Wrong Bet, Giving Up, Lake to Ocean, Euro Brink, Angels Don't Tread, Not Japan, Coalition Blue

At the absolute centre of the belief in social justice is the conviction that given the opportunity human beings will do everything in their power to better their economic and social position.

That a helping hand is just that; not a permanent crutch.

Yet, all the evidence is that for too many the helping hand was a crutch, and the belief that everyone everywhere for all time would always aspire to lead a better life was the wrong calculation.

Articles about making a different bet, thoughts about fairness and the state in the 21st century, how a rising Asia is making the Pacific an Ocean again for the United States not a Lake, more bad news from Eurozone, the risky Chinese equity market, how the US can avoid being like Japan, and news that the Bloc is ready to cut some deals, but this time with the Prime Minister.

The historic curiosity that put Winston Churchill at the creation of the British 20th century welfare state is explained partly by his firm belief that the individual had a duty to strive to be better just as the state had a responsibility to assist and so Churchill routinely used the metaphor of a helping to defend his support for a minimum wage, labour exchanges, good public schools and hospitals, and low income housing.

As Churchill put it in his famous review of Seebolm Rowntree's book Poverty, A Study of Town Life, "honest effort in a wealthy community should involve certain minimum rights." (quoted from Martin Gilbert, Churchill's Political Philosophy, p. 29. Thanks to Barry of Victoria for sharing the book with me).

Now in the second century of the great experiment of British social justice the evidence is that for too many this Churchillian calculation was wrong even as the success of instruments of social justice are evident for all to see in great leaps in education, health and community outcomes since 1910.

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition are now making a different calculation in this great trade off led by Iain Duncan Smith whose political philosophy is similar to Churchill.

Financial Times -- Wrong As Tory Leader But Right On Welfare  Iain Duncan Smith is proposing one of the most crucial reforms in modern British history.

A 1942 defence of health insurance as conceived in the Beveridge Report anticipated the tension between duty and responsibility.

Health Insurance: The Influence of the Beveridge Report  The NHS is sometimes derided by conservatives as part of the ‘‘nanny state’’, which presumes to know better what individuals need than they can determine for themselves, and which stifles freedom and initiative. That was certainly not Beveridge’s view, as he took pains to make clear at the beginning and the end of the report. The report goes so far as to insist that ‘‘the individual should recognise the duty to be well’’ and that ‘‘restoration of a sick person to health is a duty of the State and the sick person’’.

George Monibot of the Guardian warns that something more sinister is a work for liberals, and that it has been working into our collective thinking for 30 years. Thanks to Iain of Vancouver for sending this in.

The Values of Everything  So here we are, forming an orderly queue at the slaughterhouse gate. The punishment of the poor for the errors of the rich, the abandonment of universalism, the dismantling of the shelter the state provides: apart from a few small protests, none of this has yet brought us out fighting.

Quote worth quoting.

"People with strong intrinsic values must cease to be embarrassed by them. We should argue for the policies we want not on the grounds of expediency but on the grounds that they are empathetic and kind; and against others on the grounds that they are selfish and cruel." -- George Monibot

Neal Lawson of Compass on the values debate.

Time For Progressives of all Parties to Work Together   British politics has been transformed in the last six months. The long-awaited realignment took place but, to everyone's astonishment, on the centre-right and not the centre-left. The coalition has taken shape and has been embedded – at least at the top of the two parties', even if those below deck are potentially still mutinous.

What has always made liberals scratch their heads (and probably kick walls) is how conservative politicians get voters to support positions against their own interests. Ronald Dworkin explains.

New York Review of Books -- Americans Against Themselves  The results of Tuesday’s election are savagely depressing, wholly expected, yet deeply puzzling.

The great debate in the United States about charter schools is founded on a thesis that public are programmed to fail because teachers -- and teacher's unions -- do not have their student's interest at heart, and using a market metaphor, have a monopoly over their 'clients'.

Does this thesis stand up to facts?

Brookings Institute -- The Myth of Charter Schools  Ordinarily, documentaries about education attract little attention, and seldom, if ever, reach neighborhood movie theaters. Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for “Superman” is different. It arrived in late September with the biggest publicity splash I have ever seen for a documentary. Not only was it the subject of major stories in Time and New York, but it was featured twice on The Oprah Winfrey Show and was the centerpiece of several days of programming by NBC, including an interview with President Obama.

Quote worth quoting.

"Some fact-checking is in order, and the place to start is with the film’s quiet acknowledgment that only one in five charter schools is able to get the “amazing results” that it celebrates. Nothing more is said about this astonishing statistic."

Where does inequality start? Slavery didn't help much.

The Historical Roots of Inequality  In March 2010 President Obama presented the US Congress a plan to reform No Child Left Behind (NCLB), America’s main federal education programme. NCLB was enacted in 2002 under President Bush with the full bipartisan support of Congress. Yet one of the criticisms to NCLB stresses its failure to reduce the deeply rooted racial and ethnic gaps that still afflict the US education system.

The state gone wild.

Globe and Mail -- "All I Wanted to do Was Build a House"  It was the fifth house that Craig Morrison built with his own hands, and the last.

In the 'I wish Monty Python was still around category' news that the Cameron-Clegg government is going to measure happiness.

The Telegraph -- Measuring our Happiness is Anti-Growth  Tony Blair used to take about the idea of “joined up government”. I wonder what he would make of today’s announcement that the government is to measure our happiness. It suggests that the Government is all over the place just when a clear direction is needed, particularly on the economy.

Many forget that it was America's westward expansion across the Pacific Ocean that put it on a collision course with Japan then wars in Korea and Vietnam. The absence of a strong China and India made the post-war Pacific Ocean more like an American lake than the planet's largest body of water. How times change.

Financial Times -- The Perils of America's Pacific Presidency  President Barack Obama hoped to find solace overseas following his “shellacking” in the US midterm elections.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the new American moment. (ed's note: eternity surely?)

East Asia Forum -- Asia in the 'New American Moment'  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s ‘new American moment in international relations’ speech, delivered to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington DC on September 8, 2010, has been widely discussed and debated. Although the speech did not concern Asia only, it does signal important changes in the way the United States looks at Asia, especially its regional architecture.

Can Europe last out this crisis?

The Telegraph -- Europe Stumbles Blindly Towards Its 1931 Moment  Unless the ECB takes fast and dramatic action, it risks destroying the currency it is paid to manage, and allowing a political catastrophe to unfold in Europe.

China bubble.

The Independent -- Is China a Bargain or Bubble?  David Cameron's jaunt to China last week came amid fears that the region could turn out to be a huge bubble.

Robert Samuelson points to Japan's mistakes but misses the most important that the US is repeating, preventing adjustment.

The Washington Post -- How To Avoid Japan's Economic Mistakes  It's hard to remember now that in the 1980s Japan had the world's most-admired economy. It would, people widely believed, achieve the highest living standards and pioneer the niftiest technologies.


Japan Times -- Muslims in Shock Over Police 'Terror' Leak  This time last month, Mourad Bendjaballah says he was just another anonymous foreigner living and working in Japan. Today he fears his life here may be over, and receives phone calls from reporters asking him if he is an al-Qaida "terrorist."

And news that the Bloc is working behind the scenes on a coalition strategy, with the Conservatives and Prime Minister Harper.

The Mark -- Tories, Bloc Rumoured to be Alliance Sources say that the Conservatives are in the process of striking a deal with the Bloc that would, among other things, secure federal funding for an NHL arena in Québec City, and delay a federal election until 2012.

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Twin Virtues: Inequality of Outcomes & Equality of Opportunity©

Twin Virtues

Ultimately, the most successful societies find the balance between the twin virtues of inequality of outcomes and equality of opportunity.

The new politics must marry the twin virtues of unequal outcomes and equality of opportunity.

When too few get too much everybody loses.

Feminism is about women living their lives on their own terms, marshalling the resources of the society to make that possible, and men embracing this as vital to a successful society and their own liberation.

Can it be that striving for equality of opportunity however imperfect the process not only benefits the individual but also creates benefits for the society that are unintended but wonderful?

Economics must be a 'moral enterprise' as much as politics claims to be. Economic outcomes need to be framed in terms of right and wrong not just efficiency if only because these often align in surprising ways that are good for society and the economy.

My vision of Canada is that any Canadian child from a family of limited circumstance can expect to have a chance at lifetime of unlimited opportunities.

Free trade is a wonderful thing. Time and time again economists have proven that free trade creates enormous wealth for each country 'on the whole'. Historians have shown that free trade is usually associated with rising political, social and cultural liberty. The perennial problem is that free trade always creates tremendous disruption for thousands even millions of individuals often concentrated in one geography, and where the state is idle, not investing in best in class instruments of social justice, free trade can be a permanent ticket out of the middle class, down, not up.

Tax policy should be founded on the principle of generating steady tax revenues sufficient to maximise environmentally sustainable economic growth in order to fund fair government.

Public policy should be designed to decrease inequality before the law and increase equality of opportunity.

Capitalism is not the problem; the problem is what we do with capitalism.

Content is always more difficult to argue than conspiracy.

Let the state regulate and the market operate (most things).

Welfare strategies are best designed as a hand up, not as a hand out.

Political debate should not be fact free fighting.

Explanation lasts longer than eloquence.

Always favour empowerment over dependency.

The most enduring public figures are embraced for the causes they fought for and not the concept of themselves they hoped others would remember them by.

Find your voice and don't be the echo of somebody else.

It is possible to operate on two different levels: the practical, cautious and conservative; and the realm of ideas, open, free, and radical.