The Packer of the Leads

by Harry on May 15, 2006

Roy Hudd’s investigation into the history of the comic song ended last week with a show on parody. The main highlight for me was being reminded of seeing Neil Lewis at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 1979 performing his hit song, “The Packer of the Leads” — google provides just a single reference, and the song is only mentioned (by Richard Digance) not played. The big question arising out of the show, though, is: why were The Smiths famous? Mitch Benn claims it is because fans fell for Morrisey’s winsome tortured poet act. But my wife (an American) says she liked them because they were funny. Me, I did fall for the act, so I thought they were prats; if I’d realised they were funny I’d probably have loved them (I eventually bought her their greatest hits, but only because it has Charles Hawtrey on the cover and I thought that was worth the money). Anyway, who’s right; Mitch Benn or my wife?

Secret Ballots

by Harry on May 15, 2006

This is something that came up as an aside in a dissertation defence the other day (congratulations, A!). The dissertation was about privacy, and a brief comment was made that secret ballots might protect a voter’s right to privacy. I was surprised that I already had a half-thought-out but very strong dissent from this idea, so I thought I’d articulate it here and see what you think. There are some practical arguments in favour of having secret ballots in representative democratic elections for governmental positions; most obviously the argument that secret ballots obscure the information needed to perfect a market in votes; so that the vote remains effectively inalienable. But is there a right to vote secretly?; that is, if other measures could effectively prevent the emergence of a market in votes, or government retaliation against individual voters, would voters have a complaint if ballots were public? The privacy thought it that the interest in privacy, or something like that, protects this information; it protects us from others having the information about how we voted, just as it protects us from others having information about various other details of our thoughts and personal life.

I don’t think so.

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