The general election, 8 June 2017

The general election, 8 June 2017

OK Kids, the election is this Thursday. Your dad has been discussing the issues on Twitter but he’s found that some things are hard to explain in 140 characters. So here in long-form are some things your dad believes to be true.

the PM just said something I disagree with and an example of what I explain below. See this tweet:

the full Benjamin Franklin quote reads: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” He was quite a guy old Benjamin;-)

Economics is broken

I believe economics, both as an academic field and as an area of policy expertise is broken.

When all the smartest experts in the world get it wrong and then get it wrong over and over again, it begins to look like something fundamental is very wrong. We are like doctors performing blood lettings, we did that for hundreds of years before we got our heads around it not working. We perpetuate this lack of understanding in our universities. Why would anyone take an MBA course from someone who drove the economy into the ground in 2008 (after trying several other times before that)?

I’m not sure what the answer is to this one but I believe we need to be asking more questions and not accepting what we are told as happily as we have in the past. You guys need to read some books and look for some useful alternatives. Hopefully we are not alone and there will be thinkers out there who will surface clues and help us to work together to get through this.

Keep your eyes and ears open and keep asking questions.

Terrorism isn’t the problem you are told it is

The thing with terrorism is that powerful people use it to frame their arguments.

They claim that terrorism is evidence that they are right, and that you should follow them and in many cases you are expected to follow without questioning lest you be branded ‘un-patriotic’.

If you lived in the US you would hear Trump stating that the attacks on Manchester and London are evidence that the Muslim ban should be instituted. You would hear the attacks mean we need to build more walls and lock more people up.

Some will say that terrorism means the police needs more powers to investigate, to detain and interrogate suspects. Others will say terrorism means we need to arm our police or put tanks on the streets of our cities.

The challenge of terrorism is not only that people die and bombers attack our streets. The real challenge of terrorism is that empty people use it to trick us into betraying what we stand for and breaking our social contract.

There are difficult choices ahead, and the horrors will no doubt become more extreme over time but the important thing is to remember what you believe in. If you believe in freedom then you must fight against the move to a police state. If you believe we are better together then you must resist the calls to lock up foreigners and close our borders.

Red or Blue?

You will hear the same arguments over and over again.

For example, those on the right will say that big government is wasteful and that most things are better and more efficient when run by private companies. They will explain that as a result, taxes should be as low as possible and that government should “get out of the way” and let business and the free market self-regulate us.

Those on the left disagree, they will say austerity isn’t working and that public services are not a luxury but a fundamental part of our society and that therefore we should all contribute taxes to pay for these services. People on the left also disagree about government, they will tell you that markets should only be trusted for certain things and that overall our elected government should help regulate our progress.

You may have come across the pro-life/pro-choice debate in school. This is similarly circular. Both sides are right to some degree and there is no logical resolution.

So what to do?

Well, I think you need to ask questions and look for unintended consequences. In particular, you should look for policies where experts are claiming a “more is better” linear relationship, like “more privatisation is better” and “lower taxes are better”. Systems thinking teaches us that very often while something may appear linear, the truth as actually something else.

For example, it may seem like common sense that Richard Branson is better than a faceless civil servant at running a business. This may be true to some degree, but people on the right are saying that the more things Richard Branson runs, the better things will be. I believe this “more is better” linear relationship is a fallacy, a myth, a lie, it just isn’t true. The truth is much more complex.

Systems thinking teaches us that the outputs of systems are not predictably related to their inputs and that in many cases the system’s outputs amount to unintended consequences.

You may have heard the story of cane toads. These were introduced to combat the sugar-cane beetle on Australian farms. They did really well and ate all the cane beetle but they were so successful they took over and are now considered a pest. The lesson is that simple assumptions about the behaviors of systems almost always take you somewhere you didn’t expect.

When you hear the political parties explain what should happen and why, listen carefully and ask questions with your systems thinking hat on.

When arguments become cyclical and the two parties chase each other’s tails in an infinite loop like two Chinese dragons it can help to stop and think about what you believe in.

Here are some things I believe:

I believe that until we totally harness the power of the sun, energy on Earth, and by extension clean water and food, are limited resources

I believe we succeed when we work together. Think of the training sequences in “Kingsman”, you want to be the person working to get every team member safely to the ground. The person who splits off and grabs a parachute leaving the others to fall is not going to build a sustainable future.

I believe inequality is almost exclusively the root cause of most of our problems. It promotes poor health, which in turn increases our health-care bill. It withholds education, ensuring we keep the lights off for generations to come. It feathers the nests of bigotry and prejudice. It creates a space where it is easier to radicalise young people. It creates a space where love struggles and hatred makes sense. It is also a reproductive force, the more inequality we create, the more extreme it becomes.

I believe “meritocracy” is a lie. It’s one of those things you’ll hear that at first sounds like common sense but once you take a systems-thinking look at it falls apart. I believe that a world in balance will see contributions from each citizen in proportion to her ability. In that same world, citizens will posess, or have access to, as much as is dictated by their needs.

So Red or Blue?

Neither is doing exactly what I want and I don’t believe either party has the solution to inequality, but on balance, the Labour manifesto is far closer to the future I hope for than that of any other party.

So I will be voting for Jeremy Corbyn:-)