I Never Listen To Political Speeches

18 Jul

It’s true, I don’t. A good politician can stand up and tell you a number of contradictory things – or things that fail the common sense test – and have you believing them. I prefer to read transcripts because that allows me to consider the words apart from any emotion caused by the speaker. With that in mind, I was careful not to actually listen to Mhairi Black’s maiden speech in the House of Commons, but read the transcript (here).

The speech, in many ways, sums up what is wrong with the SNP.

Commenters have been making a fuss about Mhairi Black being the youngest (at 20!) MP in the House of Commons. I am forced to confess that it does not give me confidence in her. A twenty-year-old simply cannot have the life experience of a person twice her age. When I was 20, I was in university – and, while I was developing my political ideas at the time, I wasn’t anything like responsible or experienced enough to stand as an MP. Youth is not a sin, to borrow a line from Heinlein, but youthful ideals rarely work out in practice.

I don’t know if the SNP leadership vetted the speech beforehand. (If I were in their shoes, I’d definitely insist on knowing what my MPs were going to say first.) However, it showcases the problems with the SNP.

Once we get past the tribute to her predecessor – and the somewhat tongue-in-cheek association with William Wallace – Mhairi Black tells us that historical Scottish communities, including her hometown of Paisley, have suffered from a considerable decline. This is true. They have also been blighted by the actions of Job Centres across Scotland (she claims that Paisley has the third-highest rate of sanctions in Scotland), a shortage of affordable housing and general bureaucratic indifference.

And she blames this on Labour. In fact, she calls Labour out quite sharply. I don’t fault her for wanting to explain what she feels are the cause of Scotland’s problems. However, as little as I like and respect Tony Blair, many of the problems in Scotland were caused or tolerated, directly or indirectly, by the SNP.

The core problem of a bureaucracy is what Jerry Pournelle summed up as the ‘iron law of bureaucracy.’ In any organisation, there are those who are devoted to the goals of the organisation and those who are devoted to the organisation itself. The second group will eventually, pretty much inevitably, take control of the organisation and control promotions within the organisation. What this means, when you look at Job Centres, is that the people at the top are more interested in staunching the outflow of money than considering the actual goals of the system – getting as many people as possible into work. A junior drone at the Job Centre will not be thanked for granting claimants benefits, as that will cost the system money. This is completely heartless – and completely unsurprising. Bureaucracies have no hearts.

This is only a symptom of a wider problem – big government. The government is completely incapable of providing every service it’s population might demand; indeed, as I have noted before, the more you ask your government to do the less it is actually capable of doing. And, because governments are bureaucracies, the iron law will come into effect and the bureaucracies will grow more interested in keeping themselves in being than trying to solve the problems. People interested in doing the latter will not be promoted into positions of power.

Fixing these problems requires a honest admission that big government is itself the problem. The SNP has not made that admission, nor do I expect it to do so. Nor, for that matter, has it gone out onto the streets and tried to actually help people on a micro scale. Instead, we are treated to political grandstanding over the English-only issue of foxhunting (which will only alienate England from Scotland, as it is an English issue) and a slow inch towards another referendum on independence.

If I were offering advice, I suppose I would offer the following.

-Accept that the referendum was lost and act accordingly. The Scottish people did not want to be either free of England or ‘independent in Europe’. Trying to suggest otherwise shows an alarming lack of respect for democracy.

-Stay out of English affairs. Yes, there is political mileage to be gained from making a fuss over foxhunting, but the long-term price may be disastrous.

-Reduce bureaucratic regulations as much as possible, particularly for new businesses. In fact, state that there are no pro-active regulations for any businesses hiring less than five workers. Reactive regulations can handle any problems caused by careless businessmen.

-Decentralise decision-making in schools, job centres and suchlike as much as possible.  Put power in the hands of the people on the ground.

I don’t expect the SNP to do any of these in a hurry.

The problem with revolutions – and the SNP is a revolutionary party – is that they go round and round. (Sir Terry was a very astute observer of human behaviour.) The SNP believes, if it gets its way, that it will immediately open the pathway to a land of milk and honey. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Instead of trying to understand and fix the system, the SNP wants to carp, criticize and ultimately smash it …

… Because, like all revolutionaries, they are more interested in power than anything else.

12 Responses to “I Never Listen To Political Speeches”

  1. utabintarbo July 18, 2015 at 2:49 am #

    Bastiat had much insight into revolutions, and their results.

  2. Anarchymedes July 18, 2015 at 5:05 pm #

    As an Australian citizen, I can’t comment on some of the issues specific to the UK, but just to play the Devil’s advocate:
    – decentralising and deregulating everything may lead, quite simply, to the local bullies having all the power they want – unless the local vigilantes stand up to them, with all that implies (I remember how, during John Howard’s last term here, while his WorkChoice laws were still in power, a person was fired on the spot for ‘smirking’ at her boss)
    – regarding the evils of big government, I used to amuse myself by asking people from different walks of life what would happen if hereditary slaves (I emphasise the word hereditary: those who’ve never known freedom) were allowed to vote. Who would they elect: a liberator, or a ‘kind’ and ‘gentle’ master? Hint: look at Russia. They had a choice. What have they chosen? Who has 80% support rating? IMHO the only people who truly value freedom are those who once had it, and then lost it. Spartacus would be an excellent historical example. Because those who never lost it take it for granted, and those who’ve never had it not only don’t really know what to do with it but actually are scared of it. Sure, the master may get nasty, but he also feeds, shelters, etc.
    – regarding a 20 y.o. MP, politics is not only about logical debates and calculated decisions: it’s about inspiring and leading. I once personally witnessed a crowd blatantly ignoring a jaded old economist (even though his arguments were correct in every respect), only to roar as if on a rock concert when a young anarchist delivered a totally absurd but funny and energetic expletive-laden speech. I later learned the guy actually made it into a city council that way (!!!) And reading transcripts to avoid the emotional impact won’t help: Bakunin’s works even now carry his charisma, which his much more systematic and logical contemporaries cannot even approximate. Yes, they’re known as demagogues and rabble-rouser, but guess what? It works. It wins votes.
    – and finally about not having the experience and all that, a person of mildly advanced age may have spent all his/her life in a bubble, without ever being forced to face reality (boy, have I seen enough of those!) And others may get their bubble ruthlessly burst for them when they’re still kids, so by the time they’re 20 they’re mature enough, if one measures maturity by the number of brutally murdered illusions.
    ‘Sometimes it takes many years to realise how right you were in your youthful folly.’ I now remember the lyrics I wrote 20-something years ago for our punk-metal-and-what-have-you band and see the truth of this old saying. 🙂 And the other saying, which, I believe, is sometimes attributed to Buddha himself, describes a person whose only accomplishment is grey hair as ‘old in vain.’

  3. Tarjei Jensen July 18, 2015 at 7:51 pm #

    Anarchymedes : a fairly big IT company in Norway recently sacked its CEO because he centralized too much and that caused the company to loose flexibility and become unprofitable.

    The company believes strongly that local responsibility allows the company to react rapidly in changes and supply the services needed for the local market.

    Reporting is the other evil. politicians love reporting. The problem is that it tends to use up all available resources. AND it tends to focus the organizations on easily obtainable goals. This is disastrous.

    E.g. In Norway the police are told how much money they need to obtain from fines in advance. That is a disastrous way of doing it. They are supposed to enhance security, not be a profit center for the government.

    • Anarchymedes July 19, 2015 at 10:10 am #

      All bosses love reporting: it creates an illusion of being in control. Ever wondered why so many people are afraid to fly (despite the stats showing that it’s by far the safest way to get from point A to point B), while no one is afraid to drive (even though the number of people killed on the road is comparable to the number of casualties in major military conflicts?) Same thing: when we drive, we think we’re in control.

  4. Les Barrie July 19, 2015 at 11:03 am #

    How many revolutionary parties do you know that are far more popular after years of government than they were initially elected and are poised to wipe out their main opponents constituency MSP to follow up the annihilation of same parties westminster contingent ? I would generally agree with you opinion of Mhari’s age but in her case I’m going to wait and see,the young lady is far more mature and intelligent than many older politicians and certainly has far more experience of “the short end of the stick”

  5. Mark P July 20, 2015 at 10:18 am #

    A second referendum is required. We English should get a vote on whether we want independence from disproportionate Scottish influence.

    I think it might be an interesting result. All Anti-EU members of the electorate would support it as according to the previous referendum discussion, leaving the UK means leaving the EU.

  6. Dennis the Menace July 20, 2015 at 8:20 pm #

    Here in the US, the Iron Rule applies IMMEDIATELY to ObamaCare from the get go. They didn’t need time to take over — they designed it all to be controlled by the heartless bureaucrats starting on Day One.

    And the sheer incompetence of the whole thing shows this — in particular all the people who paid their premiums via the ObamaCare exchanges only to find out not one dime of them made it to their insurance carriers they thought they were signed up with.

    If that isn’t directly analogous to the Job Centres not paying out and even shows that the forces of ObamaCare are even more ‘efficient’ of dishing out the bureaucratic chutzpah along those lines, I don’t know what else is…except perhaps the Veterans Administration, maybe.

    • Duncan Cairncross July 23, 2015 at 9:06 am #

      Hey Dennis
      The sky is blue
      (confidently expecting to be told that is is some other colour)

  7. David July 21, 2015 at 3:14 pm #

    “Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

    “This is known as ‘bad luck’.”

    – Robert A. Heinlein

    • Duncan Cairncross July 23, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

      Hi David

      “an extremely small minority”?

      In the past and for weird changes possibly….

      Nowadays – a minority but definitely not an extremely small minority is out there changing and improving things
      I know guys who are building;
      cars, airplanes, boats, houses, canal boats,
      Other guys are hacking into the drive systems on commercial electric cars
      When I worked as an engineer one of the things I learned was to tap the creativity of the shop floor guys
      Everybody has ideas – most of them dubious – but ideas none the less
      A much smaller number make those ideas real
      (I think the biggest limiting factor is wives)

      We are not a small people – our and grandfathers fathers went from rarely seeing a car to building Spitfires and Lancasters by the thousand in only a couple of years.
      They learned the skills to make (and improve) those machines, they fought in tanks and submarines

      What percentage is creative and can make these things happen?
      10%? – 20% – 40%?

      I have had graduates working for me who believed that because they had a degree they were in the top 10% of the population
      IMHO having a degree proves that you are not in the bottom 10% – that is all

      There are a hell of a lot of creative people out there – the shame is that more of them are not encouraged to show it


  1. Neither Hot Nor Cold: David Cameron and Extremism | The Chrishanger - August 2, 2015

    […] listen to David Cameron’s speech on extremism for the same reasons I didn’t listen to Mhairi Black’s maiden speech in the House of Commons; a decent politician can take a very bad idea and make it sound good, simply by picking the right […]

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