Monday, 25 June 2012

Two Child Policy

Just a short one today, because for once, I honestly don’t know what to think.

I read
THIS article in The Mirror today (yes I get The Mirror, please don’t immediately disregard everything I say). For those of you who don’t want to read the article; Mr Cameron is proposing that benefits for families with more than two children should be curbed. There’s no indication of how it’ll work, but the basic premise is to punish big families on welfare and thereby encourage smaller families. That’s what I got anyway.

Naturally, it’s caused a bit of an uproar.... in The Mirror at least.

The problem is, despite hating the Conservatives pretty much on principal (an illogical, emotionally driven hate which I understand has little reasonable backing, but some things don’t change) is that I can kind of see his point. Bare with me a second here.

1. People do take advantage of the system, using the benefits they get from their children to live as good a lives as those who work hard for a living. Even The Mirror tends to target these kinds of people, branding them as drains on society. Now naturally Cameron’s plans would stop this abuse.

2. The Tories are doing this to slash £10billion off the welfare fund. £10billion. That’s a hell of a lot of money. We can put it in the NHS! (Not that they will. Has anyone ever noticed the government money just seems to get... lost? Or am I just paranoid?)


I said I don’t know what to think. Aside from a healthy bit of suspicion of all the Tories do, I’ve also noticed some flaws in their plan...

1. What do you do with people currently with 8 kids and on benefits? The plan works only on new families, not on those already (ab)using the system.  What do you do? Remove the children, put them into foster care? Let the parents pick their two favourites? The other option is to make one rule for current families and another rule for new families. I think you can see where that might go wrong.

2. What about people who have been made redundant? Imagine the scenario. Bob and Jane have three children, and both Bob and Jane are in pretty well paid jobs, so they felt safe that they could indeed have three children and support them. Suddenly, they are both made redundant, and have to go on benefits. Suddenly having three children makes them a drain on society and they are punished for it, even though they have been working all their life. Seems a bit unfair to me.

I said I’d keep it short. I think I have. Like I said, I don’t know what to think about this. On the face of it, the Tories have actually produced a sound, if nasty, plan. But whether it’d work in practice? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Cannabis

The topic of cannabis, or rather, the legalisation or regulation of it, is one fraught with difficulty and misunderstanding. It makes it very difficult to work out what to actually think about it. Obviously I am not an expert on it, nor do I have any experience using the drug itself, but I think I can apply some common sense, and a bit of research, to this sticky topic.

In case you’re wondering, I’ll give you my idea now. Legalise cannabis.

It makes it safer.

You see, the problem is that as soon as a government make a substance a “controlled substance”, they lose all control over it. People still want the substance, but what they get is an impure version which is controlled not by a (hopefully) accountable government, but by criminals, gangs and “that strange looking guy who lives in the top flat”. They don’t know what’s in it, but the demand is still there. I’ve heard reports of crushed glass in cannabis. Not quite sure how that works, but I know if I were going to smoke something, I’d rather the ashes didn’t contain glass. Let alone if I were making tea out of it.   

And there’s no escaping the fact that people still smoke cannabis. It is the most used controlled substance in Britain. No amount of “controlling” has stopped that, so it’s better to make sure that what people are using is as safe as it can be. Better, then, to legalise it, and then impose regulations on the companies that produce it. Like how jam is only allowed a certain percentage of flies’ legs in it.

Now, astute reader, you have no doubt picked up two flaws in my argument, so far. 1) I’m implying that cannabis is safe other than the additives. 2) You may think that legalising cannabis would increase the usage of it. Therefore any negative effects it does have will affect a wider population. Let’s tackle these problems in the traditional way of starting at 1.

“Cannabis is safe.” Well, not really. I’m not saying it’s some wondrous substance that can make life better and won’t hurt you a bit. Chances are, it can. Most things can hurt you, after all. Just ask the Daily Mail. We have to put it into perspective. Cannabis has often been reported to be harmless (Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, 1893), and whilst I’d disagree with that, it is no more harmful than tobacco or alcohol. If you believe this article, it’s even less damaging than them. I suppose you can apply a bit of real life logic to this; how many people have you heard die of alcohol or tobacco related incidents? I can name a few myself. How many from cannabis? I’m willing to bet none, or maybe a couple. Of course there is the issue that cannabis use is a) less frequent and b) less advertised, so you would be unlikely to hear of it anyway.

“Legalising cannabis will increase its usage”. Sorry about this, but I’m going to bring in a very short bit of history. You can find it in the above article. Holland de-criminalised cannabis back in 1976, and yet the use of cannabis has not increased since then, nor has there been an increase of people moving on to hard drugs. I’d imagine there was probably a little bump up when people who had wanted to try cannabis but didn’t because it was illegal had a go, but there are no statistics for it, so it’s just pure conjecture. That’s not to say that legalising, or de-criminalising, cannabis in the UK wouldn’t lead to an increase, just that it’s not likely to.

A further point I’d like to make is an economical one. I’m not great at economics, so I won’t pretend to be. But if you legalise cannabis, you remove an aspect of organised crime. After all, who wants unsafe black market cannabis when there is perfectly safe cannabis for sale? This means fewer resources being used to detect and destroy it. Naturally, this applies to any illegal activity (if you legalise it, you don’t have to hunt down lawbreakers), but if cannabis isn’t that harmful, you can justify legalising it.

Okay, so there’s my argument for legalising cannabis. “Okay, Mr Filthy Liberal, why has it stayed illegal for over 80 years, if legalising it would not have a negative effect?” Well, hypothetical member of my tiny audience, I have some theories on that, too. I’d like you to consider the above argument concluded, and then move onto this one, as they deal with slightly different issues within the whole general topic of cannabis legalisation. Also, the following theories are much less well supported, and there’s no real conclusion, but bare with me.

The first reason is that I think the public is poorly educated on the topic, and quite frankly they probably don’t want to be educated on it. If you’re not going to do it, why bother? Here’s the general premise of most arguments.

“Cannabis is bad.”
“Why is it bad?”
“Because it’s banned.”
“Why is it banned?”
“Because it’s bad. They must have their reasons.”

“Cannabis is bad” is quite well ingrained into our thoughts. It’s the domain of delinquent teens, rock stars and outcasts. Might I just add that this stereotype is incorrect. Cannabis is used in all classes and walks of society, in the same way as alcohol is (unless you’re Amish or Muslim, I guess). More widely in some than others, granted, but still it is not limited to a single demographic. The people who break that mentality cannot express it, and we get nowhere.

The second reason is that it’s not just our government who makes the decision. Most drug laws have some kind of international basis, because drug control needs international action. To legalise cannabis would require more than just convincing the Great British public. In short, it’s hard to do.

The third reason is “the slippery slope” argument. You probably all know this one. “If the government legalise cannabis, what’s to stop them legalising harder drugs like cocaine, or heroin?”. It helps if you read that in a slightly hysterical voice. My blog today is focusing on cannabis, so I won’t discuss the merits or downsides of other drugs. However, I’d counter this by saying, one: look at how hard it has been to legalise cannabis. People have been fighting for 80 years to turn back the law (since it was made, basically) yet nothing has happened. Whilst certainly not the best counter, it does mean that any law to allow cocaine or ecstasy would be similarly contentious. So, hysterical parent, chances are it won’t happen in your lifetime, anyway. The other counter I’d propose is that cannabis legalisation is sought because controlling cannabis doesn’t make a lot of sense. There are a lot of arguments for legalising it, and I’ve only covered a few. Legalising heroin? Less so. It is an obvious danger, and therefore less likely ever to be legalised.

That concludes the second part. Sorry there’s not much more, I would love to hear all your views on the topic.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Afraid of the Flag



If there’s one thing that the World Cup, the Royal Wedding and the Jubilee had in common, it was the flags. The Union Flag (Doctor Who told me it was only the Union Jack when flown at sea... or was it the other way round?), or rather, multiple Union Flags, were strung up all around the country, turning every shopping centre, high street and half of our houses into red, white and blue masterpieces.

Oh it was glorious.

Oh wait. I can’t say that. People might think I’m a nationalist!

See, that is the issue. We can’t enjoy the flag anymore and, by extension, we can’t enjoy our own country. You love Britain? Wait there, I’ll go get my UKIP leaflets. Liking us all flying the flag? You ever heard of the BNP? You should join...

This issue has been playing on me for a while, but it became evident during the Jubilee. Put simply, nationalist parties like the BNP make more centre-orientated (read: most people) or left-orientated (read: filthy liberals like myself) scared of loving their own country, their own flag. They reduce patriotism by making us ashamed of being patriotic.

There’s two interlinked reasons I can think of.

1) BNP and UKIP are often viewed as the worst part of our country. Racist, isolationist, homophobic, violent, etc. You can argue the toss all day whether the generally held perception of them is true or not (I tend to err on it being so, if only amongst the leaders) but it is generally a common perception. At least in my experience. These nationalist parties are viewed as a stain on Britain. Which leads me to point two.

2). People don’t want to be associated with that stain. BNP has the “monopoly” on patriotism, because no one else wants to be patriotic in case they are associated with the BNP.

As always, I’d like to add my own little disclaimer here. I say no-one because I’m basing this off personal experience. I’m keen to point out that that experience is pretty limited, and within a small demographic (South England, educated, middle class), and may not be representative. If it suits you, just replace every reference to other people with "I". 

But if you want to take away something, it’s that I think that nationalist parties hurt their own cause, by making patriotism abhorrent. If they weren’t there, the central-orientated and leftist people of this country would be more willing to be patriotic.