Monday, 20 May 2013

The Goldilocks Axiom

An axiom is a premise or starting point of reasoning.  This can apply to something which is self evident, such as ‘the internet hosts a lot of information’ or to assumptions, such as ‘the internet is the best source of information’.  The first statement is clearly true while the second is much more open to debate and interpretation.

This concept applies to the referendum debate on Scottish Independence.  For many pro-independence supporters, the axiom is ‘representative democracy is the best form of government’.  As Scotland has a more proportional electoral system which yields results much closer to the wishes of the Scottish people than Westminster, independence will offer us a more representative democracy (and thus give us better governments).  Another reason why an independent Scotland would be more representative is that our parliament would be 100% elected by the people of Scotland, as opposed to the 4% offered by Westminster.

"The 'Westminster' bowl was just not right," Goldilocks, from her privitised hospital bed.

Many unionists on the other hand follow the ‘Goldilocks Axiom’.  To put it simply; Europe is too big, Scotland is too small, but a Westminster dominated Britain is just right.  The easiest way to demonstrate this belief is through examples:
“I think its right for Britain to say: ‘Well, which bits of Europe most benefit us as a nation?’ and to focus on those things and I’m not frightened of the fact sometimes you might not be included in some things.” David Cameron, UK Prime Minister, speaking about Europe.
“The UN Security Council seat, our membership of the European Union, our leadership in Nato, our nuclear deterrent, our strong armed forces, they are all things that belong to the whole of the United Kingdom.  Clearly you can’t break them in bits, as the defence secretary put it, you can’t snap parts of our defence industry off like a bar of chocolate if Scotland was to go its own way.” David Cameron, UK Prime Minister, speaking about Scotland.
 "I think Britain is brilliant, or broken, it depends on who I'm talking to," David Cameron (probably) 

Centralising government within the EU is bad, allowing decisions that affect the people of Scotland being made in Scotland is bad, but maintaining the maximum amount of control at Westminster is just right.  This might seem strange to some, yet because the UK Prime Minister follows the ‘Goldilocks Axiom’, and therefore believes that only Westminster should have control, it makes perfect sense.  Arguments used against one form of change are automatically reversed to argue against another, all to make the ‘Goldilocks Axiom’ work, because it must be considered self evidently true.

This type of thinking isn’t isolated:
“We have no wish to be told that we should lose our democracy in the cause of advancing America’s.” John Redwood MP, speaking about American wishes for the UK to remain part of the EU.
“A couple of learned Scots told us that Scottish nationalism was defined by dislike of the English in general, and the dislike of English Tories in particular. Scottish nationalists do not like London making decisions for them.” John Redwood MP, speaking about Scotland.
Mr Redwood nominally agrees with pro-independence supporters, in that he believes that representative democracy is the best form of government, but this is over-ruled by the ‘Goldilocks Axiom’.  Making decisions based upon what is convenient for America is bad, preventing interference from Westminster into Scottish affairs is bad, but maintaining the maximum amount of political power at Westminster is just right.

We know from above that an independent Scotland would have a more representative democracy than the UK, yet this is dismissed by Mr Redwood.  He claims that the defining characteristic of those who want decisions affecting Scotland being made in Scotland is their ‘dislike of the English in general’.  Countries like Canada and New Zealand, which have gained their independence from Westminster and cannot be derided as ‘anti English’, are either ignored or dismissed to make sure that nothing breaks the axiom.  Let’s look at another one:
“What’s going on?  At one level, it’s straightforward: the G8 are putting the squeeze on London because they don’t want Mr Cameron to upset their cozy arrangements.  They certainly aren’t concerned about the views of the British people.” Benedict Brogan, Daily Telegraph Deputy Editor.
“Mr Salmond, helped by the Scottish media and political classes, has defined this as a debate in which England does not have a legitimate voice.  Independence may be a choice solely for Scots to make, but on what terms they are then granted independence is very much a matter for the rest of the UK.  That is why Mr Cameron was right to force the issue” Benedict Brogan, Daily Telegraph Deputy Editor.
Interference in Scotland by the EU is bad because the EU doesn’t consider what’s best for Scotland, no outside interference in the Scottish Independence referendum is bad because we can’t be trusted to make an intelligent decision, but maintaining political interference by Westminster is just right.  The ‘Goldilocks Axiom’ works again, and anyone who can’t see that either doesn’t understand or is blinded by [Scottish] nationalism.

Some things which appear self evident are true, but some are not.  I believe that the ‘Goldilocks Axiom’ is an example of the latter.  No explanation is given as to why a country containing over 62 million people is inherently better than those with a greater or smaller population.

If Scotland is too small, then Norway, Croatia, Jamaica, Singapore and so many others aren’t worthy of self representation either, which, if I can be so bold, is self evidently not true.

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