Sunday, September 28, 2008

Interesting times and not the end of Capitalism

As before, Wil Hutton in The Guardian:

This is not the end of capitalism, as some wildly claim; there is no intellectual, social or political challenge to a market system based on respect for private property rights, even by the Chinese Communist party.

Rather, it is a crisis of a particular capitalism that has set aside respect for trust, integrity and fairness as fuddy-duddy obstacles to 'wealth generation'.

Well thank goodness for that.

Now hopefully the Americans will get a handle on their borrowing; quit Iraq in as orderly and rapid manner as possible, invest in infrastructure, education, nationalise their healthcare as well as their banks and mortgage companies and leave running the world to the Europeans or Chinese.

In fact the ideal situation would be one where there were three Great Powers - the Europeans, Americans, and Chinese, with an influential G8 and India. According to this article by Jon Taplin, and based on The Great Transformation by Karl Polanyi, Taplin's analysis:

His conclusion is that the key to a long period of peace is a stable Balance of Power between three or more states, combined with a stable world financial system (he calls it Haute Finance) which constantly stresses that war is destructive to trade.

Also worth checking out is The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Paul Kennedy and Charles Stross' commentary on this essay on the fall of the USSR by Yegor Gaidar:

Normally empires decline slowly; it took nearly half a century for the British empire to descend from planetary hegemony to the edge of bankruptcy in 1945, for example.

The USSR took a decade from the first serious worries about its balance of trade to the final abortive Putsch and Gorbachev's resignation.

But the US Empire has developed a uniquely unstable financial system over the past two or three decades, and we may be witnessing a catastrophic collapse. (I hope not; this sort of event is deeply uncomfortable and unpleasant to live through, even when it doesn't coincide with major environmental crises, a power vacuum, and a disciplined cadre of apocalypse-obsessed religious fanatics waiting in the wings to seize power if they can.)

Clearly I need to write a list of lessons to be learned from the current economic problems.

[image credit to thegoldguys, via luxamart on flickr]

Operating system analogies

After reading Neal Stephenson's excellent ebook In the Beginning was the Command Line I was struck by the brilliance of his OS analogies (the book was written in 1999 but still holds true today):

  • Apple OS X: a beautiful, reliable, ergonomic, brilliantly designed, European coupe. The only problem is when you open the boot everything is covered by plastic, and the only way you can repair any problems is by returning the car to the manufacturer.
  • Windows anything: an ugly, inefficient, unergonomic and poorly designed station wagon that nevertheless became incredibly successful.
  • Linux: an incredibly efficient, military-spec machine that never fails and can do 100 mph at 100 mpg over rough terrain. Anything and everything about it can be altered in the field by the user. Oh, and it's completely free and support is also completely free.
Other analogies that spring to mind from the Star Wars mythos:

  • Apple OS X: Queen Amidala's shiny spaceship in A Phantom Menace. Really nice to look at but a bitch to repair if something goes wrong (not that anything does go wrong unless you're being attacked by someone).
  • Windows: tricky. I'm inclined to go with Star Destroyers: big, slow, ugly, cumbersome, but incredibly powerful (but not by virtue of good design).
  • Linux: the Millennium Falcon. The best there is, and fully user-alterable. However the anaology breaks down when you consider that the Millennium Falcon is fairly unreliable, and requires constant maintenance.

Comment on "The Sleepwalkers" by Arthur Koestler

The Sleepwalkers by Arthur Koestler, is a history of the study of the cosmos, starting with the ancient Babylonians and ending with a discussion of Newton, via Aristotle, Plato, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo.

Koestler seeks to demolish the assumption that the history of this particular subset of science is a Whiggish story of Progress towards a Theory of Everything. Rather it is a story of various people blundering around and gradually and haphazardly building a picture of the universe.

These philosophers and scientists "sleepwalk" towards understanding.

Enjoyable and iconoclastic, well written but with some flaws.

Some spiritualist stuff, which comes off sounding a little odd against the otherwise respectably skeptical tone.

Claims that electromagnetism and gravity are "verbal fetishes ... disguising the fact that they are metaphysical concepts dressed in the mathematical language of physics."

Well that's an interesting perspective. I wish I knew if Koestler was speaking from a view of ignorance or understanding as regards the mathematical underpinnings of gravitational theory.

It is unfair to say gravity is a metaphysical construct. It is a theory that currently suits all available evidence very well. We believe in it because the evidence suggests it exists.

However Koestler is right to reinforce how peculiar the idea of "action at a distance" (spooky or otherwise) really is. Descartes was having none of it. Newton presented his theory of gravity but said:

"gravity must be caused by an agent acting constantly according to certain laws; but whether this agent be material or immaterial, I have left to the consideration of my readers"

Dismissive of Einstein (p 504, Chapter 3 The Newtonian Synthesis 1. 'Tis all in Pieces):

"Einstein's correction to Newton's formula of gravity is so small that for the time being it only concerns the specialist. The two most important branches of modern physics , relativity and quantum mechanics, have not so far been integrated into a new universal synthesis; and the cosmological implications of Einstein's theory are still fluid and controversial."

I think Koestler rather misses the point here: as I understand it Newton was wrong to assume space is "flat" and Einstein demonstrates that space is not flat. Newton's theories are a good approximation of what goes on in the universe, and for most purposes do well enough, but Einstein is closer to being correct than Newton.

The book was published in 1959: I think Einstein's theories were bedded down by then.

All in all, an excellent read, drawing on the original sources.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The End of capitalism?

I wish commentators wouldn't blather on about the current economics problems being "the end of capitalism" - it's a lazy use of words. As John Gray has it in The Guardian:
There has been a good deal of talk in recent weeks about imminent economic armageddon. In fact, this is far from being the end of capitalism. The frantic scrambling that is going on in Washington marks the passing of only one type of capitalism - the peculiar and highly unstable variety that has existed in America over the last 20 years.
David Cox on The First Post has it that this is a crisis of democracy, not capitalism:
Some see our current plight as a crisis of capitalism. It may become instead a crisis of democracy. Already, we have cheerfully sacrificed free speech, habeas corpus and personal privacy to lesser threats than economic cataclysm.
My personal feeling: there is nothing wrong with capitalist, free-market systems that are effectively-regulated by democratic states. I don't think what has happened in the debt derivatives market has been effectively regulated by anyone. This is the root of the problem.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Heavens align...

I finally decided to bite the bullet and buy a new PC (with Vista, natch --- read the tagline) and now this happens.

ION: I've been reading Neal Stephenson's classic essay In the Beginning was the Command Line.

Let me just review my real reasons for not just using Ubuntu:

  1. I use Dreamweaver and Photoshop, and I see no reason why I should install a completely different operating system just so I can run two of the three applications I actually use in WINE.
  2. That's it.
What I really need to do is buy a new hard drive for the 'ol lappy and fire up Ubuntu on that.

Aha. A plan.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Evil video post

"If you start from the perspective that anyone who seeks power is basically unsuited to posses power then you come to the conclusion that the only thing we can ask of our leaders is that they be honest about who they are."1

Well he gets my vote!

[1] Me.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Saturday, September 20, 2008

How to make a Fantasy Series

Following is a series of easy steps to take to make you a Rich And Famous Fantasy Writer by manufacturing your very own EFP:

  1. Read The Lord of the Rings. by JRR Tolkein
  2. Take a bit of A3 paper and put loads of blobs, triangles, and dots on it. Give the blobs names like "The Forest of Freetard." Give the triangles names like "The Brokeback Mountains." Give the dots names like "The Free City of Generica."
  3. Come up with a Main Character. Your Main Character has to be humanoid, and masculine, even if it's a woman.
  4. Come up with a Quest. Your Quest must involve the Main Character going from where they are at the beginning of your text, to where they are at the end. It must also involve some kind of small, portable object. Examples include: rings, swords, crowns, cloaks, gold, or amulets.
  5. Come up with a Title. It's best to base your Title around your portable object. Identify the object and where it came from/was made and then use that as your title.
  6. Write the entire plot of The Lord of the Rings in your own words, but using your bit of A3 instead of Tolkein's map, and using your Main Character in place of Aragorn, lose the Hobbits, and use your portable object in place of the Ring (remember in your version Aragorn has the ring).
  7. Make sure you get it all up to 100, 000 words.
  8. Pad out the text you've written to get it up 500, 000 words. Do this by sticking an Event every 10, 000 words or so. These events must involve either a Troll, a Meeting, an ASA, or a WC.
  9. Pad the text out further with Discursive Rambling, Expositional Infodumps, and Boring Internecine Politics. By this point your text should be up to 1, 000, 000 words.
  10. Split the 1, 000, 000 word text into arbitrary clumps of about 100, 000 words each and label each clump as Book 1, Book 2, etc, and mail the first one to a publisher.
  11. Sit back and let the moolah roll in.
Glossary of terms:

  • EFP: Extruded Fantasy Product
  • Main Character: a humanoid being that your text talks about.
  • Quest: the thing that drives your Main Character to do what he does.
  • Event: something that happens to your Main Character.
  • Troll: a big scary monster of some kind.
  • Meeting: your Main Character will meet some Secondary Characters.
  • Secondary Characters: anyone in the story who isn't the Main Character. Some of these will be Enemies and some will be Allies. Some will also be suitable for your Main Character to perform ASAs with.
  • ASA: Arbitrary Sexual Act
  • WC: War Crime
Further Tips:

There needs to be plenty of WCs and ASAs. WCs should be against threatening and unattractive people. ASAs should be with unthreatening but attractive people.

Names should be long, vaguely foreign, and end with a description of what that person has done. Also remember that people are always "the." So, for example, Dr Perry Cox MD becomes Dr Perry Cox the Medical Doctor. Or better yet: Dr Perry Cox the Doctor of Medicine.

[[Incidentally: am I the only one who thought the last episode of Scrubs was appalling?]]

Discussions of morality and whatnot are optional: it might be worth doing it to fill up a few pages.

Your Dark Lord character doesn't really matter. It's all in the minions. ;)

Well Good Night, and Good Luck!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A failure of ownership

An interesting article by Chris Dillow in The Times concerning the current financial crisis: form of ownership has caused a crisis, and another hasn't. The reason for this lies in what economists call the principal-agent problem, and what everyone else calls the difficulty of getting your employees to act in your interests rather than their own.

Big, quoted companies have been unable to solve this problem. Shareholders - often, ordinary people with pensions - have little control over fund managers. Fund managers have little control over chief executives. And chief executives have had little control over trading desks, partly because they just didn't understand the complexities of mortgage derivatives.

I'll give you this for some lovely CDOs...

So traders were free to gamble with other people's money. They got multimillion bonuses if they did well, but faced almost no meaningful sanction if they failed: John Thain, Merrill Lynch's chief executive, is rumoured to be in line for an $11 million payout. The result was excessive risk taking.

This makes a lot of sense: free markets are powerful tools, but like many powerful tools they need to be carefully controlled, primed, and monitored.

Creating situations where the ownership of firms results in employees and owners having different aims and agendas is a recipe for this sort of failure.

Dillow refers to a book called The Subprime Solution by Robert Schiller:

The solution to our troubles, he says, is more markets, not fewer. He proposes the introduction of markets in livelihood insurance, so that people can buy protection against job losses, and better markets in house-price futures, so we can insure against falling house prices.
People need to learn to respect the free market: understand what it does, how it does it, and what its limitations are.

It isn't a case of more regulation and state control vs. less regulation and state control, it is a case of finding the appropriate levels of state control.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Liberal Party

Daniel Finkelstein is rapidly becoming one of my favourite columnists, up there with Johann Hari.

He suggests in this article that it would be a good idea to merge the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats into one political party, call it the Liberal party, and ensure that the Tories never get into power!

In his 1991 book The Progressive Dilemma, Marquand noted that the in the 20th century the Conservative Party had so far spent 60 years in power. At the time of the Liberal landslide of 1906 such Tory dominance seemed unlikely. And a number of Conservative historians have observed that for ten years after that victory the Liberal offering seemed so potent that the Tories struggled to find a response.

Then, as Marquand tells it, came tragedy for the Left. It split. A new party emerged commited to two things that the Liberals refused to endorse - the power of organised labour and socialism. The split was not inevitable. The Liberals might have offered their support to the unions, the effort to commit Labour to socialism might have failed. But inevitable or not, the split happened. And the result has been years of Tory hegemony.

Good idea.

Any further analysis?

Such a party would be rife with internal divisions.

But I don't think there are as many old-guard socialists in the Labour parliament as there were.

However as Finkelstein points out, socialism doesn't really work (Finkelstein claims that democratic socialism is a contradiction in terms - which is why I prefer to think of Sweden, France et al as liberal democracies, as opposed to social democracies) and unions are certainly necessary, but I don't see why they have to be any more powerful than other interest groups in society.

So a liberal party wouldn't necessarily be any more divided than the Tory party.

New PC

I have a new PC. It is joygasmically fast. It is one of these:

The keyboard supplied didn't work, irritatingly, but the company are sending a new one and I bought a cheap one for £7.96 from Tesco for the time being.

[image from Arbico]

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Muscular socialism

Interesting article by Matthew Parris in The Times. He points out that all this "caring and sharing" Christian socialism that he says Tony Blair was so enamoured with, with it's obsession with the poor and disabled, has little to do with what Marx talked about:

Away (the socialist should say) with caring and diversity: let's hear about investment, not subsidy; progress, not equality; about Crossrail (what's the betting Mr Brown cancels it?); about how Britain generates its own power, how we rescue our rail network from impending insolvency, how we get from London to Scotland by train in two hours, and how we stop the planning system throttling every big project; about how we develop a global positioning system that the Americans don't control, how we pay for better highways and uncongested streets with proper road pricing, and how we research and market carbon-free transport, heat and power.

Muscular socialism

From a pluralistic, or agonistic point of view it is necessary that there be a muscular, statist, centralising, collectivist alternative to the economically liberal, capitalistic, federalising tendency of the past few decades.

The problem with Labour at the moment is their complete lack of ideological candour and legislative narrative.

Parris claims he is an economic liberal: but he observes the necessity of a socialist or social democratic tendency in the political debate with the coming economic difficulties.

This is very astute.

(So much muscularity! I will need to go and have a lie down!)

[image from Trevor H]

An Atheist Catholic

I am an atheist Catholic. I have been confirmed but I don't believe in God.

A large part of religion for many people is the sense of community spirit and identity that comes with it.

I don't have to give up my tribe just because I don't believe in God.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Not even wrong

Another reason all this nonsense about the end of the world is completely silly is that the thing that everyone misinterpreted as being the thing that might herald the end of the world won't even happen today!

The history eraser button

Appropriate on this, the day the LHC will be activated...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Fonejacker season 2

Lovely ad.

Friday, September 05, 2008

"The time for stupid statements is over."

I seem to spend a lot of time talking about politics in this blog, which is weird, as I claim not to be that interested in the damn business.

I think it's because a big chunk of my daily ration of cruft and filler (rubbish text IOW) concerns politics and it's easier to bloviate on the subject of politics than on something important, like particle physics, neuroscience, business, graphic novels, computers, engineering, science fiction, or transhumanism.

In that spirit I have a question: why is it that journalists think political speeches are so important? Why are they so important? Why do so many people watch them?

The important thing in politics is the substance of a candidate's policy. Her character is a secondary, but important, consideration. But I also think it's impossible to accurately judge a person's character unless you have the opportunity to meet them and have a frank, private, face-to-face discussion. In the absence of this there is very little you can do to determine the character of an individual.

Speeches and interviews and debates show you a human being trying to show themselves off. They do not demonstrate the character of that human being.

In the real world I'd be happy with two things from any political candidate: a postcard with the elevator-pitches for their policies, and a chit signed by several randomly-selected qualified psychiatrists affirming that the candidate is a sane, well-balanced, mentally and emotionally healthy human being.

Assuming the candidate isn't stark-raving bonkers then the only thing that actually matters is policy. And policy is much better expressed in text than in some speech.

A political speech is essentially a sales-pitch: "vote for me." But as everyone knows when dealing with salesmen you always have to read the small print. Just listening to them isn't enough. In fact it's a downright bad idea - it gives them the opportunity to play you for a sucker.

When making a purchase or casting a vote, you need to read the details of what you're getting, ask the candidate a few questions for clarification (and ask them to reply by email) and that's all you need to do.

I don't buy into this nonsense of politicians as "leaders." They are servants of the public, tasked with optimally allocating the funds of the state. We're not being lead into battle (whatever certain War-on-[ill-defined-presumed-social-ill] agitprop-spouting spin-doctors will tell you) and it is inappropriate to suggest otherwise.

Update 07/09/2008:

Check out these images from Wordle via Wired regarding the speeches at the recent American party conventions:

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Education in the UK

This started out as a commentary on an article by Johann Hari, but then spread into a more general ideological point (not that I'd ever pursue an ideological principle in the Real World directly, I'd only do so after a decision based on [very] basic ethics and available evidence).

After reading Johann Hari's excellent comment on equality, education and the estate tax I am inspired to add my own comment on education.


I'm a liberal. I believe that individual freedom is both good and necessary.

Equality of Opportunity

People are not born equal. Because some people are naturally better than others at different things some people become more powerful than others. These people can exert power over their fellows, thus limiting their freedom.

Because of this it is impossible to create a truly "equal" society. However "equality" is not the same as "freedom."

What can be done is to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. So if they wish, and they are capable of doing so, they can increase their power, income, intellect, ability, comfort, compassion, number of friends, or whatever their personal measure of success is.

I don't mind inequality in society as long as everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.


A good step towards establishing equality of opportunity is to ensure that everyone receives the same standard of education. In the UK today we have a three-tier school system:

  1. The best schools are "private schools." These are schools where fees have to be paid for education.
  2. The next level of schools are a mix of "grammar schools," which select on the basis of academic ability, "faith schools," which select on the basis of religion, and "good comprehensives," which select on the basis of where you live.
  3. The lowest level of schools are called "bad comprehensives" or "sink schools." These are schools that are not very good. Because they aren't very good only the poorest people go there.
Because poor people have to send their children to bad schools poor children are more likely to receive a bad education, and are less likely to succeed in later life and therefore more likely to be poor when they are older.

Because rich people are more likely to send their children to private schools, the children of the rich are more likely to receive a good education than the children of the poor.

This runs counter to the principle of equality of opportunity. The freedoms of the poor are inhibited by their poverty.

Private Schools Should be Run as Private Businesses

In the UK private schools benefit from "charitable status." This means they don't have to pay as much tax as most private businesses.

I have no problem with private schools, but they must be run as private businesses, rather than as institutions subsidised by that state for the benefit of the rich.

Comprehensive Schools

In order to ensure equality of opportunity and the freedom of individual children then a truly comprehensive school system must be created. Such a system will be one where all children go to their local state-funded school.

There will still be problems whereby the lower quality-of-life of some poorer areas will have a negative impact on the quality of education in that area. But the problem will then become a (relatively) straightforward task of improving certain specific schools.

In this case the children in schools in poor areas will have access to the opportunities needed to leave poor areas if they wish to.

Collectivism vs. Individualism

I am not a collectivist, I believe in individual freedom, and that society, or the state, interfering in the lives of individuals is a bad thing. A representative government is the way our society has decided to pay for all the things that can't easily be provided by private companies or private individuals. But the state should not become too powerful.

It is important to realise that the state is not the only potential source of tyranny and enslavement. Monopolistic businesses, powerful individuals, ignorance, and poverty are also things that inhibit the freedom of the individual.

The Question of Private Schools

I believe that if someone believes that they can run a good business educating children for profit then they have every right to do so.

But what happens if the rich send their children to private schools? The children of rich people will then have an advantage relative to others, which contravenes the principle of equality of opportunity!

In this scenario the children of the rich will have a head-start by virtue of better education, and are therefore more likely to succeed!

The Imperfection of Life

Life isn't fair. However I believe that the objective of the state schools should be to improve, not remove competition from private schools.

In any case, without the unfair advantage of tax-exempt status enjoyed by private schools the number of private schools would fall. Also the cost of private school would increase.

By improving bad comprehensives, removing all the remaining grammar schools, and sending people to schools based on where they live or by a lottery there will be an incentive for all parents and politicians to lobby for all schools to be equally good.

It may seem like a limitation on the freedom of the parents to choose the best school for their children, but rather it is an enhancement of the freedom of poor people to succeed if they can or if they wish to.

In this case a clever child will still be more likely to succeed and exert power over those who are less driven or clever or ambitious or aggressive, but at least that child will have got to that position by her own ability.

The Rich

As I said before, it is likely that there will still be some inequality in the school system by virtue of private schools and home schooling and private tutors.

However the unfair or unequal advantages of the extremely rich can be compensated for to some degree by a 100% estate tax.

This would ensure that the children of the rich have the freedom to be their own person. They would not held as slaves to the tyranny of their parent's financial success.

They will still have significant advantages in terms of superior education, but they will then be free to make their own way in the world, unencumbered by inherited wealth.


The ultimate expression of tyranny is that of our enslavement to our own biology. The enslavement of genetic predisposition.

I believe that once the relevant technologies are available then this problem should be addressed. Unfortunately the technologies of human enhancement are currently at a fairly limited stage.

To me there is no distinction between asking the following two questions:

  • Why should someone have greater advantages at the start of their lives by virtue of their parent's money?
  • Why should someone have greater advantages at the start of their lives by virtue of their genetic predisposition to intelligence?
I see transhumanism as the ultimate expression of the Enlightenment Project, extending individual liberty and self-determination to the logical end of controlling all aspects of your personal biology, gender, proclivities, beliefs, skin-colour, physical abilities and body-forms.


I believe in freedom. I believe that in order to preserve the delicate balance required for individual freedom to flourish there are certain corrections that need to be addressed in society.

Education is clearly the area to start, and the closest thing to transhumanism we already have.

Daring Darling: an update

It's nice when people agree with you. Apparently former BBC economics commentator Evan Davis agrees with my opinion that it was right for the Chancellor to tell the truth, from his blog:

Anyway, since when has it been the government's job to encourage investors to invest, or to entice consumers back into the shops? I would rather ministers gave us unbiased guidance on these matters, rather than advice it thinks is wrong on the grounds there is some bigger social purpose from so-doing.

And why do free market newspapers now find that an important government role is to talk up the pound? (The currency probably needs to drop to soften the downturn, as the falling dollar has done in the US. Who knows what the "right" level of the pound is at the moment?)

David Davis

Yes! This is exactly what I was trying to say! He goes on:

In the face of all the evidence to the contrary, I think it would have been a mistake for Mr Darling to have stuck to his previous line that we are uniquely well-placed to weather the storm. It seems unlikely he had special powers to move us all with his words of encouragement and positive thinking .. if only he hadn't blown it.

If political spin could move the economy so far, let's improve the quality of our schools by demanding that education ministers tell us inner city schools are better than suburban ones. And maybe the foreign secretary could get Russia out of Georgia by telling us they are not there at all.

No, if we could make the economy strong by lying about it, I would be out there for lying all the time. But it didn't work in the Soviet Union, and it won't work in a country with a free press either. Better that Mr Darling tells us what he thinks, than he tells us what we'd like to hear.

Now though, it seems, the former Conservative shadow Home Secretary David Davis is criticising Evan Davis for being biased in favour of the government:

"It is completely wrong for a BBC presenter to start defending Government actions when they have made mistakes. Why is a Labour Chancellor being helped out by a presenter of the BBC’s flagship political programme?"

Evan Davis (no relation [I think...])

A couple of points:

  1. Evan Davis is entitled to his own political opinions and is equally entitled to present them on a personal blog, even if that personal blog is hosted by the BBC and he is a BBC presenter.
  2. Evan Davis was not claiming to speak for the BBC.
  3. The BBC may or may not be institutionally biased in favour of the government. Who cares? Other news outlets are institutionally biased against the government or against the Conservative party. This blog is biased in favour of smart, honest, selfless, and hard-working politicians. So what?

I still believe that Darling made the right decision.

Monday, September 01, 2008

I understand politics, I just don't like it...

Why is it that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer says that the economic times faced by Britain and the rest of the world "are arguably the worst they've been in 60 years" is it suggested that he is damaging the economy?

Check out what David Cameron has to say:
"I think it's extraordinary that the chancellor said it, because – remember – a chancellor of the exchequer has got to think not only 'I must tell the truth at all times' but also 'I must use my words carefully, so that I don't actually create a situation that's even worse, that creates a crisis of confidence'."
The "crisis of confidence" was apparently indicated by a fall in the value of Sterling.

However I'm still having difficulty with the idea that telling the truth at all times is a bad thing in a politician, particularly when you're dealing with your own constituents (the British people).

It's possible there is a causal connection between what Darling said and the fall in Sterling (I don't understand currency trading enough to know if this is an entirely bad thing or not --- doesn't it mean that we'll be able to sell stuff abroad more easily?) but if Darling is telling the truth then perhaps this fall in Sterling is entirely warranted, and would have happened anyway once everyone else caught on to the Chancellor's way of thinking.

And if he's wrong then it doesn't matter either, because if GDP starts growing again and inflation and unemployment continue to remain low then things will be alright.

In short, Darling is hoping for the best but preparing (and warning us about) the worst.

It's important that politicians be honest and straightforward with the public, so why is Alastair Darling being criticised for commenting on the economic outlook? He is, after all, the government minister in charge of the Treasury.

And it seems I am not alone in thinking this, here are the results of a Guardian poll asking the question "do you admire Darling's frankness?":

Well said, Darling

There seems to be a disjoint between the public's perception (a politician not only telling the truth, but being honest and open with his opinions) and the perception of rival politicians and some in the media who see this as a mistake.

It does seem a bit overblown to say that things are the worst they've been since 1948. I'm pretty sure they aren't. But Darling is the professional so I suppose if he says it is there's a chance he's right.