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Scarlett Nation » Debate » The Founding Thoughts – On The Road To The Scarlett Nation

The Founding Thoughts – On The Road To The Scarlett Nation

Idealism is often used as a pejorative term in the political field but I choose to challenge that notion. I define myself as an idealist, as I believe having an ideal is the best way to improve society. In essence, politics is about effective problem solving, with voters deciding on whose policies will be most effective in solving a problem. However a lot of time is spent discussing the policies instead of the goal. It’s a bit like going on a journey before deciding where you want to go, and most of our political leaders and commentators fail in explaining their intended destination outside of meaningless phrases like “a bolder and brighter Britain”. A brighter Britain which could mean a focus on education or perhaps mandating the wearing of neon orange clothing.

By creating an ideal, policy critique becomes easier, more focused and therefore more effective. Instead of debating the outcome of a policy with an abstract, one can compare with a tangible target, giving your debate structure and more meaning. I think to myself about the student riots last winter. Whilst the anger towards those MPs who broke their pledge was in my view justified and the proposed higher fees somewhat obscene, I couldn’t help but think that the primary argument had been missed. Debating university funding should have surely come after the debate on whether access to university education was a right or a privilege, whether a society with more graduates is preferable and what exactly is the purpose of universities in our society. Whilst many online tried to have these discussions, they did not appear on our television screens to reach the wider public. Until a consensus is reached on these questions it is difficult to formulate an effective policy on university funding that does little more than to patch up the status quo without progressing to a better future or ideal, nor can it be decided if a policy has been effective since no conclusion was reached on what the end goal was.

So we have an ideal, a destination. The next decision is how to get there. It’s possible that the best method is decided by happenstance, but it’s more likely that this is yet another thing to be debated and discussed and could take a long time. This is where we reach a second of my annoyances – bad logic.

If there’s one thing that bothers me (and there isn’t which you will discover in due course), it’s bad logic. Not the absence of logic, there is a time and a place for freedom from reason, like a dance floor. No, it’s not no logic that I have a problem with, it’s bad logic or false logic. As a society we are confronted with it constantly in the press, in politics and even in our everyday lives. A newspaper will print that one rule change will lead to something much worse, without ever explaining the link between the two actions. A politician will cite the agreement of an individual with their policy, ignoring the possibility that perhaps said individual isn’t always right. A friend will tell you they agree with one thing because another is bad, missing the idea that both could be flawed. These are examples of Bad Logic, and Bad Logic is harmful in the long run. Not only because repetition of bad logic can lead otherwise rational people to irrational decisions that end up producing wrong  and potentially costly outcomes, but also because it wastes precious time in the debate on policy. Constructive debate is hard enough as it is, without having to spend time debunking spurious arguments and specious reasoning.

And so we come to Scarlett Nation. A nation that has as its ideal a society that is developed on the back of constructive debate and ideational analysis. Together, Steve and I (and anyone who wishes to be a citizen!) intend to use this space as somewhere to have an open and honest debate on where we’ve been, where we are and how we got here, and then where we want to go and how to get there. In our commitment to the importance of constructive debate, Scarlett Nation hopes to also spend time highlighting and debunking common examples of bad logic. To do so will take time and effort, difficult questions will have to be asked and answered, but it is only with a thorough dissection of our world can we effectively attempt to make things better. We hope you choose to join us on our journey.

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Co-founder and contributor to Scarlett Nation

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  • Richard W. Jacquard

    Very interesting commentary on political dialogue in the UK today. I for one think that parties do very much represent certain principles. Whilst, idealism is the absolute force behind positive consistency or necessary change, it is important to point out the central issue with an ideal vs ideal analysis of policy. That is true of any policy debate, and most certainly the debate on tuition fees you highlighted in your article. The issue in question is thus; ideals are a waypoint; a destination as you indicate, however, feasibility both financial and social are huge valves that must guide the route to that destination.

    Regarding the issue of tuition fees for a particular instance; There is no doubt that the coalition government wishes to make university access meritocratic and as affordable as possible. They key being ‘as possible’. The debate were it to have focused on the IDEAL of tertiary education being free or not would have missed the relevant point central to the stability of the UK economy, public purse and society; the context of the huge public deficit, that threatens to consume our country, lest it be beat back.

    The IDEAL here is not; we should have a high deficit or a low deficit, or should education at tertiary stage be free or not. Rather; what constitutes the fairest way to plan for the UK’s future.

    Do we continue to indebt ourselves to the point of losing our AAA credit rating and requiring bailout by the IMF, and once again become the ‘sick man of Europe’. Or, do we hold our head up high and take tough decisions about spending in the short and medium term (as we pay down the deficit, and re-balance the economy) and pass the cost of education onto both the user and the sponsor (often company’s see the rise of the white collar apprenticeship scheme) until we have strengthened Britain’s foundations and can afford to pour more public lines of credit back into tertiary education.

    Now surrounding that debate there exist all those aforementioned questions you raised; regarding the purpose of university, the gold standard of the graduate qualification over and above any other qualification or work experience.

    So in conclusion I agree with you that IDEAL’s are way points, destinations to get to, however, there are overriding IDEAL’s such as feasibility and the benefits and difficulties each choice in politics brings, which truly are the key point of debate on policy.

    I would assert that ideals which compete on the ivory tower of ‘infinite resources’ and ‘absolute social cohesion’ for approval are the resort of at best the politically lazy and unengaged, at worst the politically closed minded, or most realistically; those whom like the sound of a particular principle they can ally themselves to without having to expend much energy either way.

    Now that is a bold assertion, I grant you, however, it is one that as politicians across the board strive (albeit in a faltering manner) toward raising politics back to a high level of integrity and moral standing, a position from which it has slipped in the last 20 years; most behooves we the public to take heed of as we continue our own healthy engagement with both destination and the facts that allow us to reach that destination.