On Friday night I was feeling a bit fed up, so when the right-wing PB hordes started interrogating me about my views on inheritance tax, I decided not to spoon-feed them, which produced some fascinating results. As I've mused on this blog a number of times, wealthy people who characterise taxation as "theft" or "force" seem to be blissfully unaware of how the "force" of the state actually legitimises their own wealth in the first place. Inheritance law is a classic example of that, because it legitimises wealth that hasn't been earned. So when someone on PB trotted out the standard moan about people not working for their benefits, I asked him if he felt equally angry about millionaire Tory cabinet ministers who in many cases hadn't worked for the bulk of their wealth.
Apparently by simply pointing out that inherited wealth could be used in a variety of other productive ways by the state, just as benefit money could hypothetically be used in other ways, I was directly advocating a 100% rate of inheritance tax. They were so sure on this point that when I asked them for the slightest scrap of evidence that I had proposed a 100% inheritance tax, one of them asked me (in all apparent seriousness) if I was drunk. Earlier, the same delightful chap had informed me of the fearsome consequences of expressing such views -
"Until about half an hour ago it was possible to think that you might just have an adult and coherent case for Scottish Nationalism which you were just bad at putting across. Now it isn't."
And here was another gem on a similar theme -
"James, your posts on this thread read as if they are written by a bitter and envious person. They seem to be just jealous bile. I'm sure you've more to offer this site."
So isn't it interesting how expressing what are perfectly mainstream left-of-centre views about the source of wealth renders you the equivalent of a non-adult, someone who can be safely ignored until he 'grows up'? It set me thinking about the acres of barking mad right-wing opinions on PB that none of these people ever pounce on in the same way, which presumably means that they regard such views as perfectly normal and 'mature'.
Yesterday, I decided to conduct a little experiment. I asked one of the more far-out members of the right-wing PB fraternity a series of questions, and just let his answers speak for themselves. It was notable that there were only two brief suggestions from other posters that there might just possibly be something a touch peculiar about the views I elicited. Among the highlights : democracy should be abolished, there is a 30% chance of the Republic of Ireland seeing sense and rejoining the United Kingdom by 2050, and non-home owners should be barred from sitting on juries. Enjoy...
Me : As a matter of interest, HD2, how do you think women's suffrage is panning out so far?
HD2 : Badly, on balance, but inevitable given what they achieved in WW1.
Home ownership should be a precondition of being able to vote.
Failing that, paying income tax.
No stake, no vote.
Me : OK, so universal suffrage is regrettable.
Question 2. Should we bring back corporal punishment for adult criminals?
HD2 : Obviously.
For all criminals, of whatever age (criminal consent being 10: about right, IMO, with consideration for lowering it, in line with everything else that regards such children as consumers and responsive to sexualisation via adverts. I think that's profoundly wrong, but it's where we are today, sadly) and prison should be both educational and unpleasant, with no tariff discounts and consecutive, not concurrent, sentences the norm.
Once you've been (re)educated and/or trained, and cleaned of drugs, THEN you get the sort of typical prison cell we provide today, so that you can have a good chance of a job on release.
I have no problem with prisoners being used as cheap labour on (ideally outdoor, so publicly-visible) mundane works, either.
Me : Question 3. Given your belief that authority should derive from "genes not jeans", do you believe it was a historic error to move away from the tried-and-tested principle of absolute monarchy?
HD2 : No, but a large Parliament made up of those with a hereditary right to sit there (with periodic new blood and tidying (no, not sure how!)) as the layer under the Monarch and with an elected Parliament which had dominance, stood us well through several hundred years of wars, peace, good and bad times.
We'll never know what advice and recommendations QE2 has made to the 12 PMs she's had serve under her, but I'm sure they all found her advice sound and helpful (at least in retrospect).
My ideal today would be an electorate who produced the policies for the Govt to follow, with Whitehall producing and publishing the basic factual background, Politicians formulating alternative options, based on those facts and The People making the choices through routine referenda.
The Party system would end, politicians might serve for various periods and in various areas of governance, whilst the electorate would not be universal but confined to those with a decent education, a job which meant they paid tax, and probably with some form of multiplier to their choice if they paid higher-rate taxes, employed others or owned their own home. And they'd need to be 21 to vote, 35 to stand for public office and 45 for Westminster.
Total, wild, guess - that'd be around 30-40% of the current adult population, and for them, participation in, say, 75% of all plebiscites held in any one year would be required.
There'd need to be some way of allowing the remaining 60-70% to be represented, too, mind, possibly by having them vote, as now, for a lower chamber, but that would be purely advisory (ie, in the pre-referendum and legislation stages).
A second option might be to make the second chamber elected by universal suffrage, but have advisory and consultative powers only, with the Upper Chamber (elected as I've suggested) being the legislative body and their electorate being, in effect, the back-benchers of today.
The proportions don't matter - what does is devolving power (which is based on knowledge) totally away from Westminster and MPs (even more - Parties) and moving it to people, and not on a 'once-in-five-years' manifesto, but on an ongoing, rolling, issue by issue basis.
Me : Thankyou for that comprehensive answer.
Question 4. Should a man have the legal right to discipline his wife?
HD2 : Sorry that last answer was so long!
This one's much shorter: No.
Me : Thankyou.
Question 5. Should ignorant members of the lower classes be barred from sitting on juries if one of their genetic betters is in the dock?
HD2 : Can I split that in two?
Ignorant people should not sit on juries, period. The definition of ignorant is somewhat problematic, but might be 'those over 30 who own their own home and pay tax'. Since that might be seen to exclude women (not at all my intention) then we'd better add 'and wives/husbands of such people' too.
A wider point - I think there's a case for particularly complex (fraud?) cases to be heard before a jury of those who have some accountancy training, whilst most trials seem to take weeks or even months when a few days is nearer the requirement.
Lawyers get paid more if they explore every avenue and seek to bury the truth under a mountain of 'facts': that's got to be curbed.
Say a panel looks at a case, decides on a range of criteria how important and complex the issues are, and then allocate a maximum of 5, 10, or 20 days for the case. It's then up to the lawyers and Judge to divide that time up between them.
1800 - trials last a few hours, juries decide in minutes.
1900 - murder trials 2-3 days, jury out for an hour or two.
2000 - many trials 5 days +, more 'popular' trials over a month and juries out for 2-4 days considering their verdict.
That's just Legal Aid cash for hot air.
1900-1960 seems about right: currently it's absurd.
Me : Many thanks.
Question 6. Are you optimistic that the people of the Republic of Ireland will freely choose to rejoin the United Kingdom in our lifetimes, and if so, what are the reasons for your optimism?
HD2 : I'd put the chances as 70:30 against (ie by 2050), but 75:25 in favour by 2200.
Because the EU is going to form the USoE and that's anathema to the entire Anglo-Saxon mind-set.
Eire has much more in common with Washington than Berlin and Paris, and as the memories of 1916 fade and QE2 is recognised as a worthy sovereign (Charles will be too, when the time comes) who Irish people can accept as Head of State (ie they rejoin the Commonwealth).
I can then envisage a federal 'British Isles' as a part of a wider, 'English-Speaking Union' trading block, forming triad with a protectionist USoE, an Islamic World, and an Oriental World.
Not sure where Russia fits into that, mind (I'd suggest USoE, if forced, but suspect it'll be an outsider, just as 'Spanish World', and 'African World' will be others).
Me : Thankyou.
Question 7. Do you believe it would be appropriate to introduce a cultural assimilation programme in UK schools to stamp out regional differences such as accents, dialects, allegiances to sub-national flags and anthems, etc.?
HD2 : Good question.
No. Individuality is what makes us a successful species and makes us successful as individuals, and as collections and groupings of those individuals.
Trying to create 'coffee-coloured people by the score' is what got us into this poly-cultural mess.
A wider point, if I may? Integration of minds and peoples is essential for a unified State: I'm sure we were going in the opposite direction under Bliar/Brown, and I'm unsure where we're going now. Scrapping/pruning/watering-down the EOC, Equality legislation in general, and, somehow, making schools more racially even (I know, the US experience makes this a daft idea) is A Good Thing.
Maybe area-wide selective/specialist schools is the way forward, such that bright pupils of all colours are in one, outstanding sports and artistically-talented pupils in another (etc) rather than having selection based on post-code (as now)?
Edit: I remember visiting the Dome in 2000 and being shocked to see a primary school there along with use where all but one pupils was non-white and being at Uni (early 70's) with a group of people from NI: the degree of segregation between Catholic and Protestant children was total (and agreed by all of them to be wrong and making sectarian violence both possible and much worse).
Me : Thanks again.
Question 8. What, if anything, did fascism get right?
HD2 : It unified and united a disparate, defeated and despairing people, giving them a unity of purpose and a self-belief that stood them ion good stead long after WW2 and all its horrors.
I'm not enough of a detailed student of that period of history to know much more - Mussolini's 'trains running on time' being more propaganda than reality, I believe.
I've a profound disbelief in great orators as national leaders, particularly if their necessary self-belief becomes 'I'm The Chosen One' delusion.
Two things, James:
One, I've greatly enjoyed our exchanges this afternoon and I hope some others have, too.
Two, why the sudden series of questions? Made me think a bit and formulate some ideas, which is always a good thing to do.
And on that happy note, I must now drive 30 miles to do a Mystery Shop at a Specsavers, pretending to want contact lenses (hard, since I don't wear glasses!).
Have a great afternoon- it's really Spring-like here, with the first hawthorn blossoms just out and my (VERY late-planted) daffodils now coming out too.
Bye - and thanks for the fish, James!
To be fair, he pleasantly surprised me with his answer about the disciplining of wives, but the most frightening bit was when he innocently described my suggestion of cultural assimilation in schools as a "good question"!
* * *
I was a bit miffed to discover that I forgot about the Irish Eurovision selection last night, because that probably means I've missed out on the chance to vote in a national final this year for the first time in...well, a long time. After the rip-roaring success of last year, the BBC are once again going for an internal selection, with the latest rumour being that a reformed Atomic Kitten will be getting the nod.