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The Tom Sawyer Principle (Politics)
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Mick Harper
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In: London
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No doubt you will remember that Tom was ordered by his aunt to whitewash a fence and, to avoid such a tedious task, got others to do it by charging them for the 'privilege'.

In our intensely capitalistic world we often forget this principle. I was reminded how much by visits over the last two weekends to Heritage Railways (I am researching a guide). Unbelieving unBritishers may have to be told that there are hundreds of private railway lines now in this country completely operated by unpaid volunteers (and largely built by them too!)

And this is not for the glamour stuff like driving steam trains or being a pullman bellboy in tight pants, it was noticeable that guarding a level crossing for three train transits a day had attracted two volunteers -- they each had a green flag to wave which (even I could see) made the job worthwhile. Though the real enthusiasts prefer to be cleaning out clinker from grease-pits. Preferably on winter mornings.

Meanwhile the proper railways lose vast sums because they have to pay people to do these things. A ridiculous state of affairs.
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Mick Harper
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An interesting nineteenth century example of this came to my attention today. When the first horse-omnibuses were introduced to London in the 1830's it was found that people so enjoyed driving them that passengers would pay the driver to sit next to him and pay more for actually taking the reins. This was so widespread a practice that drivers' pay was reduced to reflect these extra earnings.
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Mick Harper
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But the best potential application of the principle I know lies with the canals. Unlike the continent, British canals (because they were built so early and so narrow) are not nowadays used for industrial purposes at all. Instead they are the haunt of the leisure industry -- and are actually busier than in their heyday!

However there is no reason why the two aspects could not be married. There are any amount of bulk cargoes that are not time-determinant but have to be carried presently either by train or by lorry, and in either case expensively and pollutedly. The government should offer to carry it for free and then stick everything on specially built canalboats and then give the boats to people who fancy a canal holiday.

At present it costs between 500 and 1500 pounds a week, depending on season, to hire a canal boat so vast numbers of us would be happy to take something from X to Y and not have to pay. Who cares if you are doing something useful at the same time? [Well, that would quickly become the point of course amongst the Waitrose-classes but don't make me vomit.]

Actually, for all I know, this is wildly uneconomic but...it doesn't matter! One of the modern purposes of government is to arrange for the happiness of its citizenry and vast hordes of people would be entirely happy to retire to a life on the waterways. Or have a free(ish) holiday...or everything in between.

But it'll never happen until the Applied Epistemology Party comes to power.
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DPCrisp


In: Bedfordshire
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passengers would pay the driver to sit next to him and pay more for actually taking the reins.

I know a Luton taxi driver who once got away with kipping in the back while the fare drove himself home to Norfolk.
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lyndserae


In: A Spacesuit
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DPCrisp wrote:
I know a Luton taxi driver who once got away with kipping in the back while the fare drove himself home to Norfolk.

Where can I find a job like this?
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Hatty
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In: Berkshire
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lyndserae wrote:
Where can I find a job like this?

You could run a river taxi service on the Lea, it hasn't been in use for the last fifty years but it'll be the back entrance to the London Olympics. Nothing to it really, except when you want to turn round.
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Edwin



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Having run a trip boat on the Kennet and Avon for free I can confirm that it was fun and enjoyable but in fact I was also being paid.

Ignoring the fact that I was skint, if I had run my own boat on the K&A there would have been licence, fuel, towing and maintenance to pay for as well as initial purchase price. All in all I probably got a reasonable hourly rate as well as tea and buns from the lock-keeper's wife.
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Boreades


In: finity and beyond
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As my mother-in-law was a Treasurer for the K&A, and ran the tea shop at the top of Caen Hill Locks, I am an expert on this by ... umm... osmosis perhaps?.

First thing we have to do is kill all the accountants. (Cue references to Dr. Beeching and how he "improved" the railwsys)

It's because of the penny-pinchers that we have Just In Time production strategies. The end-user minimises the volume and expense of holding stock by demanding fast delivery from suppliers, who hold all the stock at their own expense.

See the courier vans scuttling around. Poop-Poop! Faster! Faster!

This is no good at all for a leisurely rate of knots along a tranquil canal, working on MaƱana Time.

What non-time-dependent bulk cargoes are still being moved in the UK? The only one that springs to mind is sewerage works end product. Or maybe it's politician's promises from Westminster?
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Mick Harper
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You are wrong on both sides of the blanket. Beeching was excellent, just-in-time is excellent. Both are successful strategies for optimising material production. Neither have very serious net deleterious side-effects.

On the other hand, the canal proposal is not meant to optimise production. It is clear that Britain, as the most mature economy on earth, has to lead on the Next Great Step. Although Nepal has already done it, we should appoint a Ministry of Happiness.

That is the government is to start promoting (cheapish) schemes that make its citizens happier, not merely richer (or safer or more law-abiding or more martial or any of the other traditional state purposes).

Persuading vast hordes of no doubt mainly elderly couples to spend their declining years tootling around the canal system is one such scheme. What they are shifting need not be economic, it may even need to be subsidised, but that they are shifting stuff is important to the old folk's sense of purposeful activity. And, as Cartman has pointed out, it might get quite a few hippies out from under as well.

Some green justification could be cobbled together with such ease that the bogusness would not be germane. Indeed it would not be bogus, looked at in the correct way.
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Boreades


In: finity and beyond
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Here we are then. Canals can be rebuilt as well.

Wilts & Berks Canal Trust Website - Restoring a Waterway for the 21st Century - http://www.wbct.org.uk/

Situations vacant - http://www.wbct.org.uk/get-involved/situations-vacant
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Boreades


In: finity and beyond
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The new sections of the Wilts and Berks canal are now being dug.

Nouveau Bargees can already tie-up outside the brand new Swindon Waitrose store, and sit beside the canal with their skinny lattes.

Eventually, you will be able to barge your way all the way into Oxford. Which will probably be quicker than driving there and then trying to find a car parking space.
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Boreades


In: finity and beyond
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Re the original post and Heritage Railways.

M'Lady and the Boreadettes were recently witness to one of the other beneficial spin-offs. Film crews from all over the world come here to make not just documentaries, but also full-blown feature films.

On a trip on the Bluebell Railway, they were bemused to literally steam their way into the middle of a complete Bollywood film crew (of several dozen people) along with dozens more actors all in period costume.

The Boreadettes kept sticking their necks out the window to see what was going on. While an increasingly-irate production crew person with megaphone was shouting up and down the platform for the native oikes to keep inside the train and not ruin the shot. Every time the director shouted "Action", they would stick their heads out the window again. What larks!

I still have a soft spot for Jenny Agutter and The Railway Children.
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Mick Harper
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In: London
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I was once dealing blackjack in a Brighton casino to Ms Agutter when, just as she was about to ask me what I was doing after, I had to go off on a break. Or it might have been the other one, the one in the sit-com with Yootha Joyce about flat-sharing.
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Boreades


In: finity and beyond
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Mick Harper wrote:
Or it might have been the other one, the one in the sit-com with Yootha Joyce about flat-sharing.


Sally Thomsett? Or Brian Murphy?
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Mick Harper
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In: London
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Well, Borry, have a punt. Was Brian Murphy in the Railway Children?
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