Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Britain's children

Britain has been rated by UNICEF 21st out of 21 of the World's leading industrial nations for child well being. Remember Blair's election slogan in 1997 - "Education, education, education"!

Britain's youth are amongst the least well educated, most badly behaved and unhealthy in the developed world. We have the highest rate of teenage pregnancies of any of the leading nations. This is Blair's true legacy and the future does not look bright. Although this downward spiral of shame may have started with the utterly daft, politically correct, soft headed and vociferous peddlars of liberalism that has so bedevilled Britain since the 60's, New Labour have only excasapated the situation since coming to power. The Thatcherite emphasis on individualism has also played it's part in the shocking social breakdown of communities and the family unit.

The disembowelment of principle in favour of vote catching political expediency is at the heart of Britain's descent into enfeebled decadence. Politicians have been undermining the authority of parents and the sanctity of family for decades. Political spin and duplicity at many levels, over many years has also undermined society's faith in our political institutions.

As one intelligent young woman in the audience of last week's Question Time on BBC television observed, Britain is a pushover. You can can get away with anything now, she said. No one has summed it up better.


Unicef report: Key points at-a-glance

The UK has come bottom of a Unicef league table for child well-being across 21 industrialised countries.

The study looked at a total of 40 indicators in six categories. Here is a summary of some of the report's key findings:

European countries dominate the top half of the overall league table, with the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Finland claiming the top four places.

The UK and United States are in the bottom third of the rankings for five of the six categories covered. The six categories are material well-being, family and peer relationships, health and safety, behaviour and risks, and children's own sense of well-being (educational and subjective).
No country features in the top third of the rankings for all six dimensions of child well-being, although the Netherlands and Sweden come close to achieving this.

Child poverty remains above the 15% mark in the three southern European countries (Portugal, Spain, Italy) and in three Anglophone countries (the US, the UK, and Ireland).
There is no obvious relationship between levels of child well-being and GDP per capita. The Czech Republic, for example, achieves a higher overall rank for child well-being than several much wealthier countries.
A total of nine countries - all in northern Europe - have brought child poverty rates below 10%.

Approximately 80% of children in the countries under review are living with both parents. This ranges from more than 90% in Greece and Italy to less than 70% in the UK and 60% in the US.
Even in the lowest ranked countries, almost two-thirds of children still regularly eat the main meal of the day with their families, with France and Italy maintaining the tradition most of all.

Fewer than one in every 10,000 young people die before the age of 19 as a result of accident, murder, suicide or violence.
European countries occupy the top half of the report's child health and safety table, with the top five places claimed by the four Nordic countries and the Netherlands.
Infant mortality rates range from under three per 1,000 births in Iceland and Japan, to over six per 1,000 in Hungary, Poland and the US.

The overall OECD league table of young people's risk behaviours sees the UK at the foot of the rankings by "a considerable distance".
Risk behaviours considered in the study include smoking, being drunk, using cannabis, fighting and bullying, and sexual behaviour.
Only about a third of young people eat fruit daily.
Only about a third of young people exercise for an hour or more on five or more days a week - youths take most exercise in Ireland, Canada and the US, and the least in Belgium and France.

Finland, Canada, Australia, and Japan head this particular table in the report.
The UK is rated in the bottom third of the table for educational well-being.
Four southern European countries - Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal - occupy the bottom four places.

Children's subjective sense of well-being appears to be markedly higher in the Netherlands, Spain, and Greece and markedly lower in Poland and the UK.
Approximately 80% of young people consider their health to be good or excellent in every OECD country except the UK.

The Netherlands, Norway and Austria, are at the head of the table with over a third of their schoolchildren admitting to "liking school a lot".

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Capitalism Or Socialism

Capitalism without a conscience is as damaging as socialism without pragmatism. As separate ideologies they are both illogical and deeply flawed and doomed to failure.

The trappings of socialism are expensive and require a dynamic wealth building economy in order to build the schools, universities, hospitals, roads and so on. Socialism is therefore unobtainable as an ideology without the engine of capitalism. That is why so many "socialist" regimes fail. Another problem is that socialists tend to think that individuals are stupid and need nannying and this eventually leads to totalitarianism. Instead of nurturing and nourishing individuality, they squeeze the life out of them, losing massive potential benefits for society as a whole. This does not mean socialists ideals are wrong. They are not but it's the way one attains them that is most important.

So called free market capitalism is doomed to failure because it thrives on principles of exploitation that inevitably benefits the rich and powerful who have the means to exploit markets, labour and so on to a far greater extent than the poor and powerless. This inevitably breeds inequality, injustice and discontent which is a recipe for revolt and even revolution. Therefore unregulated free market capitalism sows the seeds of it's own destruction.

No society can function successfully in the long term without a balance between wealth creation and social consciousness. The key is getting the balance right. The problem with systems is that they depend on the integrity and abilities of those that manage them. In other words they are only as good or bad as the people that run them and far too often these people lack objectivity. They are driven by ideologies rather than logic, objectivity and common sense.

It is clear therefore that capitalism needs a social conscience and socialism needs a capitalist economy. One needs the other to succeed and ultimately they have the same objective which is to enrich and nourish individuals as well as societies and nations. They are in fact different degrees of the same thing and are inter-dependant and indispensable, the one to the other.