Show me the money…

In modern day Britain, most would probably agree that the NHS and schools need more funding each year. Better internal management might reduce waste and create greater impact. But the UK government could show a lot better leadership too.

Successive UK governments don’t so much lack courage (feeling fear but taking action anyway). The bigger problems are arguably that they:

  • lack incentive (complacency and dogma seem to have set in),
  • lack clarity (can’t agree what the problem is), and
  • lack imagination.

What more could be done by central government, regardless of political party?

  • bar politicians from serving more than three terms (a maximum of 15 years in parliament). New blood would bring fresh approaches, minimise complacency and cronyism. But what if not enough people stepped in to replace outgoing politicians? True leaders will step in to lead, because they care.
  • enlist pro-bono advice from professional consulting firms, about how they would go about solving complex societal problems.
  • scrap the ‘first past the post’ voting system, in favour of proportional representation. With at least one annual referendum on a big political issue (not just Brexit either).
  • ensure stronger messaging in early-years schools (all UK schools) about why education is so vital for self reliance, so fewer students drop out later. Perhaps self-reliance has fallen out of fashion? Ironically, the first step towards caring communities begins with self reliance and two strong legs of your own.
  • change criminal penalties to put a far greater weighting on the economic costs to society from crime. Cyber crime, fraud, domestic abuse, human trafficking and narcotics trafficking would likely see stronger minimum jail sentences.
  • simplify the  UK tax rules. The costs of complexity are way too high and borne by all of us.
  • change the rules on the proceeds of crime, so the ‘Mr Bigs’ have no chance of parole, until they offer up all the deemed global proceeds of crime. The government could usefully put such proceeds directly into bigger UK police budgets, where the proceeds are not able to be returned to the victims of crime. Bigger police budgets aren’t so much about turning the UK into a police state. But instead about increasing the arrest rate for those committing crime (currently there is too much focus on crime level stats and not enough on arrest rate stats instead).
  • change the rules on taxation – seriously look at introducing negative VAT on healthy foods, sportswear and the exercise industry.
  • prevent extensive tax avoidance amongst a relatively few companies and wealthy individuals, by changing the rules. Pierce elaborate tax-haven structures, citing substance over form. And create a special set of punitive employment taxes for those making a living as tax advisors.
  • review how UK foreign aid money (the approximately £14B of public money per yr) is spent. Earmark a bigger chunk of it for disaster relief and vaccination programmes (direct distribution of goods not indirect distribution of money). And give nothing to countries who choose  to fund their own space programmes. Or fund terrorist training camps within their borders.
  • apply a common-sense UK approach to immigration and social housing. Setting and defending quotas is a distraction and any figure set is inherently subjective. Having a local government policy to house anyone who decides to live in your jurisdiction probably isn’t realistic either. It just creates unmanageable responsibilities. And cruelly raises peoples’ expectations to unrealistic levels.
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Country names

English speakers inventing place names because they find the existing name hard to pronounce isn’t very cool.

What are some other options? One is to use the initials e.g. KL for Kuala Lumpur, USA for United States of America, or LA for Los Angeles. Another, as a mark of respect to the country, is to use the citizen’s pronunciation of their own country. Sure there will be regional accents and dialects, but as long as they are understood (roughly similar), it’s still the better choice. And it flows both ways too. Even then, its still a compromise, since English speakers have created english letters for the place name, to use in place of the local language characters or script.

Some countries change their names entirely e.g. Ceylon to Sri Lanka, or Rhodesia to Zimbabwe. English speakers then think nothing of adopting the new place name as it becomes official. So why not be consistent with other place names too?

Florence, Rome and Venice are Firenze, Roma and Venecia to the locals. I once confused the ticket office clerk at a Firenze train station (probably my Kiwi accent) in asking for a ticket to Venice. He thought I said Vienna! Like the saying goes, ‘when in Rome, do as the locals do!’

Time for a Country name change?

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I’m a Kiwi and proud of it. At school I was taught that a dutch explorer called Abel Tasman ‘discovered’ New Zealand and subsequently, the country came to have its name recognised with a dutch place name reference (not even AT’s first choice!).

Aotearoa (land of the long white cloud) is the indigenous people’s (Maori) name for the North Island (extended to cover all the islands of New Zealand, including the Chatham Islands) and its alternative, official name.

Meanwhile, one of the national symbols of the country is the flightless native bird, the kiwi. The rest of the World has come to recognise people from New Zealand as Kiwis, whether; on the sports field, in battle, in business innovation, or in the overseas workplace.

My proposal is that the citizens of New Zealand have a national referendum ASAP, with three choices on the ballot for the future name of the country; Aotearoa, New Zealand and Kiwiland.

If it then came to pass that Kiwiland was overwhelmingly the most popular choice, it would eliminate some confusion for foreigners (tourists and traders alike) and encapsulate biculturalism in the name itself – the Maori ‘Kiwi’ and the English-speaking ‘Land’. New Zealand exporters (tour operators, wine labels, record labels, film makers etc) could also market the kiwi association more strongly. And by eliminating the prefix ‘New’ it would subtly indicate the country has come of age in its own right.

Food for thought?

 

 

 

 

 

Trump

Trump to Kim:

Let’s just make this a flash in the pan, not a flash in the sky.

 

Trump to the media:

Fake news – it’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

This drama about statues is a hiding in plain sight!

I had a word to my Whitehouse maintenance crew. All my doors are revolving doors now.

When it comes to meetings with heads of state, I keep trusted advisers close and my junior family closer.

 

Trump to women:

Comb over and see me sometime!

 

Trump supporters: big em up and fake em up,

Trump press: write em up and send em up,

Post Trump campaigners: label em up and wrap em up!

 

 

 

 

 

First-past-the-post party?

Brexit is a nice distraction from the real UK politicial reform needed – replacing first past the post with proportional representation. Even with a Brexit result that is broadly acceptable to all parties, the real issue is still unfinished business.

Qu: should someone start a single-issue political party to simply campaign for proportional representation, every time there is a general election?

UK austerity

In the current debate about UK austerity, what’s missing from the choice (not the fake choice between austerity and no austerity, but the hard choice between Social and Economic austerity) are two important other options (Productivity improvements and Philanthropy).

To elaborate, the current debate about austerity should be about the mix of four things:

(1) Social austerity – realisable tax rises for some or all current UK tax payers). Of course, history shows us that raising taxes encourages tax avoidance and discourages incentive to work harder.

(2) Economic austerity – alleviating current austerity through borrowing to burden future citizens with greater austerity.

(3) Productivity improvements – workers choosing (through a combination of after-hours study and after-hours volunteering?) to up-skill, to raise their productivity to ultimately alleviate austerity. When we change our expectations, build on small successes to boost our confidence and reframe current problems in a different way using personal flexibility, then there is every chance to better ourselves. If the future is about portfolio careers, and in the age of smart machines, ‘keeping our skin in the game’ through clever design, then up-skilling starts today. After all, process automation and machine learning won’t wait for us, but proceeds at its own pace. A final question about labour productivity at the national level. Which is better – fewer people employed but them generating higher average labour productivity (the French model, relative to the UK model) or, more people employed but with lower average labour productivity (the UK model, relative to the French model).

(4) Philanthropy – particularly high-net-worth individuals forming consortiums, to alleviate UK social deprivation through charitable foundation activity.

The best solution will probably come from a better combination of all four things.

One great opportunity with philanthropy is developing ‘hospital charities’ to build city hospitals that are entirely charity-funded and can take some ongoing pressure off the NHS, care homes and private hospitals. Such hospitals could offer a more selective range of treatments (target elective-surgeries with long waiting lists?), than the NHS.

Food for thought?

UK Politics

Why are journalists (TV or press) so poor at asking UK politicians the right questions? Sometimes it takes a forum like ‘Question Time’ on TV, for voters themselves to ask the right questions to the politicians on the panel. Even then, the politician has to represent all the views and ministerial portfolios of their party, in a quick two minute answer.

General Election Result

From the General Election result in the UK on Friday 9th June, two things were very clear if you look past the spin. Firstly, the country is incredibly divided – witness the 2 main parties respective vote shares. And the resulting number of marginal seats all over Britain.

And secondly, a 7 week electoral campaign period was worse than no campaign at all. Clearly, no party had enough time to deeply communicate its ideas, policies and vision for the UK to the voters.  Following a 7 week campaign and the carrot of free tuition fees (under Labour), British youth turned out in record numbers to vote – the record turn-out being a victory for democracy. But did the youth really understand what they were voting for, being novices on; the election process, the party policies and the globally inter-dependent World we now find ourselves in.  The same could be said about many veteran voters.

First-past-the-post 

The basic electoral system in the UK needs to switch to a proportional representation system, instead of the first-past-the-post. After all, if it’s good enough for a Brexit referendum and local government elections, it ought to be good enough for general elections too. Some examples of the problem: (1) The SNP at the 2015 general election polled roughly 50% of the vote, but gained 56 of 59 seats! Equally UKIP gained about 4M votes (80% of the population of Scotland) but only 1 seat in the UK parliament.

More generally, people’s vote in a safe seat with a huge margin, is essentially worthless. However, their vote, if it happens to be in a highly marginal seat, is massively influential.

U-turns in office

Politicians need to formulate clever and effective policies that fix big problems and are easy to communicate to voters. Once formulated, the party in office shouldn’t then be doing U-turns on those promises.

If any kind of coalition government is formed, U turns are inevitable, in order for coalition compromises to be reached. The best chance of avoiding coalition outcomes (policy U turns) is to have proportional representation.

Where’s the honesty in the debate?

The level of honest debate in UK politics needs to massively increase, if we are to heal the social divisions and cure people’s cynicism of politicians. In life outside politics, you can’t make sensible decisions based on lies. So why do voters tolerate so much spin from politicians, on something as important as running the country?

Politicians don’t create jobs, except indirectly in state-owned enterprises and government departments. Even then, they take no enterprise risk and put no personal investment into those enterprises. Politicians lie in taking the credit for job creation and what’s worse, take the public’s appreciation away from business start ups, large businesses and not for profit employers – the ones creating tax receipts, jobs & futures for the citizens. Maybe we need a series of fines that politicians have to pay personally (to charities or food banks) when they are caught out in a lie?

Honest debate isn’t just about avoiding lies. It’s also about making realistic assumptions. Can any party realistically govern in a hung parliament situation, let alone negotiate Brexit? How much tax can really be collected from the super rich? How much can social services be cut, before the social fabric is lost forever? Are some benefits better provided by charities. rather than by central government (charities are apolitical and experts at grant making)? Is trying to create a balanced annual budget by trimming public spending (often labelled as austerity) inherently evil and uncaring, or is the problem more about the taxes collected not getting through to the people who need it most? Can nationalised utilities and local bodies really run things like companies and schools better for the voters? Can a free health system with massive staff shortages cope without some kind of rationing of its services? Can a home country really become independent and still expect to side-step their share of the national debt/keep the Barnet formula subsidy/keep using the old currency? Will massive public borrowing for big infrastructure projects really pay off tenfold? How likely is it that workers ,will move to other parts of the country where the job vacancies are?

A final thought. The World is growing more complex and more inter-connected far faster than political systems and career politicians can adjust to those changes. As the complexity rises, voters go to the polls armed with less and less understanding of what they are really voting for – they focus on party values rather than manifesto implications.

The only real solution to that trend is voters choosing to educate themselves on; economics, global trade, technology, law and international trade.

Cry freedom

_MG_6660-Perseverance-Place-for-WebIs freedom now a zero-sum game? 

In the distant past, there were new lands to explore and colonise. Phase one – human freedom was on the rise.

Then came space constraints, leading to wars over resources, nationhood, human conquest and slavery. Some problems like global warming, wealth distribution inequality and global pollution grew to become almost unsolvable.  Phase two – overall human freedom grew, but much was offset.

Now, as the Internet of Things grows in prominence, will its freedom to operate, come at the expense of human freedom per se (Phase three)?

If we continue to obsess about Phase two shortcomings, then by the time we collectively think about Phase three, Phase four will be upon us…

The evolution of political representation:

  • Working people gain their own representation.
  • Women gain their own representation.
  • Children gain their own representation.
  • Gay people gain their own representation.
  • Trans-gender people gain their own representation.
  • Cyborg people gain their own representation.
  • AI systems gain their own representation.

The Left and the Right

21st Century Champagne socialists favour a world in which everyone has equal access to the resources they require in order to flourish, rather than one of equal distribution.

Meanwhile, 21st Century conservatives (with a small c) favour a world in which everyone has equal opportunity to build the resources they require.

What’s the difference? Incentive. Building resources in an efficient way requires it. Having resources to share, skips over the incentive problem of creating them in the first place.

What’s the problem with both views? One problem is resource sustainability. In a World that wasn’t over-populated, Adam Smith and Karl Marx could conveniently ignore the environmental impacts of their theories.

Then there’s the policy confusion problem (too many targets). Having equal access to all of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is arguably a redundant problem, if too many people are grasping just for the first need (basic food and shelter) and the nation’s too poor at governance to provide them all with that first need, let alone the others (high quality healthcare, crime prevention, free access to museums, foreign aid etc). Does that mean 21st Century socialists should concentrate on the basics first, or continue concentrating on securing equal access at all Maslow levels? Meanwhile, building resources requires skill, energy and materials. If the government policies aren’t smart or cohesive enough to encourage people build just the first of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, that’s a problem also.

What to do? If good government requires the governors to do the greatest good for the greatest number, use the Maslow model as a foundation for your policy priorities and skip the vanity projects!

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/apr/16/what-problem-champagne-socialism-francois-hollande

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