Author Archives: Ciaran Morrissey

Why we need housing targets for local authorities

Complex systems tend towards inertia. We struggle to see things in terms of counter-factuals. When presented with cause-and-effect, we don’t compare negative effects against negative effects of inaction or of alternative action, we compare negative effects with what existed prior.

The ULEZ charge illustrates this. Paying £12.50 every day to drive your old car through London may be better than living in a polluted city, but it is still worse in an immediate and personal way than not having to pay that £12.50 at all. Sadiq Khan pressed ahead with this regardless, surely in no small part to him being relatively confident he will win re-election anyway in 2024. Do we think Nik Johnson and Dan Norris are looking at the ULEZ backlash in London and thinking it’d be a sensible roll of the dice for them, electorally?

Complex systems tend towards inertia. It is the job of campaigners, activists, and politicians to overcome this inertia. In aspect of British politics is there so much inertia, to the detriment of so many people, than in our chronic failure to build houses.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 10 Comments

Restriction is not empowerment

When I was in Year 5, Jamie Oliver confiscated our turkey twizzlers and re-vamped school dinners to stop us from getting fat. We learned about the food pyramid, about good fats and bad fats, and about the importance of a balanced diet. PE was compulsory and we learned about calories, kinetic energy, how to exercise safely. In PSHE we learned that around one in three cigarette smokers will die from smoking. We learned how harmful alcohol was for both physical and mental health. We had Talk To Frank, a government service which gave us the low-down on all the dangers of drugs. Which is why it’s always confusing to me when every new public health proposal is veiled in the language of empowerment.

If the goal was empowerment, then we hit that long ago. Empowering people to make their own decisions necessarily means understanding that some people will make different choices even when faced with the same circumstance. An empowered person is not forced into any particular choice but may exercise their own agency to make their own decisions as they see fit.

Removing these choices, placing barriers to them, or otherwise nudging, cajoling, and strong-arming people away from certain choices, is the opposite of empowerment. It’s telling people that they are not free to make their own choices, or that, if left to their own devices, they’ll make the wrong choices. The reality is that, when it comes to health, most people are making informed decisions which align with what they want to do.

You can make an argument that people cannot be trusted to make their own decisions, but it is not a particularly liberal argument and I’d hope this party would not entertain that at all.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 24 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Michael BG
    Joe Bourke, A 1p rise in the basic rate of income tax would be expected to raise about £5.7 billion in the first year and £6.95 billion in the second and a...
  • Adrian Hyyrylainen-T
    Excellent article Chris - explains so eloquently the more complex nature of gender and the fact that Gender critical people argue “you can’t change biologic...
  • Joe Bourke
    Harold Wilson didn't stop the Vietnam War but he did keep the UK out of it, devalued the pound, increased the bank lending rate to 8% and made big cuts in defe...
  • Joe Bourke
    Rachel Reeves like the Libdems is proposing a basic fiscal rule (the Golden rule) that says (outside of recessions) governments shouldn’t plan to pay for curr...
  • Peter Martin
    @ Joe, Good point about the Vietnam war having an affect on inflation at a time when both the £ and the DM were defined against the $. I fail to see how an ...