Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Four Freedoms of liberalism

Tonight I just wanted to record some important words that I feel need spoken again. 

In January 1941 America's greatest president, Franklin Roosevelt, delivered his State of the Union address to Congress.  It was to be one of the great speeches and one of the most important expositions of political liberalism.  

It is known as The Four Freedoms Speech.

"...The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:

Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.

Jobs for those who can work.

Security for those who need it.

The ending of special privilege for the few.

The preservation of civil liberties for all.

The enjoyment -- The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

These are the simple, the basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations.

Many subjects connected with our social economy call for immediate improvement. As examples:

We should bring more citizens under the coverage of old-age pensions and unemployment insurance.

We should widen the opportunities for adequate medical care.

We should plan a better system by which persons deserving or needing gainful employment may obtain it.

I have called for personal sacrifice, and I am assured of the willingness of almost all Americans to respond to that call. A part of the sacrifice means the payment of more money in taxes. In my budget message I will recommend that a greater portion of this great defense program be paid for from taxation than we are paying for today. No person should try, or be allowed to get rich out of the program, and the principle of tax payments in accordance with ability to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our legislation.

If the Congress maintains these principles the voters, putting patriotism ahead of pocketbooks, will give you their applause.

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor -- anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called “new order” of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

To that new order we oppose the greater conception -- the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.

Since the beginning of our American history we have been engaged in change, in a perpetual, peaceful revolution, a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly, adjusting itself to changing conditions without the concentration camp or the quicklime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.

This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women, and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights and keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose.

To that high concept there can be no end save victory."

If you wish to read the speech in its entirety is is here.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Fourteen thoughts

Some thoughts on British politics three years into the current government.

1. The Conservative Party has never understood nor accepted coalition.

2. The Conservatives have never really accepted they didn't win the election in 2010.

3. The Conservatives historically have always eaten themselves every generation or so over tariff reform / Europe.

4. The Conservative Party are split between two generations and split over Europe.

5. The Conservatives head for the next election split from head to foot, somewhat directionless and their idealistic drive for public sector cuts and excessive austerity (too deep, too quick and no plan B) discredited.

6. The Labour Party are struggling to find their soul and with an uncharismatic leader.

7. The Labour Party are caught between the economic policy they know they would have to deliver and what they would like to deliver.

8 The SNP are caught with a somewhat shallow policy and a tendency to grandstand for the purposes of delivering independence.

9 The SNP's proposition of low taxes plus increased social justice is wearing thin and intellectually dishonest.

10 The SNP may still have the political prowess to take advantage of the situation but their credibility is diminishing.

11. This vacuum of political disappointment in times of global financial crisis may yet help the LibDems.

12 But the LibDem brand is damaged and Clegg may lack the charisma or political nouce to take advantage. These are both his challenges and his opportunities.

13 Into this vacuum floods UKIP but what is their point? Their solutions are shallow, ill formed, populist, mean and stand up to little scrutiny.

14 So, there is all to play for - we live in interesting times!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Why an EU Ref makes a Yes Indyref vote even less likely

I love polls.  And I love the study of psephology - try saying that just after you have had your wisdom teeth out!  Most of all I love the detail revealed in the full tables of data behind the polls - the trends, the regional variations and the balance across age groups.

It is with this interest that I read the latest Panelbase Poll on Scotland and Scottish Independence.  It shows the following:

44% No, 36% Yes, 20% Don't know. (sample 1004, survey May 10-16)

Interestingly IPSOS Mori showed:

59 % No, 31% Yes, 10% Don't know (sample 1001, survey April 29- May 5)

The first showed a small drop in the No vote, the second showed a drop in the Yes vote.

Hmmmm - a little contradictory in terms of how big the No vote is and how many undecideds there are.  We shall see how other polls measure this and how the trends go.

My own view is this; the Yes camp has been stuck on around a third for a while and this matches pretty much the level of support Independence has had in Scotland since the 1970s give or take a couple of blips around devolution being introduced, Alex Salmond winning a majority in Holyrood and the introduction of the poll tax over 20 years ago.

Yes seem to be losing.  The Heather has failed to catch light.  And while millions moved in the streets of Barcelona, the Catalan capital, for their national movement, Scotland's just about filled the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens.

Yes seem increasingly on the backfoot under close scrutiny on the currency and several aspects of the consequences for pensions - both public sector and private.  Fissures have been appearing between the SNP on one hand who want to keep the Pound, the Queen and the Bank of England as well as shared financial regulation (funny independence that - may as well keep some political union if that's the game!); and on the other hand, the hard left who support a more recognisable independence complete with Scotland's own currency, a republic and withdrawal from NATO.

Other aspects of the movement's vision appeared to be wearing thin.  Strike out for freedom and let 1,000 flowers to bloom.  We could be a Nordic paradise free from Westminster austerity and injustice.

Is this from the SNP whose tax cutting agenda (Community Charge freeze, Corporation Tax, Air Passenger Duty and VAT) promises to deliver a social justice nirvana at the same time?  Or is it with a hard left agenda that presumably will bring with it high unemployment, accelerating economic decline and nothing but social justice disappointments?

It doesn't really add up does it?

But one thing could change the direction of this debate - Europe.

As the Conservatives set about trying to destroy themselves once more over Europe, an In/Out referendum for Britain in Europe looms large and exiting the EU a real possibility.  Note what today's Panelbase poll says:

If the UK is going to leave he EU the vote on Scottish Independence becomes:

44% No, 44% Yes, 12% undecided.  A dead heat!

The EU shenanigans may be about to open the field up again for the Scottish Independence Referendum.

I have just one set of thoughts I wanted to put down about this today.  That this is the electorate's gut reaction of the last few days as this issue has exploded onto the scene once more.  It is not yet a considered view in the light of analysis and discussion of the pros and cons of the various options.  Simplistically I believe the various options line up like this for a would be independent Scotland:

Scotland in EU, Rest of UK in EU
As you were, the Independence debate is framed as it was.

Scotland in EU, Rest of UK out of EU
Nightmare.  This is a nightmare for the single market that we hitherto shared with England.  The currency, financial regulation, and the operation of all sorts of cross border institutions become an even bigger problem. And what of Schengen and border controls in this sceanario. Nightmare.

Scotland out of EU, Rest of UK out of EU
Even bigger nightmare.  Not in the UK, not in the EU, small and on the fringes of Europe, and dealing with tariffs and a regulatory environment from the outside.

It actually strikes me that if the rest of the UK leaves Europe, which I think it would be mad to do, Scotland may well be better remaining part of that UK.

Another alternative may be to share a regulatory and monetary environment with the rest of the UK - both outside the EU, but that is not really independence is it.  Again, we might as well have a democratic political say in such a union if that is to be the case.

(And yes I know you could have Scotland out of Europe and the rest of the UK in but I think that is unlikely and if it were to come to pass I don't see that scenario as being too clever either).

Which all goes to show that as we consider what all this means, I think uncertainty over Europe actually makes a Yes vote for Scottish Independence even more unlikely!!

These are my initial thoughts.  I await developments and further analysis with interest.  And more polling too!