Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Cheddar Gorge Walk

Just a brief flashback to the first day Alex arrived (Bank Holiday Friday April 22nd) when clutching his new helicopter, still unpacked, he chanced upon the cat inspecting the last flying thing it had encountered. Yes, the little brown sparrow pictured was quite dead.

It's a dead bird (and a helicopter)

Over the last few days we have been taking it easy. Monday/Tuesday my mother visited; yesterday I was in London to meet with a client. Today we decided on the Cheddar Gorge clifftop walk. We parked at the top end of the gorge and ascended the south side to begin the walk towards Cheddar.

Alex and Adrian (in red) at Cheddar Gorge

Once you get on the top up a steep, rocky path there are some scary overlooks down the cliffs. Here Alex and Adrian (in red) are exploring a pinacle.

Cheddar Reservoir (with Clare)

There are also good views looking west towards Brean Down and the sea at Burnham, with Cheddar reservoir in the foreground.

As we passed Jacob's Ladder, five minutes from the pub, someone had to retrace our steps and go fetch the car. I enjoyed the 50 minute walk back, almost all of it uphill in the sunshine. There is a curious ascetic experience to be tired in every fibre of your body as you endlessly climb.

Clare had further confirmation this morning: a CT scan first thing Tuesday morning and a meeting Wednesday morning, both at Taunton.

Just a final thought on AV. It's interesting how neither the YES nor the NO camp can be honest about their respective cases. E.O Wilson, world authority on sociobiology and ants once quipped on Marxism: 'great theory, wrong species'. The most profound judgement in four words.

There might be a species for which iterated rounds of voting produced the optimal choice of political strategies in elections but human beings are not it. Consider the following case. The status quo isn't working and there are two credible strategies for dealing with it.

- Strategy A, advocated by party A, wants to lower debt by cutting public spending.

- Strategy B, advocated by party B, wants to keep demand up and retain employment and service levels by borrowing even more, repaying later.

In a particular seat, party A's supporters provide 40% of the vote, party B's supporters provide 35% of the vote.

What about the remaining 25%? They support the LaLa party which believes that banks should be abolished, the minimum wage should be raised to £25,000 per year and no-one should be allowed to earn more than this. They calculate that the resources this would free up would allow both public employment and services to be massively increased and the debt would be a non-issue.

Under first past the post, party A will win and will get a chance to implement their policy ... which is rational if not widely popular. Under other circumstances party B might win and execute their policy, which is also rational and could work. If either policy fails to work, it at least has the benefits of clarity and there is an opportunity to learn the appropriate lessons and move on.

However, under AV the supporters of the LaLa party get a chance to vote in the second round after their candidate is eliminated. In fact they will decide the result. Unfortunately it is now rational for both party A and party B to blur their strategies to appeal to the economically-illiterate and utopian LaLa 25%. We no longer have clarity about rational strategies for running and fixing an advanced capitalist economy.

Now, the blurring of messages to appeal to a wider electorate happens all the time of course, and we are the worse for it. However, AV just makes it worse.

You see the problem. We are not all identical clones sitting in a Platonic command cubicle making wise decisions for the greater good of the community: that's ants. We are special-interest tribes with appropriate strategies, some of which are aligned with the art of the possible (while favouring one interest group over another of course) while some are simply idiotic and would fly any economy into the ground.

It's important not to blur the options and it's important to be able to identify (sooner or later) leadership teams and strategies which actually work. Fuzziness, group-hugs in the name of sacred 'democracy', and general niceness all round doesn't necessarily cut it.

However, you won't hear the argument above put forward by either side in the run-up to May 5th. It would offend the LaLa voters and that would never do if you want to win.

Further Reading: The Myth of the Rational Voter (Bryan Caplan)