Sunday, 20 November 2011

Focus should be on home quality as well as quantity

Policy Exchange's Alex Morton rejects claims that building on green belt will lead to undesirable effects such as urban sprawl

Cameron seems to care about happiness, so he should look at the quality of the homes being built rather than just the quality. The type of home you live in - whether it is big enough for a family, whether it has a garden, whether it has green space nearby, whether it is close to a good school, whether it has many social problems - affects happiness more than anything else.

The Royal Institute of British Architects in its excellent 50 page report Case for Space: The size of England's homes. RIBA. Sep 2011 says that we have the smallest, most expensive houses in Europe.  A lot of people aren't satisfied.

Housing, in my opinion, was Labour's biggest failure.  What needs to be done?  Unaffordable housing by Policy Exchange has some great recommendations:  Unaffordable Housing: Fables and Myths. Policy Exchange. Hartwich and Evans. 2005.
Also see: Making Housing Affordable: A new vision for housing policy. Policy Exchange. Alex Morton. August 2010.
In regards to flats and attached houses - we must improve sound proofing.  Ideally people want detached homes with gardens.  We should make sure these are the homes that are being built.  If you must build flats and attached homes then they should be built to the highest standards possible - not just high standards but the highest standards possible.  My specific concern is with noisy neighbours.  The current building standards and regulations aren't strict enough.  Andrew Stunell MP doesn't mention anything about sound proofing in flats and attached houses in his December 2010 statement here:
Is it illiberal to impose the strictest standards possible?  No - not if we are looking at it from the point of view of the ordinary individual; the ordinary working class family. If all or most the houses or flats they look at are built to a low standard, they do not have a choice.  If we like liberalism because it gives us choice to choose the option for us that will make us most happy, then the strictest standards in sound proofing and in other areas such as insulation are a good thing.
If many generations are going to spend the whole of their lives in the same building, you may as well do it to as high a standard as possible.
Noisy neighbours cause a lot of damage to society. See: -Soundproofing Walls - Guaranteed to Work! Guaranteed for Life! and Forum
Noise nuisance results in a lot of stress and lead to costs in terms of mental health for the NHS; it also costs the economy because it leads to people not going into work because of stress.  This stress can also lead to domestic violence, rape, and unhappy children, which then costs police and the NHS money.  The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health reports on one legal case:
The President of CIEH, Stephen Battersby, also remarks how weak housing regulations are detrimental to health: Better housing would ease the strain on the NHS.  Stephen Battersby.  Guardian

What about the government's recently announced plans?  They want to devote government-owned land towards housebuilding.
Cameron plan to boost housebuilding. Financial Times. Nov 18 2011.
Housing plans include up to 450,000 new homes by 2015. Guardian. 18 Nov, 2011. Patrick Wintour.
Who will build them? Inside Housing. 18th Nov 2011.

As long as it isn't a case of packing as many houses in as possible.  That is exactly what we don't want.  Remember - actual people have to live there. We should use the recommendations in RIBA's report.  There should be some rules as to what type of houses are going to be built.

One thing that would make sorting the housing problem out easier for Mr Cameron, as the Guardian article suggests, is to get a complete register of who owns what land in Britain.  Kevin Cahill, author of Who Owns Britain, pointed this out in a recent new Statesman article: The great property swindle. Kevin Cahill. New Statesman.11 March 2011.  If you could have a top down view map of the UK that graphically illustrated the housing situation and who owns what, it would be easier for the government to make sure everything is OK.

He should also look to see how you can get more self-builds.  This is bound to improve standards of housing as people are going to live there and so will put more care into it.  Housing companies are just in it for profit. Grant Shapps: Government backs self-builders. 3 May 2011.

Making owners of second homes pay full council tax is right.  Maybe he should go further.  Doubling it for second and multiple homes would make the property market less competitive and discourage people from using houses as an investment; this would bring property prices down to affordable levels so that young people could afford them.  Which is surely the aim.
I would use the extra money to pay off the national debt rather than frittering away a few hundred million here and there; his long term aim should be to increase the income tax threshold.
Also - what about a land tax?  Just as people pay council tax ever year, why don't huge land owners have to pay?  They see their land going up in value every year and they haven't done anything to deserve that windfall. How is it fair that due to our feudal history certain families get all this land and ordinary citizens in 2011 do not?  They should have to contribute.  A transaction tax won't do it because they won't sell.  It must be a yearly thing like council tax.  What about farmers?  Maybe you could make an exception for farmers.

It seems to me Cameron is moving away from discussing building on green field land. This is a bad thing.  See: Is the Green belt sacred? Oliver Marc, 2008 and Housing sense in short supply, 21 Sep 2011. Oliver Marc
"A total of 90.1 per cent of the English surface area is classified as green space or water. Of the remaining tenth of England, the largest chunk (4.3 per cent) is neither buildings nor roads – but domestic gardens."
Building on brownfield land is going to make the place where people live more congested and less pleasant.  I would rather brownfield land (previously developed sites) be converted into green space.  He should ignore the National Trust and Daily Telegraph.  They are not going to vote anyone other than Tory at the next election.  Also as a Prime Minister, you should care more about what is right for the country than what is popular.  Often the two don't go hand in hand.  Often you need to stand up to these people and make your case if you think what you are doing is right.  At least they will respect you then and may even come round to your way of thinking.  Ignoring them or caving in to them bit by bit is pathetic.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Should we ban smoking in cars?

The ban that was guaranteed to have people fuming. Catherine Bennett. Guardian, 20th November

I actually support this measure. 
We need to understand what it is about an authority telling us what to do that makes us unhappy.
There are already restrictions that come to mind about car use, such as having laws against not wearing a seatbelt and driving while eating or on a mobile phone, speed limits, etc.
If we are already in a child like mindset where we do not take responsibility for ourselves, to not ban smoking in cars would perversely have the effect of encouraging people to smoke in the car.  It would send an implicit message that the authority figure we tend to look to to tell us what to do actually thinks it is ok.
This is the problem that is created when the government assumes responsibility for individuals.
If we are not to go ahead with banning smoking in cars, we should  repeal the ban on wearing a seat belt.  It doesn't endanger others and it just encourages people to look to the government instead of taking personal responsibility.  By doing that you may create a different mindset in people - one where you don't look to the government to tell you what to do, but think for yourself.  This mindset is more likely to be one that concludes that smoking in my car is not good for my children.
If they still choose to smoke, then at least they haven't broken the law and the rest of us don't feel like we have to do something about it.  On the other hand it may mean that people feel it is more their responsibility to confront the parent who smokes in the car with children in it, rather than thinking it is the police's responsibility.  If this were to be the case then this social pressure would be more effective than having a law which cannot be policed or enforced adequately due to lack of police resources. 

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Motivation for feminist blogs and why abusive comments are not a problem

 Sady Doyle - abusive comments

There has been a recent effort to highlight the fact that feminists bloggers occasionally get called names and receive threats from commenters on their blogs or articles. 
My argument is that deep down these women want the abuse or at the very least don't mind it.
If a female blogger writes a post and nobody responds, would she prefer that to a load of responses along the lines of 'stop whining bitch'?
Think about it.
What usually happens after a blogpost or article on feminism receives abusive comments? Seeing the comments, the feminist blogger lets her feminists buddies know about the horrible abuse she is getting or people see the blogpost themselves.  They all come in and support her saying things like 'typical - this is why we need more legislation', 'Ignore the trolls- i loved your post'.  This obviously makes the woman feel good as she is sharing the experience of abuse and gaining emotional support from other women. Rather than a specific problem peculiar to that individual woman, the problem now becomes that she is simply a woman.  All these other women are now in the same boat as her sharing the problem of being a woman -  she is not alone.
She would prefer the abuse to no response at all.  Why?  Because it legitimises her thesis that men are the cause of her unhappiness. 
Do not discount the case that the 'verbal abusers' and 'trolls' can tell that this is an unhappy woman blaming her unhappiness on men and that they are actually verbally abusing her to make her happy.  These 'abusers' are probably capable of posting a reasonable response, comprehensively dismantling her argument, but they know that if they did that she would no longer be able to blame men for her unhappiness.  Which would make her unhappy.  Consequently the sisterhood would break down and she would be alone again faced with a problem peculiar to her and not all women.  Given that most men are kind-hearted and do not like women to be unhappy, they do not do this; instead they post ad hominem attacks.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Feminist Bloggers, New Statesman

Helen Lewis Hattersley has wrote an article in the New Statesman about how feminist bloggers get angry responses.  Here is my response:

You have discounted the notion that some people like being abused. 
If you are an unhappy person and you write an article complaining about something, you are bound to get an angry response because most people think - why are you burdening me with your problem?
Before calling for legislation to regulate the internet, as Cath Elliott suggests, it might be worth asking would there be any negative consequences to this? 
For a start, some people like being called names; maybe like is the wrong word - but they at least find it preferable to no response at all -some find a hate-filled response  preferable to a positive response; indeed one blogger above found a nasty response amusing. 
The point is you cannot regulate how poeple respond to your public appearances or writings.  To do so would be to live in a police state.
These people haven't stopped you so far. 
Indeed if you are a feminst blogger who enjoys blogging about feminism, have you ever considered that these verbal-attackers are posting nasty responses out of kindness because they think that is what you want?  It certainly legitimises a lot of feminist writings.  If there hadn't been these verbal attacks, you wouldn't have enjoyed making this blogpost would you Helen?
So, carry on your complaining feminists if it makes you feel better, but please stop before you go about stifling free speech via legislation. 
A better step would be to stop worrying about other women , stop depressing people and concentrate on your own life.