Saturday, 17 January 2015

Candidate MPs

Candidate MPs

If I am going to support any aspiring parliamentarian at the next election I would like to know that my candidate was equipped to discuss the following issues, and where applicable that they held the appropriate views and would stick to them in the face of pragmatic arguments, and ad hoc alliances.
●  We must energetically seek to reduce the growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor. Our MPs must know 4 or 5 good reason why this is essential for the cohesion of society, and for the active participation in democratic government of all classes. They must clarify in their own minds whether these reasons trump arguments about losing talent abroad, and the supposed trickle-down of wealth from the 'rich-man's table'. If one candidate MP will not vote against tax cuts for the wealthy, I shall have to find someone else who will.
●  Our MPs must understand economics: understand asymmetric risk (inexplicably called 'moral hazard' in the USA); understand that buying and selling shares, though it brings money to the 'City' and to the bankers, does not create wealth (it merely takes if from the silly poor and gives it to the clever rich); understand that 'quantitative easing' (a silly[1] name for 'controlled inflation') is based on a misunderstanding of why there is resistance to investing during  a depression [2]. MPs should understand that there is no particular reason why, with proper accounting, public money loaned to the banking sector in a crisis should not be returned, pound for pound, to the public purse, when the crisis is over [3]. MPs should know the "Mirrlees Review into the UK tax system", and should know what it recommends, and why that has not been implemented.
●  Our MPs should clarify their attitudes to privatization, and public ownership. Privatization (by harnessing the avarice of the capitalist) does seem uniquely able to force improvements and economies; but beyond a certain point it can only siphon off public money into private hands, splinter a unified and planned system (be it railways or NHS), and drive down accounting costs [4] and quality until serious damage calls a halt, and in extreme cases re-nationalisation. Private enterprise must be closely and intelligently regulated every inch of the way. Many of our proudest national institutions were founded and run as state, public, non-profit enterprises for many decades, e.g. the postal service, the BBC, and the National Health Service; see also the successful East Coast Railway. It is not state ownership that is bad; it is bad management that is bad. Privatization is not in itself essentially and necessarily bad; but when unbridled it is essentially against the public interest. Doctrinaire privatization is very dangerous. Some systems must be unified in order to function properly and efficiently; arguably the rail network, and the NHS.
●  Do MPs understand the concept of 'worker participation on boards of large companies', or 'co-determination', ("Mitbestimmung" as it is called in Germany, where it became legally required in 1976)?  Is there any better way to resolve the inherent conflict between labour and capital. (Has any MP ever mentioned co-determination in Parliament, or at a Party Congress?)
●  MPs should know the arguments for and against the 'inquisitorial' justice system practiced in France and Germany (among other places). This should be discussed and briefing papers offered. It is foolish to think that British traditions are inevitably better than other traditions. The confrontational British common law system has become very expensive, and though its aim is a fair trial, is not aiming at finding the truth; and often fails in that regard.
●  The observed and supposed faults of the European Community must be known, studied and debated; and remedies sought and pursued. This is very urgent. Are the horror stories (bent bananas, etc.) true?  Are the rules made by a small bureaucracy not under 'sensible' democratic control? Is that the problem? Why is it the case? Has no one protested? Do we have to leave Europe to reform Europe, and how would that work?

Any "thinking" party machine should have think-tanks covering these (and other) issues, and parliamentary candidates should be well served with briefing papers; the stance and the supporting arguments should come off the tongue promptly and with conviction.

Notes: [1] Quantitative Easing is a silly term because it suggests that, in a recession, spending is inhibited by a shortage in the way a belly is restrained by a tight belt. There is just as much 'money' as there was before the recession, but it is in the wrong hands. The rich do not invest when there is no profit to be made. So giving the 'rich' even more money (i.e. Quantitive Easing) does very little to increase spending; the extra money is simply stashed away in the Bank of England.
[2]  It is not that there is too little money; it is that there is no point in building a factory if no-one will buy the products. Banks simply invest the newly created money in the Bank of England.
[4] Accounting costs are those shown to parliament; Actual overall costs may not fall significantly, and in some cases can be shown to rise when administrative costs and bailouts are taken into consideration.

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