Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Why the Liberal Democrats breaking their 2010 university fees pledge is not an example of democracy failing.

Why the Liberal Democrats breaking their 2010 university fees pledge is not an example of democracy failing.

Time and time again I find “lefties”,  hippies and anarchists using the example of the Liberal Democrats failure to implement their 2010 policy on the elimination of university tuition fees as an example of democracy failing. Time and time again this infuriates me as they essentially do not appear to understand what democracy is and hence why this example does not exemplify its failure. Here I shall briefly explain what the Liberal Democrats policy was, what democracy is and show that the implementation of the Liberal Democrats policy would of been undemocratic.

Democracy for Dummies: What is Democracy?

The etymology of democracy comes from the Greek  “Demos” which translates to “the people” and the Greek “kratia” which translates to “power or rule”, thus Democracy means “power to the people” or “rule of the people”. The Oxford dictionary defines democracy as “a system of government by the whole population or all eligible members of state, typically through elected representatives.”

Democracy originated in Athens around 500 BC, the form of democracy which took place here was known as “direct democracy”.  All Athenian citizens could take to participate in the cities assembly, able to voice opinion and vote on various issues. Athenian citizenship did not include slaves, foreigners, men under 20 and all women (this was because women were deemed too emotionally unstable to vote rationally. I live with 4 women, 5 if you include my dog… I obviously disagree. Women seem like very rational, sane creatures especially during puberty and menopause). This nowadays would be practically impossible - imagine every single person in the country trying to fit into Stormont or Westminster every time a new policy is being debated and implemented; it would be chaos!

Occasionally direct democracy does take place in the form of a referendum. A referendum occurs when the entire electorate is asked to vote on a law or policy. Recent examples would be the Scottish Independence referendum 2014 and the Irish Equal Marriage referendum 2015.

Nowadays the form of democracy that takes place in the UK and the vast majority of other Western-style democracies is Representative Democracy.  In a representative democracy we vote for representatives during elections and they represent our political opinion and needs. We vote for a representative based on their or their party's manifesto. A manifesto is a “public declaration of policy and aims, especially one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.” Before an election all political parties present a manifesto and based on this is what we are meant to vote on. When a party is elected into government they have a mandate to enforce these policies.  The larger the parties vote, the stronger mandate they have to do so.

The Liberal Democrats Manifesto for the 2010 Election.

One of the major differences between the “Lib-Dems” manifesto and their opponents was the phasing out of university fees. The “Lib-Dems” aimed to abolish tuition fees within 6 years of coming to power.   This policy was one of the main reasons why a segment of the public choose to vote for them.

The 2010 Election: The Results

There are 650 seats “up for grabs” in the UK parliament and 326 seats are needed in order for a political party to form a majority government.

Seats Won
Election Year
Labour
Conservative
Liberal Democrats
2005
355
198
62
2010
258
306
57

As illustrated in the table the Liberal Democrats did not have a strong enough mandate to implement their manifesto in its entirety. Both the Labour and Conservative parties wished to increase tuition fees and thus the resounding outcome.

The Conservatives had received the strongest mandate from British civilians to implement their manifesto. However since no party had gained 326 seats this resulted in a “hung parliament”.  The Conservatives decided to join forces with the Liberal Democrats to form a “Coalition Government”; their combined votes enabled them to form an executive.

Conclusion

The only reason why the Liberal Democrats were in government was because the conservatives needed to form a majority; it was not because they had received a majority of votes or a strong mandate to scrap university fees. As the majority of people either voted for Conservative or Labour who both supported the Browne Review which called for the increase in tuition fees, democracy ruled that university fees should increase not decrease. The increase of university tuition fees after the 2010 election does not represent failure of democracy, it shows the opposite - it shows the efficiency of democracy.

Monday, 3 August 2015

How Russell Brand Donating the Profits from his Book “Revolution” to the New Era Cafe is an Example of what makes Capitalism Beautiful.

How Russell Brand Donating the Profits from his Book “Revolution” to the New Era Cafe is an Example of what makes Capitalism Beautiful.

After reading that Russell Brand had accidentally called a Jewish member of his audience a Nazi, I couldn’t wait to write a diatribe on him. I personally find Brand to be a sesquipedalian, patronizing nonsense-talker. In other words I find Brand uses over-complicated language to make himself sound more intelligent but I find his ideas tend not to have great substance - Tony Blair stated on his book “Revolution” that he literally had no idea what it meant. I find that Brand(along with other anti-capitalists) has a tendency to sanctimoniously snare upon the right-winged and appears to protest against anything and everything the conservative government sets out to enact. However, what infuriates me the most about Brand is that I find that he is a walking contradiction of what he preaches: he is epitome of a “champagne socialist”. Brand’s lifestyle appears to contradict his personal beliefs. For example the amount of money he has pocketed from his books, films and other personal appearances  has allowed him to lead a lavish lifestyle - he lives in a £2million rented home which is propertied by a company based in the British Virgin Islands known as “Tax Haven”.

However, from further study I learnt that  Brand had surprisingly donated the profits from his book “Revolution” to the New Era cafe - a social enterprise which employs local recovering drug addicts. The tenants of the estate had faced eviction from an American Company and faced trebling rent. Brand had protested against this and the due course actions were cancelled. Brand argues that the Cafe symbolizes what he describes  in his anti-capitalist doctrine “Revolution”. The cafe according to Brand is an example of a “grassroots movement”,“ It’s a model which is not for profit, a fully self-supporting new economic enterprise.”

I admire Brand for his involvement in this project and for a change appears to be “practicing what he preaches”.  I admire that he choose to donate the profits of his book to this charity - it was his personal choice. However this is the conundrum - this is why I like capitalism; it allows people to choose what to spend their money on.

Left-wing politics advocates high taxation and high public spending, which quintessentially means that more money will be taken off civilians and the government will decide what to do with it. This leads less opportunity for people to make decisions like Russell Brand has done to donate money to a charity. If this was already selected by the government, humans would not need to think about their personal financial choices.  The decision to donate money to charity is a moral decision -one has consciously thought about it and considered it to be a good deed.

This is the main reason I am a capitalist - people have more freedom and to have freedom is essentially more moral. This has been recognized before by the economists David Schwab and Elinor Ostrom: the structure of capitalism highly rests on ethics. In capitalist economies people acquire wealth because they earned it unlike in economies before where wealth was acquired through invasion and war. Capitalism is the only system whereby you can become wealthy without being a criminal.  In a capitalist system like the United Kingdom you gain wealth through working for it, if you do not wish to be wealthy you can then choose to donate your wealth to others - as Brand did. Capitalism does not encourage a division between the rich and the poor; the royals and the peasant; the bourgeois and the proletariat, in fact it does the opposite - it builds a bridge. Tom G. Palmer notes that capitalism allows common people to gain wealth and through this abolishing the long-entrenched systems of power.

Anti-capitalists claim that capitalism creates a class system, when actually it does quite the opposite - it demolishes the class system. The barriers between what is working, middle and upper class is now blurred as we are all the working class. People do no need to be born into aristocracy to become wealthy.  Capitalism encourages entrepreneurship because it is rewarded - people are not slaves to the monarch. The innovation and entrepreneurship that capitalism encourages benefits the whole economy, it is the reason why in large the greatest economies in the world are capitalist.  

If one finds they do acquire a great deal of wealth, one can then choose what to do with their money - you can choose to be charitable. Russel Brand believes that donating money to the New Era Cafe is an example of a socialist revolution but actually the fact that Brand accumulated the finances through entrepreneurship and then made the moral decision to donate the money to his chosen cause is only made possible through capitalism and is an example of what makes capitalism beautiful.