Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category:

Classical Ideas

So, a Tory MP may or may not have called a police officer a pleb.

The reason this makes the news is not that we find the term pleb particularly offensive, but because it shows that Tory politicians are all the same – that they are bad people who believe they, the monied elite, are better than us (and by us I mean the middle class journos who are making a song and dance about this).

Except it doesn’t.  However this might fit the story we want to tell ourselves about what Conservate politicians are like (and, as a liberal, I’m pretty keen to tell myself that story from time to time), all we have is statistical evidence that maybe one member of the Conservative party has class based prejudices which show themselves in a moment of anger.  It is true that all the evidence from people talking about Andrew Mitchell suggest he isn’t the nicest guy – but sometimes people like that turn out to be particularly effective in doing certain jobs.

However, more to the point, assuming for a second that Andrew Mitchell should be sacked for having insufficient class sensitivity to call someone a pleb, then we need to ensure anyone who has ever called anyone a chav should also be sacked.  Because what pleb means to the public schoolboy, chav means to the middle classes – essentially: someone who, due to the education they received, financial situation of their parents, accent and dress, are to be despised.  And, while I’m at it, its equally bad to assume public schoolboys, even Bullingdon Club members, consider the population to be made mainly of ‘plebs’ – from my experience it is, at most, a small minority – the rest are, again, the class based imaginings of a resentful middle class.  Don’t think that the outcry over Andrew Mitchell isn’t just as much about class based resentment as any comments he may or may not have made.

But there is another element of class based resentment, which I worry is a little more insidious - in that it seems to be agreed upon by almost everyone across the political spectrum.  And because, as far as I can tell, it is not only wrong, but harmful to the quality of life of – well, almost everyone in the world.

The idea is that : There exists a class of scroungers, people who live a life of luxury without putting in a day of work in their lives.  Also, they tend to have lots of children, which in some way means they get to live an even more luxurious and more work free life.

Now, I’m not denying there are some families who live, generation to generation, on welfare.

What I am saying is that, if the life they live is the most they want, then good for them.

What I’m also saying is “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all live the life we want without having to work?  Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we, as a society, decided to make that a goal, rather than the concepts of economic growth, which often keep us trapped in lives we don’t want to lead”

I’m not, for a second, suggesting that everyone become lazy, TV watching, drones – you’re back to the class stereotypes if you even considered that.  Without a day job, I would be busily learning, writing, coding, thinking, creating – all on my own.  Some of my ideas and creations would be useful to others.  I’m sure people would take those ideas on and develop and improve them, sanding down the rough edges that I may prefer to leave unfinished.  In short, I would be providing value to society… and I think, left to their own devices, most people would.  The value might be a different sort of value from what we have grown to understand in the education to factory or office to retirement to grave treadmill – but people want to be useful, they want to both give and receive – they just need the opportunity.

Even if we had the money to fund giving everybody a state mandated living allowance – and that we could do so without weird inflationary effects – I wouldn’t suggest switching over to this new model tomorrow.  There is a need to remove (and ideally automate, rather than sending oversees) the jobs that people don’t want to do.  We’ve already started.  The servant has been replaced by the hoover and washing machine.  We should not fear the loss of jobs through automation, but we should try to make up for them, by making it increasingly possible for people to live without he need to do someone else’s work.

Right now when a job is automated, we put the spare labour back onto the job market, which lowers the amount people are paid to do similar jobs, which ultimately means we are all working harder to stay where we are.  When people predicted a three day week, they were optimistic that there wouldn’t be enough work – instead we find that every time we finish one job early, there is more work to be done  or else we will be out competed by someone who is willing to put in more effort in order to gain a rung or two ahead of you on the (material) ladder of life.  We can’t, as a society, win if we keep on going in this direction.  We are in an arms race which, at best, will lead to us burning out rather than burning brighter.

So when you hear the cries of ‘scrounger’, don’t ask ‘How can we get rid of that?” ask ‘How can we get more?  How can we raise everyone’s basic level of living so that, should I want, I too can be a scrounger?’.  It should be a goal of society for us all to be able to do exactly what we want, for us to aim for our highest potential, rather than the highest level of corporate management we can fill.


Rethinking Social Media : A Self-Contradictory Opinion

Stamp US 1977 2c Americana

Should the USA nationalize Facebook?  Um, no.

To be more specific, aside from it being the USA – a country which tends to believe in the market doing a better job of looking after people’s interests than the government – there are any number of reasons why you don’t want a state running a social network.  A good example would be “People from other states use it too”.

Should any other country nationalize Facebook?  Still no.  If you can explain why having a public social network is more important than good public transport, or good public healthcare, or good public education, you are a better person than me.  No wait, you are a far worse person than me, and you don’t deserve to have an opinion on anything.  Go away.

But the article makes a good point that it would be nice to have a trusted social network – one that would support people in countries where they don’t have freedom of speech.  Of course, no government would do this, because it would either involve being seen as siding with enemies of states you might want to still pretend to be friendly with, or it would involve coming up with a system which would be as useful to enemies of your own state.  The terrorists would have already won (even if all they won at was Mafia wars… which presumably some of them would be quite good at.)

However governments are not usually the protectors of free speech.  In general they tend to protect ‘the sort of speech we want, but not that other speech which tends towards the nasty and evil’.  To protect free speech, I would look instead towards various charities – the Amnestys, and EFFs and CPJs of the world.

And, in thinking of those charities, it occurs to me:

Would there not be some place in the world for a ‘free speech social network’, supported by a non-profit foundation, and presumably grants from both right on for-profit organisations and charities of the sort I’ve described before?

Here is my thinking – if I were to set up this sort of social network, it would have to have the following characteristics:

It would have to compete head to head with Facebook and Twitter and whoever else.  You want this network to be the place everyone goes to, the place everyone knows about – because you don’t just want freedom of speech for specially equipped activists, you want freedom of speech for absolutely everyone.  You want it to be easy and safe to say what you want as and when and why you want.

Because people wish to shut down free speech, and because there is no legislature that could be trusted with protecting a free speech social network, it would have to be distributed.  In saying that, I worry too much that I’m contradicting what I have previously said about social networks not needing to be distributed.  I would like, if I may, to plead a technicality:  There would be a core site for the social network (or perhaps a core site in each country).  All the sites would communicate to each other.  And all would interoperate with each other.  And, if you wanted higher levels of security still, you could run your own version of the site.  Now some of these sites may need to block particular content for legal reasons – but that wouldn’t be a problem, people could simply go to other sites (which would be well known about) hosted in other jurisdictions if they wanted that content.  So what I’m talking about here is not ‘lets build some distributed software, and try to get a network to take off based on it”, I’m talking about ‘lets build a good social networking site, and by the way, you can mirror some or all of the content, and interoperate with it in a distributed way if you want’

To achieve the goal of distribution, its going need cryptography.  Things like ‘only distribute this to my friends’ can only be done with crypto in a distributed system.  But crypto can also be used to solve other issues like ‘this proves who I am’.  The trick here would be to hide the crypto from the end user as much as possible – which is to say, they should never need to know that crypto is involved.

It should play well with TOR – some people who would want to use this network would need TOR – but the site that most people see would be hosted on the open internet, because that is the obvious place to host such things.

It would have to be free to everyone.

I’m optimistic that this could be done.  The wikimedia foundation has worked, and has managed to produce not just Wikipedia, but the software which powers it.  I see no reason why similarly generously spirited people shouldn’t get together to create the ultimate social network.  One which cares about its users, and which is free, because it is funded by people who care about freedom, not by people who care about adverts.

Will it happen?

It could.  And possibly it should. I think it might just be an idea whose time has come.

Why Aaron Sorkin’s Idealism Won’t Change The Real World

Can I first get this straight – I love the work of Aaron Sorkin.  Newsroom is the best thing on TV at the moment.  The dialogue is crisp, tight and admittedly slightly formulaic (but then I guess the Elizabethan press were all “Gawd, that Shakespeare guy really verdoes that iambic pentameter stuff”) .  Can I also get this straight – I am as wooly a libral as they come.  I’m the sort of person who says things like “Some of my best friends are conservatives” (I do mean it.  Some of them are)


Aaron Sorkin does idealistic lead characters.  They might be idealistic presidents, idealistic showrunners, idealistic news anchors.  I was hoping the news anchor would not be idealistic.  I was hoping we would have a conflict between an idealistic producer and a cynical, hardbitten, newsman.  But three episodes in, and my hope has gone.  Now, idealists make for good heros.  Idealists stand for something, and, in the traditions of storytelling, if they stand true to their ideals, deserve ultimate success.  Idealists’ flaws also stand out, silhouetted against their principles.

Yet for Sorkin, the idealism doesn’t work.  Not quite.  There is something about it which feels forced.

And it is all due to Aaron Sorkin being a liberal.

All of Sorkin’s heros are liberals.  Sorkin’s ideals are the liberal ideal.  Even the Bill Pulman ‘I’m shockingly a republican’ news anchor, settles on liberal sounding arguments.  Characters don’t so much argue their position as they do joust for the position of being the most liberal.  It isn’t quite the America I’m used to from the news and internets.  Perhaps Sorkin feels that everyone he writes about are intelligent, young, and insufficiently rich yet to have become evil.  And that intelligent, young, not rich enough people have no choice but to be liberal.

There are intelligent republicans.  The liberal end of the media doesn’t want to show them.  The conservative end just isn’t interested in them.  But they are there.  They exist.  They are in the offices, the workplaces.  The belief that intelligence equals a left leaning outlook is just wrong.  I’ve wondered about this.  Then, watching the third episode of Newsroom there was a quote which explained it all to me.  Something along the lines of

“Facts aren’t the left.  Facts are the centre”

Aaron Sorkin believes that if everyone just got all the facts given to them, they would all become well meaning, left leaning liberals like him.

And the more I think about it, the more I think all of us liberals have the tendency to do the same.  We argue for evidence based politics.  We hate it when we get ‘fair and balance’ coverage of issues where there are facts and lies – not just two equal sides.  We shift around uncomfortably when a law is made based on a selective reading of a book written two thousand years ago, rather than on who gets hurt.  And we think ‘If only we can educate people more, this will all go away’

The problem is this is the liberal mindset.  This is what makes someone liberal.  Something else makes someone conservative.

Now, I’m going to overgeneralise a bit about republicans and conservatives.  There are lots of shades of grey here, many fine points I’m fully aware I’m glossing over.  I want to get to the heart of the matter.

Republicans don’t care about facts.  Facts are not the center.  Facts are the left.  What republicans care about is emotions.

When I described this argument to some friends down the pub, they refined it “What Republicans care about is values”

Value and emotions are they same thing.  They are the gut response to the world.  They are what you are told you need, by your heart, not your head, to feel safe.

And there is nothing wrong with values.  We’ve been guided by values for millennia.  Our values are a good heuristic for acting in a way which will keep out society together.  They have likely been honed by evolution (or, if they doesn’t make you feel good, they have likely been put there by God himself).

There is research into this.  Republicans get scared more easily than liberals – but they spend most of their time happier than liberals.  Quite possibly because they don’t fight their instincts.  Quite frankly, facts are not going to change anything.   What will change things are stories.  We’ve all seen the politicians who stand firmly on the right, decrying the fall of civilisation and blaming it on atheists, druggies, and immorality.  They quickly change their tune when one of their children comes out.  “Yeah, drugs may still be bad, but I fully support homosexual marriage” they say.  Because they’ve become part of a story.

Sorkin’s characters don’t tell stories.  They spout facts.  They want to educate, when they results they want don’t come from education, but from reaching people deep down in their heart.  These are liberals doing the liberal thing of hitting their heads against a liberal glass wall, and wondering why they don’t ever get through to the people on the other side.  I’ve been guilty of this.

Very occasionally Sorkin stops writing about this own character, and makes a biopic about someone who actually did something.  Charlie Wilson’s War.  The Social Network.  These films have flawed characters.  Driven characters, with their won ideals, certainly, but real characters.  There is an extent to which these films work better than the lecture which underlies his television.  I’m more likely to learn something by watching someone struggle and fail through or succeed despite  their own character flaws, than by being repeatedly told what is right.

If I was going to fix the Newsroom, I would do just this.  Let the idealist see that idealism doesn’t work.  Let him experience  life outside of his liberal elite bubble.  knock him down.  Put him in the world of local interest pieces and personal stories.  And let him realise that, through emotions and stories, he is reaching the people who he never contacted with facts.

But keep writing the witty dialogue too.  Because frankly, that is why I’ll keep returning to Sorkin time and time again.

Some things you may not realise about Britain (if you are from abroad, watching the Olympic opening ceremony, or a particular type of Tory)

2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony (5)

So, the Olympic opening ceremony was too multicultural was it?  That ceremony which included athletes from all over the world, all together in one stadium, was too multicultural?  Its laughable.  Even a second contemplating it is too much.  Its a complaint by someone so privileged they have nothing else to complain about.  So lets not.

Lets instead consider this:  I didn’t notice any multiculturalism in the ceremony before the athletes came out.

I didn’t notice a mixed race family

I didn’t notice the lesbian kiss

I didn’t realise there was anything particularly urban about grime.

I didn’t realise that there was anything multicultural about showing the Windrush

Why?  Because all of these things are part of the culture I lived in and grew up with.  I went to school and church with second or third generation West Indian immigrants.  I have a number of LGBTI friends and co-workers.  Grime music makes me think more of the very middle class Cabaret act Frisky and Mannish than it does a rioting underclass of graffiti daubing asbos.

There is no need to complain about multiculturalism in the Olympic opening ceremony, because the ceremony was not showing multiculturalism.  It was showing one culture – the culture than anyone growing up  in Britain considers their own. It isn’t a mythical culture that may have existed 100 years ago – or in the minds of people isolated from the Britain most of us live in by public school education and cushy political or journalistic jobs. Its the real culture, the one down the road, at school and at work.

And this is Britain.  My Britain.  It is truly something remarkable about Britain that so much from so many places has become part of who we are.  It is literally remarkable.  I have many immigrant friends, and they are not shy to remark about it.  We don’t throw out other cultures, we embrace them – and offer them a cup of tea and a chicken tikka masala.

Why I want do is point out the things in the opening ceremony which I think have been missed in all the complaining about a posh man wanting to draw attention to himself.  The things which others might have missed about who, exactly, we are:

We are proud of the NHS.  I have heard people say ‘but other countries have free healthcare – sometimes better than ours’ and this is true.  We are not especially proud of free healthcare, because we consider it something normal, a bit like air and water.  We are horrified at the barbaric ways of those countries who refuse to treat people without a credit card imprint.  No, we are not proud of free healthcare.  we are proud of the NHS.  We are proud of why the NHS was created.  We are proud of the people who work in the NHS.  The opening ceremony wasn’t about doctors, it wasn’t about healing.  It was about Great Ormond Street,  It was about nurses (we are proud of inventing nursing) and it was about caring.

We have a dark side.  Voldemort.  The Queen of Hearts.  Captain Hook.  The Child Catcher.  All dark, all warped, all terrifying.  And Mary Poppins?  Perhaps Poppins is the darkest of them all.  You’ve seen the Disney Poppins,  the Americanized Poppins.  You probably haven’t read the (frankly pagan) books.  There wasn’t just a green and pleasant land, there were also dark satanic mills.  We have a pride in who we are (as misplaced as it might or might not be), but we are not especially proud of how we got there.

Our music and entertainment industries are not dead.  Yes we created the Beatles and Stones, but we haven’t stopped.  We may not be the america of world culture, but we are a cultural influence which punches above our weight.  But there were also jokes meant just for us:  the theme tune to Eastenders, the theme tune to the Archers – we take pride in the fact that some of Britishness only the British can truly understand – and laugh at.

Did I mention that we laugh at ourselves?  What other nation would have their head of state parachute into the stadium?  We can do pomp and circumstance, but Danny Boyle wisely chose to leave that at the jubilee and give us Mr Bean and bicycling doves.  Its weird. Unexpected.  Self demeaning. And so very very right.

When you are a child, you worry so much about growing up.  As a teenager, you spend your life trying to prove you are an adult.  As an adult, you spend more and more time trying to prove you know what you’re doing (because deep down, you know that you don’t)  It is only with old age that you begin to revel in yourself – using senility or eccentricity or things being different in your way to excuse your behaviour.  Britain isn’t a world power any more.  we are a small nation.  Some things we do wrong.  Some things we do right.  We still have some influence.  And we are showing our age.  The opening ceremony was about saying ‘we don’t care, this is what we’re like’

And I liked it.  It entertained me.  I think it entertained our nation.  And if anyone else got some of the jokes, and felt they had a bit of fun, thats good too.

Meanwhile, I – someone to whom sport is about a foreign as our royal family – and my  wife Adelina, born in Romania and soon to get her British Citizenship. was sandwiched between the El Salvator and Chinese delegations at the Olympic shooting yesterday, and saw the first medals of the olympics going to China and Poland.  In Woolwich.  Just down the road from where I use to go swimming, to the cinema, and to the best birthday parties (the ones in the Woolwich branch of McDonalds).

That is multiculturalism.  I kinda like it.

Maybe it’s the constituants, not the politicians who have politics wrong?

I’ve noticed a trend.  The government proposes a new law, and the public do one of two things.  They either shrug and say “they’re all as bad as each other, what can we do about it?” or they start writing letters to their MP, believing that if enough constituents say the same thing, the MP is bound to change his or her mind.  Its lie we’ve forgotten how our parliamentary system is meant to work.

The basic principle of our parliamentary system is “we acknowledge that the majority of us are too interested in other things – like putting food on the table and who is going to win The Voice – and so we find someone to represent us.  He can do all the hard work of figuring out what is best for our needs in his own way.  Our only responsibility is to try to pick the best person for the job – out of those who want it – and we do this by judging what they say, and there past record”

So once we’ve put someone into parliament, by all means, if we think they’ve missed something, try to educate them, but don’t think there is any particular value into trying to vote them into changing their minds – unless you honestly think you can gen enough people from you’re MP’s voting base to swing the election.

You may have noticed I’m a little disillusioned.   I’m disillusioned with politics (it was so much easier when the Lib Dem’s didn’t have a hope in hell, and they could be idealistic underdog spectators:  these days they just show themselves for being inept at the politics game, and as such, pretty much unfit to represent the UK’s interests to the rest of the world).  But I’m also disillusioned with voters for letting it get this way.

Isn’t it all the fault of the media?  you ask.  No.  The media isn’t – contrary to well meaning liberal conspiracy theories – telling people what to think.  The media is just people deciding to abdicate their need to make a choice.  People read the paper which fits their views most closely – and if their views on sport, soaps, or what food will cure cancer this week are more important to them than their views on politics – well, thats what they are going to read.  It may be that someone in charge of a paper has influence – but only the same sort of influence we give the politicians when we vote them in.  In fact, papers are better, we can change what paper we read if it stops representing our views.

So is it the fault of the party system, perhaps?  No.  We’re all lazy.  We don’t want to bother knowing what a particular candidate is going to do.  Its a lot more easy if they all lie up behind a single figurehead and abdicate their responsibility to that figurehead and his cronies.  If a candidate was to come out at election time and say “My party’s political aims are totally wrong for you people in this constituency.  I’ll do something different, and I’ll try to convince others to do the same” he would be laughed out of the race.  Not by his party members.  But by us, the voters.

Does the electoral system cause this?  Well, sure its unfair, baroque and weird.  Sure there are far better systems out there.  But it gives results which are pretty good.  And it makes things easy for us.  Moreover, we’ve had a change to change it, and we – the public – chose to leave it alone.  So if it makes things bad, it because we chose to.  And we gave up our chance to make it better anytime soon.  So no.  Not the system’s fault.

Its our fault.

And yet, lots of us say they are totally disenfranchised with politics.  They prefer to vote for people who can just about sing, or who eat kangaroo testicles in the jungle.  They are thick, uncultured, uneducated.  They deserve everything they get.  Or maybe thats unfair.  Maybe some of us guardian readers ought to consider they the disenfranchised we claim to worry so much about, might actually be disenfranchised from us well meaning liberals.  Maybe they would vote for politicians if they were not all just the same; if they represented them.

The problem is, we are in a bit a rut, right about now.  its hard to move out of a rut.  Most of us don’t even know why, politically we are in a rut.  We need to make a move if we want an enfranchised public.  But do do that we need somethign first.  We need hope.

And I think there is hope.

What we need are figureheads.  We need people who can stand up and say “Not all of us politicians are the same.  I’m different.  I represent you”.  And we want people who we believe when they say that – because they are different, and because they mean it.

And we don’t want those figureheads to be in parties, because we want those figureheads to say “I stand for you.  I listen to you.  And I tell you why I do the things I do”

We need independent candidates to stand in areas where there are real local issues.  To stand as single issue candidates.  Candidates who tell us where they stand.  This is the manifesto I suggest:


I support you the people of your area.  I am standing because I know we have a problem, which I believe we, as a country can solve.  Here are my views on this issue.  Here is how I will vote on it, if you vote me into power.

Beyond that, I make this promise:  I will listen to my constituents.  I will listen to people who care about issues.  I will try to educate myself the best I can, and prior to any vote, I will write a blog entry to tell you how I’m going to vote and why.  And I will be as open to changing my mind as possible, if you can subsequently convince me of a good reason to do so.  In all events, I will be trying to make the best decision for the constituency, and its constituents – even if it isn’t going to be the most popular decision.

I will make sure all my expenses, votes, activities and interactions with lobbyists are documented on my site.  I will be totally transparent.


How do we find people who will make this commitment?  And who are right for the job?  It will take publicity.  And to get the right sort of publicity would take PR.  So first off, we need a new political party for these candidates to join.  A new type of party.  A party which makes itself clear it is there to represent the interest of the locality – not to have big national level policies.  A party united only in that they wish to do the best for their constituents.

To make a national splash, this party would have initially only target a few seats.  Seats where change is really needed.  Perhaps, for example, in South Cambs, they might decide to target Andrew Lansley, because of the NHS policies he has pushed through.

Then they need an event.  I’m suggesting a hustings.  Broadcast live on the internet, and available for download.  Get prospective candidates to stand up and answer questions.  And encourage celebrities to stand, people who would like to raise their profile.  Get them to bring eyes from all over the country to each hustings.

Finally people from the local constituency should vote for who stands, in something akin to a local primary.  I’ve thought hard about this, and I think there is a lot to be said for the caucus system.  Sure caucus seems weird – it isn’t a private vote, but it has some great characteristics.  Firstly, it is essentially single transferable vote – which is good.  Secondly, it forms a consensus, because ultimately the majority are standing together, uniting behind one candidate.  That is a powerful benefit which other primary systems lose.  Also, caucuses, done right, could look really good on TV.

Now, these won’t all be the best candidates – but hopefully some of the candidates would work with other potential candidates who lost at the caucus.  And I hope many of the people standing in the caucuses would be local leaders, people who genuinely care about fixing the community, not just running it.

There are many outstanding problems. Funding is one.  Convincing people we are sane is another.  There is a potential for hijack by extremist groups (though, if managed right, this could just lead to better PR).

It could work.

We could have a party of independent candidates all standing for local issues.

Because as these candidates get elected, gradually, they will hold the balance of power.  And they will be able to begin to lead change.  Change that we want, not just the government mandated trivial changes, bread and circuses that we are given today.


A (somewhat modest) proposal to increase social mobility

Social mobility is a good thing, right?  And we want to see more of it?  And markets are out friends?  The latter seems questionable in the current economic climate, but it still seems to be a fundamental underlying belief in our economic and political systems.

My plan is simple – we increase the tax everybody pays by a small amount, lets say 3-5%.  However, rather than going to the government, this money is put into a government savings account that pays a fair rate of interest – say linked to bank rate, and pays out on the date of the taxpayer in question’s death.

We then sell shares of each of these accounts.

We know, on average, how long someone will live – life insurance depends upon it.  So we can hedge against the possibility that a particular person dies early.  Once we’ve done that, the value of shares is tied in with the amount of income tax the individual pays (lets assume this is a rough indicator of their social success)

At this point, it would pay to find people with high potential from disadvantaged backgrounds, and offer them junior positions:  why?  Because you could also buy that individual’s shares.  And while right now, with little training their shares may be cheap, if they have the success you expect, their shares will later be more valuable.  Indeed, given two similar candidates, it is the one who is more disadvantaged socially you would be more likely to employ.

Exclusive schools might want to seek out the underprivileged and offer them places – places which could be paid for entirely by the expected growth in value of their shares.  Similar strategies could be used to subsidise university education – or to provide grants.

(in this situation, I encourage insider trading – as this is the process of taking information only you know and making it available to everyone, via the magic of market pricing.  We actively want people to be able to benefit by offering a knee up)

The downside is that the amount of tax each person pays becomes public knowledge (or at least easily inferable, assuming any company finding an employee’s shares are lower than they would expect given their salary, would be insane not to buy them).  And also that there might be a market in shorting individuals shortly before redundancies (which feels a little bit horrid)