Wednesday 25 November 2015

Protection and insurance

There is a mantra oft-repeated by politicians keen to spend more and more of our money on acquiring and using weapons that “the first duty of any government is to protect its citizens”.  It’s duly parroted by the media, solemnly pronouncing on whether party A or party B is actually behaving in a way consistent with the mantra.  It’s treated as unarguable truth, largely because it’s ‘obviously true’.
But one of the things that life has taught me is that truth isn’t always obvious; and that which is ‘obvious’ isn’t always true.  In this case, I’m not at all sure that the statement means anything, shorn of context and without defining what ‘protect’ means as well as ‘protection from what’.
The latest outing that I saw for the statement was in the Sunday Times, when former Labour leadership candidate Liz Kendall trotted it out in support of the proposition that it is Labour’s ‘patriotic duty’ to back Trident.  In this context, it is, in effect, a substitute for argument and debate; a sort of trump card which over-rules any objection.  That isn’t helpful to rational consideration.
I don’t disagree with the statement as such; I think that governments should seek to protect their citizens from those things which threaten them.  But I don’t see nuclear blackmail as one of the biggest threats facing me or most other citizens.  Nor, in reality, do I see terrorism – a blanket word which in itself needs a lot more definition and refinement – as being the biggest threat to citizens of the UK.
For most of the population (although I’d accept that this isn’t true for those who move in the same circles as most of our politicians) their economic situation, and concerns about health care and education are much bigger threats to their lifestyles and well being.  And it’s hard to see how diverting money away from those fields to pay for a new nuclear weapons system does anything other than increase those threats.  In essence, even if the politicians really do believe that the mantra is one by which they should govern, their actions seem destined to achieve the opposite.
Another argument which is regularly advanced for Trident is that it’s some sort of ‘insurance policy’, and that wise people don’t go around without insurance.  But that’s simply not true.  Insurance policies don’t prevent things happening; they can’t.  Insurance is about pooling risk so that those who lose are, in effect, compensated for their loss by those who don’t.  The ‘protection’ offered by Trident is more akin to that traditionally offered by the mafia than a conventional insurance policy.  Insurance is about compensation for damage, not striking back - there’s nothing in my life insurance policy about posthumous retaliation.  The comparison with insurance is nonsensical.
Trident isn’t about protection; it isn’t about insurance; and it has little to do with the threats currently facing most of the UK population.  What it is about is keeping the UK government in the big boys club, pretending that the UK is still some sort of global power, and closing our eyes to the realities of the twenty first century.  It’s no way to build a safer world.


Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone has ever claimed that Trident is about building 'a safer world'. It's more about ensuring the preservation of the status quo. No bad thing if you ask me. And clearly the chosen will of the vast majority of the UK electorate.

Trifling matter such as healthcare and education in Wales are not the responsibilities of a UK government. They are devolved matters. The Welsh government can increase the sums being spent by increasing taxation in Wales. It really is that simple. It has nothing to do with Trident renewal going ahead or otherwise.

To perpetuate a welfare led society we need taxes to rise on a daily basis. But I doubt any taxpayers would remain in Wales if we started going down this road. I suspect this is your realisation too, so you look to make savings on Trident to make good the shortfall.

Lunatic thinking.

John Dixon said...

Where to start?

1. The money available for healthcare and education in Wales comes out of the block grant, which is set in relation to English spending on matters which are devolved. There is a direct relationship between spending choices at a UK level and the money available in Wales.

2. In any event, I wasn't referring only to people in Wales - it would help if you read what was written before responding.

3. "The Welsh government can increase the sums available by increasing taxation in Wales". Actually, no it can't. It has only very limited powers of taxation.

4. "To perpetuate a welfare-led society, we need taxes to rise on a daily basis". If we had a 'welfare-led society', or even if I at least knew what one was, I might be able to explain why this is nonsense, but,

5. Oh I really can't be bothered to respond any further to this one...

Anonymous said...

I think you make the mistake of assuming that if money wasn't spent on Trident it could be used for other purposes.

Nonsense. If the money isn't needed for Trident the UK government will simply reduce the levels of personal taxation. It's the right thing to do.

Incidentally, as an aside, both you and I know that no matter how much money is pumped in to health and education outcomes will continue to disappoint.

John Dixon said...

...and you make the mistake of failing to distinguish between fact and opinion.

"...if money wasn't spent on Trident it could be used for other purposes" = FACT. It could be so used; the issue of whether it would be so used is another question.

"If the money isn't needed for Trident the UK government will simply reduce the levels of personal taxation." = OPINION

Your opinion may turn out to be correct, but at this stage it can only be an opinion.

"...both you and I know that no matter how much money is pumped in to health and education outcomes will continue to disappoint". No I don't know that; what I do know is that simply pumping money in is not an adequate action in itself, because lack of money isn't the only problem. However, this isn't really a post about health or education, so I'm not planning to discuss that in detail here.