Until death (or the expiry of the budget) do us part

Posted on my employer’s blog: Until death (or the expiry of the budget) do us part

The next time that you pull together a proposal for a Med Comms activity, ask yourself the following question: what is it exactly that this event will achieve? You probably already have some metrics in mind that you will sell to your client/boss, but really challenge yourself: short of a direct, visible effect on sales of the brand, what exactly will the return on investment be?

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Work-life balance? Apparently we’ve never had it so good…

An interesting graph was uploaded to the Adam Smith Institute website recently, which at face value appears to show that we’ve never had it so good in terms of work-life balance:

Working hours per year has fallen consistently over the last 50 years across the world

No surprises regarding this chart in some respects. For example, advances in technology and overall wealth have led to a reduction in work hours across the board over the last 50 years. It’s also no surprise that people work longest overall in the US; one of the major reasons I have never wanted to work there – either in my days as a lab researcher or in my current career – has always been the unreasonable hours (particularly when on a fixed salary) and the relative lack of annual vacation.

One thing doesn’t seem right to me though – apparently the average UK annual working hours total is ~1700, which roughly equates to a 35-hour week over 48 weeks. Really…? In the Pharmaceutical industry at least, I don’t think anyone (outside of London anyway) works that few hours; based on discussions with friends in a variety of other service and financial industries, the same is true for them at well. Since the graph above is an average across the country, there must therefore be a lot of people who work a lot less than a 35-hour week…

Anyway, perhaps we should all move to Norway – bracing weather, beautiful landscapes, and plenty of leisure time to enjoy it all in…

The illiberal nature of passports

All too frequent hour-long queues at passport control

In these days of global trade and supposed free movement of people, it’s amazing that we still have – and continue to put up with – the ridiculous ritual of passport control. The obsolete technology, the humorless border police, the queues, the ban on use of mobile phones or cameras in the hall (why?!) – all these contribute to making sure that your very first impression of the country you’ve just entered is a bad one.

I was therefore first surprised, and then increasingly annoyed, by finding out from an article entitled “Passport to the Total State” that passports are a relatively recent invention, were until even more recently a voluntary document, and were originally developed to help those who carried them:

A passport is where the security theater begins. Indeed, without a passport those who wish to fly or cross a border are not “allowed” to be scanned, searched, interrogated, or undergo a plethora of other indignities imposed by uniformed thugs. The hoops through which passport carriers jump are all prelude to “permitting” them to exercise a right belonging to every freeborn person: the right to travel.

America and the world were not always this way. It is important to remember that there once was a world in which people traveled freely across borders without paperwork to visit families, pursue education, conduct business, and mingle. Freedom worked once. It enriched the world economically, culturally, and psychologically.

The passport has grown into what is arguably the single most powerful tool of totalitarian America, second only to law enforcement itself. It no longer pretends to protect individuals; not a single terrorist has been apprehended as a result of passport checks. But it does cement the totalitarian state. The mandatory passport should be reviled and rejected as an abuse of human rights and common decency. A nation that requires one cannot be free.

The passport is yet another part of our everyday lives that, along with Big Government, tax, inflation, war and a host of other things, we accept as completely normal.

Article on the nature of Government written in 1903 still rings true today

Via the excellent Mises Institute, I came across an article written by Clarence Darrow that was excerpted from his book Resist Not Evil, written in 1903. The topic of the article is the nature of Government – how it came about, what its goals are and what that means for us, the ‘governed’. What’s amazing is how this article could have been written yesterday…

Everywhere it seems to have been taken for granted that force and violence are necessary to man’s welfare upon the earth. Endless volumes have been written, and countless lives been sacrificed in an effort to prove that one form of government is better than another; but few seem seriously to have considered the proposition that all government rests on violence and force; is sustained by soldiers, policemen, and courts; and is contrary to the ideal peace and order that make for the happiness and progress of the human race.

Now and then it is even admitted that in the far-distant ages yet to come men may so far develop toward the angelic that political governments will have no need to be. This admission, like the common concept, presumes that governments are good; that their duties undertaken and performed consist in repressing the evil and the lawless, and protecting and caring for the helpless and the weak.

If the history of the state proved that governing bodies were ever formed for this purpose or filled this function, there might be some basis for the assumption that government is necessary to preserve order and to defend the weak. But the origin and evolution of the political state show quite another thing — they show that the state was born in aggression, and that in all the various stages through which it has passed its essential characteristics have been preserved.

The rest of the article is well worth a read – highly recommended!

“C’est Cidre. Not Cider” :-)

A really quick post this evening, and unlike most of my articles of late something on the lighter side… Yes, it’s the latest commercial for Stella Artois‘ new ‘cidre’ (not ‘cider’):

Love it!

If you were king… (would you do any better?)

Via Davy at The UK Libertarian blog, I came across this great video which, quite simply and elegantly, pulls apart the concept that the State (whether it takes the form of a benevolent king or, for example, the US Congress) can ever be a positive force for humanity in general. Check it out – it will make you think!

Of course, one only has to look at what is currently going on in Europe, the US and a multitude of other places around the world to realise quite quickly that our rulers are anything but benevolent…

When did you sign the ‘social’ contract…?

There’s a great article posted on the Mises Institute blog that I highly recommend, on the topic of the so-called ‘social contract’:

In regard to the so-called social contract, I have often had occasion to protest that I haven’t even seen the contract, much less been asked to consent to it. A valid contract requires voluntary offer, acceptance, and consideration. I’ve never received an offer from my rulers, so I certainly have not accepted one; and rather than consideration, I have received nothing but contempt from the rulers, who, notwithstanding the absence of any agreement, have indubitably threatened me with grave harm in the event that I fail to comply with their edicts.

What monumental effrontery these people exhibit! What gives them the right to rob me and push me around? It certainly is not my desire to be a sheep for them to shear or slaughter as they deem expedient for the attainment of their own ends.

Moreover, when we flesh out the idea of “consent of the governed” in realistic detail, the whole notion quickly becomes utterly preposterous.

The author, Robert Higgs, then goes on – in a way that would be hilarious if it was not so true – what this social contract would look like if you were to receive it in the post tomorrow:

I, the party of the first part (“the ruler”), promise:

(1) To stipulate how much of your money you will hand over to me, as well as how, when, and where the transfer will be made. You will have no effective say in the matter, aside from pleading for my mercy, and if you should fail to comply, my agents will punish you with fines, imprisonment, and (in the event of your persistent resistance) death.

(2) To make thousands upon thousands of rules for you to obey without question, again on pain of punishment by my agents. You will have no effective say in determining the content of these rules, which will be so numerous, complex, and in many cases beyond comprehension that no human being could conceivably know about more than a handful of them, much less their specific character; yet if you should fail to comply with any of them, I will feel free to punish you to the extent of a law made by me and my confederates.

(3) To provide for your use, on terms stipulated by me and my agents, so-called public goods and services. Although you may actually place some value on a few of these goods and services, most will have little or no value to you, and some you will find utterly abhorrent, and in no event will you as an individual have any effective say over the goods and services I provide, notwithstanding any economist’s cock-and-bull story to the effect that you “demand” all this stuff and value it at whatever amount of money I choose to expend for its provision.

(4) In the event of a dispute between us, judges beholden to me for their appointment and salaries will decide how to settle the dispute. You can expect to lose in these settlements, if your case is heard at all.

In exchange for the foregoing government “benefits,” you, the party of the second part (“the subject”), promise:

(5) To shut up, make no waves, obey all orders issued by the ruler and his agents, kowtow to them as if they were important, honorable people, and when they say “jump,” ask only “how high?”

Would you sign up to this…?