Friday, 29 December 2006

Less saving and more debt

I see many stories about how personal debt is increasing in the UK. The Office for National Statistics confirms this in this section of their site. From the 2nd quarter of 2004 until the 4th quarter of 2005 the levels of gross saving was going up. Since the beginning of this year it's gone down by a certain amount each quarter - which is worrying, considering spending is on the increase.

If people save less, they won't be able to afford as many things that they want - it's simple logic. If people still want to get things - they'll then get loans. However, if saving is going down - how can you repay the loans? I certainly can't answer that question.

The following quote is from Credit Action:
"Total UK personal debt has exceeded £1 ¼ trillion and at the end of October 2006 it stood at £1,268bn. The growth rate increased to 10.4% for the previous 12 months which equates to an increase of ~ £110bn.

Total secured lending on homes has exceeded £1 trillion (£1,000 billion) and at the end of October 2006 it stood at £1055.9bn. This has increased 11.3% in the last 12 months."
Yes, there's an increasing population - that would affect total debt figures. However, it is still very worrying that it's going into the trillions. This graph show debt statistics for the UK since the end of 1993. It shows not only that there is a massive increase in consumer borrowing, but also that there's a fairly large increase in borrowing using a credit card.

There are definitely a lot of people who can repay debts, but with the increases in lending highlighted above, there's will probably be an increase in the already large amount of people who can't cope with debt.

I'm really worried about this and I hope the population realise that heavy borrowing isn't going to solve anything and that they should save before they spend.

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Christmas Time

I hope everyone enjoyed Christmas day and is enjoying their holidays (if they haven't already finished). The time I've had off has been brilliant as it's allowed me to have a long overdue rest from work. I like my job, but everyone should have a break from what they do occasionally.

Anyway, below is what I got for Christmas. The links don't necessarily go to the places where they were bought - they just allow you to see things like track listings.

Iron Maiden - A Matter Of Life And Death
WWE - Wreckless Intent
Funk Brothers - Standing In The Shadows Of Motown
Edwin Starr - The Essential Collection
Angela Gheorghiu - Diva

X-Men 3 - The Last Stand (Two Disc Special Edition)
Star Wars Episode 3 - Revenge Of The Sith
A DVD of UFC1 and UFC2

Shower Gels, Deodorants (you know - what everyone gets at Christmas)
Belkin Bluetooth 2.0 Dongle

While there are plenty of good things to say about Christmas (such as people giving presents to others), there are one or two little annoyances.One of them is that the marketing teams of various different businesses seem to start advertising Christmas earlier each year - I think it started around late September this time. Why do they have to do this? There's absolutely no point at all. It should start around November. That still leaves plenty of time for people to advertise their products.

The other thing is outlandish decorations. People should be free to put plenty of decorations up, but some go OTT, which means what they put up has no class or taste to it. The one example of over the top decorations which I have liked (due to it's originality) is this:

So what do the rest of you think about Christmas decorations? I'm sure some of you have seen some terrible decorations either now or in the past. Also, do you think Christmas is advertised too early?

Friday, 22 December 2006

The taser and it's after-effects

I'm really not sure what to think about this issue.

An Iranian-American student from UCLA was recently asked to show his ID card to campus police as part of a 'random inspection' - well, that's what they said it was. He refused because he felt it was some form of racism - picking him out instead of someone else. When he refused, the police used a taser on him. When the first shock didn't stop him, the shocked him again. They did they several times until he was barely able to move and they were able to eject him.

My immediate thoughts were 'that's excessive force'. Repeatedly asking the guy to stand up after shocking him with electricity, when they could have just dragged him outside. Did he have a weapon? There wasn't an obvious one and I'm not sure that the officers looked. Was he physically attacking someone? No. Was he shouting? Yes Is that a reason to get shocked by a taser? No - well, not in my opinion. He wasn't a suspected terrorist or anything like that - he was just refusing to show a simple ID card.

However, after reading several news articles and comments on the articles I began to look at things from the police officers' point of view aswell. Repeatedly refusing to do what a police officer says and causing a noticeable disruption. There's also the fact that the random inspection must be some sort of university policy and there must be documentation about it somewhere that the students know about. If he had just shown his card, all this could have been avoided.

Although it's the least likely possibility, the racial angle could be true - it's difficult to prove that one though.

I guess both sides were at fault. The student was foolish for not complying with university regulations and police orders and the police officers seem to be at fault for using excessive force.

The following links are just some of the articles that I read:

Mercury News
ABC News
USA Today

I'd also be interested in other perspectives. What do you think? Do you think both sides were at fault? Were the police to blame? Was the student solely responsible? Is it too difficult to draw a conclusion?

Sunday, 17 December 2006

In the beginning there was ethics

Yes, I know - the name of this blog is a little geeky - but I couldn't think of anything else at the time that was available on Blogger. Anyway, this is my first post using Blogger and 'Life: Downloaded' is all about my thoughts and meanderings through life.

I thought I'd start things off by commenting on something I found on Facebook. That 'something' is an essay by Matthew John Reading called The Death of Ethics in Democracy. It's a really interesting piece of work, although not all of it can be perfectly mapped onto the British political system.

Let's start of with one of the fundamental statements in the essay - Standing's interpretation of John Rawls's 'Principles of Justice':
"Everything should be equal for everyone. If there is any inequality, this should be designed to benefit the least advantaged."
For me, this is one of those 'yes and no' statements - something you only partially agree with. Yes - justice should be there so that those who use an unfair advantage can be punished. It should be there to help everyone have a fair opportunity - that would be ethically correct. However, I'm not so sure about the second bit - "...designed to benefit the least advantaged". What about those who've gained an advantage through perfectly fair means?

Take the example of a football match. A team gains an advantage in a match by scoring a goal without illegal tackling or anything like that. Going by the rules of justice, the opposition should equalise. That would mean every single game of football ends in a draw. That would bring the game to it's knees.

Sure, there should always be charity (distribution of wealth). Yes, things like advances in medicine should be available for all, but surely there should also be times where people are allowed to keep benefits. Perhaps that quote should be re-written so it reads:
"Everything should have the same opportunities. If there is any unfair inequality, the law should be designed to benefit those who are negatively affected."
Now let's look at the second fundamental statement - the definition of liberty:
"Every person should have complete freedom of choice. Restriction of this right solely exists to protect overlapping liberties."
I actually agree with statement, apart from the word "protect". Perhaps that should be "resolve problems with".

There are interesting definitions of democracy and republic in this paper aswell. The two are interpreted as being entirely separate - the republic takes over when democracy can't cope with the size of the populus. Apparently a republic is where a community selects someone to represent them on there behalf and debate with the other representatives.

However, this takes place in democracy too. Britain is a democratic society and has been for many years. People vote in elections for MPs who will represent them on both a local and national level. The essay implies that it would be impractical for 100,000 people to decide something. The problem with that is that in an election, millions of people vote to decide a governing political party and that goal is achieved. That situation is in a democratic society. There is therefore a massive 'grey area' between democracy and republic - they cannot be easily separated.

Another major part of this essay is based around a prediction by philosophers:
"It has been predicted by philosophers for centuries that when science begins to explain the unexplainable facets of reality, individuals feel that their cultural beliefs may be untrue. They will become irrational beings and blindly and instinctually fight to maintain that their moral beliefs are true."
It's possible that this could happen, but it isn't certain that this would lead to irrational behaviour. If people take the time to digest the scientific explanations, this will lead to understanding and eventually lead to rational thought.

To conclude, I would say that this is an essay which is thought provoking and raises a number of interesting points. However, some of the fundamental statements are flawed in some ways and parts of it are heavily opinionated. I'd be interested in what you all think. Feel frre to comment.