Wednesday, 30 March 2016
Monday, 28 March 2016
Thursday, 24 March 2016
The other perhaps slightly less obvious factor is that whether we like it or not, the media is driven by human feeling and viewpoints far more than it drives them - it reflects the interests of the demographic to whom it is trying to sell its news stories. This means that, for good or for bad (and I personally think for bad a lot of the time), they are less likely to feature a news story on a terrorist attack in the Ivory Coast or Somalia if they can't in some way connect it to the perceived interests of their demographic. Instead they will too often opt for news stories that involve more local interests at the expense of what their readers deem to be less important or too distant news.
As much as I wish it weren't the case, the often toxic co-dependency between media provider and the public is not too dissimilar to the one between politicians and the electorate that votes them in - it is bound to lead to sub-standard results. We have so many misjudged members of the public that demand their wishes and views are represented by politicians. As Bastiat pre-empted in his great 'seen and unseen' essay, most people only have (or allow themselves) enough intellectual wherewithal to focus on how things affect an easily identifiable group, rather than how things affect all groups.
Consequently, then, the selection pressure for politicians to be socially, politically and economically astute is diminished by their knowledge of the electorate's lack of astuteness in these areas. The same can be said for the media - the selection pressure on how they inform their consumers is largely driven by the consumers themselves. The antidote to any of the ethnocentrism and parochialism that exists as conveyed in the above image is to be discerning about where one gets one's news. There are plenty of media outlets that are more likely to ensure they cover a terrorist attack in the
As this blog title alliteratively suggests: the news you lose is the news you don't choose, which is another way of saying that the quality of information you receive is roughly commensurate with the quality of the search, and the extent to which you care about other human beings irrespective of ethnicity, skin colour and geography.
Wednesday, 23 March 2016
But I wonder if the problem runs deeper. When it comes to listening to many of our politicians, I'm afraid often the primary thing the public has to consider is whether their rhetoric is the result of incompetence or dishonesty. I have to confess, sometimes I genuinely don't know. Take the minimum wage, which as I've shown before repeatedly in numerous past Blog posts lacks so much pull that it couldn't even shift the skin off a rice pudding. The number of politicians who call for its endorsement and incremental increase is astounding. Whether it's on Newsnight, Question Time, The Big Questions or Free Speech, you'll find they are all at it. And not just the minimum wage - price freezes, artificial protection of British industry through subsidies or bailouts - all of these things over which the State has far less control than the public realises.
EDIT TO ADD: I briefly alluded to the toxic co-dependency between politicians and the electorate that votes them in - I think it's another factor as to why we have so many misjudged politicians; we have so many misjudged members of the public that demand their wishes and views are represented by politicians. Moreover, economics is about the most misunderstood subject around, largely because, as Bastiat pre-empted in his great seen and unseen essay, most people only have (or allow themselves) enough intellectual wherewithal to focus on how things affect an easily identifiable group, rather than how to affects all groups. Consequently, then, the selection pressure for politicians to be economically astute is diminished by their knowledge of the electorate's lack of astuteness.
Wednesday, 16 March 2016
I have to take issue with the claim that “Prisons do not act as a deterrent to crime”. There is a small group for whom that is the case – and that group is the recidivists who, as you say, have a high re-offending rate, and are being sub-optimally helped by the prison system. But saying that prison isn't fit for purpose because of high re-offending rates is an absurd complaint, and a peculiar error of reasoning. It's a bit like complaining that sea defences aren't fit for purpose because occasionally there are extreme coastal conditions that break those barriers.
It would be good if the sea defences prevented all flooding, but their primary job is to protect the land from the ordinary thrust of the sea on a daily basis. Similarly, prison's primary function is to reduce offending (by deterrence and by keeping criminals out of society), not re-offending. If it reduces re-offending then all well and good, but that is not its primary function. It's preposterous to consider whether prison is fit for purpose by only considering the recidivism rates. It's as preposterous as considering how many men in the UK take steroids by only interviewing weight-trainers in gymnasiums.
Such a biased research method would drastically skew the overall figures, and this is what is happening with Vicky Pryce’s “Prisons do not act as a deterrent to crime” claim, as recidivists are people who've already been convicted of a crime, so they are people for whom the threat of prison was no real deterrent first time out. Consequently, they are the biased sample of the population for whom prison is the least likely to be a deterrent second time around. The only proper way to enquire whether prison is fit for purpose is to ask how much of a deterrent it is for the vast majority of people in the UK - those who haven't found themselves outside of the orbit of the law. As far as we can gather, the threat of prison, loss of liberty, loss of employment, and so forth has been a very successful deterrent for a majority of the population.
This is compounded by the fact that when it comes to the change in social status from being an ordinary citizen to a convicted criminal, the first cut really is the deepest. That is to say, the first time a recidivist became a criminal was the worst time for him (or her). It was on that first occasion that he became incarcerated, when up until then he had only been used to freedom, and it was then that he first experienced the change in status that would give him a social stigma and make him harder to employ. If that wasn't a sufficient deterrent, we shouldn't be too surprised that criminals are even less likely to be deterred second time around. I should finish by saying that it’s only on that point I have a quibble – I agree with the rest of the article.
Thursday, 10 March 2016
Tuesday, 8 March 2016
Wednesday, 2 March 2016
* Sadly, I'm sorry to say, there are a few parts of the world (some African countries, for example), in which Christian homophobic intolerance is pretty rife.