Tuesday, February 18, 2014

First-Time Compulsory Voting

The idea of first-time compulsory voting is discussed on Democratic Audit. (It's an idea that I'd previously proposed myself.) Unfortunately, the text doesn't have any links - I guess it may have been simply copied and pasted from the IPPR report, rather than being reformatted for blog publication. I'd be interested to see Andrew Adonis's thoughts on young people voting.

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Sunday, February 02, 2014

How to Derive Ought from Is: SNP on Alcohol Pricing

The great Scottish philosopher David Hume famously remarked that one cannot derive an ought (that is, a normative conclusion about what one should do) from an is (that is, a mere statement of fact). It seems, however, that the SNP have cracked the problem. Alcohol is cheap, therefore minimum pricing is needed. Why didn't Hume, or one of the many philosophers who've considered his problem, think of that?

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Monday, December 30, 2013

A Real Life Isle of Pines

One book that I clearly remember reading during my undergraduate days is Henry Neville's The Isle of Pines, a sort-of dystopian work about an island community all descended from one European male and his four female consorts. Something along these lines is clearly possible, as shown by the example of Palmerston, part of the Cook Islands. According to this BBC feature, 59 of its 62 inhabitants are descended from William Marsters, an Englishman who settled on the island in 1863. Sounds like a remarkable place, despite some inbreeding.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

I Blog on Scottish Independence at Democratic Audit

See here. (As noted at the end of the post, my piece is a summary of an article originally published in the journal Politics.) Since I submitted mine, they also published this piece on implications for Cornwall (which I would have cited, had it been published earlier).

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Prisoner Voting

An interesting proposal here, from Chris Bennett and Daniel Viehoff, is that all prisoners should be allowed to vote in the final election before their release. I think it's one job for us academics to add to the options on the table for policymakers (as well as to then help choose between them) and I think this is an interesting suggestion, though I'm not sure of its practicality. As I put it in my comment: "An interesting proposal, but how do we identify the final general election before their release? Not only might their release date not be certain in advance, but also general elections (in the UK) are not held at fixed intervals but called by the government. If the next general election is in 2015, and we gave everyone due to be released by 2020 a vote in it, what would happen if there was another general election in 2017? Then some of those prisoners enfranchised in 2015 ought not to have been."

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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Glasgow Games Lottery

Organisers of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games have defended random ticket allocation. The reaction seems to reflect a popular ambivalence towards lotteries. I think, where more people want tickets for an event than there are tickets, a lottery is fair as a tie-breaker. The controversy, however, concerns the fact that tickets for each event were allocated entirely independently, with the consequence that some people applied for several events and won nothing, while others won multiple times. It's not clear that this is fair, because it's not clear that someone who already has tickets for one event has an equal claim on tickets for another event as someone who does not already have tickets. This isn't to say that lotteries are inherently unfair, of course, but only that we need to be careful how they are administered.

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Monday, September 30, 2013


I was on TV tonight. Admittedly, I was only in the audience, I didn't speak, and in fact you only catch a very brief glimpse of me as the camera pans across the audience (I was sat back left), but I was at the BBC studio in Glasgow for the filming of an episode of Newsnight Scotland focused on the arts. (I believe anyone in the UK can watch for the next week here.)

I was surprised how much waiting around there was. We were told to turn up around 5:45 and certainly by 6:15, for filming to start at 7:30. I assumed we'd get some extensive briefing or something but for the most part we did nothing until around 7 (though those who had been pre-selected to ask questions may have received some further advice).

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