Author Archives: William Francis

Economic planning, obesity, and lessons from Japan

Whilst many have discussed obesity as a national health problem, this framing ignores the curtailing of individual liberty that obesity produces; from the limits it often imposes on everyday activity to wide-ranging health risks and even potentially shortened lifespans. This framing is probably why the substance of obesity discourse revolves around how this often agency limiting phenomena is supposed to be ameliorated by limiting agency. 

As a Liberal whose BMI straddles the line between overweight and obese, I think that obesity reduction policies should be based on expanding the agency of people, rather than curtailing it through Pigouvian taxes or even outright fat shaming.

This can be achieved by learning from the successes of other countries, primarily Japan. According to the 2017 OECD report the rate of obesity in Japan was 3.7% among people aged 15 years and older, whilst in contrast, the OECD average was 19.5% and that figure stood at 26.9% in the UK.

What explains this low rate of obesity? 

More regular exercise? 

About 25% of Britons age over 16 are classed as “physically inactive” as of 2017/18 whilst at the same time over 40% of Japanese people (aged 18 and over) admit they don’t exercise or take part in sports activity.

A lack of poverty?

As of 2017, 15.7% of Japanese people lived on 50% of median household income or less, compared to 11.9% of people in the UK. 

So, what is going here?

A good answer comes in the form of a YouTube video by an American expat living in Japan. As a person who has lived in two different societies, he provides a unique perspective on Japanese and American diets and a beautifully simple thesis for Japan’s lack of obesity; Japanese people have access to cheap, varied and convenient healthy food in a way Americans (or indeed Britons) don’t.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 7 Comments

Towards a national land value tax

To quote our party’s anthem “Why should we beg for work and let the landlords take the best? Make them pay their taxes on the land; we’ll risk the rest”.

Aside from voting reform, no one policy is as central to the Liberal Democrats as a land value tax. This should be a key policy for any platform our party promotes.

As of 2018 half of the UK ‘s net worth is tied up in land, amounting to some £4.9 trillion of wealth. More so than in many rich democracies. Given the large-scale wealth inequalities facing the country today, the adverse effects of artificially high land values (such as higher cost for entry for starting businesses, and the promotion of rent-seeking), and the growing need for more public spending (be it on existing institutions like the NHS, schools, local government or the Police or bold new projects like a Citizens Income) a land value tax kills many birds with one stone.

The question remains what form it should take, to which I have a few ideas.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 32 Comments

What is our approach to Co-determination?

As a party, we have long advocated a cooperative relationship between labour and capital rather than an adversarial and hierarchical one, where the investor, the manager, and the worker are partners in the industry.
Such a vision was expressed in our 1964 manifesto, with the statement:
“Employees must be given a share in the decisions and profits of the companies in which they work. should be represented on the board of directors, or on a joint supervisory council”.

This vision has deeper roots in the Party’s history for in 1908, the Liberal government passed the Port of London Authority (PLA) Act, which mandated worker representation in the corporate governance of the PLA.
We should do more to revive this facet of ourselves, particularly with regards to co-determination.

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Liberal policies for a Liberal Party

With the leadership election approaching this an excellent opportunity to engage with wider debates about the direction for the party. Whilst many have argued for the party to be one for the political centre, I disagree.

History has shown that the British Liberalism does best when it offers a distinct and unique image (with a corresponding set of policies), that separate it from the Lab-Con duopoly.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 20 Comments
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