Sunday, 28 November 2010

Legislating for Happiness?

As Ken Dodd reminds us, happiness is a gift, so it is odd that a Government making ‘state gifts’ - grants and benefits – more conditional, is keen to start measuring happiness.

Yes, as we Greens have been saying for sometime, measuring economic wellbeing by the rate at which we consume resources is shortsighted in a world with limited resources. It doesn’t make sense that a flood or an oil spill mark increases in economic activity.

And a financial system which depends on ‘market confidence’ remains subjective, even if those subjective view are ‘anonymised’ by the abstraction of ‘the market’. As someone said, money was created to obviate the need for trust between people - but you still need to be able to trust in the system.

So yes – the present method of measuring the economy is obsolete and needs to be replaced.

And – yes, we need efficient and productive use of resources, but in an engineering rather than an economic sense, and we need systems which conserve and re-use resources, and draw more heavily on renewable resources.

But we also need to assess ‘social and environmental’ well-being, and the New Economics Foundation, amongst others, has developed several indicators for this. But the aggregating and weighting of the various components of these indicators carries embedded policy decisions (a bit like the Index of Multiple Deprivation).

Then again, we need to recognise the difference between standard of living and quality of life. Studies show that above a certain level of income, subjective contentment does not correlate with income. On the other hand, a high quality of life can be achieved when living quite simply.

Happiness and contentment are states of mind, like tranquillity, and all we can do is try to create the conditions which bring about those mental states. But – we need to identify those conditions first.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Even more reasons...

Further to my last post - Morrison's are applying for extended licenses for all their non-24 hr stores across the country, as a step towards getting 24 hour 7-day a week oening.
So, although NCC report that:
"Morrison’s have now re-submitted the application and the formal 28 day consultation period will commence form today and finish on the 9th December 2010" - the parallel applications elsewhere in the county have not been delayed, and the NCC Licensing Committee will be hard pushed to come up with reasons why Morpeth Morrison's should be treated differently.
The only grounds for objecting to licensing applications are:
  • prevention of crime and disorder
  • public safety
  • prevention of public nuisance
  • protection of children from harm

  • I think that my argument that this subverts the PubWatch network and that supermarket cashiers are not trained to deal with 'people under the influence' in the way that bar staff are - should hold up, but concerns about light pollution and boy racers in well-lit carparks would be stronger if it were a variation on a planning permission rather than a license.

    And that is where Morrison's are manipulating the system - as well as the sheer weight of a national move, they are using the narrower licensing regulations to pre-empt a variation in planning permission, to move towards 24-hour opening.

    And they are not the only ones: word has reached me that M&S in Sandersons Arcade have applied for a 24-hour alcohol sales license, and an acohol license for their restaurant - also a move towards 24-hour opening.

    Tuesday, 9 November 2010

    More reasons to drink?

    I gather that Morrisons have (rather quietly) applied to be able to sell alcohol 6am-11pm seven days a week from their Morpeth store...

    This seems a bit excessive to me on a number of fronts:
    i) buying cut price alcohol and drinking at home is already damaging the pub trade in Morpeth and elsewhere, the habit of 'preloading' or drinking before you go out is particularly pernicious
    ii) who wants to buy alcohol at six in the morning? Or from a supermarket at 10 or 11pm at night? Are we going to have people popping in to Morrisons for a carry-out on their way home from the pub? Pub staff are used to managing customers who have had too much, and will refuse to serve them. Can we expect supermarket checkout staff to do the same?
    iii) And why seven days a week? That's longer than the current opening hours? Ah! Is this part of a cunning plan to extend the opening hours of the supermarket? Are we going to have a 17-hour supermarket in Morpeth?

    Anyway - they applied (to NCC) so quietly, that no one has objected so far - and the objection period runs out on Friday (12th). So the Town Council will be discussing it at their meeting tomorrow (Weds 10th) and will probably ask NCC to extend the consultation period.