Monday, 2 November 2009

Phew, What a Nutter!

Professor Nutt's sensible and measured description of the harm that various recreational drugs do has caused an entirely predictable storm of indignation from the knee-jerk prohibitionists. This is just as last time he questioned Government policy. Except for one crucial factor. The press is starting to see through the prohibitionists' case, based as it is on willful prejudice and habit and is broadly supportive of the sacked scientist. Obviously there is no sense from the ususal suspects, but Just as the Tabloids were still (and still are) puff bashing long after homosexuality was made legal, they will lag society and the law on this issue too. Now that even the Daily Mail carries an article supporting Professor Nutt, it is clear which way the wind is blowing.

Drug policy is my political weathervane. Anyone who cannot see the logic of freedom on this issue where the limits of state power over the individual are so starkly demonstrated, is an idiot who shouldn't be listened to on anything else.

The scientists who advise the Government, not just on this issue, but on others too are considering their positions, and a raft of resignations may yet follow, as professor Nutt was not criticising Government policy but setting out the Harm done by various drugs. Legal drugs were included, to put the harm in perspective. This is something the British people can see, and the press coverage is backing him up. Guido's post is worth reading in full:

The sacked Professor David Nutt has turned the tables on Alan Johnson. Johnson keeps repeating angrily that the professor should stay out of politics, the professor is squarely saying that politicians should stay out of the science.
Professor Nutt opposed the re-up-grading of Cannabis to class B, and opposed the 'clarification' of the law which saw Magic mushrooms in their fresh state classified as class A, as neither move reflected the harm to individuals and society from their use, and brought the law into disrepute. I would like to see the Conservatives make some party political capital out of this, but I suspect they're still afraid of the Daily Mail tendency, even though most of the public (though not, crucially, the majority of Conservative voters) are in favour of some relaxation of the law. Chris Dillow sums it up beautifully:
It seems that when public opinion is wrong - for example on immigration - politicians pander to it, but when it is right they ignore it. The function of representatives in representative democracy, it seems, is take all the idiocies of public opinion, and when these are insufficient, to then add some of their own.



Saturday, 26 September 2009

Tennis, Porn and Gender Discrimination.

The three areas of endeavour in which women are paid more than men for equivalent work are Tennis, Modelling and Porn, and this is because we men like to look at pretty girls. Preferably naked, but a short skirt will do. Or one with all see-through bits like Jasper Conran's latest catwalk show.


Let's go back to sport. I don't know why women get offended by people choosing to watch pretty tennis players. The motivation for women to watch rugby always seems to involve the word "thighs". Do I feel objectified? I like pretty tennis players because I am biologically programmed to seek out healthy, youthful-looking women as mates. Girls like muscular Rugby players because they are programmed to seek out dominant, physically fit men to give their offspring the best genetic inheritance. A pretty face, and large size are some of the unfakable caricteristics with which men and women signal their biological fitness to each other. The fact is we are, as the Bloodhound gang pointed out, "nothing but Mammals". Men and women want to check each other out, and then get to grips with those they fancy. Because we like different characteristics in each other, men and women have evolved to please the opposite sex's predilections leading to sexual dimorphism.

You may not like me saying what I am about to say, but I do not like reading "men are redundant" in what is supposed to be Britain's paper of record. Wishful thinking based on better exam marks does not mean the hairy half of the human race is 'worthless'. Men are not redundant. Despite male performance in academia falling behind that of females, this can be put down to Girls' greater diligence, and the increase in coursework, which favours the 'female' way of doing things over exams, which in general favour boys.

Life is a little less fair, and more rewarding of risk-taking than school. Whatever the exam results, Men are largely responsible for the advances which have seen people's life expectancy at birth to reach 80, as for all their dominance at university, few Girls take a pure science. Name me one thing a woman has invented, Or one field of human endeavour in which a woman has blazed the trail. For every Marie Curie, there's a dozen men of greater achievement: Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton or Charles Darwin leap to mind. Would you pay to watch women play sport? Don't say 'yes', the audience figures on TV and in the stands shout otherwise.

These are facts. There are many reasons for this. Women are on average more risk averse, preferring the safe, if less remunerative job. Women are weaker, more prone to injury if subjected to physical exertion, and therefore aren't as much fun to watch competing. In any case, Women tend to be more consensual, preferring cooperation to vigorous debate, and tend to be less competitive. Which is why they rarely come up with ground-breaking innovation, which requires a bloody minded arrogance that you know best which is much more common in men. Naturally these characteristics are variables, there are women with male pattern behaviour, and vice versa, but there is no doubt where the mean lies, and this explains much of the difference in representation in Boardrooms, trading floors, politics and the upper echelons of professions. When you adjust for the fact that women on average prioritise job security, and do more part-time work, and above all, have and raise children the Gender pay gap becomes the motherhood pay gap. There is a no gender pay gap amongst the single, childless population.

The sisterhood will probably put all this down to "society imposing gender roles" or something, but there are important biological differences, which any attempt to explain away with social-science wishful thinking renders their entire political philosophy ridiculous; like Frances in The Life of Brian, it is pointless to fight for "Men's right to have children". Women have less testosterone, which makes men aggressive and take risks. Women are often observed to have lager Corpus Callosae which enable the two hemispheres of the brain to communicate and is responsible for Women's much vaunted
inability to focus on one thing at a timeability to multitask. Women also have 2 copies of the X chromosome, whereas men have just one and the much smaller Y. This means men express many more recessive alleles, and therefore have greater phenotypic variety than women. The male normal distribution in many measures is platykurtic. Thus there are more male Geniuses, and more dunces, whilst the mean intelligence is the same for both genders. So perhaps we should not expect to see women equally represented in boardrooms and parliament, if society is, as it is supposed to be, meritocratic. There are just more remarkable (and remarkably stupid) men than women.

Then there's the undeniable fact of parturition. Women give birth and men generally don't. When they do, women more often than not want to nurture their offspring. Those years taken out of the workforce, and female preference for safer, less well paid work explain almost all of the Gender pay gap. Men, if they've been given a say by the mother of their child tend to feel the urge to provide. Married men with kids work harder and earn more than their single, childless peers. Which again leads us to the 'Men are redundant' meme. Are single mothers happy? No. It appears that women choosing to have children out of wedlock is a large contributory factor in women's happiness declining relative to men since the 1970s.

Most people need a significant other to be happy, and for the majority of people, that means someone of the opposite sex. Herein lies the problem - the opposite sex are space aliens, because as I outlined above, men and women are not the same. We should try to understand each other, and have sex rather than engage in a futile battle of the sexes. But accept that for all the necessary equality, men and women are likely to be very different. Complimentary, but different.

But there is the question of what, if anything public policy can do to address these issues. My solution is to allow genuine choice. There are options available to Men and Women which include Nuclear Families, Childlessness, Single Motherhood, Celibacy. The state should not be sanctioning people's life choices, and measuring things like the gender pay gap or the number of women in Board-rooms lead to measures to do something about it which may well be worse than the disease. As are policies like defining marriage so as to exclude homosexuals. Single or homosexual parents may not be ideal (and even that is debatable), but what is certain is that a loving home is better than state "care". Whenever the state intervenes in people's lives, it creates perverse incentives and misery.

Take parliament. There are many fewer women than men on the green benches. But fewer women put themselves forward than men, probably for reasons outlined above. If 80% of applicants for a job are men, then if everything else is equal you would expect 80% of the successful candidates to be men. By this measure men are discriminated AGAINST in politics. It is therefore reasonable to argue more women should be persuaded to apply for politics, in the interests of better representation. It is not reasonable to look at a very male House of Commons and cite this as evidence of discrimination. Just as the Labour party enshrines discrimination with all-woman shortlists, Harriet Harman, by comparing Male full time work with female part-time work to come up with a Gender pay gap of 17% is guilty of the abuse of statistics to justify what she already thinks is necessary: more anti-discrimination legislation.

I am not arguing for a return to traditional gender roles. Nor am I arguing that women are on average less able. Nor am I arguing that discrimination should be tolerated. Just that with the complexities involved it would be better from a public policy point of view if we were all treated as individual people, not put into gender boxes, by making the insane assumption that men will choose the same things in the same numbers as women.

Now overt discrimination is a thing of the past, better just to let people get on with their lives, without being told they're a failure if they want to bring up children, or take a safer, easier job for better quality of life. Or indeed if they work every hour of the day to provide for a family, or even buy a bigger car. How about just accepting that people whether they're men or women are the experts in the incentives in their own lives and react accordingly? Because if you're arguing for more state regulation, when you look at the evidence it rarely tells the story you wish to tell.



Tuesday, 15 September 2009

More Drug Law Lunacy.

In 2005, the sale and possession of fresh mushrooms containing Psilocybin became an offence - the fresh shrooms are now a Class A drug. Before the "clarification" of the law, only dried or otherwise prepared mushrooms were outlawed. This was in response to the "problem" of an increase in the number of shops selling these mushrooms: usually Psilocybe cubensis. Did anyone notice an increase in the number of hippies wandering around, giggling during 2004? Was there a rush of admissions to hospital with magic mushroom poisoning in that year? Were shroomed-up thugs raping grannies, and stealing their pension-books to get their next fix of fungus?

No.

There was no reason for these mushrooms to be made illegal, except the Government wanted to be seen to be "tough on drugs", and to send a message.

Naturally, there are a number of exceptions. Psilocybe semilancea grows on most sports pitches and sheep 'fertilised' farmland, and is extremely common in the UK. Possession is legal if it is merely growing in your garden. It is also legal if you can "prove" your ignorance and can argue that you were looking for edible mushrooms. As a result of these exceptions, there has never been a successful prosecution for possession of this mushroom: Frankly the police have better things to do than arrest people for a crime that has almost no chance of reaching a positive result and is as close to victimless as it is possible to get.

Amanita muscaria

The other main effect is that it is now impossible to buy Psilocybe genus mushrooms, but Amanita species remain legal, the most popular of these is Amanita muscaria. These are mildly psychotropic but are also mildly poisonous, and there have been several admissions to hospital, though no deaths... yet. People are still trying to get high, but are doing so with more poisonous species. Whilst the Fly Agaric pictured above is unlikely to kill you, it does have some much, much more dangerous cousins, with which it shares a number of characteristics, especially in early stages of fruiting. It is only a matter of time before some young psychonaut mistakes an immature A. muscaria for A. phalloides a species also appropriately known as the death cap.

Nice one, Government.



Monday, 19 January 2009

The Brown Bounce, Anacyclosis and Ochlocracy

There were 2 polls in the papers over the weekend, which saw the Tories return to election winning leads: ComRes in the Independent had the Tories 9% up (they recently posted a Tory 1% lead) and YouGov in the Sunday Times which showed a 13% lead. During this crisis, fear of an unknown quantity - the Cameron conservatives has seen Labour pick up floating voters. Nationalisation of banks has seen the Labour core strengthen. But as perception of a sure hand on the tiller gave way rapidly to hubris, spin and hyperactive policy making - spending taxpayers' money with the accuracy and care of a man urinating after 20 pints, so the public support waned.

As unemployment rises inexorably towards three million, and ever more tax-payers money is shovelled into schemes to get banks to commit commercial suicide by lending to marginal companies in a recession, whilst being pressured simultaneously by a hyperactive and panicked regulator to rebuild balance sheets, that 'fear of the unknown' will give way to anger. That anger will be directed at the Government, and there is nothing they can do about it. The next stage in the cycle will be Hope, yet this will not save Gordon Brown.

Hope will be invested in the incoming Government rather than the incumbent, though as Conservatives, it will not be so euphoric as 1997; luvvies will not be leading the cheerleading. Instead it will be led by the middle classes, grey business people and others who will be doing the rebuilding of the economy once more. Hope will give way to optimism, though I fear that is many years away. A return to fear, and the completion of the cycle is a decade or more hence.

This is the political cycle in a democracy. But democracy is dying - it was already on its deathbed but is now being smothered by Labour who are hastening the move to Ochlocracy: the final phase in the development of societies in Polybius' Anacyclosis. This time it is not just the Rulers who have been corrupted, but the mob too: corrupted by a sense of entitlement. Alexander Tytler supposedly observed that democracies are...

always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship
Apathy has given way to dependence, and dependence is giving way to bondage. Look how the Daily Mail and the Sun - the best selling papers in the UK demand ever more surveillance and support CCTV, the suspension of Habeus Corpus and the draconian powers of the State. Even tax-cuts are viewed with suspicion. The British people have become slaves - at least the Northern half of them because they have become totally dependent on state hand-outs. This coming recession will merely complete the process.

Unless...

It is easy to go onto Wikipedia and find a cycle, see where our society is on that cycle - be it Tytler or Polybius and fear. But these cycles were written not as predictions but warnings. Polybius was lamenting the demise of Republican Rome - as was Tacitus when he put freedom-loving soundbites into the mouths of ancient British noble savages.
"they call it 'social justice' when it is part of their slavery."
But the fall of Roman democracy was not inevitable, it just became so with hindsight. People can influence history. It was inevitable that Germany would defeat the British Empire in 1940 but the British people pulled together. It was inevitable that Sterling would join the Euro (and aren't you glad that didn't happen?) but a coalition of papers and politicians made that politically impossible without a referendum. Just as inevitabilites were not so, these political cycles are warnings not forecasts. If heeded, we can become free once more. All it takes is that pressure be applied in the right places We should eshew revolutions until we have tried the simple things first: Have you written to a local Conservative MP demanding the end to the database state? Demanding the repeal of a specific law? because you can bet that plenty of people have written to the incoming party of Government demanding something be banned. Let's use our remaining democratic feedoms to persuade our next Government to relax the choke-hold a bit, and hope that the long-forgotten but ancient instinct for freedom gets rekindled in the British heart. It's going to take a long slog to climb out of the economic and political mire left by this most odious of Governments, but it is achievable with a bit of faith, in the country, its people and their capacity for hard work. Democracy has failed. Long Live democracy!



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