Sunday, February 15, 2015

Daniel Hannan MEP speaks on Magna Carta

Daniel Hannan MEP speaks, at a TFA event in Runnymede, on Magna Carta: The Secular Miracle of the England.

Daniel is one of those people who not only understands the importance of these issues, but is able to communicate it effectively...

The government's Magna Carta event is bullshit

The government is organising an event to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta, and Peter Oborne is not happy about it.

Britain has given many wonderful things to the world – Stephen Fry, Parliament, Marmite, Shakespeare, rugby football, cricket. However, the most important is the rule of law. This is because it incorporates so many other British virtues: fairness, decency, a truculent belief in the underdog and a bloody-minded refusal to give in to arbitrary power of any kind. 
That is why at first sight we should wholeheartedly applaud the decision to mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, that superlative landmark in the evolution of the British state, with an event at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre at Westminster next month. 
Blackstone would certainly have been perplexed by Saunderson House, “a leading firm of independent wealth managers providing award-winning advice to busy professionals and other high net-worth individuals”. RSM International, which advises companies on how to avoid tax, is another sponsor. RSM’s presence is not just inexplicable. It is inexcusable.

Actually, Magna Carta came about partly because the barons were angry about increased taxation: so it is entirely appropriate for wealth management and tax avoidance firms to be at the event.

Further, the barons of old would have been entirely shocked at the level of taxation currently levied on the population of England—and they would be utterly contemptuous of our placid acceptance of such outright theft.

So the real point is that, if we are truly going to celebrate what Magna Carta was about, it is entirely appropriate that firms such as RSM International be there.

What is utterly inexcusable is that the Coalition—or any modern government—should have anything to do with it. This government, particularly, is one that not only endorses levels of taxation that the barons would have already rebelled about, but also that has undermined the rule of law—through the destruction of Legal Aid, and other measures (such as allowing HMRC to steal your money before they have even confirmed that you owe it).

Oborne is correct about the rampant hypocrisy on display, but largely wrong about the targets and the reasons. The truly inexcusable thing is that the government takes 40% of everything that we earn, and pisses it up the wall.

The barons would have rebelled many years ago—why haven't we?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Cure, Kyoto, and music...

As many of you will know, I am a huge fan of The Cure: as far as I am concerned, they are the best band on the planet. And, of course, "Disintegration is the best album in the world ever!"

My parents had Lovecats on 7", but I hadn't really heard any more than that. But, in my first year at Eton, I was wandering back to my room, past the room of the House Head of Games—and I heard this wonderful keyboard riff as the spine of this dreamy, creepy sounding song. Ding-ding-ding ding-ding, ding-ding-ding ding...

Ollie Lane was five years above me—in age and hierarchy—and so, even though he was the older brother of Dom (my contemporary), it took me a few days to summon up the courage to tap, nervously, on his door (as the song was playing again) and ask whether I could borrow the song and record it onto a cassette.

"No," he said. "You can't. You can't borrow the song: but you can borrow—and listen to—the whole album. Bring it back in a few days, and let me know what you think."

I had been brought up on my parents traditional Sixties music—the Beatles, the Strawbs, and similar sounding stuff. And the songs that I had occasionally heard on Top of the Pops (at the fag-end of the 80s—you know, Kylie, Jason, Tiffany, etc.) were deeply uninspiring.

So I admired the album cover (still one of my favourite pieces of artwork), and listened to this album...

And then here were these little worlds: neatly encapsulated dream sequences, Spanish-style hangover furies, hugely absorbing emotion-scapes, and blood, and fury, and tenderness, and...

And I drove my parents mad: my small allowance went on Cure albums (and cigarettes), every present I asked for was a Cure album, and I played them incessantly. Indeed, I still do (and am lucky enough to have a wife who has become a convert—although, possibly, through some sort of survival instinct).

I sailed around university with massive, back-combed hair and baggy suits—plus, of course, an air of alcohol and desperation. I was in my own little world—a world conjured and painted, just for me, by the Cure's varied and beautiful landscapes. And, whenever I listen to their music—my music—I am back in those vividly painted worlds.

Oh, and that first song? It will seem trivial to some of you, and possibly banal to others: but that doesn't alter the fact that there is a very big place in my sensibilities for Kyoto Song, from the classic The Head On The Door album...

And so began my love affair with The Cure—an affair that has yet to end.

Monday, May 19, 2014

UKIP, elections, and messaging

This is something that I have been mulling for a while, and which I eventually posted (as a long and meandering comment) over on Victoria Munro's blog. Since it sums up what I feel about UKIP right now, I thought I'd post it here as a shortcut when people ask me what I think.

Being a libertarian in this country, in this particular age, is a difficult thing (even for the brief moment when the Libertarian Party existed), and deciding who to vote for is also tricky.

Although I am writing this entirely in a personal capacity, I have been a UKIP member,on and off, for a few years. Back in 2005/06/07, I was a even a policy former for the party—along with another six or seven libertarian political bloggers. We set the tone for the first, proper national manifestos—low, simple taxes, sensible energy policy, small state and free trade with the world—and we were allowed to do so.

Having spent a little time with him, I believe that Nigel is intellectually a libertarian even if—like my parents—he is not instinctively one on every topic: many others in the party were—are?—the same.

Whilst the Tories were enthusiastically pushing the idea of compulsory community service state slavery for young people, I saw a UKIP Conference (mostly made up of older people) decisively and overwhelmingly reject such fascism.

I met many young UKIPpers at UKIP meets, but also at events at the ASI, IEA, and the Libertarian Alliance: these are the people who are coming through UKIP Youth and even in the running as MEPs. They were (mostly) articulate, intelligent and passionate—and not racist.

But, as I found when founding LPUK, there is a problem with appealing to libertarians—there just aren’t enough of them. You are not going to win a national election appealing only to them. Further, I believe that UKIP was finding that the annoyed Conservative vote was also reaching saturation point.

In order to gain a decent voter base, the party has had to start appealing to the traditional Labour voters—or those who have never voted. Which means targeting the working classes. And here’s a guilty little secret: the working classes tend to be more pissed off about immigration than the middle-classes (especially the “Islington” middle).

Think of it less as racism, and more as tribalism—and humans are instinctively tribal animals. But, on a more practical level, it is the working classes who believe, more strongly than most, that their jobs and wages have been affected by high levels of immigration.

This is why we have these aggressive immigration posters and messages that, I must confess, make me very uncomfortable too. However, I think that it would be very difficult to deny that they are working. Yes, the libertarians are leaving UKIP but, as I said before, it’s a numbers game: there are more working class people than there are libertarians.

Despite all of this, I will vote UKIP at the Euro-elections, and there are two main reasons for this: first, that I wish to carry the message, very strongly, to the LibLabCon alliance that they do not have a right to be in government, they do not have a right to power—something that Labour and Conservatives have, I think, utterly forgotten (leading inexorably to a corruption almost as total as the Republicans and Democrats in Washington).

The second reason is equally simple (even if less spiteful): I want Cameron to understand that the people of this country do not want to be part of a Federal Europe, and that he’d better hold that referendum or else. After all, even now, the Conservatives are trying to weasel out of it: having crowed about how they had got the referendum legislation through the Commons, they have been very quiet about it being stymied in the Lords (even though they had the numbers to get it through). In other words, I want to ensure that Cameron is kept honest.

I realise that both of these reasons seem rather negative, but I think that they are the best reasons for voting UKIP at this time.
I sincerely hope that, after this particular flurry of negativity, we can once again start to push the positive aspects of the party—the free trade, small state, citizen of the world policies—to the British public.

In the meantime, I will happily continue trying to push libertarian policies through UKIP, the Conservatives, and via any other feasible political means.

UPDATE: to address the substantive point, most sensible economists (including Hayek) agree that, as long as inequality exists between national states, you can have either a Welfare State or free movement of people—not both.

Right now, we have a problem: we want to control immigration, but we cannot limit said immigration from the EU. Which means that we need to limit immigration from the rest of the world even more than we would otherwise.

UKIP's position used to be (I think it still is) that, outside of the EU, we would be able to treat the citizens of all nations equally. Or, indeed, favour those who have a similar cultural background to the British people—those we loosely designate "the Anglosphere".

Regardless, until I see the media Establishment calling the entire Swiss nation "racists" (especially given their recent vote to further limit immigration) then I'll take the commentary of the commentariat with a massive fucking pinch of salt.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hounding Rufus

On 26th January this year, the comedian Rufus Hound announced that he was intending to stand as an MEP for the National Health Action Party. Which is super.

After all, Mr Hound is, at least, standing up for something that he believes in. Unfortunately, Mr Hound is rather ignorant of the state of healthcare—around the world in the present day, and in this country in the past.

On 26 January, your humble Devil—being a helpful chap—decided to help Mr Hound with some advice. Mr Hound has kept the comment in the pending queue—a superbly political response which, whilst hiding the facts from his band of sycophantic fans, prevents one from accusing him of deleting any criticism.

Luckily, thanks to WordPress's habit of displaying one's own comment (even when not approved), I am happy to reproduce my words of wisdom, below…

I think it’s great that you are actually getting up and doing something—as you say, no one wants to be one of “those people”.

Unfortunately, there are some errors in your reasoning.
“Up until 1948, only wealthy people had access to doctors.”
This is not actually true.

It is a fact, for instance, that the seven great hospitals of London were all built and maintained by private subscription: that is, horrible rich people digging into their own pockets and funding the building and maintenance of hospitals—including special bursaries for treating large numbers of very poor people. (Indeed, just look at the huge public displays of generosity that enabled the Elephant Man to be permanently housed in one of the largest London hospitals.)

More than this, throughout the 1800s and up to the early 1900s, at least three quarters of the working population—plus their spouse and children—had access to doctors through Friendly Society memberships (the Friendly Societies were like trade unions, and—for a small subscription—paid out-of-work benefits, and (being the biggest employers of doctors) primary healthcare).

This largely came to an end when the British Medical Association—whose members didn’t like being pushed around by working men, nor the fact that competition depressed their wages—lobbied the government to amend the 1911 National Insurance Bill to make it a state-collected tax (rather than state-purchased Friendly Society memberships).

At this point, access to doctors was more restricted because the doctors’ quid pro quo was a doubling of their wages.
“The NHS is the one of the single greatest achievements of any civilisation, ever, anywhere in the history of the world.”
Which is why no one else in the world has ever tried to emulate it. The nearest is Canada, but their hospitals are all owned by councils, or charities, or private entities—and they all compete, thus keeping prices down and outcomes up.
“It’s also the most cost effective health care system in the world.”
I’m afraid this isn’t true either. The Singapore Health System, for instance, costs half what the NHS does (per capita) and has far better survival outcomes.

As I said, I admire what you are doing; however, it would be even better if you researched the subject and thus, unlike most politicians, were able to speak from a position of knowledge.

I highly recommend a book, by ex-Labour Councillor David Green, called Working-Class Patients and the Medical Establishment.


I hope you enjoyed that. And that you will, when considering Mr Hound's candidature, act as you feel is right.

Monday, December 23, 2013

On the food bank hysteria

Media Personage: "Mr Average, you use a food bank. Correct?"

Mr Average: "That's right. I mean, why pay for food when you can get it for free?"

MP: "But why have you started to use one now? Is it because the evil Coalition have been deliberately starving you on ideological grounds?"

MrA: "Not really. It's just that I didn't realise that there were people giving away free food until I read about them in the paper on my way to work."

MP: "And there you have it: more and more people are using food banks because the evil Coalition—cruelly limiting a household's benefits to an equivalent pre-tax income of a mere £34,000—are starving them utterly to death. On purpose. Back to you in the studio, Tom."

Tom: "Er…"

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Friday, September 21, 2012

Last orders at The Devil's Kitchen

As regular readers might have noticed, your humble Devil has been struggling to comment on politics for some time—the last couple of years, really.

A number of factors have contributed to this: the loss of anonymity has, though my choice, has made a difference, of course; as has the fact that there are only so many times that one can write the same thing over and over again.

Further, when your humble Devil started blogging, those of us who were of different political opinions still adhered to certain standards of evidence and honesty: that sense of brotherhood has disappeared with the introduction of the financially-backed party political sites.

This has accompanied the ever-accelerating disappearance of those bloggers whom I considered a daily read: not because I agreed with them, but because they made me think, and they made me laugh.

Most importantly, unlike when The Kitchen first opened, I am actually happy in my personal life—I have a fantastic wife and a job that I love.

And it is this last item that has led to this final announcement: I now spend most of my life involved in my work, building and creating things that make people's lives better.

Shortly, I am to take an enhanced and, possibly (at some point), more public role in the business. This is, I feel, incompatible with maintaining The Kitchen—especially given the way that I feel about politics and political blogging anyway.

As such, I am giving my loyal army—of readers, contributors, enemies, political foils and brothers in arms—notice that, in the next couple of weeks, this blog will be retired. Initially I shall put it behind a login and then, after taking a back-up, I shall (probably) delete it.

The Devil's Kitchen has been running since January 13th 2005: in that time, there have been 6,005 posts; 3,776,324 page loads and 3,089,579 unique visits—with my best day (when I published a post assessing the state of the code released during ClimateGate) amassing 24,598 unique visits in just 24 hours.

I think that I can claim the rather more dubious accolade of coining—and embodying—the word "swearblogging".

I am also pleased that the phrase and concept of "fake charities" has also entered the blogging lexicon—not least through my setting up of the site that enabled people to check whether such organisations take government money. I hope to be able to upgrade and refine that resource soon.

Quite apart from the fact that the catharsis which The Kitchen enabled—and which kept me going through some very dark days—I have also met some incredibly nice people through this blogging lark, many of whom I have had great fun with, and who I hope that I shall continue to see.

However, despite all of this, I have felt for some time that politics is an utterly futile endeavour. For the last few years, I have found that my work has allowed me to make a real difference to people's lives (not least my own) in a way that politics—let alone the libertarian position that I occupy—can never do.

Remember, politicians only ever make your life harder—they never make it better, or easier: you have to do that for yourself. And I have found that this positivity is far more healthy and rewarding than wallowing in the stye of negativity and managed decline that is the political arena.

And so, for all of the reasons above, The Kitchen will close within the next couple of weeks. And for good this time.

I shall maintain my online presence through my portfolio site (and I might even update it occasionally!). I shall even still Tweet occasionally about politics. I am also (for those who are interested) pretty active, experimenting with interesting CSS, over at CodePen.

It is my intention, too, to start up a new blog: this will be concerned with technology, software development, management, the exciting developments in HTML5 and CSS3, and the web in general: those who might find such a thing interesting can drop me a line, and I shall let you know when it's up and running.

Until then, thank you—all of you: readers, writers, friends, enemies, colleagues and acquaintances. I have had so many opportunities that I never would have had without all of you. I have had the chance to meet some of the politicos that I excoriate, and the researchers who I slag off; I have had the chance to influence policy, and to drink enormous quantities of free booze. I have partaken of bad tempered political arguments, and still been stood a round; I have met people, both interesting and articulate, who made me very welcome in London when I moved from Edinburgh.

So, until we meet again, farewell to all my friends and enemies—it's been a blast!

UPDATE: thanks to all of you who have left comments, sent messages, etc. I am particularly delighted that I was able to introduce so many people to libertarianism: since I discovered that philosophy through the blogs of others, I am happy that I have been able to, as it were, pay it forward...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Quote of the day...

... comes from a comment under this snobby Grauniad article in which some author called Joan Brady whines about big chain coffee-shops.

Here is Joan Brady, wittering on about those evil corporations daring to set up shops...
Three quarters of [Totnes's] population protested against Costa: Totnes already has more than 40 independent coffee shops. That many people agreeing on anything approaches a miracle, a landslide of public opinion. Costa isn't bothered. It hasn't bothered with the populations of other protesting towns either. But isn't this supposed to be a democracy?
... to which our doughty commenter—one davidwferguson—promptly replies:
And if your idea of 'democracy' is 'a system where me and my condescending arsehole chums get to dictate to other people what kind of coffee they're going to be allowed to drink', then I hope you never develop any kind of inclination towards fascism.
Pithily put, I think you'll agree; and it exposes the big lie behind all of these Islington so-called "liberals"—they are snobs, and authoritarian snobs at that.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

An economic solution I can get behind...

... comes from the Daily Mash...
DRINKING at least three pints of beer at lunchtime could put Britain’s economy back on track, it has been claimed.

As the country sinks further into a double-dip recession, economists believe the decline of lunchtime drinking could be the cause of its economic woes.

Professor Henry Brubaker of the Institute for Studies said: “Throughout the 80s and early 90s, office workers would flee the office like rats out of a trap at half twelve – twelve on Fridays – heading straight for the pub.

“However bosses fell under the influence of soulless foreign ‘business experts’, particularly Americans, who believed that drinking several pints of beer in the middle of the day could negatively effect productivity.

“But it’s only after the shift away from midday alcohol binges towards eating a sad little sandwich at one’s computer that everything went to shit.”

Professor Brubaker believes a mandatory minimum lunchtime beer consumption of three pints could restore Britain’s economic vigour.
Yup—I think that'll work very nicely!

As I always say, the glass is half-empty—and it's your round...

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Let's be Frank

Via someone on Twitter, I was directed to the Grauniad's pathetic hatchet job on Frank Turner (I hope that my post wasn't the trigger).

The article's author—Michael Hann—claims that he has reviewed Frank's albums in the past, but hadn't realised that Turner wasn't the greatest fan of the state. Presumably Hann skipped Sons of Liberty.

But here is Frank's heinous crime:
Turns out his libertarianism and belief in the power of the people to resist oppression aren't of the leftist sort. They're of the rightist sort.
Right. So, in the world of Hann, belief in individuals is fine so long as you label yourself "left-wing", but that same belief is evil if you don't.


Hann then responds to some of the commenters below his article:
The Guardian is a leftwing newspaper. What we do is disagree with the right.
Uh huh. And I thought that a "leftwing newspaper" might be for something. Like the betterment of the working man, or the empowerment of the masses, or better education, or something.

But no: apparently, "a leftwing newspaper" exists to "disagree with the right".

Which is just one of the reasons why normal people are so disengaged from politics: the whole charade is one bunch of highly privileged people disagreeing with another bunch of highly privileged people over rarified philosophies, the outcomes of which always screw the hard-working people of this country—treating them all, rich or poor, as nothing more than cash-cows for the expensive experiments of the pusillanimous, disconnected bigots that inhabit Whitehall, Westminster and Fleet Street.

Frank's reply to Hann can be found in full on his blog—I will quote the most pertinent bits.
My politics are based on principles like democracy, individuality, equality of opportunity, distrust of power and, above all else, freedom, including economic freedom. They’re not the same as when I was 19, or indeed 23 – a few more years kicking around the world has made me adjust my views a little, although the basic principles remain the same. Once I would have called myself an anarchist. These days I suppose the word “libertarian” does pretty well for me, though I suspect it’s a little over-intellectual as a description. I just think the world works better when people are left alone to do what they want as much as possible.

Incidentally, here’s some things I’m not: “Tory”, “conservative”, or “Republican”. If you don’t know the difference between these and libertarians, I suggest reading up a little before slagging me off. I don’t consider myself “right wing” either. I’m just not a leftist.

A lot of people have been treating this as some kind of reveal. Given that the journalist was quoting from an interview from 3 years ago[*] that seems a little odd to me. There’s something about it in the FAQ on here, and Poetry Of The Deed (2009) had a song on it called “Sons Of Liberty” which was about this kind of thing. As it happens, I don’t want my music to be particularly political (as I’ve been saying for ages) so I don’t talk about it that much. But it’s not like I keep it secret either. A lot of the fuss here to me seems to be because some people have had an idea of what they want me to be, and have discovered I’m not that. Sorry, I guess, although I’d say that it’s be much worse for me to pretend otherwise to please them, or sell records, or whatever.

At the end of the day, some people will disagree with my politics. That’s fine. I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do with their lives Most of my friends disagree with me, not least Billy Bragg and Chris T-T. But, being adults, we understand that intelligent people can disagree about stuff. Despite occasionally running my mouth (a bad habit of mine, which I’m working on) I don’t think people who call themselves socialists are evil, mad, stupid or deserving of being attacked; I just see the world differently. In everything I do, I try to treat everyone with equal respect and consideration. I’d hope that the way I’ve gone about my music career would attest to that to some degree. I’ll drink a beer with anyone.
I will state, for the record, that all of the above is absolutely true. I am not going to pretend a massive intimacy—we met through a mutual friend who knew that Frank read your humble Devil.

However, Frank and I have been for a few drinks a number of times and I will state, (again) for the record, that not only is the man himself thoroughly decent but all of those surrounding him—who are of a number of political persuasions—are thoroughly nice too. By their friends shall ye know them (or somesuch).

* In this interview, Frank actually mentions your humble Devil. I think that we had first met a few months before...
I dunno, I must admit I’m friends with a guy. Have you ever heard of The Devils Kitchen? It’s a libertarian political blog. The guy, Chris Mouncey [sic], who runs it became leader of the libertarian party, which is a really small political party. Now, I’m uneasy around fringe parties because it just seems like a fucking waste of time. Having said that, I do agree with what they say. I’ve been talking to Chris because I think they’re using the song Sons Of Liberty as one of their campaign songs or something *laughs*. I don’t know, fuckin’ a. You know what, if there’s a Libertarian party candidate I’ll probably vote for them just to make Chris feel better about his life. It’s difficult because, at the end of the day, politics is the art of the possible. The kind of politics where you sit around in circles discussing abstract theorisation of how society can be run is essentially pointless because it doesn’t change anyone’s life for the better. If you’re gonna take an interest in politics, you might as well take an interest in it that’s actually gonna make a difference to anything.
Well, I'm sorry to have let you down, mate. But—hey!—one can only try...

At best, I was a reluctant politician (I took the job of leader because no one else wanted it) but, then, the idea of being in government—or even trying to get there—is never going to sit well with a libertarian.

I do far more good—and benefit far more people—by doing my day-job well. Which is, after all, why this place has been so quiet of late.

So, all I can say to Frank is "ignore the Guardian and its armies of student wankers, and carry on doing your day-job well..."