Skip to main content

Lottery provider restricted from selling other services

I've just read that Camelot have been prevented from selling other services through their terminals. Now I realise that they were given the ability to connect virtually every newsagent / supermarket etc in the country because they were appointed by the government to provide the national lottery. Consequently if they offer anything else down the same tube, their competitors might squeal 'unfair'! But that's life! Our roads are in the mess they're in because no-one has forced service providers to share the trenches and conduit they lay. Consequently the same holes are being dug and re-dug to lay water, sewerage, gas, electricity, and comms cables without any attempt to coordinate using the same people, holes and trunking to multi-task. Why can't a water pipe also carry a comms or power cable?

So here we are with a national online retailing infra-structure, paid for by the lottery-using British public, which is prevented BY LAW from being used for any other services - presumably which might make Camelot more money. The extra profit Camelot might have made could have increased funding for good causes, for example (perhaps a condition for allowing them to use the terminals for additional trade). The services themselves, whatever they might have been, would also be cheaper than having to pay for a separately installed infra-structure operated by a competitor running alongside the existing Camelot terminals - thereby saving the public some expense.

This is a typical lack of joined up thinking in the name of 'fairness'. 

I read a very interesting article recently about what we mean by 'fairness'. It seems there are two very opposite schools of political thought defining 'fairness' - and intriguingly they both sound reasonable. The first, the 'socialist argument', says that a fairness is where everyone can achieve the same outcome. In sporting terms, its like the golf handicap or paraplegic games. The 'playing field' is levelled for everyone's individual ability so that there's always the best possible chance of a photo-finish between all competitors. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it. The 'pragmatist argument' (I resisted using the label 'capitalist' since this is more widely applicable than just economically, but capitalism is a form of pragmatism with greed sprinkled over it), is that all factors affecting a competition (not just sport, but business, fighting, natural evolution etc) should be equal for all competitors, and 'let the best man win'. Again, totally fair for everyone who decides to compete. 

As a society I believe the strong should look after the weak, not be reduced to the same level. This diminishes the competitiveness of the whole, and although the weak then experience the same rewards as the strong, no-one moves forward and we decline in global competition.

Nature itself is 100% pragmatic. There is absolutely no place in evolution for sentiment and 'social fairness'. This doesn't mean that the weaker in society can't be protected and lead fulfilled lives. But it does mean that everything has to be earned and the strongest given every opportunity to push the boundaries of their domain.... BUT there are ethical limits where competitive strength can run rampant throughout an environment if constraints aren't reasonably applied.

So returning to the Camelot restriction, preventing the strongest from offering services is excessive constraint until society has had a chance to consider the benefits of those services. If they offend elements of society in some way (sexual services perhaps, or enabling children to gamble perhaps), there should be arbiters selected by us to decide which reduce individual freedoms, and which enhance them. Smoking, for example, ultimately, and controversially I have no doubt, is actually a reduction of individual freedom in that nicotine controls the addiction, not the individual, and society (including families) end up paying for the health consequences. We should therefore be prevented from poisoning ourselves. 

Let market forces determine what we can and can't buy (so long as it's healthy), and don't confuse fairness with social engineering.


Popular posts from this blog

Phillips screws - yes I'm angry about them too

Don't get me wrong. They're a brilliant invention to assist automation and prevent screwdrivers from slipping off screw heads - damaging furniture, paintwork and fingers in the process. Interestingly they weren't invented by Mr Phillips at all, but by a John P Thompson who sold Mr P the idea after failing to commercialise it. Mr P, on the otherhand, quickly succeeded where Mr T had failed. Incredible isn't it. You don't just need a good idea, you need a great salesman and, more importantly, perfect timing to make a success out of something new. Actually, it would seem, he did two clever things (apart from buying the rights). He gave the invention to GM to trial. No-brainer #1. After it was adopted by the great GM, instead of trying to become their sole supplier of Phillips screws, he sold licenses to every other screw manufacturer in the world. A little of a lot is worth a great deal more than a lot of a little + vulnerability (watch out Apple!). My gromble is abo

Would we pay more for their stuff?

I'm confused. Brexiters argue the Germans, Italians and French will still want to sell us their cars, so continued free trade with the UK is in their best interests. But we'll have to negotiate this (with an EU unwilling to make leaving easy) by threatening to make their cars more expensive for British people to buy. We'll do this because WE need to make imports more expensive to try to restore our balance of payments. Are Brits prepared to pay more for their Audis, Fiats and Renaults in order to make British cars more appealing, or do Brexiters want to pay more in order to punish them for taxing our insurance and banking products? Either way, imports will cost more. While in the EU, we buy their cars because we like the choice and don't want our own government to tax them. Indeed it would be better for British car manufacturing if we went back to the good old days of being encouraged to buy cheaper British cars (made by foreign owned factories). Is that what Brexite

Addictions. Porn, Drugs, Alcohol and Sex. Don't prevent it, make it safer.

In 1926 New York, during Prohibition, 1,200 people were poisoned by whiskey containing small quantities of wood alcohol (methanol). Around 400 died, the rest were blinded. The methanol they drank was in the moonshine they had bought illegally. In fact it had been added by law to industrial ethanol in order to make it undrinkable. Prohibition existed to protect everyone from the 'evils of the demon drink'. However, people still wanted to enjoy alcohol. So bootleggers bought cheap industrial alcohol and attempted to distill it to remove the impurities the state had added, but the process wasn't regulated. The state was inadvertently responsible for the suffering - although it was easy for them to blame the bootleggers and to justify escalating the war. This didn't stop the bootleggers. In fact it forced them to become more violent to protect their operations, and even less cautious about their production standards. Volumes of illicit alcohol, and therefore proportionat