So what the hell just happened with the election?

The  2015 election is done. We have a new Tory government – and one that gained about 25 seats. And much is being made of the Tories gaining 25 seats and the Labour losing 25.  That happened, and it’s important. But from the perspective of the election (as opposed to the future) it’s a side effect. There are four stories to the election which are probably in reverse order of importance:

  • How a party without a vision other than “We’re not as bad as the other guys” makes no inroads (The net change between Labour and the Tories was a two seat swing to Labour (eight Labour went Tory and ten Tory went Labour)).
  • That the rise of UKIP soaked up a lot of disaffected voters who’d otherwise have voted “Kick the bums out” in favour of Labour (particularly in the North of England)
  • The rise of the SNP (taking 40 seats off Labour and 10 off the Lib Dems)
  • The disintegration of the Lib Dems who lost almost all their seats to whichever the competing party was as the party faithful had a real chance to make its opinions on the leadership known. The apparent Tory gain was caused by the disintegration of their coalition partners.

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The Corral: Gold and Fiat Currencies

Money is a consensual myth. We currently have fiat money – money that is ultimately imaginary and only worth something because a government says it is, and people believe it and choose to treat it as if the money were real. And people work this out and think it’s ridiculous (it is). And that because it can print more money the government can devalue your savings (if your savings are in a sock under the bed it can; a house remains a house and a company a company regardless).

They then jump from there to one of a number of solutions – normally the Gold Standard, but there are other functionally indistinguishable ones including the Silver Standard, a price-fix based on a basket of commodities, and Bitcoin. And they all have the same flaws as fiat currency – you can’t eat them or take shelter under them and are only worth what people think they are. But rather than having a potential for the government printing more and thus reducing savings, they all suffer from the same thing. The Scrooge McDuck tax on everyone’s work.
Scrooge McDuck jumping into a pile of money

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Costing an arm and a leg – Healthcare wonkery/workings

In my last post about healthcare costs I compared the amount spent under the British system to bills from the American system, and it was far my most popular post so far.  One of the most popular questions was about costs by procedure or condition so I started doing some research.  And I ended up breaking the follow up post into three; one for Brits, one for Americans, and a nerd-post in which I share my workings.  This is the nerd post; feel free to scroll past – that’s why it’s separated out from the UK and US healthcare posts.

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And I said “Now pretend you’ve got no money”

It’s coming up to Christmas – and I’ve already spoken about the Salvation Army.  There’s one other Christmas warning: Monopoly is only slightly a more suitable game than bare knuckle boxing.  Just don’t do it.

There are plenty of people who say monopoly sucks.  And as a game played at Christmas they are right.  But Monopoly is very good at what it was designed to do (part of why it’s lasted).  It’s just not suited for a family game (but is far better if you use the actual rules).

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All in all it’s just another brick in the wall

The Ferguson Riots are not just about the shooting of Mike Brown by Darren Wilson.  Yes, that particular tragedy is the trigger.  But it’s not the whole cause.  There are two immediate causes; the first being the shooting of an unarmed black man by a cop,  The second being the second.  Hands Up, Don’t Shoot is not exactly a new thing.  The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was making darkly funny jokes about it in the early 1990s.  (At the time I, as a middle class WASP living in a country where we seldom armed our cops despite an ongoing terrorism campaign thought the joke was entirely on the overreaction to the presence of the cop; I wish that I’d been right rather than not yet even a teenager and growing up in a family where I’ve heard someone unironically claim “British Police are the best in the world“)


But the cause of the protests and riots were the Grand Jury, after being given all the evidence, proclaiming that there wasn’t a case against Darren Wilson.  Something which sounds reasonable, after all, they were a Grand Jury and they were asked to look at all the evidence.
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Forward Thinking: Pragmatic Utopian Ideals

I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.

– Martin Luther King

This  is the first Forward Thinking project I consider genuinely easy.  What would I do for a safety net if I ruled the world?  Simple.  Single Payer Healthcare Free at Point of Delivery plus Guaranteed Income.  And then look for anyone who slipped between the cracks or didn’t get the help they needed and fix that.

Sounds utopian?  Possibly it is.  The NHS is quite simply much more cost efficient than almost any other healthcare model out there with the possible exception of Japan.  Its main problems stem from having two thirds the per capita funding of France or Germany and less per capita government funding than the US healthcare model; I’ve been into this in more detail on my blog previously.  And trials of Citizen’s Income/Negative Income Tax such as Mincome (Canada) and BigNam (Namibia) have generally been spectacularly successful in terms of outcome to the recipients.

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Forging Motivation: Game Design Is Mind Control

(Game Design is Mind Control was the title of a talk given by Luke Crane; one of the best things on the internet about game design this side of Mark Rosewater’s blog on Magic the Gathering).

Where I left things last time was with D&D and White Wolf largely dominating the market.  There were good games being produced – but the market was being dominated by the two major game systems.  And people were noticing that the so-called Storyteller system didn’t really bring anything to help you tell stories or make them more intense, or even help you really get into character – which wasn’t a good thing for something that was supposedly a roleplaying game.  Something needed fixing.  And (arguably) something was.

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