Philobiblon: Weekend reading

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Weekend reading

Australia around a century ago was considered a "working man's paradise". (Yes, the women didn't do so well, but not as badly as they're going to do now ...)
From the Sydney Morning Herald:

The tough penalties, largely overlooked in the week's legislative frenzy, dovetail nicely with the new industrial relations regime. Workers who quit over poor conditions - a workplace agreement that strips them of all but the Government's five new minimum standards, for example - will end up penniless. Ditto for workers sacked for alleged misconduct, with no right to appeal under unfair dismissal laws. And those who would like Christmas Day off, or to be paid penalties for the graveyard shift, will think twice about rejecting a job that provides neither.
If the alternative is no money for eight weeks, no right to an unemployment benefit, then many will become compliant wage slaves in the new industrial order.

Note to the SMH - please! stop splitting all stories into two pages. Yes it might get up your click count, but it is intensely irritating.

* The "out of Africa" thesis of human evolution is, it seems, if not dead, then certainly in need of substantial modification. This report is quite technical, but well worth wrestling with. And if supported by further evidence, it means a total rethink about our origins. We're all both African, and Chinese.

* David Mamet's theory of how to write a play, via a heavy critique of The Night of the Iguana.

* The Guardian looks at whatever happened to the end of hereditary peers. Short answer: Tony Blair has left them there because he doesn't have the guts to face the issue.

I've got a solution to solve the elected versus appointed conundrum - select members of the House of Lords by lot. (All citizens over the age of 18 included - and paid a reasonable sum for participation.) It has a perfect democratic pedigree (ancient Athens and all that), and would reproduce the delightful dottiness and eccentricity of the old Lords, combined with a dogged commonsense to restrict the Commons' wilder flights of fancy.


Anonymous Brian said...

Come on, Natalie, don't desert the campaign for a democratically elected second chamber in favour of your whimsical and amusing alternative just yet! There's a healthy majority in the House of Commons for a wholly or mainly elected second chamber: every other comparable western democracy except Canada has an elected second chamber: and the only reason we're denied one is that, as you accurately say, Mr Blair hasn't got the guts to risk the change.

The old houseful of hereditary peers was a kind of system of random selection and it didn't really work out well, did it?

Keep up the good blogging, and have yourself a merry little Christmas in spite of everything.


12/10/2005 11:35:00 am  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Whimsical - not exactly. I am semi-serious; what could possibly be more representative? And I suppose it reflects my basic belief about human nature. Given the opportunity, most people would rise to the occasion - and unlike the old hereditaries they would bring a huge range of experience.

But of course the politicians would never accept it, because it would greatly reduce their power of patronage.

But a merry Christmas to you too!

12/10/2005 12:23:00 pm  
Blogger Ronnie Smartt said...

I am afraid too that the argument from the Athenian archons is weak. In earlier times they were chosen by lot but from a small elected group. Later they were indeed chosen purely by lot but only from the better-off and with only relogious and minor judicial duties.

12/12/2005 02:35:00 pm  

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