Wednesday, 10 July 2013
The Falkirk Dilemma
In these straitened times, choices have to be made. Over the last winter the opposition made much play of the supposed fact that some families had to decide whether to heat or eat their children*(*This may not be true). They went on to make political capital from the fear that lifestyles had to be altered and choices made; capital they then went on to squander by continuing to behave as they always did, as revealed in the recent Falkirk ‘crisis’. Maybe we should all be changing our behaviour in any case; the last twenty years of believing we could have everything has made us all fat and lazy.
You can go all out for thrift – an approach championed by the Frugal Queen who has set a challenge to live as cheaply, in monetary terms, as practicable, eventually to live a debt-free, sustainable lifestyle. Or you could just decide to live within your means and make simple choices following a cost-benefit analysis, or whatever the young and trendy consultants are calling it these days. In other words, how much bang are you getting for your buck? (And how is Buck these days?)
For instance, I no longer lease a private Learjet to travel to Birmingham. A bit of research showed that after paying the £2000 per hour, plus the airport fees, parking, standby charges and all the rest, it still takes two hours door-to-door. It turns out I can do that journey in my car, for about £20 in fuel – who knew? And even better, I don’t have to book it in advance, lodge flight plans, or put up with airport delays. It’s amazing what you can learn… if you can be arsed.
So, this CBA, how does it work? Easy really, all you do is compare the relative costs and benefits of competing choices. Take for instance, booze or books: A paperback costs about the same as a half-decent new-world wine, so which should you choose? Let’s examine the relevant facts:
That book will entertain you for perhaps a dozen hours over several days, if not weeks, you’ll be transported to another world, or possibly learn something life-enhancing and at the end of the ride you’ll still have the book. Opting for a bottle of wine, however, you will be lucky to spin it out for two hours, after which you’ll yearn for more. You may give in to that urge and pick up some fattening fast food to accompany it, as a result of which you’ll wake up late, feeling like shit having put on weight and taken another step toward hopeless addiction and the possibility of developing chronic, life-shortening medical conditions. See how CBA reveals the solution to your dilemma? Now the choice is a no-brainer; Shiraz or a nice Pinotage?
Another example - Telly or Training? One of the evils of our twenty-four-seven, media flooded lives is the danger of stagnating, slumped in front of a screen, watching mindless pap as muscles atrophy and joints seize up. Bed sores are a distinct possibility, along with blurred vision and tinnitus and in extremis becoming biologically fused with the settee. Of course, the benefits of regular exercise are well documented. It helps maintain a healthy body, prolonging active life and a feeling of well-being and even smug superiority over lesser mortals. A vigorous workout can leave you feeling lifted; the rush from those endorphins flooding your brain is said to be better than sex. A healthy, happier, longer-living you. On the other hand, gym membership costs a fortune and you’re already paying the telly licence fee anyway so, no contest, Kyle it is.
Red Len or Supermen?
See? It’s so easy anybody can do it. And this could also be the way forward for the party funding debate. The choices are simple: Continue with systems that mean disproportionate influence is gained by larger donors, individually or en masse, thus attracting the criticisms of bias, corruption, fraud and the creation of puppet leaders and a disenfranchised general electorate. Or, radically overhaul the system so that voters’ preferences are properly responded to and democracy is restored? I’m not holding my breath.