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Matt Wilcox

Musing

Apr 04th 2015

The infuriating ineptitude of politics in the UK

Today’s politics is awash with policies which chase the ignorant vote. Because that’s the easiest vote to get, and education is hard and expensive.

Porn site's must have age checks, say Conservatives
- BBC News

People this ignorant and incompetent run our country. There are two possibilities for how this stance, just prior to a general election, came into being:

  1. These politicians sincerely believe age checks work. In their experience no one has ever lied to get around an age verification form.
  2. They know this is bullshit, but they know that being seen wanting to 'protect the children' is more important than actually doing so.

I find neither option acceptable in any serious political party. They are either hopelessly out of touch with reality, or disgustingly amoral manipulators of the people.

It's my opinion what's happening here is the second possibility. I don't believe anyone is so squeaky clean innocent that, upon encountering a 'date of birth' form for a website, they haven't fibbed to get access to whatever is in there that they obviously went looking for in the first place. When was the last time you were casually browsing the web and suddenly had to verify your age? Exactly.

The fact that volunteering your own date of birth is an 'acceptable' method of age verification is in itself a complete cop-out. We all know it has no effect on keeping the under-aged out of a website. But, it's the moral dressing politicians have accepted as being sufficient to say 'job done'.

It also happens to be the only technical option available - because there is no mechanism by which a website can authenticate the age of a visitor. It is not technically possible, and that is obvious to people who have a passing familiarity with how the internet works too.

So, given that a workable age verification is technically impossible, and the existing accepted method is trivially circumvented, why keep chasing the issue?

Because the ignorant voter likes to see the government 'goals' rather than actual effectiveness.

The fact of the matter is this: there are a lot of voters ignorant of these things, and who - like any normal person - want to see children being protected from inappropriate things. Lacking an understanding of the technicalities (however relatively simple), these voters will be happy to back such a policy goal. They have no idea it's impossible to be effective by any measure a sane person would use.

Our politics is full of such tuff. It is a legacy of our political system, which has never tried to educate its general citizens about how politics works. We have never had classes in school to teach 'what is right wing?' 'how does parliament work?' 'what is the role of government?' etc. Why not?

I suspect it's because a general public educated in these particulars would not vote the way the established powers would like. There would be far fewer Etonians wandering the Houses of Parliament, looking out for their friends, squirrelling away opportunities and cash benefits for themselves.

Doing the right thing is costly in terms of career, expensive in terms of money, and relinquishes a degree of perceived control of the system.

It comes down to this: most of the politicians in power probably think they're the right person for the job and that the system works fine as it is. A number of these people are actively aware of the rigging of the system, and play it to their own advantage. It is not in the interest of either type of politician to educate the general public about political matters.

And so, rather than risk their own status-quo, rather than have a population educated and aware enough to responsibly hold politicians to account and help steer the course of the country, we have politics which seeks the ignorant voters vote over anything else. We have a politics that's led by broad stated intents anyone can agree with as a principle, instead of concrete plans.

It's the reason why voter turn out is ever lower. It's why we have an ever more isolationist and right-wing political climate. The ignorant are most effected by fear of the unknown, and the ignorant have so much they don't know. That's a lot of opportunity for a politician to manoeuvre. And so we're kept as ignorant as possible, and we're fed wishy-washy policies dressed up in fervour and righteousness.

UK politics drives me to despair. But, at least it's not as far gone as American politics yet.

Won't someone think of our kids?