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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Innumeracy in the headlines

England's greatest living poet, the Bard of Salford, John Cooper-Clarke sagely observed a couple of years ago that "mass illiteracy is a comparatively recent phenomenon", a reflection I'm sure on 13 years of New Labour Edukashun policy. He might have added that mass innumeracy is now so rampant as to form an irreversible block to national progress.

The win is the sixth time this year that a Briton has taken a slice of the jackpot and is the fifth highest EuroMillions prize ever won by anyone from the country.

Bizarrely, this was reported in one or two media outlets here as evidence of British "luck", when it is, of course, evidence of British innumeracy. No figures were published, but I'd certainly wager that the reason more Euromillions winners come from Britain is because more Brits buy tickets, and the reason why they buy so many tickets is that they don't understand rudimentary arithmetic and basic probability. I know this to be true, because I also saw in the newspapers here that some retailers were, rather disgustingly, to be honest, allowing their dimmest customers to waste money on another betting scam.

Cable slams casino tactics after shops offer 'disturbing' £1 bets to win purchases instead of paying

I'm sure this sort of thing must be related to the general decline in IQ in the UK.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Sunday, June 03, 2012


I have to say that it's not terribly often that I agree with things I read in The Guardian, but Julie Burchill's anti-monarchist rant contained an entirely accurate snipe at one of my growing hatreds.

The spectacle of some smug, mediocre columnista who would definitely not have their job if their mummy or daddy hadn't been in the newspaper racket advising working-class kids to study hard at school, get a "proper" job and not place their faith in TV talent shows is one of the more repulsive minor crimes of our time.

[From Once we had anarchy in the UK. Now all we have is monarchy in the UK | Julie Burchill | Comment is free | The Observer]

One of the reasons why I still consider myself a working class Thatcher Tory is that she believed in meritocracy and had a suspicion of embedded privilege, whether at the stock market or anywhere else. It seems to me that over time, meritocracy makes a nation stronger. I think that's true at an individual level as well as at a Darwinian social level.

If my next door neighbour makes more money than me because he's better at something than I am, then I don't hate him. But if my next door neighbour makes more money than me because of some regulatory capture or market dysfunction or government nonsense, then I feel angry and resentful. This isn't conducive to the social order, and I think I'm noticing it more and more in newspaper report, blogs and media from the US at the moment. Americans in particular, and more so than the Brits, are happy to see someone make it so long as the game isn't rigged. But when they see the 1%, the banksters and the oligarchs floating free from the rest of us _because_ of the rules of the game, they feel that society is broken.

This explains why people feel so differently about different kinds of "rich" today. If some film star gets $50m for a movie, I might think it's sick and tragic, I might think it's an insane waste of resources and I might think it's a revolting commentary on our degraded values. But I don't really care about it. Good luck to them and good luck to David Beckham and good luck to Alan Sugar. They made their way to the top by being better at something than their peers. David Cameron didn't, of course, and neither did Baronet never-had-a-job Osborne, which is why I suppose I have so little respect for them.

Of course, this doesn't apply to all actors, because the establishment are working hard to make acting an hereditary profession, but you get the point.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]