Sunday, August 08, 2010

These people are dangerous

This is Catherine Bennett, an Observer columnist. Remember this face, keep it in your mind. Because this is one of the faces that evil wears.

Some unpleasant little turd named Catherine Bennett has an article up at Comment Is Forbidden which is not only unbelievably patronising but actually dangerous.

I mean, the headline is an absolute corker—yes, I know that the columnists don't (necessarily) write the headlines, but it does betray the mindset of unadulterated evil that is endemic in those who run The Grauniad and The Observer.
Since when was giving people a choice a good idea?

That statement alone is one that takes my breath away. How can anyone who enjoys the freedoms and privileges of a liberal democracy—circumscribed thoough those have become—write such a line?
The coalition's obsession with self-determination, whether on schools or GPs, penalises the least able

Ah, yes, of course—the "least able". That's right: because some people might make bad decisions, then choice should be removed from everyone, eh?

Except, of course, the really important people. Like Observer columnists, for instance.

Anyway, let us continue with some of the highlights in this delightfully authoritarian article, shall we?
It is not merely the chorus from anguished parents (and patients), that they cannot exercise choice where there is no spare capacity, that might give a rational education secretary pause, but a growing body of research indicating that too much choice is overwhelming. Gove will know of the much cited experiment with jam, by the US academic Sheena Iyengar, which found consumers were more than six times more likely to buy a pot if they had to choose from six varieties, rather than 24.

This is, I think you'll find, a rather well-known phenomenon, elaborated upon in a 2004 book by Barry Schwartz called The Paradox of Choice—Why More Is Less. In this lovely tome, Barry opines that too much choice makes us unhappy.

But I don't think, darling Catherine, that he maintains that therefore there should be no choice at all.
If uncertainty about preserves is a problem one can probably live with, or possibly enjoy, a similar helplessness in the face of big, irreversible decisions is, to judge by a new study, State of Confusion by Professor Harriet Bradley of Bristol University, something that should worry a government that advertises choice as an unmitigated good.

And again, Catey-baby, I don't think that this government is advertising "choice as an unmitigated good": that would be very difficult to square with the fact that, actually, they are offering us very little choice in anything.

However, what this government does advocate is that some choice is better than none.

Because otherwise we would be living in the very worst kind of dictatorship and you, my little poppet, could well be working down a fucking mine—or simply forced to be a breeding machine—and not sitting comfortably at home and vomiting your authoritarian fantasies in a lefty rag.

I mean, the French (just to pick one example) have a massive range of choice in their health provision: they pay some Social Security to the state and for the rest they have to choose a private insurer, and choose a doctor and choose a hospital and... Well, you get the idea.

The point is that the French have far more choice in their provision of health alone, and they seem to cope. Not only do they seem to cope, but their health system is—in terms of outcomes—far, far better than ours (WHO ranked it the best in the world in 2000). And the French people do not seem to be standing still, paralysed by the choices open to them.
After surveying 3,000 people on their attitudes to choice, Bradley says: "I believe most people want the state to make these big decisions for them."

But this is the problem, isn't it? The state can't make choices for some—it must make choices for all. And thus those who do want to choose have that freedom removed from them. Or, of course, they choose to move house to get into a good school's catchment area; or—horror of horrors—they choose to send their children to private schools.

At which point, of course, they get attacked, ridiculed and demonised by Grauniad columnists (who all, of course, do precisely the same thing and so leaven their more aggressive articles with the occasional 1,000 word screed declaring how guilty they feel about being rich enough to be able to send little Jocasta to a "good school" rather than the local shithouse).

Anyway, who is this Professor Harriet Bradley?
BA (Bristol), PGCE (Bristol), BSc (Leicester), PhD (Durham)

Research Interests
Harriet Bradley is a specialist in the study of women's employment. Her broader research interests are the sociology of gender, feminism, industrial relations and the sociology of work, along with a general interest in social divisions and inequalities. A developing interest is in issues around women, health and maternity.

Ah, I see: Professor Harriet Bradley is one of these eternal students, someone who has made a choice about her career. In fact, Harriet Bradley made a choice to swan about studying sociology on our dime, and then to write articles about how we should not have any choices. Which is kind of sensible of her because, given the choice, I wouldn't be forced to fund her utterly pointless career.

This is a point that Timmy makes rather eloquently because, of course, people like Harriet Bradley and Catherine Bennett—like most of the other middle-class lefties that one meets—fully expect that they will be giving the orders, not having to obey the rules themselves.
An obvious question presents itself. Did Professor Harriet Bradley choose to become an academic? Work, strive, to become a Professor? Decide to write a book?

Wouldn’t she be happier stacking shelves in the supermarket if that’s where the State would place her to relieve her of the anguish of having to make a decision?

And if not, why not?

Is there perhaps some special class of people who both should decide for themselves and also decide for the peons? Those special enough to cope with the difficulty of choice and to alleviate others of it?

Because if that is the argument then they can all go fuck themselves quite frankly.

Absolutely right—these people are dangerous scum.

But hark! Catherine is not finished with her fascist screed...
This is not only because, in many cases, consumers are well aware that the choice of, say, school or hospital is – unlike a commercial selection of jams or phones or holidays – an utter fiction. The process of choosing is itself oppressive when the issues are life-changing, relating to health, money or careers.

Yes, but we allow people to have a choice of jams, but we constrict choice in the really important things. And because some people cannot cope with too much choice, we should allow people to have a choice of jam but not choice in their childrens' education.

Because, you see, being able to choose how your children are educated is way too important for you stupid, ignorant parents to be trusted with. The beneficent State will make the choice for you.

"Don't like what the State has chosen? Well, that's just tough shit. Here, have some fucking jam and shut the fuck up."

Or, to paraphrase Bill Hicks, "go back to bed, Britain: your government is in control."
In her London focus groups, [Harriet] found parents "absolutely terrified of the whole process of selecting schools", because of the impenetrable, changing rules about eligibility.

Yes, this is a reason to simplify the rules on eligibility, not to remove the ability of parents to choose which school to send their children to. And, of course, one of the reasons that parents might be terrified is because if they try too hard to get a good education for their child, then they will find themselves in court.

And those articles linked to above give the lie to this whole article: not only do people care enough about their children's education to go to massive lengths to be able to make an informed choice—they are prepared to break the law in order to do so.
Even allowing for those professional oxymorons, choice advisers...

Um, if people are confused by the choices on other, then they will often ask advice. Sometimes those people will be friends, sometimes they'll be a shop floor worker, sometimes they will be random people on the internet. If you have to make a choice, then you want to make the right one—so you ask for advice. So, I fail to see what is "oxymoronic" about choice advisers (assuming, of course, that advise is all that they do which is, I grant you, a big assumption).
... this situation favours society's most able, while it penalises confused, passive, busy or ill-informed individuals, though they all want the same thing: a good local school.

Yeah, well, you see Catey, my little poppet, we've tried the No Choice route, and it has delivered shitty local schools. Do you see?

Choice is not simply about giving people the freedom to choose the course of their own lives, rather than being funnelled down whichever route the state thinks best, but also about introducing competition: because, like it or not, competition makes things better. In this case, competition will deliver better schools—if only because so many of them (especially in inner cities) would really struggle to be any worse.

And one of the main reasons that people have such a difficult time choosing for themselves is because our education is so utterly, comprehensively [geddit?] shit that they have had all of their reasoning ability stripped out of them. And that is assuming that they are not part of the 20% who leave school in Britain unable to read or write.

For those people, "choice advisers" are probably the only way in which they can make a choice, given that they are unable to read about them for themselves. But this illiteracy is not entirely the fault of the people themselves: it is the fault of an education system that gets pupils and money regardless of results—because those pupils are forced to go to those schools, and we are forced to pay for them.

It is the abolition of choice that has created people who are incapable of choosing. But we should not screw over future generations because people like Catherine Bennett and Harriet Bradley believe that the world would be better if no one was allowed to choose at all.

In the world of Catherine Bennett and Harriet Bradley, we should penalise "the most able" so that we do not confuse the least able. These disgustingly evil harridans want to drag everybody down to the lowest common denominator so that everyone can suffer to the same extent.

Except, of course, people like Catherine Bennett and Harriet Bradley: they will be allowed to make their own choices, looking down from their taxpayer-funded ivory towers watching the slaves file past below.

These people are the scum of the Earth: god help us all if they are ever put into a position to be able to do anything about their desires. As it is, they can only whisper their poisoned words into the ears of the gullible, the stupid, the corrupt, the brutal and the would-be dictators: the only thing that Catherine Bennett and Harriet Bradley are upset about is that—unlike the previous bunch of bastards—this government does not want to listen to them.

And thank fuck for that, frankly.


Anonymous said...

A dark ideology eh! yes they call it common sense.

Ian E said...

Kurt Vonnegut wrote a short story (I forget its name) in which he finally cracked the dilemma of these leftie luvvies. All gifted people were assigned handicaps e.g. ballerinas would have a ball-and-chain clamped round their legs while the academically gifted would have personal sound systems clamped to their ears constantly blasting out disruptive musical discordances to break their concentration. Just think - we could have a complete society in which all but the politicos (and a few Grauniad/Observer friends of course) would be effectively moron level physical incompetents. We would soon be back in the Middle Ages with a few barons lording it over us all!

Mr Speaker, I commend this proposal to the House.

Anonymous said...

Ian E's story is, I think, 'Harrison Bergeron' by Vonnegut.
Seven feet tall, strong, intelligent, he had to wear so many restricting handicapping tools, weights etc . . .

Our leftish compatriots seem to be intent on dismantling the state on the orders of the [old] Soviet Union, without having noticed that said USSR is now gone these twenty years.

The fact its successor state is a kleptocracy, with mafioso links, in no way invalidates the removal of the Stalinist state.

But - yoohoo - the Stalinist state is gone, and you don't really need to continue to destroy the United Kingdom. (Also applies to various 'elected' politicians, as well as 'liberal-left' - that is the phrase, I'm sure - journos.

low resolution fox said...

I can only presume that she thinks feminism and womens rights will be set back by the competition.

Ergo, a professional feminist appears to believe that women are too weak willed and incapable to thrive in a competitive environment. I suppose in a "free school" poor teachers will be immediately fired, which is admittedly bad luck for the poor teacher - but on the contrary it is most excellent for the education of the pupil. The raison d'etre of most schools.

Anonymous said...

Oh, the Jam thing.

Look, it's quite simple. Every time I go to the supermarket, I am presented with about a thousand different kinds of breakfast cereal, yet somehow, I always come home with breakfast cereal. Because, you know, I actually need to eat breakfast.

Jam, on the other hand, is strictly optional. It's entirely reasonable that a single pot of jam on a shelf should make me think "ooh, I could quite fancy some jam" whereas my response to the serried ranks would be to think "I don't need that".

Which is all fine. The supermarket is obviously interested in maximizing my jam purchase, so can make its stocking decisions accordingly. A reasonable government (whether it inclines towards a big state or a small one) has no interest in maximizing my uptake of government services. Maximizing my welfare - sure, but that's not the same thing. I government which persuades me to by jam I don't really need is failing in its duty.

Wat Dabney said...

"Since when was freedom a good idea?"

Anonymous said...

This is a superb example of that very specific manifestation called GIRLY SCIENCE.

Their contributions in just about every field are usually shit.

It fits in with my long held belief that they are just not up to it. The NHS and the education industry are largely run by wimmin and look at the state they are in.

The USA is worse, far worse, --just think of the EPA.

Mark M said...

Is it too simple to say that why not let people have the choice of whether they want the state to choose for them?

So, on the form that says "Which school do you want to send your child to?", we have these options

[] Local School A
[] Local School B
[] Local School C
[] State assigned
[] NOTA - more choices

That way the parent can easily choose which of, say up to 6, local schools they want to send their child to. If they don't want that choice, they can choose to give it up, and if they aren't happy with the 6 they can ask for more options (if they are the kind of person who really knows their jam, so wants a better choice).

That way everybody's happy - apart from Bennett and Bradley probably, who are upset that some people got what they wanted without the state choosing it.

Anonymous said...

If we make decisions like slime molds, should we expect slime molds to develop a capital structure, legal system, and put a mold on the moon?

The leftist argument remains the same - OTHER people are unreasonable and I should make their choices for them. And I'll start by stealing money, taking my cut, and passing along the crumbs to those poor unreasonable masses who are oppressed by those irrational jerks addicted to greed.

What a crock.

andy5759 said...

Why do I keep on seeing the grubby hand of Common Purpose in these sort of things? Are we still allowed to hang traitors?

bob said...

How is it that these hypocritical lefty morons think that choice is an evil which must be eliminated from our reach, but then have private healthcare and schooling for their kids.
You left wing bastards, explain that please.

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