Justice Everywhere

a blog about justice in public affairs

Author: Aveek Bhattacharya

Is it immoral to send your children to private school?

The contest for leadership of the Scottish Labour party has re-opened an old debate: is it acceptable for egalitarians to send their children to private school? One candidate, Anas Sarwar, has come under criticism for sending his son to the £8,000 a year Hutchesons’ Grammar school in Glasgow. The row echoes similar controversies around left-wing figures, perhaps most prominently the Labour MP Diane Abbott, who claimed “it is inconsistent for someone who believes in a fairer and more egalitarian society to send their child to a fee-paying school”, and nonetheless opted to educate her son privately.

Much of the philosophical discussion on this point on this point centres around the limits of legitimate parental partiality – that is, to what extent are parents morally permitted to advantage their children over others? However, I want to approach the question from a different angle, and explore the morality of private school from a consequentialist perspective. For a given individual, would rejecting private school in favour of the state sector have a positive impact on the world? 

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What should voters look for in their politicians?

hillary-clinton-bernie-sandersAmidst the political chaos of the past few months, some have taken the opportunity to reflect on what it all means for democracy. In particular, the question of whether individual Members of Parliament are bound to permit Britain’s exit from the European Union because their voters supported it has led to a number of reflections on an elected representative’s duties to their constituents, often drawing on Edmund Burke.

However, I think the reverse relationship – how individual voters should relate to their representatives –  is just as interesting. Among the dominant sentiments around the EU referendum was confusion. In a campaign without the standard reflexive party political loyalties, many people appreciated for the first time the responsibility they carried with  their vote, but were at a loss as to how to use it. I think this is the best explanation for the repeated demands for ‘more facts’, patently absurd in a period where the internet means the vast majority have access to a volume of information inconceivable a generational earlier. People weren’t lacking for information, they were lacking for guidance as to how to use it.

The strange political alignments of recent months on both sides of the Atlantic have left many similarly rudderless, whether it is Republicans deliberating whether to support a person with as many personality flaws as Trump, or those on the left torn between the apparent idealism of Corbyn/Sanders and the supposed pragmatism of Clinton/mainstream Labour candidates.

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Voters or residents: how should we draw our electoral map?

In recent months, the Right in both Britain and the US have been accused of trying to manipulate electoral rules to increase the influence of their supporters, and diminish the power of left-leaning voters. Both cases raise important questions about the objectives and principles underpinning electoral democracy, and specifically who elected representatives are supposed to represent.

At the heart of the dilemma is the question of how electoral districts should be drawn.

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