To what extent did Napoleon’s government during the Consulate bring benefits to France?

Between 1799 and 1804 Napoleon as First Consul instigated a series of sweeping reforms, fundamentally changing the institutions of France. He had a shrewd idea of what was necessary after a decade of Revolution: ‘My policy is to govern men as most of them wish to be governed. It is in this way, I believe, that popular sovereignty is acknowledged.’ Opposition notwithstanding, he was able to convert the majority of Frenchmen from being citizens to being subjects, and to impose on them a political, administrative and judicial system which reflected his own tastes for efficiency and uniformity. So, to what extent did Napoleon’s government during the consulate bring benefits to France? The answer must be that it did so only so far as to secure a regime at bottom authoritarian; that some benefited more than others as a result. However, for many if not all contemporaries the Consulate was ‘rational’, ‘modern’ and ultimately ‘beneficial’ notwithstanding.

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Capitalism, Affluence and Happiness

‘Happiness’ is challenging to define. The United Nations, in its ‘World Happiness Report’, distinguishes between happiness and satisfaction in that happiness is based on the short-term, ‘did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?’, and satisfaction the long-term ‘how do you feel about your life as a whole?’. Responses to these surveys are then combined to give each country a score. Two other measures of happiness are suicide rates and the incidence of mental illness. The first, while influenced by factors external to life satisfaction such as the role of religion and average hours of sunlight, certainly correlates with the level of severe unhappiness. The second is perhaps even more linked, the UN found the incidence of mental health problems to have the strongest correlation with unhappiness of all the factors they measured.

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Economic Concepts Applied to Football

Simple supply and demand

For most sides in the Premier League there is excess demand, but perfectly inelastic supply. Whilst this is hardly ideal for these clubs, inequalities between supply and demand can be fatal for smaller clubs. Darlington Football Club are the classic example of this – only their demise came about due to excess supply. Up until 2003, the club played at Feethams, with a capacity of 8,500. The average crowd they pulled in this season was 3,312 – whilst significantly lower than capacity this is the norm for clubs of that level. However, it was an ill-fated move to the Reynolds Arena in the 2003-04 season that sparked the beginning of the end for the club. Bizarrely, the chairman had chosen to build a 25,000 all seater stadium despite the low crowds Darlington attracted. This was an economic disaster and the money spent on the stadium was simply never recouped from entrance fees. Add this to the fact that money was raised for construction from high interest loans and the club was always going to be in trouble. The maintenance and running costs for such a large stadium were huge, and it wasn’t long before the club was driven into administration – just 6 months after they moved in. Whilst money was raised to keep the club going in the short term it was simply not sustainable and the club went bust in 2011

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The De Beers Diamond Deceit

‘Diamonds are forever’, well at least that’s what the De Beers Diamond Corporation would like to make you believe. Whilst the diamond industry is often seen as one of the most profitable markets ($72 billion-a-year retail business worldwide) in our current world, when actually put under scrutiny there is insufficient reasoning behind it to merit the excessive demand that it carries. The explanation behind what appears to be a societal crave for diamonds can be tracked back to arguably one of the most effective advertising campaigns in the history of the world by the De Beers diamond cartel. Attaining their goal of creating a monopoly in the diamond industry, De Beers launched an extensive project that intended to (and successfully) indoctrinate the public in believing that the true way for a man to propose was with a big shiny rock on a ring, the target audience overtime became much more broad and went through the relationships of marriage, long-standing partner or even a short-term girlfriend.

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Moyes’ Sacking – Football or Financial?

February 2014, David Moyes, at the helm of Manchester United F.C. for almost 7 months now, had been finding it increasingly difficult to replicate the high standards set by his predecessor, the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson. High profile losses to Chelsea and Stoke followed by an agonising draw to Fulham (at home) had left the reputation of the most successful English football team in tatters. Many reasons were put forward but it was ultimately a combination of factors that had contributed to the unexpected decline of a team that had won the league just a year ago – and convincingly by 13 points. Fast-forward two months to April 22nd and David Moyes had been removed from the most prestigious job in club football before he even got to learn all the names of the staff roster. It was 10 months! 10 months (of a 6-year contract), that’s all it took for the board to realise that this had been a costly mistake and it was time to cut losses. Evidently, the results on the pitch were a major factor in making this decision but, obliquely, it was the detrimental effects off it that led to this brutal decision.

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Drugs, Economics and Fairness

Modern society has a drug problem and we are not quite sure who we can blame for it nor whether we can solve it. Pharmaceutical companies today thrive on the flaws of the patent system, created to protect innovation and promote research, but their efforts seem to have had far reaching effect. In light of information relating to Turing Pharmaceuticals and other drugs companies, the impact and considerations associated with medicines of all kinds is coming under intense scrutiny. Whether the drugs companies are at fault, or out of date law systems which are far too easy to exploit for companies is an important question to keep in mind when discussing recent events in the industry. However, we need to confirm that the present situation is a problem and that requires being empathetic with those in and around the industry.

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Privacy as a Standard

The internet has advanced from simply being able to view webpages on a CRT monitor to the Internet of Things allowing for a healthier, safer and more fulfilling lifestyle. The internet has also changed how we perceive information and data, how we share it, how we control it (whether we control it), who we trust to know and have it. In many ways, the internet has made us more relaxed when sharing information about ourselves. Privacy today is considered a right at a very basic level but should we raise the bar for what we consider acceptable?

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Why Globalisation Isn’t Perfect

Globalisation is the extent to which economic activity is able to transcend geography. In ancient times trade was limited to a neighbouring villages, then, with the invention of the wheel and the state, trade was able to happen across continents. However this was not yet globalisation in the truest sense; cross border economic activity was limited to a few traders in specific goods, capital, individuals, ideas and firms remained largely constrained to their geographical origin. Perhaps the age of seafaring was the beginning of globalisation; ships were able to transport goods anywhere in the world, the goods one was able to purchase was solely limited by their financial, rather than geographical, position. This criteria, to me, is of less significance, international economic links were very different to local economic links at the time. In the post feudal age, individuals were, on the whole, free to choose their occupation or start a business – but only locally. The ability to migrate for work was limited, industries – though able to sell goods abroad – would struggle to exist in any international form (excluding those focused solely on international trade, such as the British or Dutch East Indian Trading Companies).

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‘Should the Government pay obese people to lose weight?’

The notion of obesity has been an underlying problem in Western society ever since the development of capitalism. Overweight, unhealthy individuals have become an icon of economic prosperity, but have brought about a barrage of problems; both for themselves and for society as whole. It is estimated that around 24% of adults in the UK are obese, and the World Health Organisation further predicts that around 74% of men and 63% of women will be obese by 2030. The National Health Service, is plagued with claims concerning various health defects that have arisen due to obesity, thus, is powerless to deal with often more harmful and detrimental illnesses. Hence, the government has often been pressurised to take greater measures to impede the rise of obesity, with one plausible solution being to offer a financial incentive to avert the individuals from succumbing to obesity.

Offering a financial stimulant to obese families will incentivise them to eat healthily albeit to a certain extent. It is common knowledge that obesity is prevalent in families who typically have a low amount of disposable income to spend on food, which drives them to excessively consume foods that are instant, due to the seemingly low cost. Thus, the financial incentive may drive them to consume healthier foods that in-turn may result in less claims for the NHS. The additional funds that are pumped into the NHS to deal with obesity related diseases could instead be utilised to incentivise these families. This would further be economically beneficial for these families and thus, could bring about benefits for both the individuals and the government.

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Prisons; an incomplete solution to an unsolvable problem

Prisons, a site for reformation and metamorphosis into an exemplary law-abiding citizen; or a haven for society’s underclass to idly loiter their remaining days disenchanted by society’s interpretation of the ever-changing notion of justice?

Based on the Strain theory and the perception that crime results from ‘anomie,’ it is evident that our culture includes but the structure excludes the disadvantaged; exemplifying the fact that there is a distinct statistical association between recorded crime and income inequality and social class.

In comparison to the general population in the UK; prisoners are 13 times more likely to have been unemployed, and 2.5 times more likely to have had a family member convicted of a criminal offence; hence reaffirming the sentiment that the ‘underprivileged,’ are more liable to end up in confinement. Akin to Young & Lea’s (1993) claim, ‘the poor suffer disproportionately from all the more serious forms of crime’.

As society has developed the notion of crime has been re-evaluated and the government’s persistence in promoting tougher penalties has been greatly scrutinised; as it is questionable whether putting an individual in solitary confinement is beneficial for society. Statistics prove that 74% of convicted criminals re-offend within nine years of leaving prison. Thus, is the £40,000 of taxpayers’ money that is pumped into supplementing and upholding our system of justice doing its worth? Breaking the cycle of crime in our society that has been the fundamental ambition behind reformations to our justice system; and the continuous funds that our coalition is injecting into upholding this ideology even in times of economic downturn has led many to question; is it worth it?

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Is Taxation a Crime?

Taxation is an integral ingredient of every commercial, corporate and personal transaction. Every facet of our capitalist-fuelled lives involves tax in some respect or form. It is the indispensable element of revenue for the government and it further paves the way for societal development as it results in the development of public goods such as roads and hospitals. However, the identification of taxation as being a form of theft has been the focal point of much deliberation in recent years with autarkists and anarcho-capitalists holding the belief that taxation is a violation of the non-aggression principle by the government. It has further been the subject of multiple political-philosophies stemming from Murray Rothbard’s ‘The Ethics of Liberty,’ in which he argued for the legitimacy of tax resistance and evasion.

Supports of the notion of taxation however, assert that no such violation takes place as they put forward the thesis that the matter of social contracts justifies the government’s actions is reaping tax. The funding of societal provisions which stimulate economic growth such as the development of schools and public institutions are wholly dependent on taxation and thus, impeding the collection of tax will have significant ramifications on society. Without taxation, law and order will further be deterred with the government having no means to reinforce justice which will inevitably place the future of the country in the hands of the Bourgeoisie, sending society down the Marxist spiral.

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Tectonic Hazards and the Importance of the Economy

Both developing and developed countries experience and suffer from tectonic hazards however, their ability to mitigate and cope with these events differs greatly.

Venn DiagramTectonic hazards frequently occur the world over but this does not always result in a risk. There are three aspects that eventually cause the disaster and these are: the tectonic event itself, exposure to that event and whether you are vulnerable to its effects or not. Only when all three of these criteria are satisfied does a tectonic disaster occur. The first of the three cannot be mitigated against by humans as we cannot stop a volcanic eruption or an earthquake occurring. The second factor, exposure is becoming an increasingly more worrying issue as global population continues it’s current, rapid rise. As populations increase, settlements start to expand into regions of regular tectonic activity. This close proximity to the tectonic event increases exposure and hence, the risk of a tectonic disaster occurring. Mexico City is a prime example of where rapid population growth has occurred despite the overlying threat of disaster. The city, with a population of over 21 million, has experienced rapid expansion during the second half of the 20th Century despite being built on top of unconsolidated alluvial sediments. These help magnify the effect of seismic waves in the extremely seismically active region which only serves to worsen the impact of potential earthquakes. Over 5,000 people were killed in September 1985 when a category 8 magnitude earthquake hit the region but this did not seem to deter potential immigrants. The third factor that contributes to earthquake risk is the vulnerability to an earthquake and this is the area that can be most easily mitigated against although, an authority’s ability to do so is massively dependent on their economic position.

Mitigation against a tectonic disaster has three components: plan, prepare and respond. In order for a government to be able to do these, they must have first have the correct perception of the event, they must be able to perceive the danger and understand the need for mitigation. They must also have sufficient wealth available to them in order for them to successfully mitigate which is why there are such large disparities between mitigation levels in developed and developing countries.

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Should we be worried about China’s economy slowing down?

China’s economy has slowed down to 6.9%, the lowest it has ever been since the 2008 financial crisis. Hit by the volatility in the stock market as well as weak economic data, the rate of 6.9% was slightly better than what economists expected initially. The Communist government has repeatedly cut interest rates since November which have helped to ease investor fears that there could be a downturn in the economy, leading to an eventual global crisis.

Despite this however, China is still growing at an incredible rate which other countries would dream of. The release of this data coincides with the Chinese President Xi Jinping visiting the UK for a week. There is no doubt that talks of a new trade deal will be in discussion. With China growing at this rate, it would mean global economic growth of 1%, making China the biggest contributor to the world economy. So it is easy to see why Britain wants to increase trade with China and increase Chinese investment.

However, it is an inescapable fact that some countries, including the UK, have been affected by the slowdown. The country’s slowdown has led to an undermining of industries such as energy and metals, which ultimately led to many of the UK’s steel-making factories such as the SSI plant in Redcar cutting jobs and even shutting down completely. The blame was put on cheaper Chinese steel sales and falling steel prices, leaving many industrial centres in developed countries to further deteriorate and unable to compete with foreign competition.

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Sustainability and technology: A phone or the environment?

The people living on the Earth today, in general, have a technology addiction of widely varying degrees. All those that can afford one will have a phone, a laptop or desktop and in many cases more. The software and hardware manufacturers are more than happy to feed this addiction, churning out a few to (a classic example of Samsung)[1] many devices per year to demonstrate class, increase productivity and in general to gain utility. However, the hardware inside our devices, the servers powering our online services and applications and the power stations bringing life to our tech are having a negative effect on our environment. Is our technology sustainable?

Phone manufacturers are a particularly bad example and not entirely due to their actions. In the West, people will often buy new phones every two year or more often. These phones will seldom be manufactured in the country of use (the Motorola Moto X 2013 was a rare example which was manufactured in the US company’s home country, but was closed once it was succeeded)[2][3] and therefore (as with almost all technology) shipping is a frequent affair. Rare earth elements are frequently used in smart devices as features and components need their respective chemistry in order to produce their desired function. However, 16 of the 17 are used in phones and it is questionable whether they are retrieved in recycling and whether manufacturers are making sure to use sustainable sources.[4] Original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs for short, have little economic incentive to be more sustainable other than to not deplete supply of resources which would increase prices in the future.

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