Praesidium

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Wigan 0-1 Liverpool

Not a great score but, after some disappointing draws, I'd have settled for any kind of win. Hopefully finishing a few more chances will allow is to put games to bed.




Benayoun is proving useful, however, scoring another good goal. Add to that another clean sheet (we still haven't conceded other than from the penalty spot!) and you can't complain.

Further good news is that not only were Chelsea held by Fulham but they lost Terry to injury and Drogba to red card (although I beleive it will only be a one game suspension). If their results don't improve soon they could drop out of the top two; though I don't see them finishing lower than 4th or 5th at absolute worst (if Man City can keep their results up).

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Seminar Schedules

I'd already remarked on Chris Brooke's seminar on Rawls' lectures. He was kind enough to send me the following provisional schedule:

WEEK ONE: Editor's Foreword; Introductory Remarks; Introduction
WEEK TWO: Hobbes I, II, III
WEEK THREE: Hobbes IV; Locke, I, II
WEEK FOUR: Locke III; Hume, I, II
WEEK FIVE: Rousseau I, II, III
WEEK SIX: Mill I, II, III
WEEK SEVEN: Mil IV; Marx, I, II
WEEK EIGHT: Marx III; Concluding Discussion.

Also today I received the schedule for Marc Stears and Ben Jackson's History of Political Thought seminar:

(11th Oct , 17:00) - Dr Sudhir Hazareesingh (Balliol, Oxford), ‘Myths in Modern French Political Culture’
(18th Oct , 17:00) - Dr Duncan Bell (Cambridge), ‘Republican Imperialism in a Liberal Age: J. A. Froude and the Victorian Empire’
(25th Oct , 17:00) - Dr Christopher Brooke (Balliol, Oxford), ‘Grotius, Stoicism and Oikeiosis’
(1st Nov , 17:00) - Dr Richard Bourke (Queen Mary and Westfield College, London), ‘Enlightenment, Revolution and Democracy’
(8th Nov , 17:00) - Dr Valentina Arena (University College, London), ‘Was Liberty in Rome Democratic?’
(15th Nov , 17:00) - Professor Gregory Claeys (Royal Holloway, London), ‘Passion and Order in 18th- and 19th-century British Utopianism’
(22nd Nov , 17:00) - Dr Ben Jackson (University College, Oxford), ‘At the Origins of Neoliberalism: The Debate About Capitalism and Freedom in the 1930s and 40s’
(29th Nov , 17:00) - Dr Marc Stears (University College, Oxford), ‘Democracy’s Demands: Deliberation, Agonism, and the American Democratic Tradition’

I only went to one last year I believe, but was pleasantly surprised it was over by about 6:15-30. If that's the pattern this year, I'll be more inclined to attend - the trouble with living in college is that I miss dinner if seminars go any later...

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Getting Classes to Speak

Since I'm normally only faced with one-two students at once and, even in my limited experience of larger classes, getting Oxford students to speak isn't usually hard, I haven't really faced this problem, but there's an interesting thread on CT about getting students to speak that should interest any teacher.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Reading 2-4 Liverpool (Carling Cup)

Masterstroke from Rafa! After resting Torres for our last two Premiership matches - Portsmouth and Birmingham - he was nice and fresh for this (obviously far more important) match, and laid down a claim for his place with a fine hat-trick (all goals here). It'll be harder for Benitez to leave him out now (but not impossible).

Actually, in all seriousness, I don't mind too much about rotation of strikers. We have four, all of whom should be good enough, though Torres is clearly number one - it's a question of who plays with him and Crouch hasn't done his chances any harm.

On the performance as a whole, Reading pegged us back twice, making things a bit uncomfortable, but we were never behind - and, aside from being denied a possible penalty, several of their players were offside for their first goal.

We were never going to field a whole youth/reserve side away to another Premiership team, but we were able to give some fringe players some match experience. Hopefully we'll get an easier tie in the next round and be able to continue this policy. In three season, and six cup runs (twice reaching finals), I think it's still true that Benitez has yet to face opposition from below the first two tiers of English football.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Carling Academy Oxford

Following up from my last post, Oceansize are indeed playing Oxford - Fri 19th October, £8.50+.

Full listing here. While there didn't seem to be much on offer when I left, I see that this week alone I'm missing Madina Lake, Reuben, iLiKETRAiNS (with Her Name Is Calla) and Soho Dolls (only £4 with Transformation, highly recommended).

There's a reasonable selection of gigs but prices are a bit steep for my liking. Other gigs that may be of interest include:
26th Oct: Super Furry Animals
5th No: 65DaysOfStatic
8th Nov: Porcupine Tree + Anathema (sounds good, but £17.50!)
14th No: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (£15)

The listings don't include prices (which you only get if you follow the 'buy' link) and it seems you either have to pay £2.25 p&p or £1.50 to collect on the door if you want to order tickets online (unclear whether this is per ticket or booking). Presumably you can still buy in person from the box office, but at the old Zodiac they'd simply email you something you could use as a ticket - less expensive and no chance of being lost in the post.

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New Oceansize Album

For once, Amazon's recommendations prove useful - I just learned that a new Oceansize album is due out next Monday (also the day I return to Oxford). It's available on Amazon for a fairly reasonable £9 - there's also a £12 version but no product details (and presumably an incorrect picture). The lead track (radio edit, I assume) is on YouTube.

Amazon also stock their last album for £7 and a few old singles at reasonable prices. I'm wearing an Oceansize t-shirt from their last tour in this photo; hopefully they'll be coming to the new Carling Academy Oxford soon... (too bad I'll no longer be living so near)

Anyone unfamiliar with one of the best British bands around at the moment really should check out former singles New Pin, Heaven Alive and One Day All This Could Be Yours.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Liverpool 0-0 Birmingham

While draws away to Portsmouth and Porto may be fairly respectable results, today's frustrating blank shows we still haven't got the knack of breaking down a ten man defence or fluking a 1-0 win while playing badly, which we'd need to be serious title contenders. Actually though, in the interests of balance, it should be pointed out that: a) Birmingham have always been a bogey team for us (this apart), with only 2 points to show from our previous four Premiership meetings, and even when we beat them in the 2001 League Cup final (when they were first division) it took penalties, b) we've had a better start than last season, and c) we're above both Man Utd and Chelsea, one of whom will drop points tomorrow.

I'm not going to complain about the team really. Aside from leaving out Torres, it was probably our strongest, given the absence of Agger and Alonso (who might have been able to create something). The team should have been good enough to beat Birmingham and had enough shots/chances - the problem being too few on target. Personally, I'd have brought Torres on at half-time, and would also like to have seen Benayoun get a chance, but otherwise wouldn't have done much differently.

The problem isn't really the team but that, since the international break, they've looked a bit flat. It's hard to say what the problem is - one possibility could be the loss of Pako Ayesteran (something the Liverpool website seems to have been suspiciously quiet on, but see here and here). On the other hand, it's easy to forget it takes new players - such as Torres and Babel - time to settle in and, even if they show glimpses of their quality straight away, consistency and fluency can't be expected for a while. It's still early days and hopefully this team can improve as the season goes on.

This week's Carling Cup game with Reading won't be easy, but I'd like to see a few youngsters given a chance - in particular, Lucas Leiva, Leto and Jack Hobbs (who may be required during Aggers' six week lay-off).

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Markets and Medicine

I'm still waiting for my long-running Fabre review to come out in print, but since it led me to subscribe to Journal of Value Inquiry email updates, I saw their latest issue (some sort of double issue) is on the very related theme of 'Markets and Medicine' (link, subscription required).

Table of Contents:
Volume 40 Number 2-3 of "The Journal of Value Inquiry" is now available on the SpringerLink web site at http://springerlink.com/openurl.asp?genre=journal&issn=1573-0492

By clicking on the URLs below you can access the abstracts for each article. If your browser does not support direct URL access, please copy and paste the selected URL to your web browser.

IN THIS ISSUE:
Introduction: Markets and Medicine
Author(s): James Stacey Taylor
Page: 149 - 154
DOI URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10790-007-9033-4
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Collapsing Goods in Medicine and the Value of Innovation
Author(s): Thomas Magnell
Page: 155 - 168
DOI URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10790-007-9032-5
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Collapsing Goods, Innovation, and Precaution
Author(s): Chris Macdonald
Page: 169 - 179
DOI URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10790-007-9052-1
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Collapsing Goods and the Milieu of Innovation
Author(s): William Kline
Page: 181 - 193
DOI URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10790-007-9039-y
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Research, Development, and the Availability of Health Care Products: The Market, Regulation, and Legal Liability
Author(s): Ana S. Iltis
Page: 195 - 208
DOI URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10790-007-9042-3
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Medical Innovation, Collapsing Goods, and the Moral Centrality of the Free-Market
Author(s): Mark J. Cherry
Page: 209 - 226
DOI URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10790-007-9043-2
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Innovation and the Persistent Challenge of Collapsing Goods
Author(s): Benjamin Hippen
Page: 227 - 233
DOI URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10790-007-9044-1
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Sinister Innovations: Beware the Co-optation of Clinical Ethics Consultation
Author(s): Lisa M. Rasmussen
Page: 235 - 242
DOI URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10790-007-9049-9
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Individual Goods, Collective Goods, and the Aims of Medicine
Author(s): Daniel E. Palmer
Page: 243 - 258
DOI URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10790-007-9048-x
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Unusual Requests and the Doctor-Patient Relationship
Author(s): Nafsika Athanassoulis
Page: 259 - 278
DOI URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10790-007-9053-0
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In Defense of the Commercial Provision of Blood: Reactions to Voluntarism in the United States National Blood Policy in the Early 1970s
Author(s): Jeremy Shearmur
Page: 279 - 295
DOI URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10790-007-9058-8
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Organ Procurement, Altruism, and Autonomy
Author(s): Sarah Mcgrath
Page: 297 - 309
DOI URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10790-007-9050-3
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The Morality of an Internet Market in Human Ova
Author(s): Amy E. White
Page: 311 - 321
DOI URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10790-007-9047-y
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Social Constraint, Emergent Goods, and Human Kidney Markets
Author(s): Paul M. Hughes
Page: 323 - 340
DOI URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10790-007-9041-4
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Commercial Medicine and the Ethics of the Profit Motive
Author(s): Adrian J. Walsh
Page: 341 - 357
DOI URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10790-007-9046-z
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The Politics of Medical and Health Ethics: Collapsing Goods and the Moral Climate
Author(s): Bob Brecher
Page: 359 - 370
DOI URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10790-007-9045-0
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Justice in Health Care
Author(s): Jan Narveson
Page: 371 - 384
DOI URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10790-007-9051-2
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Rights, Values, Regulation, and Health Care
Author(s): Tibor R. Machan
Page: 385 - 391
DOI URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10790-007-9040-5

Too bad my review didn't make it, because it does seem related, but looks like there was no space for any book reviews in this special issue.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Return to Oxford Confirmed

This morning I got an email finally telling me for certain that I have a room in Ship Street for next year, so I'll definitely be returning to Oxford in 0th week. (Probably not until Monday or Tuesday). Just as well as I'd already begun teaching preparation (mostly for a Classical Political Thought-lite paper for a visiting student), which included reading Rawls' Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy (just £16.92 on Amazon) for Chris Brooke's seminar (lecture lists available here). Hopefully I'll find some time to work on my thesis, which has lapsed a bit while I've been home...

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Porto 1-1 Liverpool

If a draw was reasonably satisfactory at Portsmouth then here, clearly the toughest game of the CL group, it was something I'd happily have settled for prior to kick off - and, following the match, was practically delighted to achieve.

Sadly, despite being restored to 'full strength' our team never looked at the races, and by the time they scored we could already have been 3-0 down. I suppose it's a positive that Reina has so far only conceded goals to penalties, but we are giving away a penalty every other game... Not that there's any doubt about this one, or Pennant's second yellow - which was an obvious accident waiting to happen.

Thankfully, Porto - a bit like Man Utd at the moment - are a team full of creative flair players but with no one there to provide the real cutting edge in the box, and they couldn't make us pay even when we were down to ten men.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Portsmouth 0-0 Liverpool

Grrr, Blogger just lost a rather lengthy post, so briefly:
- Fratton Park tough place to go.
- Selection dodgy, but dictated I feel by international week more than Porto.
- Crouch more effective in Europe; pace would've been more of a threat to Campbell/Distin.
- We still could've won and hit woodwork.
- Penalty was by letter of the law, but if it was applied consistently you'd see a lot more of them given.
- Academic given Reina's save.
- Can't object to Alonso's booking either, but you see Man Utd and Chelsea haranguing officials all the time...
- We need to learn how to score undeserved late winners.

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Temporary Jobs

After my recent post about uncertainty, I thought it worth some further comment on short-term job contracts. It looks like I might face such uncertainty for some time, hopping between temporary jobs.

Jobs.ac.uk has a new article on the challenges this raises, although in truth it's somewhat banal - stating a lot of obvious problems, including lack of summer/sick pay, job insecurity, increased need for teaching preparation hindering research and inability to buy a house, though without really exploring them in much detail or offering much worthwhile advice (other than 'stick at it and build up experience/contacts').

The Guardian reports that we could be facing a shortage of PhD-qualified researchers, following raised undergraduate tuition fees, which could be a mildly positive thing for those of us already further down that road.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Signing the Obvious



I predict the next sign to read 'Do As You're Told'...

Quite interesting actually, as I've recently been having a discussion with my friend Pavel about morality. I'm not really sure whether his position is that morality is some kind of sham or just that you don't have reasons to comply/be motivated without enforcement, but having just re-read Machiavelli's Prince I was reminded of it.
UPDATE: Another similar example over at CT.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Two Years

Happy birthday Praesidium, two years today since my first post, this is number 598...

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Methods in Political Theory

Especially for anyone about to start grad school and sit through a bunch of courses on methodology... CT debates the methodology of political theory/philosophy. I seem to recall that the feeling of me and my fellow students was very much 'we don't have methodology, we just do it'.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Uncertain Future

My return to Oxford is still somewhat up in the air. Since I'm beyond fee liability, I'm no longer automatically entitled to the college accommodation I've enjoyed for the last 7 years and, because I was applying for jobs outside Oxford, I didn't make any alternative arrangements. As it is, I suppose I'm now technically house-hunting, although I wouldn't rule out occasional commuting from Colchester, given that I can live rent free with my parents.

Anyway, the ideal would be room in Oxford, preferably with flexibility on the lease (possibly only for MT). After months of uncertainty, last I'd heard from college was that there may be some spare rooms after allocating freshers. They were supposed to be able to let me know by 1st September, however apparently our accommodation officer is now off ill (I'd guess caused by all the stress she has around this time of year), so I still haven't had any confirmation of whether I can get a college room.

Consequently, I still don't know where I'll be when term starts in around a month's time. I'm keeping my fingers crossed I can get that room, in which case I guess I'd move in around 0th week (so I'm not really inconvenienced yet). It does, however, present difficulties for my planning and preparation.

I've noticed one real problem for people around my career stage is the inability to make long-term plans. Previously I'd been aware of things like the difficulty buying a house with short term job contracts, but recently I've seen how - while I was waiting on other jobs applications - a lot of teaching work that was available has already gone to people willing and able to commit early. It seems an uncertain future forces short termism in decision making, which may be an example of rational 'maximin' decision making but effectively rules out certain ideal outcomes.

This is, of course, the kind of thing I've long been generally aware of, but some more personal experience had really reminded me how undesirable it can be. This has also had me thinking about social arrangements. One consequence of the random decision mechanism I examine in my thesis, lottery-voting, is that future outcomes are always unpredictable. Would this uncertainty be bad for all involved? I have a number of quick responses:

i) Uncertainty is not always bad. Sometimes we enjoy surprise and excitement. Often we don't want to know everything about our future - a particularly good example being when we're going to die.

ii) When it is bad, I think the effects of uncertainty are often worsened by inequality. For instance, I didn't commit to teaching because I'm not certain to be in Oxford, while other people could because they are. If no one was certain, then no one would miss out.

ii) Uncertainty may be the lesser evil, compared to be certain loser. At least minorities under a scheme of lottery-voting can hope to get their way, and this is an important reason for them to continue to 'play the game'.

Ironically, if there are fewer college rooms than applicants waiting/hoping for them, my return to Oxford may come down to a random ballot...

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Student Loan Interest Doubles

I wasn't actually aware of this until my mum told me last night, but the interest on student loans increased this month from 2.4% to 4.8%. There's a group on Facebook warning/protesting about the change but, though it was in The Guardian, I don't beleive it's been well-publicized - I certainly could find anything on the BBC website, though they did report on the same thing happening in 2003.

I've never complained about paying interest on my loan, because I always knew it was inflation-linked so my debt (about £13,000) isn't growing in real terms. Moreover, I know the reason for the sudden hike is, in part, that the rate changes only once a year. If inflation had been a steady 3%, then the SLC would've been making a loss on my money all last year.

However, I don't think much of the way the SLC is run. The first time this personally affected me was when they notified me I was entitled to an extra £200 in my second year then refused to give it to me. Generally, since I haven't been paying off, I haven't had much dealing with them, but I've heard a few nasty stories. This large and almost unpublicized rate increase is just what I'd expect.

Also, I can't remember the difference between the RPI and CPI, but I'd like to know why this is tied to the former, which is much higher. The government takes the CPI as its measure of inflation, and is targeting 2% (though it's been between 2 and 3% most of the year). Why then is the inflation figure used for our loan 4.8?

(Still, the good news is many savings accounts can still beat that - in part due to higher interest rates to keep the inflation down)

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

NHS and Postcode Lotteries, Again

This is becoming a recurring theme (e.g. here, here and generally), but while regional differences in NHS provision may violate the principle of generic consistency, postcodes aren't a lottery. Nonetheless, BBC are repeating the fallacy again.

In fact, since you can change where you live (like religion, but unlike skin colour), it could be argued you can move to reflect the healthcare provision you desire (or require), although this might lead to local NHS decisions affecting house prices - which would be like allowing rich parents to buy good school places through purchasing houses in local catchement areas (see the Brighton case).

If postcodes were assigned by lottery, then this would seem a perfectly rational way of rationing scarce treatment/drug supplies. As it is, if we want to end the unequal treatment of people with the same conditions, it seems our only option is to do away with decentralized decisions, so the same NHS policy applies to everyone.

It seems those bringing this challenge don't even understand the notion of scarcity. "The Department of Health said... [trusts] should not refuse to pay because a drug is too expensive." So, if it would cost the NHS £20 million to keep me alive - albeit poorly - for an extra six months, is that something they should do? You could buy Fernando Torres for that...

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Liverpool 6-0 Derby

Continuing a week of convincing scorelines, today we scored our biggest win under Rafa to go top of the Premiership for the first time under his management. Granted, it was only Derby County, and even a stuttering Spurs managed to hit four past them, but these are the kind of teams we've sometimes struggled to break down in the past, especially without Gerrard.

In the absence of Stevie, Alonso got a chance to run the midfield (with Mascherano tidying up for him) and - like Lampard - seems to play better without Gerrard over-shadowing him. I'm not sure Alonso meant his 40 yard curling free-kick to open the scoring - I think it was intended for the head of Kuyt and, like a cross-shot, fortuitously went in without that touch. Regardless, however, it was a well-struck kick and Kuyt's role shouldn't be underestimated - with him hovering, the 'keeper couldn't commit either way in case he took a touch. (I saw RvN perform a similar move once for Man Utd - made the goal without touching the ball).

I don't want to dwell too much on the goals, but it was good to see Babel notch his first - though whether it owed more to his skill or two Derby defenders tackling each other I'm not sure - and Torres confirmed his general all-round ability to take balls into his feet, over the top or in the air. Last season our strikers could manage all of those between them, but this season we have it in one packet, and three goals so far isn't bad for a settling in period.

Just because we're top of the table - at least until Chelsea play tomorrow - I don't want to get carried away though. Last time we were top - November 2001 or 02 - was following a great start but we then collapsed and went on a disastrous run (after Dudek allowed Forlan to score twice). Under Rafa we've tended to have a slow start rather than a November slump (which had been our previous habit), but we've still tended to have good and bad runs a bit. Hopefully rotation will keep the squad fit and sharp and mean we can keep on producing results like this; however I've yet to see how we'd react to going behind or really having to grind out a win, and those are the qualities that separate champions over the 38 game marathon.

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Extreme Minorities under FPTP

I commented a little while ago on the often raised danger of extreme minorities winning under lottery-voting. I feel I should point out that this danger is not restricted to lottery-voting. The people over at Make My Vote Count point to this example, where a BNP candidate is elected under FPTP.

As they point out, two-thirds of the vote were cast against him, but that in itself isn't too surprising - given the number of parties running, a plurality is often attained with just 30-40% of the vote, and Labour won a Commons majority with around 35% of the national vote. If we speculate, however, that the BNP candidate would probably have been last choice, at least of those on the left (if not perhaps UKIP voters), then he could have been defeated by any system that took second preferences into account.

Another possibility would, of course, be to copy the French presidential 'plurality run-off' model. In this case, the BNP candidate would make the second round - much like Le Pen did in 2002 - but similarly would probably lose heavily.

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