What governments can't or won't do

Three things which are common to every country in the western world are the main topics of government and opposition when election time comes around:  jobs, education and welfare.  These topics have been the three pillars of every campaign that I can remember.  Naturally enough, these topics are of immediate concern to  nearly every one of us.  We all want jobs, most of us want good education for our children, and everyone is concerned about his or her own welfare.

Given the level of concern which governments show for this troika, one would be forgiven for thinking that by this time the problems associated with them would have been solved, but no.  As regular as clockwork, they re-appear about a year before election day, although, if one is honest, they have never actually gone away.  They have merely taken something of a back seat.  So let’s take a look at these topics.

Jobs:  there are two aspects to the job problem.  One is that there are never enough; the other is that there is too much bureaucracy surrounding them, which makes it difficult for smaller companies to employ people.  If we take the second point first, this should, one intuitively thinks, be easily remedied.  Politicians have created the bureaucracy with their laws and edicts.  It is no more difficult to remove them.  In fact it is easier.  One simply repeals the laws.  Yet no government in history has done this.  Not even when the opposition gets into power on the strength of a promise to tackle the problem have they ever delivered on their promise.  Either they can’t or they won’t.

The other aspect of jobs is at least as mystifying.  Governments cannot create jobs, at least not in the numbers needed to eliminate unemployment.  They have a marginal effect in establishing the conditions in which jobs can be created by individuals and companies, as witness the negative effect of bureaucracy mentioned above.  But once again, governments never make the slightest effort to improve the conditions of potential employers.  Either they can’t or they won’t.

Education:  a common problem with education is the lost pupils, that is pupils who, by the time they get towards the end of their compulsory education, are found to lack basic skills from their formative years on which they have been expected to build during the rest of their time at school.  Every teacher knows the solution, and so does every member of the opposition.  It is to identify the children who are falling behind at an early stage – preferably in their first two years of school – and give them the extra support they need right at the beginning.  Let’s face it, if they can’t read, they can’t read their school-books; if they can’t write,
they can’t put their thoughts down on paper and show the teacher that they have learnt their homework; if they can’t add, subtract, multiply and divide, they will not be able to learn more complicated aspects of mathematics.

Any teacher can identify these children in the first two years.  Any teacher can give them the support they need at that crucial time.  But this is not allowed.  The politicians have decided that one must save the ones nearing the end of their school career, and all efforts are put in there.  It’s a waste of time.  If they can’t do the work in eighth grade, they are beyond being helped to get their act together by ninth grade.  They will have to go back and start again, and the best place they can do that is at night school, after having been marked with an F in the national examinations.  This is what the opposition is saying whilst they are in opposition, but when they come to power, they go on putting in the resources at a time when it is too late, and ignore the children in first and second grade who could be helped.  Either they can’t get it right or they won’t.

Welfare:  in Europe welfare generally means health care, pensions, and, to a lesser extent, societal help to people who, temporarily or permanently, are unable to reach a reasonable standard of living.  In the US welfare means soup kitchens and meal tickets.  I’m dealing with the European definition.

Once health care was state-run.  Now, more and more often, it is being farmed out to private enterprise.  And as the astronaut said, when asked what were the last thoughts running through his mind before launch, his main concern was that this whole thing was put together by the lowest bidder.  And herein lies the problem with private health clinics and hospitals:  the lack of control.  There is nothing inherently wrong with private enterprise except that its object is to maximize profit.  Without an effective control system, with teeth to enforce compliance, the quality of service will always fall in the search for increased profit.  But politicians never address this issue, whatever the service being transferred to private enterprise.  Either they can’t or they won’t.

Pensions are paying the price demanded by John Maynard Keynes, coiner of the well-known phrase:  “In a hundred years we’ll all be dead”.  Or putting it another way, you can start whatever foolish scheme you like, just as long as it will last your lifetime, so that blame for its failure will rest on some future generation.  The pension schemes of Europe were designed as a pyramid game.  Instead of each person paying into a fund which would generate his own pension at a later date, the payments of the present working generation were used to pay the pensions of those who were already old, but had made no payments into the system.  And as the life expectancy extended, the demography changed, so that fewer and fewer were paying the pensions of more and more, and the pyramid game has nearly run its course.   The end is in sight and there is nothing they can do.  In this case they simply can’t.  Won’t doesn’t enter into it.

Much the same can be said of the last part of the welfare system, societal help to those unable to help themselves.  Above and beyond the basic ingredients of an endurable life, new forms of help have been introduced mainly with the aim of fishing for votes, and knowing that the problems that were being created would be passed on to a future generation.  The public outcry if the definition of what is considered to be a reasonable standard of living, if societal help were to be cut back or changed from payments to loans would be political suicide, as David Cameron is now finding out in the UK. In this case, too, they can’t.

It would be interesting to see if one could come to some conclusion about the issue of can’t versus won’t, but that will have to wait for another day.  For now I will content myself with asking why these three topics, jobs, education and welfare, about which our masters can’t or won’t do anything, why just they are brought out and dusted off at election time to keep the mobs in happy argument until the die is cast?  What are the issues which the politicians do not want us to discuss?  What are the questions they do not want us to ask?

Perhaps I’ll try and find an answer to these questions also another day.

Is time running out?

Almost every day I see a news article and think to myself that we have taken one more step towards a society I don’t want to see.  And almost nobody says anything.  It seems that most people, like Nero, are fiddling whilst Rome burns.  There is so much more of hope in watching the latest draw in some TV jackpot or playing one of the ever more seductive on-line poker games.  Not least since the promised winnings are tax-free, at least here in Sweden.

And so few people have the time to look up and see the hints, so carefully concealed, in the Mainstream Media, that most people don’t feel the noose drawing tighter and tighter around our necks.

Like today.  I was in a bus shelter and saw a deserted copy of Metro.  In a little corner on page one was an article on how the police thought doctors were falling down on the job by not reporting those unsuitable for gun ownership.  The police wanted all doctors to start asking patients as a matter of course whether they owned a weapon, rather the way they currently ask about alcohol consumption and smoking.  Can you imagine a psychotic gun-owner telling his doctor that, yes, he has a gun, and maybe adding that he’s getting fed up with the noise being made by the local schoolkids…

I feel sorry for the Brits.  My sister still lives there, and that worries me.  A country with Theresa May for Home Secretary is in a dire position.  Here’s a list of just a few of this woman’s assaults on the rights of the citizens:

  • “Citizenship is a privilege, not a right.”  This woman doesn’t get it.  You can’t choose where you are born, but you can expect that, having been born in a country, for good or bad, that country will protect your interests including your life.
  • She has formed a habit of waiting for people whom she regards as undesirable to leave the country.  These people are always of foreign extraction, naturalised British subjects – which means that someone, sometime has thought them okay to accept as citizens – and they are usually out of the country visiting relatives.  Whilst there, their British citizenship is revoked and their passport invalidated so that they can’t get back into the UK.
  • She has made no move to quash an extradition request from the US for a person accused by the US entertainment industries of a crime which the British police – and they’re no angels of mercy – considered to be no crime at all.
  • She made no move to quash another extradition request, also from the US, for a person suffering from a serious case of Aspergers disease, and who, for a minor misdemeanor, was facing virtually a lifetime in a US prison.
  • She considers human rights conventions to be an unnecessary hindrance to the performance of her duties, and would willingly withdraw from the Human Rights convention, and presumably, as a consequence, from the European Union and the United Nations.
  • She presumably shares her boss’s, David Cameron’s view that the European Court of Human Rights should be subservient to national courts.
  • On the question of extradition she is also trying her best to extradite a suspected terrorist to a country where she knows he will be exposed to torture.  Don’t they have prisons in the UK?  This guy is a British subject, for crying out loud.

I can envisage posters all over the UK with May posing like that picture of Uncle Sam during World War I, pointing at the observer, and saying “You could be my next target”.  Unfortunately, with the state of the world as it is, as regards human rights, she could have an enormous following amongst the governments of the world, which puts us all in danger.

And I’ve not even begun to talk about Barack Obama, of whom we all had so much hope back in 2008.  Remember his slogan, “Yes, we can”?  Well, boy, has he lived up to that.  We all thought Dubbya (George W Bush) was bad with his abrogation of human rights in the cause of “The War on Terror”, but Obama has been ten times worse, with, amongst other things, his executive executions.  And the most disgusting move of all – not admittedly directly linkable to Obama – the idea that drone pilots, who sit safe in an air-conditioned room in, I believe, Nebraska, stand in line for a


medal which the Air Force claimed would be of higher value than the purple heart.

I can remember the Aldermaston marches against nuclear energy in the 1950’s, thousands of people walking from Aldermaston to, I believe, 10 Downing Street, accompanied by a few British “bobbies” walking equally peacefully beside them.  Now we have a few hundred or a few thousand protesters being attacked with police who look like Storm Troopers from

Star Wars

, armed with shields, batons, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.  Whatever happened to “reasonable response”?

One only has to see the brutality with which protest marches are now met in every country to see how frightened the authorities are of the reactions of their people to the infamous controls being imposed upon them, and to the way in which the rights of those with financial strength are protected at the expense of the ordinary citizen.  

Take copyright.  It is not long since the fifty-year copyright on the music of the early pop era was in danger of running out.  One would have thought the copyright owners – note, not the artists – had made their pile on the music of Tommy Steele, the Beatles, Elvis Presley and many others, but suddenly they began lobbying parliaments all around the world, and fifty years became seventy years.  One suspects they are already preparing their campaign for the late 2020’s to get copyright extended to a full 100 years.

And finally the moves everywhere – Iceland was one of the first – to discuss a “legal” ban on pornography on the internet.  “To protect our children” was the reason, and who would not want to protect his children.  But censure is censure.  It’s up to parents to bring up

and oversee

their children so that they do not look at pornography, or not much.  This is not a subject for law enforcement, for who is going to define “pornography”?  The likes of Barack Obama, who defines “combat” and “immediate danger” in ways which no rational being would accept?

But “immediate danger” is what we all find ourselves in, under this insidious war on our rights and freedoms.

© James Wilde 2015