Unherd & Unheard

Nigel Cameron


What is the worst example of herd-like thinking in the world today?

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In common with many other countries the UK is busy pushing up the state pension age. And in an awful double whammy for women, who used to retire five years earlier, they are being brought into line with men at the same time. It will be 66 next year, and later 67.

Aside from being dishonest, especially to women who have paid National Insurance Contributions over decades with the promise of a pension from 60, this approach to pension policy is also ridiculously out-dated.

The push to keep people in work for longer comes despite mounting evidence that there will be fewer jobs for anyone to do. PriceWaterhouseCoopers recently forecast that in 15 or 20 years around a third of UK jobs will have gone to machines. Those that will be left should go to the younger people who most need them.

So let’s bring the state pension age down. Drop it to 60 immediately – for men and women. Then phase in a further shift to 55. The effect will be rapid, freeing up jobs for younger people – and preparing the economy for the coming march of the robots. This also makes a lot more sense than the fashionable idea of a “Basic Income” – which could be thought of as a pension for all adults. People need jobs, and they need to be able to retire, and dropping the retirement age will be good for everyone. It will also demonstrate that issues of intergenerational unfairness are finally being taken seriously.

The most unhe(a)rd idea, individual or community is...

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This is perhaps more unheeded than unheard. Most of us, after all, know something about the real danger that antibiotics may be running out of usefulness.

It was in 2012 that Margaret Chan, as Director General of the World Health Organisation, laid out the terrifying facts in a speech to a gathering of EU leaders. “If current trends continue unabated,” she warned, “the future is easy to predict. Some experts say we are moving back to the pre-antibiotic era. No. This will be a post-antibiotic era. In terms of new replacement antibiotics, the pipeline is virtually dry, especially for gram-negative bacteria. The cupboard is nearly bare. Prospects for turning this situation around look dim.”

She continued: “A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.”

Climate change is the big global risk issue pre-occupying governments and public alike.

The reasons are simple: over-prescription, misuse by patients, use in farm animals, and lack of motivation for pharmaceuticals companies to invest aggressively in new options. When did any political leader from any major country put the utter horrors of a post-antibiotic era at the heart of public debate? Climate change may be a serious threat but the sickening of the earth’s atmosphere may not be the sickening we should most worry about.

Chris Bullivant


What is the worst example of herd-like thinking in the world today?

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British columnist Janet Daley once referred to University as “a Left-liberal sheep-dip”. She was right. Our universities are a process to produce unthinking herds.

I was at the London School of Economics in 2006 studying political sociology. While I could explore the history of socialist movements and the function of trade unions and revolutions in our societies, there were no corresponding offerings. There were no modules in the history of Conservative movements; no delving into conservative intellectual thought such as the essays of Edmund Burke; no reflection on the role the Republican Party did or didn’t play in abolishing US slavery; nor consideration of what Marxist thought has done in contributing to the murder of 94 million people.

The problem wasn’t being presented with Marxist or leftist thought. The problem was that this one-sided account was presented as ‘academically neutral’. It permitted lecturers (who are five times as likely to be liberal as conservative on US campuses) to talk breathlessly unchallenged about dismantling borders, promoting supranational organisations like the EU, while ridiculing US sovereignty and national identities.

It had been the same reading politics at Queen Mary in mid 1990s London where armed with Marx, Nietzsche and postmodernist theorists we denigrated Reagan and Bush while lauding Noriega, Castro, Che Guevara, and the Sandanistas. We applauded multiculturalism while I felt the need to keep quiet about my Christian beliefs.

Presenting a one-sided curriculum isn’t just a failing in academic integrity. We end up with unthinking herds at the voting booth, too.

The most unhe(a)rd idea, individual or community is...

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You are a six-year-old Spanish school child in 2007. Youth unemployment is at over 50%. A decade later, aged 16, youth unemployment is still at the historically high rate of 38.6%. It’s not the only phenomena that is high when job prospects are so poor for the young. Exploiting legal loopholes there are now reportedly up to 700 cannabis clubs across the nation as millennials seek escape from reality.

Spain has a classic flyover country problem: an elite that is disconnected from society geographically as well as socially.

Spain has experienced a massive internationalization of domestic multi-billion dollar revenue multinationals, in the last twenty years, like BBVA, Inditex (Zara, Bershka) and Telefonica. Yet the Spanish speaking boardrooms have not staffed middle management with homegrown talent.

Politicians making policy in Madrid are disconnected too. They have little incentive to live in their constituencies or hold surgeries. In the ruling Partido Popular, for example, candidate selection is entirely in the gift of the President – currently Mariano Rajoy – rather than a local association. It’s a brave politician who leaves his imperial court to spend the weekends meeting voters and understanding their concerns.

78% per cent of 17-33 year olds in Spain “think their opinions are ignored by politicians” (Foundations for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) report, June 2017, as cited in The Spectator). Unemployed and ignored it’s small wonder many young people are turning to drugs but here’s my question: If things stay like this for another decade and they become more alienated from the establishment what darker political or anti-social turn might they consider taking next?