2014-05-21

EU Elections Tomorrow

With the EU elections on Thursday, I realize I've got to get my head round it all and decide who I'm voting for. The BANES website tells me that I'm in the South West Region, which returns six members. Voting is by Regional List, where the parties are given members in proportion to their votes.

I see Europe without the EU as an 'anarchy of nations'. With the EU it becomes closer to democracy. The benefits of such a democracy are:
  • Less chance of war within Europe.
  • Free trade.
  • The free movement of people.
Since I'm in favour of the UK being part of the EU I can rule out UKIP, UK Independence Now, English Democrats and the BNP.

So that leaves the manifestos of the Green Party, LibDems, Conservatives and Labour to read.

Green Party

The Greens first. I took fright at this sentence:
If we invest, we can provide good, stable jobs for everyone.
Sounds harmless, but I take it to mean 'turn on the Keynesian taps', ie. public spending that will involve borrowing more, or taxing more, and taking people out of the wealth-creating private sector. Bad news for the economy. Just look at France.
Phase out the European Value Added Tax. Currently, the EU requires member states to collect VAT, in part as a contribution to the budget of the EU. This is a regressive tax, because poorer people spend a higher portion of their income (rather than saving it). Green MEPs will argue for mandatory VAT to be scrapped, for governments to be allowed to determine how they raise this share of their contribution to EU budgets.
 Now that I do agree with.  I really hope the other parties have noticed this and get on board. Here's another good bit on democratic trade deals:
Ensure that only national parliaments and the European parliament can initiate trade deals. The situation whereby only the unelected Commission can initiate and take part in these processes but for a veto is undemocratic.
Make all trade deals transparently rather than behind closed doors. They impact on the lives of Europeans as much as any policy, and should be negotiated accountably in the open, not in secret.

Oops, they're in favour of the Financial Transaction Tax. Misguided in my view, financial transactions shouldn't be punished.

Also, the Greens want to nationalise everything, but I think they've got a blind spot here. Private companies are creating a lot of wealth for us and working well, and the challenge is to regulate them properly, not to nationalise them. Having a monolithic bureaucracy run everything would be exasperating. Let the entrepreneurs contribute their ideas!

This Green Quantitative Easing is bogus too. You only need to print money when inflation is too low, which may never happen. So you can't fund policies with it.

I like their animal welfare section, although I don't see why cloning and genetic modification are necessarily harmful to animals' welfare.

Disagree with preventing private companies from running NHS hospitals and other services.

Broadly agree with their education and science policies.

Greens are in favour of the free movement of people. Hurrah! They say:
We believe in treating arrivals here in the way in which we would expect to be treated if we moved abroad.
 Well said. Also, this greatly pleased me:
Encourage the use of Free/Libre/Open Source software by all EU institutions and member state governments.
 Disappointed that Greens are against an EU army. I think this would be a step forward and a pre-requisite for disbanding national armies.

LibDems

Right, now on to the LibDems.In the introduction to the manifesto, Nick Clegg says the LibDems are the only party that want to stay in the EU, but the Greens do too. Not a good start.

Reading on, there's a lot of good bits about freeing up trade within Europe, and setting up free trade agreements. Though they don't do as well as the greens in making these negotiations transparent and controlled by the parliament. Good that the LibDems are in favour of reducing export subsidies.

Good, support for Europol and the EU arrest warrant.

Not sure about the subsidies for renewables, but the EU super-grid is a good idea. Putting money into carbon capture and storage seems a disastrous policy.

Agriculture and fisheries policies seem reasonable, although I'd like to see the subsidies abolished altogether.

Good, they're in favour of EU expansion.

Okay, I'd not be unhappy at voting LibDem.

Conservatives

Oh dear, they want to hold an in-out referendum. I don't like referendums, it gives elected representatives an excuse for their poor performance. Also, questions are never that simple, and it's impossible to give a nuanced answer.

I disagree with this policy:
National parliaments able to work together to block unwanted European legislation.
 The whole point is that the EU parliament has democratic legitimacy and decides things at an EU level. National parliaments should confine themselves to national issues. Also, they're against an EU army. I'm in favour of an EU army!

This manifesto seems to repeat itself rather a lot.

Here's a good bit:
We have prevented a European ban on stem cell research, which would have undermined our ability to find cures to the most terrible diseases and damaged Britain’s life sciences industry.
I want to be a part of the Schengen area!
Kept out of the Schengen open borders area,which allows citizens in mainland European Union nations to travel across borders without having their passports checked.
 The Conservatives talk about cutting red tape, but want to check my papers at every turn! They've also misspent huge amounts of taxpayer's money on subsidising nuclear power:
secured the first new nuclear power station for a generation at Hinkley Point
Not strong enough on the free movement of people.

Labour

Lastly, Labour. Their 'web presence' is really confusing. Well, I find their analysis of the economic situation very unconvincing. Labour racked up a huge debt which we haven't even begun to pay off, and that's held back our recovery. They also let the public sector balloon, squeezing out the wealth-creating private sector. I don't want them applying their economic misconceptions at the EU too.
Labour MEPs delivered measures to clamp down on bankers’ bonuses.
Hold on, it was Labour that contributed to the financial crisis by bailing out bankers in the first place! We can't undo that, but we can make banking more competitive. How many new banks have been started in the last decade? With competition, profits tend to zero.

Labour MEPs moved to protect savers against losing everything by backing a new deposit guarantee to provide compensation for depositors if their bank goes bust.
Hold on, someone who invests money in a bank shouldn't be bailed out by the tax payer if their investment fails.

Conclusion

I'll probably vote LibDem tomorrow.

2014-05-19

Proust On Memes II

Following on from Proust On Memes:
A powerful idea communicates some of its power to the man who contradicts it. Partaking of the universal community of minds, it infiltrates, grafts itself on to, the mind of him whom it refutes,among other contiguous ideas, with the aid of which, counter attacking, he complements and corrects it; so that the final verdict is always to some extent the work of both parties to a discussion. It is to ideas which are not, strictly speaking, ideas at all,to ideas which, based on nothing, can find no foothold, no fraternal echo in the mind of the adversary, that the latter,grappling as it were with thin air, can find no word to say in answer.

Goodbye to my old profile photo

2014-05-04

Proust On Memes

Reading In A Budding Grove. Proust writes about what strikes me as competing memes:
in the communal life that is led by our ideas in the enclosure of our minds, there is a single one of those that makes us most happy which has not first sought, like a real parasite, and won from an alien but neighbouring idea the greater part of the strength that it originally lacked.