Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Which 'constituency' should MPs be responsive to?

According to Edmund Burke, MPs should exercise their own judgement, rather than being beholden to what 'the people' want. Many disagree. But even if we accept that MPs should do what 'the people' tell them, it is still an open question which people they should listen to.

I'm getting to Burke in my lectures in a couple of weeks, but this is such a good example that I may have to save it for then...

Gerard McMullan says: "The DUP are representing their constituents, their constituents told them, 'We want to Remain.' The DUP don't represent the UK, they represent Northern Ireland. And Northern Ireland say they want to stay."
Adam Petticrew says: "People voted to leave so we have to leave.... I think it's a joke that the DUP get to decide [what's going to happen] because the people decided already what's to happen. The DUP should be doing what the people said - they want to leave. Northern Ireland is part of the UK and on the whole the UK wanted to leave."
This touches on another point, namely whether MPs should pursue the national interest or the interests of their constituents. Burke thought that MPs should pursue what they think is in the national interest, but one might disagree on both points or only on one of them. This gives at least four options:
A. MPs should make their own independent judgement of the national interest.
B. MPs should make their own independent judgement of their constituents' interests.
C. MPs should accept the people's view of the national interest.
D. MPs should accept their constituents' view of their local interests.
(Obviously, this could be further complicated. I assume that if MPs are to promote the national interest, but not exercise their own judgement, then they should respond to the national vote. But, in principle, they could do what their constituents think is in the national interest.)

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

The Difficulty of Targetting Junk Food (Advertising)

It's often suggested that the state should ban the advertising of junk food, particularly to children. Saqiq Khan's (long proposed) ban on such advertising on London public transplant recently came into force. (This, of course, comes on top of the recent sugar tax.)

This Spectator article neatly summarises one problem with these proposals though. There is no agreed definition of junk food. What's actually banned is the advertising of food high in fat, sugar, or salt, but this includes (amongst other things) many tinned fruits, cereals, and jams. (Another blow for our post-Brexit economy, based on jam and biscuits.)

A lot of foods people might think of as 'healthy' could fall foul of these restrictions on supposedly 'unhealthy' food. For instance, fruit smoothies are high in sugar.