rational argument, not howling, bullying abuse.

The totalitarian response to perceived error is to ban and suppress. You can never persuade anyone by these means, you can only alienate and increase social division.

If we want people to hanker even more for the good old days when, in rose-tinted retrospect, life was relatively comfortable and stress-free, then the way we are most likely to achieve it is to keep making the present as unpleasant for them and as unlike those fondly-remembered old days as we possibly can.

Which is pretty much exactly what we're currently doing.

Error cannot be overcome by stifling expression or shouting down; it only withers when exposed to rationally-demonstrable truth.

Truth, by contrast, cannot be destroyed by exposure to error, it can only be strengthened.

In fact, truth that is unwilling to listen to error and show error why it is wrong will soon itself become a mindlessly-recited dead letter.

The current attempt to deny any platform to error and protect us from each and every exposure to it will, perversely, conclude by destroying truth.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

A cast-iron mandate

Nicola Sturgeon today claims she has a cast-iron mandate for another Scottish Independence referendum.

That mandate presumably dates from the 2016 Holyrood election, when her government lost overall control and became dependent on The Greens for a majority.

Yes, I know The Greens favour independence, but I'm inclined to wonder whether their voters had it top of their agenda when marking their crosses on the ballot paper. Presumably, if it had been their priority, these voters could just as easily have voted SNP.

Needless to say her mandate does not date from the 2014 referendum, where the nationalists lost by a 10% margin. At that time they claimed referendums were a 'once in a generation' event. It now appears that referendums will only cease once the SNP wins one, or alternatively when they are no longer maintained in power by The Greens.

Looking at the catastrophic mismanagement that ten years of SNP rule has brought to Scotland's economy and basic public services, we can well understand the need for another bout of tribalist shroud-trailing to distract the electorate. Nicola Sturgeon's own popularity is at last begin to flag too.

On the other hand the SNP has still not come up with an alternative plan for a national currency. Surely they won't try and run the busted flush of sharing the pound sterling for a second time?

Moreover the oil price on which the last projected independence budget relied has halved and it is now reckoned that an independent Scotland would have a fiscal crisis worse than that of Greece.

In the Middle Ages it was traditional for the Scots to invade northern England whenever the English were distracted by a European war, but reviving this opportunistic policy during the Brexit negotiations is doubly inappropriate.

Firstly it prevents Scottish voters having a clear idea of what relationship with the EU would be the alternative to independence. It still seems probable that Spanish and Belgian vetoes would be deployed to prevent Scottish membership either as a new member or a rump continuing member, so Scots would be voting for a pig in a poke on both sides of the ballot.

Secondly it complicates the position for UK and EU Brexit negotiators, neither of whom could be clear whether the UK government was negotiating for the whole island.

The truth is that the uncertainty caused by the Damocles sword hanging over the Scottish economy will deter inward investment until the threat of another referendum is removed.

And, perish the thought, should the separatists ever gain their hearts' desire, the outrage they claim to feel over being dragged out of the EU against their will is likely to be as nothing compared to the outrage of half the Scottish population dragged out of the UK against their will.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Just Slaying A Couple of Dragons

1. By far the biggest threat to the Scottish economy is Brexit. (Source: the SNP, in resonse to virtually every economic bad news story for the last six months).

FALSE. The EU accounts for 15% of Scottish trade. The rest of the UK accounts for more than 60%. Even if Brexit resulted in the complete destruction of Scotland's EU trade, and there's no obvious reason why it should, it would do less than a quarter of the damage that Scotland leaving the UK Single Market would do.

Probably the biggest threat to the Scottish economy at the moment is the perpetual political uncertainty engendered by the SNP's determination to threaten a second independence referendum at any conceivable opportunity. Unlike the Scottish government, foreign investors can do sums. They know an independent Scotland would be a lot poorer and no-one really wants to invest in a shrinking economy.

AND if that weren't bad enough, Scotland is now the most heavily-taxed part of the UK. We have a lower level of income at which you start paying higher rate income tax, a higher level of big business rates and a higher tax on purchase of more expensive houses. Sure. Come and invest. Come and live in Scotland all you high-fliers. We guarantee you'll pay for it.

2. There are many possible forms of Brexit. The Government has no mandate to take the UK out of the EU Single Market / Customs Union / Euratom etc. etc. (Source: anyone who voted Remain who can't accept the result of the referendum and is still trying to keep the UK subject to one or more EU institutions.)

FALSE. The mandate was quite simple. LEAVE THE EUROPEAN UNION. In spite of which the determination to keep the UK subject to one or more EU institutions, and especially the European Court of Justice, continues undiminished.

Will the Remoaners please explain how the UK can cling on to vestiges of EU membership without being subject to the ECJ's power to arbitrate on all disputes?

Or how we could remain in the customs union and still negotiate independent trade deals with non-EU governments? 

No? Didn't think so.

There. That's those dragons dead. (I don't think).

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The Hard Stuff

I'm delighted to report that the anthology Unbound II, Changed Worlds includes my science fiction short story THE HARD STUFF.

This is a story about a female-dominated future where men are excluded from senior posts because of their tendency to aggressive behaviour.  Our frustrated hero becomes an alcoholic. But what happens when his female superiors have no choice but to trust him?

You can find out now by purchasing either the print version from bookstores or the ebook version.

The anthology includes ten other stories, including one by its editor, M J Moores.

The Hard Stuff is the first of my stories to make it into print in 2017. I've had a few tales knocking firmly on the door without quite getting in, so I hope the drought has now ended and this may be the start of a positive run.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

The So-Called Single Market

Right, let's be clear. There's no such thing as The Single Market. The other EU members call it The Internal Market.

Now if you're no longer a member of the EU you are, by definition, no longer internal. Therefore you cannot be a member of The Single Market.

Scotland cannot remain in the EU because Scotland, as such, is not a member at present. Scotland cannot therefore remain in The Single Market when the UK leaves.

What matters, to both the UK and to Scotland, is not membership but free trade. The UK has offered continuing free trade to the EU. This means the UK has offered the EU exactly what Scotland has asked for.

It is nonsensical doublespeak to suggest that Scotland's voice is being disregarded.

Moreover, since we already enjoy free trade with the EU and have offered to continue it, it is up to the EU, if it is determined to act against its own interests, to erect the first tariff barrier. No-one is suggesting that the UK, or Scotland, should make the first move.

Meanwhile several powers currently held by the EU will revert to the UK and it will make sense for some of these to be further devolved to Scotland. Fisheries is an obvious case in point.

In the worst case scenario, the EU may choose to raise tariffs against the 15% of Scotland's trade that is conducted with it.

How by any stretch of economic logic does it make sense for Scotland to respond to such a piece of stupidity by leaving the UK Single Market which is responsible for over 60% of our trade?

The oil price has already halved. How poor are we determined to be?