The Veil of Ignorance- Taking a Philosophical Approach to Green Politics

Central to the political stance of the Green Party of England and Wales is the statement:

“Conventional political and economic policies are destroying the very foundations of the wellbeing of humans and other animals. Our culture is in the grip of a value system and a way of understanding the world which is fundamentally flawed”*

This translates in to such things as increased taxation on the highest earners, abolition of the use non-dom status, the closing of of tax loopholes to significantly decrease the number of tax loopholes which can be exploited for personal gain.

Typical responses for why people should not vote Green is that this will mean increased taxation for many, when other parties understand that they have worked hard for their money so the should keep it.

But a ‘thought experiment’ (taking an idea and imagining its consequence if it were real life) helps to illustrate why the Green Party is the best vote for social justice. The thought experiment is known as ‘The Veil of Ignorance’ originally proposed by John Rawls**, and as it is explained try to imagine the consequences and how you might act.

Imagine yourself a ghost or a soul getting ready to inhabit a body, in a new world, with many other souls, who all want the best life for themselves. In this state you know nothing about the body you will inhabit; your natural abilities, your position in society; your sex, race, nationality, or your mental or physical abilities (or disabilities). You may inhabit the body of the least advantaged person in society, but your knowledge over what body is behind a veil of ignorance. Not knowing what the lottery of life will give you how will you choose to arrange society? What do you think you would want to make sure was in place to ensure you had the best possible chances in life, irrespective of your start?

For me, this perfectly summarises how so many Green policies are born.

Equality does not mean treating everybody the same; it means identifying the differences between people and trying to level the playing field. For the Green Party this means providing adequate and decent council housing, it means looking after the planet so that we leave it in the way that we would want to give to our children, or our loved one’s children.

There are costs to some in this kind of society, where freedom and fairness are in direct conflict; the fairness of some will be at the cost of the freedom of others.

we cannot and should not deny this! We proudly say that we aim for a fair society, and for the common good; we aim to build the world that the person behind the veil of ignorance would choose, because that is the one that is fair and just and gives as many as possible the opportunity to live a good life and maximises the wellbeing of humans.

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* You can see the full basis of the Green Party philosophy here: http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/philosophical-basis.html
** There is a good Wikipedia piece on The Veil of Ignorance here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veil_of_ignorance

What is the Place for Religion Within Education? Outside of all management.

Many may remember the education scandal associated with Operation Trojan Horse in 2014. A letter was given to the authorities which purported to be evidence of a plot by hard-line Islamists to replace leadership in Birmingham schools with a high proportion of attendees from Muslim backgrounds, in order to instil a much more religiously conservative ethos and curricula. Though the letter was widely suspected to be a hoax, it  raises some serious questions about what the role of religion in school should be. 

 These questions and others like it, have become a lot more difficult to answer with Ofsted delivering, on 19th January, its worst ever report to ‘The Durham Free School’; a school with a strong “Christian ethos”. The school received inadequate (the worst rating) in all areas covered in the inspection. Many of the inspector’s comments give significant cause for alarm, in relation to schooling generally but also in relation to the role that religion plays within the school. 

In the report we find comments such as:

“Reviewing the curriculum so that there are appropriate opportunities to teach students about sex and relationships and to promote respect for different faiths, beliefs and values so that they are fully ready to function as young citizens of modern Britain”

“Governors place too much emphasis on religious credentials when they are recruiting key staff and not enough on seeking candidates with excellent leadership and teaching skills”

“The religious studies curriculum was too narrow and did not give students enough opportunities to learn about different faiths and beliefs. Consequently, students’ understanding of different faiths and beliefs is sketchy with some holding prejudiced views which are not challenged.”

It is clear that the school’s management and teaching staff, and the governors have all, to some extent, allowed their own personal religious beliefs to negatively impact on the opportunity for the pupils of this school to receive an adequate education; a very sad state of affairs.

With two serious incidents in education from schools where religious values are put before teaching the role of religious schools within Britain has to be called in to question.

No one should be saying that schools should be wholly secular, with no religious education; this is not a way to foster understanding and compassion for people and their beliefs. But what can be said is that the management of a school should be wholly secular, with religion being kept to the religious studies classroom.
It has been the tradition of the government in the UK, and was written in to the American constitution that, though religion has its place, that place is not within the running of a society. Schools are a bedrock of any healthy society, and so reasonably they should fall under the same dictum that religion does not have a place within the governance of out schooling systems.

To read the Ofsted report in full follow the link below:
file:///C:/Users/Graham/Downloads/140005__1.PDF

David Cameron tries to explain democracy to 8 year olds… and fails!

– Pre-script: Change the name David Cameron for Barack Obama it generally reads the same.

Mrs Smith: Good morning children, and I would like you to welcome our Prime Minister David Cameron who is here this morning to tell us all about democracy.

David: Thank you Mrs Smith. Good morning children! So the Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘Democracy’ as “a system of government in which all the people of a state or polity are involved in making decisions about its affairs, typically by voting to elect representatives to a parliament or similar assembly”. Now I know that might be quite complex for you youngsters but I’ll go in to it a little more, but what I want to say first of all is that the country you live in, England, or more widely the United Kingdom, is a democracy. Now do we have any questions so far? Yes you, boy.

Boy: so does everyone have to vote so everyone is having a choice?

David: No; not voting is only showing that we can exercise our democratic right to vote and no to vote if we so choose! And so…

Boy: how many people did vote?

David: well, err, 28% that’s 28 people out of every 100 children

Boy: that’s not very many!

Girl: Sir, my mummy says that the low voter turnout implies that the options on offer do not represent the choices with which people would make if they were to make decisions directly. Is the definition of democracy wrong then because it doesn’t sound like here?

David: Well, no, err b-but…

Other boy: Why are there only two main parties in this country?

David: Well, that’s because running election campaigns are expensive if you want to be taken to be a serious contender and we are reliant on donations of which only two parties are seen as worthy for these…

Other girl: But yay daddy says that’s the definition of a plutocracy where power is derived from wealth and any system which would look to diminish the rich people’s wealth is doomed to fail.

David: W-What, a plutocracy? You…

Boy: Why do so many leaders come from only the best schools, like Eton?

David: It is often people following in their parents footsteps. It is difficult entering politics as a complete outsider…

Girl: But teacher says this is the definition of an oligarchy; a country controlled by a select group, in this case the privately educated- that’s far from democracy.

David: Err… You can enter government from outside the establishment, it’s just that…

Other girl: If people outside government didn’t like you and wanted you to quit would you do it?

Cameron: Of course not, it is my duty to serve…

Boy: This sounds like a dictatorship then!

David Cameron leading a #ttip revolution to once and for all kill democracy  by @Rowland72James

David Cameron leading a #ttip revolution to once and for all kill democracy
by @Rowland72James

Cameron: No, no! We have the house commons, and the House of Lords!

Other boy: Well we have already established the House of Commons is an oligarchy. The House of Lords is either hereditary (a form of oligarchy, which is currently chauvinistic*) or by appointment primarily from those with government interests, so a concentrated oligarchy appointed by a plutocracy, governed by a dictator!

Cameron: Oh just shut up will you!

Boy: Ah! Stopping our free speech, well that’s very democratic! Oi, come back, I have yet to show you how un-democratic corporate lobbying is!

*Only 2 of the 98 hereditary lords in the house of lords are female.

David Cameron sets out his philosophy showing himself a disciple of Fredrich von Hayek in RETURN TO SERFDOM  By @Rowland72James

David Cameron sets out his philosophy showing himself a disciple of Fredrich von Hayek in RETURN TO SERFDOM
By @Rowland72James