Wednesday, 7 September 2016
State of the UK - an inventory (2)
For the genesis of this inventory please see previous post, which examines the UK in respect of Beveridge's "five giants."
Now to look at some additional, random, issues.
Democracy: The House of Lords, the electoral system, the financing of political parties, all remain insufficiently reformed; respect for politicians is severely diminished, largely as a result of expenses scandals which seem to continue in spite of embarrassments; and lobbyist have influence which far outweighs that of the public. Our democracy is moving closer to the American model - available for purchase
Equality: Our society is becoming more and more unequal, with the top professions still dominated by the privately educated, CEOs paying themselves over 200 times the average pay for their employees, the established middle classes are able to entrench their position via the tax free bonus resulting from rising house prices, and a recent Rowntree Trust Foundation report claims that 13 million people in the UK are living in poverty. Research shows that societies with a higher degree of equality are, among other desirable outcomes, more productive, suffer less mental illness and are happier.
Culture: We are still among the leading countries of the world in terms of literature, art, music (especially "pop"), and theatre, but the government is chipping away at the Arts grants and our leading cultural outlets are becoming increasingly concentrated in London.
Communications: Most of our press is disgracefully biassed, misleading and trivial. Serous news outlets are finding it increasingly difficult to survive since advertising revenue is being diverted to other media. One serious newspaper, the Independent, has recently been forced to cease print publication and go "on line" and the Guardian may not be far behind. The Times is owned by the Murdoch empire, and the government is doing its best to emasculate the BBC (and prepare parts of it for takeover by Murdoch?). Healthy free media are vital for a healthy democracy but the variety of informed print sources is becoming sadly diminished. This of course, is balanced by the wealth of information and opinion easily available on the internet for those who bother to look for it.
International: Our interventions in the Middle East have been ineffective and in some cases disastrously counter-productive, our response to the refugee crisis has been and continues to be disgracefully inadequate and our international standing is gravely diminished by our decision to leave the EU.
The Economy: Our productivity is roughly a third below that of the US, France and Germany, we have a frighteningly large balance of payments deficit and, rather than seriously tackling these issues we take the coward's way our of devaluing the currency. Recently our Pound Sterling was exchanging for less than a Euro in some airports. At its launch we could buy a Euro for less than 71 pence
Society: On the brighter side, we have assimilated a lot of people from other cultures with reasonable success, crime rates are falling (except for financial crimes on the internet, and among bankers who seem able to get away with it) and we have some of the most varied and easily accessible restaurants and food outlets in the world. Sadly , the Brexit vote seems to have legitimised rudeness towards foreigners, especially Poles, and terrorist threats have provided excuses for objecting to Muslim women's wearing of the hijab, niqab, and burka - in some cases even the entire Muslim religion is tarred with the potential for terrorism.
The government's policies seem designed to exacerbate rather than reverse the negative trends.