Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The Lesser of Two Evils?

My parents wanted me to be responsible for myself, to do my best and to respect other people — it’s the way they tried to live their lives and it’s the way I still try to live my own life. Their ethics was rooted in Anglican Christianity (‘do unto others’ and the parable of the Good Samaritan), policed by an all-seeing God who pricked your conscience when you strayed from the straight and narrow. Although I share their moral code — completely — I have learned that it springs from a consideration of human rights, not from any religious doctrine.

So, I would like, I would like passionately, everyone to enjoy better and more fulfilling lives. I would like everyone to be able to enjoy improving standards of living, better healthcare and education, better access to the arts and to technology. I am a humanist and I believe the world will be a better place if we work for the great principles of the Enlightenment - ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. Achieving these goals requires resources, so the great moral question is: What is the best way to produce the resources required to eliminate poverty? Looking for the answer to this question cuts through all the political hype and gives me a pointer about how to vote in May 7th’s General Election. See what you think.

Using the metaphor that resources are a cake, everyone would like more. There are two fundamentally different approaches - either get a larger slice of the cake as it is, or make a bigger cake. Some people think everyone should have the same sized slice of cake, so they work for ‘redistribution’. Those who understand where the cake came from in the first place think that a larger cake would mean more to go round, so they set out to make a bigger cake.

In practice ‘redistribution’ is always done by someone and when deciding on ‘fair shares’ someone has to decide what ‘fair’ means. That requires a ‘top-down’ approach — someone in charge dictating who gets what. The ‘larger cake’ approach means individual creative people having the freedom to follow up their ideas, establish viable businesses and produce the profits that are the metaphorical cake. That is a ‘bottom-up’ approach; it recognises that talented individuals are the creative element of society and only when such people are allowed the freedom to work will resources be produced that allow the enhancement of individual and social wellbeing.

Left of Centre politics is the politics of redistribution; it sounds like a nice idea but in practice always runs into the problem that there is only so much cake to go round. Right of Centre politics is the politics of greater productivity; it may appear harsh but it produces a bigger cake. I conclude therefore, because I try to follow humanitarian principles, that I must vote for a party that believes in individual freedom, acceptance of responsibility for one’s own actions and equality of opportunity.

In practice only either Ed Miliband or David Cameron is likely to be the next Prime Minister. In my opinion David Cameron is massively mistaken in many of his policies, some of which are more socialist than entrepreneurial, but he is less mistaken than Ed Miliband. Miliband is on the side of redistribution, Cameron on the side of wanting a bigger cake. Although I would like a right of centre government I may not support Cameron (because, as explained elsewhere on this blog, my vote will make no practical difference). But my sense of fairness means I cannot support Miliband.

Now all I want is the media to have a sensible discussion about the issues. Sadly, it isn't likely to happen!

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