Saturday, May 26, 2012

China's one-child policy

The Times, London: "The dance floors are polished to a shine and a 150-metre long “love wall” has been erected down the middle of the venue: everything is set for 48 hours of intensive matchmaking.In a now annual tumult of desire and desperation, more than 20,000 singles will descend on Expo Park in Shanghai today in pursuit of a spouse. A majority will be women: educated, salaried, urbanised and disappointed that city life has yet to yield Mr Right.

The event’s organisers assured The Times that a local steelworks and other Shanghai companies rich in male employees had been “encouraged to dispatch bachelors to the scene”. That urgent call for men is an anomaly in a country where a vast gender imbalance has become endemic and which some demographers believe will create a 50 million-strong surplus of single males by the end of the decade. Chinese families already have an instinctive grasp of the supply and demand crisis that lies ahead for young men. In poorer parts of the country, young men in their 20s are preparing unhappily for a long life unshared.

As well as being held on a greater scale than in the past, today’s event in Shanghai has a fresh innovation: singles will enter free, but parents accompanying them will be charged 50 yuan (£5). The deterrent effect will be minimal. Many thousands of parents are expected to attend, cajoling their offspring towards marriages that modern life is increasingly delaying. Plenty of the parental harassment is an old-fashioned wish for stability and grandchildren. But increasingly, the angst in China is born of raw economic fear. ...
China’s male surplus will pose unprecedented challenges to the incoming leadership of the Communist Party. No government anywhere has dealt with an imbalance on this scale. Li Jianmin, the head of the Institute of Population and Development Research at Nankai University, said that the difficulty of men finding wives was an effect of the “big backdrop” of a birth-sex ratio of 118 boys to 100 girls. “The gender imbalance trend started showing in the early 1980s, and now we have just walked over the threshold. In five to ten years, the high-risk period will come,” he said. He added that China’s family planning policy was to a great extent responsible for the imbalance. About 90 per cent of Chinese couples would like a boy and a girl, but when forced to have only one, most opt for a boy.

The problems of male oversupply will be further amplified if, as some now fear, China’s economy sputters. In places of high bachelor concentration, high unemployment, and where all hope of marriage has evaporated, there will probably be crime and unrest, said Andrea Den Boer, a demographer whose Bare Branches book warns of long-term security implications. “It is difficult to be optimistic because while China knows that this problem exists, it does not appear to have any plan,” she said. “There is a strong potential building for future violence and unrest and so far the Chinese authorities have not developed a response to those issues, other than a violent one.”"

A natural if unplanned result of the one-child policy of the CCP. A necessity to keep the population down. But the leaders had not reckoned on the Chinese historical desire to have male heirs. Another instance of the Law of Unintended Consequneces

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Joanna Lumley's Gurkha campaign

From BBC News 31 July 2011: "Two years ago actress Joanna Lumley helped Gurkhas who retired before 1997 win the right to settle in the UK. Gurkha welfare groups and the Home office estimate that about 8,000 former soldiers and their families have since moved to Britain. But many have struggled in the UK, as the BBC's Alastair Lawson reports.
Ragprasad Purja (right) celebrating Joanna Lumley's victory in 2009

Nowhere can the influx of Gurkhas into Britain be more clearly seen than in the British military town of Aldershot.
The local authority estimates that one in 10 of the town's 90,000 residents comes from Nepal - many as a direct result of the campaign Ms Lumley helped lead.
If the British Gurkha Welfare Society (BGWS) is to be believed, Joanna Lumley's campaign has been a disaster, resulting in thousands of elderly and infirm Gurkha pensioners - most unable to speak English - living in poor accommodation and relying on state handouts to survive.
The actress herself has broken a strictly-observed silence over criticisms of her campaign to release a statement to the BBC.

Joanna Lumley's statement

Joanna Lumley
We should remember that there would be no Great Britain, no National Health Service and no welfare state were it not for the blood spilt by Gurkhas and others to protect this country in much darker and more dangerous times than those we face now.
Time and time again during the campaign ordinary people would stop me in the street and plead with me not to give up, as they could see that what we asked for on behalf of the Gurkhas was just and fair.
All other foreign and Commonwealth soldiers had the right to settle in Britain, regardless of the cost to this country: but only the pre-1997 retired Gurkhas were denied this right.
I joined the campaign because my father served as a regular soldier with the Gurkhas, and being a "daughter of the regiment" I understood more than most what sacrifices the Gurkhas and their families had made to protect this country from tyranny.
The British people are fair-minded, and they believe in loyalty to close friends. I am just grateful that I had a small part to play in helping these fine men and their families.
"Our campaign had moral right on our side," the statement said, "and the vast majority of the British public wanted the government to amend the law to allow Gurkhas to settle in the UK.
"Debts of honour are not easy to translate or quantify into pounds and pence, and some MPs have criticised our campaign for not considering the potential financial impact on the exchequer. Yet the government did consider this at the time, and decided that our campaign arguments vanquished the issues of pure cost."
Ms Lumley's supporters insist that her campaign successfully reversed decades of discrimination against older Gurkhas who fought for the British army yet were denied the right to retire in the UK.
But the BGWS argues that it would be far more cost-effective if retired Gurkhas were paid better pensions and encouraged to stay in Nepal rather than pursue the more expensive option of emigrating to the UK to take advantage of state pensions, housing benefit and free health care."
In our view, not only would it be more cost effective, but the retired Gurkhas would be much better off and happier.  A £ goes much, much further in Nepal than in Surrey!
This is another case of well intentions translated by the Lay of Unintended Consequences into something not quite what was intended.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Partition of British India

Before, during and soon after World War II, Britain realised it was time to quit India after nearly 300 years. Because of a perceived problem for the minority Muslim population as advocated by the leader of the Muslim League, Mr Jinnah, Britain decided that the safest option or the Muslim minority was to partition British India into India and two parts of Pakistan - West Pakistan and East Pakistan.  The latter being the eastern half of Bengal which had, for some strange reason a majority of Muslims.

There were several problem states: most concerned 'princely states' where the population was of one faith and the ruler of the other, such as Hyderabad a Hindu-majority state with a Muslim ruler. In all cases, common-sense prevailed and the ruler opted for the country which was geographically most sensible. But Jammu and Kashmir to the north had large Muslim majorities but with Hindu rulers. Unfortunately, the rulers couldn't decide by the given deadline. Consequently, Pakistan militarily took over the half nearest its borders and India the other half. As we know, the problem has yet to be resolved over 60 years after Independence.

But the worst problem was that despite the best intentions, partition directly caused the displacement  (to quote Wikipedia -   "up to 12.5 million people in the former British Indian Empire, with estimates of loss of life varying from several hundred thousand to a million (most estimates of the numbers of people who crossed the boundaries between India and Pakistan in 1947 range between 10 and 12 million).[1] The violent nature of the partition created an atmosphere of mutual hostility and suspicion between India and Pakistan that plagues their relationship to this day."

See also -

The Law of Unintended Consequences struck again. One could even say that a variant: "The Law of Opposite to that Intended " struck.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

UK 'no win, no fee' lawyers

In 1999 the UK enacted a law that allowed lawyers to offer what is commonly called 'no win, no fee' services. The intention was to reduce legal aid being paid to people who could not afford legal fees and to enable the less economically able to file law suits.

Guess what, in a little over 10 years the situation has given rise to what is called 'ambulance chasing' by law firms, many of whom advertise themselves as mainly or solely 'no win, no fee' firms. 

As reported in Wikipedia -  - "On 29 March 2011, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke announced plans to reform contingent fee arrangements, as part of reforms to the justice system prompted by a review of civil litigation costs carried out by Lord Justice Jackson.[7] The changes were prompted by large rises in litigation costs and the proliferation of ambulance-chasing advertisements and claim farmers.[8] The National Health Service has been forced to pay out hundreds of millions of pounds in recent years.[8]"

António Horta-Osório, chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group

And as reported in the Guardian -  - "The chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group hit out at fraudulent claims for payment protection insurance compensation on Tuesday as the bailed out bank increased its provision for mis-selling the controversial product by 12% to £3.6bn.

António Horta-Osório said the £375m additional provision was a "minor adjustment" when asked if it would require the bank to pursue any additional clawback of bonuses from former and current directors. Some £1.5m was clawed back following the £3.2bn provision taken last year.

But he criticised the claims management companies that submitted 45% of the claims the bank received in February and March, from customers who typically bought the insurance when taking out a loan, to cover themselves for illness or other hindrances to paying it back. Of the claims submitted by these firms, 25% were from people without Lloyds products."

Yet again, the Law of Unintended Consequences strikes.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

General Marshall and General MacArthur - 1945 ...

In contrast to the Treaty of Versailles after World War I, the Allies had learnt from history. So, instead of punishing Germany and Japan to such an extent that they would re-arm and reassert themselves militarily, General George Marshall in Europe with his Marshall Plan and General Douglas MacArthur separately and, apparently, independently set themselves the task of rebuilding Germany and Japan.

Some aspects of the Marshall Plan are ironic, such as that Germany was relieved of any debt, but fellow Allies like Britain had to pay back the US for war loans such as to supply aircraft and warships, which lasted till the end of 2006, 50 years later.


Their two schemes were so successful that within a couple of generations, Germany (or at least West Germany as it then was) and Japan rose to become two of the world's largest economies rivalling and, in some cases beating, the economies of the victors.

The purpose was to enable Germany and Japan to become self-sufficient and not be a source of resentment and revenge. It was never to create formidable rivals!

Treaty of Versailles, 1918

After World War I, the victors through the Treaty of Versailles - -  imposed such harsh penalties, including punitive war reparations on Germany that the rise of Hitler (or someone like him) became inevitable.

This is one of the most clear cases of the Law of Unintended Consequences as the intention was to make it difficult if not impossible for Germany to threaten the rest of Europe!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Children's care homes

The Guardian: "The heartbreaking case of Niamh Lafferty and Georgia Rowe, who died in a double suicide in 2009, was avoidable, according to an inquiry. If the care home in which the girls both lived had more staff on duty at the time they absconded perhaps someone would have noticed them leaving through the unalarmed fire exit door.

But the additional tragedy of this story is that it is not uncommon for "looked-after children" to end up dead prematurely. Care leavers are significantly over-represented among some of society's most disadvantaged groups. A third of rough sleepers have been in care as children; one fifth are homeless within two years of leaving care; half of prisoners under the age of 25 are care leavers; and 22% are unemployed shortly after leaving school – three times the national average. Many end up in street prostitution, and a mere 6% attend university compared with more than a third of the general population.
Most children in care have suffered appalling abuse, neglect and loss in early life, which is why we should be doing everything we can to place them in loving homes rather than institutions where many of the staff are not experts in dealing with the range of complex problems these youngsters inevitably face. ...
My research and campaigning on prostitution and the sex industry has also brought me into contact with many young women who had previously been in care. One told me that the effects of rape by her father that led to her being removed from the family home were compounded by sexual abuse by a care worker. She said that by the time she was 18 and living alone she had been through a "boot camp" for prostitution. ...
Of course not all care home staff have this attitude, and abuse, while still prevalent, has been flagged up as a serious concern since the major inquiries into the problem back in the 1970s and 80s. Many of those who work with looked-after children do a brilliant job in extremely difficult circumstances. But for the 89,000 looked-after children, the care system is simply not good enough."

Sadly, this is not the only case.  There have been cases in Jersey, Ireland, the US and Canada and, I daresay, elsewhere.  Some involved Catholic priests and nuns.

So, once again, the Law of Unintended Consequences strikes. By bringing together lots of vulnerable children, care homes become a magnet to the perverse who see it as an easy collection of their targets.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

UK social welfare

Soon after the Second World War when, surprisingly, the British electorate rejected Churchill and voted overwhelmingly for Labour, the social welfare state was born. The idea was that society should not ignore those who were too poor or ill to look after themselves and that the state (namely the rest of the population) should support them. That was indeed a laudable idea.

Of course following the Law of Unintended Consequences, today some 60 plus years later, Britain is experiencing a very high proportion of welfare recipients who do not work, have not worked, and are unfit for work. And in a large proportion of cases, they are sons and daughters of people who have not earned a living; and in a few cases their grandparents did not earn a living. In other words, Britain has institutionalised a dependency culture amongst some of the have not's who, in other words, are condemned to continue to be have not's generation after generation.

There is an old English saying: "Hell is paved with good intentions." Perhaps the British welfare system is one such.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Hanoi's General Giap's "ah ha" moment

A few years after the US pulled out of Vietnam in 1975, General Giap was reported to have said that he now realised what a mistake the Vietnamese army had made in defeating the US. The reason was that the US only helped those it had defeated, like Germany and Japan, but not those who had won!

See -

It was not till 1995, 20 years later that the US and Vietnam restored diplomatic relations and finally US aid and support was forthcoming.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sub Prime Mortgages

From CBS News, August 31, 2007: "Would you like a mortgage that lends you more than the value of your house?

Would you like it structured so that your first payments are extra low?
If the mortgage weren't structured that way, would you be unable to afford the payments?
Are you convinced that real estate prices will continue to rise?
Do you have a poor credit history?

Congratulations if you answered "Yes" to most or all of those questions! You're an ideal target for a subprime mortgage lender.

Of course, there is a downside amid all the fine print, as hundreds of thousands of American consumers are now finding out. Mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures are way up. Dozens of companies that lent money to anyone with a pulse have gone belly up. And suddenly, some economists are starting to worry that the whole mess could send the U.S. economy into recession."

So, in trying to help the poor Americans to climb up the housing ladder, Fannie Mae and other large mortgage lenders no only caused many of them to lose their houses but triggered a world recession that is still with us four plus years on. Such is a prime (pun intended) example of the law of unintended consequences.