Thursday, February 12, 2009

UK thought police almost running amok

I always think its preferable that people should say exactly what they are thinking, even if it is prejudiced – indeed, it is far better to just come out with it, than keeping it in, so to speak.

However, it appears, we in Britain, are living in very thin-skinned and over-sensitive times. This year alone, a week hasn’t gone by without some high profile celebrity being sacked from their job, or told to apologies for their words, or investigated by the police, or worse still, arrested all because of what they said.

Freedom of speech in Britain is getting hammered like never before. Even the British National Party, who in the not-so-distant past boasted of being the staunchest defenders of free speech on Earth – couldn’t call the police quick enough to have Jo Brands joke about the BNP ‘investigated’.

Don’t get me wrong here, I have no intention whatsoever of endorsing racist language – nevertheless, what we appear to be witnessing is a new imposition of a snobbish etiquette. It is an etiquette that cannot be argued against, and has no interest in free and open debate. Similar to the police who surrounded and imprisoned some 3000 May Day protestors on Oxford Street back in 2001, the new snobby etiquette police are trying to reign in the limits of free speech. Today, it seems there are some words that cannot be used, even in private.

The most disturbing aspect of all this was pretty much summed up by Jay Hunt, a BBC controller who arrogantly argued on radio that it really didn’t matter that Carol Thatcher had used the word ‘gollywog’ at the BBC green room – even if Thatcher had used the word in her bedroom, Hunt added ‘I don’t think it’s fine that she [Thatcher] says this at home’. Here, the distinction between what is said in public and private has all but disappeared.

It’s at times like these that free speech needs to be defended more than ever. My belief in the right to free speech is unconditional. It means there is no such thing as full free speech for me, but partial free speech for Carol Thatcher, Prince Harry or Jo Brand. You cannot divide free speech – we either have it, or we don’t. Of course, this doesn’t mean we should go softly on the obvious rubbish espoused by Thatcher, Prince Harry, Brand, or even Tottenham supporters. I do not adhere to the notion that we should take their pathetic views seriously. Free speech isn’t about ‘them’, it’s about our ability to judge for ourselves.

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Failing banks? Why not let them fail?

The best joke I’ve heard recently is ‘what’s the difference between the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and bankers? Some people still have a bit of sympathy for the IRA’.

British capitalism is currently in a very sorry state, meanwhile, thousands of people in the UK, and Ireland are feeling the pain of this crisis.

The policy of bailing out financial institutions with state funds does not appear to be working - indeed, it seems to be making matters far worse. On the surface, it also looks as if we are witnessing the rise of ‘state capitalism’, with unprecedented levels of state intervention in the economy. There must be a better way to run the economic affairs of a nation? The Nobel prize economist, Joseph Stiglizt admitted to The Daily Telegraph that there was a solid argument for letting bad banks go to the wall - and why not? The billions we would save in ‘bailouts’ could be used, as Stiglizt argued, to rebuild the ‘skeletons of the old banks to build a healthier structure’.

Stiglizt is not alone in thinking that governments would be much better placed to deal with the problem of a failed bank - if only the authorities would declare these banks insolvent. The respected American economist James Galbraith, bemoans the fact that some $9.7 trillion of state funds is being thrown at banking institutions who's assets and 'securities contain, on the face of it, misrepresentation or fraud in the files'. Indeed, I agree with Galbraith's sentiments - why should the public hand over trillions of dollars, or billions of pounds, for assets, as Galbraith argues,'which nobody, no outside investor doing due diligence on behalf of a client for whom they have some responsibility, would touch'?

That money could be used instead in investments in the real economy - as opposed to propping up discredited and bankrupted banks and financial institutions. It's a real shame that the current debate on the economic crisis is being led by a political elite who are failing to take any responsibilities. The authorities new mantra seems to be 'we have no desire to takeover banks' - if that really is the case, why bother to bail them out when they go bust then?

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