On balance capitalism is a better system for mankind than communism

Please note that the viewpoints put forward in this article to not necessarily represent my own and are for argument purposes only.

In this article I will address the benefits which capitalism brings to a society and why it is a better system upon which to base our societies on.
Capitalism is the voluntary exchange between one another. This occurs because both individuals believe that trade will benefit both parties. Trying to stop voluntary exchange from occurig taxes massive amounts of resources on enforcing the policy, as the war on drugs demonstrates.

1. The Social-Calculation Problem
In a Communist society there is no way to measure the value of goods and services. There is no way to figure out which goods and services should be produced, and which resources should be saved for capital use or future demand. Figuring out how to “calculate” the value of goods and services is also an impossible task, since all goods and services are intertwine with one another due to the many factors that affect prices and there’s also a lot of dispersed information which is nearly impossible to quantify and difficult for any one individual to make predictions on. For example: How many shovels should society produce? Well one would need to know who needs it, why they need it, the resources available to produce the shovels, and what the alternative use these resources can be used instead of making shovels. Knowing how each person values a good or service is also impossible since one cannot know an individual’s subjective preference.
Capitalism solves the problem through a monetary system, with a profit system. What this means is that producers produce more supply if prices increase and the opportunity for profit exists, while consumers consume more if prices decrease. This allows equilibrium to occur in which a quantity is produced at a specific price. Therefore, there are fewer problems with shortages and surpluses in a capitalist society, and people can obtain the good and services they desire based on their own budget. This system of supply equally demand allows welfare between producers and consumers to be maximized. This profit based-system produces information that can never be figured in a communist society. Producers know how much to produce because they are incentivizes to produce items that will create the most profit. If opportunities exist for a good or service to be produces that people demand, then entrepreneurs will take these opportunities in order to obtain a profit. Furthermore, these entrepreneurs can take advantage of specialized knowledge that planners do not know. Since anybody can be an entrepreneur, everyone can take advantage of their own specialized forms of knowledge.
Consumers will also cut down on consumption if the quantity decreases and increase consumption if the quantity increases. Therefore capitalism makes resource-management more efficient then a communist society ever could.

2. Empirical Evidence of the success of capitalism
Empirical evidence has shown that societies that have implemented capitalism have successful grown their economies. A few economic miracles have occurred: The economic miracle of Hong Kong and Singapore are two great examples. These nations were originally poor nation but have become industrialized due to implementing capitalism policies. If one looks at a graph comparing highly capitalistic nation, those nations that rank the best under the “economic freedom index” have higher gross domestic production then nations with low economic freedom and property rights.
Evidence of the social-calculation problem occurring also has empirical evidence. Massive famines and starvation has occurred in North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union. People waited in long lines just to get bread.While China remains more capitalistic, it still has communist elements to it. One result that has occurred is that China contains ghost cities which nobody inhabits.
Gross domestic production is a net benefit to society because it causes a lot of positive results that benefit society. People that live in wealthier nations tend to be happier. Life expectancy increase as gdp increases, since people have access to healthcare and nutrition. Higher gdp also correlates with a decrease in murders.
Some might believe that true communism has not been implemented so since there is no empirical evidence for its failure, one can speculate on why communism will be better. However, it is more likely that communism will not work out as predicted and lead to more suffering. This is because any proof that it will be successful, will be based on speculation. Speculation is likely to be wrong since it is difficult to predict how human motives will interact with one another in a complex world and there are more ways to be right then to be wrong. In order for this system to work, all assumptions and predictions would have to hold true, which is unlikely to be the case. Now we know that the system of capitalism has improved the lives of billion. Therefore, a priori we should accept capitalism as the better alternative to communism. The system we live in today is the result past suffering and experimentation throughout thousands of years of social engineering.

3. The Tragedy of the commons
The tragedy of the commons is the problem in which that if no individual owns property, there is no incentive to maintain the property. Thus property publically owned degrades quicker. A common example is a bunch of herders that commonly own a field. Each herder has an interest to put a cow on the land, however the quality of the land is damaged as a result and overgrazing occurs. If property is privately owned, then each individual has an incentive to maintain the land, because if they do not then it will lose its value while there is no incentive to maintain public land. As John Stossel notes, privately-held parks are better kept and maintained the public parks because the owner has a greater incentive to keep the area nice.

4. Innovation incentive and productive efficiency
Capitalism incentivizes innovation since those that innovate obtain the profit from their efforts, research and development, and investment they put into R&D. It also creates a system in which producers minimize cost of input while maximizing output through use of prices. Engineers and business administrators are taught how to reduce costs of good and service and how to maximize output. Such calculations would be impossible under communism due to lack of a price system, and since there is no profit system there is no reason to do these calculations in the first place.

Contributed by Shane Dunne

Should there be compulsory national service for 18-26 year olds in the UK?

A debate over whether 18-26 year olds should be forced to do national service will be held in Parliament in February. The bill is being sponsored by Kettering’s Conservative MP Philip Hollobone who is convinced that some form of service for youngsters, be it charitable work, care for the elderly, work linked to the NHS or participation in the armed forces, would help instil a greater sense of ‘self-respect, personal reliance, discipline and behaviour’ into society. Those with severe mental or physical disabilities will be exempt from partaking in national service. However, surely this promotes the question of what is actually considered a severe mental or physical disability? Would depression count as a severe mental illness considering that over 1 in 100 people at one stage have suffered from it?

As a student at Tiffin, I believe that it would be very detrimental to society if this bill were to be passed. The vast majority of my peers have a good idea of what career path they want to pursue. Therefore, inflicting a year of national service onto them would mean their careers would be delayed by a year. In addition to this, who would be responsible for paying for national service? Would it be the young people who are being forced to undertake it or would it be the government? It would be very unfair on a young person to pay for their own national service considering that many of them would be totally against the idea of doing it. Moreover, they would be put into debt and therefore a much more difficult financial position. In addition to this Philip Hollobone believes that the skills picked up by young people partaking in national service will increase their prospects of getting a job. However, if every young person were to be forced to undertake national service, then surely it would then become worthless on a CV because everyone would have that skill set.

Although some people may say that the values of self-respect, personal reliance and self-discipline will be promoted in society through national service, are these not the exact values that are supposed to be taught at home and enhanced through the British education system? There is only a very small minority of society that lack these values and who commit crime, however the introduction of national service would mean the entire population in the UK aged 18-26 would be forced to suffer for the mistakes of only a few. If a bill similar to this were to be proposed, would it not be more sensible to force the unemployed into national service so that they could benefit society rather than waste government money through benefits? Furthermore, forcing the unemployed into work would support the British economy because it would decrease unemployment.

In conclusion, I think that it is evident that compulsory national service for young people aged 18-26 would be a bad idea because it would hinder the careers of many young people who would have to undertake national service, as opposed to being able to pursue the careers that they have studied for. Others may say that it would promote the values of self-respect, personal reliance and self-discipline but nearly all of young people in the UK already have learnt these values by this age. This call for national service is largely in response to the growing unemployment problem in the young population and the increase in disaffected youth who seem to view benefit entitlement as a rite. However, in fact out of the 2.7 million unemployed, these people are in the minority. Many within this age range have gone to university and are desperately seeking employment, despite already having the skills they would gain by undertaking national service. I believe that the government needs to focus on addressing the lack of graduate jobs available, rather than try to improve employment statistics by introducing unnecessary and unwanted national service.

Contributed by Gregory Lobo

Should Scotland Become an Independent Country?

There are many reasons why Scotland should not become an independent country, and in this essay, I will explore these various views.

I agree with the fact that Scotland shouldn’t become an independent county. This is because Scotland would face financial problems. Firstly, the UK is the most successful economic and political union of modern times, and therefore Scotland is a recipient of the benefits that come with this status. Because of the UK’s economic success, change needs to be slow and careful. Secondly, giving Scotland control over how they tax and control welfare would impact all parts of the UK, as the amount of income the UK receives would change and therefore more cuts would be needed, though the costs of Scotland would be reduced. As a result of the cuts, reform for the UK parliament and undermine unity in parliament. Thirdly, on its own, Scotland would face bigger financial risks, as the security of the UK being behind Scotland would go away, and with that will go investor’s confidence, as it would mean Scotland turning to the Up for help in the event of a financial crisis would be next to nothing. Because of this, Scotland would probably rely on foreign bank and be in competition with its largest and closest neighbors. Ireland is evidence for this and what can happen in a financial crisis, where they fought against being part of the UK and now, as they face a crisis, are unable to ask for help from the country they turned away, and many Irishmen are moving to the UK for that exact reason.

A person that would disagree with me would be Alex Salmond. He believes that Scotland should become an independent country, because firstly, the UK fails to recognize Scotland’s unique needs, and that Scotland interests will always be second to the UK. Secondly, the UK is run by parties that Scotland rejected (namely the Conservatives) and therefore, what the UK decides for Scotland might not be favoured by the Scottish population. Thirdly, he believes that Scotland needs to take responsibility for the taxes it imposes as a result of its own spending, and therefore taxes could potentially be lower in Scotland as it doesn’t have to cover some of England’s spending. Lastly, there is no reason why Scotland cannot control its own destiny, become equal to England, and take its full place in the world. Scotland and England would remain firm friends via the EU, which Scotland would remain in. Also, Scotland would have the North Sea oil to turn to if financial circumstances turned on them.

However, this view is flawed because Scotland’s rulers chose their destiny via the Stuarts (James VI) and merging with England. Also, would Scotland be able to keep up all their promises before they go bankrupt. The oil is a finite resource so will not provide Scotland with the necessary funds. As they will be a small nation with no certain future they will have no bargaining power in the UN. Also, think of the benefits the United Kingdom has for Scotland: the BBC; the NHS; easier to visit; the businesses; the UK’s strong military; the allies; tuition fees? Scotland will be too busy setting up on its own to be able to afford to maintain these things and it’ll have to invest all of its remaining money on getting resources for its residents to survive on, setting up a new currency. It will be Ireland all over again, when Scots move to Britain to gain back these “luxuries”.

In conclusion, Scotland should not become independent, because of the risks to its economics and its residents.

Contributed by Jeffrey Chong

Should There Be A Greater Emphasis At School On The Sciences And Maths, Rather Than The Arts And Languages?

I do not think that there should be a greater emphasis on sciences and maths in schools than arts and languages because arts and languages provide excellent life skills. A prime example of this is art itself as it allows you to express your thoughts and has few boundaries so you can do what you want in whatever way you want. It can help young people express their emotions and allow them to think more deeply and creatively and all of this is backed up by evidence from the Education Fund of America. Arts subjects also give students an important break from the usual hard working, factual and intense lessons like the sciences and maths and gives them a chance to relax and be creative.

Languages are also extremely important in the world. They open many more university and college options as colleges and universities rightfully believe that everyone who goes to their institutions should know the grammar of a modern foreign language and the culture of another country. It also gives a wider range of job opportunities as many jobs these days involve travelling to other countries and communicating with people there. Companies and organisations prefer this as it means business is easier, quicker and often more successful as there are no difficulties.

Understanding another language allows students to go and explore other places and invest their minds in other cultures due to the large amount of cultural teaching in language classes as well as grammar. They can see beyond their own ways in their own country and it opens them out to different people in a fun and interesting way. This contributes to the fun and enjoyable parts of learning language and is probably one of the best aspects. It also gives you confidence when travelling to another country on holiday or business as you know that you can sort out any problems and get around easily.

The skills involved in languages are also very important in all aspects of life. They include listening, reading, writing, and speaking which all allow us to communicate in different ways and ways which are suited to us. Statistics from the CIA World Fact Book also show over 80% of the world’s population do not speak English and therefore people should not think that everyone speaks English which would often be people’s response to this question.

Research from The Association of Foreign Language Teachers in New York showed that primary school children who were exposed to languages highly outperformed students who did not learn a language. It also showed that countries where the arts and languages are compulsory to a high level have the best science and maths results, such as The Netherlands and Hungary.

Many students much prefer the arts especially as they are an enjoyable break from the usual daily routine of lessons. For some other students it is extremely important as if they do not enjoy maths and science or do not do well in them in exams, it is essential that they have something else which they can work on and try to excel in and be recognised for.

Overall I think it is vital for children and students to have a good education over a broad range of subjects but especially in the arts and languages as I have outlined in this essay.

Contributed by Tom Dunne

Was Margaret Thatcher beneficial for this country?

‘Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead’, the catchy tune sung by Judy Garland and the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, is currently on the rise in the charts, in the wake of the death of Baroness Thatcher, the ‘Iron Lady’ who was Britain’s first and so far only female Prime Minister, as well as the longest serving one in recent times. A Facebook group was set up years ago dedicated to promoting this song the day the ex-PM dies, in response to the extreme criticism that Thatcher received during her time as PM in the 1980’s, a time of economic turbulence and extremism. There could be no denying that those were troubled years, and perhaps the pinnacle of the decline in post-war Britain. So what did Thatcher do that was so divisive? Why is she still a controversial figure, to this day and to her grave?

The general consensus amongst the electorate was that in 1979, Britain was a failed state, the ‘sick man’ in post-war Europe: 3-day weeks, continuous and unregulated strikes, constant power cuts, and the culture of hands-out-exploiting-welfare-state. The ‘winter of discontent’ (1978-1979), in which there were a series of strikes co-ordinated by public sector Trade Unions was deeply embarrassing for the country – uncollected rubbish was left in the street for weeks, loss of power happened regularly and even human bodies were left in the streets as the Undertakers went on strike. With all this in mind, were the policies and actions of Thatcher really that radical and wrong? When she came into power in 1979, her promise was to clear away all the troubles of socialism and bring back the ‘great’ in Great Britain.

She immediately set out to reduce the influence of the state and bolster the economy by promoting free-market economics, famously declaring that ‘it is businesses, not government, who make money’. She believed that there was a spoon-feeding culture in the UK and that it was important for individuals to get up and work, citing ‘pennies don’t fall from Heaven – they have to be earned, here on Earth’. Tax and spending cuts were soon implemented, alongside the introduction of several Parliamentary Bills, designed to curb Trade Union militancy; state industries such as transport and power were sold and privatised; and most importantly council homes were sold to homeowners, enabling many to climb onto the property ladder for the first time. It is a wonder why the opposition opposed these reforms – many say that Labour hated the fact Thatcher was removing the power of government and giving working people more power over their lives – ironic isn’t it?

However clever this move was, politically and economically, there were drawbacks. The increasing wealth of the City of London and the enginered decline of traditional industries such as mining lead to mass unemployment, and financial insolvency in those sectors. This is what fundamentally lead to people disliking Thatcher, even to this day, as many felt she ruined the country and ruined peoples lives. However, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see that it was ultimately a successful move. The country was directed away from the old manufacturing industries, now subject of intense international competition, but managed to re-establish itself as a leading global economy with a booming financial sector located in the City of London. To this day, despite the criticisms of Thatcher, we have yet to return to the mining and shipping country we once were.

Thatcher deeply distrusted the Trade Unions. No one is denying that Trade Unions are good – they are an essential part of our democracy and key to ensuring that the voice of working people are heard. However, the militancy and power that Trade Unions wielded in the 70’s and 80’s was beyond monstrous – it was purely undemocratic. The year long strike in 1984 of the National Union of Mineworkers, called for by their leader Arthur Scargill, despite him failing to call for a ballot, showed clearly how the Unions thought they could impose their views undemocratically on the government. Having seen her party defeated over power cuts during Edward Heath’s premiership, Thatcher was determined not to make the same mistake, and had built up considerable reserves of coal in the years leading up to the strike. This meant the strike was defeated, and it lead to dramatic declines in the coal industry and influence of the Trade Unions.

Thatcher was also successful abroad. The victory over the Falkland Islands in 1982, the early identification of Mikhail Gorbachev as a future Soviet Leader and thus her involvement in bringing the Cold War to an end all helped put Britain back on the world map, giving it a renewed sense of its role as a global influence.

But, as with all politicians, she was not without her faults. Her infamous ‘Poll Tax’ in her third term of office led to widespread protests and riots in the streets, and is still unanimously seen as a mistake; her desire to see off the reunification of Germany, as she feared European federalism, was also unpopular and her stance on Europe would ultimately lead to her downfall. The culture of consumerism and unregulated capitalism that she ushered in can also be seen as a few of the many reasons which have lead to today’s recession and economic failings.

Therefore, in conclusion we must look at her overriding achievement: despite remaining a controversial and divisive figure today, she did make this country great again. Her ideology and leadership oversaw the transformation of a declining and failed state to the global power that we are today. Several of her key ideas have now become accepted in modern politics, similar to the welfare reforms of the 1940’s; and even when New Labour won a landslide victory in 1997, they built on the legacy that Thatcher had left behind, and she is still having that impact on us today. She was an undefeated PM in electoral terms, but she was also a national and cultural figurehead, which is why she is arguably seen as the greatest peacetime Prime Minister of all time. Many will forget Major, Brown and Cameron, but Margaret Thatcher will never be forgotten.

The easy way to answer the title question is to compare Britain now to when the Iron Lady took office in 1979, and to decide in which year you would like to live. And that is now for you to decide.

Contributed by Benjamin Vicary

How Powerful is the Prime Minister?

Without doubt the Prime Minister is the most important figure in the United Kingdom political system. Prime Ministers are powerful because they are at the head of three crucial relationships. Firstly, the cabinet, including individual Ministers and their departments. Secondly, their own party of which they are head of and through it, Parliament. Lastly the public and the electorate, with help from the media. However, Prime Ministers are not all the same, and differing leadership styles and motivational skills can have a big impact on how powerful they can be.

Firstly, Prime Ministers are powerful as they possess the power of patronage. This is the ability to sack, hire, promote or demote all ministers in government including Secretaries of States and other members of the cabinet. The Prime Minister can ensure ministers who are supportive, share in his ideological views or agree with his policies are promoted to powerful positions, whilst rivals or critics can be limited to junior positions or kept out of government completely. As ministers in government know, the Prime Minister can influence their political careers, and this ensures they remain loyal and supportive as they understand they ‘serve’ the Prime Minister. For example, Gordon Brown carried out the largest cabinet reshuffle in 100 years, sacking 11 members of the cabinet and hiring/promoting 9 MPs to cement his authority in government. However, certain cabinet members can possess a high level of power if they have a high public profile or have one of the ‘plum’ jobs. It is in the best interests of the Prime Minister to conciliate key cabinet colleagues as resignations can be extremely damaging to the Prime Minister publicly. For example, Margaret Thatcher’s reputation as Prime Minister was damaged by the resignations of Heseltine, Lawson and Howe. Furthermore, the current Prime Minister David Cameron is unable to wield the power of patronage to its full extent as the coalition means he is unable to sack Liberal Democrat ministers.

Secondly, the Prime Minister is powerful as he is the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons. This sets him apart from all the other ministers and gives him/her an ‘aura’ of authority across the wider governmental system and in cabinet. Party members recognise that the party’s fortunes and successes are closely linked to the Prime Ministers personal standing which discourages public criticism and party splits. Nevertheless, party leadership is a responsibility as well as a position of power. As the party leader, the party looks to the Prime Minister to provide leadership that will ensure unity and stability, as well as delivering electoral success. Party loyalty can evaporate rapidly if the Prime Minister is viewed as unpopular or as an electoral liability. For example John Major was badly hamstrung by Eurosceptic backbenchers during his tenure as Prime Minister between 1990 and 1997. Another example is that more than 80 Conservative MPs defied Cameron’s orders and backed a referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union in 2011.

The Prime Minister can be described as powerful due to the increased access to the media in recent years. Due to the rising flow of information being fed out to the public on a daily basis through television, radio and the internet, this gives the Prime Minister a greater ability to influence. The Prime Minister is deemed powerful as the media tends to focus most on the political leaders, giving the Prime Minister the ability to appear ‘over the heads’ of their parties and governments. Prime Ministers have the power to control the flow of information to the public through the increased use of special advisors. For example, journalist Alistair Campbell was Tony Blair’s main advisor and ‘spin doctor’. This leads to emphasis on ‘spin’ whereby seemingly ‘bad news’ can be released at opportunistic times and the releasing of information close to media deadlines to prevent them checking the reliability of it. However, the use of ‘spin’ can be counter-productive as it undermines trust in the government and the credibility of the Prime Minister. Furthermore, due to commercial pressures, the media is under pressure to make politics ‘sexy’, leading to a tendency to ‘hype’ news stories, such as turning a criticism into a scathing attack. The media can also have an impact on the Prime Minister himself; for example, the constant media scrutiny of Gordon Brown’s personality and image, “unable to smile”, during the 2010 general election was a huge constrain on his electoral prospects.

In addition, the most significant factor when assessing how powerful the Prime Minister is, is the electorate. This is arguably the most important factor as it underpins all other factors. When the Prime Minister and the government are popular such as in 1997, the Prime Minister has a personal mandate to act and make key decisions. However, when government popularity dips and electoral chances are in doubt, the Prime Minister’s authority in cabinet and the party are not assured. For example, Tony Blair’s authority was weakened by Labour’s reduced majority in 2005 and increased support for the Conservative party in the polls.

Also, Prime Ministers can be viewed as powerful due to the build-up of bodies and advisors who support him/her. Tony Blair extended the cabinet office hugely and created many new departments such as the Delivery Unit and the Women’s Unit. Furthermore, Prime Ministers now receive far more institutional support from special advisors. However this is still incomparable to the institutional support received by the United States President. Prime Ministers still lack a department of their own, whereas US Presidents are not limited in terms of who they can pick to fill their cabinet as the executive and legislature are separate.

Another factor is that Prime Ministers can be seen as weak due to events that are out of their control. They are now held responsible for mistakes wherever they occur such as war casualties and economic problems. For example, Tony Blair’s public reputation was scarred by the suicide of David Kelly in 2003: this intensified media speculation about the basis on which the decision to go to war in Iraq was made and the trustworthiness of the Prime Minister. Nevertheless, Margaret Thatcher’s decision to go to war in the Falkland’s in 1982 brought her huge popularity after a victory and was a big impact on the comfortable success in the following general election.

It is fair to say that the Prime Minister’s powers are now largely informal as oppose to formal. This includes persuading and debating, and building and maintaining relationships as opposing to dictating. Although many factors play an important part in the power of a Prime Minister, for example how big his/her majority is in the House of Commons and the power of patronage. It is ultimately down to the leadership style and personality of a Prime Minister which truly determines if they are powerful or not.

Anonymous Contributer

Should the UK have Prime Ministerial elections like the Presidential ones held in the USA?

As it currently stands, constituencies are merely able to vote for their local Member of Parliament rather being able to directly choose which leader of a party they wish to see become Prime Minister. Within our current electorate system, although one is able to have a greater choice and ability to effect local happenings, many would prefer to be able to directly choose the Prime Minister themselves. This is largely due to a rise in opinion that the Prime Minister, with a majority in the House of Commons, is no longer being held accountable and, in fact, it is easy for them to come up with the laws which they know will be passed without problems. This is unpopular for some who believe this move into almost an ‘elective dictatorship’ has caused the government to become less democratic. Therefore, if the Prime Minister was directly elected, it would be more democratic on the grounds that they are effectively the main decision maker. Yet, this proposal would not be an entirely popular one. Many people may think that local matters will be neglected, with the main focus on the figure-head leaders. Additionally, many people may see it as not being a good representative of the whole picture because a strong party, with a good cabinet, makes an even better Prime Minister.

Having direct elections for the Prime Minister will not solve the problem of having ‘safe’ seats or areas because there will always be areas which are crucial since they could swing either way. Another advantage seen by a change in the electorate system would be the simplification of national politics for the future and developing generations. It would provide a much easier system to understand and interpret, two candidates, one question: Who do you want to become Prime Minister? Therefore, hopefully, this change in system would increase young people to become more politically involved and many people, who are frozen out and unable to fully understand the current complex system, would actually be able to put their own views forward and shape how the country is governed. Furthermore, this should cause an increase in voters, largely, because it should increase the feeling that each vote counts rather than if you favour a party which is opposing a constituency where another party holds a safe seat. An increase in the number of people voting is hugely beneficial because it creates a much greater representation of what the whole nation thinks and wants to happen.

Overall, perhaps a change in vote for Prime Minister will be too brash for many conservative thinkers and is unlikely to be passed or voted in. However, the clear problem at hand, that the Prime Minister having too much power, can be tackled in alternative ways. For instance, many view a codified UK constitution being able to limit the Prime Minister’s power effectively and make sure the House of Commons is the body which is actually passing the laws and notions put forward by the PM rather than just nodding its head at everything the Prime Minister wants due to the majority their party holds.

Contributed by Joshua Graham

Boris Johnson: Prospective Prime Minister or Bumbling Buffoon?

Last week, the citizens of Birmingham experienced the sort of frenzy one would usually expect during a victory parade of an England sporting team, or a well publicised walkabout of a global musical sensation such as One Direction or PSY! Yet, the centre of attention and the ‘target’ for the Midlands’ paparazzi, was in fact a politician: a politician who has a very distinct charisma.

As Mayor of London, Boris Johnson is accountable to over a tenth of the UK population, with responsibility for the smooth running of arguably the world’s most vibrant, dynamic and influential city. Back when the Mayoralty of London was created in 2000, few politicians could have foreseen the danger that this post would create.

Boris Johnson is not an MP. He is not part of the cabinet, or indeed any other government body. He does not need to tow the party line when it comes to legislation, since he is not part of it. In fact, the Mayor is completely independent from any other political programme apart from his duty to the people of London, and his allegiance to the Conservative party. This means he can say and do whatever he wants, regardless of the position of the coalition government. A thorn in David Cameron’s side no doubt – but even he would not dare get rid of the flamboyant and extremely popular Boris.

The Mayor has been very vague on the matter, as is his way. On the one hand, he keeps proclaiming his undivided loyalty to Cameron, saying that he is the man who is needed to turn this country around and put it on the track to recovery. Yet, if this is the case, why is the Mayor constantly lobbying for a new airport in the Thames estuary, rather than the governments’ proposal to expand Heathrow?; or why did he make a point of outshining the Prime Minister during the Olympics this summer, boosting his popularity and diminishing Cameron’s popularity? And back to last May: surely David Cameron could not have missed the irony of losing many council seats throughout the country to Labour, whilst Boris Johnson surged to victory in the Mayoral election in London.

It is obvious that Boris is the most popular politician in the country at the moment, as the polls suggest. It is also obvious that he is clever and witty; likeable and pragmatic. Now would be a very good time to challenge for the leadership of the Tory party: his rather right-winged political stance would appease the backbenchers of the government, who probably fear the direction in which David Cameron is taking them, in order to meet the party’s Coalition obligations, as well as Cameron’s attempt to appeal to the masses by declaring himself ‘centre’. Furthermore, as the leader of the party, Boris would have more chance of getting the Tories into a second term of government because he is a politician who has shown he is not interested in appeasing everyone but who sticks to his promises and his ideology; the sort of ‘no-nonsense’ public figure we need at the moment and who would be voted in, compared with all the career politicians such as Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Ed Miliband.

But the other question is would he deliver? There is no question that, if he wanted to, he could become Prime Minister. But he has shown to us in the past that he is not the most decisive character. He has many ideas, but does not appear to be responsible enough to carry out official and solemn occasions with the necessary decorum. Boris at a state funeral? Boris meeting the US President to discuss economic troubles? Boris speaking at the United Nations about world development and helping developing countries? It just all seems a little too far-fetched.

It has been said on many occasions that Boris Johnson just is not serious enough to run this country. But ask yourself this: who is capable of running a country, with no experience otherwise? Every Prime Minister we have ever had has always been voted in as a popular person, but a person who has no experience in running a country. Some succeed, some fail. Some are more serious than others. But every Prime Minister “learns the ropes” as they go along. As long as the policies are popular, and the professional assistance is there to help the government do their job properly, then anyone can be a Prime Minister.

My summary of Boris Johnson is this: He is a man who has shown capability in the organising and smoothly running of a major world event. He is a strong, influential character who follows ideology and not, public opinion. He is no doubt a leader, a distinct representative of the capital with whom everyone can feel slightly happier. He elevates himself in terms of charisma – a jester above ‘dull’ politics. He is exactly the sort of person who, with a little training in running a vast enterprise such as the UK, and a little time to help prove himself, could easily bring us out of the current economic depression and bring out the ‘Great’ in Great Britain.

So why not?

Contributed by Benjamin Vicary

If David Cameron resigned tomorrow, who should replace him as Prime Minister?

If David Cameron resigned tomorrow who should replace him as Prime Minister

This paper explores the strengths and weaknesses of three potential successors; George Osborne, William Hague and Boris Johnson. Although it is a sensitive and often a controversial question, given the tense circumstances under the coalition, the heir to David Cameron’s throne is much more relevant and pressing than usual.

Contributed by Ben Carter

Charles de Gaulle et l’Europe

Charles de Gaulle et l’Europe

This essay is not based on a certain hypothesis but instead researches a topic and attempts to put a complex issue into more simple language.  The essay is broken down into four parts: background on Charles de Gaulle, background on Europe, details of the Fouchet Plan, and the impact of the Fouchet Plan.  The first section elaborates on de Gaulle’s political history (pre-1958) and how he developed certain views.  The second then moves back in time to the French novelist Victor Hugo, who was the first person to coin the term “États-Unis d’Europe” (United States of Europe).  Furthermore, the essay briefly outlines the formation of the European Economic Community here.  The main body of the essay examines the return of de Gaulle to French politics in 1958 and explains why he believed that Europe should have an intergovernmental union, rather than the supranational union that was present in the form of the EEC.  Note there is a paragraph which summarises the Fouchet Plan and explains why de Gaulle believed that change was necessary for Europe.  The concluding paragraphs look more closely at the European response to de Gaulle’s proposals, explaining why the Fouchet Plan was ultimately rejected, as well as de Gaulle’s European impact after the plan was rejected.  The information presented in the essay is not as detailed as if written it in English, but nonetheless, it does make a very complicated issue much more understandable (for those that can read French).

Contributed by Harry Eaton

The Presidential Election & The C-Word

As the cavalcade that is the Republic Candidate elections reaches its inevitable finale, some American Republicans may be finding themselves in the situation of having to pick the lesser of two evils. That is, after Romney’s brutal attack campaigns on Gingrich, causing him to lose both in Iowa and in Florida, and with Ron Paul receiving the same amount of media attention as Bill Oddie, Republicans are left with a choice between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

Now in many respects, they both make fine politicians. They are both able to look stern and authoritative, to stare down the camera with a flinty gaze, and read the carefully crafted words from the magical teleprompter machine in front of them. Most importantly for Republicans everywhere, both politicians wholly oppose Obama – heaven forbid that they actually agree with his evil, anarchist, money-grabbing socialist regime. However, if these two political ‘titans’ are the best that the Republican Party can produce, then America is in crisis. From a philosophical, ethical, moral and even common-sensical perspective, the beliefs that these men each hold are truly disturbing. Both of them have the possibility of becoming the most powerful men in the world despite their frankly insane beliefs. So why are they so successful? The answer lies with one dreaded C-word: Christian.

What’s wrong with the word Christian, you may ask? Well for one, it represents probably one of the most determining factor in a Presidential race – a strange thing for a Country whose Constitution is founded upon the separation of Church and State. Every four years, at some point in the race, there is a monumental struggle, for Republicans at least, to be identified as ‘the most Christian.’ Well, this year, we have witnessed perhaps the scariest and wackiest set of philosophies and religious beliefs ever. In the name of the almighty ‘Christianity’ it seems as if each politician has been fighting to be more offensive and downright moronic than the other. The gusty Palin-clone that is Michelle Bachmann kicked off the blunder-spree with her near blasphemous claim that both hurricane Irene and the Japanese earthquake were a message from God in order to ‘get the attention’ of the American politicians. Now, even the most cynical of religious believers would have to question the idea of a God who would use natural disasters as part of a Republican publicity campaign. Surely the poor Japanese have nothing to do with the Presidential election? Leave them out of it!

Romney himself is a Mormon, a religion so far removed from mainstream Protestantism, as well as from sanity, that even the American people can feel the tenuous strain, as he announces himself as ‘Christian.’ Despite Romney’s belief in a literal account of the bible (yes, that includes unicorns, talking snakes and 900-year old men), Romney’s practices have recently been under scrutiny for entirely different reasons. Latest reports, not denied by Romney either, have suggested that he has been in the habit of baptising dead people, and converting them to the Mormon religion. Yes, that’s right – DEAD PEOPLE. His most prominent victims have been his deceased atheist father-in-law and several Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. Of course, this monstrously offensive and degrading act has been justified in the name of ‘Christianity’ – so what about the other frontrunner, Rick Santorum? Well, just like any good American, he too, believes in ‘good Christian family values.’ Since this term ‘Christian’ is starting to become a bit ambiguous, what does that actually mean? For Santorum, this means the complete and total persecution of homosexuals, blacks and Muslims of course! Rick Santorum’s senseless prejudice makes the Ku Klux Klan look that bit more like an all-loving hippie group. His infamous line; “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them someone else’s money,” was bad enough. His claim that Muslims should be profiled at airports made things even worse. However, his constant attempt to persecute and oppress homosexuals is what is truly disturbing.

His ambition to ban gay marriage, stop homosexuals from serving in the military, and even to ban sodomy outright are, quite frankly, insane. He has equated “homosexual acts,” to polygamy, adultery and even incest. Yet, the defence of such beliefs lies with the apparent ‘fact’ that homosexuality threatens the traditional concept of family, and that it will ‘corrupt’ America’s children. Pardon me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember the last time homosexual men went out indoctrinating young boys to like Broadway musicals and wear flamboyant clothing. The main problem with Rick Santorum, as with many American politicians, is that his policies are too influenced by religion. How can a man lead the world’s most powerful nation, fighting for freedom of speech and equality, when he has the church whispering in his ear, telling him to discriminate and oppress? Furthermore, if each candidate is supposedly ‘chosen’ by God to lead America, as many of them so often claim, where is the culpability? Who will hold them responsible for creating a nation of fear and persecution, when apparently it was ‘God’ that told them to do so?

It all comes down to this word ‘Christian.’ You wouldn’t have heard this word being used in a presidential race even 40 years ago. Just as the evangelicals are different to the Baptists, who are different to the Catholics, who are different to the Mormons – Romney, Obama, Santorum all believe in different things. Yet, it is this umbrella-term ‘Christian’ – which only started to be used in the anti-abortion campaigns of the 70’s – that shields their beliefs from scrutiny. As God-fearing people, the Americans would not dare vote for anyone that wasn’t Christian – even if the ‘Christian’ candidate had radically different ethical and religious beliefs. Before the word ‘Christian’ started to be bandied about, Presidents would not dare to be overtly religious in a Presidential election, because as we all know, the Catholics are scared of the Pentecostals, who are scared of the Evangelicals etc etc. By expressing their religious beliefs, politicians would be excluding a vast number of other religious believers. Unfortunately, today, politicians need only declare themselves Christian. No more questions asked.

The question is; why not scrutinise the beliefs of these Politicians? Why not assess their beliefs on logical and ethical grounds? The world should tremble at the idea that someone who believes in Dragons and Unicorns might yet have the nuclear codes. Why should someone whose faith demands a type of prejudice and aggressive persecution be allowed to make foreign policy, or to make war? It is high time that America removed the word ‘Christian’ from its vocabulary. In fact, it is high time that America caught up with the rest of the world, and removed religion from its Governmental processes entirely. Logically, morally politically, it is the right thing to do. In the meantime, all we can do is pray.

Contributed by Louis Mercier

Reviewing the Arab Spring

On 17th December 2010, Mohammed Bouazizi, a street vendor in Tunisia self immolated, sent a tsunami of protest and revolution across the Arab world, which does not seem likely to stop anytime soon. Since the initial act by Bouazizi, the world has seen unrest in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Iraq, Israeli border areas, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Mauritania, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, the Palestinian Territories and the Western Sahara, all of which have varied in their magnitude and their level of coverage, effectiveness and resilience. The themes of these protests include: income disparity, dictator rule, oppression of minorities, abuse of human rights and restriction of freedom of speech. In many of these countries, civilians are not allowed to live according to their will and are forbidden from practising their basic human rights. Therefore, after these protests, what has been left behind?

Tunisia was the first to revolt on 18th December, and by 14th January, it managed to drive out its President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, forcing him to dissolve his government and to exile himself. On 23rd October 2011, Tunisians finally got their chance to vote, with the formerly-banned Islamic party, Ennahda, winning with 41% of the total vote.

Egypt soon followed, with the first protests beginning on 25th January, which are still ongoing. The protests have been violent, with at least 846 dead and 6,000 injured. Protesters have had to handle attacks from pro-government forces on camels, gun fire from the military and army vehicles. The protesters have managed to remove President Mubarak and Prime Ministers Nazif and Shafik, but their problems are not yet solved. In light of the situation, a Supreme Council of the Armed Forces was set up, which very soon became unpopular and was seen as extending the old regime’s influence (Mubarak had strong ties with the army). Moreover, the new constitution (written effectively under the watch of the Supreme Council) supra constitutional amendments have been suggested, which make it impossible to see the Army’s budget and spending. SCAF have also called for 80 members of the constitutional assembly (the body responsible for writing the new constitution) should be non-MPs. SCAF has also been criticised following confrontations in October between the armed forces and a group of protesters, mostly comprised of Coptic Christians (Egyptian Christians). Since SCAF took charge, 1,600 people have undergone military trials and the decades of old state of emergency that has hung over Egypt has still not been fully removed. There has also been the introduction of a law criminalising protests and strikes, anybody organising or calling for protests will be sentenced to jail and/or be fined up to 500,000 Egyptian Pounds (£52,000). Parliamentary elections have happened and results from that have largely been in favour of the Islamic parties. Roughly two thirds of the vote went to two parties (both Islamic in their ideology), one was the Democratic Alliance for Egypt (almost entirely made up of the Freedom and Justice Party, which may as well be pseudonym for the Muslim Brotherhood) and the other was the Islamist Bloc. No Presidential election has taken place yet.

Libya used to be the 4th longest running dictatorship in the world (3rd Kim Il-sugn, 2nd Chiang Kai-shek and 1st Fidel Castro), headed by Colonel Gaddafi. Having been in power for the past 42 years, Gaddafi had a hold over Lybia, but also being the irrational thinker he was widely attributed for, he did not have strong organisation throughout the country. This meant that when revolution hit, it did not take long for defectors to come out in favour of the people. The revolution started on the 15th of February in Libya’s second largest city (Benghazi) and by the 21st, it was liberated from Gaddafi’s rule and the National Transitional Council (NTC) was formed. Soon after, there was a military crackdown on the city through the use of African mercenaries that were paid for by the state. The civilian protesters were able to overcome this through the use of the fact that 15 in every 100 people in Libya own firearms and when military divisions, or even whole barracks defected or were taken over by the NTC, they would bring arms with them. Throughout what effectively became a civil war, there were to and froes, as the NTC would drive Gaddafi’s back and then there would be a counter-offensive by troops loyal to Gaddafi. At one point, the revolution nearly ended when Gaddafi’s forces managed to reach Benghazi on 19th March. Eventually, the UN passed a resolution which imposed a no-fly zone over Libyan air space on 17th March, with what became a widely regarded as successful humanitarian intervention and the Gaddafi regime was toppled on 23rd August 2011 and Gaddafi was found on 20th October 2011. This was, despite the fact that he had earlier claimed that he could not step down, like a normal head of state because he had resigned from all formal state positions in 1977 and assume non-executive leadership roles, which made no difference. When he was finally found, ironically, he was found taking refuge with his bodyguards in a drain, despite earlier threatening ‘to kill the rats who opposed him’.

Following Gaddafi’s downfall, the world has seen civil war, discontent within the public and a lack of leadership. The NTC is made up of former Gaddafi loyalists, Islamists, secularists and others from a wide spectrum of political backgrounds with no common political identity. And while the NTC seems unable to take a hold of the country and bring it together under a common national identity, the county is left with the law of the jungle and tribal politics takes hold once more. Meanwhile, being black in Libya has become a quasi crime, with it being widely reported that civilians are lynching black people due to the fact that they either associate them with Gaddafi’s African mercenaries, or Gaddafi’s want for an united Africa under his leadership. Nevertheless, apparently incidents of road rage have reduced and people are driving in a more civil manner.

Despite the democratic changes that have taken place recently, we should take this change with a grain of salt. In the past, we have seen many seemingly peaceful democratic and western backed springs/ changes that have turned sour: the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, Mugabe in Zimbabwe and even Mubarak in Egypt (it should be noted that secretary of state Hilary Clinton described Mubarak as a personal friend in 2009). The west and major regional powers have to get involved in supporting the democratic process and the civilian populations, not just the new leaders. This is a chance for proper, legitimate, representative governments to come out of these countries that have seen tumultuous change. However, the course they are on now bodes well only for the power hungry and prospective dictators. Powers which can help should aim to try to in pushing for an open democracy, aiding the new interim councils through advice in regaining power and legitimacy, as well as helping set up institutions necessary for a properly functioning democracies, such as a free independent media, a dismantling of the police state and involving all parties and groups in the transition. These steps will be difficult and there are many challenges which these incipient new orders will have to face, including that of promoting neo-liberal thinking in a society that has only known dictator rule from a theocrat supposedly appointed by god. Undoubtedly, many of these new rulers will try to reflect their old leaders, thinking that is how you are supposed to act as a leader. There is the added challenge of the sectarian divisions within these countries, tribal divisions and voting based on commonalities of religion, tribe and creed. Needless to say, secularism is not something that is learnt or taught overnight. Unfortunately, it’s a long arduous process of cultural change.

There is always a chance and one shouldn’t turn away from the situation completely. These countries cannot be left to their own devices because it is obvious that many of these countries are left in such a state that they will either slip back into the dictatorship, headed by their transitional council, or a strongman will arrive, promising to solve their problems and a dictator will be found in that way. But we cannot repeat our Iraq or Afghanistan strategy of picking a western backed chosen one to run the country and then regretting the decision. We have to allow a natural process of rebuilding with the west’s guidance and we should not be afraid to speak out when we see something wrong in the new regime. The best thing for the west and other powers to do would be to offer their help and support in the form of democracy promoters, advisers sent to these incipient democracies which would be there to help guide the new order and power structures, offering advice on steps which the governments should take in order to help promote democracy. However, from a cynical point of view, the new leaders can chose to ignore the advice and may have mal intent. If that is the case, democracy may be finished.

Contributed by Kayani Mohammad Kayani

The 2012 US Elections

After his first term of presidency, Barack Obama can boast about some successes. Ending the war in Iraq, killing Osama Bin Laden and a successful military intervention in Libya are all triumphs he can make a claim to, but is he worth re-electing? Although he was in office when many these momentous events occurred, they were inevitable. The war in Iraq had mostly finished by 2011 but to leave so soon after the establishment of democracy was dangerous. By leaving, a space for a foreign power (say Iran) to pull strings and incite agitation was increased. Moreover, what has been left in Iraq reflects poor strategy by Bush and a lack of emphasis by the Obama administration to re-address the Bush administration’s failures and shortcomings. With no action taken to limit the damage done, a new dictatorship has become almost inevitable and many are saying that is coming through in Nouri Al Maliki’s (the prime minister) recent manoeuvres. From a US perspective, the war had to be ended. From an Iraqi perspective, it was ‘mission not accomplished’. By 2011, as Osama Bin Laden had become just a figurehead for Al-Qaeda, the group were becoming less and less of a unified force. Moreover, it is safe to say that the organisation had been, since 2001, spreading elsewhere, especially to Yemen and parts of Africa. Compare a video from back in 2001 to the ones produced later on by Al-Qaeda, and it would be fair to argue that Bin Laden’s inheritance was drying up at the point of his death. Many had speculated that as Bin Laden’s wealth dried up, the likelihood of NATO catching up to him would increase and the killing of Bin Laden was inevitable. As for Libya, it is undisputed that is better described as a French action that was supported by the US, not necessarily the US taking the reins and tackling the issue. Furthermore, the lack follow up action has left Libya in limbo and in a state of chaos.

Domestically for Obama, matters are worse. In 2008, the economy took a massive tumble and a black man was running against a woman for the Democratic party’s nomination. History was going to be made, whatever the outcome. Obama campaigned for a change to the establishment and business. Obama wanted to close Guantanamo Bay and raise the minimum wage higher than what was due to come in under Bush. In addition, there were hopes for a public healthcare option. Four years later, Obama is looking to raise one billion dollars for his campaign this year. When 1% of the country owns 40% of the wealth, it is obviously going to be the establishment that will provide the funds for such an expensive re-election campaign. Moreover, many of the Bush advisers remained in the Obama administration, including the head of the Federal Reserve, Timothy Geithner, the same head who did not notice an inflated housing bubble, suggesting that Obama does not really care for changing the system. On other issues, Guantanomo Bay is still open and Bush’s change of minimum wage, in 2009, to $7.25 remains unchanged. With regards to the public health option bill, it was altered from a 3 page bill to a 3,000 page bill, and is largely seen as offering just another insurance plan which largely favours the pharmaceutical companies of America.

The Republican alternatives, however, do not offer much hope. There are 4 candidates, and 50 primaries with each primary offering various numbers of delegates to candidates. To win the nomination, you have to be the first person to get 1,144 delegates. The candidates so far are: Mitt Romney (75 delegates), Newt Gingrich (26), Ron Paul (10) and Rick Santorum (8). There have only been 4 primaries with a total of 115 delegates up for grabs so far.

Firstly, we should examine Rick Santorum. He said recently that if a woman is raped, they should not seek an abortion and instead try to “make the best out of a bad situation”. He has been quoted saying that he opposes welfare programs because “they make black people’s lives better”. He also rejects the idea of a Palestinian state, stating that all of the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis, they’re not Palestinians. “There is no ‘Palestinian’. This is Israeli land”. This is a right wing view than what is widely seen as the Israeli government’s. If these were not bad enough, when addressing the President’s view on abortion, he said: “The question is — and this is what Barack Obama didn’t want to answer — is that human life [fetus] a person under the Constitution? And Barack Obama says, ‘no’. Well if that person — human life is not a person, then — I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, ‘We’re going to decide who are people and who are not people.”My question is, did he just say black people are lesser people and get away with it? His views on homosexuality are nearly as bad, equating homosexuality to bestiality, bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery. He argued that allowing homosexuals would be equal to society allowing anything and undermining American society. I really do not know how he is still in the race.

Next, we have the libertarian Ron Paul, who used to be a doctor and is strongly opposed Obama’s healthcare reforms, saying that if they came in, there would be no point in becoming a doctor because there would be no incentive. He also published a series of newsletters called the ‘Ron Paul Newsletter’ which was published during the 1980s and 1990s. In them, articles were released which stated that the problem with black people is that they are too fast, so once they steal your purse, you are unable to catch them. He also stated that AIDs was something the government was spending too much money on. In one of these newsletters there was a quote which became a big hit. It read as follows: ‘We don’t think a child of 13 should be held as responsible as a man of 23. That’s true for most people, but black males age 13 who have been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such’. Paul also published that every American should be armed for the upcoming race wars.  He is known for being highly in favour of returning to the gold standard. This would mean that we would be sent back to the dark ages of countries fixing their currency unit to a specified amount of gold, which means there can be no fluctuations in currency prices and trading currencies essentially becomes broken. Moreover, there is not enough gold in the world to serve as a monetary base and it will inevitably favour countries that can mine gold and fix the system in their favour.

However, Newt Gingrich, makes is a more erratic character. He recently hit a chord with public opinion when he suggested that poor children should take the jobs of caretakers in schools, since they are often lazy and it would allow them to develop a better work ethic. When asked if he could see that his statement could have caused offense to poor people and black people, he said no. This got cheers from the crowd. Newt Gingrich used to be speaker of the House of Representatives while Bill Clinton was president. When Bill Clinton was caught having an affair, he called for Clinton to be impeached. While Gingrich was married to his first wife (his old high school Geometry teacher), he was having an affair with the woman who would become his second wife. While married to his second wife, he had an affair with a staffer at the house of representatives who was 23 years younger than him and his affair was running the whole time he was calling for President Clinton to be impeached over his affair, claiming that he was damaging America’s Christian family values- hypocrisy. Gingrich also agrees with Santurom that “there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire…I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and who were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places, and for a variety of political reasons, we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s, and it’s tragic.”

Lastly, the front runner Romney- a fund raising machine. By the 31 December 2011, he had raised $57.1 million. The rest of the field had only raised $41.0 million at that point, with Paul accounting for $26.1 million of it. He currently stands at the front of the field, and is equally dangerous as any of the other candidates. Romney is not the first person in his family to have run for President, his father ran for President too, and lost out on the Republican nomination due to his lack of organisation. In contrast, Romney junior is widely seen as being too much of an automaton; too plastic as a person, too flexible and unprincipled as a politician. A prime example of this is his position on a public option for healthcare. Romney is well known for bringing in a public healthcare option in Massachusetts, however, he strongly opposes the public healthcare option that Obama pushed through congress, despite Obama stating that he based his bill on what Romney set up in Massachusetts. Romney has also recently become famous for stating that “I’m not concerned about the poor. We have a safety net there; if it needs repair, I’ll fix it…We will hear from the democrat party the plight of the poor.” In other words, if you are poor, vote democrat. He is also seen as out of touch by most Americans with his $21.6 million income which he made at Bain Capital, a company that makes its money by taking over failing companies and bringing them to their end; firing employees and declaring them bankrupt. Moreover, he only paid a 13.9% tax rate in 2010 on his $26.1 million, compare that to the 35% he should be paying if he were earning it in wages rather than dividends. He is a proponent of tax cuts for the highest earners (which includes himself) and many say that he is in favour of a 0% tax on dividends, meaning he will never have to pay taxes again. Mitt is also seen as being somewhat awkward. His family were advised to tell journalists about a ‘funny’ family story to try to humanise the candidate, so they decided to tell a story about the time Romney decided to strap the pet dog to the top of the car on a family trip, because there was not enough space inside the car. But it is alright because he made sure there was a plastic sheet to protect the dog from the majority of the head wind. He has even been quoted as saying “Corporations are people, my friend… of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People’s pockets. Human beings, my friend.” Another good one is “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me,” a voter favourite.

So as another election year begins, the America and the world can look forward to more ineffective leadership. This year was prophesied to be a catastrophic year by the Mayans and the prophecy does not seem to be far from the truth. If Americans do not vote for the incumbent, we can look forward to dangerous, ill thought through moves by idiotic religious zealots who appear to be trying to mirror the stupidity and lack of thought shown by Bush and Reagan for a minimum of 4 years. At least with the incumbent we will get business as usual.

Contributed by Kayani Mohammad Kayani

Illiberal Capitalism

In the past decade we have seen the emergence of the new global economic powerhouses- China, Brazil and Russia. The general consensus amongst political scientists is that these developing nations will gradually evolve into the Western model of a liberal capitalist economy. However, contrary to this belief, it seems that China, Brazil and Russia, to different extents, have adopted an economic model based on state, rather than liberal, capitalism. This new form of state capitalism has created vast state-owned enterprises which pose viable competition to private Western enterprises. This hybrid of state and private sector control is certainly an effective means for developing nations to play catch up with the West- but will this model provide the sustainable economic development that these countries ultimately need?

State capitalism refers broadly to an economic system based on capitalism where large corporations are either wholly or partly owned by the government. The model is not a new phenomenon- for the most part of the 20th century Western economies heavily employed state intervention, such as in Europe, which gave rise to the creation of welfare states. Since the 1970’s however, Western economies have become a lot more liberal- leaders such as Thatcher and Reagan introduced economic policies such as deregulation and privatisation which freed up the market. However, many view the 2007-2008 financial crisis, that engulfed most of the developed world, as the end of the reign of this ‘free-market triumphalism’.

Whilst turbulence amongst liberal economies continues, the GDP growth rates of the state capitalists Brazil, China and Russia have remained stable. A feature that makes this new form of state capitalism stand out is the management of state owned companies. Over the past 20 years, the state capitalist governments have pruned their portfolio of enterprises, but have held back a few businesses in which they wish to heavily invest, in order for them to become national champions on a global scale. The state capitalist governments believe that these SOE’s (state owned enterprises) combine the best features of the state and the market.  For example, the benefits of long term planning of the allocation of resources and an efficient relationship with the government are combined with the efficiencies of the market: being listed on the stock exchange and having professionally trained managers in charge. This is opposed to the pre-WW2 state capitalist model where companies were wholly nationalised and were run by inexperienced government bureaucrats.

Another advantage of this model is the fact that revenue is often reinvested into national infrastructure. In Western states however, private companies may not be incentivized to invest in infrastructure unless given government support. Whilst the UK is struggling to find funds for the new high speed railway HS2 to desperately enhance its dilapidating rail network, China has already built 8,123 miles worth of high-speed railway, which according to the BBC, is more than the rest of the world’s high speed rail track combined. This is achievable through the large revenues that the biggest SOE’s turnover.

One may think that these state run companies may suffer from monopolistic laziness, however these companies are far more dynamic than the old style ‘socialist mega-firms’. SOE’s tend to have both an outward vision to expand globally, as well as an inward, domestic vision. As opposed to previous forms of SOE’s which sought to protect themselves from the threat of globalisation, current SOE’s rather embrace globalisation in order to force themselves to continually innovate. Additionally, state capitalist countries have the benefits of being able to bunch their SOE’s horizontally in order to exploit each other’s resources and contacts as they are all ultimately owned by the same institution- the government.

On the other hand, state capitalism is a breeding ground for corruption and cronyism (partially to long-standing friends) which threatens its chances of success. The major countries that employ state capitalism are politically problematic- Russia is an astounding 143rd on the world’s corruption index, whilst China and Brazil are 75th and 73rd respectively. With power in so few hands, it is important that those who are in power are reliable politicians- this certainly cannot be said for Russia.

In addition, there is the question of fairness when it comes to state capitalism. It is a hard feat for any private company to become richer than the state as they will lack vast governmental support and subsidies from which SOE’s greatly benefit. This is likely to stifle lower level entrepreneurship. Xiaonian Xu, an economics professor at the China Europe International Business School comments that “nobody can get in”, when referring to the nature of the state dominated Chinese market. He also expressed further doubts about the economic model, explaining that returns of capital investment on SOE’s would be significantly lower if it weren’t for government subsidies- this suggests there are great inefficiencies within these enterprises. Moreover, due to the oligopolistic nature of the state capitalist market, there is a tendency for SOE’s to overcharge.

There is also the question of foreign investment. Foreign investors may fear that as the majority shareholders of the SOE’s are the government, SOE’s will try and fulfil social policies of the government rather than the business goals of the shareholders. Even more worryingly, there is the fear that government bureaucrats may instantly change policies in the business that could adversely affect them. There is certainly less predictability for third parties in this system as the companies are markedly less transparent than Western firms.

Western economists seem very sceptical about the success of state capitalism- economic historian Niall Ferguson says that: “State capitalism is not China’s solution to the problem; it is China’s problem. The future of the global balance between the West and the rest will depend on whether China solves that problem…” So far, state capitalist methods have been a success story for Brazil, China, Russia and the Arab world. This is evidently shown by four of the biggest global companies being state owned. Regarding long term economic development, there is no real evidence to suggest that this success won’t be sustainable. However, this is dependent on the fact that the governments maintain the right formula, constantly evolve to the global market and don’t become too overbearing upon their respective SOE’s.

Contributed by Kapil Vijh

 

Lecture Review: Bottom Up Politics; an agency centred approach to Globalisation

‘Bottom Up Politics: an agency centred approach to Globalisation’ lecture explored the political implications of giving power to ordinary people in an era when the nation-state has lost its dominance as a political actor.

The lecture was ultimately the launch of the book “Bottom up Politics: an agency centred approach to Globalisation”. The writing out of agency from the study of globalisation resulted in its portrayal as an uncontrollable, unstoppable and unchangeable force. Ordinary people have been conceptualised as victims or beneficiaries. Alternatively, grassroots activism has been portrayed as an unproblematic force for ‘good’. Inspired by the work of Mary Kaldor on global civil society and new wars, the authors explore complex, counterintuitive and even unintended forms and consequences of bottom-up politics as the state loses its dominance as a political actor in the global era. Leading theorists such as Albrow, Falk, Held, Rothschild and Sassen, together with young scholars, demonstrate the importance of an overriding agency to our understanding of globalisation. They offer a critical evaluation of bottom-up politics from a variety of disciplines, including those of sociology, law, economics, history and politics.

Our first speaker of the lecture was Marlies Glasius; a Professor of Citizens Involvement in War Zones and Post-Conflict Zones at the Faculty of Social Sciences and a Visiting Fellow at the LSE Human Security and Civil Society Research Unit. After her appraisal of Mary Kaldor, she started off with an elaboration using an intellectual approach in protesting against global governance without the need of pluralistic violence, which has been visible in the Arab Spring uprisings. She forwarded an alternative of non-institutional action on political inputs, whilst upholding the values of courage and determination to fight for a long term, sustainable socioeconomic and civil society that embraces democratisation- is that not the primary purpose of these protests? This intellectual approach is similar to recent demonstrations of the ‘Occupy’ group because these movements are peaceful and are aware of the common knowledge of government’s failings, and are trying to enforce decisiveness on these issues, in a time of uncertainty.

Next to speak is Helmut Anheier, a professor of sociology at the Hertie School of Governance, Berlin. Helmut’s main point of discussion is how civil society can prevent a financial crisis, similar to 2007-2008, occurring again. The problem is that society has an institutional void when dealing with financial organisations. To fill this void, he argues a creation of an independent non-profit agency which synthesises popular forms of protests, backed up financial autonomy of expertise, to formulate long terms and sustainable investment projects, free of profit motive and corruption. This will help position global finance in a state of ‘adaptive coping’ in which any financial threat, being an insolvency or natural disaster on agriculture, can be swiftly eradicated. However, to become the state of ‘adaptive coping’, everyone must make a concentrated effort, not by governments or regulators, but by popular sentiments and incentives to establish a new infrastructure to deal with financial institutions that prevent excessive costs economic moves, risking billions of dollars and economic stability. In short, there must be an agency to regulate global finance in the manner in which Greenpeace works with Shell.

Our third speaker is Professor Mient Jan Faber, an Emeritus at the Free Universit, Amsterdam and visiting professor at the University of Houston. Mient takes the lecture from finance to politics and war- another issue which these demonstrations are protesting about. He discusses the methodology of protecting civilians in conflicted areas; is it possible to protect the people without getting rid of the enemy? Recent affairs in Libya, for example, would suggest no, especially with Colonel Gaddafi’s death. Continuing the recent Arab uprisings, he explains they are signals of desire for foreign intervention from the insecure civilians, forced into inhabiting self-built securitised communities, because law and order is no longer enforced. But is war the only way to protect people? If society were to retaliate, this would cause further attacks from those enemies. So should international bodies should make the first move and destroy the enemies before harming the civilians. Would that not be breach of Human rights and Just War Theory? How many must die before a serious counter-response is made?

Finally, the lecture star lecture, Mary Kaldor, the professor of Global Governance and director of the Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit, LSE. There was a resounding reception for a woman who has fought for hard human security and strong welfare. After her thanks and acknowledgement of her colleagues, she discussed about globalisation and the several challenges to the status quo and the difference of macro-management strategies that it has caused. Mary Kaldor points out that civil society is facilitating a transformation from individual, robotic thoughts to public persons with deep-rooted values. For example, in Europe, there is seemingly a unifying process on a war against terror in which sub terrain politics in European capitals is becoming more visible. In short, cooperative political engagement is crucial in keeping a stable society.

In conclusion, this lecture brings up an apparent point in society; people are evolving and their minds are starting to doubt the customs set in this country, especially in a time of uncertainty and lack of real leadership. Public protests are a frustration for their absence of prosperous comforts as supposed to their desire to cause chaotic order. It is clear the people have had enough of  the current political enfranchisement. Grass activism is on the rise.

Contributed by Wafiq Islam