People and society

This page gives a background to a few topics which I have thought about enough to be worth writing about.

Inequality

A long time ago I formed the opinion that excessive inequality is a Bad Thing and I thought it likely that there would be some sort of correlation between inequality and Bad Things. From reading news and a limited amount of history it seemed to me that, a considerable degree of inequality has been and still was the norm and very unequal countries would be divided between the vast majority, suffering the effects of poverty and a tiny minority, the rich, for whom falling into poverty is unthinkable. The prospect of poverty is so horrific for the rich that they will embrace anything that supports their situation, no matter how immoral or irrational. In particular they would favour actions that increased inequality even further. Thus inequality can be both a cause and an effect of Bad Things.

Fairness Pays Is a presentation in which, using easily available data, I show how countries that are more “unfair”, that is, where there are higher levels of corruption and inequality, are poorer.

I made some estimates of the effects of a change of equality

The environment

In 1972 when the Limits to Growth report came out I was working in a r&d role in a major commercial laboratory where there was an important project on the development of solid state lasers, This meant that some of my collegues had a good understanding of the physics of photovoltaics and technology of semiconductors and there were proposals and discussions, formal and informal about developing better solar energy. Some of these very clever people would have laid the foundations of  the enormous PV industry today.

In 2013 I introduced a discussion “Limits to Growth: 40 years later” where I looked at  how valid is the output of the original study to the situation today. Answer: Very

A citizen’s income

Some time ago, I posed the question to myself: are there any circumstances in which a citizen could be allowed to starve? If the answer is no, then every citizen is going to have an income anyway, so why not provide this by a better route? Looking at the tax and benefits system as a machine, it is clear that it is simply connected up wrongly.
At the time I had not come across the idea of a Citizen’s Income so I wrote a brief account . Since then I discovered work of the Citizen’s Income Trust. Finding that I had independently come to the same conclusion as a lot of really serious people greatly reinforced my view that this really is a Good Idea.

A citizen’s income could be combined with advantage with a move from personal taxes to levies on resources.

Voting systems

In the run up to the AV referendum, I did a spreadsheet study to work out how the outcome would differ from First-Past-The-Post (FPTP). I confirmed the result would usually be the same but otherwise nearly always  better by a number of different criteria.
Armed with this insight, for the first time in my life, I joined some friends involved in the Yes campaign with a stall in the town centre, handing out leaflets and occasional rational discussion. I developed some material aimed at showing how AV would be better.
We saw that the NO campaign did not engage in rational discussion, rather it depended on assertion, lies and misinformation. So we need to learn from this sorry history and think about what next.

Life, the Universe and Everything

Some people just don’t seem to “get” science. Partly this is down to words and how their meanings are not as definite as assumed. Some people use what I see as a sloppy application of the otherwise valid ideas of  Post-Modernism.

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