Monday, April 09, 2012

Being Norman Tebbit must be marvellous

In any fight against the violent hostile forces who threaten peace and security, it is the right of British people to go peacefully about their business which should trump the rights of those determined to rob them of that right.

… In both cases [secret evidence in civil trials, and Internet-tapping — PJW] it seems to me that what should be at issue is not the principle, but the restrictions which should be put in place to safeguard the rights of the innocent. (src)

The debates aren't about the principle of protecting all of us from unwarranted government intrusion (in the case of Internet-tapping), or of ensuring that both parties fight on a level playing field (in the case of secret evidence); they are about protecting the people who are innocent, while giving the guilty a dashed good hiding. Of course, as a principle of English law, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but Our Norm has already declared himself above such petty fripperies: presumably he can tell, immediately and with perfect accuracy, who is as guilty as sin and who's innocent.

Truly, it must be marvellous, being Norman Tebbit. The only fly in his ointment, I am sure, must be all these judges who have their minds clouded by things like law, evidence, and jurisprudence.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Putting the Lord God to the test?

I've just done something which is dangerous for anyone with high blood pressure: I read below the line on a blogpost about religion. It's okay: my blood pressure is fairly low, a blessing inherited from my paternal grandfather. However, some people appear not to have such a benefit, as the thread at Lib Dem Voice demonstrates (link).

The story relates to the Advertising Standards Authority's decision that a Christian group cannot put up posters saying God answers prayer and heals people, on the basis that it is not a warranted claim. (The Lib Dem link is that Tim Farron, party president, is signatory to a letter criticising the ASA for its ruling.)

Predictably, the priestly caste of atheism are all over this one. Apparently, there are scientific studies which demonstrate that God doesn't do any such thing: you get people praying, or not praying, and the results are no better than placebo. However, this sounds like an extremely thin basis on which to found one's objections.

A fairly quick, if slightly irreverent, way to demonstrate the problem is a thought experiment: suppose you were the Almighty, and some puny human researcher wanted to do an experiment on you. How might you be inclined to react?

Precisely.

But I can really do no better than to quote C. S. Lewis:

Theology is, in a sense, an experimental science.

If you are a geologist studying rocks, you have to go and find the rocks. The will not come to you, and if you go to them they cannot run away. The initiative lies all on your side.

If you are a zoologist and want to take photos of wild animals in their native haunts. The wild animals will not come to you: but they can run away from you. There is beginning to be a tiny little trace of initiative on their side.

If you want to get to know a human person, but he is determined not to let you, you will not get to know him. In this case the initiative is divided.

When you come to knowing God, the initiative lies on his side. If he does not show himself, nothing you can do will enable you to find him.
(Mere Christianity, p. 164, lightly edited)

This really does summarise the problem with running experiments on a person who, by hypothesis, is immaterial, omniscient and omnipotent: you can't bottle him or capture him, he knows what you're doing, and he can do what he pleases. 'Thou shalt not put the Lord thy God to the test,' indeed: for even if you should, he may be unwilling to play along. What you need is God to reveal himself. Now, where might he have done that?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I hope you've all got this straight

It would be a shame to get confused about something so simple.

When the board are paid massive salaries, it's a rapacious abuse which is misappropriating shareholders' funds. When they raid the same coffers to support second-rate performances and exhibitions they're national benefactors (src).

When a company offers cut-price rental properties to charities to reduce their council tax liability, it's bad (src). When they reduce their corporation tax liability by donating to charitable trusts which buy artworks 'for the nation', they're good.

I'm glad we've got that sorted. For it would be terrible, wouldn't it, if the rule was simply, 'You can only reduce your tax liability in ways which don't get leftie media types into a most frightful bate'.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

In defence of high private sector salaries

A quick thought amid all the kerfuffle about high private sector salaries. Working in the public sector, I like it when private sector people are paid insanely high salaries. The marginal rate of taxation is over fifty percent, which means that more of the money ends up going towards the Treasury and onwards to pay my salary (and everyone else's) than actually ends up in the employee's pocket. Somehow the public sector unions have it in their heads that this is bad for their members: whereas it is plainly the reverse, because the highly paid pay the taxes which fund our salaries. In fact, it's in the interest of public sector workers to see private sector inequality rise, since this would increase the overall level of income taxation paid for any given overall quantum of remuneration.

The flip-side of this, of course, is that one way to shrink the State may be to encourage, in as State-free a way as possible, less inequality in market incomes. It's odd to think that quite possibly, these two issues have shaken out on the 'wrong' sides of the debate in quite the way they have.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A video for Sunday

Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Church in New York, gives a whistle-stop tour of the Old Testament, giving an overview of what Elmer Martens called its 'plot and purpose' (link).

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

A good idea comes round again

At Liberal Vision, Sara Scarlett puts forward a suggestion of creating the British Broadcasting Co-operative (src). Long-standing readers in this parish may well remember a similar suggestion two and a half years ago (src); it is good to see the idea starting to get some traction. Sara has put together an e-petition at the appropriate Government website: if you think a co-operative BBC is better than the current model, you too can sign at the link (link).

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A long time in politics

Early this week, the bishops were telling the government not to cap child benefit (src).

"Right on," said the left, "It's great to have bishops who stand up for what they believe in and are willing to speak up against public opinion."

"Shut up," said the right, "It's not your place and the public are against you."

"Can't you lot quit meddling in policy and talk about Jesus?" I wondered.

Today, the Archbishop of York tells the government not to legalise gay marriage (src).

"Right on," say the right, "It's great to have bishops who stand up for what they believe in and are willing to speak up against public opinion."

"Shut up," say the left, "It's not your place and the public are against you."

"Can't you lot quit meddling in policy and talk about Jesus?" I wonder.