Thursday, August 31, 2006

Malcolm generously publicises...

Private Eye is meant to be (a) satirical and (b) funny. The latest edition (Eye 1166) achieves both in a superb piece of self-satire and sheer cretinous, crapulous pomposity. Here goes , in full:
More fuel you
Dr B. Ching ridicules councils in Birmingham and Ealing for scrapping or proposing to scrap bus lanes (Eye 1164). He is wrong to attack these moves, for two reasons.
First, simple common sense economics. Just as people generally use state schools because they can’t afford private schools and get NHS treatment because they can’t afford private medicine, they use public transport because they can’t afford private transport. On average, bus passengers who are employed at all (many are pensioners, students, schoolchildren or the unemployed) earn far less than car users. This is because their time is less valuable to the economy. It therefore makes no sense to give them priority over people in cars.
Secondly, a lot of the arguments for public transport are based on misrepresentations. If people are to use buses, they must have the flexibility of buses running all day. Whilst buses are full at peak times, they are pretty empty the rest of the time. Huge diesel engines pump out horrible emissions in large doses, made worse by the fact that they have to stop and start all the time. Queues of traffic build up behind them, who are also obliged to stop and accelerate way again due to the presence of the bus, thus increasing their emissions far beyond what they would have been if they had been able to keep a steady speed, unobstructed by buses. On the BBC news recently, we were treated to a lecture on the evil of cars—a car journey from London to Edinburgh, we were told, puts out 100kg of carbon dioxide per person, a plane journey 50kg, a train journey just 25kg.
This assumes, of course, a heavily polluting car with only one person in it, a full plane (reasonably common) and a full train (outside peak hours, very uncommon)—all very misleading. This was to explain the government’s proposal to introduce road charging. And how do they intend this to work? Why, we will all be charged a lot more for using busy roads at peak times, to encourage us to use the trains. The trains are full to bursting on busy routes at peak hours. In the local news for the West Midlands, immediately following this broadcast, we learned that many through routes would be scrapped since New Street Station in Birmingham is already working at double the capacity for which it was designed. The infrastructure simply would not stand more people travelling on the train at peak times having been driven out of their cars by road pricing.
Your magazine has a noble tradition of clearing away the bullshit put out by government and lobbyists—you let yourself down by being taken in by the public transport lobby.
Lecturer in Law, Lancaster University Law School.
Just remember: the nurse on the bus, on her way to a shift in the ICU, is less valuable to society than the fly-guy in the Porsche, on his way to the strip-club, because her "time is less valuable to the economy. It therefore makes no sense to give [her] priority over people in cars". Where do lecturers at provincial universities fit in this dichotomy?

Dr Austen-Baker (for Reading University gave him a PhuD, just this year, for an absolute rib-tickler: The Relational Contract Theory of Ian Macneil: An and the work of Ian MacNeil) breaks cover only occasionally, usually when the Institutions of Higher Feeling and Learning are in relax-mode. His previous appearance on the fringe of the lunatic radar was as long ago as 23 December, 1999, on the BBC Talking Point website. Again, let's hear it in full from our learned friend:
Life after death - should families decide? It seems to me that, in the field of fertility treatment and embryology generally, scientific possibility is being elevated into "right". The ethical justification for this seems doubtful to say the least. What benefit does society as a whole derive from providing the infertile with treatment to allow them to bear the children nature has denied them? What benefit to society from disappointed would-be grandparents being allowed to manufacture children to dead fathers? (And all this in an overcrowded country and planet.) It is perfectly possible for the state to make me a rich man by simply giving me large amounts of money. I should certainly like this; but can it be said I have a "right" to it. I think not. "Good" for the individual does not necessarily represent a social good, and the whole Western system of ethics (particularly as represented in the common law) is dependent on the Aristotelian principle of the individual having the right to do that which is good for the community.

It reminds Malcolm of a bon-mot from the mouth of Norman Clegg (the great Peter Sallis's classic persona): "I entertain serious hopes that this one is potty on a full-time basis".

Dr Austen-Baker has a personal page, including telephone number and e-address. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

RAB said...

Hi - First of all, congratulations on what must be described as an uberblog.

I am Richard Austen-Baker. I'd like to straighten out a couple of things.

First - I didn't suggest that the nurse on her way to ICU was of less value to society than some flash git in a Porsche. I'm puzzled how people can read that into my words as published (all attempts with dictionary and grammar to make my words convey that meaning have proved fruitless - maybe someone has been translating into Chinese then into German then back into English...) This had nothing to do with value to society.

Here in the UK one of the main arguments for anti-congestion measures is the economic cost of time lost in traffic jams - I was just pointing out that you don't solve that by narrowing the space available to cars and goods vehicles in order to give priority to buses. (By the way - I did NOT suggest that cars should have priority over buses - only that we should all have to take the pain of congestion equally.)

Your criticism about nurses (most of the ones I've met go to work by car, anyway)is not unique. But let's put it another way. It seems that you are suggesting that a bus passenger going into town to collect welfare benefits should have priority over a surgeon driving to the hospital to perform life-saving surgery. Therefore (applying your logic) you believe that welfare claimants are far more important to society than surgeons. It seems odd to me that you should have such a crazy set of values... What was that about the "lunatic fringe"?

I suppose you need to know the full context to understand the point being made in my letter, but letters to the press can't run to the length of scholarly articles. No one seems to have commented on the main part of the letter, which concerned the misleading information used by the anti-car lobby in Britain, with the backing of the supposedly neutral BBC. Looks like people haven't got any counter-arguments for that one.

A correction: My Phud thesis was entitled "The Relational Contract Theory of Ian Macneil: An Analysis, Challenge and Apologia" - I guess someone somewhere ran out of literacy trying to transcribe it for the web.

Subscribe with Bloglines International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Add to Technorati Favorites